Monday, May 21, 2018

Meyer Lemon Pound Cake and Other Lemony Delights



  Meyer lemons are a fragrant and bright citrus fruit, that is a a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.  They made their appearance in the Americas in the early 1900's.  Their season is between November and March.  I was in place at just the right time to catch them for $2 for 2 lbs.  Knowing the standard price encouraged me to buy many many bags and set aside a day and an evening to process the whole lot.  I spent quite a few hours peeling and juicing the yellow gems and wanted to go ham in the lab aka the kitchen to see what I could could come up with.  After peeling the lemons, I laid the peels out on parchment and dried in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours.   I used some of the fresh peels to make Meyer Lemon Peel Candy. I spiked mine with Crown Royal Apple Brandy.
Apple Brandy Lemon Peel Candy

I used ice cube trays to freeze the zesty juice in portioned increments to fit the bill for likely amounts in recipes: 1 and 2 tsp. amounts and 1 tbsp. increments. After freezing the cubes, I placed them in separate resealable zip lock bags for easy accessibility, works like a charm!!  I also used my mortar and pestle to make a course ground powder to use in soups, stews and water baths.  My daughter Bronwyn was the first to actually make a tall and frosty jar full of this delicious Meyer Lemonade!  The tangy citrusy and lemony drink was perfect.  I love the idea of having these cubes on hand for many of our treasured treats, which brings me to the featured recipe.
 I am obviously a fan of things lemon, and this creation stemmed from the wonderful fragrance that filled the air during my lab or kitchen time, that's devoted to the development of one specific item or technique.  I also made my first preserved lemons from this batch, I impatiently waited in angst for the 3 week time frame the lemons needed to be ready to eat/use.  I have used them thus far in a recipe starring pork and they were fabulous, albeit, a little goes a long way.  I  rehydrated some of the Meyer Lemon peels and incorporated a touch of that water into the glaze for the end.  Lemon zest will do just fine if you don't happen to have dried peels on hand.  If in season, zest some of the fresh peel into the batter for even more sweet/tart twang.
Recipe:
3 1/2 c. cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/4 c. sugar
6 large eggs
1 c. or 2 sticks softened butter, unsalted
1/4 c. canola oil
1 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. Meyer Lemon juice
1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste*
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Combine dry ingredients until well blended. 
In another bowl, cream sugar, eggs, butter, oil and milk
Add juice and extract.
Mix in flour in two batches, careful not to overwork batter, producing a tough cake.
Pour into a large greased and floured bundt pan, tapping on hard surface to release any air pockets.
Bake until toothpick or skewer inserted comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour.
Let cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
For Glaze:
1 c. confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. milk, more or less for desired consistency
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. meyer lemon peel water
1/4 tsp. *MBVBP
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, combine confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla and salt.
Add milk slowly until you reach the desired consistency.
Fold or stir in lemon zest.
Spread or pour over cooled cake.
Serves 16-18.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Chicken Alfredo Bacon One Siders on Texas Toast; Chicken Alfredo Cheatzzas

 

Another one for the Texas Toast Cheatzza mood, featuring pre-cooked grilled chicken, alfredo, pre-cooked bacon, shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chives!
Assemble starting with alfredo and build with remaining ingredients.
425*F oven until golden.
Dinner or fantastic appetizers in 10 minutes, pair with green salad and a fresh veggie, Score another for the home team!


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Brussels Sprouts Hash with Kielbasa and Balsamic Glaze

A delicious and nutritious meal or super side can be ready in minutes.  This hash is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, color and flavor.  The implement of the Kielbasa makes it a full meal  or you may omit it for a vegan or vegetarian dish to satisfy and deliver.  Brussels Sprouts are a member of the cruciferae family, related to broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  A mandolin makes light work of the sprouts, which can be bought halved, by the pound.  This is a simple one skillet dish my family and I enjoyed very much.
Recipe:
1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts
1/2 lb. Kielbasa, cut on bias in 1/4 inch slices
1/2 c. thinly sliced yellow or red onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 medium carrot, grated
Pinch of Fennel Pollen
Olive oil for drizzling
Balsamic Glaze
SPST
Instructions:
Using a mandolin or food processor, slice the brussels sprouts, onion and carrot.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil.
Place each piece of kielbasa in the pan carefully, so that a flat side will be directly on pan.
After about 2 minutes and the protein is caramelizing, add the veggies and garlic.
SPST.
Cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, then toss contents of pan over and over to redistribute the veggies and in turn flipping the kielbasa.
Add pinch of Fennel Pollen.
Shake pan constantly and toss for an additional minute or until veggies are tender crisp.
Garnish with balsamic glaze.
Serves 2-3 main dish, 4 as side dish.
Note:
*For a tasty spin, omit kielbasa and serve as warm slaw on smoked sausage dogs or brats with mustard of your choice.






