Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rainbow Silver Dollar Pancakes with Cinnamon Vanilla Rum Syrup

Today, February 28th, is National Pancake Day.  You can take this with a grain of salt as the recognition of this particular day was started by IHOP; ostensibly, for charity, but their ulterior motives seem a bit obvious.

Regardless, I've whipped up a delicious batch of flavored pancakes in honor of the day!  If you don't have time to do the same, you can take advantage of the IHOP celebration as they are offering free pancakes today.  Happy Pancaking!

1 1/2 cups self rising flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp butter, melted

Food coloring and flavorings, see below

1/4 cup cinnamon vanilla rum (use my recipe or just use rum and a dash of cinnamon!)
1 cup maple syrup

In a bowl, sift together dry ingredients.  If you don't have self rising flour, substitute regular and add 3 teaspoons baking powder.  Pour in milk, egg, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  

At this point, you can add desired flavorings and colors.  For my pancakes, I used food coloring gel (which is brighter than regular food coloring) and matched it to the flavorings.  For instance, I used yellow for banana, orange for orange, red for raspberry, pink for champagne, and for purple I cheated, and used almond extract, because I didn't have any other flavorings around!  I divided the batter and for each flavor, used about 1 tsp of the extract and 4-5 drops of the gel food coloring.
Once you have flavored and colored your batter, it is time to cook the pancakes!  Heat a frying pan or griddle and pour batter slowly to create pancake rounds.  For silver dollar pancakes, I used about 1 tablespoon per pancake - adjust for desired size.  As each pancake is removed from pan, dab a bit of butter on top and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the syrup.  Simply boil the maple syrup and rum together until frothy, then set aside to slightly cool.  Here is the recipe for the rum: Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Infused Rum

Serve pancakes warm, with syrup, and extra butter if desired.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 27, 2012

New York Strip Steak with Peppercorn Cream Sauce

This recipe was from my French cookbook, and I was taught the proper way to prepare it by a proper French chef.  In other words, it is sheer perfection!

Yield:  2 entree servings

2 boneless New York strip steaks
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons cracked multicolored peppercorns
2-3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp cognac
3/4 cup heavy cream

Bring the steaks to room temperature and pat dry.  Season each side with salt.  Spread peppercorns out on a cutting board and crack them - the easiest way to do this is with the underside of a heavy frying pan.  Then press each side of the steaks into the peppercorns, lightly coating them.

Saute the steaks in the butter over high heat for 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the cognac.  Return pan to heat, turning slightly to allow the flames to reach the pan and flambé the meat.  When the flames die down, remove the steaks from the pan and reserve, covering with foil to keep warm.

Add the cream to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Spoon sauce onto the plate, then slice steaks on the bias and fan over sauce.  Serve while warm!

Tips:  If the steaks are not cooked to desired doneness, finish in the oven while cooking the sauce (a 350 oven should do it!).  If you are not comfortable with flambéing the meat, you can skip that step.  This recipe will be delicious either way!  Enjoy!

Sharp Cheddar Potatoes au Gratin

This recipe is extraordinarily easy, as the main ingredient is frozen shredded hash browns!

4 cups of frozen shredded hash browns
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp fresh rosema
ry, minced
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 cup sliced green onion
Salt and pepper, to taste

Thaw hash browns for about 15 minutes in advance.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix hash browns, heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese, melted butter and spices in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Next, butter 8 ramekin dishes (1/2 cup size) and fill with hash brown mixture.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.  Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Sprinkle with additional paprika and top with green onions, if desired.

Tips:  You could also make this in larger ramekins or a full size baking dish, for larger portions.  Try different cheeses for variety.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beef and Barley Stew

Here's a savory stew for a wintry day!  This is a great recipe for a Sunday afternoon; it will make the whole house smell nice.

If you've got time, I recommend making a loaf of bread to go along with the stew.  It isn't really much work, just a bit of patience waiting for it to rise, along with a dab of pre-planning the night before.  Here's the easiest bread recipe around :  No-Knead Bread

Yield:  6-12 portions, depending on portion size (and hunger size!)

4 slices of bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds lean beef, cut into bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup diced celery
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced carrots
6 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup pearled barley
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon over medium heat in a large pot until almost crisp.  Toss beef with flour, salt, and pepper.  Add to pan and sear until brown on outside, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to pan.  Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add beef broth and bay leaves, then simmer for about 45 minutes.

