Monday, December 26, 2016

Cranberry Orange Blondies


 When fresh cranberries are in season, I always go out of my way to use them, just because I know they will only be available for a short period of time. Basically, I grab a few bags every time I go to the grocery store, and then store them in my freezer until I want them. They freeze remarkably well for months! But this year, I keep finding more and more recipes to use them!!! So much for stocking up my freezer!! Guess it's time to run back to the store to get some more!
 Anyway, I found this recipe on Rodelle's website (which is a company that sells fine baking ingredients). I liked that this recipe uses FRESH cranberries instead of dried, which is often the case when you're baking something small and picky-uppy like blondies. I've made them several times, and they're always a big hit. So if you're having a party, you should definitely give them a try. So easy and delicious! I PROMISE you they will disappear in no time!!


1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen


Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, orange zest, vanilla extract and salt. Add in flour and whisk to combine, stirring just until no streaks of flour remain (do not over mix.) Chop cranberries coarsely, then fold berries into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bars are golden and set. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Tips:
I tried doing an orange glaze over the top, but they turned out to be far too sweet, VERY gooey, and not in a good way. I found it best to just dust with powdered sugar. Makes them look festive too!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lemon Crinkle Cookies


 Recently I was looking for something yummy and different in the way of Christmas cookies. As much as I love the usuals, I'm always interested in finding something new. So I thought, maybe instead of doing something involving chocolate (which is often the go-to), I thought maybe I'd see if I could find something a little lighter and fresher. Then I thought, hmm...lemon? And off I went, looking for lemon cookie recipes. It wasn't long before I found MANY different versions of a lemon crinkle cookie. TBH, I had never even heard of them, but they seemed pretty popular, so I went with it. I tried one recipe... tasty, but they didn't crinkle!!! They were as smooth as could be! I thought "ok, wait, how can I post a recipe for Lemon Crinkle cookies if they don't even crinkle??" Time to try something else. Again, I couldn't find exactly the right one. So I did what I often do! I took different parts of the recipes I liked, and put them together. And here we are!!
 The result is a VERY lemony, buttery, chewy cookie that DEFINITELY crinkles as you bake it! So good! I made them for some friends and got RAVE reviews! Add them to your cookie tray, include them in your next cookie swap, or just bake up a batch to have with a nice cup of tea. It makes a small batch, so you might wanna double it! I promise they won't last very long!


1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
1 whole egg
1 tbs lemon zest
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar


 Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper or silpat nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
 In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add lemon extract, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients except the powdered sugar. Slowly add to mixture, stirring until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again. Chill dough for 10-15 minutes. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven and cool cookies for about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Tips:
Definitely chill the dough for a bit. It makes rolling it into balls so much easier! And after you coat them in the powdered sugar, roll them around in the palm of you hand to remove any excess sugar (not unlike the way you loosely hold dice and shake them in your hand before you roll 'em) You'll wind up with a prettier crinkled cookie. Otherwise you might end up with clumps of powdered sugar on your cookies, which is not exactly what you want. (Or maybe it is! You do you!)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Old Fashioned Gingerbread



 I was recently watching a TV holiday baking championship and they were making gingerbread. Then I thought "wait, how come I don't have a gingerbread recipe on my website??" I mean, I LOVE gingerbread! One would think I'd have posted a favorite recipe by now. But no, none to be found. So, of course, I went right into research mode to find just the right recipe. I wanted it to be moist and flavorful, and definitely with a good amount of spice. (almost HOT spicy!)
 The problem is that every recipe I found wasn't exactly just right. So I kinda took what I liked from a couple different recipes and went with it. It turned out great! I made it for Tory and Ryan when they came over for a movie night, and they both gave it a big "thumbs up!" So this is now my go-to gingerbread recipe. Now that it's FINALLY here, you should definitely try it!


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses*
1 egg
2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot water


 Heat oven to 325ºF.  Grease and flour 9" square baking dish (or spray with baking spray).
Cream together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add molasses and egg and beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Add hot water and stir until well incorporated and batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

  *When choosing molasses, you want to go for anything that is light or mild. Some may be labeled as "robust" but that may be a little strong and overpowering. And never use Blackstrap molasses for baking as that is far too bitter.

Tips:
Yes, you read that correctly - black pepper!
And be sure to serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar!

Monday, December 5, 2016

White Hot Chocolate


 If you're one of my regular readers, you know that I'm always looking for new versions of old favorites. So, I figured, instead of doing a regular hot chocolate, why not do it with white chocolate instead? It's rich and creamy and festive and sweet enough that you could definitely serve it as a dessert beverage. Or maybe just whip up a batch to warm you up on a snowy night. You'll definitely be thinking "why haven't I done this sooner?"
 Tbh, I kind of like it after all the craziness is over, say on Christmas night, after all the parties and food and wrapping and presents. It's a great way to cap off the holiday with something warm and comforting. If you're a fan of white chocolate, I promise you'll love it!


1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla whipped topping, for garnish


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in the half-and-half, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream.


Tips:
To lighten it up a bit, just use any milk of choice instead of the heavy cream. You could even use almond milk, if you so choose.
For a little extra holiday touch, sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint sticks!

Monday, November 28, 2016

White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles


 For ages, I've been looking for a good pumpkin cookie recipe. Not that I don't LOVE the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies that Cathy always makes, but they're a little more cakey than cookie. What I really wanted was a COOKIE. You know, like with a crispy chewy texture. And then I happened upon this recipe on a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. They're AMAZING! So easy to make, crispy and chewy, and just exactly what I wanted!
 Tbh, I had planned on posting the recipe in October when I usually do all pumpkin recipes, but I figured I'd save this one for the holiday season. Even though they're pumpkin, I still feel like Snickerdoodles scream Christmas, dontcha think? So here they are!
 You should definitely add them to your festive cookie repertoire. They're perfect for a cookie swap, and I just bet Santa would love them if you leave some for him along with a tall glass of milk. Oh, and one other thing... be sure to read through Sally's make ahead tips following the recipe. (Time management is always a good thing!) And definitely make 2 batches. Or three. Or four. I promise you they won't last very long! Love love love 'em!


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chunks


 Heat oven to 350ºF.
 Melt the butter in the microwave. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. The dough will be very soft. Fold in white chocolate chips. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes. Chilling is mandatory!
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Roll the dough into balls, about 1.5 tablespoons of dough each. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Roll each of the dough balls generously in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and arrange on 2 baking sheets. Slightly flatten the dough balls because the cookies will only slightly spread in the oven. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and press a few more white chocolate chips onto the tops, if desired. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.

