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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Pappy's Smokehouse

Even if Pappy's hadn't been on the Best Restaurants list in STL Mag, Ryan and I eventually would have made our way there. It's been raved about by people near and far, everyone from local friends to Adam Richman of Man vs. Food. We knew we wanted to take a trip there for our June Best of 2011 Challenge, but after a busy June (1 weekend away and 2 weekends with company in town), we started to worry we wouldn't fit in it. Last Saturday ended up being free and we hopped on our bikes late morning and made the seven mile trek to the restaurant, arriving only fifteen minutes after their 11:00 opening.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant was already packed, with a line winding from the counter and through the restaurant to the entrance. We busied ourselves studying the menu and before we knew it, we were placing our order. Wanting to try a variety, we settled on sharing a combo meal which came with a half slab of ribs, pulled pork, and 2 sides. Based on Yelp recommendations and advice from friends, we knew to get the sweet potato fries and then selected their coleslaw (vinegar-based, yay!) for our other.

Pappy's not only has outstanding food down to a science, as we soon came to realize, but their restaurant operations proved rather impressive. As I mentioned before, the long line moved much quicker than expected and within five minutes of nabbing a seat, my name was called and our food was delivered. When your restaurant is selling out of food every day and the crowds just keep coming, I suppose you don't have any choice but to operate efficiently!

Before starting in on the meat, we taste-tested the three barbecue sauces available at every table. They ranged from regular to sweet to spicy. The spicy was disappointingly not all that spicy, but I found favor with the sweet variation (surprise surprise) and Ryan preferred the regular. Ryan dug into the ribs and I went straight for the pulled pork, not even bothering to place it on the accompanying bread. Both surpassed our expectations, which had been set high after all we'd heard. The dry rub on the ribs was fabulous, making for a slightly charred exterior with juicy rib meat underneath. I'm rather picky when it comes to ribs, few compare to my dad's (which I'll be enjoying this weekend!!), but these rank as some of the best I've ever had. The same could be said about the pulled pork which was tender and flavorful.

Don't even get me started on the sweet potato fries. I rarely order french fries anymore because they tend to upset my stomach, but these thin fries sprinkled with crusty brown sugar were worth any resulting stomachache (which I never got!). They weren't the least bit greasy and Ryan and I had no problem finishing off the large portion. Though the slaw took second in terms of sides, I particularly liked it and don't think I left more than a bite or two for Ryan. It was simple, not much more than cabbage with oil and vinegar, but its tangy flavor was a nice match to the pork.

We cleaned our plates and rolled out of there, literally. There's no doubt in our minds, we will be back!

One Year Ago: Parmesan Baked Artichokes

Pappy's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling

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My sister Julia is dating a rather wonderful guy, Nate. Seeing how Julia is not only my sister, but also my best friend, I'm naturally a little protective of her. So far, we haven't been able to find a fault with the guy. All except one.

He doesn't like dessert.

You don't have to spend much time on this site to understand my affection love passion for dessert. It runs in the family. Naturally, we find it a little disconcerting when we stumble upon someone who doesn't get excited about ice cream or brownies or cookies.

Even so, I like Nate. We all do. So we're willing to let the dessert thing slide...at least for now. And, it turns out it may not be an issue much longer. I made these blueberry streusel bars and brought them to a picnic and concert we attended at the Botanical Gardens here in St. Louis. I wasn't surprised when Nate grabbed one (he's always polite & smart enough to at least try all of my sweets ;))...but then I saw him take another a little bit later. With a sheepish grin he admitted that he liked the bars. I seized the opportunity and sent him home with about 6 of them piled in a few napkins. Two hours later, I received a text from none other than Nate reading, "So I didn't even get halfway home and those bars are gone."

Dare I say these bars are good enough to convert a non-sweets lover into one?

One Year Ago: Sour Cream Pancakes

Blueberry Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling
seen on Tracey's Culinary Adventures

-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
-1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 large egg, separated
-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-2 tsp lemon zest
-2 1/2 cups room-temperature blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil, leaving a bit of overhang on the sides. Spray the foil with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder. Cut the butter into the mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until pieces of butter are no longer visible. Set aside 2 cups of crumbs.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white with a fork until broken up and foamy. Mix it into the crumb mixture and transfer to mixture into the prepared pan, pressing to form an even crust. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.
4. While crust is baking, whisk together the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and egg yolk. Allow it to stand and thicken for 5 minutes.
5. Remove crust from oven and spread the blueberries over the crust. Drop spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the blueberries, taking care not to crush the berries (the lemon layer doesn't have to completely cover the crust). Return to the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes.
6. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle reserved 2 cups of crumb mixture over the lemon layer, covering it completely. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling at the edges.
7. Allow pan to cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store in refrigerator and serve cold.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greek Cucumber Salad

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Put the word "Greek" in a recipe title and I am immediately drawn to it (case in point: Greek Panzanella). Funny, because I'm pretty sure if you'd asked me a few years ago what Greek food consisted of or what ingredients were in a Greek salad, you would have been met with a blank stare. Oh, how things have changed!