Next, add barley and potatoes and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about an hour longer, or until potatoes and meat are tender.

Tips:  This is a stew!  You can basically dd whatever you have on hand that will enhance the flavor.  I've added normal things like peas, green beans, and leeks to stews, or more interesting things like beans, shrimp, pasta, and asparagus.  Just make sure you cook it long enough to combine the flavors, and that whatever you add works together.  Enjoy!

Midnight Flame

There are so many good things about this recipe... I mean, it's a shot, for starters.  And it's absolutely delicious.  Plus, you get the additional thrill of setting it on fire!  It doesn't get much better than this.

I renamed this for the purposes of my NYE party, but it is really a Flaming B-52 Shot.  Watch Episode 5 above to see us enjoying it!

1/3 shot Kahlua
1/3 shot of Bailey's Irish Cream
1/3 shot Grand Marnier
A few drops of Bacardi 151


Begin by pouring the Kahlua into the shot glass.  Then slowly pour the Bailey's in, using the back of a spoon to layer it over the top of the Kahlua.  Next, using the same method, add the Grand Marnier to the glass.  Sprinkle with a few drops of Bacardi 151.  Using a lighter, carefully light the shot on fire.

Now you have two choices - blow the flame out and drink quickly, or, while the shot is still flaming, place a straw in the bottom of the glass and drink.  Either way, it's delicious!  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

This is a creative, healthy and delicious take on pizza that is easy to make! 

Yield:  Appetizer - 12 servings ; Entree - 3 servings 

6 large cleaned portobello mushrooms
Olive oil, for brushing
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce, homemade or store bought
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
3 basil leaves, halved 

Preheat grill to high heat.
  Brush both sides of mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle insides with salt and pepper.  Place mushrooms on grill bottom side up.  Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, rotating half way through.

Remove from grill and drain top down for a minute.  Once slightly cooled, place mushrooms bottom side up.  Fill with sauce and distribute cheese equally between mushrooms. 

To melt cheese properly, either place mushrooms back on grill (turned off and reducing in heat) or oven until cheese melts.  Alternately, cover with aluminum foil and rest for 10 minutes or so, cheese should be melted by then.  When finished, garnish with fresh basil and place on a cutting board.  Cut into triangles like a pizza. Serve immediately. 

Tips:  Switch out the sauce or toppings for any variety that suits your tastes; pesto, white sauce, meat, other vegetables, etc.  I made a blue cheese and red pepper version (as you can see from the pics), one with mozzarella and pepperoni,  and a veggie one.  As with any pizza, the sky is the limit as to the options!

If you don't have a grill, you can easily sautee these on the stove, then cook them in the oven to melt and brown the toppings.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Cranberries, and Toasted Almonds

My boyfriend's mother, who is like a cuter, sweeter, and more fashionable version of Martha Stewart, made me this recipe over the holidays.  I believe she made it up, cause that's just the kind of lady she is....  It's sweet, tangy, healthy and delicious - I've made it about six times since.  Thanks Lyla - and I'm sorry if I changed any measurements, if so, it wasn't purposeful!

Lyla's Spinach Salad Ingredients:
1 package fresh baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup almond slices, toasted

3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 package (4 oz) goat cheese
Poppyseed dressing (about 1/2 a bottle)


Toast almonds in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove and cool.  Toss spinach with chilled dressing, goat cheese, cranberries and almonds. 

Tips:  If preparing in advance (straight from Lyla's kitchen!), store separate ingredients in ziplock bags and toss together just before serving.  All of these ingredients can be easily modified in portion size to suit your tastes - I used more dressing and extra almonds when I made it for myself, but not everyone would approve.  Also, Newman's Own carries this flavor of dressing, as do several other brands.  Enjoy!

Ginger Rum Shandies

I found this recipe in Food Network magazine.  I had never heard of a shandy, so I looked it up - basically, it's supposed to be a cocktail made with lemonade and beer.  I suppose this is close, but it seems they cheated a bit with the name.  Regardless, it's a refreshing drink, so I won't argue!