Pepperoni Cheatzzas


Sometimes dinner ideas and meal planning revolves around necessity.  This installment is one such.  A quick and easy last minute dinner hack, ready in virtual minutes and big on flavor.  There happened to be some Texas Toast in Garlic and Cheese for a much lower price than usual at Walmart for $1 and $1.06 a box.  The box has 8 pre-sliced toasts ready for the oven. Taking full advantage of this  occasion,  I immediately thought of deep dish, stuffed crusts and garlicky parmesan painted crusts,  I decided to make pizza singles. 
There is an abundance of freedom within this recipe and the toppings  can vary according to individual tastes.  When time permits, you can set up a little toppings bar and let the kids help.  If they are very young, this is a good time for them to practice counting and shapes!  Children receive food better when they are involved with the preparation.  This is also great for teens, especially if they have unexpected friends over.
The individual slices also cater to picky palates and topping lovers alike.  I went with the simplest version for this round, pepperoni and pepperoni and black olives. Another cool perk to having these guys around is they are pre-portioned.  Some days you or the kiddies may need a quick snack, so you can just grab as many or as little as you need to top, straight from freezer to oven, to accommodate the demand. 
Paired with a green salad and whole steamed corn, this went over very well with the kids. Of course, this isn't a recipe to run away with, but it certainly will help you shave a little off of your prep and allow some you-time when it really counts, even if you have to 'cheat' a little. Every bit counts.
Recipe:
1 box Texas Toast, Cheese style
1 pkg. shredded Mozzarella and Provolone cheese blend
1 small jar pizza sauce
1 pkg. pepperoni slices
Sliced veggies of choice
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Heat oven to specified 425*F.
Arrange toasts on baking sheet or roasting rack.
Using a tablespoon, spread sauce on each toast.
Sprinkle a scant amount of cheese onto each.
Place 4 pepperoni on each and any additional veggies or toppings.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted and toasty, about 4 minutes.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

1 Minute Desserts; Apple Pie Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Cake w/ Balsamic Glaze

When time is of the essence, but you want a dessert fast, there's nothing wrong with ready made ingredients.  This is a recipe as such.  Walmart has an unbelievably delicious and affordable Apple Pie Ice Cream for under three dollars. They also have these miniature cakes in multitudes of flavors, including Cinnamon, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Lemon etc...and they are all  250 calories and under 10 grams of fat.  The kicker is they are only 50 cents!  Granted, you should not make it a serious habit, but these are tasty every now and then.  The balsamic glaze is a bit more expensive, but worth it. You may substitute with a chocolate or caramel syrup, but why tamper with a good thing. 

Recipe:
1 carton, Great Value Apple Pie Ice Cream
1 to 4 Great Value Salted Caramel or Cinnamon Cakes
Balsamic Glaze for Garnish, optional

Place cake on dish and microwave for 15 seconds.
Add a scoop of ice cream.
Garnish with glaze as desired.
Serves 1 to 4, depending on family size.

No Bake Peach Cobbler Cakes, Mother's Day Desserts



With the Mother's Day holiday coming up, every second saved counts.  These no bake peach cobbler cakes are a good way to save time, not taste. I came up with this recipe last week when I saw some dessert cups on sale.  I walked past some peaches and a recipe idea was conceived.  
All the components of a comforting peach cobbler will be at your fingertips, and this easier version is  just perfect for portion control and also uniformity.  No more worrying about who 'stole' all the crust from the cobbler or who hogged all the fruit! These cakes serve themselves and may be assembled ahead of time, minus the reduced syrup and whipped cream or topping.  You may also make a grand entrance if you will ,by assembling the cups on a large platter with the peaches already in place, then pour the warm sauce over the whole shebang and garnish with as little or as much of the whipped cream as desired by the "dessertee " or person consuming the dessert (yeah, I made this word up)!
For a boozy and slightly upscale version, consider using a splash of Twenty Grand Black, Vodka infused with Cognac , simmered in with sauce, followed by a pat of butter, for a bold and rich flavor. Also, for this version, you can make the whipped cream from scratch, but if your schedule is like mine for this weekend, "Ain't nobody got time for that!," so you can stick with the version below and save the boozy one for another intimate occasion.

Recipe:
12 dessert cups
1 29 oz. can peach halves, in syrup
1 tsp. Madagascar vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon, plus more for garnish
pinch of kosher salt, optional
8 oz. container whipped topping or can version

Instructions:
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, pour syrup from can.
Slice the peach halves evenly and add to syrup.
Add vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.
Simmer peaches in syrup until reduced slightly and thickened, about 10 minutes.
Arrange dessert cups on a large platter and place equal portions of the peaches in the cups.
Allow the sauce to cool for several minutes to thicken further.
Drizzle the peach cups with the syrup.
Garnish with whipped topping and dust with cinnamon.
Serve immediately for best results.
Makes 12 servings.



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Herb's the Word and 3 Minute Roasted Bacon and Green Onion Appetizer

