Sunday, May 5, 2019

Creamy Caramel Flan



 This is one of those dishes that I made literally YEARS ago, but then never got around to posting. In fact, it was so long ago, I couldn't even remember which recipe I used. Luckily, my sister Cathy remembered getting the recipe from her friend, Marcy. It's actually quite popular because I've seen it on several websites. Clearly this one is a winner! 
 The custard is silky smooth, the caramel hits all the right sweet and bitter notes that you want and expect from a home made caramel, and the whole thing just SCREAMS special occasion! It's really not difficult to make, so go ahead and try it! I promise you'll impress everyone!




3/4 cup sugar
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
5 large eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


 Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, cook sugar, stirring, until golden.  Pour into a 10" round baking dish, tilting to coat bottom and sides.  Set aside. Put a kettle of water on to boil so it is ready when you need it for the hot water bath. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.  Beat in condensed and evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth.  Pour into caramel coated pan.  Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel.  Place baking dish on towel inside roasting pan and place roasting pan on oven rack.  Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the baking dish.  Bake in preheated oven 50-60 minutes, until center is just set.  Cool one hour on wire rack then chill in refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.  To unmold, run a knife around edges of pan and invert on a serving platter. 




Tips:
First and foremost, be VERY careful when melting sugar. It is LAVA HOT, so make sure the little ones are occupied and entertained elsewhere in the house whenever you make caramel.
Instead of just throwing the sugar into a dry pan (which can sometimes burn too quickly), try adding a few tablespoons of water to the sugar. It gives you a little insurance, because the water will take some time to evaporate, and then you can control how dark you want your caramel to be. Instead of stirring the sugar, (which can cause it to crystallize), just swirl the pan around in a circular motion until it turns a lovely dark golden color. Once it starts to darken in color, it goes pretty quickly, so keep a constant eye on it, and immediately remove it from the heat when you reach the perfect caramel color!
 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Joey's Sriracha Egg Salad


  This is a great way to use up all of your colored Easter eggs. I mean, I know making egg salad on the day after Easter isn't exactly a revelation, but adding Sriracha to it certainly is! If you've never tried it, you certainly must! Yes, it adds heat, but it also adds a fabulous savory flavor and it works perfectly! It's great in sandwiches (even better on toast!) or in wraps with freshly sliced tomatoes and crisp fresh lettuce. You can also use it for hors d'oeuvres, on crackers or crostini with a little slice of ham or crumbled bacon, or your choice of meat/veggies. Oh! It would be great with thin slices of plum tomato, zucchini, cucumber, garnish with a little chopped chives. Anything you like! I always like to make a double batch because it always seems to disappear too quickly. Just sayin'!
Hope you like it!




6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tbs Sriracha
2 tbs chopped sweet pickles (can also use Kosher dills)
salt and pepper to taste
paprika for garnish, if desired


 Using an egg slicer, slice your eggs in 2 directions. In other words, first you slice it north to south, then (holding the slices together) you place the egg back on the slicer and slice it east to west. You could also just throw your peeled eggs into a food processor and pulse it a few times. Bottom line, you just want the eggs to be finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. That's all there is to it! Serve immediately or chill.




Tips:
 If you're not sure how hot you like it, just add one tbs of Sriracha and then give it a taste. You can always add more, but you can't take it out! So just add a little at a time to see how you like it!
I always prefer egg salad to be well chilled when I serve it, so I like to make it in advance and then let it get nice and cold in the fridge.
As always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want more Sriracha? Go for it!
Optional add-ins: chopped celery, minced onion, garlic powder. Add as much as you like!
You can use regular sweet pickle relish instead of the chopped sweet pickles, but they do taste slightly different. I prefer the sweet pickles! It's just enough to balance the heat with the sweet!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Almond Bars


 Ok, so before we talk about this week's recipe, let me give you a little bit of a back story.
For years and years, I've had a tradition with my niece, Terri, on the night before Thanksgiving. At first, it started out as "Uncle Joey, will you please help me make stuffing for my in-laws?" It has now turned into "how about you make the stuffing, and I'll have a glass of wine?" Either way, we always get together, and it's always a fun night.
 So, last year, we were discussing our cooking agenda for the night, and at the last minute, Terri decided that she wanted to make a dessert. I said, "ok, what ingredients do you have?" She mentioned a few things and it became very apparent that we'd be baking an apple pie. Perfect. As I was tossing the sliced apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, she said "let's throw in a little almond extract!" Now, that's not usually one of my go-to add-ins for an apple pie, but she declared how much she loves anything with almond extract in it, and I figured, "hey, it's your pie, you can throw in anything you want!" So I added a few drops. It was delicious! Honestly, we couldn't stop stealing the apples out of the bowl while I was rolling out the crusts. And then I thought, "wait, how did I never know that you like almond this much?" I would search for an almondy something for you!"
 And now you're up to date with my inspiration for finding this recipe. To be quite honest, I found several almondy type recipes, and this is just the first (from a site called Genius Kitchen). Something tells me I'm gonna be making ALL of them for Terri until we find the favorite one. I guess I have several months of testing before we have our next Thanksgiving Eve cooking event. In the meantime, these almond squares are the perfect little sweet treat to bring to a brunch or a BBQ or a potluck. They're so tasty and they're super simple too!! And yes, of course, I'll be sure to let you know if we ever settle on a favorite!



