Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Month: October 2017

Popcorn Balls

Popcorn Balls

Make something special for your little goblins this Halloween! Popcorn balls were always around at Halloween when we were kids. Mom made them most every Halloween. They were always in abundance at the annual carnival at our school and when we went out trick-or-treating it wasn’t uncommon to find these slightly salty and sweet treats wrapped up and handed out by one or two very special neighbors.

Popcorn balls are a simple concoction and really not difficult to make. As with making any candy a heavy pan, a sturdy wooden spoon and a candy thermometer are keys to success. Keep in mind, if it’s humid day the candy will be a bit sticky.

To make popcorn balls, you’ll start with about 3 quarts of unsalted popped popcorn. Making popcorn the “old-fashion” way by popping the kernels on your stovetop takes about 10 minutes. It’s super simple.

This recipe makes 6 large popcorn balls, or 10 smaller ones. The candy will set and become stiff as it cools, so if you need more popcorn balls it’s best to make the candy coating one batch at a time.

A wonderful old-fashioned treat for the kids, both young and old!

Popcorn Balls

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup water

1 cup sugar

¼ cup butter

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

½ cup popcorn kernels

In a large, heavy stockpot, preferably with a wide-bottom, heat the oil over medium-high until the oil begins to shimmer. Toss in about 3-4 kernels. Once they pop, add the remaining kernels and remove from the heat for about 30 seconds.

Return the popcorn to the heat and partially cover the pan, allowing the steam to escape but keeping the popcorn from popping out. Cook over medium-high heat until the kernels begin to pop. Keeping the pan partially covered, shake to keep the kernels moving and prevent the popcorn from scorching. Once the popping slows, remove from the heat and let the pan sit for a minute or two allowing any unpopped kernels to finish popping.

Using your hands, gently scoop the popped corn into a large mixing bowl, removing any unpopped kernels. In a heavy saucepan, add the corn syrup, the water, sugar, butter, kosher salt and cider vinegar.

Cook over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise the heat to medium. Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and set it for soft crack or 270 degrees.

Cook, stirring occasionally until the candy reaches 270 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour about half the candy mixture over the popped corn, stirring with a large wooden spoon. Add the remaining candy mixture and stir to coat as thoroughly as possible.

Using either butter or a cooking spray, coat your hands. Scoop up a handful of candy coated popcorn and quickly press into a ball. Place the popcorn balls onto parchment paper to cool completely. As the candy on the popcorn cools completely it will set to a soft crack.

A fun and delicious Halloween project!

Hot Chocolate – Turn Up the Flavor!

Hot Chocolate – Turn Up the Flavor!

The wind is blowing and a cold front is moving into the area. This colder weather makes me yearn for hot chocolate. Though I’m somewhat a purest when it comes to this creamy, hot beverage occasionally a variation comes along that is worthy of making an exception.

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate is the first twist on hot chocolate that made the list. This is a recipe Emily shared with me several years ago. It’s only natural for spices to make their way back into hot chocolate. We owe our gratitude for hot chocolate to the Mayans who created an early version of a hot cocoa drink as a gift to the gods.

To make Mexican Hot Chocolate you start by creating a spice mix, a wonderful blend of chili powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. The spices play delightfully well off the dark chocolate with just enough chili powder to warm your taste buds but certainly not overwhelming. Finish it with a splash of Kahlua and it’s a perfect drink on a cold evening.

The other variation of hot chocolate also came via Emily. Several years ago she gave me a fabulous framed “map” of coffee drinks. Two coffee concoctions on the list blend coffee or espresso with hot chocolate but the Borgia Coffee was most intriguing.

Borgia Coffee has Spanish and Italian roots. It’s a simple drink created by blending espresso with dark hot chocolate, adding a touch of orange zest, topping it with whipped cream and more orange zest. It’s really quite luscious.

My preferred chocolate is either bittersweet or dark chocolate. One of my favorite indulgences is the hot chocolate from our friends at Williams-Sonoma. It a beautiful tin full of high quality chocolate, already chopped and ready to use. I stock up when it’s in their stores so it’s always in my pantry.

