Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Orange Vanilla Monkey Bread

 Every year, my family has a huge brunch on Easter morning, so I'm always searching for fun and different brunch recipes during the weeks leading up to it. Most of the time, I'll find savory recipes likes casseroles or quiches. But everyone knows that brunch also has its SWEET side, such as French Toast Casserole, and Cinnamon Buns. So this time, I opted to go for something sweet!
 This is Ree Drummond's recipe and it's really delicious. It's a simple twist on your regular Monkey Bread. Basically, instead of tossing biscuits with sugar and cinnamon, you toss them with sugar and fresh orange zest. Doesn't that sound bright and fresh and brunchy? (yes brunchy is a word. I've just decided.) It's pretty brilliant, as far as I'm concerned. The fresh orange flavor is SO bright, and the vanilla sort of smooths it all out. It's a definite keeper! And it's easy too! It makes me think "what other Monkey Bread variations can we do?" I'll be sure to let you know if I come up with any! In the meantime, make this the next time you have friends over for brunch. I promise it'll be a hit!

3 cans (7.5 oz each) buttermilk biscuits, cold 
1 cup sugar 
2 whole oranges, zested 
1 dash Salt 
2 sticks salted butter 
3/4 cups brown sugar 
1 tbs vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
First, make sure all the biscuit cans are very cold. Open all the cans of biscuits and cut the biscuits into quarters. Fill a large ziploc bag with the granulated sugar, the orange zest, and the dash of salt. Seal the bag and shake it around until the zest and the sugar are totally combined. Add the biscuit pieces to the bag, seal it and shake/toss it around until all the biscuit pieces are coated in the orange sugar. Pour the pieces and sugar into a bundt or tube pan and set it aside. 
 In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter then stir in the brown sugar and vanilla until just barely combined. Pour the mixture all over the biscuit pieces, scraping the pan to get all the butter/brown sugar out of there. Let it settle for a second, then place the pan in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top of the biscuits are golden brown. Then remove the pan from the oven and set it on a rack. Let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 15), then turn the cake out of the pan onto a cake plate. 
Note: When it first comes out of the pan, the melted sugar/caramel will be a little on the hot side. Wait a few minutes after turning it out before serving.
Yes, I know there's quite a bit of sugar. Even with my insatiable sweet tooth, it was close to pushing my sweetness limits. I think, perhaps, next time I'll reduce the amount of white sugar to a half cup. But be sure to still toss the sugar with the orange zest. It's turns it into orange sugar, which will flavor the whole thing. You can add a bit of orange extract, if you like, but the fresh orange zest is MUCH better. For a stronger vanilla flavor, you can also scrape the insides of a vanilla bean into the brown sugar/butter mixture.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Classic Homemade Waffles

  Have you ever made your own waffles from scratch? They're really super easy to throw together, and they're SO much better than any waffles you'll find in your grocer's freezer. They only take a few minutes too! So, you may wonder, what's the difference between classic waffles and Belgian waffles? Well, Belgian waffles (in most cases) use a batter that contains yeast, and they're also cooked on very large waffle irons with deep pockets in them. Sometimes they'll have whipped egg whites folded into the batter for a lighter fluffier texture inside, and a crispier texture outside.
 This is a classic waffle recipe is from, but there are many classic versions out there. They're all pretty similar and use mostly the same ingredients. Some use a little more flour or a little less milk. Some add melted butter and/or shortening which makes a crispier crust. But basically, they're all pretty much the same idea.
 Either way, classic or Belgian, I've never met a waffle I didn't like, especially with the endless combinations of toppings you can put on them. Usually, with classic waffles, I'm a butter and syrup kinda guy. Yes, syrup. Lots and lots of syrup! Then again, if we're talking dessert waffles, I love a yummy fruit pie filling with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Strawberry, blueberry, or APPLE. OMG yes, apple!) You could also do peanut butter and marshmallow creme for a Fluffenutter waffle. Maybe some chocolate chips in the batter for the chocoholics in your life. And you definitely can't go wrong with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or simply just your favorite home made jam! It all works, and it's all delicious! Or you can even do SAVORY waffles! Just omit the sugar, and top your waffles with fresh herbs like basil or chopped chives, and some shredded cheese. How about some smoked salmon and some herbed cream cheese? You could also add some crumbled bacon to your batter. Or how about adding some Cajun spices to the batter, and serving them with fried chicken and a drizzle of honey! OOO that sounds pretty amazing to me!
 Clearly, homemade waffles are SO much more versatile than your basic store bought frozen ones. So, have fun! Experiment with flavors! And if you don't have a waffle iron, I've just given you an excuse to buy one! You're welcome.

3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Cooking spray, for waffle iron

 Preheat your waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, apple cider vinegar, and canola oil until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined. Spray heated waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour a generous amount of batter into the middle of the iron until it's completely covered. Cook until golden brown, 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.