4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar



Beat together the eggs and sugar until lemon-colored. Add the butter, flour, and almond extract; mix well. Spread the batter in an even layer on a buttered 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top of the batter with sliced almonds. Bake at 325° for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and dust the top with a light sprinkling of confectioner's sugar. Cool completely before cutting into squares.


Tips:
Just as with any type of nuts, you definitely want to toast them before you use them.
Simply place them on a dry tray. Put the tray into the oven and let the almonds toast for a minute or two. As soon as you can smell them, take them out! (if you leave them in any longer, they will quickly burn!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Shrimp and Grits Bake


 Have you ever had grits? In case you're not familiar, grits is a sort of porridge made from boiling coarse corn meal. It's kind of like polenta, and it originated in Southern US. It's very often served as a savory breakfast food, alongside eggs and bacon or ham. In addition to being a breakfast staple in the South, it's also classically paired with shrimp and served for dinner.
 Admittedly, I did not grow up in a grits household. Yes, we had oatmeal, or cream of wheat, but never grits. It wasn't until I began cooking and searching for regional dishes from around the country that I discovered grits. As soon as I saw that they go well with shrimp, I was all in. (Frankly I never met a shrimp dish I didn't like.)
 So when I was looking for a brunchy sort of dish that could also be served as a dinner, I figured well, how about a shrimp and grits casserole? A quick google search and I discovered this recipe from Betty Crocker, and it was exactly was I was looking for.
 Side note..... I did see many other recipes that include lots of spicy cajun and creole seasonings and smoked andouille sausage, etc, but that wasn't what I was going for. I mean, I'm sure they're great and all, but I wanted to be able to taste the shrimp instead of covering it up with all those spicy bold flavors.
 So there you have it. It's really easy to put together and it doesn't take very long at all. And since the shrimp cooks right in the casserole, the flavor REALLY comes through. If you're looking for something different for your next brunch, or even just for a simple seafood dinner, give this one a try. If you're not sure if you'd like grits, I think this one will definitely convince you!!




olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick cooking grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (5.2oz) container Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs
1 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, removed from sprigs, chopped



Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 11x7-inch (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chopped vegetables in oil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. In a large heavy saucepan, heat milk and broth to boiling. Gradually add grits and salt, stirring constantly with whisk. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in pepper and cheese. Stir in vegetable mixture, shrimp, eggs, parsley and thyme. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Bake uncovered 25 minutes or until set.




Tips:
For me, the key is the fresh thyme. It adds the most perfect savory note to the shrimp.
Want to add other seafood? Go for it! I think adding lumps of crab meat would be FABULOUS.
Btw, if you can't find the Boursin cheese, just use any favorite herb flavored whipped cream cheese spread. It really adds tons of flavor and creaminess!
Speaking of creaminess, I think next time I may add a little extra milk or cream. The grits really absorbed a lot of the liquid and that little extra bit of cream would be just the thing!


Monday, April 1, 2019

Joey's Spicy Shrimp and Linguini



 Right off the bat, I should probably say that I don't often go the spicy route with my cooking. I mean, yes, of course, I like lots of spices, but just not very much HEAT. Very often, I'll taste something and think "that's too hot." And someone else will say "I can't even taste any heat!" Hmm... Maybe I'm a Supertaster? (Yes, that's a real thing) Or maybe I just don't like really hot food. But every so often.... actually not very often at all....  once in a blue moon... I'll try something with a little extra heat. And that would be today!
 I was thinking of doing a shrimp and pasta something. Awesome. Love it. My first thought was to do something with lots of butter and garlic, but then I decided that it would be too similar to Shrimp Maureen, which is already a perfect dish and needs no tweaking. So I opted for a tomato sauce, still with lots of garlic, and maybe a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, which is usually my go-to when it comes to adding heat. I kept it pretty simple with just a few basic ingredients, and then I cooked the shrimp right in the sauce. It was SO GOOD! I was so pleased with it, I even pushed the heat a little further than I normally would. Absolutely delicious! The shrimp flavors the tomato sauce, and it's zesty and garlicky and was just exactly what I was craving. It was ready in less than 30 minutes too! So you could easily throw this together for a Friday night quiet dinner after a long day of work, or save it for the next time you want to impress someone. It's that easy and elegant!
 So if you're all about hot and spicy, try adding this to your repertoire. It's really tasty and I know you love it! Enjoy!