Get the milk heating and set up a hot chocolate bar for your family and friends. What a wonderful way to warm up!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican Spice Mix:

1 teaspoon chili or chipotle powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Whisk the spices together until well blended. For each cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate you’ll need:

1 cup milk, whole or 2%

5 tablespoons* finely chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate

½ teaspoon Mexican Spice mix

1-1/2 ounces of Kahlua (3 tablespoons)

In a saucepan, add the milk along with the chopped chocolate.

Heat the milk and chocolate over medium-low heat until the milk is hot and steamy and the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk occasionally to keep the milk from scorching.

In a large mug, add the spice mix and the Kahlua.

Pour in the hot chocolate, stir until well blended. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream.

*If you like a richer chocolate flavor use 6 tablespoons chopped chocolate per 1 cup of milk.

Borgia Coffee

Start by making the hot chocolate, for two cups of Borgia Coffee:

1 cup milk, whole or 2%

5 tablespoons* finely chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate

In a saucepan, add the milk with the chopped chocolate.

Heat over medium low heat until the milk is hot and steamy and the chocolate is completely melted into the milk. Whisk occasionally to keep the milk from scorching.

For each cup of Borgia Coffee you’ll need:

2 ounces freshly brewed espresso or dark coffee

4 ounces hot chocolate

1/8 teaspoon orange zest, finely minced

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest for garnish

Pour the coffee and hot chocolate into a large mug, add the finely minced orange zest. Stir until blended. Top with whipped cream and garnish with orange zest.

*If you like a richer chocolate flavor use 6 tablespoons chopped chocolate per 1 cup of milk.

 

Caramel Apple Pie with Toasted Pecans

Caramel Apple Pie with Toasted Pecans

Crisp, sweet apples dipped in gooey, golden melted caramel. As a kid, my Mom made caramel apples especially around this time of year. It was a treat most of our Moms made. Caramel and apples are a natural combination, blending delightful autumn flavors with creamy and crisp textures. But what if we deconstruct the caramel apple into an apple pie that is layered with a creamy caramel sauce and toasted pecans? Well, we have something quite wonderful!

This pie deserves a delicate, flaky pastry crust to cradle those apples. Start with a buttery pastry dough then sprinkle it with toasted pecans. Next, slice up some beautiful McIntosh apples, perfect for baking with their slightly sweet but tart undertone.

Toss them with cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and dark brown sugar bringing out the best of this favorite fruit.

Now comes the fun. Melt creamy caramels with a touch of half and half, creating a luscious sauce that you drizzle in the center of those apples.

It’s certainly a lot easier to eat than a caramel apple! Fall will never be the same!

Caramel Apple Pie with Toasted Pecans 

5 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin – about 6 cups

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 tablespoons flour

40 caramel pieces, 11-ounce package

¼ cup plus one tablespoon half and half, divided

½ cup toasted chopped pecans

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 prepared pastry crust, uncooked (*Our favorite pastry dough recipe is below.)

1 egg

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and the flour. Stir well to thoroughly coat the apples.

In a small saucepan, melt the caramel pieces with ¼ cup of the half and half over low heat. Stir occasionally and cook until the caramels are completely melted into the half and half and the sauce is smooth. Set aside while you prepare the pie.

Gently settle the pastry dough into a deep-dish pie plate or 10” cast iron skillet, that has been sprayed with a cooking spray. Leave the edges of the pastry dough; you’ll fold them over before baking.

Sprinkle the toasted pecans in the bottom of the crust, keeping a small handful for topping the pie.

Spoon half of the apples into the pastry crust. Pour the caramel sauce over the apples.

Top with the remaining apples.

Fold the edges over the apples.Whisk the egg together with 1 tablespoon half and half to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the exposed crust. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar.

Place the pie on the lower third rack of the oven (not the bottom rack) and bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove the pie and brush the exposed apples with maple syrup and top with the remaining handful of toasted pecans. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. If the crust begins to brown too much before the apples are tender, place a piece of foil loosely over the top and continue baking.

Let the pie cool slightly before cutting into it. (If you can wait!) The juices will set up a bit as it cools.