Make ahead tips: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Baked cookies freeze well up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well up to three months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Joey's Bangin' Brussels with Sundried Tomatoes


 Whenever I'm at home just doing the usual Sunday housecleaning and such, my TV is most likely gonna be on the Food Network or Cooking Channel. It's a great thing when you're not just sitting in front of the TV and you can still basically get the gist of what they're making while you're busy tackling your household to-do list. Such was the case when I saw Marcella Valladolid making a Brussels sprouts dish. It had sesame seeds and chili peppers and cream. It looked good, but I wondered what I might do to tweak it a little. So I got to thinking. I liked adding sun dried tomatoes to my Collard Greens, so what if I add them instead of the chilis? I liked the idea adding a little texture, so instead of adding sesame seeds, I decided to add pine nuts for a little crunch. I also roasted my sprouts instead of steaming them in chicken broth and I added mushrooms too, just to bulk up the recipe a bit. Basically, by the time I had finished tweaking, I wound up with a completely different recipe! And it was a HUGE hit among my friends! I kinda figured the casseroles and hearty other dishes would be a big hit, but who knew Brussels sprouts would be the stand out???? We decided they were absolutely BANGIN', so now that's what they're called! Make them as a delicious accompaniment to your fabulous holiday dinner, or even just a casual dinner with friends.
If you're not a fan of Brussels sprouts, I urge you to give this recipe a try.
I PROMISE you it will change your mind!!!


Olive or vegetable oil
2 lbs fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
10oz Baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, toss sprouts with oil and salt and pepper until coated. Place sprouts on a baking tray, cut side down. Place in oven and roast until golden and caramelized on the bottom, and good 20-30 minutes, or even longer.
 While the sprouts are roasting, in a large skillet, saute mushrooms in a little more oil. When the sprouts are ready, add them to the pan along with the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good toss to make sure everything is coated. Adjust seasoning, if needed.

Tips:
-When you're cutting your sprouts, be sure to cut them vertically through the stem end. If you cut them horizontally, then the leaves will all fall apart.
-The cream is meant to just coat everything to make it richer. It's not really a cream SAUCE. If you'd like things to be a little saucier, I would add a splash or two of chicken or vegetable broth.
-Btw, if you'd like to make this a Vegan recipe, just omit the cream and add a little Futter, which is a Vegan butter substitute. Great then!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Loaded Caulflower Casserole


 Here's a recipe that I've had tucked away for ages, and I'm finally just getting around to it. I left myself a little note that I discovered it on Facebook, but I honestly have no idea where. It may have been one of those food videos that are always floating around, or it may have been posted by a friend. Who knows? Well, either way, it was definitely worth getting back to it!
 It's basically all the same toppings as you would put on a baked potato, only it's cauliflower, and it's a casserole. Clever, huh? And I mean, seriously, can one really ever have too many casseroles??? I think not! And you KNOW that's true especially when you're cooking for Thanksgiving! It's an easy do ahead, it only has a few ingredients, and it's delicious! And it just happens to be low in carbs, in case you're choosing to restrict carbs from your diet. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to be dieting on Thanksgiving, but every little bit helps, right?). But don't just save this recipe for Thanksgiving! Make it any time of year, even as a main dish! I bet it would be AMAZING if you added a little diced ham and some steamed broccoli. It's great as is, or as a great starting point for any number of casseroles. The possibilities are endless! Be creative! Enjoy!



1
 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 tbs chopped chives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese



 
Preheat oven to 425°.
  Place a steamer in a large pot with just enough water in the bottom. Steam cauliflower until crisp tender, about  8-10 minutes. (or if you don't have a steamer, you could just boil or microwave it). Drain and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine sour cream, mayo, 1/2 of crumbled bacon, 3 tbs chives, 1 cup of cheese, and cauliflower. Mix well. Place in baking dish and cover with remaining 1 cup of cheese and the rest of the bacon crumbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with remaining chives and serve. 



Tips:
I absolutely added more bacon than the recipe directs, because ...BACON.
If you have any other toppings you'd like to add, go for it! Try adding sliced mushrooms or scallions. Or if you'd like a little spicy hit, try adding some sliced jalapenos or a little hot sauce. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cranberry Tart


 This is an easy Fall dessert that has holiday written all over it. Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without cranberries, but how about a cranberry DESSERT in addition to the Cranberry Sauce that you have with dinner? Frankly, I've never met a cranberry I didn't like, so as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too may cranberry dishes. This is sweet and tart, and would be perfect with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. You could even garnish it with a few white chocolate curls! It's also light and refreshing and it's just the thing to finish off a big dinner. This is the tweaked version of a Martha Stewart recipe that I made for my family last year and then tucked it away, figuring I'd share it this year. I almost forgot all about it! Whew! That was a close one.


1 Pillsbury ready made pie crust Or your own homemade
1/2 cup cold water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
6 cups fresh cranberries
1 3/4 to 2 cups sugar, to taste
1 cup red currant jelly
2 tablespoons Cognac


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Crust:
On a lightly floured work surface, roll pie crust into a 13-inch round. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour; fit dough into a 10-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Fold edges toward center to reinforce; press into sides of tart ring. Pierce bottom of tart shell all over with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Uncover and line tart shell with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are set and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove weights and parchment and continue baking until bottom of crust is dry and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling:
Place cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Combine cranberries, sugar, jelly, and cognac in a saucepan and cook over low heat 12 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook or the mixture will become too watery; cranberries should be soft but not bursting. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in gelatin and let cool completely. Pour cranberry filling into tart shell and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Tips:
I used the Pillsbury pie crust, just because it's easier, it's a time saver, and I think it's a good product. I usually don't mention brand names unless it's warranted. In this case, I've tried other brands and they're just not as good. If you'd like to make your own homemade pie crust or Pate Brisee, go for it!
Instead of using Cognac, try using Grand Marnier for a little hit of orange flavor or Chambord which is a raspberry liqueur. YUM!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Leek Casserole



 When I first saw this recipe, I immediately thought of my Butternut and Apple Gratin, and I wondered if it would be too similar. But then I looked a little more closely and decided: similar-yes, the same-no, worth trying-absolutely YES! So here we are!
 It's a Trisha Yearwood recipe and it has Fall written all over it. Sweet potatoes, apples, fresh thyme.. three of my all time favorite things EVER in the whole wide world. And I must say it was VERY easy to make! It's a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving, you can do it easily a day or two in advance, and then just reheat for the big dinner! It's actually even better the second day, so if you CAN do it in advance, do it! Oh, and it's a great vegetarian dish, in case you happen to have any non-meat eaters at your table! Even if you're not making it for Thanksgiving, it would be amazing with a store bought rotisserie chicken and some cranberry sauce, or even as a vegetarian main dish along with a side salad. Doesn't that sound fabulous??? Try it!



