Friday, November 29, 2013

Flashback Friday: Holiday Appetizers

Cranberry Salsa
I nearly missed it - Flashback Friday - but we are back from Austin and San Antonio in the nick of time!  We had our first annual Thanksgiving Wednesday (best ever!) - hope your Thanksgiving was delicious and relaxing and joyous too!

Let the festivities begin!  If you are asked to bring an appetizer to a holiday gathering, wow your friends with one of these delicious dishes. 

Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomato
and Pesto Torta
·         Cranberry Salsa

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

About a year ago, David banned cinnamon rolls from a can in our house.  Something about preservatives…  I am not a bread baker – leave that to my mom – but I broke out the yeast packet and gave it a try.  Actually gave it 2 tries – recipe number one didn’t pass the approval test.  Think it is contingent on the amount of butter and cinnamon sugar on the inside and the icing on the outside.  Duh…

The Baker’s Mann is typically about recipes that can be made on a given weeknight.  This Alton Brown recipe has a pain in the rump factor (12 hours start to finish) because it takes patience  – something that I am in short supply of lately.  But… if you have the desire to make your own cinnamon rolls and you time it properly, this will make your house smell great and make you the star of the family.

Cinnamon Rolls
1.      4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2.      1 large whole egg, room temperature
3.      2 oz. sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
4.      3 oz. unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
5.      6 oz. buttermilk, room temperature
6.      20 oz. all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
7.      1 package instant (rapid rise) dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
8.      1 1/4 t kosher salt
9.      Vegetable oil or cooking spray
1.      8 oz. light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
2.      1 T ground cinnamon
3.      Pinch salt
4.      ¾ oz unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 T
1.      2 1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
2.      3 T milk
3.      5 1/2 oz. powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add 1 ¼ cup more flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough (with a rolling pin) into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water (I filled a tea kettle with water and then poured it into a brownie pan in the oven) and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flashback Friday: Thanksgiving

Chocolate Pecan Pie
Even as great new recipes appear, there are always some favorites from days past which deserve to  
reappear and be tried or retried.

Since Thanksgiving is upon us, here are some Thanksgiving favorites that would be a part of my ideal, holiday meal:

·         Turkey Breast
·         Caroline’s Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread Dressing
·         Candied Sweet Potatoes
·         Sour Cream Biscuits
·         Chocolate Pecan Pie

A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  May your day be filled with gratitude and blessings, family and friends.

Roasted Vegetables
with Balsamic Glaze

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Crostini with Sundried Tomato Jam and Goat Cheese

I am timeliness challenged.  For this reason, my friends know not to assign me the appetizer for dinner parties or gatherings.  Not that I don’t have great appetizer recipes, it is because they don’t want appetizers for the main course. 

I found this Giada recipe and gave it a try.  Definitely include the goat cheese, the sundried tomato and creamy cheese combination on top of a toasted baguette create bite size scrumptiousness.  Invite me to your party – I’ll deliver this appetizer earlier in the day so at least it will be on time when your other guests arrive.

Crostini with Sundried Tomato Jam
and Goat Cheese
Sun-Dried Tomato Jam:
1.      1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
2.      1 T olive oil
3.      1/2 onion, thinly sliced or chopped
4.      1 clove garlic, minced
5.      2 T sugar
6.      1/4 cup red wine vinegar
7.      1 cup water
8.      1/2 cup chicken broth
9.      1 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
10.  1/2 t salt
11.  1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1.      1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
2.      1/4 cup olive oil
3.      Salt
4.      Freshly ground black pepper
5.      5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
6.      2 t chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the Sun-dried Tomato Jam:
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the Crostini:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Place the baguette slices on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes.

You can either use plain goat cheese or flavor it.  If you choose flavored: place the soft goat cheese in a small bowl. Stir in the thyme.

To assemble:
Spread the crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and top with the goat cheese. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Cake

“To everything – turn, turn, turn.  There is a season – turn, turn, turn.” And if I could continue: A time for holiday music.  A time for lights…  As Elizabeth and I left Whole Foods yesterday, the music piped into the parking lot was “The First Noel.”  There is nothing wrong with that song – just not on November 16.  By the time Christmas actually comes around, I am a scrooge because I have been listening to the music for weeks.  “Why can’t they at least wait until after Thanksgiving to start playing Christmas music?” to which Elizabeth replies “maybe when it’s Christmas, they will play love songs?” (get it? – for Valentine’s Day).  I love a child’s thought process.