Serve warm or at room temperature… A bit of ice cream certainly doesn’t hurt!

 

*For the pastry:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

¾ cup unsalted butter, 1-1/2 sticks

1/3 cup cold water

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

Cut the butter into cubes and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Combine the flour, kosher salt and sugar in a food processor, mix for about 5-10 seconds. Scatter the cold butter cubes on top of the flour and pulse about 10 times, just until the butter is the size of peas.

Leaving bits of butter helps to create those layers of flakiness as the crust bakes.

Add the cold water and process about 5-10 seconds, or just until the water is blended into the flour and butter. You’re not looking for the dough to gather into a ball. Don’t over process or your pastry will be tough.

Turn out the mixture on a lightly floured surface and lightly dust your hands with flour.

Using a light hand, gather the dough together into a disc. Dust your hands with flour and add in only flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

Gently pull the dough together and press into a disc. Roll out the dough into a round about 15”-16”, turning occasionally so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll onto a parchment lined baking sheet, which has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray.

Gently roll dough over your rolling pin, ease with a bench scraper and lightly dust with flour if the dough begins to stick.
Chili, a Texas Tradition

Chili, a Texas Tradition

There are a few foods and food groups in Texas that stir up strong passion and opinion among the locals. Chili is one of them. Events have been centered around chili and a major Texas based restaurant is named for it. One of my favorite food memories growing up was a chili pie from the “Cat’s Paw”, a wonderful hamburger joint located across the street from our high school. It was a simple concoction created by pouring hot chili directly into a bag of corn chips. It was divine!

Most everyone has a favorite recipe for chili, the type of meat they swear by and whether to add beans or not. I have two favorite recipes but this one tops the list for my Engineer. One thing should always play into making chili, creating layers upon layers of flavor. Chili shouldn’t be “greasy” but rather hearty and satisfying. I use a blend of meats including ground sirloin along with ground buffalo or lamb, both add great flavor.

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Since ground sirloin and buffalo are very lean, this recipe starts with a bit of bacon that is lightly rendered and a touch of olive oil. The heat from the spices should provide just a kick but not be so hot that your palate is numbed to the taste of the other spices. Finish the chili with some bittersweet chocolate, creating a smoky, earthy quality.

The hardest part of making chili, waiting for it to finish cooking!

Chili, a Texas Tradition

4 slices bacon, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped, about 3 cups

2 pounds ground sirloin

1 pound ground buffalo

5-6 garlic cloves, about 3 teaspoons

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1 teaspoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces

1 can tomato paste, 12 ounces

1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces

2 teaspoons concentrated beef bouillon

1 carton beef stock, 32 ounces

2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate, chopped

¼ cup cornmeal

In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown and starts to render its fat.

Add the olive oil, the chopped onion, kosher salt and black pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions start to soften.

Add the ground sirloin and ground buffalo, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Stir occasionally until most of the pink has disappeared. Mix in the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Skim off any renderings.

Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika, Creole seasoning, brown sugar and cinnamon along with the tomato sauce, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. Stir in the beef stock and beef bouillon.

Bring the chili just to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer partially covered for 1-1/2 hours. Stir periodically. Add the bittersweet chocolate and the cornmeal, stirring to mix into the chili.

Add additional kosher salt and pepper if needed. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes to allow the cornmeal to thicken up and bind the chili.

Serve with your favorite things… Rice, cheddar cheese and yes, corn chips can also be a great topping!

 

Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle

Making candy at home is somewhat a lost art. Many are intimidated by the process and have never given it a try. With the right tools and a trick or two making candy is really not a daunting process. This peanut brittle recipe is a favorite of mine and was given to me by my lovely Stepmom. It differs slightly in ingredients and techniques from other brittle recipes. And the result – beautifully toasted peanuts encased in a light, almost fluffy brittle.

There are some items to have on hand before you start. First, make sure you have a good candy thermometer. I use a digital thermometer which is easy to set and read. You’ll want a heavy saucepan and a sturdy wooden spoon for cooking the brittle; both are essential. The heavy saucepan will help prevent the sugar and nuts from scorching while they cook. A sturdy wooden spoon holds up to the heat and thickness of the brittle. Finally, a heavy rimmed baking sheet is the perfect vessel to pour the brittle on for cooling.