4 tbs butter
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 or 4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 29 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
Salt to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
2-3 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb linguini or other long pasta
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Fresh parsley, for garnish and a pop of freshness


 In a large pan or sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions until they begin to soften. Add garlic and continue to gently saute, making sure not to brown them too much. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, salt, pepper flakes, and grated cheese. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add linguini and cook according to package direction to desired doneness.
Add the cleaned shrimp to the sauce. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Toss the linguini with the sauce. Top with more grated cheese and chopped fresh parsley.



Tips:
One of the best things about this dish is that you can tailor it to your own tastes. Make it as spicy as you like! I just did a few pinches of red pepper flakes, but if you like it really spicy, add as much as you want! Add more butter and garlic. Add more onions! Are you making a big batch? Double everything! I also added more than just a pound of shrimp. More is more!!
Whenever you boil pasta, be sure to add enough salt to the water. You want it to be as salty as the ocean!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Baked Cod in Cream Sauce


 As I was looking for some delectable seafood ideas, I happened upon this recipe from a website called Favorite Family Recipes. It looked easy and flavorful, so I figured I'd give it a try. O.M.G., can I just tell you how fabulous it is? It's rich without being too heavy, it's easy to throw together, and it's ready in no time. Even the cooking novice can make this with great success!
 The sauce is basically an Alfredo sauce, so you know you can pour it over anything... but who would have ever thought of baking fish fillets in it? It's sheer genius! I wish I had thought of it!
 When I was growing up, basically the only way I wanted to eat fresh fish was breaded and fried. I think this is now my go-to recipe. Oh, and if you're someone who doesn't eat fish because it's too "fishy", fear not! This recipe is the one for you to try!


3 tbs. butter 
3 tbs. cornstarch  
2 c. whipping cream (or half and half) 
1 c. milk  
3 tbs Parmesan cheese, grated 
kosher salt to taste  
black pepper to taste
4 - 6 cod fillets 
1 tsp. kosher salt or to taste  
4 tbs. butter melted 
2 cloves garlic minced  
1/2 c. breadcrumbs seasoned
 
 

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
First, make the cream sauce:
Melt butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Slowly add the cornstarch and stir for about 1 minute. While whisking constantly, slowly add whipping cream and milk until well combined. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low and whisk occasionally for about 10 minutes until sauce becomes rich and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and place cod fillets in the dish. Sprinkle with salt. Combine melted butter and garlic and brush over fillets, reserving any leftover butter mixture. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs over fillets and pour remaining butter mixture over the top. Pour cream sauce in the spaces between the cod fillets so it fills up the baking dish and just the tops of the fillets are visible. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cream sauce starts bubbling. When the sauce starts bubbling up, place the dish under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes or until the fillets start to turn golden brown. Serve with potatoes, buttered noodles, or rice and any steamed veggies.



Tips:
The sauce recipe makes quite a lot, definitely more than you need for 4-6 fillets. You could either cut the recipe in half, or pour the delicious sauce over your potatoes, noodles, or steamed veggies.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tuna Sloppy Joes



 OK, I know there are already one or two of you out there who are crinkling your noses at the thought of a tuna Sloppy Joe. And to that I say Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!
 Seriously, though, why???? I literally asked 5 people if the idea of a tuna Sloppy Joe sounded good or gross. ALL FIVE said things like "ew" or "yuck" or my favorite: "you're gonna need to convince me." Ok, this is me convincing you!
 For those of you who may not know, a Sloppy Joe is a sandwich, usually served on a bun, usually made of ground meat in a slightly sweet tomato based sauce. So why doesn't anyone want to swap out the beef for some tuna? Is it the tomato sauce? Well, no, because it's very common to add tuna to a tomato sauce for pasta. So it beats me why my panel of judges gave this idea an immediate thumbs down. I thought it sounded pretty great, to be quite honest! In fact, I found several different recipes for it, so CLEARLY I'm not the only one! My only dilemma was which recipe to try!
 It came down to two ideas: Make the sauce from scratch, or just open a can Sloppy Joe sauce. Well, of course I tried BOTH, because I needed to see which one was better!! Usually, with beef Sloppy Joes, I would just open up a can of Manwich sauce and call it a day, but I wanted to try the scratch recipe to see if it was as good or even better.
 The recipe below is from Clover Leaf Seafood, which is based in Ontario Canada. It has several ingredients in it, all very easy. You mince a few aromatics, simmer the sauce, add tuna, and there it is. And guess what? It was DELISH! It's everything you want in a Sloppy Joe, only without the meat, and it's a great alternative to your usual Friday night fish sandwich.
And then I tried the Manwich sauce. Very similar, but slightly different, and also quite delicious! So as far as which one is better, I think it's a solid TIE for the win. I guess it depends what you have in your cupboard. Do you have a can of Manwich? Easy and fast. Do you have the other ingredients? Go for the scratch recipe. Either way, you'll have a yummy saucy sammy that is everything a Sloppy Joe should be. You should give it a try!!