I love complexities of flavors and textures in cooking.  I love to grow my own herbs and vegetables.  I have had better luck with some than others.  I can grow the hell out of some oregano, which occupies about 1/3 of my current herb garden, and I am proficient at keeping my Rosemary 'bush,' branching out and reaching for the sky. I just can't keep my Sage, Sweet Basil or Thai Basil or neither Mints thriving to my satisfaction.
 I gifted a portion of my Chocolate Mint to my sister Gayle last growing season.  Lo and behold, I had to be gifted back a portion to start again.  It's going swimmingly, by the way!  I had a surplus of fresh parsley, both curly and Italian Flat Leaf,  but apparently it has run its course.  It was my very first herb, about 7 years ago.  I have some fresh seeds ready to go.
As a girl, reading about cooking and the mechanics thereof, was how I got my feet wet.  I would read through the recipes and wonder what they would be like to prepare them without substitutions or omitting certain ingredients.  We possessed the basics; salt and pepper, seasoned salt, spice blend for homemade sausage and maybe some onion and garlic powder.  Dried parsley may have also been in the mix, but I am uncertain.
Fresh herbs were of regions unknown in our home, though we grew an enormous garden every year.  I remember memorizing the characteristics of herbs and what they paired with to act as my experience, until I could get out and buy some of the herbs I'd often read about in recipes.  I could not execute by the books, because the ingredient call was not a part of our staple items at that day and time.
My mom and sisters prepared delicious dishes using the dried herbs, but the Culinarian in me wanted to get my hands dirty, literally, and submerge myself in all of the beautiful aspects of cooking and cookery; seasoning and garnishing, accenting and embellishing.  Having an herb garden helped,  in my mind, confirm my commitment to the arts and my passion.  I feel they grew and helped me grow.
I beam with pride knowing that I can walk out the door, and come back inside after just a couple of minutes with the Lime Thyme to accent a Thai Soup perfectly.  Roasting some potatoes, pork or poultry'? A few sprigs of Rosemary can add a pleasant and satisfying earthiness, even warmth.  Sprucing up a summertime drink or a combination of fresh fruit? Some Mint or Chocolate mint, will do the trick!
Gardening can be fun and therapeutic for us. I am embarking on a new project and renovating my precious herb garden and replacing it with a spiral one.  I am currently in the process of  transplanting, re-planting and customizing my usual herb suspects and incorporating some new guys in the mix, I'll be sure to keep you posted;)

Recipe:
One pkg. of green onions
1 pkg. precooked bacon
olive oil for misting
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)

Instructions:
Turn on broiler.
Trim the onions on both sides.
Wrap a slice of bacon around the onion, starting with the white part.
Place on a roasting rack sprayed with an olive oil mister or cooking spray.
Spray the onions and SPST.
Roast until bacon is crisp, flipping once, if desired.
Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Perfect beside a nice juicy steak, medium rare with a baked potato and a glass of Chardonnay!



Friday, May 4, 2018

Broccoli Leaf Dolmas with Lentils and Greens

I used leaves of a broccoli plant to make these Southern American style dolmas.  I had some lentils cooked with a smoked ham hock and was able to put up to 1 tsp. in each viable leaf.
 The lentils, I cooked in chicken stock and I also added a pound of mixed seasonal greens and wilted them in before adding the lentils.
I blanched the broccoli leaves in salted water with a splash of vinegar, then shocked them in cold water.
I placed the dolmas in a small cast Iron baking dish and sprayed them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar infused with FIGS!
I open roasted the dolmas until tender, about 25 minutes. They were delicious, even at room temperature.
I love finding new ways to utilize everyday foods. Next time you cut your broccoli from your garden, save the larger leaves and let your imaginations run wild!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Easiest Banana Cream Pudding Cups


Banana Pudding is an icon in Southern American cuisine.  Ironically enough, it was dubbed a Southern "thang" mainly because of an association with cooks of the south and references made by fans along the Southern Belt.  The fact that the major ports were located in the lower southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi, contributed to the localization of the dish, but there were also ports  in New York and Boston.    
The humble beginnings of banana pudding contained no wafers or cookies, until around 1921.  Some of the more sophisticated renderings of this dessert contained slices of rich pound cake and dainty lady fingers.   The now familiar version surfaced in the north, Illinois to be exact, and the recipes we know today, stemmed from an adaptation to the recipe first introduced by a home cook, by the name of  Laura Kerley, then embraced by Nabisco and printed on the box, as a way to sell their vanilla wafers.  A Star is Born.
Other companies began to cash in on its popularity with instant pudding, allowing the creamy goodness to be easily right at our fingertips,  J-E-L-L-O, YEAH!  These puddings, with homemade custard as well as instant, were made all across the country.   
 The ever popular banana made its debut in the Americas in 1876 at a Centennial fair in Pennsylvania as part of it's exotic fruits exhibit.  It was discovered by Jean Francois Poujot, a Jamaican, in 1836, who cultivated the magnificent fruit into what we know today.  This is the little sister to the 'cooking' type, also known as plantain!
The featured recipe is a no fuss favorite, introduced to my family on Easter, as a shortcut dessert item to lessen my cooking load.  I added a banana pudding to my menu, rather late in the game and hadn't factored in the possible 'Nilla' shortage, as a result of it being the morning of our dinner and last minute as heck!  
After tediously searching for the wafers and roaming the isles like a nomad for several minutes too long, I consulted with an employee, stocking in the dairy department.  He joined in the hunt for the elusive wafers as passionately as I, finally locating them beside the graham crackers.  For the life of me, I could not find that place, where I had been before, (just not recently) for the same wafers, on many occasions....maybe it was the stress! 
The shelf was almost barren, containing no store brand, no Nabisco, some miniature version and some by Murray's.  I felt the price of those were a bit too steep and I could not immediately recall the quality. The wafers would soften and take on the flavors of the custard and bananas, as the dish set and married, so I didn't feel that expensive meant better.  
 As I held the box in my hand, pondering the purchase, my eyes roved the shelves and surrounding options.  My wheels started to turn and ideas for variations bespoke new kitchen adventures and recipes, and for us, a 🌟 was born, again!  Vanilla Sandwich Cookies, you ROCK!
Recipe:
1 pkg. Vanilla sandwich cookies, about 14 oz., half smashed into rough crumbles, half left whole
2 boxes banana cream instant pudding mix
4 c. 2% milk
3 ripe bananas, not soft, but semi-firm
1 8 oz. container  whipped topping
15- 8 oz. serving cups
Crumble the cookies in a sandwich sized resealable bag.
Prepare the pudding according to instructions.
Slice the bananas into the pudding and stir with rubber spatula.
Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Place a whole cookie in the bottom of each cup.
Spoon about 4 oz. of pudding mixture into cup.
Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of crumbles.
Twist cookie apart and put one side or the other in the center of pudding.
 Chill, covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve, preferably 2 to 4 hours in advance.
Makes about 15 individual servings.







