Monday, December 20, 2010

Strawberry Cupcakes


Strawberry cupcakes made from real strawberries.. this moist cake is a mix between strawberries and cream and strawberry shortcake.  Something everyone must try, at least once..

My Daughter's Birthday is a few days before Christmas, so I try to make things special for her as many people try to mix both Birthday and Christmas together.  This year she decided she wanted Strawberry Cupcakes... of course Strawberries are not in season in December, so I bought frozen.  Even though these arent from fresh berries they taste awesome! (yes I snuck one).  Tomorrow I will be frosting these with my Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting, which is a light and fluffy frosting that has a nice light hint of strawberry... just like these cupcakes.  They should pair well.

Strawberry Cupcakes
 Makes: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (measured before sifting)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk (room temperature)

3/4 cup smashed strawberries - about 1 pint fresh or 3/4 bag frozen whole strawberries, defrosted (room temperature)
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Directions
  1. A few hours before baking prepare Berries. (directions below)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with baking cups.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and mixing for 1 full minute on med-low after each addition.
  5. Add in vanilla and almond extracts and mix for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with milk, scraping down after each addition.
  7. Mix in mashed strawberries and 1/4 cup reserved juice on low speed until fully combined.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire wrack to finish cooling.

After cupcakes have been transferred to wire wrack lightly baste cupcakes with reserved juice, the heat from the still hot cupcake will turn the sugars of the juice into a light glaze.

Once berries are completely cooled frost if desired or eat plain!

Strawberry prep:
For Fresh Berries:
Wash and hull berries. In a small bowl, cut berries into quarters and cover with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Let set for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Once berries are soft, mash with a fork. Strain berries from juice, reserve juices.

For Frozen Berries: In a small bowl defrost berries, cover with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Let set for a few hours, stirring berries occasionally.  Once berries are soft, mash with a fork. Strain berries from juice, reserve juice.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vanilla Sugar (two ways)



Vanilla sugar is granulated or confectioner's sugar to which a vanilla bean has been added. Vanilla sugar can be used in recipes just like regular sugar, with each tablespoon of vanilla sugar providing both a tablespoon of sugar and the flavor equivalent to approximately 1/4 tsp. of quality vanilla extract. Vanilla sugar can add depth and flavor to all of your baked goods, whether you are opting for granulated or powdered sugar.

While vanilla sugar is easily available product to purchase in Europe, those of us in the states have to scour the stores to find it, often coming up empty handed and then opting to buy it online or to make our own.  You want to make it yourself? well from we have two options... the longer more authentic way of making it, or the quicker less expensive way of making it.  The choice is truly yours, while one will taste better, not all of us have the time nor the money to do so.

Making it the authentic way...
1 vanilla bean
2 cups sugar

Slice down side of bean with back of knife and scrape seeds into airtight container with the sugar.
Bury bean in sugar and seal tightly with lid.
Let sit for 1 to 2 weeks. After two weeks you can use as regular, granulated sugar.
(recipe above is from the food network)

If you have leftover bean pods from other recipes that you've been cooking dont throw them away! use them just as above and you'll still get a very tasty vanilla sugar, just not quite as potent as if you had used a whole bean.


Cant afford $7 a for 1 vanilla bean just to make 2 cups of vanilla sugar?

Making it the quicker more economical way...
1 tsp vanilla extract (even though you're cutting costs please use real not artificial)
2 cups sugar

Blend vanilla and sugar in a bowl, once vanilla and sugar are well combined pour out onto a wax paper lined sheet.
Dry mixture for 5 hours.  After mixture is dry press out any lumps or run through a sifter.
Store in an air tight container and use as regular granulated sugar

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Authentic Kladdkaka (Swedish "sticky cake")

 Kladdkaka, which is literally translated into "Gooey" or "sticky" cake. Is pretty much a sticky gooey brownie, but SO much better.

while I have yet to try this recipe out (I cant find vanilla sugar and have been busy baking other things to slow down and make it).  I can tell you that this is a VERY authentic recipe, it comes from a friend of mine who has lived in Sweden his whole life.  This is the recipe he uses to make his Kladdkaka and gave to me to try out ^.^

Authentic Kladdkaka 
(Swedish "sticky cake")

Ingredients:
2 eggs
3 dl (1 1/3 cups) sugar
1 tsk (teaspoon) vanilla sugar
4 msk (tablespoon) cocoa
1 krm (1 ml or roughly 1/4 teaspoon) salt
1 ½ dl (1 "Gill" or 2/3 cup) flour
100 g (3.5 ounce or 7 Tbsp) melted butter
bread crumbs for coating
Optional:
chopped nuts

Directions
  1. Put the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit).
  2. Grease your pan with butter and dust with bread crumbs. This is to prevent the cake from sticking to the container..too much
  3. Take a bowl (medium-big) and mix the eggs and sugar until fluffy with mixer. Add the vanilla sugar and cocoa and whisk on lowest speed of mixer. Slowly incorporate the flour and salt, when the flour is fully incorporated then, finally add the melted butter.
  4. Whisk gently until smooth, and pour into prepared pan. If desired sprinkle nuts over top of cake.
  5. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 15 minutes.  Less time = more sticky. 
  6. Allow to cool on wire rack until ready to serve. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream.

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Chocolate-Topped Sea Salt Caramels

mmm this is a sea salt caramel that is literally mouth watering good...

I must admit, I held my reservations at first... I mean how many homemade caramels have you tried that actually tasted good? few. That tasted great? slim to none. But this... this is recipe is so delicious, try only eating just one square, I dare you. When you take that first sweet and salty bite your mouth explodes with flavor and your taste buds go wild... your mouth waters as you go in for another bite... could this be real? could you really be tasting such an amazing homemade caramel? And better yet its one that YOU made. It may just make you feel like the best candy maker ever.. Ahh but we're getting ahead of ourselves... you have to make it first... let me help you with that...