Now some tips. Avoid making any confection on a rainy day! Humidity is not a friend when making candy. Before you start, butter the baking sheet along the bottom and slightly up the sides. Place it on the stovetop near where you’ll be cooking the brittle or on a cutting board with hot pads. Don’t place the pan directly on the cutting board or your countertop; the heat from the brittle could crack them. Trust me on this!

Place the butter in a small dish, the baking soda and salt combined in another and both within easy reach. When the candy reaches the desired temperature you’ll need to act quickly. And be careful, while the brittle is in liquid form it is extremely hot and sticky!

Making this wonderful peanut brittle is not as difficult as you would think and it takes less than two hour of your time. Worth every minute!

Peanut Brittle

1 cup white corn syrup

½ cup water

3 cups granulated sugar

3 cups raw Spanish peanuts

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

Add the corn syrup, water and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Stir to combine and cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.

Raise the heat to medium. Attach the thermometer to the side of the pan and set it for 295-300 which is the hard crack stage. Make certain the tip of the thermometer is not resting on the bottom of your pan. Add the peanuts and cook, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches the 295-300 degree mark.

Remove the thermometer from the pan. Working quickly add the butter, stirring until completely melted and combined.

Then add the salt and baking soda mixing well into the brittle. The brittle will foam up and change color so don’t be alarmed.

Pour the brittle onto the buttered baking sheet and leave it until cool. Do not spread!

Once the brittle is completely cool, cover the pan with a large sheet of plastic wrap, flip over and remove the brittle from the pan, Then cover the other side with plastic wrap. Using the heel of your hand, break the brittle into smaller pieces, taking care as the edges can be sharp. Breaking the brittle between sheets of plastic wrap keeps the mess at a minimum.

Toasted peanuts in golden brittle!

Classic Pot Roast

Classic Pot Roast

Food evokes such strong memories. Pot roast always makes me think of Emily and my Mom. And I mean that in the kindest of ways! We “Moms” cook with love and this pot roast conveys that in the purest form. Mom made pot roast with regularity and that was a wonderful thing. Her pot roast was full of flavor and oh, so tender. She always cooked a large roast and made a beautiful stew using the leftovers as the base.

Pot roast has always been a favorite of Emily’s. In my previous life, working in the corporate world often kept me on the road more than I liked. One stint had me away from home for three weeks with only a short break in between – hard for my then 6th grader to handle. Emily had been such a trooper but the day before I headed home she finally broke down in tears on the phone. When she finally gained enough oxygen to speak, all she could say was “will you make roast when you get home”!

Mom never wrote down her recipe. Some years ago I found this version in The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, one of the many Southern Living cookbooks I own and love. A few tweaks and it was very close to Mom’s. A good pot roast starts with the right cut of meat and a chuck roast is an excellent choice. You can also use a brisket, another tough cut of meat that benefits from a long, slow braising. This recipe calls for cooking the roast on the stovetop, but you can also use your slow cooker.

The primary braising liquid is red wine, so as always; don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. The wine adds depth not only to the meat and vegetables but also to the broth that is transformed into a rich sauce. Garlic cloves are tucked into the meat and melt into buttery goodness as the roast cooks. A touch of brown sugar whisked into the tomato sauce helps cut the acidity as it simmers and additional notes of savory come from the Dijon mustard and horseradish. All subtly enhanced by the bay leaves and oregano.

Don’t rush the process… Low and slow will yield delectable results!

Classic Pot Roast

1 chuck roast, 4-5 pounds

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

1 cup good red wine, such as a Pinot Noir or Malbec

1 can tomato sauce, 15-ounces

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano

2 teaspoons creamy horseradish (not horseradish sauce)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 bay leaves

8 large carrots, peeled or scrubbed and cut into 2”-3” pieces

4-5 large new potatoes, peeled or scrubbed and quartered

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, about 10-12

1 cup beef stock, room temperature

Generously season the roast on both sides with the kosher salt and pepper. Let the meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife cut 8 “pockets” into the meat and tuck a piece of garlic into each one. Dust both sides and the edge of the roast with ¼ cup of the flour.

