Monday, December 10, 2012

Cheesy Bacon and Ranch Pull Apart Bread

This is great as an appetizer or side dish, and looks lovely as well. 

Yield:  10-15 appetizer servings

1 loaf sourdough bread (or other round loaf)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 cup chopped cooked bacon
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp ranch seasoning

Salt and pepper, to taste 

Cook bacon in advance, drain on paper towels, then slice or crumble into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the bread lengthwise and then in the opposite direction, creating 1/2 - 3/4 inch squares, being careful not to pierce the bottom of the bread.

Place bread on a baking sheet and disperse cheese between the cuts, pushing down to fill the bread with cheeseAdd bacon
evenly across the top.

Melt the butter and stir in the ranch seasoning.  Pour evenly over the top of the bread. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top of the bread is nice and brown. 

Tips:  This is kind of a road map for an easy recipe; it can be customized to personal tastes.  Use a different type of cheese, veggies, or meat.  Make it sweet, savory, spicy... or make the bread from scratch!  I'm planning to make a pizza version, and maybe a cinnamon & sugar version.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Creamy Lobster Bisque

This actually isn't difficult at all to make, so it basically comes down to cost.  For a special occasion, you can't beat it.  Besides, that's the great thing about cooking; restaurant quality meals at a fraction of the cost!

Yield:  Serves 2-8, depending on the amount of lobster desired per serving

2 raw lobster tails
2 tbsp shallots, minced
2 tbsp green onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tsp fresh basil, shredded

1 tsp fresh thyme, stems removed
6 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp paprika
2 cups lobster or fish stock, or if not available, water
4 ounces tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp butter

Garnish: Parsley, coarsley chopped, about 1 tbsp

Remove lobster shells from tails and reserve.  Heat olive oil over heat and saute shallots, onions, and garlic for about 2 minutes, or until softened.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add the lobster shells, worcestershire, tabasco, basil and thyme and saute for another minute.  Deglaze the pan again, with the sherry.  Add the paprika and lobster stock or water.  Stir in tomato paste and add bay leaves.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, prepare lobster tails by removing veins, if necessary, and drizzling with butter.  Cook in in a saute pan until pink, being careful not to overcook.  Once lobster tails are cooked, remove from heat and cool slightly.  If serving a larger group, chop into chunks and reserve for topping soup.  If serving full tails, reserve as is.

Next, remove shells from pot and discard.  Reduce heat and, using an immersion blender or food processor, blend soup until creamy and fully pureed.  Pour pureed soup back into pot, add heavy cream and butter, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

To serve, pour into soup bowls and place the lobster tails or chunks on top.  Sprinkle with parsley, and add freshly ground pepper, if desired.  Serve with french or garlic bread.  Enjoy!

Tips: To add extra smoky flavor, grill the lobster (about 4 minutes per side for a properly thawed lobster).  For an exceptionally decadent meal, serve surf & turf!  This was for a birthday celebration, but it never hurts to go all out from time to time!  Slightly more than ordering a pizza, if you know how to shop for deals, and much more delicious.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Peruvian Steak and Potato Stir Fry

This is a really flavorful and slightly spicy dish.  I had something similar to this in a dive bar in Belgium once and was horrified; french fries mixed in with my vegetables?!

Now that I know what this actually is; a classic Peruvian dish called "lomo saltado", and the proper way to prepare it (not with cold carrots, pickles and lettuce, as I had it in Brussels!), I see the merits of the combination.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 garlic cloves,

3 tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound skirt steak
1 red onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
8 ounces frozen french fries
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup cilantro

Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional:  Hot sauce or salsa
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Slice the onion and bell pepper and stir into spice mixture.  Slice the steak across the grain into long strips, approximately 1/2 inch thick, and mix in with the vegetables.  Marinate for about 10 minutes or up to overnight.  If marinating overnight, bring back to room temperature before cooking.

Bake the french fries in the oven according to package directions.  Once they are nearly done, heat a large skillet or wok.  Add the steak and vegetable mixture and stir-fry over high heat until the meat and onion are cooked through and lightly charred, about 5 minutes.  If necessary, fry in batches to get the most searing.  Add the tomato and pickled
jalapenos and cook for an additional minute, until just softened.

Pour the meat mixture into a fresh bowl and add the french fries and cilantro.  Mix until combined.  Serve immediately, with hot sauce or salsa, if desired.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mixed Berry Tiramisu

I made mini tiramisu for a tasting party (you know how I love to make everything tiny!) but obviously, you could also make this recipe and serve in regular sized portions.

Yield:  16 mini portions or about 8 regular sized ones

2 packages lady fingers (about 32)
1 cup prepared coffee
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 lb mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
1-2 tsps cocoa powder
1-2 tsps chocolate shavings

Berry Mixture:
6 ounces (1 pkg) fresh blueberries
6 ounces (1 pkg) fresh blackberries
6 ounces (1 pkg) fresh raspberries
1/2 lb fresh strawberries
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp lime juice
Combine berries, powdered sugar, lime juice, and 1/2 cup water in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat and simmer until berries are soft and liquid has reduced slightly.  Reserve and chill until cool.