This version is family style, featuring Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal for embellishment on top.  The flavors were there, but the cereal, albeit great in ice cold milk, did not withstand the time needed for the rest of the dish to set. Garnish with CTC just before serving for a fantastic and cinnamony spark of delight!









Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Chicken and Portobello Bacon Parm Sandwiches; Mastering the Art of Cabin Cuisine

Turn your boring camping or anytime menu into a spectacular display of delicious layers and Italian flavor with this saucy and cheesy sandwich.  Loaded with an ample slice of portobello wrapped in bacon, then grilled and riding shotgun with a crispy chicken patty or cutlet, dipped in a simmered and reduced spaghetti sauce, Plus, topped with fresh, sweet basil, sandwiched between two slices of garlic bread, need I say more?  This recipe can be as easy or complex as you desire, depending on your time allotments, but the outcome will be a most satisfying one.
 I made these sandwiches as the "Special" on our camping trip with my bestie, R.D.  I like to try out my new sandwich designs with him, giving him a chance to experience my cooking and culinary prowess.  This is extra special because we live two hours away from each other.  Our camping and cabin time is when we get to unwind and relax, kids and dogs included, catching up on everything and nothing all at the same time.  We value each other's presence, and have for almost 25 years. 
He is one of my most doting and loyal fans, ever supportive in my endeavors, and represented my one person cheering squad, for my debut in the Masterchef open calls in Raleigh, North Carolina 2017.
I prepared my dish in the parking lot, on a propane camping cook stove, encouragingly provided by my brother in law Jackie and sister Bonnie!  I prepped and individually bagged all my ingredients at the condo the night before.    My sign-in time was set for 12 noon.  We left North Myrtle Beach that morning, well before the 10 a.m checkout time. The travel time to the culinary institute was around 4 hours. We had a blast and it was a great way to wind up our hurricane laden vacation last September.

I did not fare as well as I expected, I think I blew the interview by not taking enough risks with my dish, Thai Style Chicken and Penne with Broccoli not being "unapologetically black" enough (kidding) AND/OR by blurting out "SOOKIE"(not kidding) :), still reeling from my introduction(on vacation) and subsequent binge watching of True Blood seasons 1 and 2, something that was new to me, old to others, spectacular nonetheless.
Anywho, can't wait to try out again, this time I plan to NAIL IT!, "SOOKIE"!


You may use good quality ready to cook chicken patties or cutlets for this assembly, as per time allocations. Of  course, you may take the long road at home in your kitchen and rock this sandwich from scratch, or not! 
 I used a store bought spaghetti sauce, and simmered it for about 2 hours, amp up it's flavor profile, for a sauce that would coat the chicken well. I cut whole portobellos in half horizontally (as best I could) and wrapped them in slices of precooked bacon before placing on a two sided grill pan. I used shredded Parmesan, Pepper Jack and Provolone cheeses and garlic bread or Texas Toast to tie it all together, adding a crisp and buttery finish with a pillowy interior.  The fresh basil leaves impart a bright, herby and fragrant kiss on the end.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Beginnings of Something Wonderful!





This piece is dedicated to the simple and beautiful beginning buds on the trees and vines in our yard.  The top two photos are of a Red Delicious apple tree, planted decades ago by the twins.  The bottom bud that resembles cotton candy is that of a White Grape vine, planted by me about 5 years ago. I also planted a Red Grape vine.  I wanted the kids to have fresh fruit while playing outside, without having to stop having fun to receive sustenance.  The grape vines have some aging to do to produce the amounts we'd like, but we did get to share a bunch summer before last.  Last year the grapes did not produce as well. 
When we were children, we could stay outside from dusk till dawn, because of the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables at our disposal.  These delicacies included fresh Golden Delicious and Red Delicious apples, blackberries, peaches, pears, grapes, cherries, wild black cherries, currants, huckleberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  The majority of these fruit trees were on our property, but the grapes were nearby at my Aunt Gloria's and the cherries at Aunt Pearl's.  I don't think Aunt Pearl was really my aunt, but I called her what everyone else called her. She seemed like my aunt too! The largest blackberries were on Ms. Dorothy's and Mr. Buck's property (also neighbors), along the same fields where they held these large egg hunts for years and years of my childhood.  There's nothing like those blackberry cobblers!   Those three fruits were especially awesome, because we didn't eat those every day. 
 My childhood bestie and I would take the ripened tomatoes from our garden by the shirt-full, grab a container of Morton's and cop a squat on our front porch and commence to eating tomatoes, comparable to any candy or soda high.  On other days, we would raid her family's garden for the green tomatoes, and she would fry them up for us to enjoy at her house. Sweet and Delicious Memories. 
It is important to show and discuss where foods come from with your children.  They too are like these little buds, full of energy, teeming with life, ready to grow.  With proper nourishment and attention, they will develop into spectacular fruits of the Earth and share their gifts with the world.    

