Monday, March 14, 2016

Deep Dish Tater Tot 'Pie' Crust

Want a new and interesting crust to get creative with in the kitchen, try tater tots.  They provide a hearty and crispity crunch, slightly chewy in the centermost part of the tot kernels, perfect for loading on goodies like sauteed chicken or fish, greens, bacon, and don't get me started on cheeses.  Execution of this crust is as easy as pie and once baked, will stand alone without the baking vessel, perfect for self serve dishes and occasions.  I came up with a recipe called Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza, which toppings include moist and delicious sauteed chicken, mixed greens, bacon,  white cheddar and ricotta cheese, with  barbeque sauce insead of pizza sauce, stay tuned for the recipe!! Back to the crispity crunchy wonder that is this gem, the possibilities are endless, here is your playground, let's see what you can come up with!
You can adjust the texure by letting this 'crust' bake a little longer or less, depending upon what type sauce if any you want to use as a base for other ingredients.  This should present well even at room temperature.  If using a wet sauce, serve immediately after adding the pre-cooked toppings and melting the cheese, there's usually always cheese!
4 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 large egg, slightly beaten or 2 egg whites
1 tbsp. olive oil
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
1 tsp. onion powder, optional
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a medium bowl, crumble thawed tots until coarse and even. 
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle in onion powder.
Add egg.
Toss to coat, using clean hands or fold together with a rubber spatula.
Spray desired vessel with cooking spray and press crumbles into bottom and partially up sides to create borders . I used a 3 quart dish.
Place in oven and bake until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Don't forget to wash your hands again if needed.
Let cool for about 15 minutes if you plan to serve it on a flat surface like a cutting board and will be filling with neutral or cold ingredients like fresh greens, thinly sliced veggies, cheeses you don't plan to melt etc. 
PRE-COOK any items that require it, like raw meat proteins, before adding to crust!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Creamy White Cheddar Potato Soup with Crab

Potato soup is one of my oldest daughter Genesis' favorite foods right now.  She has undoubtedly had at least 10 food phases in her 9 years including but not limited to  creamed corn, blue cheese crumbles, hotdogs, grilled cheese, steamed broccoli, cuties, broccoli casserole, bologna sandwiches, salads and homemade macaroni and cheese.  During these food phases, the items mentioned above were the only 1 thing I could guarantee she would consume when the menu was not to her liking.  She is currently also rather fond of yogurt, strawberry only, preferably Yoplait and  Ramen, beef only, by MARUCHAN only, with cheese- only! You may be thinking all 'Ramen' are created equal, as did I to some degree, until the particular supermarket I was in one day didn't carry that brand, so I went with what was available.  Sure enough, when I prepared them for her that evening as per her request, with cheese, she said "Yuck, I'm not eating these" and she kept her word. I tried this again later on in the month two more times, same result.   Genesis and my younger daughter Bronwyn are currently both head over heels for all-fruit smoothies made with coconut water, instead of dairy.
With that in mind, I am particularly proud of this simple yet appeasing recipe, because my daughter loves it, and specifically requests it by name, without the crab, that's my garnish of choice.  Since the weather has begun to warm, I don't make it as often, but I'm sure she would enjoy it just the same in the middle of summer, to which if requested, I would most humbly abide.
8 c. cubed russet potatoes, about 7 large
chicken or vegetable stock
1-1/2 c. 2% milk
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 to 3/4 c. grated White Cheddar cheese, more if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
Oyster crackers for garnish
Crab meat for garnish
In a medium heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, cover potatoes, onions and garlic with cold or room temperature stock or water by about 1 inch.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to medium, Cover and cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in milk.
With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
Adjust thickness to taste by adding more stock, milk or water.
Place back over heat and reduce to simmer.
Stir in cheese and butter and simmer until heated through stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Drizzle with olive oil if desired.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Girl Scouts Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

I created this scrumptious dessert as my birthday cake!!!
3  boxes no bake cheesecake , 11.1 oz each
1 11 oz. can strawberry topping and filling, chilled
Cheesecake filling:
3 packets cheesecake mix
4 1/2 c. 2 % milk
1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
scant amount of zest of lemon
1 box good quality shortbread cookies, 10 oz.,  preferably Girl Scout Shortbread Cookies, finely crushed or pulsed in food processor
2 packets graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick butter
Whipped topping:
1 16 oz. container whipped topping
8 oz. sour cream
6 tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. good quality vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
10 inch Springform pan
Refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Yorkshire Pudding Cookies

This recipe was initially a mishap while developing the Venison, Bacon and Black Bean Mini Chili Bowls.  I was toying around with the consistency of the Yorkshire Pudding bowls, and wanted to see if adding less batter to the mini muffin pan would allow it to rise less inhibited.  In fact, it did not, and the batter, which I reduced from about 2 tsp. to 1 tsp., rose just so and baked as a cookie would, not rising much at all.  Considering I needed a vessel to house the Venison mixture, these of course just couldn't accommodate, so I set them aside.
I didn't want them to go to waste, so I pondered how they could be refurbished or simply re- purposed.  Then it hit me, the ingredients were simple and essentially those included in a dessert or custard of sorts.  I then set out to give them more character and amp up the flavor profile.  I had to make a few minor adjustments to keep it in true cookie form, like omitting the onion powder and replacing it with vanilla extract, as it was initially intended for a savory recipe... I melted some butter and added a bit of cinnamon and sugar,stirring together until well incorporated. I then tossed the cooled cookies in the cinnamon sugar and gave them a taste.  I was impressed to say the least and these little guys actually received more attention than the original recipe!  They paired quite marvelously with my coffee and I'm sure the same is even more so with a spot of hot tea!!!  Quick and easy, sweet, salty and crunchy with amazing texture, these cookies turned our to be a delicious bite-sized treat!!!
1 c. AP flour
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
Pinch of kosher salt
melted butter
Cinnamon Sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine above down to the Five Spice and blend well.
Spoon about 1 tsp. into each mini muffin cup.
Bake until puffed, golden and crisp around edges, about 8 minutes.
Transfer from pan to cooling area and repeat until batter is used.
Once all cookies are done, melt butter in a large bowl and toss cookies in it.
Shake on some cinnamon sugar and toss again.  Add as much or as little as you wish depending on preference.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cube Steak Style Lamb and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Couscous with Apricot/Miso Reduction

