December 12, 2018

Fruitcake Waffles



Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon brandy or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fruitcake mix candied fruit (I used this), cherries chopped if needed
confectioner's sugar for serving

Directions:


Prepare and heat your waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg, brandy or vanilla and milk until fluffy. Mix in the oil. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Stir in fruitcake fruit.

Pour the manufacturer's recommended amount of batter onto center of the hot waffle iron. Close lid of waffle iron. Bake about 5 minutes or until steaming stops or the iron beeps. Carefully remove waffle. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200° oven. Repeat with remaining batter.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve. Garnish with additional candied fruit if desired.

Yield: about 8 Belgian-style waffles (two batches on a 4-square waffle iron)

Recipe can be doubled.


My thoughts:

Fruitcake has become such a joke in at least the United States, I'm hardpressed to say if I've ever encountered one in the wild or met anyone who admitted to liking it. It does have a reputation for being dense and old fashioned which may or may not be deserved. 

It's a shame though because the flavors of fruitcake are winners! Who doesn't like sweetened fruit and the warmness of brandy or vanilla? I decided to take those flavors and modernize them a bit. The result was these fluffy waffles. The spirit of fruitcake is still there but they are also light and fresh tasting. The perfect breakfast to put you into the holiday spirit. 


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December 10, 2018

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies



Ingredients:

2 2/3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (not mint extract)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups creme de menthe baking bits (I used these Andes chips)*
3-4 drops green food coloring
pinch salt



Directions:



Preheat the oven to 350. Line 387 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the extract. Taste and add additional extract to taste as needed. Add the eggs and food coloring and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Add additional food dye if needed. Fold in the chips. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart.



Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the baking mat on to a cooling rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the baking mat/parchment on the wire rack before removing them to cool directly on the wire rack.



Yield: about 2 1/2-3 dozen cookies



* I bet you could just finely chop some Andes mints and they'd work fine but I haven't tried this myself. Let me know if you do and how it turns out!


My thoughts:
I saw a recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies on the Betty Crocker website that looked like fun but they called for a sugar cookie mix. Cookies are so easy and use such basic ingredients, I thought I'd make it myself from scratch.

Dying the cookies a minty green is of course totally unnecessary but it's the holidays and it calls to mind a big scoop of chocolate mint ice cream so why not? It also makes them stand out on a cookie tray so they don't get mistaken for a plain chocolate chip cookie.

As these cookies have both peppermint extract and creme de menthe bits, these are definitely cookies for the mint lover. The dark chocolate chips temper it a bit and give the cookies a bigger depth of flavor.

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December 07, 2018

How-to: Sweet & Savory Blue Cheese Boards




You can't beat a cheese board for holiday entertaining! Litehouse approached me to create a cheese board using their center cut cheese, which is cut from the center of a cheese wheel that has been aged 100 days,  and I jumped at the chance. I love having snacks for dinner and assembling cheese boards! It's so fun and satisfying and requires little to no cooking. The cheese is already in a perfect circle and the packaging makes it super easy to turn it over on to a platter so all you have to do is arrange everything else around it.

When I was pulling together items for the board, I realized I couldn't decide if I wanted to go sweet or savory. I think the rich creaminess and deep flavor of blue cheese pairs so wonderfully with both sweet/fruity and savory/smoky flavors.

Rather than decide I made two small boards that can be served together or separately and that would appeal to any blue cheese lover.  For the milder blue cheese, I paired it with a variety of sweeter accompaniments and for the more robust gorgonzola, I went with bold flavors like smoked meat and fish and mustard. I tied the two boards together by using figs and beets in both in different formats. Of course, you can serve this on one big board but I liked splitting it up to make pairings easier.

Sweet:



Litehouse Simply Artisan Blue Cheese Center Cut
brioche toasts
toasted pecans
roasted beets, cubed (can be made ahead and refrigerated)
raw honey
fig jam or fig preserves
semi-sweet chocolate squares





Savory:



Litehouse Simply Artisan Gorgonzola Center Cut
4 oz cracked black pepper cold smoked salmon
Halkidiki olives, roasted for 10 minutes with olive oil and rosemary at 350°
Truffle honey mustard
dried Mission figs
Serrano ham
beet crackers
garlic and chive pita chips



Serve both at room temperature.

