Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ham and Pineapple Biscuit Pizzas

Here's a super simple mini "Hawai'ian" pizza biscuit idea.  People loved them, and (other than some chopping) took no time to create at all.

12 buttermilk biscuits (I used pre-made, frozen), cut in half
1/2 C pizza sauce
24 slices of Canadian Bacon (or just chop up a smoked ham steak)
1/2 C drained pineapple tidbits
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 C shredded Colby Jack Cheese
1. Prepare biscuits, if necessary, then slice in half.
2. Line baking sheet with biscuits, cut side up.
3. Smear pizza sauce on each biscuit.
4. Top with ham, pineapple, and bell pepper.
5. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top
6. Bake 7-9 minutes at 350, or until cheese is completely melted.
7. Serve and enjoy.
This go over well.  They still do fine at room temperature, and if you refrigerate them, they do well the next day reheated as a snack.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thirsty(ish) Thursday: Bloody Mary Tomatoes

This recipe needs to be made about 3-7 days in advance.

I ran out of time (after being out of town until 2 days in advance), so my recipe had only 24 hours to marinate.

People still loved it, so I can only imagine how much better these will be over time.

The recipe is here from Oprah.
My only notes is that A) I couldn't find pepper vodka, but I did find Absolut New Orleans, which worked just as well, I imagine. (And it helps a good cause, so bonus!)

B) I didn't have a lot of patience for poking holes in the tomatoes (big surprise), so I took one of those double pronged corn cob holders and ran it completely through each tomato, twice.  It was the most time consuming (active) portion of this recipe.

Not too shabby, I think!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yams with Bleu Cheese and Bacon

This is a relatively simple appetizer that you could customize however you'd like.  The only note is that it needs to be served straight out of the oven.  It cools and becomes greasy quickly.  It reheats well, but you don't want to play with it too much, so you don't interfere with the overall taste and texture.

3-5 large yams (or sweet potatoes), sliced thinly
Season to taste with: Garlic Salt, Black Pepper, Paprika, and dried Thyme
Olive oil (to lightly coat yams)
For the topping (or substitute at will):
8 oz cooked & crumbled bacon
8 oz Bleu Cheese crumbles
Chives for garnish.

Preheat oven to 425.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Toss yams in seasonings and olive oil.
Arrange in single layer on prepped baking sheets.
Bake 25-30 minutes until golden or softened.
Remove yams.  Kick up the oven to a low broil.
Top each round with bleu cheese and bacon.
Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Take out, garnish, and serve immediately.

Unfortunately, I don't have a finished product photo of this one, but I promise you that everyone loved them.  One batch makes about 48, depending on how thinly you slice the yams.  I made a double batch and had only about 10 left.

Awesome sauce, for reals!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Caramel Cafe Mocha Cupcakes

My sister in law is a huge Starbucks fanatic.

Huge.  In fact, I'm sure she spends at least one full paycheck there each year.

When I saw this at the Brown Eyed Baker, I knew I should keep it in mind for her birthday.  I slightly modified it, but in the long run, these treats were a huge success.

Since my SIL is gluten free, I made the entire process easy for myself by investing in Betty Crocker's Gluten Free chocolate cake mix.  I've tried different GF mixes before, but her's is the smoothest I've found so far.  
The only thing I did differently was to add 2 Starbucks Via Italian Roast packets to the mix.  This added the "mocha" flavor I desired.  Bake according to the box's directions.

For the butter cream frosting, it went like this:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ Via Italian roast packets

Mix up butter until smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar.  Once to desired consistency, blend in vanilla and coffee crystals. Start with one packet of Via.  Add as much or as little as you want, depending on the strength of the coffee flavor.
To decorate, I took the naked cupcakes (remove the paper if you use the liners), and placed them in the bottom of a Starbucks hot sample cup.  (They'll share them with you if you buy something there, like the Via.)

Then, leaving a little space around the edge, frost the cupcakes to look like whipped cream.  For the straws, cut the Starbucks' straws into thirds.  Top with caramel drizzle (I used Smucker's from the squeeze tube), and then finished with mini chocolate chips.

FYI: The straw helps to pull the cupcake back out for eating purposes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Salsas

I was trolling the internets in search of a more non-traditional sauce (read non-traditional as no-tomatoes), but something that was still good on a corn chip or pita chip.

Who knew that Oprah could solve my issues??

Luckily, these two base recipes are actually the same, it's just the two main ingredients that change, so let's put it up this way, shall we?
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1/4 C fresh lime juice
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 jalapeno, deeded and minced
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Variation One:
2 C chopped papaya
2 C chopped banana (slightly firm, underripe)

Variation Two:
2 C chopped, seedless cucumber
2 C chopped jicama

Combine all ingredients*.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*With variation one, add banana just before serving
Variation One: Banana Papaya Salsa
Variation Two: Cucumber Jicama Salsa

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Of Pinterest (and other time fillers...)

 So, the 8 gagillion people on Pinterest have already seen this.

But I wanted to try it out.

Favorite cookie dough (PB Chocolate Chip)
Favorite candy bar (Reese's PB Cup)
Favorite brownie mix (Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate)
1. Pre-heat over according to brownie mix
2. Line/grease muffin pans
3. Push in your favorite cookie dough (halfway)
4. Place your favorite candy bar in the middle
5. Top with brownie mix
5. Bake according to brownie box directions.

It took awhile for these brownies to set, so we left it longer than the box directed, but they were amazing just the same!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Blue Lagoon Margarita

secret ingredient!