Chocolate-Topped Sea Salt Caramels

Ingredients:
1 cup butter (DO NOT use margarine)
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps coarse sea salt
1 cup light corn syrup
1 -14oz can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Directions:
  1. Line 11x7-inch pan with foil, leaving 1 inch of foil overhanging on 2 opposite sides of pan; grease foil with butter.
  2. In 3-quart heavy saucepan, melt 1 cup butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of the salt, the corn syrup and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 40 to 50 minutes, stirring frequently, to 248*f on a candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a firm ball tha holds its shape until pressed. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into pan. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until completely cooled.
  4. In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and oil on high 30-40 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Using spatula, spread chocolate evenly over caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp salt. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  5. Use foil to lift caramels from pan; remove foil. Cut into 8 rows by 6 rows. Store at room temperature.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Melting Middles Truffles


Chocolate Truffles are a rich and elegant, bite-sized petit four (appetizer) made with a creamy mixture of chocolate, cream, and butter to which various flavorings are added (liqueurs, extracts, nuts, coffee, purees, spices, candied or dried fruits). This mixture is really a Ganache that is rolled into misshaped rounds to look like the real truffle fungus that grows around the roots of trees in France and Italy. Once the truffles are formed they are then rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the 'dirt' that the real truffles grow in.
 
This is a variation of the recipe that was published in BBC Good Foods back in 2008.  It received some good reviews aside from that there is a LOT of middles left over after you make the truffles, I hope that I have fixed this problem by having a larger truffle recipe than the original had stated.

Middles:
2/3 cup dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped
1c dulce de leche caramel

Make the middles first.
  1. Heat the Dulce de Leche in a pan for 1 min until warmed and runny, then stir in the chopped dark chocolate and leave to melt. Stir until smooth. 
  2. Cover a dinner plate with saran wrap, oil the saran wrap well, then pour the mix onto it. 
  3. Cool, then freeze for 2 hrs or until very firm.

Outer Truffles
8oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2T unsalted butter

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Set aside.  
  2. Heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.  
  3. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk until smooth.  
  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator until the truffle mixture is firm (this will take several hours or overnight).

Once both mixtures are chilled:
  1. Spread cocoa powder over a large baking tray. Remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator and the middles from the freezer.
  2. Peel the caramel from the saran wrap, then snip into thumbnail-size pieces; wet kitchen scissors work best. Keep this mixture chilled, return to freezer if necessary. 
  3. Spread cocoa powder over a large baking tray.
  4. Take a heaped tsp of the truffle mix then, with cocoa-dusted hands, poke in a caramel chunk. Squash the mix around the caramel to seal, then roll into a ball.
  5. Immediately roll the truffle in the coating and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or tray. 
  6. Cover and place in the refrigerator until firm. Truffles can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks or else frozen for a couple of months. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 30 small truffles.

Review:
there are a TON of middles left.  I used a rounded 1/4 tsp of the mixture for the middles of my truffles and after I had 30 portioned out, there was still a good 2/3 of the recipe left.  Also after 5 hours in my deep freezer they were never frozen, which is why I actually opted to just use my measuring spoon and a knife. They were melting by the time I had portioned out the 30 pieces so I placed them back into the freezer so that they could firm up.  Once they were firmer I pressed them into the ganashe, which was also quite soft and melting extremely quick, Im not sure why, but I think next time I do this recipe I will be measuring everything by weight just to make sure that there's enough chocolate to  harden the mix. Its the only reasonable thing I can think of as to why it was happening.  I must admit though, even after all that work, I'd do it again because they tasted AWESOME!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dark Hot Cocoa Mix


I've been pretty hesitant to post this recipe... because a lot of frustration went into making it.  I read quite a few recipes for cocoa, tried quite a few recipes for cocoa and honestly didn't much like any of them.  I took bits and pieces from a few of them and ended up with a chalky tasting mess... I was determined to make a good cocoa mix.
The first recipe took up about 1/4 of my stock pot that I had used as an "extra big mixing bowl", by the time I was content with the mix it took up 3/4 of my stock pot; I swore that after I had filled all the jars to go to friends and family that I'd still have at least half of it left... in reality when I had finished packing the coco into all 8 pint jars I had all of about a cup, maybe a cup and a third of the mix remaining. What was the frustration? After every addition of an ingredient I'd have to test the cocoa mix to see how it tasted... cup, after cup, after cup... thats a lot of hot cocoa... by the end of the day.

This cocoa mix tastes similar to a Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar, Im sure that this flavor is because I cannot find regular dutch processed cocoa powder, instead the stores carry "special mixes" that are half dutch processed cocoa powder and half natural cocoa powder and Hershey's Special Dark is also made from that 50/50 blend of cocoa.  The first set of measurements are a bit odd because I actually cut the recipe in third to make it "more manageable", the second set is my exact recipe for what I ended up with......

While this mix isnt perfect... it is homemade, with love... which any family member can appreciate.... well most anyways.

Dark Hot Cocoa Mix

Ingredients
2 1/4 cup powdered milk
2/3cup + 1Tbsp + 1tsp coffee creamer
2/3cup + 1Tbsp -50/50 cocoa mix (50% dutch processed and 50% natural cocoa)
2/3cup + 1Tbsp + 1tsp powdered sugar
1Tbsp cornstarch
dash salt

Directions
Sift ingredients into a large "bowl" (I used my stock pot) then whisk together.  Pour mixture either into jars for gifts or into an air tight container for your household consumption

To make hot cocoa
Heat 6oz milk (2% or whole), stir in 3 Tablespoons (aprox 1/3 cup) of mix. Top with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips.

