Monday, December 30, 2013

Cranberry and Brie Crostini

Cranberry Brie Crostini
These little crostini are the perfect way to used some leftover cranberry sauce. I prefer to make my cranberry sauce, but C prefers the cranberry jelly log from a can.  In fact, next year he wants to cook Thanksgiving so he can have heat n serve rolls and canned cranberry.  His grand plan is to only serve stuffing, gravy, rolls and the cranberry log.  I am not sure how he is going to accomplish this without roasting a turkey, but I would love to seem him try.  Maybe not on Thanksgiving day, but for some other Sunday dinner.  I would love to see what he comes up with.  I loved the cranberry with the brie so much, that I will replace the apricot with cranberry sauce next time I make baked brie.
Cranberry Brie Crostini

1 baguette, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ pound Brie, warmed
1 cup cranberry sauce

Slice the baguette into ½" slices. Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil and place on a foil covered cookie sheet. Broil the slices for 1 to 2 minutes, just until a light golden brown.

Place the brie on a microwave-safe plate and microwave until cheese begins to melt and is warmed through, try it for 30 seconds at a time, it melts quickly. Spread a tablespoon of brie on each crostini. Top with a teaspoon of cranberry sauce.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Cranberry Margaritas

Cranberry Margaritas
I have been wanting to make Confections of a Foodie Bride's Cranberry Margaritas for quite some time. My friend Courtney hosted a booze exchange last Christmas and it was so much fun. She was in the middle of moving this year, so I deicded to take over hosting. I served TexMex appetizers, chips and queSNOW, short rib FELIZ empanadas, chicken and spinach SANTAquitos, vegetables with jalapeNOEL ranch, with Mexican HOHOHOt Chocolate cupcakes for dessert. It was great to get all my girlfriends together for an evening of fun. I thought I had made too many margaritas (2 gallons,) but we polished them all off.
Cranberry Margaritas

1 ¼ cup cranberry juice cocktail
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, to taste
1 ¼ cup fresh cranberries
¾ cup fresh lime juice
¾ cup tequila
½ cup orange liqueur

Add the cranberry juice, sugar, 1 cup of the cranberries, lime juice, tequila and orange liqueur into a blender. Blend for a minute or so, until smooth. Pour through a strainer to catch the cranberry pulp. Pour over ice and garnish with the reserved ¼ cup of cranberries.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Card 4
From my family to yours, wishing you the happiest of holidays!
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies

Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies
Miss F was insistent that we bake cookies involving candy canes. I am not sure where she got the idea, but I went with it. I took my favorite plain chocolate cookie, topped it with ganache and then sprinkled on candy cane pieces. Miss F was an amazing helper. She dished all the cookies on the baking sheet and did all the candy cane sprinkling. She was so proud of herself, even though I think she ate nearly as much batter as she dished. She was very methodical about getting the cookies to be all the same size, it was really cute to watch her in her elf apron just baking away.  If you have a surplus of candy canes, make these cookies. 
Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies

1 ¼ cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cream
1 cup chocolate chips
12 candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs then add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually mix into the creamed mixture. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 9 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies will be soft and still look slightly doughy. Let set and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then remove from sheet onto wire rack to cool completely. Add the cream to a two cup measure, microwave in 30 second intervals until it begins to boil. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into a shallow dish. Dip the cooled cookies into the ganache and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top. Allow to set for one hour.
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Green Chile Pork Tacos

Green Chile Pork Tacos
I have been on a quest to clean out the freezer of all meat. I have nearly concluded, but I still have an excess of thick cut pork chops, I blame the Costco coupons.  I was looking for a meal to make before Thanksgiving and tacos seemed like a perfect choice.  I wanted a recipe in which I could use up some of the pork chops, so I adapted a recipe from the New York Times.  I loved this recipe, it was really easy and the meat was so flavorful.  Sometimes pork can dry out, but that wasn't an issue here.  I did add a tablespoon or two of broth to the pan, but water would work just as well.  Miss F added beans to hers (shocker!)
Green Chile Pork Tacos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound pork, cut into cubes
1 can green chiles, 4 ounces
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
10 flour tortillas
1 tomato, diced
½ cup shredded colby jack cheese
1 lime

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat, then add pork and cook until browned on all sides. Reduce heat to low and add green chiles, salt, chile powder, and cumin. Let simmer for one hour, until pork is tender.
Shred pork in the pot with two forks, and add a little water or chicken broth to reconstitute the sauce if necessary. Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes, and add additional salt to taste. Heat tortillas, and add some pork to each. Top with tomato, avocado, cheese and a squeeze of lime juice.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lattice Apple Pie

Lattice Apple Pie
I am still looking for an apple pie recipe that doesn't create a ton of juice. While they all taste great, they always look such a mess when sliced. Everyone raves about the Grandma Ople apple pie recipe, so I knew I wanted to try it. I knew my mom would enjoy it since she always prefers Granny Smiths, we both like things tart.  I am still trying to figure out how to make a woven lattice pie crust easily.  Does anyone have any tips?  I always seem to make a mess when trying to intertwine the pastry.  I wish I could make a pie with more than six pastry strips.  One day, one day... 
Lattice Apple Pie

Crust:
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cold, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water

Filling:
½ cup butter
¼ cup flour
¼ cup water
½ cup white sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
1 egg yolk

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.