1 tbs vegetable oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 cup grated carrot
1 small red pepper, very finely chopped
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp EACH dry mustard powder and chili powder
1 tsp EACH Worcestershire sauce and honey
2 12oz cans tuna in water, drained 
Heat the oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the soup, vinegar, mustard powder, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and honey. Bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the tuna and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Spoon the tuna mixture over toasted buns; top with cheese and green onion, (optional.)


Tips:
Even with the Manwich sauce, I still sauteed some onions and peppers and then added them to the canned sauce with the tuna. It just makes it better!
The original recipe called for one soup can of water, I suppose that is to give it time to simmer while reducing the sauce. I omitted the water just to save time!




Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Joey's Corned Beef and Potato Casserole



  Very often, especially around St. Patrick's Day, people serve corned beef for dinner with the classic side dishes of cabbage and potatoes. But what if cabbage isn't very high on your list of favorites? Do you serve just plain corned beef and potatoes? No! You make this casserole instead!
 Or what if you have a bunch of corned beef and potatoes leftover from your boiled corned beef dinner? What do you do? Well, this casserole is the perfect round two!
 For me, the thing that makes this dish is the fresh dill and the rye bread crumbs. They both bring a fabulous caraway flavor that goes famously with corned beef. The other thing that really makes it is that little hit of mustard. It goes so well with the Swiss cheese and adds a brightness to the whole party. I'm not even kidding when I say that this is one of my favorite things that I've made in quite a long time! Seriously, this has such a fabulously different flavor, I think you should give it a try!



4 tbs butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups diced corned beef
2 heaping tbs of Dijon or spicy brown mustard (or your favorite)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
3 lbs boiled potatoes, peeled (if desired), and sliced
8 oz shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
buttered rye bread crumbs
chopped scallions, for garnish



Heat oven to 350ºF.
 In a large skillet, melt butter. Add onions and peppers and place over medium heat. Saute until they soften up a bit. Then add garlic, corned beef, and mustard. Stir well. Sprinkle flour over all. Stir until everything is well coated with flour, about 2 minutes. Add milk and stir well. Add chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Stir well, and simmer until thickened. Adjust seasoning if needed.
 While the sauce is thickening, place half of the boiled potato slices in one layer on the bottom of a 9x13 or similar casserole dish. Top with half of corned beef mixture. Sprinkle with half of the Swiss, then half of the Monterey Jack. Repeat all layers. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the buttered rye bread crumbs. Place back in oven until crumbs are lightly brown. Remove from oven and let stand for a good 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped scallions, if desired.



Tips:
To boil potatoes, place them in a pot of cold water over high heat. Bring them to a boil. Since potatoes are different sizes, they will all finish cooking at different times. Test each potato with a fork (not a paring knife) removing each potato from the pot as it becomes tender, starting with the smaller potatoes and ending with the largest potatoes.
To make rye bread crumbs, place 2 or 3 slices of rye bread in a food processor and pulse until they become crumbs. Add some melted butter, then pulse a few more times.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Slow Cooker Corned Beef Brisket


  Do you like corned beef as much as I do? I have to say it's one of the most under-used meats, but it's so delicious! Why do we wait until St Patrick's Day to make it? (I say this about turkey on Thanksgiving too, but I digress...) Frankly, I've never had a corned beef dish that I didn't love. Whether we're talking about a Corned Beef Special (which is a sandwich of sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and coleslaw on rye bread), or your basic Reuben Sandwich (which is basically a hot version of the same thing, only with sauerkraut instead of cole slaw), I love all of it.
 One of the BEST ways (and some would argue the ONLY way) to cook a corned beef brisket is in the slow cooker. You just let it cook low and slow, and you wind up with a brisket that is fall-apart tender and perfectly delicious.
  So, let's talk about recipes and prep, shall we? It's REALLY simple and anyone can do this. And I mean ANYONE! To be quite honest, I never even follow an actual recipe. Basically, you can go with the bare minimum, or go all out for an entire corned beef dinner in one pot. It's flavorful, hearty, and it's comfort food at its best. If you've never tried it, then I'd say now is the time!
Here are a few of the ways that I've tried.

Option A, the bare minimum:
You just place your 3 or 4 pound brisket in the slow cooker, (fat side on top), sprinkle it with the packet of pickling spice that usually comes with it, (you could even add a little more, if you like), then add about a cup or two of water, and set it on low for 8 or 9 hours. You could slice it against the grain, or even pull it apart with two forks for sandwiches. Simple right?