Note: that the difference between dutch processed cocoa powder is that dutch processed powder is treated with alkali to make less acidic than that of natural cocoa so it more mellow and most people think that it has a more "chocolatey" taste. If you can find dutch processed cocoa that isnt mixed with natural cocoa I would suggest it to those of you wanting a more "milk chocolate" taste to your cocoa... as for me, I actually like dark chocolate so Im fine with this mix... my husband and kids will have to adjust or find me different cocoa powder...

my whole recipe... (firmly packs 8 - 1 pint mason jars with 1 1/3 cup reserve)
6 3/4 cup powdered milk
2 1/4 cup coffee creamer
2 1/3 cup -50/50 cocoa mix (50% dutch processed and 50% natural cocoa)
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt


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Friday, December 10, 2010

Chery Almond Fudge


Bought Betty Crockers Christmas Cookies 2010, decided to try a few recipes from it. This recipe SMELLS so awesome and tastes sort of like a cherry ice cream. I did have a hard time finding the cherry frosting, but it the search was kind of fun, sort of like an Easter egg hunt...

 Chery Almond Fudge

Ingredients
  • 1 bag (12 oz) white vanilla baking chips
  • 1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy cherry frosting
  • 1/2 cup chopped red candied cherries (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash salt
Directions
  1. Line 9-inch square pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray. In a double boiler melt chocolate chips or in large microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted.
  2. Stir frosting into melted chips. Fold in remaining ingredients. Pour and spread into pan. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until set.
  3. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan; remove foil. Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows. Store tightly covered.

Tip: To toast almonds, sprinkle in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown.


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake



This one is usually a big hit for the holidays in my family.

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake
(yield: 12-16 servings)

For crust:
1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup finely crushed gingersnaps
2 Tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

For cheesecake:
2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For topping:
1/2 cup whipping cream
Toasted chopped pecans



  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. For crust: Line bottom of springform pan with parchment paper. Combine crushed graham crackers, crushed gingersnaps, the 2 Tablespoons finely chopped pecans, flour, powdered sugar, and melted butter or margarine in a medium bowl. Press evenly onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan; set aside. (note: I like to bake it at 375* for 4-5 min to set it. and then let it cool)
  3. Beat cream cheese and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add 3 eggs all at once, beating on low speed just until combined.
  4. Place one cup of cream cheese mixture in a medium bowl. Add pumpkin, the 1 remaining egg, milk, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Beat on low speed just until combined.
  5. Pour pumpkin mixture into the prepared springform pan. Top with cream cheese mixture. With a knife or thin metal spatula, gently swirl through the layers to marble. (note: I cannot stress the "gently" enough, if you accidentally cut through the graham cracker crust it will become soggy during baking.)
  6. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake in 350*f oven for 40-45 minutes or until center appears set when shaken.
  7. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan by running a knife or thin metal spatula around the edge. Cool 30 minutes more; removes sides of pan. Cool compleatly. Cover; chill at least 4 hours.
  8. For topping: Cool bowl and beaters in fridge for 30min. Before serving beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spoon into mounds atop the cheesecake. Garnish with toasted chopped pecans.

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Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake





Yet another one of the recipes I learned in my High School Culinary Class/Catering company.


Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
(Yield: 8 servings)

2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs (large)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (you can use fresh if you've prepared it for baking already)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground cloves
Dash nutmeg
1 graham cracker crust (9-inch) - recipe follows


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350*f
  2. Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium until well blended. Add eggs; mix until well blended.
  3. Stir pumpkin and spices into 1 cup of the batter; pour remaining plain batter into crust. Top with the pumpkin batter.
  4. Bake at 350* for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. (note: if done in a springform pan remember to loosen the cheesecake from the sides 15 min into cooling or cheesecake will crack as it cools. You do this by carefully running a knife or thin metal spatula around the edges.)


Graham Cracker Crust
(Yield: 1 9-inch crust)

1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup finely crushed graham crackers (about 18)

  1. Melt butter; stir in sugar. Add crushed crackers; toss to mix well.
  2. Spread evenly into a 9-inch pie pan. Press onto bottom and sides of pan to form a firm, even crust. (if using a springform pan line bottom with parchment paper and you can choose to only put the crust on the bottom of the pan or go up the sides, if you only do the bottom you may have some reserve crumbs or you can have a thicker crust)
  3. Chill for about one hour, or until firm; or bake in a 375*f oven for 4 to 5 minutes or until edge is slightly browned. Cool on wire rack before filling.

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Orange and Spice Pumpkin Pie

Another one of the recipes I learned while in my High School Culinary Class/Catering co (yes the class doubled as a catering company... it paid for the food we used to learn on and serve as goodness knows your tax dollars dont pay enough to keep those programs running in schools)

Ingredients
Crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut intio 1/2 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
3 Tablespoons grated orange peel

Filling:

1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
3/4 (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup sour cream (sour cream substitute such as IMO is acceptable)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping:

Lightly sweetened whipped cream(optional)
Fine strips of orange peel (optional)

Directions
  1. For crust: blend flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a processor until mixture resembles course meal. Add yolk, 3 Tablespoons ice water and orange peel. Process until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let dough soften slightly ar room temperature before rolling out.)
  2. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400*f. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 3/4-inch; fold under and crimp into 1/2-inch high standing rim. With scissors, make diagonal cuts in dough rim at 1/2-inch intervals; press cut pieces alternately in and out. Pierce dough (not dough rim) all over with fork. Bake crust 30 minutes.
  3. Line crust with foil; fill with beans or pie weights. Bake until edge is dry and set, about 12 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake crust until colored, pressing with back of spoon if crust bubbles, about 8 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325*f.
  4. For filling: whisk all of the filling ingredients in large bowl until well blended. Pour into prepared crust.
  5. Gently cover crust edge with foil to prevent over-browning. Bake until pie puffs and begins to split at edges and is just set in center, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool on pie rack.
  6. Top pie with whipped cream and orange peel strips, if desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Double-Decker Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

This is a really great tasting cheesecake that I learned in my high school culinary class/catering company where we'd make 20 of these at a time.  Trust me when it comes to cheesecake, its always worth the time and effort to actually bake one instead of some instant thing that comes out of a bag.  Your guests, and taste buds, will thank you.