May's issue of Cooking Light featured a few different cucumber side salads, with one of the variations being this Greek one. Since I had such good luck with my last Cooking Light side dish (I'm talking about you, favorite asparagus!), I had high hopes for this one. Cooking Light once again delivered and this was a great side dish at our Mother's Day cookout. The recipe below probably serves about 4--I doubled and 7 of us finished it off...this is another easy recipe to adjust according to how many you want to serve. Because you can make it ahead of time (just refrigerate until serving!), it's ideal to throw in a cooler and take on a picnic or to your neighbor's pool party.

Next time, I might throw some chopped Kalamata olives and crumbled feta cheese in there. For me, my favorite part of the name "Greek" in a food title is the olives and the cheese! However, it's perfectly good  as the vegetable-only version listed. You can also add chopped parsley as the original recipe did; I omitted because my mom isn't particularly keen on the herb and it was Mother's Day after all! Do use fresh oregano if you can--dried won't give you quite the same flavor impact!

Greek Cucumber Salad
adapted from Cooking Light May 2011

-1 1/2 tbsp minced red onion
-3/4 tsp chopped oregano
-1 tbsp lemon juice
-1 1/2 tsp olive oil
-1/8 tsp salt
-2 cups thinly sliced cucumber
-1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
-1/2 cup orange bell pepper strips

1. In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients (red onion through salt).
2. Toss with cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper strips.

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup

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It had been far too long since we'd made pancakes in our household. Because we're out the door at 6:35 am every day and eat breakfast at our desks, pancakes are always a weekend (or breakfast for dinner!) option. Lately we've been opting for eggs on the weekends, mostly because we can't get enough of sweet potato hash. On Memorial Day we took advantage of the extra time on a Monday and made a special breakfast.

I was a little wary about these pancakes as I mixed the batter together. It started fizzing and was very bubbly and airy, unlike most pancake batters I make. Though the pancakes remained puffy, I realized there was no need to worry once we both dug in. The pancakes were thick but not heavy, despite the fact that I used mostly whole wheat flour (ran out of white). These are definitely the type of pancakes you want to pair with fruit--if not strawberries than blueberries or blackberries perhaps. I don't think the lemon flavor would pair well with maple syrup.

What's your favorite kind of pancake? I think it's time we bring back pancakes on the weekends!

One Year Ago: Strawberry Cream Puff Cake

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup
adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
*makes approximately eight 3-inch pancakes

for the pancakes-
-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup all-purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat)
-3 tbsp granulated sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-1 egg
-2 egg whites
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
-2-3 tsp grated lemon zest
-1 tbsp canola oil

for the strawberry syrup-
-1 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped
-1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
-1 tbsp cornstarch
-splash of water

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese, egg, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest, and canola oil. Gently add this mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine. Don't overmix.
3. To make the strawberry syrup, combine strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally and mashing to desired consistency.
4. Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat, spraying with cooking spray. Drop batter onto prepared skillet, cooking each side for approximately two minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and serve pancakes warm with strawberry sauce.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Amaretto Fruit Dip

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At this point my love for amaretto is well realized. I've been known to use it in cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, even whipped cream! You can now add fruit dip to the growing list. Though I love fruit on its own and don't need a creamy dip to convince me to eat it, I'll never turn down a way to make any food more dessert-like ;) Apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way...the dish of this disappeared before the fruit did!

Recipes don't get much easier than this. Three ingredients, a little stirring, and you're ready to go. Everything from berries to melon to apple slices would be good with this...just make sure you have enough dip to pair with your fruit because I guarantee the dip will go first!

One Year Ago: Cheesecake Cookies 

Amaretto Fruit Dip
from here

-1 (4 oz) box vanilla pudding mix
-8 oz. whipped cream topping
-1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
-assorted fruit, chopped

1. In a medium-sized bowl, fold together pudding mix, whipped topping, and Amaretto. Spoon dish into a serving dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Serve cold with bite-sized fruit. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin

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Much as I love cooking at home in my own kitchen, I also love dining out, as you may have guessed by my collection of restaurant reviews. When I eat a meal in a restaurant, it's often more than just satisfying my hunger. Family and friends will tell you that for years I had a not-so-secret desire to be a server in a restaurant. Though that wish was never fulfilled (yet!), I enjoy interacting with and observing my waiters. My favorite types are those who engage in conversation with those dining (without being overbearing), know the menu well enough to make recommendations (none of this "welllll it depends on what you like..."), and of course, offer good, attentive service throughout the meal. Aside from the service, I love to take in the ambience of the restaurant, which often leads to conversations between Ryan and me about our dream restaurants and what they look like and how they operate. Of course, it goes without saying that it's also all about the food. I look to restaurant menus for inspiration (remember the October Special Egg Sandwich?), often ordering things that are unique and different than meals I've had...only to go home and try to recreate them.