With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Pour the butter mixture over the apples. Cover with a lattice work crust. Brush the crust with a beaten egg yolk.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Chocolate Pots de Creme
I made a dish years ago that was very similar to these from the first ever Next Food Network Stars, Dan and Steve. They tasted like a chocolate truffle and were the perfect end to a meal. These chocolate pots de crème from King Arthur Flour are easy to make and have a similar chocolate truffle flavor.   They are rich, decadent and full of chocolate flavor.  A little goes a long way, so china coffee cups are the perfect serving vessel.  These are fantastic dessert to serve for a crowd because you just pull them out of the fridge and toss a couple berries on top, they look impressive, but they are easy to serve. 
Chocolate Pots de Creme

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the eggs and pulse just until the mixture is smooth.

Heat the cream in a two cup measure in the microwave until bubbles just begin to form, about 4 minutes. Turn on the processor, slowly add the cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Divide into 8 individual serving cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Serve with fresh berries or whipped cream.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Spinach and Apple Salad with Crispy Almonds

Spinach and Apple Salad with Crispy Almonds
I have been making this salad for years. I served it at one of my first ever dinner parties and I have served it often with our Thanksgiving dinner.  I prep the dressing in advance, just be sure to slice the apples right before serving so they do not brown.  The almonds do stick together after they cool, but they are easily broken up for serving.  The recipe comes from Epicurious, my go to recipe site from back in the day.  My friend Courtney even took the leftover salad home with her from the dinner party, so I think that makes it a success!
Spinach and Apple Salad with Crispy Almonds

¼ cup minced onion
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup blanched slivered almonds (about 3 ounces)
1 10- ounce bag ready-to-use spinach leaves
2 medium-size red-skinned apples, quartered, cored, thinly sliced

Combine onion, cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sesame seeds and paprika in small bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons sugar. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add almonds. Stir until almonds begin to color, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over. Stir until sugar melts and begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer almonds to bowl and cool. (Dressing and almonds can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover separately and let stand at room temperature.)

Combine spinach and apples in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Mix in almonds. Serve salad, passing any remaining dressing separately.
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mozzarella Basil Bread

Mozzarella Basil Bread
This recipe makes two generous loaves of delicious bread. I had intended to bring the second loaf to my parents as a thank you for watching Miss F while I hosted my dinner party. My dinner party guests had different plans. We ate the entire first loaf and it was onto the next. It was so good. And incredibly easy to make. In this past year with C being gone, I have been able to bake bread quite often and I have really enjoyed exploring the yeast world beyond my bread machine.  And you can never go wrong with adding any cheese to bread.  Delicious!  I promise to make it again and send a the second loaf to my parents.
Mozzarella Basil Bread

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups bread flour, or as needed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon melted butter

Mix warm water with sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over the surface of the water, and let stand until the yeast begins to form a creamy layer on the water. Stir the yeast into the water. Stir in salt, and 1 cup of bread flour, and beat the flour in to form a loose batter. Stir in 1 more cup of flour, and mix in the mozzarella cheese, milk, and basil. Mix in the remaining 3 cups of flour in ½ cup additions. Swap the paddle for the dough hook and knead for 6 minutes. Form into a ball, coat with olive oil, cover and allow to rise for one hour.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a well-floured work surface, and knead the dough just long enough to eliminate the remaining bubbles in the dough, about 1 minute. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces, and form each half into a round ball. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, and place the balls onto the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, slash an X into the top of each loaf. Cover the loaves with a towel, and let rise until doubled, about 25 minutes. Brush each loaf with the melted butter.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the loaves until browned, about 25 minutes. To serve, cut each loaf into 8 wedges.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Braised Short Rib Lasagna

Short Rib Lasagna
I have two issues with lasagna: I am not a huge fan of ricotta cheese and I like ground beef even less. Enter short rib lasagna. No ricotta cheese, shredded short ribs and a rich béchamel sauce. I knew it would be a winner. The recipe is time intensive, but very little of the time is active. Which makes it perfect for a dinner party.   I had the lasagna assembled and ready to bake when the guests arrived.  Which allowed me more time to socialize, always a benefit at any dinner party.  This lasagna makes 12 generous servings.  Miss F and I enjoyed the leftovers for a couple days after the party.  I omitted the mushrooms from the original recipe to accommodate one of my guest's preferences, but next time I make it I will add them.  Because I love all mushrooms!  C and Miss F probably prefer it without.
Braised Short Rib Lasagna

1 ½ pounds boneless beef short ribs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 box no-boil Lasagna noodles

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the short ribs, in batches if necessary, and brown on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and carrots. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the bay leaf. Simmer, stirring and scraping up any browned bits as you go, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Return the short ribs to the pot. Cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, turning the ribs every 30 to 40 minutes, until the meat is
fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 ½ to 3 hours total.