If you're making them for a crowd, place cooked waffles on a baking tray fitted with a wire rack. Place them in a 250ºF oven. This will keep them warm and will even make them a little bit crispier, which is definitely not a bad thing, in my book.
Melting your butter and then drizzling it over the top is easier than trying to spread butter over your waffles. Just sayin!
Be sure your waffle iron is hot before you load it with batter. Also be sure you don't over fill your waffle iron, otherwise you'll spill over and create a big mess. Not that I've ever done that before...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ham and Cheese Brunch Bake

 Here's an easy do-ahead dish that is perfect for any brunch or holiday breakfast. You just throw it together the night before, leave it in the fridge overnight, and then pop it in the oven in the morning. And boom, brunch is served! Of course, you can go in any number of directions with it. The variations are seemingly endless! Any combination of proteins or cheeses or veggies would work perfectly! But I decided to keep things plain and simple, just as it's written. You might think that plain and simple = boring and bland, but I promise you this is absolutely not the case! It's surprisingly flavorful! The fresh thyme and the garlic are key. They bring so much to the party!
 Now, don't ask me how this recipe and I seemed to find each other. I mean, I know it's from, but I can't remember how I found it. Maybe someone posted it on Facebook, maybe I found it while browsing, who knows? But I guess it really doesn't matter. It's easy and delicious, so that's all we need to know! Definitely give this one a try!!!!

10 large eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. garlic powder
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 c. cubed French bread or baguette
1/2 lb. ham, chopped
1 1/2 c. shredded white Cheddar

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, dijon, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Butter or spray a large baking dish. Add bread and top with ham and cheddar. Pour over egg mixture. Allow the egg mixture to soak into the bread cubes. Bake until eggs are cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes.

 (To make ahead, cover baking dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate, up to overnight, then bake as directed.)

Add cooked sausage or bacon, add steamed or sauteed broccoli or asparagus, add any favorite cheese, add sauteed onions. Do whatever you like!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Joey's Corned Beef and Cabbage Casserole

 One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is a casserole. It's always warm and comforting, and it always hits the spot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you can pretty much throw anything into a casserole and it'll be fabulous! Usually, I like to include something creamy, something cheesy, and some sort of starch, protein, and vegetable. In this case, I decided to make a St Patrick's Day inspired casserole! Lots of corned beef and cabbage in a creamy cheesy sauce, tossed with wide noodles and baked until bubbly and golden on top. Doesn't that sound awesome? It's heaven in a dish! Plus, it's a great way to use up your leftover corned beef and cabbage, giving you a great round two dish that feeds a crowd. And it's a total do-ahead, so you can assemble it ahead of time and then bake it when you're ready to serve. When I told my Jeanie and Daniel what I was making, Daniel said "Theres's no way that's bad" and Jeanie had made a similar casserole too, only she used rye bread crumbs. Great minds, huh? I'm fairly certain my Mom was talking to us. I think she'd have liked this one. You will too!

1 lb egg noodles
1 onion, chopped
1/2 of a green cabbage, chopped
8 oz corned beef (or ham), diced
8 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 soup can of milk (roughly 1 1/2 cups)
 pinch or two caraway seeds, optional (fennel seeds would also work!)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbs melted butter

Heat oven to 350F.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain well.
While the noodles are cooking, saute the cabbage  and onions in a large skillet until tender. In a large bowl, stir together the corned beef, shredded cheese, soup, milk, and salt and pepper. Add cooked onions and cabbage along with the drained noodles to the bowl. Add caraway seeds, if using. Gently toss everything until well combined. Place in a 9x13 baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle over the top of your casserole. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until slightly browned on top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

When you boil your noodles, make sure to cook them only until al dente. They will continue to cook in the casserole so you're really only partially cooking them at this step. Oh, and be sure the water is well salted!
If you're using leftover boiled cabbage, don't saute it for as long. Just chop it up and add it to the pan with the sauteed onions. You really don't have to saute it at all, but doing this will help evaporate some of the water in the cabbage.
 For a little extra something, add crisped bacon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joey's Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie

OK, so this recipe sort of happened by accident. I realized at the last minute that March 14th is PIE DAY, (3.14 = Pi!), but I didn't have any pie recipes ready to share. So I did a quick pantry inventory and came up with a new recipe idea! I was gonna do a regular pie crust, but then decided I wanted a shortbread crust instead. And I always have home made jams and jellies on hand, so I figured a pineapple cream cheese pie would be pretty amazing. And guess what! It TOTALLY is! It was seriously easy to throw together, and it's so light and fluffy, it's just the thing to hit the spot.
A perfect pie for pie day! Hope you like it!