Double-Decker Raspberry 
White Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients
Crust:

1 9-ounce package chocolate wafer cookies, coarsely broken
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

1 12-ounce package frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed, juices reserved
6 ounce good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 Tablespoons whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Topping:

White chocolate curls (optional)

Directions
  1. For crust: Preheat oven to 325*f. Butter 9-inch spring-form pan with 2 3/4-inch high sides. Double-wrap outside of pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place cookies into processor and blend until coarse crumbs form. Add butter and process until evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and halfway up sides of prepared pan. Bake crust 8 minutes; cool on rack.
  2. For filling: Press raspberries and juices through fine strainer into small bowl. Measure 1/2 cup puree for filling (reserve remaining puree for another use). Stir white chocolate in different small metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until just melted and smooth; set aside.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat in flour, then eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in whipping cream and vanilla. Transfer 2 1/4 cups batter to medium bowl; stir in melted white chocolate. Stir reserved 1/2 cup raspberry puree and almond extract into remaining batter in large bowl.
  4. Pour raspberry batter in prepared crust; place springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of pan. Bake until raspberry filling is softly set in center and beginning to puff at edges, about 50 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven; let raspberry layer cool 5 minutes to firm slightly.
  5. Starting at edge of pan, spoon white chocolate batter in concentric circles onto raspberry layer. smooth top. Bake until white chocolate filling is set in center, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate cake uncovered until cold, at least 4 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead; cover and keep refrigerated.)
  6. Cut around pan sides with small knife to loosen cheesecake; release sides. Garnish with white chocolate curls if desired.

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Eggnog Fudge


What says "Happy Holidays" more than eggnog? Well for those of us who cant drink enough eggnog, comes eggnog fudge... because if we cant drink it we certainly must eat it! While it is certainly more difficult than some of the other fudges that I've posted its definitely worth it.

Eggnog Fudge

Ingredients
1 cup Eggnog (dairy based, don't use soy nog, it changes the taste)
3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, plus some for garnish
1/8 cup butter, chilled (half a stick)
1- 12 oz package white chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Directions
  1. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper leaving 1 inch above lip on all sides.
  2. Heat eggnog and sugar over medium heat in a heavy sauce pan. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Fold in marshmallows and nutmeg; return to a boil and boil for 6 minutes stirring constantly until candy thermometer reaches 234*f.
  4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter, white chocolate chips and almonds, if desired. Stir well until mixture is mixed and glossy.  Quickly pour into prepared pan and sprinkle nutmeg over top for garnish.
  5. Cool for 2 hours or until firm.  Once fudge is firm lift fudge from pan and cut into squares.


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Layered Fudge

Peanut Butter and Chocolate pair excellently together, which is why it makes a hit when you make peanut butter and Chocolate layered fudge!

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (divided)
2 tsp vanilla (divided)

Directions
  1. Line an 8 or 9- in square pan with wax paper
  2. In a double boiler melt peanut butter chips with 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk. Make sure to NOT get ANY water into the chocolate or it will become a grainy mess that should just be thrown away. 
  3. Once the chips are melted remove from heat and then stir in 1 tsp vanilla.  Spread evenly into pan.
  4. Melt chocolate chips and remaining sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler.  When chips are melted, remove from heat and then stir in remaining vanilla. Spread evenly over peanut butter layer.
  5. Cool 3 hours or until firm, can be placed into fridge to help speed cooling but not the freezer as crystals will form in the chocolate.
  6. Once fudge is firm, remove from pan by lifting wax paper.  Peel off waxed paper and cut into squares.

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Chocolate Butterscotch Layered Fudge

Layered fudges really arent much more difficult than a basic fudge recipe aside from it looks a lot more difficult... and of course you add an hour to the cooling period..

Chocolate Butterscotch Layered Fudge

Ingredients
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-14oz can of sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 tsp real vanilla extract (real is always best when working with chocolate!)
1 cup butterscotch chips

Directions
  1. Line an 8 or 9- in square pan with wax paper
  2. In a double boiler melt chocolate chips with 1 cup sweetened condensed milk. Make sure to NOT get ANY water into the chocolate or it will become a grainy mess that should just be thrown away. 
  3. Once chocolate is melted remove from heat and then stir in vanilla and nuts if desired.  Spread evenly into pan.
  4. Melt butterscotch chips and remaining sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler.  When chips are melted spread evenly over chocolate layer.
  5. Cool 3 hours or until firm, can be placed into fridge to help speed cooling but not the freezer as crystals could form in the chocolate.
  6. Once fudge is firm, remove from pan by lifting wax paper.  Peel off waxed paper and cut into squares.
Makes roughly 2lbs.
Note: From experience the better quality chocolate chips you use the better the fudge tastes...  I dont like to use store brand chocolate chips as they dont always set as firm as the brand names do.
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Sweet Potato Chips


Many do not know that I actually developed an allergy to potatoes as an adult, thus preventing me from being able to enjoy such things as mashed potatoes, fries and most of all potato chips.  Very hesitantly I tried a sweet potato... and low and behold no allergic reaction... found out later that it is because even though the sweet potato is called a potato it actually is a completely different root vegetable all together. (find out more here) Anyways when I'm craving my that wonderful salty crispy goodness known as a potato chip I pull out my mandolin and start slicing away.  Because they are made from sweet potatoes instead of regular white potatoes they are sweet and salty, making them even better than regular potato chips quite often!

Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients
Sweet Potatoes
vegetable oil (for frying)
Sea Salt (preferably fresh ground)


Directions
  1. In a big pot/pan heat up 2-3 inches of vegetable oil to 350-375*f.
  2. While oil is heating up slice one potato using a mandolin slicer on one of its thinnest settings (if you don't have one start this step before you heat up the oil as it takes much longer). Lay slices out onto a paper towel to absorb some of the excess water from the sweet potato.
  3. Once oil is up to temp put in 10-20 slices of the sweet potato into the hot oil, don't crowd the pan with them because the oil will cool when the chips release their water while frying.  I fry in my wok which allows me to slide the "chips" in one at a time so that they don't stick to each other.
  4. The chips will start turning from a bright orange to a lighter orange color around the edges as it starts to fry, once they do that stir/flip the chips over so that they fry on the other side.  Total frying time should take between 5-10 minutes depending on how thick/thinly you've sliced the chips. I stir a minimum of two times per batch to make sure that they are all fully cooked.
  5. When chips are done remove them from oil using a slotted spoon or skimmer, shake lightly to remove excess oil and drain on a rack that is over paper towels to drain. Sprinkle sea salt onto chips right after they come out of the fryer to make sure that the salt adheres to the chip. 
  6. Once salt has been applied to chips you can transfer to a paper towel lined bowl and shake again to get anymore remaining oil off of the chips... or as in my family eat them right off the cooling rack. (the ones in my picture above were barely even drained before I took a picture because I wanted a picture of them before they had been consumed!)
  7. While the chips are frying slice the next potato.


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Basic Fudge and its variations

Fudge.. that rich creamy chocolatey goodness that we crave.  Come Christmas and Easter Im asked to bring a few things every year without fail; fudge of varying varieties and one of my cheesecake recipes (will post some of those later).  Every year I, without fail seem to somehow produce 3-6 different variations of fudge without much more than a day or two's notice.  How? My basic fudge recipe screams versatility. With a few changes here and there your basic chocolate fudge quickly becomes a mint chocolate fudge, a walnut fudge, a rocky road fudge and a marshmallow fudge... all with only changing one ingredient and adding a few others.

Basic Fudge and its variations

Ingredients
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate
1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
dash salt
1 1/2 tsp real vanilla (imitation does not work as well, its worth the few extra dollars trust me)

Directions
  1. Line an 8 or 9- in square pan with wax paper
  2. In a double boiler melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt. Make sure to NOT get ANY water into the chocolate or it will become a grainy mess that should just be thrown away. 
  3. Once chocolate is melted remove from heat and then stir in vanilla*
  4. Spread evenly into pan, cool 2 hours or until firm, can be placed into fridge to help speed cooling but not the freezer as crystals could form in the chocolate.
  5. Once fudge is firm, remove from pan by lifting wax paper.  Peel off waxed paper and cut into squares.
Makes roughly 2lbs.
Note: From experience the better quality chocolate chips you use the better the fudge tastes... though I've been known to use your basic chocolate chips for my flavored fudges (mint, raspberry...), but I don't like to use store brand chocolate chips as they dont always set as firm as the brand names do.

*Variations
All these variations happen at step 3, when you add in the vanilla

Mint Chocolate Fudge - only add in 1 tsp of the vanilla and add 1/2 tsp mint extract

Walnut Fudge - Add 1/2 - 1 cup chopped walnuts... basically I eye how much walnuts I put in, you want a good chocolate to fudge ratio

Marshmallow Fudge - After you've added the vanilla let the mixture cool just a little bit so that you don't melt your marshmallows when you put them into the chocolate about 2-4 minutes.  Then add 1/2 - 1cup mini marshmallows, like before you want a good ratio of marshmallow to chocolate

Rocky Road Fudge - After you've added the vanilla let the mixture cool just a little bit so that you don't melt your marshmallows when you put them into the chocolate about 2-4 minutes.  Then add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup mini marshmallows

Chocolate Raspberry Fudge - only add in 3/4 tsp of vanilla and add 3/4 tsp raspberry extract.  Because the raspberry flavor is so hard to achieve you want at least a half and half ratio of raspberry to vanilla, you can play with how much raspberry you add to vanilla.  The more raspberry you add the less vanilla you should add, unless you want to add more chocolate chips to off set the extract as it does soften your fudge considerably.

Mint Chocolate Raspberry Fudge - only add in 1/2 tsp vanilla and add in 3/4 tsp raspberry extract and 1/4 tsp mint extract. As before try to stay within the 1 1/2 tsp extract to the recipe ratio.. do not skip the vanilla all together though.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sopapillas

What can I say? Sopapillas are wonderful... these puffy delights lend to people looking for both sweet and savory.  I was first introduced to sopapillas during foods class, freshman year in high school where the teacher showed it to us as both a dessert served with powdered sugar and as a bread addition to a meal making it quite savory.  My husband grew up in a Hispanic-American family and his Grandmother would make these for the children as treats served with honey.  So when my husband was watching TV last night he mentioned that he hadn't had sopapillas in so long and really wanted some I decided to make them.  We had a blast, me not having made them in years and him having never seen them being made before... he gobbled up the first few before pausing to take a picture for me.