While berry mixture is cooling, arrange the first layer of lady fingers in trifle bowl(s), cutting edges if necessary to fit.  Use any cut pieces to fill in gaps.

Next, whip mascarpone, heavy cream and white sugar until smooth and thick.

To assemble, for the first layer, pour some coffee over the arranged lady fingers, then add some rum, reserving some of each for next layers.  Spread mascarpone cheese over the soaked ladyfingers, then spoon a portion of the berry mixture on top.  Continue for each layer until you have run out, saving some of the mascarpone whipped cream for the top layer.

Once you have arranged the tiramisu, garnish with cocoa powder and cocoa shavings.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Tips:   This will be good in the fridge for about a day and 1/2, so you can prepare it in advance.  Also, you may need more rum and coffee.... I find I always end up adding more than any recipe (including my own!) calls for; those little fingers are thirsty!

Finally, I have seen berry tiramisu like this but with the coffee omitted, I personally like the combination but if you think the coffee will overwhelm the berry flavor, omit it or cut down on the amount.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spiked Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

I found this pumpkin pie cream liqueur at Costco and it was priced at the low, low price of $4.95.  Yes, that's right, an entire bottle of liqueur for under $5 bucks; it's surprising I've left the house since!

Anyway, I decided to make pumpkie pie milkshakes because, it sounded yummy!

Yield: 2 milkshakes

2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup pumpkin pie liqueur
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice 

Optional GarnishesWhipped cream, chocolate curls, cinnamon

Mix ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust liqueur and sugar/spice, if necessaryFill glasses with milkshake, add whipped cream and other optional toppings and serve.  Cheers!

Bacon & Egg Bread Bowls

I found this recipe in a magazine and thought it looked adorable. It's also delicious and quick and easy to prepare!

Yield: 8 servings

1 package Kaiser rolls (usually contains 8)
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan
8 slices bacon
1 avocado, diced
8 fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the top off each roll and scoop out the insides, being careful not to pierce the bottom.  Arrange rolls on a baking sheet.

Crack an egg into each roll and drizzle with cream. Season each roll with salt and pepper and then sprinkle with Parmesan. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until the eggs are set and the bread is toasted, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the bread bowls are cooking in the oven, cook bacon slices until crisp and drain on paper towels.  Dice avocado.  Once the bread bowls are ready, remove from oven and garnish with bacon slices, avocado and fresh basil.  Serve while hot.  Enjoy!

TipsThis recipe is a breeze.  As soon as I made it for the first time, I thought of a million other ways to prepare it.  Saving leftover hamburger buns to use would be smart, for instance. And other toppings... sundried tomatoes, ham, cheese, mushrooms, asparagus... it's endless!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Citrus White Wine Spritzer

This is a lovely twist on a standard glass of white wine.

6 regular glasses of wine, 12 mini glasses 

2 lemons, cut into small half triangles
2 limes, cut into small half triangles
1 bottle Pinot Grigio, or other dry white wine
8-10 ounces lemon lime flavored seltzer water


Mix wine, a few of the limes and lemons, and some of the seltzer water in a pitcher with some ice.  Taste and add additional seltzer water to desired flavor/strength.  Place a piece of lemon and lime in each glass, add spritzer, and serve.  Cheers!

Roasted Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Soup

Who doesn't like a nice creamy soup on a cold winter day?

Yield: 6 entree servings or about 12 appetizer servings

1 head cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, cut into florets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth

1 cup pilsner or other beer
2 cups aged white cheddar,
2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Drizzle the cauliflower with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees until golden brown and soft, or for about 30 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the herbs, roasted cauliflower, beer, and vegetable broth, then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer in covered pot for about 20 minutes.

Next, puree the soup with an immersion blender or food processor until it reaches desired consistency, then mix in the cheese.  Continue mixing until the cheese is fully melted, then season to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper.  Stir in the cream, remove from heat and serve.  

If desired, garnish with additional cheese, parsley, and/or bacon (see below), and serve with crostini or french bread.

Options:  For a healthier version, swap out the heavy cream for milk.  This can be vegetarian as in the recipe above or (as in the pics) for a smokier flavor, cook 2-3 slices of bacon in pan, reserve some of the drippings and cook the onions and garlic in those drippings instead of olive oil.  You can then use the crumbled cooked bacon to garnish the soup with.  Enjoy!  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Crab Cake Sliders with Pineapple Kiwi Salsa

These are good as an appetizer or entree, and are not as fattening as regular crab cakes, as the mayo has been replaced by yogurt.