2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts sliced lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 large or 2 medium red skinned apples, such as Gala or Honeycrisp (about 12 ounces), halved, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the thyme and then the cream and cook until the liquid thickens, about 2 minutes; set aside. 
In a 2-quart shallow baking dish, arrange the sweet potato in overlapping layers. Spread the leek mixture evenly over the potatoes. Arrange the apples in an overlapping layer on the leeks. Brush the apples with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the Parmesan is golden brown and melted, about 20 minutes more. The tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the apples and potatoes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Tips:
Be sure to clean the leeks very well: After you slice them in half lengthwise, hold them under running water and separate the layers in order to rinse out any sand that is between the layers. Then proceed with slicing them crosswise, as the recipe directs.
 If you don't have leeks, you could absolutely substitute a mild or sweet onion, thinly sliced.
If you don't have fresh thyme, then by all means, use about a tsp of dried thyme leaves. 

Oh, and one other thing...  be sure to really season your casserole. Like, be generous with the salt and pepper. If your food tastes bland, it's because you didn't add enough salt! If you are restricting salt from your diet, then use a salt substitute. I know it seems simple to say, but most times, when people ask me why my food tastes better than when they make it, it's because I always season my food aggressively. Taste as you go, and it'll be fabulous when it's finished!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow Brulee


 In my quest to find new sweet potato recipes, I've decided that some of the best recipes are the ones that were originally intended for regular potatoes. Yes, yes, I still love the favorite Candied Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Casserole and all the butter and brown sugar that goes with them, but sometimes I just want to taste the sweet potatoes, know what I mean? (This was the aha realization when I was making the favorite Sweet Potato Gratin!) Then I found this recipe from The Neely's. Usually a twice baked potato is done in a savory way, (perhaps with sour cream and/or chives) but this is a sweet version, so I guess this recipe is a cross between the two! It's AMAZING. And my addition of the homemade marshmallow brulee just puts it over the top and makes it even more special. You can do them way in advance too, so they're perfect for your big holiday dinner. And then you can top and brulee them just before serving! Btw, fun fact, out of all of the new recipes I tested at my Friendsgiving dinner, this one was clearly the biggest hit. So I'm pretty sure that if you make them for your family, you'll have NONE leftover! Not even kidding.


6 sweet potatoes, even in size and scrubbed
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Purchased or Homemade Marshmallow Creme


Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Place sweet potatoes on sheet tray and bake for 1 hour or until soft. Remove from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Split potatoes and remove the flesh to a medium sized bowl, reserving skins. In another bowl, add brown sugar, butter and cream cheese and the all of the spices and mash with a fork or rubber spatula. Add the butter and cream cheese mixture to the sweet potato flesh and fold in completely. Add the filling back to the potato skins and place on a half sheet tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
 While the potatoes are baking, make the marshmallow creme. After the second bake, top the potatoes with the creme, either with a spoon or with a piping bag, making sure to create lovely swirly designs or peaks. Place them under a broiler for a minute or two (keeping a watchful eye) until the marshmallow is lightly browned. Or you can use a kitchen torch to brulee.

Tips:
Of course, you don't have to include the marshmallow creme, but it was a huge hit and it added the WOW factor!
I purposely used very small sweet potatoes and then instead of just splitting them, I cut them in HALF before scooping out the centers. If you're having a big huge holiday dinner, you don't really want that big of a portion, plus a big honkin' sweet potato takes up too much precious real estate on the plate! Then again, if you WANT a big honkin sweet potato, GO FOR IT!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing


Ok, I have a confession to make. I Love Stuffing. Let me say that again. I. LOVE. Stuffing. It doesn't matter what kind, from my Italian Sundried Tomato Bread Stuffing, to Mare's Stuffing, and even your basic Stove Top that comes in a box, I love it all. And I know I already did a Sausage and Corn Bread Stuffing but I saw this one and HAD to try it. And frankly, I absolutely adore Tyler Florence, so trying another one of his recipes was a no-brainer. Seriously, could he be any cuter? Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh right! Stuffing! It's an easy do-ahead and it feeds a crowd, so it has Thanksgiving written all over it, and the fresh sage just drives that home. I made this for my most recent Friendsgiving, and it was a big hit! Now I can add this to my list of favorite stuffing recipes.
I'm sure you will too!


2 tbs butter
2 onions, chopped
6 large cornmeal muffins, cubed
handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until soft and caramelized. Add sage and scrape into a large mixing bowl. Add the cornbread pieces, season well with salt and pepper, and give it a good toss until it's well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and stock, and pour that over the cornbread. Stir the stuffing together and stuff the cavity of the turkey. You could also spoon it into a buttered baking dish and put it in the oven along with the turkey. Bake until hot and crusty on top, about 30 minutes.

Tips:
Instead of purchasing the corn muffins, I just purchased 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and baked them according to package directions. Then proceeded with the recipe as directed. SO much cheaper to do it that way!
The key to really good caramelized onions is to cook them low and slow. I wanted them to REALLY cook down to a rich deep dark color, so I cooked mine for much longer than the 10 minutes that the recipe suggests. Just bring them up to heat, and then turn it down to low. Let them saute and give them a good stir every few minutes. And be patient!! This will take a good 30 minutes or so, but it'll be worth it!
When I made it, I added A LOT of onions. I figure it's called CARAMELIZED ONION and corn bread stuffing, so it should definitely have a lot of onions. (I also added a few extra tbs of butter.) Add as much as you like!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Grandma's Corn Pudding


 When I'm looking for Thanksgiving side dishes, I want something that is easy to make, feeds a crowd, can be made in advance, and of course, it must be delicious! This recipe is ABSOLUTELY all of those things! (And btw, no, this is not MY Grandma's recipe, but that's what the recipe is called, so we're sticking with it.)
 I wanted a new something to do with corn, and I happened upon this recipe on Allrecipes.com.  It's so simple! You just mix everything up, pour it into a casserole dish, and bake it! It's literally that easy. Even the cooking novice can do it. So if your family is like mine where everyone brings something, you can assign this one to someone who usually doesn't do so much cooking!
Now, I know I already have Dottie's Corn Casserole and Parmesan Corn Pudding, but this one is a little different. It's very creamy and almost custardy. (Is that a word? custardy?) It's also just sweet enough to bring out the flavor of the corn, so it's perfect for your big family holiday dinner.
 So if you'd like something new for your turkey dinner, try this one!  It's REALLY tasty!! And who knows? This just might become one of your family's new favorites!


