Friday, October 29, 2010

pimento cheese

What is it with Pimento Cheese? Why can’t I stop thinking about it? When it’s put in front of me I must eat it. When it’s not in front of me, I’m looking for it…… but it has to be good pimento cheese – not too much mayo and not too mild. Please don’t think that the orange stuff you find in the plastic tub in the deli at the grocery can even begin to equal real pimento cheese. 

I believe this is this a true southern treasure – will some of my southern friends please explain the mystique of this awesome combo of flavors? This Michigan girl is stumped why it has so much power over me…..

Here’s what you need:

1 C extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese– the best quality you can find, shredded
1 C extra sharp white cheddar cheese– the best quality you can find, shredded
1/3 C mayo – the best quality you can find….
¼ C pimentos (today I used jarred roasted red peppers and they were just fine)
1/8 t cayenne pepper (this is spicy, so start at 1/8 and add more if you must)

Mix together and mash with a fork.  Serve with crackers, celery or on white bread.  Serve it very cold…. Most delicious…..

This is one of  my ‘go to’ recipes. I think it’s nice enough for company, but even better for the family. Or just for me…..  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

cannoli ice cream cake

I’m right in the middle of creating a menu for an Italian Dinner party that I’m donating to my son’s marching band silent auction. I’ve already decided to make minestrone soup and braciola (more about that later), but I wanted something special for dessert. I’ve made chocolate mousse for this dinner before, but that’s not really Italian, is it?  Then I came across this outstanding recipe! It is from the 2010 Cook’s Illustrated Italian Favorites magazine. The only change I will make for the action dinner is to add more marmalade and more cinnamon.
This dessert is really great. Good enough for a fancy dinner but easy enough for the family. And I like that you must make it ahead of time.

Here’s what you need:
4 C good vanilla ice cream
1 C whole milk ricotta cheese (low fat will get crystallized when frozen… you want a creamy end result… throw calories to the wind this time, I think)
½ C orange marmalade (I think 2/3 C would be better…..)
¼ C mini chocolate chips
¼  C shelled pistachios, rough chopped
1/8 t vanilla
1/8 t cinnamon (I think ¼ t would be better……)

3 almond biscotti cookies (I had to go to Starbucks to buy mine…. Spent too much time scouring the various grocery stores in my town with no luck…. Do yourself a favor and just go directly to Starbucks)
2 T butter, melted

Here’s what you do:
Melt butter and break biscotti into large chunks. Whirl butter and cookies together in a food processor. Toast in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, stirring once. When they are done, remove them from the baking sheet and allow them to cool – you don’t want the warm crumbs to melt the ice cream.

Shell and chop pistachios (I almost forgot to add them today – how sad would that have been?)

Scoop out the ice cream into a big bowl and allow it to soften a bit. Use a wooden spoon to work it around.  Add the cheese, marmalade, chocolate chips, pistachios, vanilla, and cinnamon. Continue to mix until well incorporated.

Pour into a 9x5 loaf pan which has been lined with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap extends about 6 inches on each end, so it can fold over the ice cream.

Cover the ice cream with the toasted cookie crumbs, wrap securely with plastic, and refreeze for at least 6 hours.

Before serving allow the dessert to sit for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto serving plate. Peel away the plastic carefully. Beautiful and very easy!

(printable recipe)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



From the simplest of ingredients comes one of the most delicious beef meals. This would be great for company, because it never fails to produce a fantastic meal! The sauce from this is outstanding…. Really, any size brisket will work with this amount of sauce. You might notice in the picture below that I actually cut my brisket in half because it was so huge….. another meal in the freezer – great for a fall evening. The leftovers from this recipe are also very good – we had them today on whole grain rolls with extra sauce for dipping.

Here’s what you need:
A beef brisket – be sure not to buy a corned beef brisket – that’s a different thing. I usually go to the butcher to purchase my beef, but I have bought the briskets in the ‘plastic wrap’ from the grocery and they are equally good. Sometimes they are hard to find, so check at the butcher.
½ C brown sugar
¾ C ketchup
12 oz chili sauce
12 oz beer (as you can see, we like Canadian beer….:))
1 package of dried onion soup mix

Here’s what you do:
Cut away some of the fat from the meat, but leave some for flavor.
Stab the meat with a sharp fork and let out all those aggressions in the process! Place the meat in a 9x13 glass dish.
Mix the sauce and pour over the meat…. Be sure to have the fat side up- that’s important.