Option B, make it more substantial:
Start the same way as Option A with your 3-4 pound brisket. Place it in your slow cooker, (fat side up), then add whatever aromatics you like. A few cloves of garlic, a sliced onion, a few carrots, a couple bay leaves, some fresh dill. And instead of adding just water, add some beef broth. Slow cook for 8 or 9 hours. Serve with potatoes mashed with lots of butter and cream.

Option C, the whole dinner in one pot:
Start the same way as Option B, with your 3-4 pound brisket and all of your aromatics. After about 4 hours of cooking time, add whole or halved potatoes and/or other root vegetables. Then two hours later, add some sliced or wedged green cabbage. Slice your brisket against the grain, and serve your vegetables on the side.

Variations:
Instead of adding water or broth, try adding an entire bottle of stout and a couple tbs of brown sugar.
I've even substituted apple juice instead of the other cooking liquids and added sliced apples to the party. Then cook it the same way. Low and slow for about 8 or 9 hours.

To make gravy, after it is finished cooking, remove everything from the slow cooker, leaving just the liquid. Whisk in a slurry of flour and cold water to the cooking liquid. Set it to high, and give it a good stir so that the liquid thickens up a little. You can speed up that process by adding some of the strained liquid to a small pot, stir in your slurry of flour and cold water, and then cook it on the stove top over medium heat until it thickens. Be sure to taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings if needed. You probably won't need to add any salt, but maybe a little cracked black pepper.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Guinness Bread


 A few weeks ago, my Kristin invited me over for dinner. It was just a no nonsense Friday night, nothing special going on, perfect night for some delicious home made soup. Not only did she make a tasty and healthy vegetable soup, but she also made a FABULOUS beer bread to go along with it. It got me to thinking, "hey, how come I don't have a beer bread recipe?" So I was inspired to see what different recipes I could find. I didn't want one that used bread flour or yeast because, well, frankly, I never keep them on hand. Clearly this meant that I'd be making a quick bread. I also wanted a recipe that would use an entire bottle of beer. I don't drink beer, so using anything less than the entire bottle would be wasteful. Then I found this recipe on a website called The Black Peppercorn, and it was exactly what I wanted!! It's so easy to make, you don't even need a mixer. Just stir everything together, pop it in the oven, and bake!
 Now, first, let me just say that even though this is not the sort of bread you'd use for sandwiches, this is definitely still a BREAD, not a cake. It does have a little sweetness from the brown sugar, but there is no mistaking that hoppy bite from the beer. It's not overpowering, but it's definitely there. It's fabulous with a schmear of soft butter served alongside a rich and luscious Lamb Stew or any favorite hot and hearty soup. Even better if you toast it first!
 So thank you again to The Black Peppercorn, and of course to my Kristin for the yummy dinner, and also for the inspiration! This is definitely a winner!




3 cups flour 
1/2 tsp salt 
4 tsp baking powder 
1/3 cup oats 
2/3 cup dark brown sugar 
12 oz Guinness 
1 tbsp oats 
1 tbsp butter



Preheat oven at 350ºF.
Grease a loaf pan with the 1 tbs butter. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, 1/3 cup oats and brown sugar. Slowly beat the Guinness into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on the low setting. Do not over mix the batter, but make sure that it is not too lumpy. Pour the batter in the greased loaf pan and sprinkle the 1 tbsp of oats on top. Bake the bread for 50 minutes. The bread is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack until it is room temperature.


Tips:
Not a fan of Guinness? Use whatever kind of dark beer you like! And don't forget that little sprinkle of oats over the top. It adds great texture and chew!


Monday, February 25, 2019

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies



  Ok, I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again. I've never met a salted caramel ANYTHING that I didn't like. There's just simply nothing better than the combination of salty and sweet that you get from the simple addition of salt to a rich creamy gooey caramel. So when I was looking for chocolate desserts and happened to find this one on a blog called Gimme Some Oven, I knew I had to try it. (Full disclosure, I love that name and I wish I had thought of it! haha)
 These cookies taste as rich and delicious as a gooey caramel brownie. And that little pinch of salt over the top just sets everything off in the most perfect way. Enjoy them with a tall glass of ice-cold milk, and you'll be living your best life. I'm not even kidding. Bake up a batch or two, and I PROMISE you'll be a hit!



1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (11 oz.) bag Kraft caramel bits
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
coarse sea salt



Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the caramel bits and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Press each cookie down slightly to flatten, then sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.



