Thursday, December 29, 2011

S'mores Shooters

I got this idea from the blog How Sweet It Is.  It looked delicious and I had to try it immediately! The roasted marshmallows are the best part. 

1 shot (multiply for a party size portion!)


1/2 ounce Marshmallow Vodka (whipped cream or cake flavor will also work)
1/2 ounce Godiva Chocolate liqueur
1/2 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
1 ounce cream
Chocolate syrup or hot fudge
Graham cracker crumbs

Mini Marshmallows (3-4 per serving)
Combine liqueurs and cream in a shaker with ice and shake to mix and chill.  Pour about 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs onto a small plate.  Pour a bit of water onto another plate, and press the rim of a glass into it, dampening all the edges.  Next, dip the glass into the graham cracker crumbs and press to adhere.

Squeeze about 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate fudge into the bottom of the glass.  Pour martini mixture over the chocolate.  Thread 3-4 mini marshmallows onto a toothpick.  Using a lighter, "roast" the marshmallows, letting them turn a bit charred before blowing out the flame.  Place on top of glass and serve.  Yum!

Bacon, Basil and Carmelized Onion Frittata

Personally, I'm not that into eggs.  Scrambled eggs?  No thanks!  However, an egg "dish", well that's a different story.  An omelet stuffed with veggies and oozing cheese?  Yes, please!  A frittata, airy as a cloud, filled with crisp bacon?  Any day of the week!

8 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup carmelized onions
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Start by cooking the bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels and set aside.  Carmelize onions in butter or olive oil and set those aside as well.  In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.  Fold in cheese.
Pour mixture into a greased baking dish.  Sprinkle with onions, bacon, and basil.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Tips - You can assemble all of this the night before and bake in the morning.  Simply keep bacon and veggies separate until about ready to bake.  Pretty much any variety of vegetables, breakfast meats, or cheeses can be substituted here for delicious results.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

This was my first time making these and I was surprised by how simple it is.  I can't wait to make them again and try different flavors and garnishes!  I bet they would also be delicious drizzled with caramel.

Yield:  Makes about 30 small macaroons

14 ounces (1 bag) shredded sweetened coconut
14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Combine condensed milk with coconut and vanilla in a bowl.  Beat egg whites with salt in an electric mixer until firm peaks form.  Fold beaten egg whites into coconut mixture.

Using a spoon or scoop, remove tablespoon size mounds of the batter and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes.  About halfway through the baking process, use a spoon or other utensil to re-mold any macaroons that are starting to spread too much.  When done, remove from oven and cool completely.

Once cool, melt the chocolate in the microwave.  Spread out a sheet of wax paper.  Dip the bottom of each macaroon in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper.  Drizzle with additional chocolate, if desired.  Let the macaroons set for about 30 minutes before serving.
These can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peach Infused Bourbon

I bet you didn't think I could come up with more ideas for alcohol infusions.  Wrong!  These flavors really work together, and this is delicious with a variety of mixers.

3 cups bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 peaches (fresh or frozen)


You may need to adjust these ingredients depending on what size jar you are using.  I used a standard mason jar, which worked well with this amount.
In a large airtight jar, add the liquor and sugar.  Seal the jar and shake to dissolve the sugar.  Next, if using fresh peachs, peel, pit, and chop into small chunks.  If using frozen, simply add the frozen peaches to the jar.

Let the infusion sit for about a week, occasionally shaking to distribute flavors.  This should last for about 3 weeks as is - if planning to keep longer than that, remove the peaches and strain.  You can also add your own label, as I did, for fun.  This is also a nice holiday gift.  Enjoy!

Grilled Zucchini Rolls

I am always looking for interesting vegetarian recipes, for my plant loving friends, and this one is tasty and simple to make.

3-4 zucchini and/or summer squash
1 tablespoon olive oil

4 oz herb flavored goat cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toothpicks, for assembly

Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.  Discard outermost slices and drizzle with olive oil on both sides.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place on a preheated grill or grill pan for about 4 minutes on each side, or until tender.

In a small bowl combine the goat cheese, garlic powder, and lemon juice, mashing with a fork.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture just past the end of a zucchini slice. Roll up, secure with a toothpick, and place seam side down on a platter.  Repeat with the rest of the zucchini slices.

Tips:  Keep chilled until serving.   Alternate zucchini and summer squash for a colorful display.  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I decided to revamp the traditional oatmeal cookie by adding dark chocolate chips, and a bit of cocoa powder to the batter.  Kyle said, "You've elevated the oatmeal cookie.  It's elegant."  Yes, that's how he talks... 