In a large Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear on both sides until the meat starts to brown. Add the sliced onions and cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the wine and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the tomato sauce, the brown sugar, oregano, horseradish and mustard. Pour over the roast and add the bay leaves.

Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 2 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure the roast and onions aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and cook for another 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender and the vegetables are cooked through.

With a slotted spoon carefully transfer the roast and the vegetables to a carving board or platter and cover with foil.

To finish the sauce, add the remaining 3 tablespoons flour to the beef stock and mix well to combine. Whisk into the sauce and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Tender pot roast with carrots, new potatoes, mushrooms served with a luscious sauce!

Classic Pot Roast, courtesy of Preserving Good Stock

October 18, 2017
: Serves 6 to 8.

A good pot roast starts with the right cut of meat and a chuck roast makes an excellent choice. The primary liquid used in braising the roast is red wine and garlic cloves, tucked into the meat, melt into buttery goodness as the roast cooks. Don’t rush the process… Low and slow will yield delectable results.

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 chuck roast, 4-5 pounds
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup good red wine, such as a Pinot Noir or Malbec
  • 1 can tomato sauce, 15-ounces
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
  • 2 teaspoons creamy horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 large carrots, peeled or scrubbed and cut into 2”-3” pieces
  • 4-5 large new potatoes, peeled or scrubbed and quartered
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, about 10-12
  • 1 cup beef stock, room temperature
Directions
  • Step 1 Generously season the roast on both sides with the kosher salt and pepper. Let the meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Step 2 Using a sharp knife cut 8 “pockets” into the meat and tuck a piece of garlic into each one.
  • Step 3 Dust both sides and the edge of the roast with ¼ cup of the flour. In a large Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear on both sides until the meat starts to brown.
  • Step 4 Add the sliced onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for an additional10 minutes.
  • Step 5 In a small bowl whisk together the tomato sauce, the brown sugar, oregano, horseradish and mustard. Pour over the roast and add the bay leaves. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 2 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure the roast and onions aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Step 6 Add the carrots, potatoes and mushrooms and cook for another 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender and the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Step 7 With a large slotted spoon carefully transfer the roast and the vegetables to a carving board or platter and cover with foil.
  • Step 8 To finish the sauce, add the remaining 3 tablespoons flour to the beef stock and mix well to combine. Whisk into the sauce and cook for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Egg and Sausage Brunch Casserole

Egg and Sausage Brunch Casserole

Brunch is one of our favorite meals and when our family gets together we go don’t shy away from a big brunch. Brunch and breakfast casseroles have made the rounds and most of us have numerous recipes on hand. This is a dish we’ve made for years but recently adjusted thanks in part to Matthew, my favorite son-in-law!

Matthew is truly the epitome of a Southern gentleman and not one to ever complain about anything you place on the table. So when he offered a suggestion on the proportions of ingredients we took it to heart. His thought, less bread in the casserole and boy was he spot on!

Emily and I did some tweaking on this recipe and love the results. The original version used 8 cups of bread, we’ve carved it back to 3. We scaled the cheese back to a total of 2 cups, but if you like more cheese, by all means add more. And use your favorite cheese or a mixture. Fontina, white cheddar, Havarti and Gruyère are favorites in our family.

For the hash brown potatoes, Simply Potatoes are a wonderful option to grating your own potatoes. They can be found in the dairy section of most food markets and great to have on hand. They keep refrigerated for about two months.

You want to plan ahead for this one; it needs to rest in the refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight. It makes a large casserole, enough to feed a crowd and it reheats easily. If you have leftovers, add a soup or salad and you’ve got lunch or dinner. Simply cover and reheat at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until the casserole is hot in the center.

Similar to a quiche this casserole is layered with eggs, dairy and cheese. The addition of sausage and hash brown potatoes will make it a hit with the heartiest of appetites in your family.

