Monday, March 26, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Bars

This was pretty easy to make and delicious, especially with sea salt sprinkled over the top!

Yield: 20 to 25 pieces

1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon ice water
1 large egg yolk

Caramel Topping:
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, diced
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Flaked sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a baking pan. Blend first 4 ingredients by hand or with a food processor.  Add butter. Blend until coarse meal forms.  Add 1 tablespoon ice water and egg yolk. Blend until moist clumps form.  Press dough onto bottom of pan and pierce all over with fork.  Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Whisk first 5 topping ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, butter melts, and mixture comes to boil.  Attach candy thermometer to side of pan.  Boil until caramel is thick and temperature registers 225 degrees, whisking constantly, about 6 minutes.  Pour caramel over crust; cool to set.
Chocolate Glaze:
Melt chocolate with cream in microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring occasionally.  Spread chocolate over warm caramel and sprinkle with sea salt.  Refrigerate until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour.   When set, slice into pieces and serve.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fruit Stuffed German Pancake

This is a fun recipe that you can modify every time you make it!  Stuff it with fresh fruit as I did above, or cheese and meat... the possibilities are endless!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup powdered sugar (for dusting)
2 cups mixed berries
1 cup freshly whipped cream
Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt butter in a medium oven safe dish.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then add the remaining ingredients.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, over the melted butter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The pancake will rise up around the edges, creating a cavity in the middle.  Remove the pancake from the oven, let cool slightly and then stuff with desired toppings.

Tips: This pancake comes out different every time!  Sometimes it rises quite well, other times it comes out a little flatter and thicker, but either way it is always delicious.  I have also filled this with mixed cheeses and vegetables and it was equally delightful....  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jameson Cupcakes with Baileys Irish Cream Frosting

If you just saw my most recent post, you will notice a theme with the pan (I just used this same pan to make jello shots).  Well, what do you expect - a new tea cake pan is a very exciting addition to my kitchen!

These were both delicious and adorable, which is my favorite combination.

Yield:  About 30 cupcakes using a mini muffin pan, or 20 with a regular cupcake pan

Cake Ingredients:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box chocolate pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup Jameson Whiskey
Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease the pan you plan to use.  Mix the cake ingredients together.  Pour cake mix into cupcake tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Next, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, Baileys, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Taste and adjust thickness if necessary (more Baileys if too thick, or not drunken enough!  Or more sugar if too thin).

Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost and serve!  Enjoy!

Tips:  This frosting is so good, I started over and made a double batch!  It is also nice and creamy, so if you want to make these look really great, use a pastry bag to frost your cupcakes.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

I meant to post this earlier. Like, 5 days earlier. It's been a busy week! 

Yield: Approximately 20 jello shots 

1 16 ounce can Guinness
4 ounces Baileys Irish Cream
3 ounces Jameson Irish Whiskey
5 packets plain gelatin 

I purchased a tea cake pan from Amazon to make these, but you could also use a mini muffin pan. These turned out quite large because of the pan I used, quite a tasty alcohol mouthful!

To start, spray the pan with unflavored non-stick spray.   Pour about 12 ounces of Guinness into a sauce pan.  Sprinkle with 4 envelopes of gelatin.  Allow to sit for a moment to let the gelatin bloom, then heat until the mixture is smooth. Stir continuously while heating to ensure that there are no lumps - this should just take a few minutes.

Next, split the Guinness mixture in half.  Pour the first half of the mixture into the bottom of the cups.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool until solid.

While waiting for the Guinness to solidify, mix the Baileys and Jameson in another sauce pan. Sprinkle the last envelope of gelatin on top.  Follow the same procedure as above - allow to bloom, heat, mix, and then allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Once the Baileys mixture has cooled, remove the pan from the fridge and ensure that the first layer is solid. Layer the Baileys mixture over it. Return the refrigerator and allow to solidify for about 30 minutes until the layers have melded together. Finally, add the remaining Guinness mixture to the top of the shot.

Place the pan back in the refrigerator one last time. You will probably be able to remove them after a few hours, but to ensure that the layers completely solidify, I would recommend letting it sit overnight. To remove from pan, simply use a butter knife to run around the edges and loosen.

Tips: This jello shot tastes exactly like an Irish Car Bomb! This would be a good thing for many people, but if you aren't a fan of dark beer like Guinness, or want something a bit sweeter, I would suggest adding whipped cream as I did below.  Another option is adding more Baileys and more gelatin to make the Baileys layer thicker.  Bottom's up!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scrumptious Apple Rose Pie

This post is going to have a lot of pics... because this pie was so pretty!  I found it on Pinterest and the food blogger is located in Belgium, so I had a pretty difficult (and hilarious) time translating her post.  So the recipe is sort of cobbled together... but still delicious!