5 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 (15oz) can whole kernel corn
2 (15oz) cans cream style corn


Heat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, simply stir all ingredients together in order listed, mixing well after each addition.
Pour into greased two-quart casserole dish and bake for one hour.

Tips:
 Be sure to bake it all the way through. You may have to adjust your baking time, depending on how shallow your baking dish is. It will take a little longer if your dish is a more narrow and tall, whereas a dish that is wide and shallow will take less time. You want it to be a lovely golden brown on top, and it should be set and not too jiggly in the center.
Whenever you're adding cornstarch to a recipe, it's always a good idea to add it to a COLD liquid before stirring it into whatever you're making. So in this case, stir the cornstarch into the milk before pouring it into the mixing bowl. This keeps it from clumping.
This casserole can be made a day or two in advance. Just cover it tightly with foil after baking it and store it in the fridge. Then reheat it when it's time for dinner. Your turkey should rest for about a half hour after you take it out of the oven anyway, so this is the perfect time to heat all of your casseroles and side dishes!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Joey's Ghoulish Goulash



 Ok, so it's Halloween, you're busy getting the kids' costumes together, you're answering the door a million times a day to give yummy treats to neighborhood ghosts and goblins, and you've already eaten too many mini Snickers bars and Milky Ways, right? Do you feel like cooking an elaborate dinner? I'm thinking probably not. When I was growing up,  Mom always had a pot of soup simmering on the stove, just because it was easier and it would warm us up after spending all afternoon trick or treating. Usually I would post a soup recipe for Halloween, just for the family tradition of it all, but today I decided to go a little rogue, and try a stew instead.
 For years, I've been wanting to find a really hearty authentic Hungarian Goulash, which is classically a tomato based beef stew with lots of paprika. The more I searched, the more I discovered that classic goulash is like classic tomato sauce. Everyone makes it differently, everyone has a grand mom who makes it the best, and all are equally authentic. So, as I often do, I deconstructed a few recipes, took what I liked from each of them, and made my own! And of course, since I'm doing it for Halloween, I MUST call it GHOULISH Goulash. Of course, I'm not the first person to ever think of this, but the alliteration and play on words is just too good not to!
 So here it is! It's easy to make, feeds a crowd, and it's absolutely delicious! Actually, I liked it so much, I made it twice in one week! It's warm and hearty and comforting. You could even prep it in the morning, (or the night before) and then let it cook all day in the crock pot. Enjoy it on Halloween or any night when you want something warm and cozy!


2 lbs beef cubes
olive oil
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
5 tbs paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Extra wide egg noodles


Heat oven to 350ºF.
Place beef cubes on a tray in one layer. Pat them dry with a paper towel. (This is a very important step, so no skipping!!) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a few glugs of olive oil to a large heavy pot or Dutch Oven. Brown the beef in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan, removing to a separate bowl as you finish browning each batch. While the beef is browning, chop your onions. After you finished browning the beef, add the onions to the pot with a little extra oil. Stir and saute until they begin to soften. Add the remaining ingredients and the browned beef along with any accumulate beef juices. Give it a good stir, cover, then place in oven for about 2 hours. When the stew is almost done, boil your egg noodles according to package directions. Serve stew over noodles with some warm crusty bread.

Tips:
As noted above, it's very important to pat the beef cubes dry before browning them. It's also just as important (if not MORE!) to not crowd the pan. You don't want to steam them, you want to BROWN them. So just take your time and brown the beef in smaller batches. You'll get a much deeper flavor!
As with every stew, make it how you like it! Do you want it to be saucier? Add more crushed tomatoes and beef broth. Do you want it to be spicier? Add more pepper and paprika. Taste as you go, and tweak as you like!
If the sauce is too thin, make a slurry of a little flour and water, then add it to the stew to thicken it. Easy!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Dutch Apple Pumpkin Crisp


  Whenever someone asks me what my favorite dessert is, I always say "a hot apple something with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce." Whenever someone asks me what my favorite PUMPKIN  dessert is, I always say "I've never met a pumpkin dessert I didn't like!" So, imagine how excited I was when I found THIS recipe!!  It's the best of both worlds!! Yummy delicious spiced pumpkin with apples, topped with a crispy crumble topping. HEAVEN!! This is a Betty Crocker recipe, but actually I found it on a blog called Crumbs and Chaos. And it's super easy to make too! You don't even need a mixer! Perfect for a special holiday dessert or just because you're in the mood for a warm comforting Fall treat! Betcha there won't be any leftover! Try it!



2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tbs flour
1 egg


Preheat oven to 350°.
Place apples in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate. Microwave 2 1/2 – 4 minutes, until apples are crisp tender.
In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar, butter and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Stir together until crumbly, set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, milk, 2 Tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and egg. Pour over apples in pie plate. Sprinkle crisp topping mixture over pumpkin layer.
Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Let cool 30 minutes, serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
 
 
Tips:
To be quite honest, I didn't even measure the pumpkin pie spice. I always wind up adding more anyway, so I just threw some in. Like Mom always said, if you like a lot, add a lot!
Oh and yes, I served mine with caramel sauce, because that's just how I roll. But you serve it how you like it!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars


If you know me, you know that I'm always looking for new and yummy pumpkin recipes. Sweet, savory, and everything in between, I love all things pumpkin. So I decided that my pumpkin collection needed an easy "picky uppy" something that would be perfect for you to make for a party or your next family get-together. Then I found this recipe on a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. (if you haven't checked it, out, you simply must. LOTS of fabu recipes there!)
 So here we go! They're moist and cakey, and the cream cheese swirl is what pushes it over the top. SO rich and perfect, and the cinnamon pumpkin seeds add just the right amount of added crunch.
 Having a party? Now you know what dessert to make! Just place them on a tray and watch them disappear. Better yet, make a double batch, and then you'll have leftovers! More is more!


