Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lemony Dill Red Potato Salad



  Here's another quick and easy cold salad to bring to your next cookout. It's familiar enough to please the crowd, but just different enough for everyone to sit up and take notice.
 I was kind of in the mood for a really good potato salad, but didn't want to go through the trouble of making an entire 5 lbs of my Mom's recipe (which is the only way I know how to make it... in 5 lb increments.. I'm not even kidding.) So this one seemed to be a good swap (no peeling!) It's inspired by a recipe from a blog called Barefeet in the Kitchen. And yes, I tweaked it a little because you know I can never leave well enough alone.
 So lets break it down, shall we? The fresh dill is SO good in this, it makes me think "why don't I use this herb more often?" And the lemon gives it such a bright tang that it has summer freshness written all over it. I also added some diced celery for a nice little crunch. And well, frankly, for me, potato salad is not potato salad unless it has eggs in it. So there you go!
Give this one a try and let me know how you like it!




3 lbs baby red potatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 ribs of celery, finely diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste



In a large pot of salted water, boil potatoes until fork tender. Remove potatoes from pot, drain, and set aside to cool completely. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one in half. Add potato halves to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Chill until ready to serve.



Tip:
I don't mind if the potatoes are still slightly warm when mixing with the dressing. This lets the potatoes absorb all the yummy flavor.
When chopping the eggs, I just use an egg slicer and slice them in two different directions, you know, like you do for egg salad.
The amounts of lemon and dill are just suggestions. Whenever I'm making something with fresh dill, I find that I always end up adding more than a recipe says. Same with the lemon juice and zest. Add it until it's the right amount for you!
Also, if you garnish the bowl with a sprig of dill (and even a slice of lemon on top), then your guests will know what ingredients are in the dish!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Joey's Macaroni Cole Slaw



 OK here's a really quick no-brainer of a side salad that made me think "why have we never done this before?" It's exactly as it sounds: cole slaw with macaroni in it. In other words, if macaroni salad and cole slaw had a baby, this would be it! It's so summery and fresh, it's the perfect cold side dish for any BBQ or cookout event. But, like, seriously, why have we never combined the two before? Crazy, huh?
This is my riff on a Taste of Home recipe. Feel free to swap out the veggies with anything you like. The ToH recipe had water chestnuts in it, but I didn't have any on hand, so I just went with what I had. I swapped out a few other things too. Make it how you like it! Easy!




1/2 lb large elbows or other cut pasta of choice
1 bag cole slaw mix
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 cup mayo
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Salt and pepper


In a large pot of salted water, boil the elbows until al dente. Drain and allow to cool completely.
Place in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.  
 If you'd like to toss the ingredients and then mix the dressing separately before adding, that's fine, but I just dumped everything into the bowl and gave it a good stir. And that's it!



Tip:
I think the cucumber is key. It makes it so fresh! I used a hothouse (aka English) cucumber which is a little sweeter, has tiny seeds, and doesn't even need to be peeled. Use whatever kind you like!
I also went with scallions instead of regular diced onions because I wanted a milder onion flavor.
 To save time, this can be made a day in advance.
And as always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cinnamon Watermelon Rind Pickles