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 

3/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 eggs 
2 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups dry oats

1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat butter and sugars until creamy, then add eggs and vanilla.  Add oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder and nutmeg, and mix well.  Mix in dark chocolate chips until just combined.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8 to 9 minutes for a chewy cookie or 10 to 11 minutes for a crisp cookie.  Cool completely before serving.  Makes about 2 dozen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Savory Mango and Cheddar Palmiers

I had never made palmiers before, which are basically smaller versions of what I have always thought of as elephant ears.  Apparently, they originated in France but are popular in many cultures.  Palmier means "palm tree" in French.  Yes, I looked this all up and now I've passed the Wikipedia info on to you! 

1 sheet puff pastry sheet, thawed
3 tbsp mango chutney (homemade or purchased!)
3/4 cup (packed) extra-sharp cheddar cheese  

Roll the puff pastry sheet into a rectangle that is at least 8 inches wide and no less than 1/8-inch thick.  Spread mango chutney over the puff pastry and top with cheddar cheese.  Using a rolling pin, lightly press the cheese into the pastry.  Roll each long end of the rectangle into the center, then wrap in parchment paper and chill for about 15 minutes.

Cut the roll crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and divide the palmiers between two baking sheets covered with parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes or so.  Next, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Bake the palmiers until they are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.  Quickly flip the palmiers and place back in the oven, switching positions of the baking sheets.  Bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.  Cool before serving.

Tips:  The palmiers can be baked and stored in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, or frozen. Before serving, place unthawed palmiers on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.  I was worried these would not hold together, but they did with little trouble.  About halfway through the baking process, a couple of them had begun to separate, but I used a spatula to push them back together and all was well!

This is an interesting flavor profile - sweet and savory together.  I placed them near the appetizers and my boyfriend Kyle moved them to the dessert table.  I guess they fall somewhere in between!  Either way, several people asked me for the recipe, and there were none left on the platter at the end of the night.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Candy Coated Pretzel Rods

This is actually easy. I often say that things are easy and people argue with me that they aren't - but this really is!   I swear!

Pretzel rods (1 bag, or as many as you care to prepare!)
Almond bark (vanilla and chocolate, or either)
Toppings (let your imagination go wild - mini chocolate chips, colored sprinkles, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, cookie crumbs, crushed candy canes, etc)

Lay out a long piece of wax paper. Place almond bark in a microwavable bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Dip half of each pretzel rod into melted chocolate, then sprinkle with, or roll in, toppings. Do this quickly, before chocolate hardens, then place carefully on wax paper. If you do not want to add a topping, or for a different look, drizzle dipped pretzel rods with a contrasting color or flavor of melted chocolate.

Place decorated pretzels on wax paper and let dry, about 5 to 10 minutes. These do not need to be refrigerated, in fact, they are better if they are not, as almond bark tends to crack if exposed to moisture.

Don't worry too much about how the backs of the pretzels look - just add the toppings as fast as possible, let them dry, and then if needed, add additional chocolate or toppings to the back to cover any imperfections.

These make great gifts. Lay them on a platter, place them in a jar and decorate with ribbon, or make a "bouquet" of pretzels and wrap in cellophane.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cocoa Thumbprints

Christmas Cookies!  Hooray!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Toppings - mini M&Ms, marshmallows, chocolate chips, etc

Whisk the flour, one cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and eggs and stir until combined.  Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheet(s) with parchment.  Place the powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in 2 separate bowls.  Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in the granulated sugar and then in the powdered sugar.  Place 1 inch apart on baking sheet.  Lightly flatten each ball and make a deep indentation in the centers with your thumb.  Place choice of filling in the indentation.

Bake the cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Tips:  If using larger toppings, such as peanut M&Ms, lightly press down on them after they come out of the oven to ensure that they anchor to the cookie.  I also dusted a little extra powdered sugar over the tops of the cookies when they came out of the oven, as some of it disappeared during the cooking process, and the white/black contrast here is the most striking thing about this cookie.  Enjoy!

Cranberry Lime Sangria

This is a nice festive cocktail.  This recipe makes about 1 1/2 large pitchers.

3 cups 7-Up (or any lemon lime soda)
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup vodka
1 bottle white wine
1/2 cup lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup green grapes
3 limes, diced

Combine liquid ingredients in a pitcher and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Taste and add additional juice (or liquor!), depending on how strong you want the drink.

