Monday, September 23, 2013

Dirt Cake!!!

This recipe is a throwback from last summer as a cake for my girls' father, on his birthday.   It is a fun and easy recipe that the kids can help with, from mixing pudding to crushing cookies.  There is no wrong way to do it as the parameters basically include cookie crumbs and/or pudding/cream cheese.  Calories may be shaved by using lite whipped cream, reduced fat chocolate sandwich cookies, and milk that's 2% or less and further still by using sugar free pudding.  This is the original version and works because desserts like this are designed for sharing and a little goes a long way in taste and satisfaction.
1 pkg. chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreo, finely crushed or processed
3 pkg. French vanilla instant pudding mix
16 oz. whipped topping
In desired dish, spread crumbs using about half
Prepare pudding according to directions on package, then fold in 4 oz. whipped topping
Pour pudding on top of cookie crumbs.
Add remaining cookie crumbs, saving about 3 oz. to garnish top.
Add whipped cream atop second layer of crumbs.
Garnish with reserved crumbs.
If you like, you can reserve about 5 whole cookies to embellish the sides of dish and top.
Additionally, you may add gummy worms, fish or other fun and interesting add-ons to create the "Dirty" cake.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ultimate White Pizza w/ Thyme Sherried Mushrooms, Basil and Almond Slivers

This is an amazing and meat free pizza full of taste and has a magnificent flavor profile.  This take on another classic Italian pizza's 'white' aspect is because there is no tomato sauce, but a garlic butter painted crust.   Three wonderful cheeses adorn this pie, including Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella.  The mushrooms are sautéed with fresh thyme and olive oil until browned and fragrant and hit with a splash of Sherry.  Fresh basil add aromatics and slivers of almonds add a light and slight crunch for a well rounded and filling dinner or lunch item.  Serve with a green salad to complete the affair.  This is definitely a keeper for the Meat-Free Monday Menu or any day you have a taste for something Italian, cheesy and delicious.
1 store bought fresh or pizza crust mix
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
8 oz. Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. Mozzarella cheese
12-14 fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. almond slivers
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 450*F.

Prepare packaged crust if using, according to instructions and add 1 tsp. garlic powder to mix and drizzle in a little olive oil.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before using.
Place butter and garlic in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. 
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, heat to medium high and drizzle with olive oil.
Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs and cook for several minutes, until they begin to brown and release their water, about 4 minutes.  SPST and cook for an additional 4 minutes and add a generous splash of Sherry.  Continue to cook until moisture evaporates and remove from heat, about 2 minutes more.
Remove thyme stems.
Spread dough into desired vessel and paint entire crust with the garlicky butter.  Use All.
Add Ricotta in 8 -1 tbsp. quenelles evenly around  dough.
Add Parmesan cheese.
Add mushrooms.
Add Mozzarella and finish with basil leaves.
Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with almond slivers and drizzle with olive oil.  SPST.
Makes 8 slices.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Po’ Boy Pizza

This fantastic pizza is my take on the deep south favorite the Po’ Boy.   A Po’ Boy is a sandwich, originating in Louisiana  and served containing  various meats or fried seafood. Starting with  a submarine  roll that's crusty outwardly,  yet airy and fluffy on the inside, dressed with lettuce, tomato,  mayonnaise and pickles.  Some are served with a spicy Creole mustard and some are served with American yellow.  For my pizza, I used a fresh store bought pizza dough, painted with garlicky butter, and a tangy, non tomato sauce of ricotta cheese, blended with a taste of mayo, sweet relish and hot sauce,which of course is optional.  I dressed this pie with garden fresh red and yellow tomatoes, shaved asparagus, lightly sautéed in olive oil (as opposed to lettuce) and a small amount of  freshly grated Parmesan cheese, baked and topped with freshly fried Oysters, after removing this gem from the oven.  The whole shebang is garnished with fresh chopped chives, torn basil leaves and fresh cracked black pepper!  My brother Ken, who happened to drop by,  really enjoyed it, as did my mother, sister Gayle and myself. 
This pie makes for great 'meat-less' or vegetarian fare by simply omitting the oysters and Vegan fare if you make the ricotta using whole nuts like macadamia or cashews, soaked for 24 hours, ground in a food processor, strained of excess water and seasoned with fresh herbs and soy cheese, and olive oil instead of butter for the crust.  Any way you slice it, this is not your average pie and a great change from the norm, not to mention pretty awesome!
1 fresh pizza dough
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 oz. ricotta cheese, drained for 5 minutes
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. sweet relish
dash hot sauce
9 asparagus spears, shaved with vegetable peeler
4 slices red tomato, halved
4 slices yellow tomato, halved
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz. uncooked oysters
1/8 tsp. Cajun seasoning
seasoned flour, such as A1
oil for frying
fresh chives and basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 450*F.  Heat oil to 350*F.
Place butter and garlic in small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.
Drizzle pan with olive oil. 
Fit pizza dough into desired pizza pan and brush with garlic butter.
Combine ricotta, mayo, relish and hot sauce.  Spread onto dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around diameter of crust.
Saute asparagus for about 2 minutes in saucepan over medium high heat, drizzle pan with olive oil and lightly season.
Arrange tomatoes evenly around pizza. 
Spread asparagus atop tomatoes.
Sprinkle cheese over entire pizza including crust.
Bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss oysters with Cajun seasoning, then toss with flour, shaking off excess, and frying in small batches until golden, about 3 minutes, drain on paper towels.
Arrange Oysters atop pizza after removing from oven and garnish with chives and torn basil. Makes 6-8 slices.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best Turkey Meatloaf Ever