   OK, I have a question for you. What kind of eater are you? Are you an adventurous eater? In other words, do you purposely order something from a menu specifically because you've previously never tried it? Or are you a "stick to the plan , never stray from the path, stay with the tried and true" kind of eater? If you know me, you already know that I fall squarely into the former category, not that there's anything wrong with the latter. Some people know what they like, and that's fine, but I'm always one for trying new foods, especially when it comes to canning!
 I had heard of pickling watermelon rind, but I had never tasted it, and it has been on my to-do list ever since I learned how to preserve things in jars. And now I've finally gotten around to making it! So here we go.
 Where does one even find a pickled watermelon rind recipe? In my many google searches, I discovered that this is clearly a big Southern thing, and it's also very frugal since you are using up just about the entire melon. I discovered that many famous chefs and cooking personalities have their own versions of it, so it was kind of hard trying to decide which direction to go. I looked at Martha Stewart's recipe, Paula Deen's, Alton Brown's, and several others. I also immediately noticed that many recipes for pickling any kind of fruit often have warm spices in them. I found recipes with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and so forth. I guess that makes perfect sense that you would preserve your melon rinds and fruits during the summer, and then eat them in the Autumn and Winter months. So I needed to decide how spicy I wanted to go. For my first time pickling fruit, I thought "lets just keep it simple" (that's often the best rule in cooking). I decided to go with this recipe is from Ball Canning, or as I like to call them "the canning people." Side note, I ALWAYS use their line of mason jars and canning materials, and I have more than one of their canning cookbooks. As far as I'm concerned, they are simply the Canning Authorities.
 But anyway, lets talk about the TASTE! I mean, that what everyone is wondering, correct? I absolutely love them and could eat them right out of the jar, especially when they're chilled. In fact I'm already trying to find ways to use them in other recipes. My niece Attie's reaction was "interesting." (Still not exactly sure how she felt about them.) My nephew, Gregger, immediately said that it tastes like apple pie. Well, yes, you do get a hit of cinnamon at the first bite, and the texture is very similar to apples baked in a pie, but the vinegar syrup will quickly tell you that this is definitely not an apple pie. And my sister, Cathy, was too polite to say that they weren't exactly her favorite thing. But hey, I get it! Not every food is for every person! Like my Mom always said "You don't have to like it, you just have to try it." So I'm thrilled that Cathy was good enough to give it a try.
 So that brings me back to my original question: What kind of eater are you? If you're looking for a new something to try, this might be the recipe for you! It was DEFINITELY worth the effort for me, and I will absolutely be making them again. And yes, I bought the watermelon specifically so I could pickle the rind. (You knew I was gonna say that, right??) Let me know if you give them a try. I'm curious to know what you think!



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Slow Cooker Milk and Honey Corn on the Cob


 Every so often, I'll stumble upon a recipe that makes me stand up and say "WHOA, where has this been all my life?" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has happened again! It's so good that I can't even wait until next Monday to post it (as is my usual. well, most of the time).
 This is corn on the cob cooked in a slow cooker! Whodathunkit, right? It's BRILLIANT! No steamy hot pots of boiling water on a swelteringly humid summer day! How perfect is that??? And adding coconut milk to corn, for me, is an absolute revelation. I never had it before, but now I want it in every corn dish I've ever made. They go SO well together. No, it doesn't taste like a coconut Easter egg. You use unsweetened coconut milk, which I've always found to be more buttery than coconutty. (Coconutty?) So it makes perfect sense to pair it with corn, right???
 The recipe is from a website called The Magical Slow Cooker, and seriously, this one is just that. MAGICAL! I think this is now my go-to recipe for corn on the cob. It's just absolutely delicious! Make this for your next cookout and I'll betcha there won't be any leftovers!


6-7 ears of corn shucked and broken in half 
13.66 oz. can light coconut milk 
2 Tbsp. honey 
1 stick salted butter

Add the corn to the slow cooker. Pour over the coconut milk. Drizzle over the honey. Cut up the butter into pieces and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time. (4 hours for frozen corn) To serve, roll each corn piece in the buttery coconut milk mixture.

Notes:
Be sure to use a large slow cooker. 6 Qts or larger.
If you don't want to use coconut milk, you can just you two cups of water or other milk of choice.



Joey's Tips:
Since I have a large slow cooker, I was able to do more than just 6-7 ears of corn. So just fill yours all the way up, fitting the ears in as best you can, and make sure the lid will fit snugly on top so the corn can steam.
 The original recipe says to use light coconut milk, but I used regular. The reason for using light is that is has more of a milk consistency, whereas the regular coconut milk is much thicker. And usually all of the fat solidifies in the can, but I just whisked it together until is was smooth and creamy and pourable.
If you only have unsalted butter, just add a pinch or two of salt over the top!
 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hot Milk Cake