Bars
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Swirl
 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pepitas tossed in a sprinkle of ground cinnamon


 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease or line the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. On medium speed, beat in the pumpkin until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not overmix. The mixture will be thick. Spread 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan; it will be a relatively thin layer.
In a medium bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer filled with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Beat on high speed until completely combined. Drop random spoonfuls on top of the pumpkin batter.
 Drop the remaining pumpkin batter on top of the spoonfuls of cream cheese. With a rubber spatula or knife, begin gently swirling the two together. Sprinkle cinnamon-pepitas on top of the swirled batter.
Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow the bars to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator for about 2 hours before cutting into squares. Leftover bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Tips:
 As stated on the SBA blog, these bars can be made 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Bars freeze well, up to 3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
Definitely use the foil or parchment as the recipe directs. It makes it SO much easier to lift the whole batch out of the pan in one go. Then you can use a large knife to make perfect cuts, and you won't ruin your pan!
 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pumpkin Creme Brulee



 Looking for a pumpkin pie alternative? I believe I have the answer! Have you ever made a creme brulee? It's really not very difficult to make and it always impresses everyone, even just at the mere mention of it. Add some pumpkin and a vanilla bean, and now you have a sophisticated dessert that is perfect for any special occasion holiday meal.
 As I was browsing recipes, I noticed that many of them use lots of spices. Yes, of course I love all the warm fall spices that go perfectly with pumpkin, but in this case, I wanted a simpler flavor, one that would not disguise the flavor of the pumpkin. All I wanted was a sweet pumpkin custard, rich and sweet and smooth and velvety. And then I found it! It was on a blog called Love and Olive Oil, and it's AMAZING. It's perfect for a holiday dinner because a total do-ahead. Even if you're not cooking for a special occasion, you should give this one a try!


1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 300ºF. Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil (this will be used for the water bath later).
Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla until light in color.
Heat cream in a small saucepan until it starts to steam. Gradually pour warm cream into bowl with egg yolks, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking vigorously, until incorporated. Skim off foam. Pour into 4 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins. Arrange ramekins in a baking pan and place pan on oven rack. Carefully pour in just enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until just set. Remove from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle a generous tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of each ramekin. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar, moving torch evenly across the tops of the custards to keep the sugar from burning. Alternatively, you place the custards on the top rack of a broiler set to high, and broil until sugar is golden brown and caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tips:
 I know the recipe only calls for 1/2 of the vanilla bean, but I used the whole thing. As far as I'm concerned, vanilla falls into the same category as cinnamon: there's no such thing as too much. So I scraped out the insides of the whole vanilla bean, and then placed the empty pod in the cream as I was heating it. Vanilla cream! Then I discarded the pod and added the cream to the recipe as directed. I also added just the tiniest pinch of salt, just to enhance the pumpkin flavor a bit.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pumpkin Pie Cake



When it comes to pumpkin recipes, I'm a super fan. Yes, I will proudly state that I love all things pumpkin and then I've never met a pumpkin dish I didn't like. I know some people are hit or miss when it comes to pumpkin, but that is absolutely not the case with me. So that means I'm always on the hunt for new and fun and different pumpkin recipes.
 I was recently doing some googling and I happened to find this one on a blog called Oh Sweet Basil. Basically, if a yellow cake and a pumpkin pie had a baby, it would be this cake. BINGO! This is exactly the type of recipe I wanted! And there are several reasons why: It only uses a few ingredients, it's an easy mix-and-bake, it's not overly spiced (so the pumpkin really shines through), plus it's a great alternative for someone who likes the flavor of pumpkin pie, but doesn't like the custardy texture. (I know, I know, I don't understand it either). The texture of this cake is very moist, and it just about melts in your mouth. SO GOOD! When I made it, I immediately got rave reviews! Oh, btw, one other thing... The original recipe directs you to bake it in a 9x13 pan, but I chose to bake it in a bundt pan. It turned out great! Regardless of which pan you use, I'm sure you'll get rave reviews too!  So add this to your fall repertoire. It's definitely a keeper!



1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 (15oz) can of pumpkin
3 eggs
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1 tsp salt
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 
1 package yellow or spice cake mix


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13" baking pan with nonstick spray. In the standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the pumpkin and mix until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing between. Add the evaporated milk. In a separate bowl, add the salt, pumpkin pie spice, and yellow cake mix. Whisk together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream.


 Tips:
If you choose to bake your cake in a bundt pan instead of a 9x13 pan, just let it bake a little longer until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Instead of serving with whipped cream, you can also glaze your cake with a fluffy cream cheese glaze (as I did) or simply dust it with powdered sugar.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread



 If you plant zucchini in your home garden, you might wind up with quite a lot by the end of the season. So I usually like to find delicious and new recipes to use up all of that extra zucchini. I've done zucchini pancakes, zucchini "crab" cakes, a summer squash saute (which was out of this world, I must say), and of course zucchini bread. And then I remembered a Lemon Zucchini Cookie recipe that was sent to me by my friend Kathleen. I thought, "ooo lets run with that flavor combination.."
  So I started looking and immediately found several versions of a particular lemon zucchini bread recipe. Great! So  I gave it a try. Uh... maybe not so great. The flavor was good, but the texture was ALL WRONG.  I thought, ok lets take another look at it. For a one-loaf recipe, the original had quite a lot of sugar in it, and also quite a lot of zucchini. Maybe this was the reason the final product turned out too gooey, which is great in some cases but in this case it's definitely not what I was going for. It also used cake flour, which probably added to the different texture. Oh, and the glaze was far too thin and soaked right into the warm bread, probably yet another reason why it was too gooey. I just wanted a nice light quick bread with a sweet lemony glazed drizzled over the top. Overall, it wasn't what I originally had in mind, but it was definitely worth a second try.
 I did some more searching and found another version of the recipe on a website called Like Mother Like Daughter. I gave it a try. Bingo! This was the one I wanted! It's light, deliciously moist from the zucchini, and lemony sweet and tart. It's also very easy to throw together and it uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand. And I like that it makes just one loaf of bread, perfect for a little something sweet with a cup of coffee or tea. So, there you have it. And to all of my friends who always ask me for "anything lemon", this one's for you! Definitely a keeper.