Nothing says comfort like a nice slice of homemade meatloaf with country style sides along for the ride.  It's fabulous the day of, and if you have leftovers, even  better the next day.  This recipe is one that can be executed with ease, and the most time consuming aspect is the prep work for the veggies.  Turkey is the main character in this steamy oven baked saga and dark rye serves as the bread crumbs.  Serve with some creamy sweet potatoes with a hint of brown sugar, butter and allspice and some simmered green beans with peas as I did, for a filling, nutritious and super supper!
2 1/2 lbs.  ground turkey
1/2 c. EACH diced celery including some inner leaves, onion and mixed mini peppers
1/2c. grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 soft chicken bouillon cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. dark rye breadcrumbs
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Place veggies and  bouillon drizzled with olive oil in microwave safe bowl, and cook on high for 4 minutes.  Stir well to distribute flavor evenly on all veggies.  Do not drain.
Allow time to cool enough to handle.
When ready, combine contents of bowl, egg and breadcrumbs to turkey and blend well without overworking the protein. 
Form in desired pan or dish and bake until internal temperature reaches 175*F, about 35 minutes.  Let rest before slicing.
Meanwhile prepare the glaze.
2 tbsp. Orange marmalade
2 tsp. less sodium soy
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 lemon and zest
Combine all ingredients and bring up to a boil or microwave for 2 minutes.
Glaze during last 5 minutes of loaf cooking time. 
Serves 8 to 10.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Marvelous Potato, Vidalia Onion and Asiago Bake

Potatoes and dishes with potato make a fabulous go-to side dish for any occasion.  Throw in some cheese and the pickiest eater may even become a fan.  This is a hassle free dish that can be prepped ahead and baked when needed to fit your schedule.  The ingredients are simple, and prep is a cinch, with the help of the trusty mandolin. This dish pairs well with roasted chicken, beef and pork.   The kids love the cheese and the adults love their smiles and contentment.  Lots of times, we as parents have to perform the duties of the at-home short order cook, especially if you have more than one child, each with strong likes and dislikes.   It's great when they can come to the consensus that they "like" the same things, at least every now and again!
4 c. thinly sliced potatoes, like russet
1/2c. thinly sliced Vidalia onion
1 can evaporated milk
1 egg
dash Sriracha
1 c. grated Asiago cheese
3 tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small cubes
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F. 
In a suitable baking dish drizzled with olive oil, toss potatoes and onions together and SPST.
Combine milk, egg and Sriracha and whisk together.
Pour evenly over potatoes.
Dot with butter.
Sprinkle cheese atop and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until potatoes are set, about 25 minutes, and remove foil to brown the surface.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.  Makes about 10 1/2 cup servings.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Picnic Shoulder Trifecta: Brined, Smoked and Baked To Perfection!

My family and I have always enjoyed fresh picnic shoulder, especially on Sundays and for the some holidays or special occasions.  Economy was of importance as per family size and it was generally prepared the same way, which was either boiled or baked.  I enjoy both methods, but I literally wanted to bring something new to the table and arrived at quite a wonderful outcome.  The end result of this recipe was then trimmed of excess fat, then sliced and some shredded, tossed with store-bought and doctored bbq sauce and mounded atop soft buns for a fantastic and flavorful meal to remember.  I got rave reviews for this dish, which I served with coleslaw,  turnip greens and  baked macaroni and cheese for a Sunday Fun-day!  The brine above is similar to the one I used for this recipe, so I included it for dexterity.  The shoulder is brined for 48 hours in the refrigerator, then smoked for 6 hours and baked until tender, about  2 1/2 hours.  The size plays heavily on these figures, so the smaller the shoulder, the less time for each process.  Worth the time and definitely worth the effort times 10!
1 8 1/2 lb. fresh picnic shoulder, skin on
2 c. water
1 c. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. fresh herbs, like oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1/2 large onion
2 tbsp. hot pepper paste
1 tbsp. each lemongrass paste and sambal oelek
juice of 1 lime
2 banana peppers, whole
1 tsp. allspice
fresh cracked black pepper
6 c. ice cubes or ice cold water
olive oil for drizzling
Combine all ingredients except shoulder and bring up to a boil for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then add ice.
Pierce shoulder with a knife all over and place in 7 3/4 quart Dutch oven or other suitable vessel and pour over pork.  Refrigerate and brine for 24 to 48 hours. 
Pour off brine, pat shoulder dry and rub with olive oil.
Sear, skin side down until golden over direct heat of grill, then flip.
Smoke over indirect heat on the for 6 hours. 
Wrap in foil and place back in Dutch oven and bake cooked through and tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Trim excess fat and slice or shred as desired.
Photo before brining.
Photo after smoking.

Korean BBQ Short Ribs with a Side of Garden!

Nothing says summer like ribs of some sort with a viscous and intoxicating sauce to lick from your fingertips, sipping an ice cold beer, the perfect  wine or lemonade and spending time with friends and family after the toils of any given day!  These ribs are handy and basically bite sized, they make for a spectacular addition to a small plates affair on the fly!  I paired these ribs with haricots verts from the garden sautéed with fresh garlic and butter, and de-glazed with rice vinegar and a simple cherry tomato salad, dressed with fresh torn basil, olive oil and SPST.
 1 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 soft bouillon cube, beef
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. rib reduction
1 tbsp.  ketchup

Preheat oven to 350*F.
SPST Rib pieces and brown on all sides over medium high heat in Dutch oven or heavy bottomed skillet drizzled with olive oil.  Add bouillon and garlic and about 2 c. water.  Bring up to a boil and   braise in oven until tender, but not falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from remaining liquid and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine sauce ingredients and bring up to a boil.  Fold with rib pieces in a medium bowl while sauce is hot to coat ribs more evenly. 
Place in shallow dish and broil until sauce bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Serves 2 or 4 appetizer portions.   Serve with desired fixins':)