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Edible Flower Garden: Crafts for Kids and the Kid in Us All

Fun should not be limited to just the kiddoes.  I had as much fun with this project, as the kids at my daughter's birthday soiree did.  It was a small, all day affair, starting with appetizers.  The day was cold and windy with rain, but on the inside of our home, it was bright and sunny with smiles, food, edible plants and fun!  I initially planned to do the plants as place settings, and the miniature terra cotta pots that held the treat was the party favor, along with some seeds to grow their own little personal plants.  I then figured, heck, the kids can do this with me as an engaging, interactive party craft, bursting with Spring flair and full of vibrance, yummies and creamy delectables.  This  would also help over shadow the fact that the first days of Spring were actually quite wintry!!
There is no wrong way to arrange the indoor garden and the kids and you can let your creativity run wild. At the end of the day, the most important thing will be the bonding and time shared, adding yet another pleasant and loving memory to the scrapbooks of our minds. Cherish Each Day!<3 p="">
Supplies:
pudding cups or homemade chocolate pudding
whipped cream
chocolate striped shortbread cookies, crumbled
sweet and sour gummy worms
gummy savers
colorful straws with little spoons on the end
miniature bows
scissors to trim straw
plastic wrap to line flower pots
Instructions:
Tear pieces of the plastic wrap, just enough to coat the inside and hang over the edges of the pots.
Anchor the plastic wrap in the pots with about 1 tbsp. cookie crumbles in the bottom.

Place 4 oz. of pudding in each of the pots.
Add whipped cream over the pudding and another tbsp. cookie crumbles.
Trim the straw about 3 inches and attach miniature bow to top portion of straw with spoon end.
You may use the trimmed piece of straw to make another little flower or toadstool decoration.
Use the gummy savers to decorate the stalk of the flowers.
Garnish with gummy worms as desired.

Enjoy and have fun!  The above photo is of the edible garden we made. Contributors included My daughters Genesis and Bronwyn, my nephew Braelyn and me.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bacon Wrapped Mini Sweet Peppers Stuffed w/ Brie and Pickled Beets

Quick and easy snacks don't have to be boring and unhealthy.  With just a few ingredients, you can turn delicious flavors into extraordinary combinations.  To aide in time management, I used precooked bacon.  You may omit it if you choose, to cater to specific dietary needs, but the smoky, salty and crunchy bite, is most welcome with the creamy brie and sweet/tart pickled beet quarters, nestled inside.
The colors and flavor profile of this dish scream Spring and your family will never know how hard you didn't have to work.  It will be our little secret!
Recipe:
1 lb. bag of mini sweet peppers
1 8 oz. portion of Brie
homemade or store bought whole, small pickled beets, cut into small portions or quarters
1 pkg. precooked bacon
Olive oil mister, optional
Green onions, fresh chives or parsley for garnish, optional
SPST
Instructions:
Turn on broiler.
Halve and de-seed desired amount of peppers, using all colors available.
Cut up portions of cheese.
Cut strips of precooked bacon in half.
Assemble by placing a portion of cheese and pickled beet in each pepper half.
Wrap with a half strip of bacon.
Place on roasting pan or cookie sheet. I find the roasting pan helps keep the peppers upright.
Spray with olive oil.
Place under broiler and broil until cheese is melty and bacon is crisp, about 4 minutes.
Remove from oven and arrange on fresh greens or platter.
Serve.  Also may be enjoyed at room temperature!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Cheddar and Provolone Frico Egg Sandwich: Frico Hand Pie

 Gluten free grilled cheese? Yup! Vegetarian? Yup! Delicious and different, old and new at the same time? Yup! This sandwich is inspired by an Italian dish of Friuli called frico, referring to  cheese crisps.
Frico is commonly made with more oil heavy and harder cheeses, a way to utilize the rinds,similar to the way one would flavor soups and stews, historically prepared by the economically disadvantaged or anyone wanting to  make the most of the whole block portion of cheese.
The recipes I reviewed after creating my own version, involved the oven and baking the frico, then molding it into desired shape before it cools.  This serves as a vessel to fill with other goodies and such, i.e. fruit, meats, softer cheeses etc..
For my take on frico, I use softer cheeses and I use a nonstick pan to melt and brown the cheeses.  I made a literal grilled cheese sandwich by adding an egg, cooked to one's own preference to achieve a chewy, melty, eggy and cheesy hand pie of deliciousness!
The cheeses I use for this recipe are cheddar and provolone.  You may use the cheese of your choice, but be mindful of it's melting properties and the temperature may vary, depending on the hardness of the cheese.
Recipe:
Eggs, to be cooked according to desired doneness
Sharp Cheddar cheese slices
Provolone slices
Large nonstick pan
Rubber spatula
Fork
In large non stick pan or seasoned cast iron skillet, heat to medium.
Fold double slices of cheese in half, then half again, making a square.
Place one square of cheese on one side of the pan, and the next on the other.
Melt the cheese slowly, meanwhile, prepare the egg.
I prepared my egg over medium. 
SPST.
Remove egg from heat.
Using a rubber spatula,  press the square to help facilitate the melting process.
Once the frico is melted and nicely colored on the bottom, remove from heat to cool, just enough to handle.
On a large plate or countertop, center egg atop the provolone frico, making sure there is room around the edges to press the cheeses together and place the cheddar frico on top.
Put back on heat and using a fork heated by the burner, press the edges of the frico, going around several times until the edges marry.
Remove from heat and place on a paper towel, to dab away excess oil.
Serve as soon as cool enough to handle.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Stuffed Pork Loin Pinwheel, Mother's Day Magic