2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

8oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup pineapple jam, homemade or store bought
1-2 tbs sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Heat oven to 425ºF.
For the crust:
Place all crust ingredients into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for several seconds until the dough just begins to pull together into a ball. Do not over process. Press dough into a 9" deep dish or pyrex pie plate. Press the dough up the sides and slightly higher than the edge of the plate. Pinch the dough between your fingers all the way around the plate to make a decorative edge. Place a sheet of parchment paper or foil into the plate over the crust, then fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, then place back into the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.

For the filling:
Mix cream cheese, pineapple jam, and sugar with a mixer. Fold in whipped cream. Pour cream mixture into cooled crust, smoothing over the top. Chill at least a few hours or until set. Pipe additional sweetened whipped cream on top, if desired.

I like a really thick shortbread cookie crust, but if you prefer a thinner crust (or if you're using a regular pie plate instead of a deep dish pie plate, go ahead and cut the crust recipe in half).
For an easy shortcut, just use a ready made store bought graham cracker crust. Bake according to package instructions, then fill as directed.
For an easy variation, use any other kind of jam. Strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, peach, apricot, even orange marmalade would work!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Chocolate Guinness Cake

A few weeks ago, I got a text from my friend, Greg. He was browsing my website, wondering if I had ever made a Chocolate Guinness Cake. I hadn't, but quickly did a little search to see which one I would recommend. I quickly found this recipe from Nigella Lawson (LOVE her, btw). It looked pretty simple and straight forward, so I sent him the recipe. Then I thought, well, I guess I might as well try it!
 All I have to say it OH. MY. GOD. This cake is HEAVENLY. It has a rich deep chocolate flavor with just the tiniest hint of a bitter note from the stout. And the cream cheese topping is just a pillow of lusciousness covering everything. Actually, it's so moist, you don't even need the topping, but it's CRAZY good, so you'll want to include it. It's SO easy to make too. Just follow the recipe as written, straight through, and you'll be good to go!
 So, thanx to Greg for the suggestion, and thanx to Nigella for the lovely recipe. This one is definitely a new favorite!

1 cup Guinness stout 
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter 
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 
2 cups superfine sugar 
3/4 cup sour cream 
2 large eggs 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature 
1/2  cup heavy cream

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350F.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

For the topping:
Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners' sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable. Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

Instead of lining the pan with parchment, I just sprayed it with baking spray (the kind that has flour in it) and it worked perfectly!
Also I didn't use superfine sugar. I just used regular granulated sugar. I'm guessing the superfine might give you a slightly different texture, but the regular granulated worked well enough for me. You could always blitz your regular sugar in the food processor for a while if you want superfine sugar.
Next time, I think I'm gonna try making it in a bundt pan, just to see how it turns out. I kind of like the idea of the rich creamy topping cascading down the sides!
Btw, if you want to add a different kind of stout, go for it! How about a chocolate stout? Makes sense to me!
I like using heavy cream in the topping, just as it's written, just so it stays white to resemble the frothy pint of Guiness, but if you want a little extra something, try using Bailey's instead of cream. Delish!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon

 Everyone loves boiled cabbage with ham or corned beef for St Patrick's Day, but have you ever considered roasting your cabbage instead? I must say that roasting is my preferred method for cooking vegetables because it really intensifies the flavor while bringing a toasty element to the party. So why not roast your cabbage instead of boiling it??? Now, add some bacon and you've made it FANTASTIC! I mean, lets face it, everything is better with bacon, am I right? It's the same sort of vibe you get when you do roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon. FABULOUS.
 The secret to the success of this dish is roasting the bacon ON TOP of the cabbage wedges. Who knew doing something so simple would be such a game changer? It makes ALL the difference! As the bacon cooks, the fat renders and drips down onto the cabbage, flavoring it with all of that delicious bacon-ness. How awesome is that? Serve it as a main dish or just as a simple side with your ham or corned beef. Oh, and just fyi, if you're choosing to restrict carbs from your diet, this one is now WAY high on your must-list because it's WAY low on carbs! BONUS! I think this is now my new favorite way to cook cabbage. And if you think you don't like cabbage, I urge you to give it a try! You just might surprise yourself!! It's REALLY delicious!

1 head green or Savoy cabbage, outer leaves removed
Olive oil
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thick cut bacon, as many slices as it takes to cover your cabbage wedges

Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the bottom of each quarter at an angle to partially remove the stem core. Cut each quarter in half again so you have eight wedges. Lay these down on a baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cut each slice of bacon in half and lay on top of the cabbage. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through. If the edges aren't browned enough for your taste after 30 minutes, put them back in for five-minute increments until they are. Serve immediately; the wedges cool down fast.

To make it easier to flip the cabbage wedges, leave the bacon in larger strips and drape them across each wedge. Remove them to flip the wedges, then place them back on top again. When everything is cooked, you can cut the bacon into smaller pieces for serving, just as I've done in the photo. Easy!