  I like to think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable about cakes. I can tell you why a 1-2-3-4 Cake is so named. I know that German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany at all. I can tell you the difference between a Swiss Meringue Buttercream and an Italian Meringue Buttercream. I know that all Jelly Rolls are Roulades, but not all Roulades are Jelly Rolls. I've heard of mayonnaise cake, tomato soup cake, potato cake, even sausage cake. (yes, that's really a thing.) I've baked King Cakes, Cheesecakes, Carrot Cakes, Red Velvet Cakes, Hummingbird Cakes, Tres Leches Cakes, even Wedding Cakes!  So I seriously can't even express how excited I get when I discover a new kind of cake! Well, actually, this is not new at all. New TO ME,  of course, but this cake goes back over 100 years! Nothing like standing the test of time, huh?
 I first read about it in an article about Depression Era foods, which talked about recipes that used simple ingredients that were stretched as far as a dollar could stretch. I love the idea of going back to basics and making foods that our grandparents and great grandparents made. Hmm... maybe I'll have to look into that a bit more and see what other delicious ideas I can discover.... but I digress...
 Lets talk about this cake! The flavor is a light vanilla, not unlike a pound cake, but the texture is much lighter and fluffier, and the crumb is much more delicate. You can enjoy it just as it is, maybe with a little powdered sugar over the top, you can bake it in layers or even in a bundt pan, or you can do a 9x13 pan and top it with berries and whipped cream frosting like I did. It's perfect for any holiday or special occasion because it feeds a crowd, and it's DELICIOUS!!! I think that pretty much covers all bases, right?
 So there you have it. As much as I love coming up with new recipes, I love going back to revisit some of the old and tried and true. Just like the song says, Everything Old Is New Again! You probably already have all the ingredients on hand anyway, so why not give it a try?
 It's definitely a keeper!


4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
10 tbs butter


In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined. Pour into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


 Tips:
Originally, I was gonna top the cake with cream cheese frosting, but decided that would be a bit too heavy. So I decided to do a whipped cream cheese frosting instead. Just mix a bar of cream cheese with a cup of sugar VERY well until it's smooth, then fold in whipped heavy cream and a tsp of vanilla extract. Easy!
Oh, one other thing.. I almost forgot to mention that this recipe is from Taste of Home. I found several recipes, and they were all quite similar, but this one seemed to be pretty easy and straight forward, so I went with it! 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Candied Jalapeños aka Cowboy Candy



  Even though I'm not really a spicy food kinda guy, lately I've been kind of in the mood to push my own flavor boundaries and turn up the heat just a bit. In my neverending search for new and fun things to preserve in jars, I discovered these little gems of sweet-hotness that are absolutely amazing and delicious on EVERYTHING. I mean, yes, you can serve them on crackers with a schmear of cream cheese, but seriously, they're great on sandwiches, salads, you name it. They're sweet and syrupy, the spice is definitely there, and the pepper flavor is just as present. And the addition of the cayenne pepper gives it a slow burn that I just love in a sweet heat. I found the recipe on a blog called Foodie with Family, and I followed it EXACTLY to the letter. I know. I know. It's crazy that I didn't tweak it somewhere along the lines which is my usual MO, but for me, hot peppers are kind of uncharted territory, so I stuck with the plan and didn't stray from the path. I'm pretty thrilled with how they turned out! And I happened to find a few RED ones, so I added a slice or two to each jar for a little pop of color. I'm thinking this the current front runner for holiday gift giving this year.
They're just that good! Boom.




3 pounds fresh firm, jalapeno peppers, washed 
2 cups cider vinegar 
6 cups white granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed 
3 teaspoons granulated garlic 
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper




 Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers, and discard. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside. In a large pot, bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile, hot canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes, (which means a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred away). Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth.  For best flavor, allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.


Tips:
-This recipe makes quite a bit of syrup compared to the amount of jalapenos. The original recipe suggested canning the extra syrup in jars because it's so yummy brushed on meats or anything you grill, but even after doing that, there was still quite a bit. So I just used it to make a batch of candied Habaneros! If you plan to double the recipe, (and you definitely should!) don't double the syrup ingredients. You'll have plenty!
-Instead of using a food processor or mandoline, I chose to slice the peppers by hand. Yes, that's a little tedious, but I wanted to make sure they were all perfect little rings that were the perfect thickness. The food processor and mandoline weren't helping me to that end. You don't want the slices to be too thin, otherwise they'll just turn to mush. Oh, and definitely wear gloves and take care not to touch your eyes or any other part of your body. Oof.
-If you're not interested in preserving them in sealed jars, just follow the recipe up until you fill up your jars, then just keep them in the fridge. They'll keep up to 3 months.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef



