Monday, March 19, 2018

Monte Cristo Sliders

 Ok here's a recipe that you might read and say "wait, how does this go together?" But TRUST ME, it absolutely does!! It starts out as a basic sandwich slider with some ham, turkey, and Swiss cheese. Then it starts to get interesting when you brush the whole thing (inside and out) with this sort of buttery hollandaise-ish sauce, which melts into the rolls and makes everything crisp on the outside and melty and gooey on the inside. Are you with me so far? OK now things start to go rogue.. to serve it, you dust the whole thing with powdered sugar, and you serve it with raspberry preserves. WHAT??  I know, I know, it's crazy....but seriously, it's absolutely amazing! It's the salt from the ham and the gooey from the cheese and butter, and the tang from the mustard, and the sweet from the preserves... it hits all the right notes! Usually, a regular Monte Cristo is just a ham and cheese sandwich that is dipped in egg, and then fried like French toast, so this is just the slider version that my sister in law, Terri, found on a website called Jennifer Cooks. (Thank you Jennifer!)
 I recently made this for a family brunch event, and everyone loved it! There were a few people who didn't want the powdered sugar on top, but it is HANDS DOWN 100% better with the powdered sugar and preserves. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is just not living her best life. (Yes, Emma, I'm talking to YOU). Serve them for breakfast or brunch or lunch or dinner! They will always hit the spot!

1 pkg (12-count each) Sweet Hawaiian Dinner Rolls
1/2 lb deli sliced smoked or honey ham
1/2 lb deli sliced smoked roasted turkey
1/2 lb Gruyère cheese or other quality Swiss cheese, grated

1 stick butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs mayonnaise

Powdered sugar
Raspberry Preserves

 Preheat oven to 325. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil (enough that it overlaps the sides - to use as handles). Spray foil-lined baking dish with cooking spray. Slice rolls horizontally as a unit – don’t break apart into individual rolls. Put the bottoms into the baking dish. Lay meat on top, then cover with cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients. Pour 1/2 of the sauce on top of cheese. Place tops of rolls on top, pressing down lightly. Pour remaining mixture over tops of rolls and spread evenly. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch closely – if the tops begin to brown too much, place a sheet of foil over the top. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Using the foil "handles" lift the sandwiches out onto a cutting board. With a large butcher knife, cut the sandwiches into their individual slider rolls. Dust lightly with powdered sugar and serve with raspberry preserves on the side.

Since I was making this for a party, I used a half sheet pan, and it worked perfectly! It turns out that 5 packages of rolls worked perfectly on two pans! TBH, I probably could have fit another row of rolls on each pan, but I had enough for the crowd I was feeding!
I assembled everything the night before, then brushed them with the sauce and baked them on the morning of the brunch, but Jennifer said that it can be assembled AND brushed a day in advance. Time saver!!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Guinness Stout Brownies with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting

 I first got this idea several months ago when I was out with my Thursday Night Quizzo gang. Our fabulous friend (who always takes care of us) Carissa, brought us a little taste and I immediately said "oooo I have to make these!" So I looked at several different recipes, and this is where I landed! The brownie recipe is from a blog called LifeLoveandSugar, and the frosting recipe is from a blog called Family Fresh Meals. (Actually, FFM added 4-6 tbs of Bailey's to her frosting, but I just went with 3, otherwise it might not have set up the way I wanted, but you do you!) 
 When I made them for friends, we quickly realized that you can't eat just one. I'm not even kidding. They're so rich and chocolatey, and the frosting is just SO good, you suddenly find yourself justifying why you absolutely DESERVE another one! I'm not exactly sure what kind of sorcery this is, but I'm certainly not gonna argue. They're just that good! In fact, I would go so far as to say they are some of the best brownies I have ever made. And you KNOW I've made literally hundreds, possibly even thousands of brownies. So that's really saying something! You should probably stop what you're doing and make TWO batches of them, like right now! You'll be glad you did!

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup Guinness Stout beer
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup salted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2/3 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa 

Heat oven to 350ºF. 
Grease a 9x9 square baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Set aside. Mix together the oil, Guinness, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add butter and mix until well combined. Add eggs and mix until well combined. Combine flour and cocoa in another medium sized bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to the egg mixture until well combined. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Allow brownies to cool completely before frosting.

Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Icing:
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/4 lb (1 stick) salted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbs Bailey's Irish Cream

Whip the butter and cream cheese until creamy and well blended. Turn your mixer to its lowest setting, and slowly add the sugar until it's well incorporated. Add Irish cream. Turn your mixer back up to high and whip everything until light and fluffy. 

-Yes, I know I piled the cream cheese frosting HIGH on top of the brownies so that the frosting is nearly as thick as the brownie. I'm not seeing this as a bad thing.
-I've discovered that one bottle of beer is exactly enough for two batches. Just sayin!
-And I know I've given this tip about a million times, but it's worth repeating every time:
When you line the pan with parchment, cut it a little longer than the pan so you have a little extra hanging over the edges. Then after you've cooled, frosted, and chilled your brownies, you can use the parchment as a sling to lift the whole batch out of the pan. Now you're able to make perfectly perfect cuts using a large knife. (Chrissy, bring me the big knife!) Your brownies will be much prettier, and you won't ruin your pan!
-Since you bake the batch in a square pan, I find it easiest to cut it in half in both directions, making 4 quadrants. Then do the same thing to each quadrant. You'll wind up with 16 perfectly square brownies.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Joey's Slow Cooker Ham and Cabbage Stew

 Usually, when you think of ham (or corned beef) and cabbage, you probably think of just throwing everything into a big pot of water along with lots of potatoes and boiling everything to death, am I right?? Well, actually, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but recently I was in the mood for ham and cabbage, but I wanted MORE. More vegetables, more flavors, more seasonings, more gravy. Just MORE! So, I decided to continue my ongoing obsession with slow cookers and decided to come up with a stew. Basically, I just bought one of those small "football" hams, and a small head of cabbage, and threw in a bunch of other things I happened to have on hand.
 And OMG it came out so good, I couldn't stop eating it! It was warm, and comforting and hearty and exactly all the MORE I was looking for.
 So, for this St Patrick's day, instead of just filling up a pot and boiling everything to death, give this recipe a try. It might become your new go to when you want something more!!!

1/2 lb bacon
1/2 head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
2-3 lbs boneless ham, cut into large chunks
2-3 lbs baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large apples, any firm variety, peeled, cored, and diced
1 lb baby carrots
1 small can chicken broth
1 tsp celery seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a very sharp knife, cut the bacon into large pieces and slowly saute over medium heat. Meanwhile, add all of the remaining ingredients to a large slow cooker. When the bacon is browned to your liking, add it to the slow cooker including the drippings in the pan. Cover. Cook it on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

After it is finished cooking, remove everything from the slow cooker to a big bowl, leaving just the cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker to high. Add about a quarter cup of flour to a mason jar along with about a half cup of COLD water. Tighten the lid, and then shake to create a slurry, then whisk it into your slow cooker until the cooking liquid has thickened into a gravy, then add the meat and vegetables back to the slow cooker.
Serve with warm crusty bread and lots of butter.

The amounts are just guidelines. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want to add a whole pound of bacon? Go for it. Want to add more carrots? Perfect! Want to leave out the apples? I say you're crazy, but hey, you do you!
You don't really have to do the optional step of thickening the gravy, but I think it makes all the difference, and it's what turns it from a soup into a stew.
You also don't even have to use the slow cooker liner as seen in the picture. I just happened to have some and decided to try it. Easy clean up!
Oh, and yes, I know this picture is the "before" instead of the "after", but the colors looked so appealing, I decided to go with it!