To achieve this effect, I place the whole loin in the freezer for about 30 minutes, to enable easier cutting and for security of form.
Make a cut horizontally along the length of the loin, stopping about 1/2 inch of the end. This cut is made about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the loin.
Flip the loin over and repeat.
This enables the loin to be opened like a fold-out book of sorts.
Using a rolling pin and/or meat mallet, flatten the loin to make as even as possible all the way across.
Cover the loin with plastic wrap to protect the meat while flattening.
Make a stuffing with more Greens(I used Spinach) than bread crumbs for a delicious union.
Use a measuring cup to evenly distribute the stuffing along the length of the loin.
Carefully and slowly roll the loin lengthwise and finish with the open seam facing down.
Secure the loin in intervals with butcher's twine.
Carefully curl the loin into a pinwheel and secure with a piece of butcher's twine, around the circumference of the loin.





For a fantastic golden glaze on your protein, use an egg wash.  This helps browning and also to hold in moisture as the loin roasts!  And remember, don't forget to remove all the pieces of twine, after the loin has cooked. 


Swiss Cake Roll Ice Cream Log



Craving Ice cream and cake at the same time? Try this recipe on for size.  It combines two familiars in a pleasing way, easily jazzing up the dessert scene, with little effort and a little patience.  Once you make sure your log is frozen solid before getting ready to serve, the rest is smooth sailing!  I was so excited about this recipe, I failed to give proper time to set completely!  I used chocolate and vanilla bean ice cream.  You may choose your brand accordingly.  I also plan to share my Strawberry Shortcake version of this same log, so stay tuned!  





Recipe:
2 half gallons or containers of ice cream, one chocolate, one vanilla or vanilla bean
 6 chocolate cake rolls
Plastic wrap
Loaf pan
Rubber Spatulas
Allow ice creams to thaw just enough to manipulate.
Line loaf pan with plastic wrap.
Press about 1/3 of chocolate ice cream into pan.
Take the chocolate cakes and place one about 1 inch from edge of loaf pan lengthwise, rounded side down.
Place two more cakes, flat sides together, and position on top of the first cake.
Repeat with remaining 3 cakes.
Spoon vanilla ice cream in and around stacked cakes and press into all corners.
After securing cakes, continue to add ice cream and cover cake stacks, until no longer visible and the top is smooth and compact. 
Fold the pieces of plastic wrap over the top of the ice cream and refrigerate until the loaf is frozen solid and able to stand cutting , at least 24 hours.
For serving, invert onto chilled plate for best results.
Garnish with chocolate sprinkles if desired.
May be served with chocolate syrup and whipped cream for a decadent presentation, or served in slices as is, for a splendid dessert, perfect for any occasion.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Ice Cream Eggs and Feeling Like a Princess; ICE ICE Bunny!

Looking for a festive take on ice cream, eggs and Easter combined?  This Ice Cream Egg is certainly a way to go!  I actually arrived at this recipe or technique if you will, while gathering ingredients for another recipe idea featuring ice cream, can't wait to share that one too!  The above photo is made from Strawberry and Pistachio, represented by 2 halves.  The creamy center is a Strawberry Shortcake Cream, chocked full of Strawberry Shortcake Roll slices and fresh strawberry slices, folded into your favorite brand of whipped topping or homemade, the choice is yours.
 This is inspired by the whole Easter Holiday, or 'Southern Baptist Fashion Show' lol, which has always been a time of family and friends, church and worship, new, colorful dresses and egg hunts. I remember a child, getting to dress in the most beautiful dresses, frillies and laces, crinoline and under-slips, uber cute hats, straw curls and curly q's, patent leather shoes with small heels, those socks with the ruffled 'tutu top', fancy little purses and those candy eggs with the edible coating, that doubles as kid friendly lipstick, and don't get started on shawls!  
Easter was always a time when little girls became princesses, before the influx of Disney's princesses ensued. Some of my most fond childhood memories are attached to this time of year.  I now have two princesses of my own to entertain and the following recipe is one of the many ways I create recipes and food fun to see them smile, like how my mom made me smile when I was just a girl. She still does!
This egg is more about assembly, as there is no cooking involved.   The Strawberry Cream is prepared the day of assembly, as you will need a little extra freezer space for the bowls that house the egg halves.  You may choose your own flavors of ice cream, but I chose Strawberry and Pistachio because the colors scream Spring and the pastels remind me of colored eggs.  Of course this recipe is for more than just Easter, it's all about new and fun spins on old favorites.  
Recipe:
2 bowls, of equal diameter for 'Egg' shells, the ones I used were about 8 inches across
2 smaller bowls of equal diameter, to create inner cavity for filling, about 6 inches across
2 cartons of ice cream, equal amounts
1 16 oz. container whipped topping
8oz. fresh strawberries, sliced
4 strawberry shortcake rolls, sliced
Decorative sprinkles of choice
Plastic wrap to line insides of larger bowls
Vanilla or Strawberry frosting, optional 
to secure bottom egg half to serving vessel
Fake grass, optional, you may also use fresh fruit or fresh herbs like mint, parsley and basil
Instructions:
Place plastic wrap inside of large bowls and add a flavor of ice cream to each bowl.
Smooth and press ice cream, tapping bowl on surface to help settle.
Take smaller bowl, run under cool water and press into center of ice cream.
Press and smooth ice cream evenly along the top of smaller bowl.
Repeat with other bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.
Place in freezer until frozen solid again, about 2 days.
On assembly day, fold whipped topping, strawberries and cake rolls together.
Remove egg halves by pulling on the liner of plastic.
Remove the smaller bowl, by carefully pouring warm water into it, letting it stand for several seconds and carefully lifting water filled bowl from center of egg half.
Fill egg halves with cream.
Invert other half and put egg together.
Use a rubber spatula dipped in cool water to smooth halves together.
Serve Immediately.
Serves many with a smile! Enjoy






