Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream Cheese

I saw this recipe on a website and how could I not make it!?!  I added my own twist with the whipped cream; I figured- you can't have red velvet without cream cheese!  This is a great decadent holiday treat - hot chocolate made from scratch really does taste amazing!

Yield:  4 servings

4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup white sugar
12 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons red food dye
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Cheese:
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons white sugar
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon clear or regular vanilla extract

Optional Garnish:  Mini marshmallows

Pour milk into a saucepan and heat on medium, being careful not to scald it.  Add chocolate, vanilla extract, red food dye, and sugar.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted and milk is hot, then reduce temperature to low.

To make the whipped cream cheese, pour the heavy cream into the bottom of a mixing bowl and whip on high.  Add sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla extract and whip until peaks form or desired consistency is achieved.  Note - clear vanilla extract can be purchased at craft or specialty food stores and will keep your cream a brilliant white.  If you don't have it, no worries, there is no flavor difference!

To serve, ladle the warm hot chocolate into mugs and top with a dollop of the whipped cream cheese and a handful of mini marshmallows.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Martini Trio

Planning a holiday cocktail party?  What better way to celebrate than with a trio of festive martinis!

Here are a few of my favorite recipes.  Enjoy!

Candy Corn Martini

Eggnog Martini

Caramel Apple Martini

Serve and repeat!  Cheers!

Eggnog Martini

Mmm... boozy egg nog!

Yield:  2 martinis

1 1/2 cups eggnog (store bought or homemade)
3/4 cup Frangelico, or other hazelnut flavored liqueur
3/4 cup plain vodka
1-2 teaspoons of nutmeg, for garnish, if desired
2 cinnamon sticks, for garnish, if desired

Combine eggnog, vodka, and Frangelico in a martini shaker and add ice.  Shake until chilled.  Strain into martini glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg, then add cinnamon stick.  Serve while chilled.  Cheers!

Note:  Another way to garnish this would be to dampen the rim of the glass and roll in the nutmeg or in cinnamon sugar.

Caramel Apple Martini

There are a lot of fun ways to garnish this martini; rim the glass with green sugar or peanuts, or dip the apple slice in caramel and nuts.  Any way you serve it, it's delicious! 

Yield:  2 martinis 

1/4 cup sour apple schnapps
1/4 cup butterscotch schnapps
1/4 cup vanilla vodka

Caramel glaze (Hershey's works fine!)
Apple slices, for garnish (if desired)
Peanuts or chopped nuts, for martini glass or apple slice (if desired)

Fill martini shaker with cocktail ingredients and add ice.  Shake to chill.  Dip rim of martini glass in sugar or nuts, then drizzle caramel sauce around the sides of the glass, rotating the glass as you go to create a ripple effect.

Fill glass with martini and add apple slice, if desired.  Drink up!  Cheers!

Cointreau Cranberry Relish

This is a breeze to make and so much better than that cranberry-flavored canned jelly creature that no one ever eats!

12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup Cointreau or Grand Marnier (orange flavored liqueur)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 oranges, zested


Bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a boil over medium heat until the berries begin to soften, or about 10 minutes.  Add the spices and reduce heat, then add the liqueur.  Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved.  Remove from heat and stir in half of the grated zest, reserving the rest for the top.  Chill and serve with reserved zest as garnish, if desired.  Enjoy!

Pepperoni Pizza Biscuit Wreath

This is a perfect holiday appetizer recipe; it's easy to make, adorable, and delicious! 

Yield:  5-10 servings

2 cans buttermilk biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands)
60 (approx) pepperoni slices
1 pound Mozzarella cheese (note: I used block cheese, cut into cubes) 
1 egg, beaten

1/8 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
1 cup marinara or pizza sauce

Kosher salt, to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Start with the first can of dough and separate the biscuits.  Take 2-3 pepperoni slices and a piece of cheese (if using shredded, about a tablespoon of cheese) and wrap the raw dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal and form a ball.  Repeat with the remaining biscuits.