  When you think of barbecue, you usually think of firing up the grill, correct? Or if you're really hardcore, you think of firing up your smoker, am I right? Well, what do you do if you want something barbecue, but you live in an apartment with no way of grilling? You use your slow cooker, of course! That's usually my go-to when I want pulled pork, but this time I wanted to do a pulled BEEF.
 Now, normally, I would just pour some barbecue sauce over a chunk of meat and let it cook all day, but this time I kind of wanted to do a dry rub instead. Can you put a big beef in a slow cooker without any added liquid? Absolutely! For one thing, there will be a lot of juice from the beef itself. And for another thing, you really don't want to BOIL the beef in all that liquid. You just want it to slow cook in its own juices. And then, finally...FINALLY....., after patiently waiting for it to cook all day ... you pull apart the most tender beef you've ever cooked......  you add some barbecue sauce, just until it's enough, and then you serve it up on some fresh rolls with some cole slaw or potato salad and a crisp crunchy pickle spear.
OH. MY. GOD. Seriously, for me, that's Summer on a plate. All I need now is some Jersey corn and a few Jersey Tomatoes, and I'll be living like Royalty, wondering what the poor people are doing. SO GOOD! There's just nothing like it!
So, give it a try. If you're all about that beef, then this is one for you!


1 3-5 lb chuck roast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
1 sliced onion
Barbecue sauce


Mix together the spices and brown sugar. Using your impeccably clean hands, rub the spice mixture all over the beef. Place beef in slow cooker. Top with onion slices. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. When the beef is falling apart, use two forks to shred it. Add your favorite barbecue sauce until it's as saucy as you like it.


Tips:
If there is quite a bit of juice, just remove a little before you add the barbecue sauce.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Strawberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce


   A few years ago, I came up with a recipe for Blueberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, and it was fun and unexpected and a fabulous big hit. It was sweet and tangy and smoky and zesty and everything you want in a barbecue sauce. So then I thought, I wonder how it would taste with strawberries instead of blueberries! Wouldn't that be amazing? At first, I figured I'd just use the same recipe and swap out the blueberries, but then I thought, wait... let's make a new recipe for strawberries and let them have their own moment in the spotlight!
  As always, when I want to find a new recipe, I do some googling to see who else might be thinking of the same idea. I happened to find a recipe on a blog called The Stay At Home Chef, and I gave it a try. It's so good! But then I thought, lets turn this from good to GREAT! So, this is basically the same recipe, but I added a couple tiny tweaks to it. (You know me. I can't leave well enough alone.) The final result is a revelation! Who knew that strawberries would pair so well with smoky Chipotles??? And since Chipotles are just smoked jalapenos, this sauce has a nice little kick to it. Not like a burn-your-face-off kind of a kick, but just a nice heat that sneaks up on you a little. I'm not a spicy guy, but I'm definitely a fan of a slow burn.
  So the next time you're grilling up some chicken or ribs, or maybe doing a slow cooker pulled pork, give this one a try. It's really awesome!



2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil 
1 large sweet onion diced 
3 cloves garlic minced 
2 cups strawberries hulled 
3 chipotles in Adobo sauce 
1 cup ketchup 
2/3 up brown sugar tightly packed 
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1/2 cup honey
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon salt


 In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add in onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and saute for 60 seconds. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce or transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth. Return to heat and simmer another 10 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 5 days.


Tips:
If you would like more heat, go for it! Add some crushed red pepper flakes for another layer of heat. Or you could even add in some chopped jalapenos or a bit of Tabasco.
If you would like a sweeter sauce, bump up the brown sugar and honey.
If you want a little more tang, try adding a little more mustard or lemon juice or even a little splash of apple cider vinegar. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Joey's Creamy Fettuccine with Zucchini and Peas





