Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheddar Chive Biscuits - SRC

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Rachel Cotterill, who lives in England and has a great passion for travel and learning a wide variety of skills, from juggling to rope splicing.  She has authored a couple of novels as well. Impressive!

Rachel has an abundance of vegetarian dishes on her blog, and many interesting ethnic foods I had never heard of, such as Kalaalit Kaagiat  (Greenlandic cake), Pastiera Napoletana (Italian Easter Pie), and Baslama (Turkish grilled flatbread).

But when I saw these scrumptious-sounding biscuits (or scones, as they're called in England), I had to try them.  I'm sorry, Rachel - I had to call them biscuits because in my house, "scones" are sweet and served for breakfast.  I didn't want to confuse my children (or husband)!

I made them as an accompaniment to this soup and the dinner was a HUGE hit.  The kids couldn't stop talking about how much they loved the biscuits and how tasty they are, without even a smear of butter inside. (of course, I was thinking that a brush of garlic butter would be fabulous, but it's really not necessary).
The leftovers reheated in the oven beautifully the next day and were nearly as good as fresh.

This is a keeper recipe for sure.  Thanks, Rachel!

Cheddar Chive Biscuits
Makes a large batch - about 10 3" biscuits and 12 to 14 1-1/2 " biscuits

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour 
5 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (4 oz) salted butter
4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
black pepper, to taste
3/4 ounce chopped chives (or other desired herb, such as rosemary, parsley, or sage)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk (I used milk - and I didn't need quite all of it)

Preheat oven to 400° F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Grate the cold butter into the flour and mix with fingers to make mixture with the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add most of the cheese to the bowl, reserving some for sprinkling on the tops.
Season with pepper and chives (or other herb).  Stir to combine.
Break the eggs into the middle of the bowl and add a little milk.  Start to pull the mixture together, adding extra milk as needed to make a soft (but not very sticky) dough.  Mix just until combined - trying not to knead it much.
Roll out the mixture to about 1 inch thick on a floured surface and cut with a biscuit cutter.  I made some large and some miniature.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with a little milk and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

adapted slightly from Rachel Cotterill 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache

Okay, so don't hate me.
This cheesecake has a ton of steps and more than a few calories. I think I may have gained 2 pounds the week we ate it. (not a joke)
And, I made it for Valentine's Day and haven't gotten around to typing it up until now.

Y'all know I love cheesecake. Definitely more than the normal person.  I've made quite a few that I thought were top of the line.  But this one.......this one really is at the top.

Oreo crust, rich homemade caramel flavoring the cheesecake and a layer of extra sauce dripping out of the sides, smooth and creamy ganache, and mildly sweetened whipped cream topping it off.  
It's phenomenal.
The only thing that could make it better (for some people) would be some toasted pecans, making that classic turtle flavor.

I love love love this caramel sauce recipe.  I've tried several, with varying degrees of success (read: some outright failures, resulting in tears a few times) over the years, and this one was not only simple, but simply divine.  I did burn the first batch, but that was only because I walked away from the stove for too long.  So keep an eye on it.  But if you follow the tutorial (linked to in the recipe, it's fantastic), you should end up with a jar full of pure deliciousness that you'll almost hate to put in a cheesecake because you just want it eat it by the spoonful.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I am also thrilled with the stabilized whipped cream.  I can tell you that it stayed perfectly piped on the cheesecake leftovers for the entire week while Grant and I nibbled away at it each night - no drips, oozing, or melting.  But it still tastes like regular whipped cream.  I've wondered how to pull that off for years - probably since my first Cheesecake Factory visit.  Now I can do it myself!!!  Major score.

The only thing I should note about the whipped cream is that this recipe makes WAY too much for this cheesecake.  And I was very generous with extra dollops on top of each piece as I served it.  So next time I'll just reduce it in half (hopefully that won't affect the way the gelatin works at all) and hope for the best.