Place the empty bowl that you plan to use for the pizza sauce in the middle of the pan.  Arrange the pizza balls, seam side down and sides nearly touching, into a ring on the baking sheet.  Remove the empty bowl and brush each ball with the butter and then the beaten egg (this will add shine and flavor).  Sprinkle the entire wreath with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and a pinch of salt, if desired.

Bake the wreath for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.  Warm the pizza or marinara sauce in the microwave and arrange a few basil leaves on top for garnish, if desired.  Remove the pizza wreath from the oven and place on a serving platter.  Place the dipping sauce in the center of the wreath and garnish with additional leaves.  Sprinkle more Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired.  Serve immediately, while piping hot!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Candied Whisky Bacon

I have made this many times and it just occurred to me that I have never posted it.  There are a few different ways to make candied bacon; this one is a little more time consuming than making it in the oven (which is fastest and easiest), but it's worth it!

1 pound bacon (thick or thin, it's up to you!)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons whisky (I used Maker's Mark)
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar

Precook the bacon on medium high in a skillet or griddle until slightly flexible but not yet crisp.  You will probably need to do this in several batches, depending on the size of your pan or griddle.  Once the bacon is partially cooked, remove from pan and drain the grease.

While the bacon is cooking, mix the whisky, butter and brown sugar together until the brown sugar dissolves.  Return the bacon to the pan after being drained of grease and add the butter-sugar-whisky mixture to coat the bacon (reserving some if you are cooking in batches).

Cook the bacon until it is crisp (or to the desired doneness).  Remove from pan and place on parchment paper or a baker's rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Note:  This is delicious in pancakes, waffles omelets or just on it's own.  Try not to eat the whole pound yourself!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beef Stroganoff

This is one of my favorite classic dishes.  I like to update it a bit by using a nice cut of steak (it's traditionally made with round steak or top sirloin) and adding roasted red peppers.  Sure, you can make the Hamburger Helper version, but why bother when this is so quick and so much more delicious? 

Yield:  4-6 servings 

2 pounds steak (I recommend tenderloin or strip steak), cut into 1 1/2 inch strips
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup butter
1 cup + 1/2 cup beef broth 
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 cups egg noodles
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Cook mushrooms, onions and garlic in 1/4 cup butter over medium heat until tender.  Roast and slice red pepper and add to vegetable mixture, then set aside. Boil the noodles in salted water until tender, drain and cover to keep warm.

In a skillet on high, sear beef until brown on the outside, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup beef broth and Worcestershire sauce.  Add vegetable mixture to skillet and reduce heat to low.

In a separate saucepan, add 1/4 cup butter and heat on medium until almost completely melted.  Stir in flour and, using a fork or whisk, cook until pastelike, making a roux.  Add heavy cream and remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth.  Cook until creamy, stirring continually.  Stir in sour cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To assemble the stroganoff, spoon egg noodles onto a plate, then top with beef and veggie mixture and sour cream sauce.  Enjoy!

Cajun Shrimp Po' Boy Sliders

Fried shrimp, spicy sauce, crisp coleslaw.  It's Louisiana voodoo! 

Yield:  Serves approx 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a meal 

Slider or sandwich rolls
Vegetable oil (for frying shrimp)
1 1/2 pounds breaded shrimp (I got frozen popcorn shrimp and it worked beautifully) 
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less for desired heat level)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup coleslaw or shredded cabbage, for topping, if desired

Remoulade Sauce: 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon horseradish sauce
4 dashes hot sauce (more or less for desired heat level)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients for the remoulade in a small bowl and season to taste.  Set aside.  Toast slider buns, if desired, and reserve

Heat oil for about 10 minutes at medium high heat.  Mix seasoning ingredients in a large bowl and add the shrimp, toss to coat (you could also do this in a ziplock bag).

Fry the shrimp in the hot oil in batches until golden brown, stirring constantly.  This will take 2-5 minutes per batch.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.

Coat each side of the slider buns with remoulade sauce.  Add the shrimp evenly between the sandwiches.  Top with coleslaw and additional hot sauce, if desired.  You can also add dill pickles, for more authenticity.  Spicy, crispy, delicious!  Enjoy!