Add fruit and let marinate for at least an hour before serving.  Serve chilled or over ice cubes (or, if using frozen cranberries, those can serve as ice cubes!).  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spiced Chicken Tostadas

This sounds a little odd but the pumpkin pie spice adds almost a Jamaican jerk flavor to the chicken.  It's like a standard taco, with just a bit of holiday spice!

1 pound ground chicken
2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
Corn or flour tortillas (your preference)

Topping (optional)
1 avocado
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup salsa verde

Cook meat in a skillet until no longer pink.  Skim fat from pan.  Stir in spices and taste, then season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For my version of this dish, I cut out mini tortilla rounds and made tostadas.  I used a 2 inch cookie cutter, flour tortillas, and fried them in about 1 inch of vegetable oil until crisp.  Or, use this recipe as an entree and serve on full sized tacos, it's up to you!

For the topping, dice the avocado and place in a bowl.  Add other ingredients and stir just until creamy.  This is basically a hybrid salsa/guacamole.  Place a spoonful on top of each mini tostada (or taco!) and serve.  Delicious!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mac and Cheese "Sushi" Rolls

I saw this on a website.  The original recipe was made with Kraft instant macaroni and cheese, filled with hamburger, and had Sriracha as a garnish.  I decided to modify it by using homemade mac and cheese, omitting the hamburger, and rolling it in toasted bread crumbs.  For some of the rolls, I used bacon as a garnish.

Here are some great recipes for homemade mac and cheese (I say great because they are my recipes, of course!):  Leah's Mac and Cheese Trifecta 

For this particular experiment, I used the Gruyere version, but any type should work.  I tried this with both traditional macaroni noodles, and penne, and that didn't seem to make a difference as far as the rolls holding up.

Recipe Yield:
Approx. 50 pieces

1 recipe macaroni and cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter
Plastic wrap

Garnish:  Sriracha (Thai hot sauce, available at your local grocer, bacon, bacon bits, sesame seeds, etc)

Make the mac and cheese and then chill for about an hour.  Once the macaroni is cold, take a long piece of plastic wrap and place about a cup of the mixture on the plastic.  Use your hands (they will get messy!) to manipulate it into a cone shape.  Cover the top with the plastic wrap and roll forward, pressing down and into the sides to create a tight cylinder.  Roll the ends of the plastic wrap like a candy wrapper to seal.  Repeat until all of the mac and cheese has been rolled into logs.
At this point, return the logs to the fridge and let them chill for about an hour.  Meanwhile, toast the bread crumbs in the butter until slightly browned and fragrant.

When the macaroni logs have chilled sufficiently, remove one at a time from the fridge.  Remove plastic wrap and place on cutting board.  If using bread crumbs, place the crumbs on a plate and roll the "sushi" in it before slicing.  Using a sharp knife, slice the rolls into 1-2 inch slices.  Lay cut side down on platter.  If using, squeeze a small dot of hot sauce on top of each roll.
Tips:  Another option I thought of, but didn't try yet, is rolling these in bacon bits.  You could also stuff them with pretty much any type of vegetable or meat you choose.  I served these cold for a vegetarian event, and ate some of them warm, and they were pretty tasty either way!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bananas Foster Cups

I served this dessert in shot glasses for a catering event.  It is a fun take on bananas foster and looks great on a serving platter.

1 pkg Pecan Sandies cookies
3 tbsp butter, melted
2-3 bananas
8 oz heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
8 oz sour cream
1 small box instant banana pudding
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp white sugar
1 jar caramel ice cream topping
½ cup pecans, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Grind the cookies in a food processor. In a bowl, combine the cookies with the melted butter. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the mixture with a wooden spoon.

In a mixer or bowl, whisk heavy cream until stiff. Fold in powdered sugar. Add sour cream. Add the packet of banana pudding and the cinnamon and vanilla. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip or large Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off.

To make pecan brittle topping, heat two tablespoons sugar, pecans and a pinch of cinnamon in a small pan over medium-low heat. Watch carefully so the sugar does not burn. Stir the mixture until the sugar melts. Once it is melted and the pecans are evenly coated, spoon the mixture onto a piece of wax paper to cool. Once cool, gather the wax paper together, so the pecans are tucked inside, and squeeze the paper-wrapped pecans to break the brittle into smaller pieces.

Pour about ½ cup of caramel sauce into a Ziploc bag. Snip off a small tip of the corner.  Next, slice the bananas into thin slices and set aside.

To assemble the cups, spoon approximately one teaspoon of the pecan crust into a shot glass or small bowl. Add 2-3 banana slices. Pipe the sour cream banana whipped cream pudding into the cup until it is about ¾ full. Drizzle caramel on top of the cream and garnish with the pecan brittle. Enjoy!