Cover tightly with foil.
Bake 325 degrees for 3 ½ hours.

Remove from sauce and allow meat to rest for at least ½ hour.

While meat is resting, degrease the sauce. My method for doing this is to pour the sauce into a small pot and set the pot in ice water. Before too long, the fat and unhealthy part of the sauce will begin to congeal and is then easy to remove with a spoon. Because the sauce is already in a pot, it is then very easy to reheat.

During this ½ hour you can get the rest of the meal prepared…. We had our brisket with roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower.

Slice the meat against the grain. Tonight I cut it in quite thick slices, like a roast. It is also most delicious sliced very thin. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

pumpkin butterscotch chip bundt cake

Does anyone else have that area of their home where the recipe clippings are just piling up to the ceiling….. my pile is all clipped together with huge paper clips and laying around on a corner of my kitchen counter. I also have another clipped pile near my bed and a third in the pantry near some of my cookbooks.

This beautiful cake was adapted from one of the clippings in the bottom of one of those piles and it is definitely a keeper. I changed it from the original quite a bit…. for the better I might add!

Here’s what you need:
1 C  butterscotch chips
2 C flour (I always use unbleached flour)
1 ½ C granulated sugar (I’m going to try 1 ¼ C next time)
1 T baking powder
1 ½ t cinnamon
1 t salt
½ t nutmeg
1 C canned pumpkin
½ C vegetable oil (did you know you can substitute applesauce here?)
3 eggs, beaten
1 t pure vanilla extract

Here’s what you do:
Whisk dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg

Mix wet ingredients: eggs (beat them), pumpkin, oil and vanilla

Mix wet into dry and when almost incorporated together, add chips.

Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
I highly recommend using Pam for Baking when preparing a cake pan – it NEVER fails! Look at that beautiful cake!

Two comments:
I took this cake to work and it got rave reviews from my co-workers… “When are you going to post this recipe?”

As you might have noticed, I really like bundt cakes…. My third one here on the blog… for a humorous look at my last bundt cake, see the Spiced Rum Cake recipe and read about its woeful ending! Still laughing about that…..

(printable recipe)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

4 ingredient peanut butter cookies

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Really. Just four ingredients. These cookies are delicate, very sweet and they have an intense peanut butter flavor. I personally think some peanut butter cookies can have a greasy, heavy taste, but these do not.

Here’s all you need:
1 C good peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 C sugar (next time I will try using ¾ C)
1 egg
1 t baking soda

Here’s what you do:
Mix the ingredients with a mixer. Scoop dough out in level spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Make them small – they are very delicate.

I like to make cross hatches with the tines of a fork which has been dipped in sugar…. Allow some of the grains of sugar to sprinkle down upon the cookie for extra goodness.

Bake 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. Remove with metal spatula and allow to cool completely.  It’s that easy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

eggplant and wild rice

I am one of those people that crave eggplant. Don’t know when that happened because I can assure you there was a long time I wouldn’t even consider putting a piece of eggplant in my mouth. Is it the color? Is it the texture? Is it the bad reputation?  Whatever, I got over it and now I am a true eggplant lover. (I make a killer eggplant parm – baked, not fried….)

This is delicious as a  side dish but it is hearty enough for an entrée – I could eat the entire thing. It’s cheesy, chewy and filled with spices. If you are not an eggplant eater, maybe this will entice you….

Here’s what you need:
All these amounts can be varied according to your taste – this is a good balance, but more rice is always good too. And less cheese if you’re watching the calories.

1 large eggplant or 2 smaller ones
2 C chopped onions
12 oz mushrooms, chopped
5-6 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ C raw, wild rice  (I have used brown rice here, but wild rice is outstanding in this dish. I actually found it in a small box in the grocery, just the right amount – no waste….)
1 ½ C cottage cheese (large curd, low fat is fine)
1 C grated cheddar cheese
2 T sunflower seeds
1 T sesame seeds
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 t dried basil
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried oregano
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes

Here’s what you do:
Make the rice according to the directions. Basically, it’s ½ C raw rice in 1 ½ C boiling water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. It’s really chewy and nutty tasting. Be sure to wash the rice beforehand... and make sure the pan does not dry out while simmering.... babysit it.

Peel the eggplant and chop all the veggies. It’s a mess and it takes a while. Sautee all the veggies with the spices, salt and garlic in the olive oil for about 20 – 25 minutes until it is all one beautiful thing. It really cooks down, so don’t be alarmed at first at the huge amount of veggies.