 Sopapillas

Ingredients
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 to 6 tablespoons lard or shortening (lard is more authentic, shortening more vegan friendly)
1 1/4 cups warm milk or warm water (approximately)
Vegetable Oil for frying

Directions
  1. In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in shortening using either a pastry cutter or by using the fork and knife method (who has room for every little kitchen gadget anyways?). Mixture should be crumbly.
  2. Add 1 cup of the milk all at once and mix the dough with your hands until it forms a soft pliable dough, if it is too dry add more warm milk a little at a time.
  3. On a well floured board fold dough in half and knead about a dozen times until the dough is soft and no longer sticky... if your dough was not sticky before you can skip this step, but I've found that it incorporates the flour and shortening better than if you omit this step, so I always incorporate this step.  DON'T over work your dough or it will become tough.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10-20 minutes to let the gluten in the flour relax (makes for a softer sopapilla).
  5. After dough has rested take half of the dough (remember to cover the other half so it doesn't dry out), and roll it out on a well floured board to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.  I like to make my dough into a rectangle because I can easily cut it into squares and then cut those squares in half to make triangles (and then in half again to make smaller triangles if I'm making them for little kids).  I seem to get a more manageable and customizable size this way, but if you like you can roll them into a circle like a pie crust and then cut it into triangles like a pizza.
  6. In a deep pan with 2-3 inches of vegetable oil heated to 365-375* f or into a deep fryer place 2-3 sopapillas into the pan at a time.  Avoid over crowding, as the sopapillas cook they will start to puff and you need room to be able to get a slotted spoon or skimmer in there to flip them over half way.  I'm pretty fussy and as soon as I feel that they are nice and puffy on one side I will flip them to brown the top... I flip them every 20-30 seconds so that they are evenly browned on all sides.  If that's too much work for you, flip them over after about a minute, and then fry on that side for one minute longer and they should be finished.  Remember you're looking golden brown, not dark brown or tan.
  7. Remove from oil and drain on a cooling rack that has paper towels underneath.  If you dont own a cooling rack you can use a paper towel or brown paper bags, but the sopapilla will still be in the oil it fried in and will quickly become soggy and loose the crispness that you so desire.

Side Note: If you are making the sopapillas for dessert, just before you remove them from the oil give them one last flip so that they are still "wet" with oil, immediately after they are removed from oil dust with powdered sugar.  The still "wet" oil will make the powdered sugar stick to the sopapilla...
The problem with this method is you either have to have three hands or your drip pan and powdered sugar in a duster right next to you while you're frying so that you can dust them in the 20-30 seconds you have before the oil is absorbed... or do as I do and elect a friend to be there to dust them as they come out. This is a great job for kids as they feel that they've "helped" make them, just make sure that you don't let them get too close to the oil and they burn themselves.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin pie.... either makes or breaks your meal... it cant be over or under done.. the spices have to be *just* right... if something it off, it throws the meal off.  So how do you cook the "perfect" pumpkin pie to make sure that your meal is just right? Timing and careful measuring.  While I cant tell you that your family will like a pie with more ginger or more nutmeg than mine... I can tell you that they will definitely appreciate a pumpkin pie that is not over cooked or worse.. served practically raw.  The preference of spices will come with you in time, use this as a guideline to what you and your family like.  I myself am a sucker on not following any recipe to the letter, there's almost always wiggle room to adjust it to mine and my families personal preferences.

Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:
1 -15 oz can (or two cups puree'd) pumpkin
1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 - unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425*f. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and place unbaked pie shell on top to avoid any spilling in your oven.
  2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in small bowl. 
  3. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
  4. Pour into pie shell.
  5. Bake at 425*f for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350*f for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. I cover my crust with tinfoil the last 20-30 minutes of baking so that my crust doesn't burn while the pie bakes. 

When you pull out your pie check to see if its "wriggly" if it is... its still raw, if it moves just a little its done.  Sometimes I'll remove a pie before the knife comes mostly clean because the pie will continue to cook for a few minutes after removing from the oven.  
If your pie cracks you either over cooked your pie or it cooled too quickly.  As long as your pie isnt grossly overcooked to where the top or the crust is a deep brown you'll be alright, and can *generally* cover it with some whipped cream and most people will be none the wiser... that is unless your pie decided to split almost in half... then you have two choices... grin and bear it or make another one.  I generally grin and bear it... a perfect tasting pie isn't always the prettiest one at the market... though it never hurts to try. ^.^ good luck

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Orange Cranberry Sauce

When I worked in a deli we had fresh cranberry sauce for only two months out of the year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, any other time that you wanted cranberry sauce you were getting it out of a can.  Not to knock canned cranberry sauce (much) but its never the same as fresh, so those two months out of the year I would buy a lot of cranberry sauce and put it on my sandwiches.. I LOVE turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Unlike some when it comes to a turkey sandwich with cranberry I dont muck up the flavors with mayonnaise or tomatoes; I like my sandwich to have a french bread type crust with cranberry sauce smothered on both sides of the bread, some crunchy lettuce and two slices of havarti cheese that is so incredibly creamy and mild -- thats it.  Why you ask? Because cranberry sauce especially fresh cranberry sauce is on its own level of awesomeness and deserves to have the spotlight.
So.. you want to wow your guests and taste-buds this holiday season with some fresh cranberry sauce and gloat that you even made this yourself? Why come on in... I think I might have just the thing for you...

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pkg. (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
zest of one orange (optional)
cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions:
  1. Wash berries and pick off any stems or over ripe berries that may be in the batch. 
  2. In a sauce pan bring sugar and orange juice to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat and add cranberries, orange zest and cinnamon stick. Bring mixture back to a simmer and simmer for around 10 minutes, until all the cranberries have "popped" or split open.  The slower you simmer this the less moisture you lose out of the berries. 
  4. Taste, if the sauce is not as sweet as you would like, you may add more sugar now.. though I wouldn't recommend adding more than 1/2 cup more.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature before covering and placing in your refrigerator until used. Cranberry sauce keeps exceptionally well and will last you around a week... if your guests don't eat it first!

If you use a cinnamon stick, leave it in over night, or even for a few days.. the longer that it stays in the more flavor that the sauce picks up from the cranberry sauce, just remember to remove it before serving.

Also, if you do not want orange in your cranberry sauce substitute the orange juice with water and omit the orange zest.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey Gravy

The "perfect" turkey gravy is a debatable one.  Some like theirs with big chunks of turkey in their gravy, others like a smooth "lump free" gravy.  Personally I think its whatever type of gravy you grew up with.. I grew up with a gravy full of yummy turkey in the gravy, one that no one could debate that this was a turkey gravy.