Egg and Sausage Brunch Casserole

3 cups cubed bread, preferably Challah, Brioche or soft Italian

3 tablespoons butter

1 small sweet onion, chopped-about 1 cup

1 package hash brown potatoes, 20 ounces or 4 cups freshly grated potatoes

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound pork breakfast or Italian sausage

1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Fontina cheese

8 extra-large eggs

2-1/4 cups milk

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Layer the cubed bread in the bottom of a 13” x 9” baking dish that has been sprayed with a cooking spray.

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat, then add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the hash brown potatoes, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper, stirring well to combine with the onion. Stir frequently to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan. Cook for about 8-10 minutes.

Spread the potatoes and onions over the bread cubes.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks.

Once the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, spread it over the potatoes and onions. Top with the grated cheese.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prior to baking, pull the casserole our of the refrigerator and let it set at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until the eggs are gently set, no longer “liquid”in the center and it’s golden on top. (Test by inserting a knife in the center.)

Let the casserole rest for about five minutes before cutting.

Add fresh fruit with coconut yogurt and brunch is served!

 

 

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

I hesitate to even utter the word pumpkin. It is definitely a flavor that has been maligned in the world of food. Last week I saw pumpkin flavored marshmallows in the market and knew we had moved past the point of being reasonable. So in an effort to right the wrong here is wonderful recipe that actually delivers a true pumpkin flavor.

The aroma of this bread baking sums up the spirit of fall and hints at the approaching holiday season. With its deep maple flavor accented by the warmth of the spices including cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg-all working to showcase this beautiful autumn squash.

The recipe comes from a Cuisinart cookbook that came with my first food processor given to me by my Mom many, many years ago. The recipe has been a staple in my family for years and it’s not really fall until the first pumpkin loaves come out of the oven.

Pumpkin bread is in the family of quick breads. As with any quick bread, be careful not to over mix the batter or your bread will be tough. If you don’t have a food processor you can whisk this together by hand or with your mixer. The flavors deepen each day and the bread stays moist making this is a great recipe to bake ahead. It also freezes beautifully, a plus for this time of the year.

The recipe makes two loaves. So if you’re feeling generous, keep one and give one to a friend!

Pumpkin Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

4 extra-large eggs, room temperature

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 cups canned pumpkin, 1- 16 oz. can

Grease and flour the inside of two 7-cup loaf pans (large) shaking out the excess flour.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.

Put the eggs and sugar in the work bowl and process for 1 minute, stopping after about 30 seconds to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the machine running, add the oil and maple syrup pouring both through the feed tube and process for an additional minute. Add the canned pumpkin and process for about 10 seconds.

Add the flour and spice mixture and combine by pulsing 3 or 4 times, just until the flour disappears.

Divide the batter between your prepared loaf pans. Tap gently on the counter to release any air bubbles in the batter.

Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

I craved Tex-Mex when I was pregnant with Emily, so it is no doubt she also loves this food group. Yes, in Texas, Tex-Mex is a food group and we’re known to eat it multiple times a week. On most every menu in Tex-Mex restaurants you’ll find tortilla soup. I’ve found few that compete with this recipe.

There are so many versions of tortilla soup, but this is one of our favorites. With a few minor tweaks it originates from a recipe printed in a favorite cookbook, Beyond Parsley by the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri. This soup is quick to pull together and picking up a roasted chicken at the market cuts your prep time down to less than 30 minutes.

The soup base which is loaded with flavor starts with peppers, celery, sweet onions and garlic. Depending on the heat you prefer you can use poblano peppers, which are milder than jalapeño peppers and lend a smoky depth. If you want the heat, add the jalapeño. Layers of additional taste come from both chicken and beef stock, along with seasoning from chili powder, cumin and lemon pepper. Tossing in chicken, black beans and corn, make the flavors of the soup absolutely pop.

It’s a beautiful soup and great for entertaining. Set out tomatoes, avocados, scallions, cilantro, your favorite shredded cheese, sour cream and even tortilla chips then let your guests add their favorites to the soup.

Great anytime of the year!