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Caramel Sauce: 
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 Tbsp. salted butter
3/4 to 1 tsp. kosher salt (to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water

1 Family Size package chocolate sandwich cookies (like Oreos), finely processed into crumbs (about 45 cookies)
7 Tbsp. salted butter, melted and cooled

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Filling: 
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup caramel sauce 

Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate
8 oz. heavy cream

Stabilized Whipped Cream:
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar 

Step 1. Make Caramel Sauce
**See Baking a Moment for an awesome tutorial
  • In a small pot, gently heat the cream, butter, and salt until the butter has melted and the salt has completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  • In a larger pot, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Heat over a medium high flame, swirling the pot occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.  
  • Continue to boil the sugar mixture until the bubbles begin to get smaller and it becomes amber colored.
  • Reduce the heat to low and pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps or crystals.
  • Immediately transfer the hot mixture to a heat-safe container and cool completely.  
Step 2. Make Oreo Crust
  • Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Combine crushed cookies and melted butter until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press into bottom and up the sides of springform pan.  Place in freezer while you prepare filling.  
Step 3. Make Salted Caramel Cheesecake Filling
  • Heat oven to 300°F. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth. Beat in eggs, one a time, just until blended.  Add heavy cream and 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce; stir until blended.  Pour filling over crust.
  • Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until edge of cheesecake is set at least 2 inches from edge of pan but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly.  Turn oven off; open door 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen cheesecake.  Cool in pan on cooling rack 30 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. 
  • Remove from refrigerator and pour the salted caramel sauce on top.  Use as much as you want - but be sure to reserve some for drizzling when serving. Put back in the refrigerator while you make the ganache. 
Step 4. Make Chocolate Ganache
  • Chop the chocolate finely and place in a medium bowl.
  • Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes, until it's still pour-able but no longer hot.
  • Pour ganache on top of caramel layer and refrigerate while you make the whipped cream. 
Step 5. Make Stabilized Whipped Cream
  • Place 1/4 cup of cold water in a small sauce pan, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. Let the gelatin soften and absorb all of the water (about 5 minutes)
  • Place pan over low heat and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Let it cool off the heat while you complete the next step.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Slowly pour in warm dissolved gelatin and mix until soft peaks reform.  You may not get stiff peaks, but it will be perfect for piping on top of cheesecake, pies, and other desserts.
  • Place whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a 1M tip, remove cake from fridge, and pipe whipped cream out on edge of cheesecake.  Drizzle top of cake with caramel sauce and sprinkle with flaked sea salt if desired.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sources: adapted slightly from Tidy Mom; caramel sauce with tutorial from Baking a Moment

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spicy Corn Chowder with Chicken - SRC

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  (And Happy Birthday to my younger sis, Anna!)

So this isn't exactly an Irish recipe - but it does have potatoes in it, so that has to count for something.

And, I got the recipe from the blog of a lovely lady from England......which is neighbors with Ireland, so that has to count for something too. (little bit of a stretch there, I admit it)

For this month's Secret Recipe Club assignment, I had the pleasure of visiting Sarah's Kitchen.  Although Sarah is originally from England, she has been living in the States for 12 years and has been an American citizen for four.  She loves crafts and couponing, as well as cooking and baking.

She has a wide variety of recipes on her blog - one that I found particularly alluring was the Processor Danish Pastries.  I actually made them over the weekend with some variations on the fillings and absolutely loved them - but I failed miserably at getting the dough to stay pinched closed and the pastries were....shall we say....messy looking.  Certainly not photogenic.  But totally mouth-watering and irresistible.  I can't wait to try again with that dough.  It was so easy and flaky, buttery perfection.

But that was okay, because I had already made another recipe from her blog that I loved as well.  This chowder is so flavorful with the variety of peppers, but overly spicy.  Although my son thought I was crazy for pureeing part of the mixture, it really helps to thicken it up and make it more chowder-like and not as much of a brothy soup.   It's hearty, satisfying, and just perfect for a chilly evening.   I loved the little chunks of browned chicken breast in there, as well as the crispy bacon on top, but you could certainly make this vegetarian with equally good results, I'm sure.