Two weeks ago, I had a mind-blowing restaurant experience. Strong words, but I have no better way of describing the evening. My grandparents were in town and took Ryan and me, along with my sister and her boyfriend Nate, out the night before they returned to Wisconsin. We used the opportunity to try out a fairly new St. Louis restaurant: Salt. Considering its short stint in the Central West End thus far, it had high reviews on Yelp, and we were excited to see for ourselves.

I won't bore you with a play by play (though if you're a St. Louisan and want details, shoot me an email!), humor me while I tell you just a few things....
1. Fabulous service. Some of the best I've ever witnessed in a restaurant. Turns out Geoff is not just a server, but a musician and I happen to think he's pretty talented at both. Check out his music, he deserves a shameless Sweets Life plug!
2. Unique ambience. This home turned funeral home turned restaurant is a one-of-a-kind space. I adored the bright lighting, the ornate bathrooms, and the party spaces we had the privilege of checking out after eating.
3. Delectable food. Local, creative, and fresh, this is about as good as it gets. Each small plate that arrived at our table was better than the next. Pork and fennel meatballs with blackberry jam, beet chips with ricotta dipping sauce, and a lingonberry bread pudding were just a few of the standout dishes.

As you can see, an all-around top notch meal that has me itching to return! If you happen to live in St. Louis or find yourself passing through, don't pass up the opportunity to eat here. Better yet, call me up so I can join you!

This Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin was inspired by the one I had at Salt. Though this is a much larger portion of what you get at Salt, it came pretty close to capturing the essence of the original dish...so this will be a good stand-in until I get the opportunity to return!

One Year Ago: No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin
inspired by Salt Restaurant, STL

-1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
-1/2-3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, toasted (I didn't toast, but next time I will!)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange asparagus in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes.
2. Remove dish from oven and season with salt and pepper. Top with goat cheese and panko. Return to oven and broil on low for 5-10 minutes until cheese begins to melt.
3. Remove from oven, squeeze half of a lemon over the asparagus, and serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pineapple Brown Sugar Frozen Yogurt

You had to know a tropical dessert was headed your way, after yesterday's Tropical Salad and Wednesday's Hawaiian Chicken! This was my first attempt at making frozen yogurt as opposed to ice cream. Though I'm never one to turn down creamy, high-fat ice cream, this "healthy" version still tastes like a decadent dessert. It's icy and a little tart; there's a definite texture difference between this and ice cream, but we still found it cool and refreshing!

The nice thing about this dessert was how easy it was to make. This is definitely one of the lowest-maintenances concoctions I've ever made in my ice cream maker. The mixture was so voluminous I had to make it in two batches...meaning the second batch was a little less frozen as the ice cream bowl warmed up. After a night in the freezer, however, it was good to go!

Pineapple Brown Sugar Frozen Yogurt

-1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
-2 (15 oz) cans crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
-4 cups vanilla low-fat yogurt
-2 tsp vanilla yogurt

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and the pineapple. Cook until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Chill. 
2. Combine yogurt with pineapple mixture in a large bowl. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place into a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze at least 1 hour before serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette

To go with our Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches that I showed you in yesterday's post, we needed an "Island-inspired" salad. I found this tropical salad with pineapple vinaigrette on allrecipes.com and it ended up being a great addition to the meal. I liked it enough to eat the leftovers the next morning for breakfast which is saying something...because I don't eat salad for breakfast!

You might notice that the salad in the picture is lacking pineapple...I took the pictures before I was reminded to add the pineapple. Oops! I'm glad Maggie reminded me in time; the pineapple is definitely crucial. I really liked the addition of the macadamia nuts; I've had my can of them sitting in the pantry waiting for the perfect use...ever since those heavenly cookies.

This is a great summer salad to serve alongside chicken, pork, or seafood!

One Year Ago: Cilantro Lime Grilled Vegetables

Tropical Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette
from allrecipes.com

-6 slices bacon
-1/4 cup pineapple juice
-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
-1/4 cup olive oil
-salt & pepper, to taste
-1 (10 oz) package romaine lettuce, chopped
-1 cup diced fresh pineapple
-1/2 cup chopped and toasted macadamia nuts
-3 green onions, chopped
-1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted (I omitted because we had some anti-coconut people eating with us!)