Yield: 8 sliders

1 pound lump crab meat
1 egg
2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
10 saltine crackers, crushed
1 tbsp hot Chinese mustard
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste     
Olive oil, for frying

Combine all of the above ingredients with the exception of the olive oil and stir until well mixed.  Season to taste.

Heat a skillet to medium high and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  While the pan is heating, form the crab mixture into small slider-sized patties.  If desired, brown buns in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Cook the crab cakes in the pan until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove and set on paper towels to drain.  Place on buns, add desired toppings (see below!) and serve!
I served this with a Spicy Lime Yogurt Spread and Pineapple Kiwi Salsa - see the yogurt spread recipe below.  It was a fresh tasting combination with a nice spicy kick.  Enjoy!

Spicy Lime Yogurt Spread:
1/4 cup plain Green yogurt
2 tsp Thai chili garlic sauce
2 tsp lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Tips:  If you are on a budget, canned crab is cheap and tastes just fine in crab cakes!

Pineapple Kiwi Salsa

I served this on top of crab cake sliders, and then ate the leftovers with chips.  It would also be good on fish tacos.

Yield: About 2 cups

1 cup fresh chopped pineapple
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped  
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Chop fruit and vegetables and combine in a bowl.  Add lime juice, salt and pepper, stir and season to taste.  Enjoy!

Tips - if you're in a hurry you can use canned pineapple chunks and just slice them in half.

Doughnut Buffet

One morning Kyle said idly, "we should make some doughnuts," and this is what happened. I have a tendency to go overboard... but if you read this blog, you already know that!

2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Powdered Sugar Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
5 tablespoons water (or as needed to achieve a nice consistency)

Garnishes: Anything goes! Nuts, sprinkles, coconut, candy, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, powdered sugar, peanut butter, frosting... we used a bit of everything.

Start by sprinkling the yeast over the warm water. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and flour. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover. Set in a warm place to rise until double, about 30 minutes.

While dough is rising, make the glaze. Simply mix powdered sugar, water and vanilla bean paste or extract until smooth. The glaze should be thin but not watery. If you are feeling a bit ambitious, you can also make variations on this glaze - maple by adding a couple of teaspoons of maple extract, chocolate by adding about 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, or fruit flavors by adding fruit extract or juices. I made an amazing black cherry glaze with a few teaspoons of black cherry extract; yum!

When the dough is ready, set it out on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. For doughnut holes, simply roll small balls in hand and fry. Don't set those down for long, or they will stick and lose their shape. For regular donuts, use a floured doughnut cutter to cut out the shapes, and for the larger filled donuts, simply make a larger version of a doughnut hole, fry, and then fill with a piping bag.  I filled some of these with peanut butter and some with raspberry jelly.

Heat oil in a large pot to about 350 degrees. Fry donuts for just a couple of minutes each, turning halfway through, and drain on a wire rack or paper towels. It is best to dip the doughnuts in glaze while still hot, I kept several baking sheets out for this purpose and decorated as I went along.

That's the story!  Some of the best combos we made were a peanut butter filled maple glazed donut with toffee topping, standard powdered sugar doughnut holes, chopped peanuts with toasted coconut, and the black cherry glazed doughnut I mentioned above.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Champagne and Butter Poached Lobster

I served this at a tasting party in small portions, but it would also be great as a main dish.

Yield: 4 entree servings, or approx 12 tasting portions


4 cups water
1 1/2 cups champagne vinegar
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled, chopped
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
2-3 lobster tails (*see note below)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups champagne
1 cup butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbs green onions, sliced
1 tbs fresh tarragon, chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest

*Note about lobster - the original recipe calls for live ones, but that's a bit cringeworthy for me (yes, I'm a hypocrite & wimp when it comes to killing the things I eat).

I have a local fish market that offers lobster tails with claw meat, and also lobster stock and shells.  If you can't get that, a regular store-bought lobster tail with shell would suffice, but I would suggest using three of them, rather than two, to make up for the difference in claw meat.

Heat oil in a pot and add onion, garlic and carrot. Cook until softened. Add water, vinegar, lobster shells, herbs and spices and bring to a boil (could substitute lobster stock for this step). Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Next, remove lobster shells and add champagne. Boil until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 30 minutes. Strain and transfer remaining liquid to a skillet.

Heat liquid in a skillet over medium heat. Slice lobster into medium sized medallions and reserve. Add butter, allow to melt, then add sliced lobster.  Mix in tarragon, lemon juice and green onions; then poach until lobster is opaque, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes. 

Finally, transfer lobster to a serving plate(s) and garnish with lemon zest. Serve with some of the champagne butter sauce. Yum!

Sparkling Manhattan

A lovely red cocktail for the holidays!

Yield: 1 drink (multiply for more servings)


1 ounce whiskey (I used Maker's Mark)
2 ounces chambord
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Garnish: Fresh Raspberries

Fill cocktail shaker with ice and add drink ingredients.  Strain into a cocktail glassTop with 2 dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a fresh raspberry.  Cheers!