Turkey Gravy

Ingredients
Turkey Pan Drippings
Turkey "bits" (pieces from around back bone and neck)
Flour
Water, hot - leftover potato water preferred
Butter (if needed)
pinch of Sage (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rule of thumb for 2 cups of gravy use - 3 tablespoons fat, 3 tablespoonfuls flour and 2 cups liquid

Directions:

  1. When turkey is done, remove from the roasting pan to rest, pour off excess fat from pan if desired.
  2. Pour drippings and fat into a skillet. Over medium heat slowly add flour to make a roux; when mixture is bubbly its ready. (under cooked flour gives off a "raw" taste)
  3. Deglaze roasting pan with hot water re-heating if needed, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. If pan and water are not hot enough to release on their own you may place pan over a medium heat until the cooked on goodies release from the pan.
  4. While stirring slowly to prevent lumps pour scrapings into your roux, continue stirring until gravy thickens.  Add turkey pieces; salt and pepper to taste; adding sage if desired.

My mother claims that my father used to add in some stuffing into the gravy for the flavor, but I digress I do not remember this but it might account for the sage I remember tasting and the lack of it when she told me the recipe.

Note: to make this gluten free substitute flour for either corn starch or gluten free flour

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dad's White Pepper Potatoes

My Dad used to make the most awesome mashed potatoes ever.  On many occasions (especially holidays) we'd run out before everyone got a share! We now make sure that we have more than enough mashed potatoes for everyone.  They're never the same now that Dad's not here anymore, mainly because only he knew the secret to making them perfect every time, but also because of the love and affection he added to all of his cooking.

Once again, this recipe is pretty vague,  mainly because its a recipe that grows with the person and the family that makes them, some want more white pepper, others want more sour cream or to add garlic, soon it becomes your potato recipe.  My mom taught me the best way to figure out how many potatoes to cook each time you make them is to "count how many people are coming to dinner and "add one for the pot'." this method has generally served me well when making potatoes, whether they are mashed or pan fried; of course if your potatoes are small you should add  two or three to the pot just in case.  My husband on the other hand is one that will eat a ton of potatoes at dinner so I count him as two ^.^

Dad's White Pepper Potatoes

Ingredients
Baking Potatoes (see above for how many to cook)
Salt (plus more to taste)
White Pepper (start with 1/8 tsp adjust as necessary)
Sour Cream (average family of 4 should be around 1/4 cup.. adjust as necessary) - my family uses IMO sour cream substitute instead of real sour cream


Directions:
  1. Under cold running water wash potatoes before peeling. 
  2. Once peeled cut potatoes into roughly 3/4" thick pieces that are about as round as a fifty cent piece, generally I quarter them length wise then cut that into thirds and it does the trick. 
  3. Cutting them into an almost uniform size this allows them to all cook at the same rate making it so that you dont over or under cook your potatoes.(over cooking can result in gummy, pasty or starchy potatoes; under cooking can lead to bland, lumpy, gloppy potatoes) 
  4. To save time and effort I cut my potatoes under cold running water to prevent them from oxidizing in the air and then immediately place them into the pot of salted cold water that I will be cooking them in.  
  5. Boil potatoes until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife. Drain immediately, reserving some of the water for the gravy (the starch helps thicken the gravy naturally). 
  6. Mash potatoes using your usual method, generally with a potato ricer (smooth, silky potatoes!), potato masher.. or like my dad did... with the mixer as you add in the additional ingredients. 
  7. Add white pepper (start with 1/8tsp and go from there), sour cream (start with 3 tbsp and adjust as necessary.. general guidelines are above) and salt to taste; you may add milk or butter if desired. 
  8. Whip on medium speed until smooth, adjusting sour cream or butter as desired.


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rosemary and Bacon Stuffing Balls

Picture from Coconut and Lime

Ok, I'll admit it.  I have never made stuffing from scratch before in my life.  I decided since I'm super mommy this year and am cooking everything all by myself for the first time ever.  It was high time I try something new, different and ... rosemary?

I looked all over the internet and found plenty of different stuffing's to try, most including mushrooms.  One of the few things my husband will NOT eat.  Since he's the main eater of stuffing.. I haven't touched the stuff in years since becoming sick off of some that had been placed inside a bird while cooking; just haven't been able to get myself to eat the stuff since.
I deemed this year will be different! First off I'll be putting in a ton of effort to make it, not to mention the fact that these beauties will NOT I repeat will NOT be put into that bird.
There was not one recipe I liked completely... so I decided to mix a few... while searching "rosemary stuffing" I fell upon these beauties from Coconut & Lime, which gave me the idea of turning them into balls... but something was missing... first off it was to uhh.. mushroom-y and secondly it was too onion-y... so I found a bacon stuffing recipe which was loaded in cheese. No go on my front, I cant handle most melted cheese contraptions.  But I loved the bacon idea... so with those and a few more "traditional" recipes I came up with this... which is basically a mixture of all of them...

Rosemary and Bacon Stuffing Balls



Ingredients
4 Slices Bacon, chopped
1 tbs Butter or Margarine
3 Boiler Onions, chopped (you could use 1/3 onion instead, but I find these more mild)
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 tsp dry sage
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 eggs
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white pepper
12 cups cubed dry bread


Directions:
Fry bacon until crisp, set aside.
In a large pan, saute onions and celery in butter and olive oil until the onions become translucent but not brown.  Do not brown the onions.
In a large bowl combine the seasonings and the bread cubes. Mix in the cooked vegetables, bacon and eggs, slowly add in the chicken stock to the bread until moist throughout.
Make medium sized balls, balls should be about the size of one serving. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Place balls in the bottom of the roasting pan, on and under the rack around the turkey for the last 1/2 hour of roasting and cook until cooked through.