1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium high heat until brown. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together pineapple juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, pineapple, macadamia nuts, onions, and bacon. Toss with dressing and garnish with toasted coconut.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hawaiian Chicken

A few weeks ago, we had a murder mystery dinner party at our house. The theme was "Lethal Luau" and eight of us arrived in character to solve the mystery of who poisoned Chase Diamond. While I won't give the murderer away, I will tell you it was an incredibly fun evening full of accusations and suspense. Check out below the recipe for a few pictures of everyone in action!

We needed a meal to fit the theme and this Hawaiian chicken ended up being perfect. I originally didn't even plan on blogging the chicken, as I didn't think it'd be anything special and I was more preoccupied with solving the mystery than taking pictures of the sandwiches. However, after sampling the chicken I knew it was too good not to share with all of you. The chicken was tender, light, and sweet, providing just the sustenence we needed to buckle down and determine Chase Diamond's killer!

One Year Ago: Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars (you need to make these!)

Hawaiian Chicken 
adapted from Ashley's Cooking Adventures

-3-4 lbs chicken breasts
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1 cup vinegar
-1/2 cup pineapple juice
-1 1/2 cups brown sugar
-2 tsp ginger
-1 1/2 cups water

1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, until chicken shreds easily.
2. With two forks, shred chicken completely. Serve on sandwich buns.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars

Just like the lemon bars, this recipe was recommended to me. Except this time it was my mom, not my grandma, who did the recommending. Turns out women in our family have a thing for lemon bars! After my mom recommended them, I made them the weekend my grandma came to visit and can assure you they are grandma (aka "lemon queen") approved!

I'm certainly not complaining about all the lemon bar recommendations...buttery shortbread and a lemon topping are basically a match made in heaven, especially at this time of year! These pink lemonade bars are lemony without being overwhelming, thanks to the addition of raspberry jam, and they are sprinkled with a bit of leftover crumb mixture rather than powdered sugar. Don't ask me to choose between the aforementioned lemon bars and these--they're both good in their own right. I'll just take a square of each please!

One Year Ago: Asian Inspired Salmon Burgers with Lime-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars
from Family Circle April 2011

for the crust and crumbs-
-2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
-1/8 tsp salt
-1 cup unsalted butter, melted
-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1 1/2 cups sugar
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-5 large eggs
-1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam, stirred to loosen up
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
-zest from 1 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13 x 9 metal baking pan with nonstick foil.
2. Combine 2 cups of flour, sugar, almonds, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to finely grind almonds and blend. With processor running, add butter and vanilla. Set aside 2/3 cup of crumb mixture and press the rest into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. While crust is making, use your hands to blend the remaining 2 tbsp flour into the reserved crumbs.
4. For the filling, whisk together sugar and flour in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in eggs and raspberry jam, followed by the lemon juice and zest.
5. Remove crust from oven and pour the filling over it. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle bars with remaining crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Chill bars in the refrigerator before cutting into bars. Keep refrigerated until serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Taco Pasta Salad

You may recognize the name Maggie. She's mentioned frequently on this blog, as we do a lot of cooking, eating, and vacationing together. Though Maggie and I both think a lot of the same things are fun, there is one area where we disagree: running. Few things excite me more than running. Maggie despises it with a passion. And yet, despite this, Maggie challenged our church community to raise $5,000 for two missionaries that our church supports....with the understanding that if we reached our goal, she would run a 5K.

To make a long story short, over $8,000 was raised and Maggie ran her race...one of my proudest moments as a friend :) This accomplishment called for a celebration and what better way to celebrate than a picnic? I needed to bring something to feed a crowd and this recipe fit the bill. This dish was loved by everyone, even the kids! It's a fun change from your standard Italian pasta salad. It makes a huge batch so halve it if you aren't serving a crowd or wanting leftovers.

Congrats again Maggie, I'm still so proud of you!

One Year Ago: Banana Lime Coconut Cake

Taco Pasta Salad
from Christine's Cuisine

-1 lb pasta (Christine used wagon wheel, I used Farfalle. I recommend something smallish)
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
-2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
-8 oz. shredded Mexican-blend cheese
-1 1/2 cups fresh salsa
-1/2 cup sliced black olives
-1/2 cup olive oil
-3-4 tbsp lime juice
-1 tbsp cumin
-1-2 tsp chili powder
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-freshly ground salt & pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 avocado, diced (I omitted this time, but it would be a great addition!)

1. Cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl (or two medium sized bowls), combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, olives and cheese. Once pasta is cooled, stir in and mix to combine.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Pour over pasta salad and mix well. Stir in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, dice the avocado and carefully stir into salad.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

Rather than try to wax poetic about this amazing ice cream, let me tell you this: Ryan and I fought about who got to finish off this ice cream. Less than forty-eight hours after I had made it. I wish this were a made up story...it's a little embarrassing to admit that we stood arguing in our kitchen, spoons in each of our hands, trying to get the last few bites before the other. I promise we don't always act like animals. That kind of behavior was necessary though. If you recall, I wasn't too keen on sharing the Southern Banana Pudding either. Okay, now I'm really embarrassed. I'm more civilized than that, really!...just not when it comes to Banana Pudding!