Spicy Corn Chowder with Chicken

4 slices of bacon 
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
4 small/medium potatoes, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp. dried thyme)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 cups cooked and diced or shredded chicken (I just seasoned a couple of chicken breasts with salt and pepper and sauteed in a bit of oil in a frying pan until cooked through)

Cut the bacon into strips and fry in a large dutch oven until crispy; set aside.  If you used turkey bacon like I did, you might need to add a little oil to the pan - if you use regular bacon, drain grease, reserving 1 Tbsp.
To the reserved fat, add the onion, jalapeno, poblano pepper, red pepper, and corn. Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add in the potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree.  Add back to the soup pot and add in the milk, heavy cream, and cooked chicken. Let simmer for a few minutes.  Top each bowl with some crumbled bacon.

Adapted slightly from Sarah's Kitchen

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

How's everybody liking the return of Daylight Savings Time?

Me??  I'm loving it.

It makes me so happy to have sunlight later in the day....and it makes me nearly giddy to have a few uninterrupted minutes in the morning with my husband (and once he leaves, to myself) without my darling littlest ones pulling on my pant legs asking for vitamins or bananas or cereal or my ipod.....because they're still asleep.  :)

I currently have a bunch of quickly ripening bananas in my fruit bowl and I'm gonna make a batch of these to welcome the kiddos up from their slumber today.

When I first saw this recipe, I was seriously skeptical.
The notion that you could make legitimate muffins, that actually look and taste and feel like muffins, without any flour whatsoever just perplexed me.  It just wasn't possible.  Was it??

Curiosity got the best of me and I made a batch recently.
I could not have been more pleasantly surprised.

They're tender, moist, and even have a crumb just like regular muffins.  We kinda went crazy for them.  Even my boy who has gotten rather weary of me making "banana" muffins.  Could have been the chocolate, but whatever.

What's also awesome is how fast they go together.  Throw a few ingredients in a blender, whir it around until it's smooth and creamy, stir in a little chocolate, and bake.  Couldn't be easier.

And while we are certainly not a gluten-free family, it's pretty awesome to have some recipes that are.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Mini-Muffins
Yield: ~ 40 mini-muffins

2 medium bananas, peeled (don't need to be over-ripe)
2 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter
4 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate - optional

Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare mini-muffin tins by lining with paper liners or spraying generously with floured cooking spray.

Place bananas and eggs into a blender and puree until smooth.  Add peanut butter, honey, vanilla, baking soda, and salt and puree again until thoroughly combined.  Add chocolate and stir by hand.

Fill mini-muffin tins 3/4 full.  Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few crumbs.  Be sure to watch closely, as all ovens are different!
Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes - until they're cool enough to handle.
Muffins are best fresh - but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 4 months.

Note: If you used the muffin liners, some of the batter will stick to them.  If you wait until the muffins are completely cool, it will be easier to remove them.  You may still be nibbling some of the muffin off of them. :)

Source: adapted slightly from Averie Cooks

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Browned Butter Snickerdoodles

Ever since I made these, I had been itching to make something else with some irresistibly scrumptious browned butter.
This recipe had caught my eye and been lingering in my mind for awhile and when I finally I made them, I regretted waiting so long.

Snickerdoodles are an old classic and are always delicious, although certainly not as wildly popular as the stand-by chocolate chip cookie. I rarely make desserts without chocolate in some form, if the truth be told.

But the browned butter was enticing me.

And I was blown away by the flavor it imparted.  Blown. away.

These immediately jumped to the list of favorite cookies and are there to stay. I will never make normal snickerdoodles again.

Browned Butter Snickerdoodles

2 sticks butter (I used salted)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. vanilla yogurt (buttermilk or sour cream are good substitutes, or even plain milk in a pinch)

For rolling:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Continue to heat and stir until it turns brown and gives off a nutty aroma.  It will get foamy and also get some brown flecks in the bottom.  That is fine.  Just don't burn it!  Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to cool down and prevent burning.  Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cooled browned butter and both sugars until completely blended.  Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined.  Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low speed just until combined.

The dough will be very soft.  Chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator, longer if possible.

Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  Once the dough is chilled, roll into balls and roll the balls in the sugar mixture until well coated.  Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look slightly underdone in the middle but will continue to cook once out of the oven.  After a couple of minutes, remove from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Adapted slightly from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Homemade Brown Bread

We were running low on bread recently and I didn't have a trip to the grocery store planned for a few days - so I decided to make some homemade bread.  It had been awhile anyways.....a long overdue treat.

