Monday, March 31, 2014

Linzer Muffins

A twist on the classic Linzer Tarts!

  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled completely
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin cups or fill with cupcake liners.

    Grind almonds with sugar and zest in a food processor until almonds are finely ground.

    Whisk together flour, almond mixture, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk together milk, butter, egg, and almond extract in a small bowl, then stir into dry ingredients until combined.

    Put 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup.
    Top each with one rounded teaspoon of jam.

    Divide remaining batter among cups. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Southern Comfort - Pimento Cheese Spread (+Grilled Cheese Sandwich)

    Pimento Cheese spread is a southern comfort food.  It is as basic as peanut butter.  Pimento cheese shows up at tailgate parties, picnics, bridge clubs, church events, wedding feasts and funeral gatherings.  There are hundreds of variations for this spread.  Maybe y'all may be lucky enough to have a recipe handed down from past generations.  

    It is great to serve on crackers or celery, on a hamburger, chili dog or in a grilled cheese sandwich. The traditional pimento cheese sandwich is served between two slices of white bread (crusts removed).

    The sandwich is an essential part of the Master's Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA.  Wrapped in waxed paper, these sandwiches sell for $1.25 at the food tents at the Tournament.

    2 cups grated sharp Cheddar Cheese
    1 cup finely drained chopped pimentos, or drained roasted red peppers
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1 Tbsp. grated onion
    1 Tbsp. chopped dill pickle
    1 tsp. yellow mustard
    Pinch of cayenne pepper
    Pinch of celery salt
    Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.  Chill until ready to serve.  Spread two slices of hearty rye bread with about 1/2 tsp. reserved bacon drippings for a hint of bacon flavor.  Of course, two slices of bacon would be great on this sandwich!   Grill quickly on each side until brown.  Finish in a moderate oven until cheese is fully melted.

    Serves 12 as a dip and about 4 sandwiches.

    Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Ropa Vieja - Cuban Beef Stew (Pressure Cooker)

    Cuban Beef Stew is a simple dish.  Shredded beef, peppers and onions that are braised in a deeply flavored tomato sauce with olives, garlic, cumin and oregano.  I first had this dish over at my neighbors house and I just fell in love with the flavors.  This dish can also be made in the slow-cooker or braised on top of the stove - so there is no excuse not to make this!
    2 lbs. flank steak, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
    Salt and Pepper
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1 large Spanish onion, halved and sliced 1/2" thick
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tsp. dried oregano
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
    1 cup beef broth
    1 (28 or 32 ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
    1 roasted red pepper, cut into strips
    1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved
    2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
    1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
    1 tsp. sugar

    Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in pressure-cooker pot over medium high heat until just smoking.  Brown half of meat on both sides, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to bowl.

    Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in empty pot over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, oregano, cumin and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in broth.  Scrape up all browned bits stuck on bottom of pot.  Stir in tomatoes, olives, browned beef and any juices and remaining unbrowned beef.

    Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes.

    Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes.  Release any remaining pressure.  

    Transfer beef to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred meat into bite-size pieces.  Return to pressure cooker.  Stir in peppers, parsley, vinegar and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Lock pressure cooker lid, return to high pressure and cook an additional 15 minutes.

    Serve with yellow or white rice.
    Crock Pot - 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW.  Brown beef as directed above and add remaining ingredients to Crock Pot.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    Cheez-it Mac & Cheese

    Try Cheez-it crackers as a crunchy, salty, cheesy topping for your next mac and cheese!
    Cheez-It Mac and Cheese
    1 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked to package instructions
    1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
    2 cups shredded Gruy√®re cheese
    4 cups shredded fontina
    1/2 cup breadcrumbs
    ½ cup crushed Cheez-Its
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
    Add the cooked pasta to a greased 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. 
    In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the stick of butter over low heat. When the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour and whisk well until its evenly incorporated into the butter. Let the roux cook, while whisking, over low heat, until a buttery-baked smell permeates and the roux starts bubbling all over the surface. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, and then increase the heat to medium. Season the bechamel with salt and pepper to taste, and then add the nutmeg. Let the sauce cook over high heat until boiling, and then remove from heat and add the cheeses (except the Parmesan). Stir well so that they're all completely melted. 
    Pour the sauce over the pasta in the baking dish and, using tongs or a spoon, toss well so that each piece of pasta is coated well with the sauce. In a small bowl, melt the tablespoon of butter and add the breadcrumbs. Stir well, and then add the crushed Cheez-Its. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly on top. Bake the mac and cheese in the oven until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 30-45 minutes.