Need I say more, really? I think you understand how much we loved this. Ryan claims it's better than the Blue Bell version--his childhood favorite. He even went so far as to suggest that I open an ice cream shop after this came out of the ice cream maker (and my anti-Oreo husband is STILL talking about this ice cream!).

Make this. Now.

On another note--Happy Father's Day to my amazing Dad and wonderful Father-In-Law, both loving fathers whom Ryan and I are way too blessed by! Thankful I get to see them BOTH this weekend!

One Year Ago: Jam & Prosciutto Panini with Walnuts, Apples, and Brie

Banana Pudding Ice Cream
as seen on Fake Ginger, originally adapted from Southern Living

-3/4 cup sugar
-2 tbsp cornstarch
-1/8 tsp salt
-2 cups milk (I used skim)
-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1 egg yolk
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-3 medium-sized ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch slices
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1 tbsp butter
-1 cup coarsely crumbled vanilla wafers

1. In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually whisk in milk and cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until slightly thickened (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into the yolk. Whisk yolk mixture back into cream mixture, until fully combined. Whisk in vanilla extract. Allow to cool completely (30 min to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.
3. In the mean time, place bananas, brown sugar, and butter in a large baking dish. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until browned and softened (stir after 10 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to cool 20-30 minutes.
4. Mash banana mixture with a spoon before stirring into cooled cream mixture. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the cream mixture. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
5. Pour mixture into the freezer container of your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. After ice cream has thickened, stir in vanilla wafers and transfer to a storage container. Freeze until serving.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bourbon Peach Chutney and Brie Crostini

I'm finally finishing up the recipe posts for the Bacon, Bourbon, and Blues party that was now one month ago from tomorrow. I'm definitely not in need of blog content these days, huh? This recipe was one of the few on our spread that did not include bacon, but it still featured bourbon, our other main ingredient of the evening!

This appetizer definitely has a bourbon flavor so I anticipated I wouldn't like it, or any of the cocktails prepared that evening. Turns out, I kind of like bourbon...in food and drink! These pictures don't accurately represent the appetizer--we ended up cutting the pieces in half so people wouldn't be so overwhelmed by their size. It's up to you how you want to serve...this chutney would also be good atop pork, don't limit yourself to the crostini!

One Year Ago: Summery Salad with Chicken, Avocado, and Corn

Bourbon Peach Chutney and Brie Crostini
from Veggies by Season

-1 loaf French bread, cut into slices
-8 oz. wheel of brie
-1 tbsp  extra-virgin olive oil
-2 shallots, finely diced
-1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
-3 large firm peaches, blanched, skinned, and diced (or 1 small package of frozen peaches)
-1/4 cup turbinado sugar
-1/4 cup bourbon
-1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
-salt & white pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, shallots, and jalapeno. Season with salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add peaches and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
2. Stir in sugar before deglazing the pan with the bourbon.
3. Reduce heat to low, add vinegar, and allow liquids to reduce (5-10 minutes).
4. After chutney has thickened, adjust seasonings (salt & pepper) as needed before removing from heat and refrigerating until assembling crostini.
5. Place sliced bread on a foil-lined baking sheet, baking at 400F for 4-5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Top each bread slice with a thin slice of brie and return to oven for 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted as desired.
6. After brie is melted, top each slice with chutney and serve.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Asian Broccoli Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing

I ran across this salad awhile ago and had it saved in my email's "recipes" folder. My title? Salad WITH CABBAGE. You see, I'll often find myself with leftover ingredients that I need to use up before they go bad. Among these are sour cream, buttermilk, bell peppers, and yes, cabbage. When I found myself with a few half-heads of cabbage in my fridge, I recalled this salad and went digging in my email archives.

It turns out I was missing the sesame oil that the dressing called for. Instead, I used hot chile sesame oil, which left my lips tingling when I ate this! I actually liked the heat it gave to the salad, but I've included the original recipe below, with my changes in parenthesis. This was great to take for lunch and kept well for three days, covered in the fridge. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables, but also one of the few that I cannot eat raw, unless it's dipped in something (ha I actually dipped broccoli in my broccoli pesto. Is it just me or does that sound cannibalistic? ). I loved that the broccoli in this was steamed--perfect for my palate and a nice contrast to the crisp cabbage and crunchy peanuts!

This would be good with some grilled chicken in it, to make it more of a main dish. It'd also be a great accompaniment for sandwiches (maybe Chinese Chicken Salad Sandwiches?) or maybe an Asian main dish like Slow Cooker Orange Chicken.