For the Bread:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbs lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated zucchini

For the Lemon Glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
lemon zest to taste, if desired



Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray (or grease and flour). Set aside.
In a large bowl, blend together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs well. Whisk in the oil and sugar. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest and blend together well. Fold in the zucchini until well coated. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold together until everything is well blended, but don't over-mix. Pour the batter into your loaf pan. Place in your oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Whisk together all glaze ingredients, then drizzle glaze over your cooled bread before serving.


Tips:
Instead of buying buttermilk, simply place 2 tsp of lemon juice or vinegar in a half cup measure, then fill the rest of the way with milk. Microwave it for 30 seconds. The heat will make it curdle, which is exactly what you want. Works perfectly as a buttermilk substitution!
For the glaze, I wanted it to be VERY lemony, so I added more lemon zest. I even added a drop or two of lemon extract. Make it to suit your own taste!
I used only a half cup of zucchini (instead of 1 cup) because that was all I had, but it still turned out perfectly. Of course, if you have LOTS of zucchini that you need to use up, you could always make several breads and then store them tightly wrapped in the freezer until your ready for them. (Holiday gift giving anyone??)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Easy Hummus


Ok, here's a quick and easy recipe that definitely falls under the heading of "It's better when YOU make it." Oh sure it's super easy to just pick up a tub of hummus at your grocery store, but it's just so much better when you make it at home using fresh ingredients. Plus, you can adjust it to suit your own tastes. Maybe you like a little more garlic, or a little less lemon juice. You do you! For me, there is as big of a difference as when using fresh vegetables as opposed to using canned vegetables. There's really just no comparison. And it's easy! I found this recipe on a blog called Inspired Taste. It's REALLY yummy and super simple. You just keep throwing things into the food processor and it only take a few minutes. Boom. So if you are a fan of hummus but have never made it fresh, I urge you to give it a try. You may never go back to buying it!


1 (15oz) can chickpeas
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini (sesame paste)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Dash ground paprika, for serving


 In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended. Open, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes. With the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Drizzle hummus with a little olive oil and dash of paprika. Serve with pita chips or veggies.


Tips:
If you don't have tahini or don't like it, you can simply leave it out or use all natural unsweetened peanut butter.
This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of hummus. Having a party? Double it!
Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Peach Cobbler Bake


 Have you ever seen those Tasty cooking videos that pop up all over Facebook? Sometimes I don't really give them a second look, but other times I think "ooooo that looks pretty awesome, I need to try it." Such was the case with this one! It's REALLY absurdly easy to make and it's absolutely delicious. I made it for some friends, and they LOVED it, but tbh it seemed to me that it needed a little extra love. So I made it again and just tweaked it ever so slightly. OMG so much better! Clearly, the Tasty Video people should have called me first. LOL
 So this is my version of the recipe. Thanx again, Tasty Video, for the idea, but I think I'll stick to making it my way from now on! It's still absurdly easy to make, and I know you'll love it!

2 cans cinnamon roll dough
5 large ripe fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Spray a 9x13 (or comparable size) casserole with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Open the cans of dough. Cut each roll into 9 pieces. Place half of the pieces of dough in the prepared pan in a single layer. In a large mixing bowl, toss the peaches with the cinnamon and sugar. Place on top of dough pieces. Place the rest of the dough in a single layer on top of the peaches. Take the cups of icing that were included with the cinnamon rolls and microwave them for about 10 seconds, then drizzle over the cobbler. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the peaches are bubbly and the dough has baked up and is slightly brown. Let it cool for a bit. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Tips:
I doubled the original recipe so that it would feed a crowd, but if you have a smaller group, you can absolutely cut it in half and bake it in an 8x8 pan.
Seems to me that this recipe would work perfectly with other fruits too! Berries, apples, pears, all good!  I bet you could even use canned peaches, in a pinch. Just be sure to drain them really well!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Marshmallow Creme


Ok, ok, yes, you're probably saying "why MAKE marshmallow creme when you can just go BUY it? Marshmallow is marshmallow, right?" WRONG! Homemade is SO much better! Just like I always say "it's better when YOU make it", the same holds true for marshmallow creme. Not only does it taste better, but it holds up better. So, like, if you wanted to cover a chocolate cake or a S'mores Cake with marshmallow creme, buying a tub o' fluff just won't cut it. The purchased fluff will continue to glob down the sides of the cake until there is nothing left on the cake and you'll be left with a big mess around the bottom of the plate. (This is the voice of experience talking! btw, is "glob" a verb?) But if you make it yourself, not only will it STAY on the cake, it will set up like any other frosting and you can use a piping bag to decorate your cake with it! And then if you have any leftover, you can make Fluffernutter sandwiches! Or even sandwich it between peanut butter cookies! OK? NOW do you see why homemade is better? This recipe is not my own, but it's my go-to. I found it on a blog called Liv for Cake. You should definitely try it!!!


1/3 cup water 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup corn syrup or honey 
3 egg whites (room temperature) 
1/2 tsp cream of tartar  
1 tsp vanilla extract 


 Place water, sugar, and corn syrup (or honey) in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Insert a candy thermometer into the pot and heat over medium-high. Do not stir from this point on as crystals will form. Ensure mixer bowl and whisk are completely grease free. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the sugar syrup reaches about 225°F, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Approx 3-4mins. When the whites are ready, the sugar syrup should be at 240°F. Remove from the heat, turn mixer to medium and very slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whites in a thin, steady stream. Once all of the syrup is in, set mixer to medium/high and continue whipping. The whites will deflate at first, but they will thicken and fluff up. Continue to whip for 7-8 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and glossy. Add in vanilla and whip until the fluff has cooled. Pour into an airtight container and store for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

Tips:
I have used both corn syrup and honey for this recipe, and I definitely like the corn syrup better. Unless you're looking for a strong honey flavor instead of a regular marshmallow flavor, I would definitely stick with the corn syrup. Just sayin!