10 thin slices peeled ginger, plus more for grating
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple juice

10 ounces spiced rum, preferably Sailor Jerry
2 cups wheat beer, preferably Hoegaarden
Apple slices, for garnish

Make the ginger syrup by combing sliced ginger, sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then reduce to medium and cook until syrupy, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Strain and let cool.

I made this as a pitcher, so after the first step, I combined the remaining ingredients with ice and let chill.  To make individual cocktails, for each glass, combine 2 tablespoons each of the ginger syrup and apple juice, 2 ounces rum and 3 or 4 gratings of ginger in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake and pour into a glass.  Top with 1/2 cup beer and garnish with apple slices.

Savory Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

This soup really surprised me.  Smoky... savory...rich...cheesy.  Who knew pumpkin could be this versatile?! 

Yield: 10 entree servings or 15 appetizer size portions

6 bacon strips, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
1 can (29 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain, leaving 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Saute onion in drippings until tender. Add garlic and cook until soft, another minute or two.

Next, stir in the broth, pumpkin, salt, nutmeg and pepper and bring soup to a boil. While soup is boiling, chop 4 of the 6 cooked slices of bacon into bite sized pieces and reserve. Return the other two slices to the pot. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup (including 2 slices of bacon that have been reunited with the soup!) until smooth. Stir in cream and Gouda cheese and cook until melted and warm.

To serve, sprinkle each serving of soup with parsley, bacon and additional cheese if
desired. Yum!

Tips: Omit bacon and/or swap chicken stock for vegetable to make a healthier or vegetarian version.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Epic Chocolate Cake

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and let's be honest, how could I not make it?

Yield: 10-15 servings (depending on number of chocoholics!)

3 cups flour
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract

For Frosting:
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Liqueur for drizzling over cake (I used Baileys...)
1 cup melted chocolate chips (for drizzling)
2 cups chocolate chips (sides of cake)
2-3 Tbs. heavy cream
Mini candy bars for top (I used Twix, Hershey Bars, Butterfinger, and Kit Kat) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder,
and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine milk, butter, and vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients until combined. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the frosting. Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add butter, cream and vanilla extract. Beat together until fluffy.

Finally, it's time to assemble the cake! Place the first layer on a plate. Lightly drizzle with liqueur, then spread a layer of frosting, being careful not to press too hard and break the cake. Place the second layer on top of the frosting and lightly drizzle with liqueur, then add frosting to the top.  Add the final layer, drizzle with liqueur, then cover sides and top of cake with frosting.

Next, using your hands (and a lazy susan if you have one) cover the sides of the cake with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Then layer the top with assorted chocolate candies.  I used mini candy bars that you can buy in ten packs and simply broke them in half.
Melt the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave and drizzle over the top of the cake, allowing (or encouraging!) the chocolate to drip down the sides.  Voila!

Tips:  Covering the sides of the cake will take a while and create some spillage - I was finding chocolate chips on my floor for weeks!  If you have any issues (as I did) you can always use extra frosting to camouflage the problem area and add extra chocolate chips over it!
Here's Kyle, trying to attack the finished cake.  Unfortunately for him, I made it for my co-workers, so I grabbed it away and was able to bring it to work unscathed.  There may have been a few missing chocolate chips and/or candy bars, but no one noticed anything...

Cherry Colada Jello Shot Hearts

I found this recipe on That's So Michelle, another cooking blog. The number of beautiful jello shot recipes on her site astounds me... umm, I really like jello shots!

Yield: 24 jello shots

1 cup Bacardi Torched Cherry Rum
1 3 ounce box cherry jello
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 packet Knox Gelatin
24 cherries with stems

Either a heart shaped candy mold, or a mini muffin pan + a heart shaped cookie cutter

To make the white layer, pour 1/2 a cup water and 1/2 cup coconut milk into a sauce pan. Sprinkle 1 packet of Knox gelatin on top. Turn on medium heat and stir until dissolved. Add 1/4 cup sugar and heat until dissolved, then add 1/2 cup of the rum.

Next, lightly grease the pan you are using with baking spray. I used a heart shaped candy mold I found at Target, which made perfect bite sized jello shots. Or, you can use a mini muffin pan and a mini heart cutter to do this. Either way, fill pan halfway with coconut jello and rum mixture.