In a big bowl combine the sautéed veggies, the cheeses, the cooked rice and the seeds.

Bake in a greased casserole for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This is one of my favorites. I prefer it the next day for a gourmet lunch and I usually serve it with roasted tomatoes.

(printable recipe)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

asian chicken salad

I’ve been fiddling around with this recipe all summer long…. It’s my feeble attempt at recreating Panera Bread’s Asian Chicken Salad. They have a dressing posted on their website, but it’s not very much like the one in the restaurant. It calls for brown sugar and I bet in the restaurant they use white sugar….. Anyway, I’m obsessed with this salad.

We made this on the last day of summer weather. It was a beautiful evening, sunny and still a bit warm when we started. The only glitch was the wind! Man! It was super windy! We ate on the deck, but our stuff was blowing all over the place… napkins, cilantro, lettuce…had to grab jackets.  I guess when you live where summer is short, you take advantage of every opportunity to be outside – windy or not! And yes, that’s white wine in a red wine glass…..don't tell my dad... 

Another reality from this evening was that when we grilled our chicken, the gas (in accordance with Murphy’s Law) ran out. That’s another sign of the end of summer. We had to swap tanks with an old one from the back of the garage…. The second tank was practically empty too…. Patience….

Here’s what you need:
Romaine lettuce
Cilantro (which I love and can not see omitting)
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I like to slice mine in half widthwise, so they are thinner.
Slivered or sliced almonds
Sesame seeds
Rice noodles (chow mien type)
Mandarin oranges (sometimes instead of oranges I use shredded carrots)
4 T brown sugar
2 t soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
4 T canola oil
6 T rice vinegar

Here’s what you do:
Make the dressing by whisking together the sugar, soy, oils and vinegar. Use ½ the dressing to marinate the chicken. You only need to marinate it for about half an hour ….. that’s plenty of time. Be sure to throw the marinade down the drain when you take out the chicken.

Toast the seeds and nuts at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

(The tripod was blowing around like crazy here.... no kidding!
Hubby is in the garage scrounging around for a tank of kidding!)

Grill the chicken and slice it on the diagonal.

Toss all together with the remaining dressing. Serve while the chicken is warm…..

As you can see in the top picture, I forgot to add the rice noodles, which was too bad because I love their salty crunch. We were just too stressed out by the faulty grill and the wind by that time;  just wanted to hurry and eat and get inside!

(printable recipe)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

giant brickle-chocolate chip cookies

We like our cookies around here…. The running family joke is that we are ‘cookie snobs’ and will only eat great homemade cookies. With cookies like these laying around, can you blame us? When these come out of the oven, they are very delicate and prone to crack. At first you think that they will be soft and too big to be practical. Allow them to cool completely and you will be treated to a crispy, chewy hearty cookie of the highest quality. This recipe only makes about 20 cookies, but they are 20 cookies fit for ‘cookie snobs.’

Here’s what you need:
1 C packed brown sugar
1 C butter (2 sticks)
¼ C honey (this is the secret ingredient I think)
1 egg
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
½ t baking powder
¼ t salt
12 oz miniature chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
6 oz Hershey’s Brand Brickle Chips (You’ll fine these next to the chocolate chips…. Notice that you only use 6 ounces and not the entire package. Use the remaining brickle chips in any other chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie recipe for a delicious variation. They add a chewiness to cookies. We randomly add them to all sorts of baked goods)

You will also need a cooling rack and a metal spatula.

Here’s what you do:
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and honey. Mix well. (You can see I did it the old fashioned way today – did not get out the mixer. That was kinda satisfying….)

Stir in the flour, soda, power, and salt. Then add the chips and brickle.

Scoop out using a ¼ C measuring cup. Level it off with your fingers or a knife. Use a knife to scrape the dough onto the ungreased baking sheet. Don’t bother to pat the dough down, just leave it in a little mound.

Place only 5 cookies on a sheet at a time and only put one sheet in the oven at a time. Sometimes I remove the baking sheet at about 10 or 12 minutes to smack it on the top of the stove…. This removes any puffiness that might be occurring….

Cool them for a few minutes on the sheet and then carefully remove them with a metal spatula to a cooling rack. Treat them gently until they are completely cooled.

Bake 350 degrees, ungreased sheet, about 14 minutes.

These went in care packages to my kids who are away at college – they are pretty sturdy cookies. Admit it, you want one.

(printable recipe)

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Laura, who is also a ‘cookie snob’ J