  OK, so, I have a confession to make. I don't eat pasta very often. Like, maybe only a few times a year. There. I said it. I know. I know. That's blasphemy in some households, right? I mean, of course, I do LOVE it, but very often I find it to be a little bit heavy. So, unless I'm doing a big spaghetti dinner, or maybe doing fresh pasta for friends, I kind of have to be in the mood for it. That's not a crime, is it? Actually, one of my favorite ways to have pasta is with a bunch of fresh vegetables. Since I live in The Garden State, I absolutely can't wait for the warmer months of the year and all of the fabulous produce that comes with them. THAT'S when I'll definitely be in the mood for a nice dish of pasta and some of Jersey's freshest veggies to go with it.
 For this one, I decided to go with zucchini. I saw it at a local farm stand, and it was so brilliantly green that I was inspired to keep with that theme and add peas and fresh herbs. The result was an amazing pasta dish, perfect in its simplicity, kind of similar to an alfredo, but a little bit lighter.
 So if you're a "pasta every week" kind of household (or even more), you should definitely add this one to the rotation. It was quick and easy and it was just the thing to hit the spot! Hope you like it!


1 lb fettuccine
1 stick butter
1 medium onion
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large (or 2 small-ish) zucchini, cut into large dice
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 10oz box of frozen peas
5 or 6 large leaves of fresh basil
Fresh parsley


   Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt. Boil fettuccine according to package directions to reach desired doneness. While your waiting for the water to boil, make the sauce.
  In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onions. Saute until they soften a bit. Add chopped garlic and continue to saute. Add diced zucchini, season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and continue to saute, stirring frequently. When the zucchini are tender, add chicken broth, cream, and grated cheese. Stir all until well combined. Reduce heat to simmer. Let the sauce reduce a bit until the pasta is done. At the last minute, add the frozen peas and fresh basil. Give it a good stir. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Add drained pasta and toss all together. Let it sit for a few minutes before serving. Top with chopped fresh parsley and a bit more cheese.


Tips:
The sauce is meant to be kind of thin so that the pasta will really drink it in.
Be sure to taste it and adjust the seasoning. It will need a bit more salt than you think it will. If you don't like crushed red pepper flakes, then just use black pepper.
For an extra punch of flavor, add a splash of white wine to the sauce!


Monday, May 20, 2019

Blueberry Lemon Cake



OK, first, lemme just say that I made this cake a few weeks ago with the intention of posting it for Mother's Day, but then schedules got crazy and life got in the way and things got pushed to the back burner, so to speak. Ah well, what can you do? But the good news it's here NOW and it's definitely worth the wait!
 I found this cake on a blog called Natasha's Kitchen. It's light and tasty, so it's just the perfect thing to have with a cup of tea for an afternoon treat. Doesn't that just sound lovely?
 I also love the fact that the recipe uses an entire pound of blueberries. I'm kind of a stickler for that sort of thing. If I'm making something that has a specific flavor, I want A LOT of that one key ingredient, know what I mean? In other words, if I'm gonna make, say, a peanut butter cookie, I want a recipe that uses A LOT of peanut butter! (Hence the Whole Jar of Peanut Butter Cookies.) It makes sense, right? And that's what we have here! LOTS of plump delicious blueberries. Yum. Btw, this cake is also a snap to throw together, so it's the perfect thing when you need something to sweeten your day. Hope you like it!



2 large eggs 
1 cup granulated sugar  
1 cup sour cream (8oz) 
1/2 cup vegetable oil  
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt  
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder  
1 medium lemon zest and juice, divided 
1/2 tbs corn starch  
16 oz fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional


Preheat Oven to 375˚F.
Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Beat eggs and sugar with whisk attachment on high speed 5 min, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil, vanilla extract, and salt, and whisk on low speed until well combined. Whisk together the flour with the baking powder, then add to batter 1/3 at a time, whisking to incorporate with each addition (DO NOT OVERMIX). Finally, add 1 tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tbs zest.
  Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1/2 tbs corn starch and 1 tsp lemon juice, stirring until well combined and no dry white cornstarch remains.
 Pour half of batter into prepared springform pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway). Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 min then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.




Tips:
Full disclosure, the blueberries are supposed to stay suspended in the cake, but as you can see from the photo, mine sank to the bottom. Tbh, I didn't even mind it. But if you want yours to stay suspended, I've always had better luck tossing the blueberries with a tbs of flour, instead of tossing them with cornstarch.
Be sure to include the lemon zest. It really bumps up the lemon flavor in a cake without adding any liquid to the batter!
 Also, I used a 9" tart pan with a removable ring instead of the springform pan and it worked beautifully!
 

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.