Tips:
Very often when baking cookies or a cake, the first step is to beat the butter and sugar together. I always make sure to let it go for much longer than you'd think, just so that it really comes together to make a creamy texture. It's been my experience that letting it go for at least 5 minutes is a complete game changer in all of my baking!
Instead of greasing the cookie sheet, I just lined it with a sheet of parchment paper. It's seriously a cookie baker's best friend. And you don't have to use a new piece every time you go into the oven. You can reuse a sheet many times!
Oh, one other thing...I didn't press mine down to flatten before baking as the recipe directs. TBH, every time I bake cookies they wind up being a little on the flat side, so I was happy that these came out perfectly just by dropping them with a cookie scooper.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Hershey's Scrumptious Chocolate Layer Bars



 Whenever you want a rich and delicious chocolate dessert, you will absolutely never go wrong with a Hershey recipe. I have several Hershey's cookbooks, and I'm not even kidding when I tell you that every single recipe I've ever made from them has been fabulous. They're well tested, straight forward, and they never disappoint. So, since I wanted to try a new chocolate something, of course I turned to my Hershey's Chocolate Treasures cookbook, and here we are!
 At first, I wasn't thinking of doing any kind of bars or squares because I already have so many brownie recipes (not that there's anything wrong with having new brownie recipes, but I was looking for something different.) Then I saw this recipe, and knew this was the one! I love that the top and bottom layers are not chocolate, so it looks like pretty stripes when you cut into it. I also love that it has almond extract in it, since I recently discovered that my niece, Terri, is a big fan of almond flavoring. The technique was also easy, tried and true. You make one dough, which serves as both the top and bottom layers, and then add a fabulous filling. In this case, the filling is cream cheese and melted chocolate chips. Are you kidding? Seriously? They had me at cream cheese! 
 So if you're looking to try a new chocolate something, try this one! It hits every single note and it will absolutely satisfy every single chocolate craving!
 

12 ounces pkg. Hershey's semisweet chocolate chips or mini chips
1 package (8 ounce size) cream cheese
1 can (5.3 ounce size) evaporated milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract




 Combine chocolate chips, cream cheese and evaporated milk in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in walnuts, sesame seeds (if using), and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Blend well; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in large mixer bowl. Blend well with mixer until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press half of mixture in greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Spread with chocolate mixture. Sprinkle with rest of crumbs over filling; bake at 375 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes. 


Tips:
I didn't not include walnuts or sesame seeds in my filling. Tbh, if I were to add nuts to it, I think I would prefer almonds (to continue the almond theme) or pecans (since walnuts are not really my favorite).
The dough was a little more gooey than I had anticipated, so I just chilled it for a bit which made it easier to cut in half, and also to crumble over the top.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Slow Cooker Chocolate Strawberry Cobbler


 Are you looking for a rich, decadent, chocolate something to share with your special someone? THIS is the dessert you've been looking for! It's seriously one of the easiest and most delicious recipes you'll ever make, and I swear it will satisfy all of your chocolate cravings! Serve it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you have the perfect date night dessert!
 Wait..  actually, come to think of it, it makes quite a lot.. so guess what.. to hell with date night! Make it for your next party of chocolate lovers! I promise you'll get rave reviews!!! That's really all I have to say about it. ANYONE can make this!! So, what are you waiting for?? And if you don't have a slow cooker, then you need to get one ASAP!!


2 cans strawberry pie filling
1 chocolate fudge cake mix
1 stick butter
vanilla ice cream

Ok here we go. This is about as easy as it gets. Dump the pie filling into the bottom of your slow cooker in one even layer. Now pour the dry cake mix over the pie filling. Slice the stick of butter into small pats, and place them all over the top of the cake mix. Place the cover on your slow cooker and cook it on high for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. That's all there is to it!
Serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream.


Tips:
Of course you can do any kind of pie filling or any kind of cake mix you like. Mix and match different flavors! The technique remains the same!


Monday, February 4, 2019

Mint Chocolate Cookie Crunch Brownies


 Ok, lemme just say this right from the start, I'm am not the biggest fan of MINT. There. I said it. I mean, yeah, it's ok, but just not as the MAIN flavor of something. Otherwise, all I can think of is Altoids or toothpaste. The one mint thing I DO happen to love, however, is Girl Scouts' Thin Mint Cookies. I guess it's because the mint isn't so overpowering, and they are the perfect blend of chocolate and mint flavor. So I thought, well, lets put them into a brownie! Not an original thought, I know, but still a good one, and worth further research. Yes, yes, I know I could just buy a brownie mix, throw in some chopped cookies, and call it a day, but I usually don't like to use a boxed mix. That would take all the fun out of it!
  So I started looking for Thin Mint Brownie recipes. I found a TON of them, but many of them go VERY far with the whole mint thing. Adding mint extract to chocolate ganache, adding Andes Candies to buttercream, and on and on. Altoids, again. Sorry. Is it so much to ask for just the right brownie recipe with a thin mint crunch? I actually started to think, well, maybe what I really do want is a boxed mix and some chopped cookies.
 But then I found this fabulous recipe from a website called The Daily Meal, and it's exactly what I wanted. A scratch brownie with the thin mint crunch. Simple, easy, not complicated, and no Altoids. Could I still just do a boxed brownie mix and stir in some cookies? Of course, but I'll always go from scratch if I can help it!!