Gorgonzola Truffles

These are tasty and easy to make.  It is a nice recipe because you can roll these truffles in just about anything you want - nuts, spices, bacon, etc. 

4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese 
1/2 teaspoon onion powder 
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

Garnish:  Your choice!  Add any of the following, or make your own variation: 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup sesame seeds, 1/ 4 cup paprika, 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives....

Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined.  Cover tightly, and chill at least 1 hour or until firm (up to 3 days).
Next, roll the cheese mixture into 3/4-inch-round balls.  Roll each ball in preferred garnish.  Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve.  If chilled, let stand 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers and/or fruit slices.
Tips - Another change you can make is with the cheese - I've used both goat cheese and blue cheese instead.  Enjoy!

Curried Cranberry and Almond Pinwheels

I think there is something addictive about curry.  I have made this recipe a few times now - originally as finger sandwiches, and now as pinwheels.  Either way it is delicious and always disappears very quickly.

3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup diced celery
1/2 cup toasted almond slices
2 tsp lemon juice
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup sliced green onions
3 tsp curry powder
8 slices white bread
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary

Use a rolling pin to roll each slice of bread to a 1/4 thickness.  Slice crusts off (I found this easier to do after rolling, rather than before).  Spread about 1/2 tbsp of the mixture over each slice of bread and roll into a tight cylinder.  Wrap in plastic wrap and twist like a candy wrapper to seal.  Chill for at least an hour, up to overnight.
When the sandwich rolls have chilled, cut each cylinder into 6 pieces using a sharp knife dipped into hot water and then wiped dry.  Arrange sandwiches cut side up on a platter.  Serve cold or at room temp.

Tips:  The original recipe I used called for 1 lb of cooked, diced chicken breast.  I omitted that this time, as I was serving vegetarians.  The sandwiches are good either way!  Also, you can switch up the fruit (I have also tried cherries) and/or nuts.  This can be served as a full sandwich, finger sandwich, or pinwheel.  I also dusted with a bit of additional curry at the end, for presentation.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Avocado Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

These are adorable and tasty!

30 cherry tomatoes (about 1-1/4 pints)
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 jar basil pesto
3 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil (garnish)

There are two ways to do this - either cut the tomatoes in half (easier...), or cut a hole in the top and leave them whole.  I'll give directions for each.

To serve them whole, cut a thin slice from the top of each tomato (and cut a thin slice from bottoms of tomatoes so they stand upright.) Or, to do the halves, just cut each tomato in half at this point.  Next, use a small spoon or melon baller to hollow out the tomatoes.  Line a baking sheet with paper towels.  Invert tomatoes on the towels and let stand for about 15 minutes to drain.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a food processor combine the avocado, cream cheese, pesto, and lemon juice. Cover and process until smooth. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or open star tip.

Place the tomatoes, open sides up, on a serving platter.  Pipe the filling into the tomato cups.  Serve immediately or cover loosely and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.  Garnish with basil before serving.

Tips: You can actually transport these very easily, just don't fill them until you reach your destination.  It only takes a minute to pipe the filling into the tomatoes.  Enjoy!

Almond Joy Layer Cake

I made this twice, it was so delicious. I made it first as mini bundt cakes, with the filling stuffed in the middle. The second time I made it as a layer cake, as the recipe intended.

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar (divided)
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt plus a big pinch
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 bag shredded coconut (4 packed cups)
2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cup cream

Directions:  Preheat oven to 325.  Grease two 8-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans, or whichever pan you plan to use.

In a saucepan, bring 2/3 cup water to a boil.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.  Add the butter and chocolate over low heat and stir until melted, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Pour in the chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in 1 packed cup coconut.  Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 35 minutes or until firm.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

While the cake cools, spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes; let cool.  Next, in a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup cream, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and pinch salt and simmer, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tsp. vanilla and 3 packed cups coconut.  When cool, fold in 1 1/2 cups almonds.

Split the cake layers to make 4 layers.  Place 1 layer cut side up on a plate and spread with 1 cup of the coconut-almond mixture.  Top with the second layer cut side down and spread with 1 cup more of the mixture.  Repeat with the remaining 2 cake layers and filling, spreading the filling on the top. Cover the cake and refrigerate for 4 hours to firm.

Tips:  I originally didn't frost this as the filling is so sweet, I don't think it needs it.  The second time I made it, I did try it with frosting, but I found it to be a little too rich.  If I make it as a layer cake again, I will probably only frost the outside.  I also toasted some coconut for a garnish.  Enjoy!