Use tongs to remove the ribs from the pot and move them to a plate to cool. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl and discard the bay leaf. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until the fat rises to the surface. Be sure to get as much fat off as you can, or the tomato sauce will be greasy. Skim it off with a large spoon and discard. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove any fat or cartilage. Shred the meat and set aside in a medium bowl.

Make the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and add the garlic clove. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Fish out the garlic clove and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix the bechamel sauce into the tomato sauce.

Assemble and bake the Lasagna. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread ¾ cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish and cover the sauce with a slightly overlapping layer of the noodles. Spread ¾ cup of sauce over the noodles, and add ½ cup of the shredded meat over the sauce. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the shredded Parmesan cheese.

Add another layer of noodles, then repeat the layers as instructed above, to make a total of 3 layers of meat and 4 layers of noodles. At this point you should have used all the meat, but still have some sauce and cheese left over. Spread ¾ cup of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional cheese as desired when you serve.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Snowman Doughnuts

Snowman Doughnut
So Houston has had a bit of a doughnut renaissance this year. First, Dunkin Donuts is expanding like mad all over the city and it was announced this week that Krispy Kreme is returning to our city. There is a local doughnut shop, Shipley's, that dominates the business, but makes terrible doughnuts. I usually make them at home for Miss F anyhow, especially since I usually prefer a cake doughnut (exception: Boston Kreme.) These doughnuts are so cute for the winter. It was 80 degrees the day we made them, so we just imagined snow. And it created a snowy mess in the kitchen, powdered sugar was everywhere. It is the glitter of the kitchen world. But so worth it.
Snowman Doughnuts

1 cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar
6 candy corns
42 chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the doughnut pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a two cup measure, whisk together the butter, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir until just incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared doughnut pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let the doughnuts cool on a wire rack.

Add the powdered sugar to a large Ziploc bag, toss each doughnut with the sugar. Add the candy corn to the doughnut hole and use the chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Autumn Dinner Party

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C left the day after Thanksgiving to take a weekend's worth of beginner ski lessons, so it was the perfect time to throw a dinner party. No worries that I hosted Thanksgiving two days earlier or that several people couldn't attend because of the holiday weekend, it was dinner party time. I wanted a menu that celebrated fall, but was far from the traditional Thanksgiving meal we had all enjoyed with our families. The menu was exceedingly easy come party time, everything was prepped in advance and there was very little active kitchen time during the party, which is always my goal.

We started with bacon wrapped dates and cranberry-brie crostini with champagne. We moved to the dining room for spinach and apple salad with crispy almonds, followed by short rib lasagna with a mozzarella basil bread. The meal was finished with a chocolate pots de crème. It was the first time in over eight years that I finally used my china's coffee cups. I don't drink coffee, we don't have a coffee maker and they have just sat in the cabinet. This little dessert was the perfect use for the cups. They were the perfect size for the rich dessert. And all I had to do was pull them from the refrigerator when we were ready for dessert. It couldn't have been any simpler. Every single recipe was new, so look for them to be posted in the coming days.

The centerpieces were simple square glasses vases from the dollar store, with succulents from Lowes in each. I wanted to use the centerpiece for both our Thanksgiving dinner and the dinner party, so I used the plants knowing that they would be able to hold up for a few days. I think the succulents really added something special to the table and they are going to be planted in my mother's garden, so that is an added bonus. I printed the menus on cardstock, then folded them around the napkin, to act as a napkin ring.

As usual, it was such a lovely time with my dear friends. I am missing a couple of Christmas get togethers this year with our upcoming Aspen trip, so it was nice to see everyone.  Next dinner party I need to get the timer working on my camera so I can force myself to be in a photo!
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Balsamic Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Polenta

Balsamic Braised Short Ribs
I will admit, I totally tried to pull one over on C with this dinner. He hates vinegar, not sure what the issue is there, but I am guessing it all boils down to the smell (add it to chocolate, bread, garlic, whatever smells delicious...) As soon as I served this, he asked if there was vinegar in it. He loves my usual short rib recipe, I was hoping I could pass this off as the same. I couldn't. Which meant Miss F also complained of the funny tasting carrots. The good news was that he loved the polenta. The best news was that I adored this even more than my usual recipe. I love vinegar. I don't understand not enjoying it. Growing up, we put it on all sorts of things. I poured it on broccoli, dipped crabmeat in it and even had it on my baked potato. We had a cruet that sat on the dinner table like any other condiment. If you like vinegar like I do, then be sure to try this recipe. It is amazing. Thanks to Gastronomical Sovereignty for the recipe inspiration.
Balsamic Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Polenta

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 to 1 ½ pounds boneless short ribs
1 onion, chopped
4 to 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add ribs to pan; cook approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and carrots. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and sauté a minute more. Add the broth, vinegar and sugar, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomatoes and nestle the short ribs with their accumulated juices into the pan. Cover and bake at 300° for 3 hours.

Make the polenta about 30 minutes before ready to serve. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring milk, water, and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook 20 minutes, until creamy, lifting the lid and stirring every 3 or 4 minutes to prevent sticking. Remove pot from stove, stir in pepper and butter. Gradually stir in cheese. Serve the short ribs over the polenta.
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