I had just spotted this recipe in a Taste of Home cookbook from 1999 and it made me think of my friend Jenny.
See, Jenny was our neighbor across the street for 3 years in VA and quickly became a dear friend, as well as Corban's piano teacher.  Our kids loved to play together and we spent many a summer evening standing outside chatting in the driveway while occasionally chasing our toddlers and watching the older children ride bikes up and down the sidewalk.  Jenny is a great bread baker and there were several times that she would drop by with a freshly baked loaf, just because.  How's that for a good neighbor??? :)

Anyways, one of the breads she made had oatmeal in it.....and I really loved it.  I had never baked a bread with oats in it before and it was just so delicious.  I totally need to get that recipe from her.
When I read this one, I thought maybe it was similar to what she had I couldn't wait to try it.

What's interesting is that while the bread has a cup of oats in it, after they're soaked in boiling water for awhile and mixed into the dough, you really don't even notice them in the finished loaves.  The addition of both molasses and brown sugar make this a lightly sweet bread that tastes amazing just plain, without butter.

I think it's not exactly like Jenny's bread, but I have a feeling her family would love it as much as mine did. I wish I could take her a loaf.  (of course, now that I'm in Arkansas and her family has just moved to Germany, that would be exceptionally difficult).

Homemade Brown Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1-1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. bulk yeast (or a 1/4 ounce package active dry yeast)
3/4 cup warm water (110° - 115°)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
4-3/4 to 5-1/4 cups flour (I used 3 cups white whole wheat and 2-1/4 cups all purpose)
Melted butter

In a medium bowl, combine boiling water, oats, butter, and salt.  Cool to 110-115°.
In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Sprinkle with sugar. Add oat mixture, brown sugar, molasses, and 3 cups of flour; mix well. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Divide in half and shape into two loaves.  Place in greased 9-in x 5-in x 3-in loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.  Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks. Brush with melted butter.

Source: Adapted slightly from Taste of Home 1999 Annual Recipes

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jalapeno Popper Dip - SRC

Y'all have undoubtedly guessed by now that I have a major sweet tooth.  Like, it takes up my whole head sweet tooth.  It's a real problem.  

But if there were ever an appetizer that would tempt me to indulge in it instead of having dessert, this is it.
Well, in all seriousness, it's hard for anything to compete with a dish that features 3 (!!) kinds of cheese, bacon, butter, and the scrumptious flavor (but not much heat) of jalapenos.

"I just want to dive into that dip!" exclaimed my friend after she sampled it.
I wanted to join her.
And our husbands did too.
The kids didn't go crazy for it, but that was really okay, because the four adults who were there managed to eat at least half of it during the Super Bowl (which none of us were watching).

And you know what?  While the dip was really best with corn chips, it was also totally awesome on some leftover steamed broccoli the next day.  Which made me feel like I was really making healthy choices. Clearly I have issues. 

So many thanks to Heather, who blogs at Join Us, Pull Up a Chair, my Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month. She has lots of delicious sounding recipes like Sausage Stuffed Zucchini (can't wait for summer to try that one!) and Apple Glazed Pork Tenderloin.  I'm also planning on making her Roasted Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup this week, which sounds ridiculously yummy and might even get my children to eat cauliflower without complaints!

But this dip....ohhhhhhh, this dip.  I'm still drooling over the thought of it a week later and am looking for the next excuse to make it.  Preferably a gathering where there are people to share it with, but not so many people that I don't get my fair share.  :)

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Note: Use care when handling jalapenos - the seeds and membranes can cause some serious burning issues on your fingers.  Speaking from experience here. I usually hold the cut jalapenos with my hand inside the plastic bag from the store - since I don't have food-safe gloves on hand.

2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
8 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped (I used turkey bacon)
6 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°.  In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients (except for the topping ingredients). Pour into a greased 2 quart baking dish.

In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients with a fork and sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers, chips, or vegetables.

Source: adapted slightly from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair

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