Makes 8-10 servings



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Mom's Candied Yams with Marshmallows

What can I say? I am a sucker for candied yams with sweet potatoes.  Its the number one side dish I have to have for both Christmas and Thanksgiving.  It brings back pleasant memories of my childhood.  Last year I made it on my own for the first time and asked my mom for her recipe, I love this lady to death but she has yet to give me a recipe with actual amounts for the ingredients aside from "one can of xx" and "some xx".  So here is a very vague recipe for candied yams with marshmallows.

Mom's Candied Yams with Marshmallows

Ingredients
1 can Cut Sweet Potatoes: Cut Yams in Light Syrup
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
Maple Syrup (til its easy to mash)
Mini Marshmallows to cover

Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400*.  Drain can of yams and put them into a baking dish, add brown sugar. 
  2. Mash the yams adding the maple syrup until the mixture is easy to mash and has a desired consistency. I highly suggest tasting the mixture to make sure you don't "over sweeten it" you may add some of the liquid that came with the yams if you prefer to have a less sweet experience.
  3. Layer with mini marshmallows. 
  4. Cover and bake in pre-heated oven for 25 minutes and marshmallows have melted.


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Fall Fruit Salad with Carmelized Walnuts


Well fall is upon us and the more "summery" fruits are no longer in season so to appreciate the fruits of this season and the fall harvest. Why not make a fall salad?  I looked online and I couldn't find one good salad that I liked... some had cheeses in it or yogurts which to me don't speak of the crisp fall air so I decided to make my own recipe!

Fall Fruit Salad


Ingredients
1 large, Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large, ripe, Asian Pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (if Asian Pears are not available locally try Bosc Pears, which will not have the same flavor/texture combo, but will still lend well to the salad)
1 Cup Seedless Grapes, cut in half
1/4 Cup Walnuts, Caramelized (optional, recipe follows)
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/8 Cup Dried Apricots, cut into 1/8” strips
1 tsp Lemon Juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp White Grape Juice

Directions:
  1. Core and slice the apples and pears, sprinkling them with lemon juice so they do not discolor. 
  2. Add the grapes and lemon zest, and sprinkle with the grape juice
  3. Place the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove, let cool, and roughly chop. (To caramelize walnuts use the recipe following this one)
  4. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Serve plain or on a bed of romaine lettuce or mixed greens.

Variations would include: red onions, celery, mandarin oranges... all of which are seasonal and would be delicious additions.

Caramelized Walnuts


Ingredients
1/4 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toast nuts in a small shallow baking pan until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 5 minutes.
  3. While nuts toast, in a small bowl, stir together sugar, salt and walnut/olive oil. Toss in toasted nuts.
  4. In a small skillet over moderate heat, add walnuts and sugar mixture and cook, stirring regularly, until sugar caramelizes (melts like caramel) and coats nuts, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer nuts to a piece of parchment paper and cool. Break walnuts apart.


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Brown Sugar Glazed Baby Carrots


Tonight I was lost on what kind of vegetable to make for dinner as I was going through my fridge I found some baby carrots. I buy these carrots, that are essentially big carrots whittled down to fit children's hands, so that my kids can have a quick easy after school snack with just the addition of peanut butter (try it, you'd be surprised how good it tastes) or a salad dressing of choice.  I had about half a bag of them left so I dumped them into a little sauce pan, added some water, dumped in some brown sugar and a few grinds of sea salt and black pepper and let it set while I got the rest of the things ready for dinner.  Once everything was about to be ready within the next 30 min I turned them on.  When dinner was ready so were they and the kids LOVED them, wish I had more of them to cook!

Brown Sugar Glazed Baby Carrots

Ingredients
1 bag Baby Carrots (16oz size)
1-2 Tbsp Butter
1 cup water
1/3 -1/2 cup brown sugar (or more to taste)
ground salt & pepper to taste (I prefer sea salt and to freshly grind my pepper for a more full flavor)

Directions
  1. Put all ingredients into a sauce pan, stir to combine.
  2. Cook on high heat until boiling then reduce to medium heat and continue cooking uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until carrots become tender.
I had left over liquids that could be easily used to sauce up some of your other foods... such as a ham.. mmm ham..

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Asian Sesame Salmon

Another McCormick Recipe Inspiration

Asian Sesame Salmon
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients
Spices:
2 tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1 tsp Minced Onions
3/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)


1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 lbs salmon fillets

Directions:
MIX honey, green onions, soy sauce and all of the Spices except Red Pepper in small bowl until well blended.  Stir in Red Pepper to taste, if desired.  Place salmon in 13x9-inch baking dish. Spoon honey mixture evenly over salmon.
ROAST salmon in preheated 375*F oven 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting occasionally with honey mixture.

Note: to make sure that the recipe is gluten free make sure that you use gluten free soy sauce

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Red Velvet Cake


For Birthdays in my family we often skip the cake (unless we're having a party) and just make cup cakes instead.  For my husbands birthday he requested Red Velvet, his favorite.  Now comes the debate in my house... is a Red Velvet Cake merely just a Devils Food Cake with red food coloring? well... yes, and no... while both of them are in essence a chocolate cake, a Red Velvet Cake usually has either buttermilk (southern choice) or sour cream (northern choice), and recipes differ between adding vinegar or not and to use dutch processed cocoa or not.  While dutch processed cocoa will not have the sharp dark chocolate taste, it also wont lend well to the traditional dark red crumb that comes from using natural cocoa and baking .  So, of course, I prefer using natural cocoa.  After scouring all sorts of books and the internet I decided I'd try Paula Deen's "Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake", being that she almost embodies southern cooking, and when I think of every time I've had a good Red Velvet Cake, I think of when I lived in the south.

Red Velvet Cake
Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.

Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well.

Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

The cake is DELICIOUS... I did have a problem with them falling and deforming during cooling though, not sure why.  This is a very moist, rich and creamy cake, that I would probably make again... maybe not as cupcakes since the one pictured above is literally one of about 5 out of 24 that actually looked good and the paper didn't separate away from it.
 


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