4 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c butter  
2 c sugar  
4 eggs 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract  
1 c flour  
1/4 tsp salt 
2 c Thin Mint cookies, chopped


 Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Brush a 13- by 9-inch pan with butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large bowl over a double boiler. Transfer the melted chocolate to a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time being careful to incorporate each egg. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt at once. Stir to combine. Fold in half of the chopped cookies. Spread the brownie batter evenly in the pan, and top with the remaining chopped cookies. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool completely before slicing and serving.


Tip:
 Instead of unsweetened chocolate, I used dark chocolate chips. Use what you have!
If Girl Scout Cookies aren't available, add any other kind of cookie you like! If you're still feeling the mint thing, use Mint Oreos!
 Btw, I didn't even measure 2 cups of cookies. I just used an entire box!
 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Guinness Caramelized Onion Dip



  When you think of onion dip, just regular basic onion dip, you usually think of mixing sour cream with onion soup mix, correct? It's been one of those standard no-fuss recipes that everyone has made for ages and ages, and it always goes over well with a bowl of potato chips. But what if we take that onion dip and turn up the volume??
 This onion dip is absolutely MILES ahead of the old stand by as far as flavor is concerned. It just has a depth of flavor that you just can't get from a box of soup mix. Think of it as the difference between fresh vegetables and canned vegetables. There's just no comparison, right? So, for this onion dip, it's kind of like that. Plus you get the added bonus of skipping all that extra sodium. It takes a little bit of time, but it's really worth that extra effort to develop those deep flavors. And it's a total do ahead, so you'll wind up saving time in the long run. This is my tweaked version of a recipe I found on a blog called Home Cooking Memories. If you like onion dip, then this one is definitely next on your must-do list!



5 cups Vidalia or other sweet onions, about 3 large
4 tbs butter
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (12oz) bottle of Guinness Extra Stout
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper


  Chop the onions down to small dice. Melt butter in a large heavy pan over low-medium heat. Add the chopped onions and let them slowly caramelize. Don't rush this step! This will take a good 20-30 minutes. Every few minutes, give it a good stir to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the onions have turned a dark-amber color, stir in the garlic and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add the whole bottle of beer. Stir again to make sure nothing is stuck to the pan. Turn up the heat just until it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat back down again to simmer. Let it simmer until just about all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Set aside.
 In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients until smooth and creamy. Stir in the onion mixture. Place the bowl in the fridge until chilled. Just before serving, give it a final stir, just to make sure it's all creamy and delish. Garnish with a few chopped scallions, if you like. Serve with your favorite potato chips.



Tips:
Ok, let me say this again because I can't stress it enough.. do NOT rush cooking the onions! Just let them go low and slow. Perfection takes time!! It's a MUCH bigger pay off in the end!
You decide how dark you want them. I like to let them go very dark, almost brown. The flavor just gets deeper and deeper as you go.
You can use a food processor to chop the onions, but I prefer to do them by hand. I like to be able to control the size of the dice, and it's one less thing to wash. Besides that, you don't want them to be too finely minced because then they'll nearly disintegrate as you saute them. A little texture is a good thing! If you're not sure how to do them by hand, just watch my video How to Cut an Onion !
The original recipe said to completely cool the onions before mixing them into the creamed mixture. I didn't, but just chilled the whole thing after. It's still fabulous either way.
For an extra added twist, try adding a a few pinches of fresh thyme leaves as you saute your onions. It gives another layer of flavor that really goes well with sauteed onions! Yum.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Joey's Better Than Buffalo Chicken Dip


  Every so often, I'll look through my recipe archives for a specific classic go-to recipe, only to discover that it's not there because, oops, I never posted it. What the hay!! How does this keep happening?? Well, after 11 years and nearly a THOUSAND recipes, (yes really!) I guess it's hard to mentally keep track of every recipe I've ever posted!
 So, after going to my sister Patty's house for dinner and having some of my niece Tory's fabulous Buffalo Chicken Dip, I thought this would be PERFECT for the group hang that I was planning. But, you guessed it, I looked in the archive and it was nowhere to be found. OK! I guess it's time fix that!
 So, thanx, Tory, for texting me the recipe, but as usual, I tweaked it ever so slightly. I used more chicken than she said to use, because well, more is more! And Full Disclosure: I'm not really a fan of the usual hot sauce typically used on Buffalo Chicken Wings. Frankly, it's been years (probably decades) since I've eaten wings, and chances are I asked for the hot sauce to be served on the side. What can I say? It's just not my favorite thing. So when I started making this dip, I decided to swap out the hot sauce for Sriracha, which I think has a MUCH better flavor. My friends LOVED it! But we decided that it kind of no longer tastes like Buffalo Chicken. This one is BETTER! Hence the name.
 So there you have it. It has great flavor and just enough heat that doesn't smack you in the face. Actually, it's really more of a slow burn that sort of sneaks up on you, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Now that this is officially posted, I think I might keep it in the rotation for a while!
My friends loved it, and I bet yours will too!