Over ice, with diving fish
I love fresh margaritas.  Freshly squeezed lime juice and tequila can pretty much make my day.  However, when I was told the family was going to host a "Margarita-Off" competition, I wanted to go a little off center from the norm.  I wanted blue with fish.  The rest is just made up.
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz blue curacao
1 oz tequila
1 oz lime juice - I love the Key Lime juice, but fresh is always amazing.
about 4-6 Sweedish fish

Blended.  To achieve the swimming effect, pour half, place fish, blend more, add to top off.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can-Do Attitude: Balsamic Fig Jam

Fig and Balsamic Jam
2 lbs figs (I used dried calamata pack from Costco)
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup very good balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water

Prepare jars, lids, rings and boiling water bath. 

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, reducing heat when the jam starts to thicken. Use a potato masher to break down the figs as they cook. 
Stir frequently to prevent scorching. When jam begins to reach a desirablethickness, scoop a little out onto one of the spoons from the freezer and place it back in the freezer to cool to room temp. When the jam mounds nicely and does not run quickly off the spoon, it is ready. 

Remove the jam from the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle into hot prepared jars. Wipe the rims and top with prepared lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the boiling water bath and wait 5 minutes to carefully remove the jars to a towel lined tray. Allow to cool, undisturbed, until room temperature. Wipe off any excess water and label.
Makes 12, 4oz jars.

* This is a great, savory jam.  I'd recommend it with a nice crostini and brie.

Mmmm....  Fig jam and brie...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

What better way to round up a Mexican Fiesta than with a "spicy" chocolate cupcake?

I found the original recipe here.
For the cupcakes:
2 cups sifted cake flour (I substituted white rice flour to make it gluten free)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicier.  I omitted it all together)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
For the ganache:
6 ounces (170 g) good dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (146 g) Nutella
3 Tablspoons (43 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (158 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
For the frosting:
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (original recipe calls for 4 cups)
1 package, 8 ounces (228 g) cream cheese, at room temp.
8 Tablespoons (114 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract, clear
cinnamon sticks for decoration (optional)

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour 24 muffin cups, or use paper baking cups.
Mix and sift flour, cocoa, sugar, pepper and baking powder together into a bowl. Add oil, vanilla, eggs, and milk; beat for 30 seconds with a mixer at low speed, scraping the bowl frequently. Beat for 7 1/2 minutes more with a stand mixer at medium speed or 6 minutes with a hand mixer at high speed, scraping the bowl 4 – 5 times.
Pour batter into pans. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from oven and cool in pans for about 12 minutes. Remove muffins from pans and finish cooling on a wire rack.  Then, I used the tip of a teaspon to cut out the middles of the cupcakes for a place to fill in the ganache.

For the Ganache:
Take all ingredients and melt them in the microwave (about 45 seconds), stirring at least once.
Fill the cupcake using a small spoon with ganache until the ganache reaches the rims of the top of the cupcake.
The cupcakes are now ready to be frosted.
For the frosting:
In a bowl sift together the chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed for about 4 minutes.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix together.
The frosting is now ready to be piped onto the cupcakes. Use a bigger tip for bigger swirls. Decorate with a cinnamon stick .

Thanks to my MIL for modeling her cupcake!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

 Let freedom ring my friends!

Today, at least in my case, that means not doing a red, white, and/or blue themed post.  It means I have the right to choose what I post about.  I mean, this is America, right?  We like to stand behind our rights, so that only makes sense.

And, actually?  I just don't have any red, white, or blue themed recipes that I want to share at this moment.  But, what I do want to share is awesome, just the same.
 Today, we're talking about Chocolate Cupcakes with a Peanut Butter-Cream Frosting Dipped in Chocolate.

Yes, those capital letters were absolutely necessary.  I feel as though I should be yelling how much I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!!  But, let's try to keep ourselves contained, at least a little bit, right?

First off, start with your favorite chocolate cupcake base.  I really love the base I used for the Oreo cupcakes (minus the Oreo). You could use your own favorite or even a box mix.  I won't tell.
 To me, the glory here comes in the top half of the cake, so that's what I'm going to focus on.

Peanut Butter Cream Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons softened unsalted butter,
cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* this only covers about 12 cupcakes *

1. Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl.
2. Set bowl over pan of simmering water. Gently whisk until mixture registers 160 degrees F on instant-read thermometer. (I just went until it's warm to the touch).
3. With whisk attachment on your mixer, whip on medium-high speed until mixture resembles consistency of shaving cream.
4. On medium speed, add butter one piece at a time, until combined and creamy.
5. Whip in peanut butter and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
6. Using a zip lock bag, or a nice frosting bag and tip, pipe on that frosting, and let it go high.  Looks aren't necessarily important since all imperfections will be covered with the chocolate dip.  You could also just stop here and have a great recipe for PB Cream Frosting on Chocolate cupcakes, but why stop when you know it can only get better?
7. Place frosted cupcakes in the fridge for at least an hour to let the butter cream harden.

Chocolate Dip Ingredients:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* this only covers about 8-12 cupcakes *

1. Melt chocolate and oil together (in microwave or through a double boiler approach)
2. Dip cold cupcakes directly into the chocolate.  It helps if you have a tall, relatively skinny container for the chocolate. Cover all of the butter cream frosting.
3. Let harden in fridge and enjoy!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Can-Do Attitude: Pressure Canner

Who got a new toy?  This girl!

I've always said that with my garden, I can't fathom being able to throw the extra food away, but I've never really had a way to preserve it all without pickling it, and I'm not a pickle person.

Not the way Peter Piper ever wanted me to be, anyway.

But that's another story for another day.
 I wanted to try a recipe that I knew I wouldn't mind having a lot of as my inaugural run with my pressure cooker.  I went with carrots in an orange juice/brown sugar sauce since that's generally how I like to prepare my carrots.