One Year Ago: Coconut Lime Snowballs

Asian Broccoli Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing
adapted from The Vintage Mixer

-1-1 1/2 heads broccoli, chopped to bite size
-1 head cabbage, chopped (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 green cabbage, sliced in my food processor)
-3 carrots, shredded (did this in my food processor)
-1/2 cup - 3/4 cup peanuts

for the dressing-
-1/4 cup rice vinegar
-1/4 cup sesame oil (I used 1/8 cup hot chile sesame oil)
-2-3 tbsp soy sauce
-2 tbsp honey
-2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
-2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
*I ended up making 1.5 batches of the dressing because it seemed like it needed a bit more. It wasn't overdressed with 1.5 batches but make according to your preference!

1. Steam the broccoli (I did in a glass bowl in the microwave). Toss with the cabbage and carrots.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad mixture and toss to combine. Mix in peanuts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cheddar, Bacon, and Chive Savory Cheesecake

I've been drooling over the various savory cheesecakes that Julia has posted on her blog, but haven't had an excuse to make such a large appetizer for any occasion recently. When Maggie and I started planning the Bourbon, Bacon, and Blues party, I knew we'd finally have a reason to make this cheesecake!

This is an INTENSE appetizer. A few party guests cut slices of it as if it were a cheesecake...Ryan didn't even dip crackers in it at first. They soon realized it was a little overwhelming that way! You're best off cutting little slivers to dip your crackers or apples in. This will serve a crowd--even with 20 people munching on this, there was still some leftover! My favorite part was the parmesan crust...I seem to have a thing for cheesecake crust, huh?)

Savory cheesecakes are ideal for parties because they look impressive, serve a crowd, and can be made ahead of time. I can't wait to try another variation sometime! As always, full disclosure...our friend Megan actually prepped this cheesecake and Maggie and I just did the final steps of baking it :)

One Year Ago: Cowboy Caviar

Cheddar, Bacon, and Chive Savory Cheesecake
from fat girl trapped in a skinny body

for the crust-
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
-1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
-6 tbsp melted unsalted butter

for the filling-
-24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, at room temperature
-2 tbsp flour
-3 eggs, at room temperature
-1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
-1/4 cup chives, chopped
-1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
-pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

for the topping-
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
-2 tbsp chopped chives (or green onions)

*serve with crackers, pita chips, or apple slices

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with foil.
2. Combine parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and melted butter in a small bowl. Mix to combine and pour into the springform pan, firmly pressing into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool.
3. Increase oven temperature to 400F. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth (2 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the cheddar, sour cream, chives, bacon, flour, salt, and pepper. Beat until combined before pouring the mixture into the pan.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 and bake for an additional one hour (don't open the door when you lower the temperature). Cheesecake should be slightly golden brown and the center is no longer jiggly.
5. Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan before removing it. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
6. Just before serving, transfer to a platter and sprinkle with toppings.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Bars

Love banana bread? Then you'll love this cookie bar version! I know a lot of people despise the world moist, but there's really no better way to describe the texture of these bars. They're dense, but not overly so, and studded with walnuts and chocolate chips. I added an extra banana to pump up the flavor and the texture and I'm glad I did; there's no mistaking that these are banana bars!

After I sampled a piece, I was a little disappointed that Ryan was taking these to work for his group's food day...I would have had no problem enjoying these for a dessert/snack for a few days! Instead I quickly snapped a few pictures on our doorstep (in the rain I might add!) before he whisked them away and went off to work. Sometimes I really wonder what the neighbors think...

(I then made them a few days later for Ryan's family...subbed pecans for the walnuts and used mini chocolate chips instead. The 9 x 13 pan of them lasted only a few hours!)

One Year Ago: Marinated Cheese

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Bars
from Apple a Day

-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
-1 tsp coarse salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
-1 egg
-1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
-1/2 cup mashed very ripe banana (I used 2)
-1 cup old-fashioned oats
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. With speed on low, mix in egg and vanilla, followed by the bananas.
4. Add the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts.
5. Spread dough in prepared pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack and cut bars into squares when cooled completely.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Frozen Strawberry Squares

If you know me, you know that I'm usually doing ten things at once. I don't just watch an episode of Glee. I watch Glee, play Words with Friends on my Phone, Draft a blog post, and make a mental to-do list....all while baking fresh bread. This drives some people crazy (ahem, Julia and Paige!), but it's how I'm wired.

Some multi-tasking, however, is not so good. Texting and driving, for one (this is actually the one form of multi-tasking you WON'T find me doing. Not worth it!). Trying to make these frozen strawberry squares, while simultaneously making a pasta sauce, boiling a batch of noodles, and a batch of cookies proved to be another one of those bad multi-tasking ideas. Luckily for me, even though my whipped cream was over-beaten and my egg whites refused to stiffen, it had no ill effect on the finished product. Hmmm. So maybe I didn't learn the lesson I was supposed to!