Thursday, March 1, 2018

Goulash with Rotini and Ground Beef, American Style


Historical origins place Hungarian Goulash  as early as the 9th Century Medieval times in Hungary and is popular throughout Central Europe. The word history suggests that Goulash was one of necessity created by the herdsman and shepards, using meat that usually had to be dried and stored in sacks made from sheep's stomachs.  Paprika came into the picture around the 16th century, by way of the Old World Spice Route.  Potatoes appeared after the 16th as well.  The long distances and scarcity of food encouraged the herdsmen to stretch their proteins by making stews and the like to survive and feed their families,'s utilizing everything, including the protective padding from an animal's foot!
A proper goulash consists of several givens; paprika, spices, veggies (especially potatoes) and dried or stew meat.  Depending on region and time of year, the protein also included venison and boar. White wine and vinegar were also additions to the original.
  There are many variations to the dish as represented by the culture doing the cooking.  The German version includes wine, stock, potatoes, etc.. and some cultures like Croatia, Slovakia, Austria and Czechoslovakia, use bell peppers, carrots, mutton, bacon, others use sour cream and lemon juice, while others use dumplings, heavy cream and Sauerkraut.
American Goulash has humble beginnings around 1914, as an affordable way to feed one's family in a one-pot meal, consisting of elbow macaroni, beef or cubed steak, tomatoes and tomato puree.  Another version of this recipe, also considered goulash is called slumgullion, featuring beef, peppers, onions, celery, corn and pasta, to name a few. This unappealing namesake is said to have taken root around the California Gold Rush, with it's  moniker coined by the gold miners.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Cornbread

 Nothing says lovin' like a delicious piece of Southern American cornbread.  There are virtually endless possibilities to diversify the moist and fluffy interior. Jalapenos, fresh corn and caraway seeds are just a few of the ways I've jazzed it up for my family.  Cornbread has a rich and colorful history in our heritage, and is a staple among many homes, especially around the Southern belt and below.  This recipe is another one of my latest featuring roasted broccoli and bacon,  inspired by a recipe a dear friend told me about, from his past.
The bacon is actually cooked ahead of time and chopped before adding to the broccoli that roasts right in the cooking vessel before adding the cake-like batter and baking to golden perfection. I used my Red Copper Square Pan to achieve the gorgeous brown crust.  Prep is a cinch and the results are amazing.  I used store bought cornbread mix, just because I had some on hand.  This recipe is delicious alone, with butter, or served alongside a steaming hot bowl of homemade pinto beans! 
Recipe:
2 c. fresh broccoli florets, cut into smaller florets
4  slices of cooked bacon, chopped
2 pkg. corn muffin mix
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk, I used 2%
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. raw organic honey
Olive oil for drizzling
Heat oven to 425*.
Place pan in oven to heat simultaneously.
Toss in broccoli, bacon and butter.
Drizzle in a little olive oil and SPST.
Stir around melt butter and coat broccoli.
Let Roast for about 5 minutes, tossing midway through, careful
to use an oven mitt or towel for the handle.
Meanwhile prepare the corn muffin mix, according to instructions on box, including the honey.
Carefully slide out rack or remove the pan and pour in the batter.
Bake until golden brown and knife or toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes.
Flip the cornbread out onto a large plate.
Let stand for several minutes before cutting.
Makes about 12 servings.


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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rosemary Garlic Corned Beef Brisket w/ Stewed Potatoes and Butternut Squash