Yield:  One gorgeous pie

5-6 apples
2 cups heavy cream
3 eggs
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

If you are making a pie crust from scratch, consider using this recipe - Vodka Pie Crust

To begin, make the cream for the pie.  Mix the heavy cream, sugars, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, salt and egg yolks in a bowl until frothy.  Add flour and mix until combined.  Set aside.

Next is the time consuming part!  Set out a bowl of cold water to keep the apples from oxidizing.  Do not peel the apples.  Using a vegetable peeler, make ribbons of the apples.  The easiest way I found to do this was by holding the bottom of the apple in my palm and running the peeler up and down the length of the apple.  Try to make the peels as thin as possible.  They don't have to be of uniform shape or size, as you will be wrapping them into these roses, and it will be fairly easy to conceal any imperfections.

As you can see, I had extra pie dough, so I also made mini muffin sized apple pies, with one rose in each.

Once you have peeled the apples (your hand will be tired!), it is time to start assembling them.  Set aside some of the pieces with more red, or the pieces that look more like leaves.  Begin with a peel at a time, wrapping them around each other.  Once you have a small bundle that resembles a rose, you can enhance the effect by sticking one or two of the smaller red pieces in the middle.

Pour the cream into the pie shell and each time you assemble a rose, place it standing in the cream.  You may have to press down a bit to get them to stay.  Start from the outside going in, and they should hold up pretty well.

Once you have filled the pie crust with roses, sprinkle the top with a bit of additional brown sugar and cinnamon.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the cream has set and the top of the pie is browned.

Tips -  To make mini apple pie roses, use a mini muffin pan and follow the same process.  I used the vodka pie crust recipe and was able to make 1 pie and a dozen mini rose pies, using the additional dough that was meant as a pie top or double crust for the minis.  Enjoy!

Vodka Pie Crust

How could I not make this?

Yield:  Enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka

You can do this by hand, or with a mixer.  I'm incredibly lazy, so I used a mixer.  I use a mixer for everything... mashed potatoes, pie dough, vaccuuming...

Simply add the flour, salt, and sugars and mix until combined.  Next, add the butter and and mix until the dough begins to clump - it will sort of resemble cheese curds.  Remove the dough and transfer to a clean bowl.  Sprinkle the vodka over the dough and mix with a spatula.  Divide into two even balls and flatten each into a circle.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

When you are ready to make your pie, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator.  A nice trick to use instead of rolling the dough out in flour and making a huge mess is to place it between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll it out like that.

To fit a 9 inch pie dish, you will need to roll the dough into about a 12 inch circle.  Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and lay it gently in the pie dish.  Press into the bottom of the pan and up the sides, crimping the edges as you go along (to make it look pretty!).  I would suggest placing the crust in the oven and browning it for about 5 minutes before you fill it, so the crust doesn't get soggy.  Also, if you are not using this as a double crust pie, you will have extra dough left over.

Tips:  The vodka in this recipe evaporates in the oven and, unfortunately, leaves no flavor behind!  However, it does help make the dough more airy and crisp.  Also, you can never underestimate the enthusiasm people will display when you tell them there is liquor in the dessert.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Housewares Charity Foundation Gala

On Monday evening, I volunteered at a charity event at the Chicago Hilton - the Housewares Charity Gala 

It was a 1000 person banquet, in partnership with the James Beard Foundation.  Of course, it wasn't entirely altruistic of me, as I knew there would be celebrity chefs there, and also figured working such a large event would be a great experience - which it was!

I was assigned to work with Art Smith's restaurant,Table Fifty-Two.  Unfortunately, he was not in attendance, so his executive sous chef, John Vermiglio, was running the show.  John is currently starring on the Bravo series, Around the World in 80 Plates

A staff of about 9 of us were able to plate 300 appetizers and 300 hot entrees in just a couple of hours.   It was intense and exciting!  It was an honor to work with Chef John and his staff and to experience the behind the scenes mania that culminates in such delicious and artistic food.