S'mores Cake



 I recently made this cake for my dear friend, Bridgette. My fabulous gang of friends had already planned to get together for dinner at my place (which we often do). Then, upon discovering that our dinner night was to be the day after Bridgette's birthday, I thought "Well of course we should have cake!" I immediately nixed my original dessert ideas for the dinner and then texted Jim to see what Bridgette's favorite flavors are. He told me she likes S'mores. So I figured, well then lets have a S'mores Cake! I immediately started googling and found this AMAZING recipe on a blog called Liv For Cake (which you should absolutely check out, btw!) The Graham cracker cake recipe is hers, and so is the recipe for the fluff, both of which are absolutely delish!
  Now, I know this may seem like a lot with the different components and all, but this is TOTALLY doable and the final showstopping result is completely worth it! I piped the marshmallow onto the cake and then torched it just before serving. All of the piped peaks began to get nicely browned and toasted and it smelled SO GOOD! (That's when all the oooos and aahhhhhs started happening LOL). It felt like the blowing-out-the-candles part was the first act, and this was the finale! Everyone absolutely loved it and several people even had a second slice. It's just that good!
 So if you have a special occasion coming up, this is definitely what you should make! The cake is fabulous, the ganache is sinful, but let's be serious, it's all about the fluff! I KNOW your friends and family will love it!


Graham Cracker Cake:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

Milk Chocolate Ganache:
12oz milk chocolate (finely chopped)
6 oz heavy cream
2 Tbsp Baileys (optional)

Marshmallow Fluff:
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup or honey
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease and flour two 9" cake rounds.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix. Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula and whack the pans against the counter to evenly distribute. Bake for approx. 30 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins. Whack the pans on the counter to loosen the cakes and turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
For the Ganache:
Finely chop chocolate and place into a bowl. Bring cream just barely to a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 2 mins. Stir with a spatula until combined and smooth. Cool in the refrigerator until thickened, but still soft (stirring occasionally). Transfer to bowl of stand mixer and whip using the whisk attachment until the ganache is fluffy and has lightened in color (approx. 1 or 2 minutes).
For the Marshmallow Fluff:
Place water, sugar, and corn syrup (or honey) in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. Insert a candy thermometer into the pot and heat over medium-high. Do not stir from this point on as crystals will form. Ensure mixer bowl and whisk are completely grease free. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the sugar syrup reaches about 225°F, start whipping the egg whites to soft peaks. Approx 3-4mins. When the whites are ready, the sugar syrup should be at 240°F. Remove from the heat, turn mixer to medium and very slowly and carefully pour the sugar syrup into the whites in a thin, steady stream. Once all of the syrup is in, set mixer to medium/high and continue whipping. The whites will deflate at first, but they will thicken and fluff up. Continue to whip for 7-8 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and glossy. Add in vanilla and whip until the fluff has cooled. Pour into an airtight container and store for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

To assemble the cake:
Once the cakes have cooled completely, frost the layers with the whipped ganache. Place in fridge to set. Spread or pipe marshmallow fluff roughly all over cake and torch to toast.

Tips:
The original recipe was for 3 6" layers. I baked it in 2 9" layers and it turned out perfectly, so that's how I have it listed in the recipe.
I used honey in the marshmallow instead of corn syrup which definitely gave it a distinctively honey taste. I figured honey and grahams are a great match! But if you'd rather have straight up marshmallow, I'd say you should probably just stay with corn syrup!
You can use store bought fluff for the cake, but it has been my experience then it doesn't set up. It just sort of globs down the sides of the cake and makes a big mess. Definitely go for the homemade!
Btw, I know I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again. Whenever I need buttermilk for a recipe, I always just add a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar to a one cup measure, fill it the rest of the way with milk, then microwave for 30 seconds. Boom. Buttermilk!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Strawberry White Chocolate Blondies


I recently made these for my friends' Kath and Tony's 30th Anniversary party and they were a big hit! Then I made them again for my friends' Ginna and Charlie's annual summer party. Again, rave reviews! I'm not surprised, though. They're really crazy good! I found the recipe on a blog called Love and Olive Oil (of course, I tweaked it ever so slightly) and they were exactly the sort of picky-uppy summer dessert I was looking for! So add this to your dessert menu the next time you plan a party. You'll definitely get rave reviews too!


12 oz white chocolate chips, divided
10 tbs butter, cut into pieces
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and diced


Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang. (this will help the blondies come out of the pan later). Butter parchment. Set aside. Measure 1/4 cup chips. Set aside. 
In a double boiler or a bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, melt the remaining chocolate chips and butter, stirring constantly, until smooth. (I use a whisk so it all comes together). Remove from heat and stir in sugar. 
 Whisk in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add sifter flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until just incorporated. Fold in strawberries. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with reserved chips. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cook completely. Use the parchment to lift the blondies out of the pan, then cut into squares.


Tips:
When I made them for Ginna's party, I used half strawberries and half apricots (because Ginna loves apricots!) but use whichever kind of fruit you like! Peaches? Raspberries? How about both?!
Be sure to bake them until they're golden on top and set in the middle. You don't want to underbake them because he extra liquid from the fruit will make them too gooey. I prefer to err on the side of overbaking them. It doesn't make them dry, it just makes them more chewy!
Don't need so many? Freeze half of them! Or just cut the recipe in half and bake them in an 8x8 pan!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins


 Ok, so, what do you do when you're kinda bored and wide awake at 11:00pm? Obviously, you bake something! Correct? Well, at least I do! As I was watching the Olympics, I was browsing recipes and trying to find something to do with the extra rhubarb that I had leftover from the last time I made jam. I didn't want to do a pie, but was thinking more along the lines of some sort of bread. Then I thought Oh! Muffins! It didn't take me long to find this recipe from the website for Fine Cooking Magazine. It's crazy easy and the results are amazing! They're slightly sweet, slightly tart, and VERY moist. And btw, they smell heavenly while they're baking. Perfect! Definitely a muffin and not a cupcake, these little babies are perfect with a cup of coffee or a nice little something to have with an afternoon tea. You should definitely make them. Like, right now. No, seriously.


2 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
1 cup sour cream 
1 stick (8tbs) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly 
2 large eggs 
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 
1-1/2 cups 1/4-inch-diced rhubarb 

3 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

 
Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and whisk to blend. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Lightly stir the sour cream mixture into the dry ingredients with a spatula until the batter just comes together; do not overmix. Gently stir in the diced rhubarb. The batter will be thick.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, using the back of a spoon or a small spatula to settle the batter into the cups. The batter should mound a bit higher than the tops of the cups.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Sprinkle a generous 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over each muffin.
Bake the muffins until they’re golden brown, spring back most of the way when gently pressed, and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully lift the muffins out of the pan—if necessary, loosen them with the tip of a paring knife—and let them cool somewhat. Best when served warm.