Seasons bring flavor favorites.  A great addition to our recipe repertoire last year was Julie’s pumpkin bread.  This recipe (originally called Pumpkin Bars but this is fluffy like a cake) adds a new dimension with a cream cheese frosting.  I’ll start singing Christmas carols all year round if it means eating pumpkin cake and bread 12 months a year. 

Pumpkin Cake
1.      4 eggs
2.      1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3.      1 cup vegetable oil
4.      15-ounce can pumpkin
5.      2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
6.      2 t baking powder
7.      2 t ground cinnamon
8.      1 t salt
9.      1 t baking soda

1.      8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2.      1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3.      2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
4.      1 t vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into squares.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin cake squares.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

A riddle: what kind of dessert do you make someone (aka, your husband) who doesn’t particularly eat dessert?  Answer: who cares?  He won’t eat it anyways so I chose something that I would eat. 

Whom do I call?  My friend, Susan.  She had served this dessert at a dinner party a few years back and it was that memorable.  Funny part is that when she sent me the recipe, she called it pecan praline cheesecake however there were no pecans on the ingredients list.  May have been an oversight but it probably would be great with some toasted pecans on top too.

Happy Birthday (yesterday) David!! (because some of us didn’t plan enough in advance to have the cake chilled and set on his actual day)

Salted Caramel Cheesecake
1.      6oz chocolate wafer cookies or chocolate graham crackers (about 2 1/4 cup crumbs)
2.      Pinch of kosher salt
3.      1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1.      3 packages cream cheese or neufchatel (8 oz each), room temp
2.      1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
3.      1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4.      1/2 cup granulated sugar
5.      1/4 t salt
6.      3 eggs
7.      1/2 cup heavy cream
8.      1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
9.      1 t vanilla extract

1.      4 T unsalted butter, softened
2.      2 T granulated sugar
3.      2 T light brown sugar
4.      1/3 cup dark brown sugar
5.      1/2 cup heavy cream
6.      1/4 t pure vanilla extract
7.      1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 9-inch springform pan and wrap entire outside with foil.

Process chocolate wafers/graham crackers in food processor. Add salt. Drizzle in melted butter while running. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides (slightly) of 9-inch springform pan. Bake crust at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, butter, both sugars, and salt until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, fully beating to incorporate into batter after each addition. Add bourbon (optional) and vanilla. Lightly whip heavy cream and fold into mixture.

Pour filling over completely cooled crust. Transfer cheesecake to a roasting pan and place in the oven. Add enough boiling/hot water to reach 1/3 way up sides of foil-wrapped springform pan. Bake about 1 hour until sides are set but center still jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave cheesecake inside for 1 hour with oven door closed. Remove cheesecake from oven. Cool to room temp. Cover and chill 3-24 hours. Remove 30 minutes before serving.

Drizzle caramel over cake and then sprinkle some sea salt on top.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter with all three sugars and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cream and boil for 2 minutes longer. Transfer the caramel sauce to a pitcher. Stir in the vanilla and salt and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.  The caramel can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Warm and whisk to combine before serving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mexican Layered Dip

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  It sounds so noble and wise when you recite this to your kids.  It is so absolutely annoying when it applies to you (aka, you keep trying new recipes for a blog, they are not deemed blog worthy, and the blog goes dark for weeks.) 

Another saying that annoys me is “chill out.”  If I am having a moment, let me have it.  I have earned the right to freak out, be emotional, perhaps even be irrational.  Telling me to chill out will only prolong it and the furor will be redirected at the “wise and noble” adage sayer.

This is a recipe that is worth trying whether there is a game on TV or not. 

Mexican Layered Dip

1.      1 can (15 ½ oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2.      1 can Rotel (your choice of spice level – mild, regular, spicy)
3.      Guacamole (or 2 diced avocados)
4.      Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5.      Sour cream
6.      3-4 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
7.      Tortilla chips (select a thicker chip for easier, less breakage dipping)
8.      Optional layers: salsa, corn, black olives, jalapeno, scallions

Drain and rinse the pinto beans and place in a small food processor.  Add 3-4 T (or ¼ can) of Rotel.  Puree until smooth. 

Spread beans onto the bottom of an 8x8 Pyrex dish.  Then spread a thin layer of sour cream on top (I found it easiest to spread with the back of a spoon).  Next spread a layer of guacamole (or, spread diced avocados).  Then, place the diced tomatoes and sprinkle the cheese.

Other optional toppings include: corn, salsa, black olives and cilantro.