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic (Aglio e Olio)

    It doesn't get any simpler than this classic Italian dish.
    1 lb. spaghetti or vermicelli
    5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
    1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

    Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.  Stir the spaghetti into the boiling water.

    Return to a boil. We know how to cook spaghetti, just went a little camera crazy.
    Cook the pasta until al dente, about 6 minutes.

    Heat 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, shaking the skillet and stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes.

    Remove from heat and add crushed red pepper.
    Ladle about 1-1/2 cups of the pasta-cooking water into the sauce.  Add the parsley, the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and salt to taste.

    If the skillet is large enough, fish the pasta out of the boiling water and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet.

    If not, drain the pasta (after you have removed the cooking water for the sauce).
    Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer, tossing to coat with sauce.  Cook until the pasta is coated with the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and toss in the grated cheese.

    Serve immediately with extra grated cheese.

    Friday, March 7, 2014

    Small Batch Potato & Cheese Pierogi

    If you have never tried making pierogi before, or just have a craving and don't want to go through all the fuss, this is a perfect recipe.  It makes just about 2 dozen pierogi - enough for a snack for my boys!  It's even easier if you make the delicious potato filling the day before.

    2 eggs
    1/4 cup sour cream
    1 cup warm water
    1 tsp. Kosher salt
    3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour


    1 lb. Russet potatoes
    1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
    2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese (yellow or white)
    1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    To make the dough:

    In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, water and salt.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated.

    Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp paper towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

    To make the filling:
    Peel and cube potatoes.  Place in a medium pot.  Rinse once or twice and cover with cold water.  Add salt to taste and bring to a boil.  Simmer potatoes until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

    In a medium saute pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add chopped onions and saute until softened until light golden brown.  Remove from heat. Reserve about 1/4 cup for finished pierogi.  

    Drain potatoes and mash.  I still have one of those old-fashioned potato mashers.  Add onions with butter from the pan, cheddar and ricotta cheese and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
    These mashed potatoes are delicious on their own!  A different way to serve tradtional mashed potatoes.  Can you image these with some gravy!

    To assemble:

    Place dough on a well-floured work surface.  Set a small bowl of water next to your work area.  Divide dough in half.  Roll out one half of the dough to approximately 1/4" thick - as thin as possible while still being able to work with it.  If dough shrinks back while rolling, cover and let rest a little longer. Cut out dough rounds using a 3" round biscuit cutter (or use a coffee cup or the rim of a drinking glass).  Place 1 Tbsp. of the filling in the center of each circle.  Dip your fingers in the water and moisten the edge of half of the circle, then fold the other half over to make a half moon shape.  Press and seal the edges together.  

    Cover filled pierogi with a clean towel while you work with the rest of the dough. Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Working in batches of 6 to 8, drop the pierogi into the boiling water and give them a gentle stir so they don't stick together or to the bottom of the pot.  When they float to the top, lower the heat and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a platter. 


    Melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter in a medium saute pan.  Sprinkle the pierogi with the reserved onion and drizzle with melted butter.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve hot with sour cream on the side.


    Melt 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a heavy-duty skillet over medium heat.  Cook the boiled pierogi, flipping once, until golden brown and crispy on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes.  Serve as above with onion and sour cream.

    This is a great dish during Lent.  It's even easier if you make the potatoes the day before, then you just have to work with the dough.  Once you get started it goes quickly!

    Makes about 2 dozen

    Monday, March 3, 2014

    Cookbook Giveaway - Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible

    I'm thrilled to have won Paula Deen's Recipe Swap and Photo Challenge !
    To celebrate my achievement and 7,000 Facebook Fans, I'm offering her cookbook that is her proudest achievement so far!  It's for every bride, graduate, and anyone who has a love of a great Southern Meal.

    Thanks for your support and Good Luck!

    Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

    This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you! 2 cups water 1...