I think it's safe to say then that this recipe is pretty fool-proof. The crust and topping taste like a sugar cookie with a frozen strawberry delight sandwiched between. I did note that the filling got really hard when frozen, and a little difficult to cut. If you let it sit out at room temperature for ten minutes or so, I imagine that will be less of a problem. This is a great summer dessert, and would be perfect for the 4th of July if you mixed some blueberries in with the strawberries!

One Year Ago: Stone Hearth Inn Pretzel Dip

Frozen Strawberry Squares
from She Wears Many Hats

-1 cup flour
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup slivered & chopped almonds
-1/2 cup melted butter
-2 egg whites
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-10 fluid oz. whipping cream
-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
-2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, crushed/smashed

1. Preheat oven to 325F. In a baking pan, combine flour, brown sugar, almonds, and melted butter, spreading out evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool.
2. Once cooled, press 2/3 of the mixture into an 8x8" pan, forming a crust.
3. Beat egg whites and granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gently combine whipping cream, beaten egg whites, lemon juice, and strawberries. Evenly spread mixture over prepared crust.
5. Top with remaining crust mixture. Freeze for 3-6 hours. Remove from freezer and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Monday, June 13, 2011

White Bean & Spinach Bulgur Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese

I was really excited about this dish when I added it to our menu plan and then I realized I had two evenings in a row where I would be eating out. Since Ryan still needed to eat, I went ahead with making it anyway...and then made sure to steal several large bites before storing it away for him to grab the next few evenings. As predicted, I loved the combination of ingredients!

The original recipe called for quinoa, but I had bulgur on hand and used that instead. You can easily swap out your grain of choice. The same could be said about cheeses--feta or goat cheese would pair nicely in this. Ryan ate the whole batch in two days over lunch and dinner, so I know it reheats well and it was liked enough to eat in a row a few different times! This comes together quickly and doesn't take any crazy ingredients, so I plan to make this again when I'm short on time and in need of something fast and flavorful.

Looking for other similar salads? Try Lemon Bulgur Salad with Asparagus & Goat Cheese or Quinoa Salad with Shrimp, Cucumber, Mango & Mint.

One Year Ago: Corn Dip

White Bean & Spinach Bulgur Salad with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Blue Cheese
slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

-1 cup bulgur
-4 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
-1 cup red onion, sliced
-4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp Dijon mustard
-1 clove garlic, grated
-salt & pepper, to taste
-2 large handfuls baby spinach
-1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
-1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in bulgur, remove from heat,  and cover. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, until liquid has been soaked up.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan and set aside, reserving 2 tbsp of bacon grease.
3. In the bacon pan (now empty) caramelize the onions and mushrooms (20-30 minutes), and remove from pan.
4. Add the vinegar to the pan to deglaze it. Stir in the reserved bacon grease, sugar, mustard, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add the spinach and white beans and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. Stir in the bacon, onions, mushrooms, and bulgur. Serve topped with blue cheese.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes

Remember when I tried to make brownie cookie ice cream sandwiches last summer? I've tried hard to banish that baking disaster from my memory, but alas I found myself in a similar situation with these chocolate ice cream cupcakes a few weeks ago. I am clearly not fit to sandwich ice cream between things...it always ends in a melty, leaky mess! Granted, I'm pretty sure I've learned my lesson and I've spotted a few tips & tricks on the internet that will hopefully help next time (Yes, there will be a next time. I'm not giving up yet!). I still consider these a success, however. Though they didn't end up as they were intended, I managed to avoid a meltdown (rather unlike my White Chocolate Amaretto Cake) and came up with a Plan B solution.

I really wanted these to turn out perfectly, because they were for a special someone: Edward. No, I don't have another man in my life...Edward is the perfect, adorable, scrumptious (catch my drift?) son of my friends Greg and Sara. I've totally fallen for this little tot who I've spent the last year watching grow from a teeny tiny baby to a toddler who walks and has a fun little personality. Since I missed his birthday party at the end of April, I was determined to have a party of our own, complete with cake!

As you can see from the pictures, these were Edward-approved. He didn't care that my attempt at sandwiching ice cream inside the cupcakes had gone completely awry (for the record, I instead just placed a scoop of turtle tracks between the cupcakes just before serving and served in a bowl to contain the mess!). In the end, they were still ice cream cupcakes and they were still suited for the birthday boy....mission accomplished.