Corned beef is a favorite in my family, and has been for generations.  Until I was older, the only corned beef I knew, came in a can.  My mom would use the canned corn beef to make a stew, adding potatoes and onions and becoming a meal. My mom would also bake some homemade bread or 'hoe cakes' with butter to round out the meal, a very filling and satisfying one, made with love.  This was welcome and warming to our bodies, during the harsh winter months of days old. This was a way my parents stretched what they had to feed the brood, which consisted of their many children, as well as some of their siblings' children. We also had a massive garden and livestock, so most of our food was literally organic and homemade, winning!  We had a large extended and blended family.  I was never as fond of corned beef then as I am now.
Grub Rubbed and Smoked Corned Beef BrisketLater in life, I discovered the corned beef pictured above. I have been smitten ever since.  I usually take my corned beef brisket and rub it with a spice blend I created called Neillio's Grub Rub, then refrigerate overnight, then smoke and grill the amazing piece of protein for several hours, then finish in the oven.   I would serve this masterpiece on a hot dog roll with a Warm Asian Slaw I created as well, and a slathering of jazzed up BBQ sauce.
The following recipe is my "lazy day" brisket and doesn't require nearly as much commitment, but the satisfying results will not give it away.  This is a one pot meal, based mostly on timing, as opposed to technique.  It is a simple and rustic rendition of a pot roast of sorts.  The cooking flavorful cooking liquid will serve as the vehicle to steam and stew the potatoes and butternut squash.  For best results, it is advisable to let the brisket cool at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.   Make sure your knife is sharp.
RECIPE:
1 corned beef brisket, about 4 lbs, (save pickling spice packet for another use)
Beef stock or broth, diluted with water, about 3:1 ratio
2 medium onions, halved and quartered
3 MINI sweet peppers, halved, seeds removed, optional
2 c. potatoes, I used russet,  halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium butternut squash, about  2 lbs. peeled, halved, seeds removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
pinch red pepper flakes
2 pats of unsalted butter to finish
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Directions:
In a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven with lid, over medium high heat, drizzle bottom with olive oil when hot, SPST and sear the brisket on both sides, about 2 minutes each side.
Add stock until brisket is just covered.
Add garlic and onions.
Reduce heat to medium, cover with tight fitting lid and cook until fork tender, about 2 1/2 hours, or until easily flaked with fork.
You may have to add more stock during the cooking process.
After brisket is just tender, add potatoes, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
The liquid should be minimal at this point, about 1 inch.
TASTE the cooking liquid for saltiness, if too highly seasoned, dilute with a bit of water.
Reduce heat to medium low.
The potatoes will take about 20 minutes to stew in liquid.
Before potatoes finish cooking, gently push them off to one side of the cooking vessel.
Add the butternut squash to the other side during the last 5 minutes of cooking the potatoes.
Add 2 pats butter to finish. 
Remove veggies before attempting to remove the brisket, to help veggies retain shape.
Serves 4, plus brisket for later!




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cauliflower Egg Rolls w/ Awesome Sauce Sauce


These little egg rolls pack a mean punch, filled with good for you vegetables, and perfect, even for the eaters that feel a meal isn't complete without meat.  This recipe features a 'stir fry' blend that includes cauliflower rice, with diced carrot and green onion.  I had actually created a recipe similar this blend, before I knew it was already mixed in the store.  Of course you'll be paying for the convenience, which sometimes is necessary, especially when time is of the essence. I use red miso in this dish to bring on the Umami flavors and deep fermented flair.  I also use a scant amount of potato starch to grab hold of excess moisture and help the eggroll keep it's crunchy edge.
My little brother came into town by surprise and our family was elated.  He and his family live in Niagara Falls, New York. Last time he popped in, I told him about this recipe and he was interested in trying it.  I set to work to execute these little guys in time to have them ready before he hit the road again, long haul from here to New York, but unfortunately, he'd left before coming back by and he missed his snacks, homemade, with love.  I did however get to prepare him a good ole cookout style meal yesterday, complete with juicy hand prepped market ground burgers, with American and Pepper Jack, spiked baked beans and hot dogs, with chili and freshly chopped onion. Well heck, that's the least I could do, considering he went out and shopped for all the items needed for the meal.  I love my little brother.   Granted, Allyn is in his mid thirties, but he'll always be my little brother.
This recipe requires a bit of commitment, mostly from the individual rolling of the pinky sized rolls, but everything else is smooth sailing.  They may be frozen in a single layer on a sheet pan, then  transferred to a zipper type bag, for handy, ready-to-cook snacks in the future.  They'll also taste fantastic along with your homemade Chinese Takeout.  Perhaps you may even convince some anti-veggie or anti-cauliflower folks to get on board.
Cauliflower is packed with vitamins and minerals, from the same brassica family as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, collards, cabbage etc.. to name a few.  Vitamins include A and C, as well as manganese and phytochemicals.  Studies have also linked cauliflower to helping to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and and inflammation. Plus, you get the benefits of fermented foods from the red miso!  Happy Snacking!
Recipe:
1 lb. bag Cauliflower Rice Stir fry blend
1 tbsp. red miso
2 tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts
1/2 tsp. Five Spice
pinch of hot pepper flakes, optional, more or less according to taste
1 tsp. potato starch, optional
Wonton wrappers
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST
Oil for frying or cooking spray for baking.
Preheat cooking oil to about 350* F. (if using oven heat to 375*F. and bake until golden)
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle pan with olive oil and add all ingredients, except potato starch.
SPST
Saute for about 2 minutes, just until fragrant, then, add potato starch.
Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle.
Handle wonton wrappers according to instructions.
Use a heaping teaspoon for each roll.
Make egg rolls like you were using egg roll wrappers, according to package instructions.
Ready when golden and floating, about 3 minutes.
Fry in several batches as not to crowd pan, and drain well on paper towels.
Makes 32 egg rolls.
Serve with Sweet Chili Sauce, Hot Mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.  If you like Yumminess, try my Awesome Sauce Sauce!

Recipe:
1/2 c. Sour Cream
1/4 c. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
1/2 tsp. powdered jalapeno
Pinch of each dried Cilantro and Parsley OR 1 tsp. each fresh finely chopped
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.
Great on virtually anything you want to elevate.



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Smokinhotchef
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