Tips:
This is a great basic cinnamon muffin batter that you can use with any number of variations. I bet it would be great with diced peaches or apples!
These muffins freeze very well, so if you're not going to eat them right away, you can store them in the freezer, no problem!
Be generous with the cinnamon/sugar topping. You really want that sweetness to balance the tartness of the rhubarb!
 The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb, but I definitely added more like 2 cups. Tbh, I think you could even go further and add a little more! More is more!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake


  Usually, when you think of a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, you usually think of a sheet cake with pineapple rings, and a cherry in the center of each one, correct? Well how about making it in a bundt pan instead? Clever, huh? No, this is definitely not my own idea, but it's too good not to share! Actually, I'm not even sure where I originally saw it. (probably a video on Facebook).
 So, I decided to look into it, but it seems MANY recipes use a cake mix to start. Am I the only one who still prefers to bake a cake from scratch? I mean, seriously, baking a cake from scratch is really only one or two steps more than a boxed cake mix, and the results are just SO much better!  Well, I FINALLY found a couple recipes that looked pretty good, and this was the one I picked. (Actually, I was originally gonna try a different one, but then discovered that included corn starch in the cake batter. Any idea why one would add corn starch? If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them) Anyway, this is a tweaked version of a recipe that I found on a blog called Bundt Cake Season. It uses basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand, it turned out perfectly and it got rave reviews! And of course, it's a showstopper. Just look at how beautiful it is! It's just the thing for a special occasion, but simple enough for any Sunday supper. For an added treat, try serving it with a scoop of coconut ice cream. YUM.
If you're a fan of pineapple, then I KNOW you'll love this one!


Topping:
1 (20oz) can pineapple rings, drained
16 maraschino cherries

Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (softened)
1 3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tbs vanilla
1 cup whole milk 
1/4 cup pineapple juice from can

Caramel:
1/2 cup butter
1 tbp corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Drain pineapples reserving 1/4 of the juice. Slice pineapple rings in half. Set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar. Beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add vanilla and pineapple juice to milk. Add sifted four mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating well after each addition.
Coat bundt pan generously with a baker's cooking spray that includes flour.
 Make the caramel by combining the butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Pour into bottom of prepared pan. Stand half rings on end in the pan, then place a cherry in between each one, as shown.
Very gently spoon the cake batter over the pineapples, making sure they're still standing upright.  Bake for about 60-70 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for a good 20 minutes before inverting the cake onto a serving platter.

Tips:
-When you make the caramel, it will be SCREAMING hot. Please please please be careful not to burn yourself!
-Be sure to let the cake cool in the pan for a good 20 minutes. If you invert it right out of the oven, the caramel will spill out all over the place, which is potentially dangerous and not at all what you want. At the same time, you don't want to let it cool completely in the pan, because then the caramel will stick to the pan, and your design will be ruined. You want to find that sweet spot where the caramel has set up but is still soft enough to come out of the pan in one go. 20 minutes worked perfectly for me!
-If you dump all the batter into the pan at once, you'll knock over all the pineapples like dominoes. So that's the reason for spooning it in a little at a time. Just take your time, spoon some of the batter in between each slice of pineapple, right over the cherries. Then you can go ahead and pour the rest of the batter over everything. The cherries will also help to keep everything standing up straight.
-The caramel will bubble up the sides of the pan while it's baking, so be sure to put a sheet of foil or even a baking sheet on the rack below, in case any of it bubbles over. Easy clean up!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Feijoada, Brazilian Black Bean Stew


 Are you as excited for the Olympics as I am??? If you know me, you know that I don't watch sports AT ALL. But when it's time for the Olympics, I'm glued to the TV for two weeks. I love all of it! The ceremonies, the victories, the lifelong dreams, the backstories, and of course I love learning about the culture of the host city. When I learned that the Olympics were going to be held in Rio, I immediately started researching Brazilian recipes. I decided to go with their national dish, which is this delicious and hearty black bean stew called Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZHWA-da).
 Now, I have to confess, I had never heard of it, I've never cooked Brazilian food, and the closest I've ever been to Brazil was when I went to a Brazilian restaurant. But from what I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong) this is one of those dishes that has as many versions as there are home cooks. Everyone has a family recipe, which of course is better than any other. This is clearly Brazilian comfort food at its best! I just like the fact that it's another delicious stew to add to my repertoire. You put the pot on the stove, let it simmer all afternoon, and the whole house smells amazing. 
 I made this for my family's Opening Ceremonies party (in which everyone brings a different International dish), but you don't have to have a party to make this. Just pick a Sunday when you know you'll have a few hours at home and let it simmer all day. I promise you'll be glad you did!



1 lb dry black beans
a few glugs of olive oil
1 lb boneless pork, cut into chunks
1 lb beef cubes
2 large onions, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb carne seca or corned beef, cut into chunks
1/2 lb sausages, such as chorizo or Italian sausage
1 lb smoked sausage, such as linguica or kielbasa
1 smoked ham hock or shank
3-4 bay leaves
Water
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Fresh parsley or cilantro
sliced oranges


 Pour boiling water over the black beans and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the stew.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork. When it has browned, remove the meat from the pot, set aside. Do the same thing with the beef cubes, removing them from the pot after browning. Now add the onions to the pot. Brown them, stirring occasionally, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and stir well. Add the beef and pork back to the pot along with the other meats and the bay leaves. Add just enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it simmer for about an hour. Drain the black beans from their soaking liquid and add them to the stew. Simmer gently, covered, until the beans are tender, about an hour and a half. Add the tomato paste, and stir well. Continue to simmer, uncovered for about another hour or until the meat begins to fall off the ham hock. Serve over white rice with a sprinkle of fresh parsley or cilantro and a few slices of fresh orange. A classic side dish would be sautéed collard greens, if desired.


Tips:
The key to this dish is having lots of different meats and letting them simmer for a long time. It also lends itself to using whatever kind of meats you like. It's basically just a lot of pork and beef, leaning a little more on the pork side. Do you like things spicy? Use a spicy sausage to flavor your stew and serve it up with some hot sauce. You could also add some crushed red pepper. 
Full disclosure, the addition of the tomato paste is not authentically Brazilian, but I found several recipes that include it, so I went with it. I've also seen recipes that use different kinds of beans, white beans, etc, but from what I understand, black beans are classically used here.
I didn't add any salt at all because there is quite enough from the corned beef, the ham hock and the smoked sausage. Just sayin!