December 27, 2013

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes

3 very large Russet potatoes
3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup creamy pimento cheese
1 egg, beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Bake potatoes for 1 hour at 400. Allow them to cool to almost room temperature, then slice lengthwise and scoop out the insides, reserving 2 potatoes' worth of skins. Reduce oven to 350. Place the pimento cheese, and potato into a medium bowl. Mash until smooth then fold in the bacon. Refill the potato skins and place on a baking dish. Bake 10 minutes or until warmed through. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings
My thoughts:
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December 23, 2013

Light Lemon Mini Cakes

1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup plain yogurt, room temperature

Heat oven to 350°F. Generously grease 8 fluted tube muffin cups (mini bundt pan) with cooking spray or shortening. In medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar,baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, beat remaining ingredients with whisk until well blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well combined and batter is fluffy. Divide batter evenly among fluted muffin cups. Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 2 minutes. Place cooling rack upside down over muffin pan. Turn rack and pan over; remove pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

My thoughts:
These little Bundts are lighter than your average cake thanks to a generous amount of yogurt, which also adds a lovely flavor. The perfect addition to the dessert table.

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December 16, 2013

Southern-Inspired Beef Stew

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 stalks celery, diced
8 oz cubed crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 lb cubed sirloin or other beef for stew
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1/2 lb okra, diced
9 oz fresh or frozen lima beans
6 oz fresh or frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
super fine flour (like Wondra flour)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the beef with the salt, pepper and some super fine flour to coat. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven and add the beef, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Saute until the beef is lightly browned on all sides and the vegetables are just beginning to soften. Pour the mixture into a 4 or 6 quart slow cooker. Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir in the okra, corn, and lima beans. Cook for an additional 1-2 hours. Remove the bay leaf prior to serving. Stir. Garnish with parsley.

My thoughts:
Making stew always makes me think of my Grandpop. He'd make stew with beef and anything that caught his fancy. Some weeks it would have tomatoes, some times green beans, all sorts of things. The best part was that when I'd come home from school, the whole house smelled like it even though he lived in an in-law apartment and made it in his own separate kitchen. He'd serve me some as an afterschool snack. Now it is my job to make stew, and I like to make it into the slow cooker versus the stove top because it makes my house smell great all day. The beef gets super tender too. The problem with slow cooker beef stew is that some times it becomes a big pot of blah. I avoid this by stirring in fresh and/or frozen vegetables towards the end of the cooking period for a burst of fresh flavor. The result is just as comforting but has a lot more punch. I took a similar approach as my Grandpop and added a hodgepodge of my favorite ingredients to make a wonderful tasting, satisfying, Southern-inspired stew.

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December 13, 2013

Persimmon Upside-Down Cake


1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cognac
1-2 fuyu persimmons, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

1 1/2 cups flour*
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup pureed fuyu persimmon (about 2 persimmons)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Butter or spray (with cooking spray with flour) a 9-10 inch springform pan.

For the topping:
Arrange persimmon slices on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt and stir together butter, brown sugar, and cognac. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour over the persimmons. Set aside.

For the cake:
Cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Whisk together the spices, baking powder and flour in a medium bowl. Whisk together the persimmon puree and cognac. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the persimmon mixture beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour into the persimmon and caramel laden cake pan and bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes then carefully invert onto a plate. Cool completely, on the plate, over a wire rack.

My thoughts:
I love upside down cakes because while I love cake (and icing!) I hate how making a traditional frosted cake can be so time consuming. I don't mind for a special occasion but for every day, I don't always want to go through the hassle of making the cake layers, waiting for them to cool completely, then making icing and frosting them. Oy. But upside down cakes are perfect! They are only one single (small) layer and don't need frosting because they are covered in delicious caramel and fruit. Perfect for when you have a hankering for cake but not the time. Which isn't to say upside down cakes aren't perfect for a festive occasion as well; they are impressive looking and a real crowd pleasure. This one married the flavors of persimmon, cognac and allspice which makes for a cake that really tastes like the best of winter. How good would it be with some mulled cider?

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December 11, 2013

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard Seed

1 lb quartered Brussels sprouts, parboiled
2 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat a bit of oil or bacon fat in a large skillet. Saute the onion, garlic and mustard seed until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until soft and the cut sides are slightly browned. Sprinkle with bacon, salt and pepper.

My thoughts:
I love mustard seeds! I always have a ton of them on hand because I like to be able to make pickles at the drop of a hat but they are great in other dishes as well. I like how they pop in your mouth and give dish a dash of mustard-y flavor without having to make a dressing. They stand up to robust tasting ingredients like Brussels sprouts and bacon; a rare quality in a spice unless you really pile it on. The perfect quick and easy side dish for a holiday or every day meal.

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December 09, 2013

Homemade Deviled Ham

1 1/2 lb smoked ham
1 large shallot, quartered
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until nearly smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

My thoughts:
It is that time of year again. No not Christmas! Ham season! Hams seem to go on sale twice a year, in December and again around Easter. I pretty much only buy whole hams then because they are so big, heavy and expensive the rest of the year. I turned this ham into sandwiches, stuffing and this zesty spread. Normally one only finds deviled ham in cans (ugh) but freshly made deviled ham is a delight, it similar to ham salad but smoother and a bit spicier. I like it on crackers or if I am feeling decadent in a deviled ham-grilled cheese sandwich. A worthy use of leftover holiday ham.

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December 07, 2013

Date Walnut Honey Triangles

1 (8 oz) can Pillsbury® Original Crescents
8 whole, pitted dried dates
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat oven to 375°F.

Remove the dough from package, separate into 8 triangles. Place triangles on ungreased large cookie sheet.

Place a date in the center of the widest part of each triangle. Sprinkle the date with walnuts. Drizzle the date and walnuts with honey.

Pull the short point of the triangle, stretching it slightly, towards the other point to form a smaller triangle. Pinch edges to seal.

In a small bowl, beat together egg and water. Brush top of each rectangle with egg mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

My thoughts:
Pillsbury asked me to come up with one more recipe using their crescent rolls. I came up with this easy recipes inspired buy honey date walnut cake. Perfect for breakfast, tea time or even dessert.

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December 04, 2013

Pomegranate Gorgonzola Broccoli Salad

1 1/2 lb broccoli florets, blanched
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup pomegranate airls
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the broccoli, onion, pomegranate and Gorgonzola. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing. Drizzle over the salad, toss to coat and evenly distribute.
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December 02, 2013

Jamaican Jerk Pineapple Ketchup

1 1/2 cup (canned) crushed pineapple in juice
1 clove garlic, quartered
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Prep your jars/lids. Place all ingredients in blender. Pulse until smooth. Pour into a small sauce pan. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until thickened to ketchup consistency, about 20 minutes. Ladle into pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Note: If you do not wish to can, simply ladle into an air-tight container. Refrigerate up to one month.

Yield: about 1 8-oz jar and 1 4-oz jar (about 1 1/2 cups)

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here are some of my other favorite canning books and supplies.

My thoughts:
This is really small batch canning. I had some pineapple leftover from another recipe and I already had the water boiling for another canning project so I thought I'd make a tiny batch of tropical tasting ketchup. It was even easier to make than my earlier ketchups because I started with crushed pineapple rather than having to cook down fresh fruit. It only took about 20 minutes to make the whole thing and then 10 minutes to can. I used the same flavors as jerk seasoning to give it a bit of a kick and I quite like how it turned out. You can use it as you would any ketchup but it is especially good on seafood and pork.

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