Tortilla Soup

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, or ½ small poblano pepper, seeded and chopped, optional

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 can tomatoes, 15-ounce, chopped

1 can Rotel tomatoes, 10-ounce

1 can tomato soup, 10-ounce

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups beef stock

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon lemon pepper

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

4 cups diced cooked chicken breast

1 can black beans, 15 ounces, rinsed and drained

1 can corn, 15 ounces, drained

5 corn tortillas, cut into pieces

For serving:

Chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese and tortilla chips

In a large stockpot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, jalapeno or poblano pepper, celery and onion. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are translucent and tender.

Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, the Rotel tomatoes, the tomato soup, chicken and beef stock, cumin, chili pepper, kosher salt, lemon pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Stir in the chicken, black beans and corn. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. Toss in the corn tortilla pieces and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Layer desired toppings in the bottom of a large soup bowl. Ladle the tortilla soup over the top and garnish with sour cream or cheese.

Enjoy!

Note: When reheating, you will probably need to add additional beef or chicken stock.

Shrimp Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Shrimp Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

After a weekend full of activities and sometimes a bit of overindulgence, nothing is better for dinner than a beautiful salad. A couple of extra steps elevate a basic “tossed salad” to an extraordinary meal. The Cobb Salad is a classic. And it’s wonderful served with fresh, plump shrimp and tossed with Green Goddess Dressing, an old standby full of fresh herbs and creamy goodness.

Let’s start with the shrimp. The biggest challenge most of us encounter with fresh shrimp is cooking. Overcooking leave these succulent shellfish somewhat tough and lacking in flavor. When I was catering with my friend Jane, we cooked a lot of shrimp and would use a flavorful Court Bouillon, loaded with herbs and spices, vegetables and white wine. It imparts a delicate flavor in the shrimp and creates a gorgeous result.

Now take the salad to another level. Making your own salad dressing is a step we often skip but it requires less than about 10 minutes to pull together. Green Goddess is a dressing that I remember my Mom serving. It was quite popular in the 60s and 70s, though food historians date its creation back to the 1920s. Clearly it has come in and out of fashion in the world of food, but loaded with parsley, tarragon and chives it’s a dressing that is always wonderful. Don’t be put off by the anchovies even if you’re not a fan, they add a salty depth to the dressing. Trust me, you would never know they’re in the dressing if someone didn’t tell you!

A classic Cobb Salad has lettuce, tomatoes, avocadoes, bacon and hard-boiled eggs. Some versions include scallions, other versions use red onions. I also add fresh broccoli and cauliflower for my Engineer-feel free to get creative and include your favorites.

And a quick reminder, always season your salad with kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

A feast for your eyes and your tastebuds!

 

Shrimp Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Shrimp in Court Bouillon

1 large carrot, cut into large pieces

2 large shallots, sliced

6 scallions, cut into large pieces

½ cup parsley

½ teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

¼ dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

4 cups dry white wine

8 cups water

2 pounds raw shrimp, 16/20 count*, peeled and deveined

Place all the ingredients except the shrimp in a large stockpot.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the shrimp, remove from the heat, cover and allow the shrimp to cool in the Court Bouillon for about 10-15 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. The shrimp should be opaque and pink in color. If you’re using smaller shrimp, check after about 8 minutes.

Once cooked, remove the shrimp from the Court Bouillon and serve. If you’re not eating the shrimp right away bag and chill promptly.

*16/20 indicates the approximate number of pieces per pound.

Green Goddess Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup cream

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup parsley

½ cup tarragon leaves

½ cup chopped chives

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chopped anchovy filets

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender, starting with the mayonnaise, cream and lemon juice.

Puree starting on low speed then increase to medium and process for about 20-30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cobb Salad

Mixed greens, or Boston Bibb lettuce

Tomatoes, quartered or sliced

Fresh broccoli, cut into small pieces

Fresh cauliflower, cut into small pieces

Cucumbers, sliced

Mushrooms, sliced

Red onion, sliced thin

Ripe avocado, sliced

4-6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half

5-6 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked until crisp

Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2 pounds boiled shrimp, 16/18 count

Layer ingredients on a large platter or toss together in a large bowl. Season with kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Toss with Green Goddess Dressing or serve on the side.

Add a slice of savory blue cheese on the side!