4 cans chunk chicken, drained
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
1/4 cup Ranch dressing
1/4 cup Bleu Cheese Dressing
1/4  cup Sriracha
chopped scallions for garnish, if you'd like

Mix everything together, pour it into a small baking dish, then either heat it up in the microwave or bake it in the oven until it's all melty. Serve with Wheat Thins, Scoops chips, or celery sticks.



Tips:
 I think by now you know what I'm gonna say. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Do you LOVE Sriracha? Add a lot! Do you LOVE Ranch dressing? Add a lot! And if you love the usual hot sauce instead of sriracha, go for it! You do you!
I used canned chunk chicken, but if you have leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken, just finely shred it and use it up!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Joey's Baked Crab and Corn Dip


  Usually, in January, I try to post recipes that are great for a party. Although I'm not a fan of football, I can appreciate a good party with lots of great food, so I figured I'd come up with a dip for you and your friends to enjoy while watching the game.
 My starting point was the idea of doing a creamy baked corn dip, but I didn't want it to be the same old Southwest sort of thing that has cheddar cheese and jalapenos in it. Then My Kristin suggested adding crab. Oh YUM!  Actually, I've been in kind of a seafood mood lately anyway, so this was perfect! I just grabbed a few other ingredients that I happened to have on hand, and here we are!
 It's actually kind of light, and not so rich as some dips that are laden with sour cream, mayonnaise, and shredded cheese. And it has a slight sweet/savory sort of hit that is a really nice change from all the hot sauce and wings.
 So the next time you have the gang over to watch the big game, or even if you're not, you should definitely add this one to your party repertoire. It's a winner!



1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese
3 scallions, chopped
2 heaping tbs mayonnaise
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz (or more) imitation crab (or the real deal)
1 can whole corn, drained
sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired
sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley for garnish, if desired


Using an electric mixer, blend the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in crab and corn. Place in a casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using. Bake at 350ºF for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with Scoops tortilla chips or your choice of chips or crackers.


Tips:
If you're using real lump crab meat, you really don't want to break up those gorgeous delicious lumps, so just gently fold them in. However, if you're using the imitation crab, you can just throw everything in the bowl and mix it up. They usually come in large chunks, so it's actually better to break them down a bit.
If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Want more crab? Want to add baby shrimp? Go for it!
For the photo, I didn't add the sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the top, but I think it's a good addition because that salty note goes well to balance the sweetness of the corn and crab.
Also thanx to My Jeanie for the new casserole dishes!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Joey's Loaded Tater Tot Casserole


 OK, so my original thought was not to make a casserole, but rather to make a party dip. I was looking for recipes to post for New Year's Eve, and I found a recipe for Tater Tot Dip. Ooo that sounds good, ok, let's run with it. But then I started thinking of a loaded baked potato, and I thought, "why not add bacon to it? Why not add broccoli to it? And scallions?" Suddenly my loaded dip was turning into a loaded casserole. So I figured I'd go with it! Turns out it was quite a happy accident because it's delicious! Serve it as an all in one casserole, or do what I did and serve it with a couple fried eggs on the side. FABULOUS. It's actually not as heavy as it might seem and you can definitely taste all the flavors.
 If you like a loaded baked potato, then you'll love this one! Maybe eventually I'll get back to finding just the right recipe for a tater tot dip!




1 (2 lb) bag frozen tater tots
1 lb ground beef
1/2 pound thick cut bacon
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3-4 scallions, plus more, chopped
1-2 cups cooked broccoli
16 oz container of sour cream
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cut up the bacon into small pieces. Place it in a saute pan, and slowly cook over medium heat until slightly crisp. Remove from pan and place in a large mixing bowl. Do the same thing with the ground beef, cooking until browned. Drain any excess fat and add to the bowl. Add the tater tots, 1 cup of cheese, and remaining ingredients to the bowl. Stir until well combined. Taste it and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cup of shredded cheese over the top. Bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Top with additional chopped scallions, if desired. Let it sit for a good 10 minutes before serving.



Tips:
Be sure to season it well. The potatoes are quite bland without a good pinch of salt and pepper. You can even use any favorite all purpose seasoned salt, if you'd like.
Feel free to swap out any of the ingredients to suit your likes or to use what you have on hand. Don't have any broccoli? Leave it out! Use what you have and make it your own!