December 05, 2018

Soft-Candied Cranberries


Ingredients:

2 1/4 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar


Directions:


Place the cranberries, water, and sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the juices from the cranberries are fully released and the mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the mixture through a wire mesh strainer, into a heat-safe jar, measuring cup or bowl. Discard the syrup or save to make drinks. Remove the cranberries to a bowl to cool completely. Use immediately or refrigerate up to one week in an airtight container.

Yield: about 1 cup


Pro Tip: Add ginger (about 1 1/2 inch knob) for ginger infused cranberries and/or sub out the water for citrus juice for a flavor boost.
My thoughts:
I made cranberry-ginger lime rickeys over the summer and loved how the cranberries that I used to make the syrup came out-sweet and plump but still with a great cranberry flavor. Why don't we candy cranberries more often? They are nearly identical in texture to the soft-candied cherries or citron, lemon or lime that are used in making many holiday baked goods like fruitcake.

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December 03, 2018

Käsespätzle


Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb fresh or cooked dry spätzle
5 oz Emmenthaler cheese, grated



Directions:
In a large pan, caramelize the onions in butter until golden. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease an 8-inch round pan. Layer 1/3 of the spätzle in the bottom. Top with 1/2 of the cheese and 1/3 of the onions. Repeat with remaining spätzle, cheese, and onion, ending in onion. Bake 15 minutes or until brown and bubbly.










My thoughts:
I've been wanting to make the Austrian dish käsespätzle for a while but Emmenthaler cheese is a bit expensive so I kept putting it off. We went to the Baltimore German Christmas Market and had some great German food which reawakened my interest in German and Austrian food which has a fair amount of overlap. It is always so hardy, I feel like it's a good cuisine to explore when it is cold out.

I saw Emmenthaler cheese at Aldi for under $5, so I picked some up and finally made it. To make it easier to make on a weeknight (I also made schnitzel) I caramelized the onions the day before (they darkened up a bit overnight but I promise they were not burnt!) and assembled the whole dish in the morning so in the evening I just had to pop it in the oven. If you do this and are using a baking dish like this Fire King, make sure you set it out for a few minutes before baking so it doesn't crack in the oven.

This dish is really satisfying. Its sort of like a more savory version of mac and cheese but oddly isn't that heavy. I guess because there isn't a heavy cheese sauce, just shredded cheese and caramelized onions. Totally worth the effort and a great side to have or even a main if you served it with a salad.  Feel free to put more onions on top, I went a little heavier inside the dish and chose just to have a sprinkle on top but you can layer the onions however you'd like.



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November 26, 2018

Prosciutto and Thyme Brussels Sprouts



Ingredients:

1 small onion, quartered and sliced
6 oz cubed prosciutto
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lb small Brussels sprouts, halved
1/3 cup water or stock
3-4 sprigs' worth of thyme
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

In a medium skillet, saute the prosciutto, onions, and garlic.  Add the sprouts and saute until starting to brown. Add the water or stock, salt, pepper and thyme, and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until nearly fork-tender. Remove the lid and saute until the liquid has evaporated and the Brussels sprouts have caramelized.
My thoughts:
This is one of those super simple recipes that turn out way better than you'd think. The trick is with the water/stock step. It not only speeds up the time it takes to make the Brussels sprouts by lightly steaming them, it really infuses them with the flavors of the onion, prosciutto, and thyme. Then you lift the lid, let it evaporate, and you have super flavorful caramelized sprouts. It is a wonderful side dish for this time of year, equally at home on a weeknight as it is on a holiday.

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November 19, 2018

Cuban Black Beans and Rice Casserole with Turkey and Zucchini



Ingredients:

4 slices of bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 zucchini, cubed
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 cups cubed, cooked turkey
2 cups leftover Moros y Cristianos (Cuban-style Rice and Beans)
2/3 cup extra sharp cheddar

Directions:

Grease a 2-quart baking pan or small casseroles to equal 2 quarts.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large skillet, brown the bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.

Add the zucchini and onion and saute until softened. Add the turkey and rice and beans and heat through.




Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has fully melted.


My thoughts:
We made a ton of Moros y Cristianos (Cuban-style Rice and Beans) for our Cuban themed Thanksgiving so I knew I had to incorporate it into my annual leftovers dish. To brighten the flavors of the leftover rice, I sauteed some bacon and used the grease to saute the zucchini and turkey. Then I stirred in the rice. I added it just enough cheese to keep it from drying out in the oven and to add a sharp flavor. If you don't have turkey, chicken would work just as well!

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