Unfortunately I was way too busy to snap many photos, but here is one of the beautiful dishes we created (to the chef's specifications, of course!).  This was a chicken galantine with over a sweet pea puree, with chicken aus jus and a dozen beautiful garnishes.  It was the most delicious dish of the evening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cupcake Frenzy

I won't be posting recipes just yet... as I made a few of them.  For now, this is just a fun pic of a cupcake frenzy.  Basically, this is what happens if I'm left alone for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

My co-workers will be pleased!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Southwest Peppers

You may recognize these little guys from other recipes I've made... I'm obsessed with these peppers! They are adorable, vibrantly colored, and so sweet and mild that they can be used in a variety of recipes.

This is an easy recipe that I came up with. I simply roasted these peppers, and then stuffed them with Texas Caviar.  You can find the recipe for the stuffing here: Texas Caviar - see below for how I prepared the peppers.

1-2 dozen sweet peppers (the grocery store usually sells these in bags which contain 15 or more, depending on size)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 recipe Texas Caviar (link above)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove from oven and let cool. Slice in half and remove seeds. Stuff with Texas Caviar. Serve room temperature, or chilled - your choice!

Tips: I imagine you could remove the skins after roasting if you prefer- I didn't because I like the smoky flavor and with peppers this small, the skin isn't really noticeable.  Also, you can sprinkle these with any type of cheese. I decided not to because I didn't want to cover up the pretty colors of the vegetables... but I'm sure it would taste great! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

White and Milk Chocolate Peanut Clusters

Kyle's mother taught me this recipe, which is so easy and delicious that I don't know why people don't make these more often!

Yield: 20 - 30 peanut clusters, depending on how large you make them

1 jar (16 oz) roasted, salted peanuts
Almond bark (chocolate or vanilla, or both!)
Wax paper

This is so easy, you could figure it out with me writing a word!
Spread out a sheet of wax paper.  Melt the almond bark in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds (about 3-4 blocks at a time, otherwise it will get hard before you finish making these).  Make sure to mix the chocolate about halfway through, and avoid overheating, as it will burn and become unusable.  If you melt it about halfway and then remove it, the heat of the melted parts will carry over and melt the rest.

Next, place small mounds of peanuts on the wax paper.  Spoon the chocolate over each mound, being sure to cover all the peanuts.  That's it!  Allow to dry about ten minutes, and then if necessary, add extra chocolate to cover up any imperfections.

Tips:  If you don't tell anyone how easy this was, they will never know!  I served these on silver platters and they looked elegant and expensive... I didn't let on that they only took about ten minutes to make!  Sweet and salty....  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not a recipe!

This is not a recipe.  I'm just gloating over the fact that I received an "honorable mention" in this short story writing contest.  Okay, so it's not much... but it's still nice!  Check it out!  You can download the short story for free at the below site.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spicy Chili Shrimp with Jalapeno Cilantro Fried Rice

 In case you didn't already know this, fried rice is delicious.  Fried rice with cilantro and jalapenos?  Even more delicious!

2 tbsp butter
2 pounds medium to large shrimp, preferably raw

3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons Thai chile garlic sauce 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp honey

Jalapeno Cilantro Fried Rice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups steamed rice
3 eggs
4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
4 scallions, diced
2 medium jalapeƱos, seeded and minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, minced  

4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil

In a bowl, combine ketchup, vinegar, chile sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and honey.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (it should be sweet and spicy!).  Add corn starch, mix thoroughly, then set aside.

Next, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium high.  Add rice and allow it to fry in the oil.  In a separate section of the same pan, crack the eggs and fry them.  Once the eggs have cooked all the way through and begun to brown, use a metal spatula to break them apart and mix amongst the rice.  You can also fry the eggs in a separate pan, and then slice them, if that seems easier.  Next, add the jalapeƱos, garlic, peas, lemongrass and ginger to the rice, and continue to cook until rice is crispy and parts of it have browned.

While rice is cooking, season shrimp with salt and pepper.  In a smaller skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the shrimp (shells on) to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until they start to turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour sauce over shrimp and mix thoroughly, then remove from heat.  It's up to you if you want to remove the shells or leave them on, it really depends on how you want the dish to look.

Drizzle the rice with soy sauce and sesame oil, taste and adjust seasonings.  Now you are ready to serve.  Place a mound of rice on plate and add shrimp.  For the presentation I did below, I used a two inch ring (could also use a cup or cookie cutter) to mound the rice and then placed the shrimp around it.  Drizzle with additional sauce and serve! 

Tips:  Be sure to bring shrimp to room temperature before cooking so that it cooks evenly. Also, I can't say this enough - start with raw shrimp and they will be so much more tender! Raw frozen is fine....  they even have them at Target for a reasonable price.  Enjoy!