This is a rustic and cozy dish featuring marinated lamb and other pantry ingredients.  I removed the bone from lamb chuck steaks and used my textured meat mallet to tenderize and thin the protein enough to pan sear quickly. The meat mallet helps to create the whole cube steak effect and  maximize on the marination time.
The marinade is a zesty and bright one using some Greek salad dressing from the packet, infused with red wine vinegar, fresh lemon, lots of garlic, olive oil and miso.  The couscous is heightened in flavor by a store bought sun dried tomato pesto with pine nuts and sliced black olives.
The flavors of the Mediterranean really shine in this dish, full of tangy and fragrant herbs and spices.
about 1 1/2 lb. bone in lamb chuck steaks
1/2  pkg. greek salad dressing blend
juice of half lemon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine or low sodium beef stock
2 tbsp. apricot preserves
1 tsp. red miso
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
fresh oregano and rosemary
Remove bones from lamb steaks and place between doubled sheets of plastic wrap.
Pound on both sides to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Combine next six ingredients until well blended.
Add about 1 tbsp. fresh torn oregano and 1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary.
Pour marinade into large resealable bag and add protein.
Turn to coat well and squeeze out excess air.
Marinate 4 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, drain and pat steaks dry.
Sear over medium high heat in a saute pan drizzled with olive oil until done, about 3 minutes, (less time for below well done) for both sides.  Do this in batches as not to crowd pan.
Once all have been seared, keep warm with tented foil or a low oven temp.
Reduce pan heat to medium.
Deglaze pan with red wine or low sodium beef stock.
Whisk in apricot preserves and miso and bring up to a boil.
Cook until desired consistency is achieved.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
Serve alongside lamb and couscous featuring stir-ins like sliced black olives and Sundried Tomato Pesto with pine nuts!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Venison, Bacon and Black Bean Mini-Chili Bowls

Venison is a lean and nutritious protein, and if prepared well, an amazing substitute for any red meat namely beef. I enjoy the time of year when I can acquire, through my hunting family members, a fresh batch of Venison to develop recipes for special occasions or a hearty week night or weekend   This recipe came to me while in the 'lab' and thinking of recipes that would cater to a game night themed menu. 
 I really enjoy Venison, as does some of my family, including my girls and nephew.  The kids ages run between 8 and 9 1/2.  I have received a good amount of positive feedback, excluding that of my mom, who has no desire to consume any type of wild game, something about her childhood and getting fed up at a young age when, literally! The base recipe actually sparked several other recipes, quite different in presentation, color and taste, all pleasing .  
The following recipe is essentially my spin
 on chili beans and corn bread, popular amongst the young and old.  The bowl for the chili is my take on Yorkshire Pudding, which I enhanced with Chinese Five Spice and onion powder to compliment the flavor profile of the Venison fillling.  These gems are bite sized, as I used a miniature muffin pan.   I was feeling especially elated about this recipe because I actually did my own grind with my Kitchen Aid with grinder attachment.  I added more moisture element with some chopped bacon.  I found that warm and earthy spices like allspice, cinnamon, clove and even star anise really mesh well with Venison as well as onion and garlic.  The end result of this chili is used as a filling, for a more spoon and bowl chili, simply add a can of tomato sauce, an additional can of beans with liquid, chili powder and a pinch of sugar, sugar optional.
1 lb. ground Venison
1/4 c. raw chopped bacon
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 c. tomato paste
3 tbsp. beef broth or water , plus more if needed
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 11.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
Sour cream, Sriracha and Parsley for garnish, optional
For Miniature Yorkshire Puddings:
1 c. ap flour
2 large eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
pinch of kosher salt
Preheat oven to 450*F.
Over medium high heat in a large saute pan, add bacon and cook for several minutes until golden and fat has been rendered.  
Remove all but 2 tbsp. of the rendered fat, (reserve additional bacon fat to lightly brush muffin cups)
Add the onions. Continue to cook for about 1 minute until fragrant, 
Add Venison. 
Cook until meat is browned and add garlic.
Cook through, about 4 minutes.
Add tomato paste, broth, fish sauce and spice. 
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
Fold in black beans and turn off heat.
Meanwhile prepare the Yorkshire pudding cups.
Brush mini muffin pans with reserved bacon fat, cooking spray OR olive oil.
Place muffin pan in oven for 5 minutes.
 Combine ingredients until smooth in a vessel with a pouring spout for ease.
Fill muffin cups about half full with batter. 
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden. 
Once cups have cooled just enough to remove, do so, to start the next batch. 
*Having 2 mini muffin pans comes in quite handy here. 
You may use the regular sized, 12 cup muffin pans to make dinner bowls, 2 per person.* 
Transfer to a baking sheet or large flat platter and press down or with a paring knife, cut half circle in  the center of each to create a crater to house the filling.
Wait until all have been baked to start the filling process.
Makes about 5 dozen mini chili bowls.