Prepare cherries by drying them and slicing off the bottoms so they sit flat on the coconut layer. Place cherries directly in center of the tins, then place white layer in fridge for 1 hour to set.

Now, add cherry jello packet to 1 cup boiling water in a small sauce pan. When dissolved allow to cool and then add 1/2 cup rum. Carefully pour cherry jello mixture into the cupcake pan on top of coconut jello so that the top of the cherry is visible.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. When ready to unmold, use a knife to rim the exterior, then remove from pan, and if using cookie cutter, cut out heart shape. Serve to delighted guests! Enjoy!

Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onion-Jalapeno Sauce

If you want to make something special, take this sandwich into consideration!  I think this might be the most delicious thing I've ever made.

Yield:  2 savory sandwiches

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound skirt steak
4 bacon slices
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 sturdy rolls, halved lengthwise
1 cup lettuce or salad greens
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Pat steak dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Cook steak to desired doneness - for medium rare, 4-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil.
Reduce heat to medium. Melt butter in now empty skillet.  Add bacon slices, onions, cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Next, remove bacon and set aside on a paper towel to dry. Stir cream in with vegetables and cook until warm, about 5 more minutes.  Stir in vinegar, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

To assemble, slice steak thinly on the bias.  Top one side of each roll with greens and arrange steak on top.  Spoon sauce over steak.  Top with reserved bacon slices, if desired.  Also, as you can see from the pics, I added these tempura jalapeno slices on the side.  Yum!

Tips:  Cooking the bacon in with the vegetables and sauce gave it a sweet, smoky flavor that I really enjoyed.  It was soft because it wasn't fried.  If you do not like bacon soft like that, you can fry it in a separate pan, or omit it altogether.  Enjoy!

Tempura Battered Jalapeno Chips

So I recently had a burger at some chain and they served it with slices of deep fried jalapeno on top. The burger was so so, but the jalapenos were delicious! I decided to recreate them at home.

Yield:  20 crispy bites

3/4 cup (about 1/2 jar) nacho jalapeno slices (mild or hot, your choice!)
1/2 cup tempura (make according to package directions)
1 cup vegetable oil
salt, to taste

Southwestern Ranch Dressing (optional dipping sauce)
1 cup picante salsa
1 cup sour cream (greek yogurt will work too)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

This one is simple!  Heat oil in a large pot.  Dry jalapeno slices off and dip in tempura batter.  Fry in oil until brown and crisp.  Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain; sprinkle with salt.

To make dressing, simply combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Art Show

I had an art show in December to share my work.  Then I went out of town for the holidays.  In early January, we had a fire in our unit, and some of these paintings were still hanging on the walls....  so this is both a party post and an obituary for those pieces!  The one above was my newest work and it was burnt to a crisp.  Sad.

The party was a lot of fun and I made a delicious menu.  Here are the recipes, interspersed with my art!

This next painting was destroyed too, which is a shame, because I had just renamed it "Industrial Revolution".  It took years to come up with that name!

I served these smore's shooters, which are always a hit.  Here we are enjoying them!

Here is a painting that survived the fire - yay!

Many of Kyle's film student classmates came to the party, and they proceeded to have an impromptu photo shoot in the dining room, with entertaining results.

 This next one perished in the flames....

 but this one was untouched!

Here's Chad, posing as butler and delivering these drinks for me.

and here he is again, posing as a troll and hiding within my dining room table.


Murdered by firemen.  Yes, it's true - some wildly violent fireman speared a piece of wood directly through the heart of this painting, like they were trying to vanquish a demon.


Filet Mignon over Rosemary Potato with Bordelaise Sauce

Paul and I look so cozy!

And then there was dessert....

A casualty at just one week old:


And another casualty....

At the end of the day, I'm content that the fire didn't destroy all of my paintings.  My art room is in the back of the house, so only the paintings that were hung throughout the apartment burned.  This also means that all of my canvases, paint brushes, and paints are still with me.  In another words, I need to get to work and make some new pieces!  Nothing like a disaster to motivate the artist within.

I'll leave you with a final entertaining photo.  My painting (this one lived) being used as some sort of fiery death match background.   Pretty cool.

To view more of my work, check out my art site at www.yessy.com/leahjeanw
And, dear readers, be sure to keep your renter's insurance up to date!