One Year Ago: Candy Bar Cookie Bars

Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes
slightly adapted from 500 Cupcakes

-1 cup butter, softened
-1 cup superfine sugar (I pulsed regular granulated sugar in my food processor)
-1 1/2 cups flour
-4 tbsp cocoa powder
-1 tsp baking powder
-4 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup (3.5 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
-1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
-ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin pans with paper baking cups (18 total).
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, eggs, and vanilla, beating until smooth and creamy (2-3 minutes).
3. Divide batter evenly among baking cups. Bake for 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
4. Place muffin tins on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and place on rack to cool completely.
5. To make ganache, heat chocolate over a double boiler until melted. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream until well combined. Allow to cool slightly before spreading frosting on each cupcake. Place in an airtight container and store in the freezer for at least one hour, or up to three months.
6. When ready to serve, remove cupcakes from freezer and place in fridge for 30 minutes. Carefully slice cupcakes in half and serve with a scoop of ice cream between each cupcake half.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Panini

I made these paninis one Sunday afternoon when we were having friends over for lunch. Coming straight from church, I knew I wouldn't have a ton of time to put food together. Though these aren't make-ahead, they're still easy enough that you can quickly assemble, press, and serve!

These are much like the Caprese sandwiches I've made before, except that they're warm (always preferred for sandwiches, in my book!) and they have the addition of prosciutto, giving them a little something extra. The recipe below is listed as it was in the epicurious app, but I actually used only 1/4 cup olive oil and had plenty to drizzle on six sandwiches. Rather than grill one large sandwich, I used ciabatta rolls and rye bread, making each individually on the panini press. Do whatever works for you, but take advantage of summer tomatoes and basil and make this sandwich....similar to what you'll find in a coffee or sandwich shop but cheaper and just as fast!

And a "before" picture, for comparison sake!

One Year Ago: Mini Zucchini Cakes with Walnuts

Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Panini
from Bon Appetit, August 2003 (found on the epicurious iphone app)

-1/2 cup olive oil
-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-1 large garlic clove, minced
-8 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
-10 oz. thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
-12 slices of tomato
-12 large fresh basil leaves
-1 (16 oz.) ciabatta bread, halved horizontally (or ciabatta rolls)

1. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, and garlic to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Layer prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on the bottom half the the bread. Drizzle lightly with prepared dressing, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Place top slice of bread on sandwich and cut into 4 equal pieces (if not using rolls).
4. Grill sandwiches on a grill over medium heat (or in a panini press) until golden brown and cheese is melted. If making on the grill, press down occasionally with a spatula to compact.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

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After mentioning the whole bourbon, bacon, blues party theme in yesterday's post, you had to know another bacon recipe was headed your way! I'll change things up a bit tomorrow before I share a few other party recipes with you, but I've been dying to share this with my readers. I found this recipe while researching recipes for the party and passed it along to Maggie, who whipped up a few batches of the popcorn drug. Tasting this popcorn gave me a little insight into the life of an addict!

I could. not. walk. away. Though we had a fabulous spread of foods that evening, this was the one I returned to again and again. Long after my stomach was full, I still found my hand in the bowl of this stuff! I wasn't the only one who found it irresistible--a few hours into the evening, I noticed that the "refill" bag of the stuff had already been broken into by those hanging out in the kitchen.

Love caramel corn? You'll love this! Don't love caramel corn? You'll still love this! The bacon lends a smoky flavor that cuts into some of the typical sweetness. The maple syrup adds another dimension of flavor. Make this for your next party. People will raise an eyebrow when they hear but it is, but I guarantee they won't be able to stay away!

[And before I forget, the winner of the Kelapo Coconut Oil was Commenter #45: Nella! Nella, send me an email (natalie.mclaury@gmail.com) so we can get you your coconut oil soon and you can get to making some homemade granola bars! :) Thanks to all of you that commented--you gave me some GREAT granola bar ideas (Samoa-flavored? Tropical with Macadamia Nuts? Mocha Coconut? Yes! Yes! Yes!)...I will be concocting some other versions in my kitchen in the next few weeks!!]

One Year Ago: Spinach and Artichoke Pasta with Faux Alfredo

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Popcorn
from Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain

-9 strips bacon
-2 1/4 cups unpopped kernel corn (white or yellow)
-1 cup butter
-2 1/4 cups brown sugar
-1 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup, not pancake syrup)
-1/2 cup bourbon
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-vegetable oil
-sea salt

1. Fry bacon. Set aside.
2. Place 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add 3 kernels to the pot..once they begin to pop, add 3/4 cup popcorn (you'll make 3 batches), cover, and shake the pot occasionally, so that the popcorn doesn't burn.
3. When popping has slowed, remove pot from heat and pour popcorn into a large bowl. Repeat twice more.
4. Preheat oven to 250F. Crumble bacon over batch of popped popcorn. In a large pot, bring butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
5. Stir in bourbon, vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Pour caramel mixture over bacon and popcorn mixture before tossing to coat evenly. Evenly spread the mixture over 3 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each tray with salt.
6. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.