Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's not to love? - Banana's Foster Cheesecake

One word, cheesecake. Do you love it like I do?? I love it. Any flavor, any crust, any topping....I love them all. The cheesecake factory display counter is like a beacon of light drawing me in closer and closer. I usually find myself with my mouth gaping wide open at the site of all of the deliciousness that is only separated by a thin sheet of glass. Cheesecakes are a delicate treat and one that should really only be enjoyed ever so often due to the sheer amount of cream and love that goes into one. I am not a fake cheesecake girl, you know, the kind you open up a bag of some powder stuff and pour in some other stuff and then let it cool and it will set. Those don't fool me for a second. I want the real deal when I have one. I want to be able to glide my fork through the soft center and lick every morsel off of the plate when I am done. I have a cheesecake recipe that I will share at a later time but this recipe is for all of you who need a quick fix dessert and want to really impress your guests. Drum roll please.....I present to you Banana's Foster Cheesecake. Well, really you are only going to make the topping but you will take credit for the WHOLE THING! Got it!? This will have your guests begging for more, I promise. The sweet creamy texture of the caramel bananas and warm gooey sauce are a perfect blend with creamy cheesecake. Best part, it will only take you about 10 minutes to fool everyone.
First, you are going to start with a store bought plain cheesecake. I would buy a good quality one, I mean, don't go cheap now! This topping will make enough for around 6-8 servings so double if you are having a large party.

Banana's Foster Cheesecake
1 store bought cheesecake
4 bananas thinly sliced
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
zest of one orange (optional but delicious)
1/4 cup rum or 2 tsp rum extract (you can omit this all together but you will always wonder....)

In a heavy bottom large saucepan on medium heat combine the butter, sugar and cinnamon. Allow the sauce to bubble and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, then add in the bananas. Allow the bananas to caramelize in the sauce, approx. 5-6 minutes. If you are not using rum you are ready to serve. If you are using run, remove the pan from the heat, pour in the rum, then return to the heat and light with a long lighter. Allow the alcohol to burn off, approx 2-3 minutes. Place cheesecake on individual plates then top off with sauce. You can also use this topping over ice cream, just pre scoop and freeze then bowls before topping.

Mock-Cocktail Time - Holiday Pomegranate Punch

I love punch recipes. They are all the same yet different. There is something fun about punch at a party and for some reason we only make punch for special occasions. If I could afford it I would have a coffee and punch bar set up year round. Punch seems to be the ultimate southern lady drink and it seems to taste the best when served in a small clear glass cup with your pinkie finger sticking out.
There is party that I have catered for three years now during the holiday. Like most parties they have a large bar area set up but I always make a non-alcoholic option for those who either have had too much to drink, or for those who don't want to even go there in public. It is a pomegranate punch that to me seems to have the perfect sweet and tart bite and it is a beautiful red color. You can easily change it a number of ways since, once again, it is pretty hard to mess up punch! So, for those of you throwing a good party this year, try adding this to your drink line. Don't for get the fancy clear cups!

Pomegranate Punch
1/2 bottle cranberry pomegranate juice
1 liter ginger ale
1/4 bottle orange juice
juice of one lime
Garnishes: frozen lime slices, frozen cranberries, frozen orange slice, fresh mint

Pour all into a large container and throw in frozen garnishes to keep the punch cold.

Enjoy Y'all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cheesy Taters 101

I love potatoes. I especially love cheesy potato casserole. You know what I am talking about. We call them crack potatoes or my husband's family calls them funeral potatoes because that is what you always take to a family for a meal. Cracker Barrel was probably the first place I ever had cheesy potato casserole but I had them once when I was younger in South Texas and someone had used crinkle fries in the place of hash-browns. It blew my mind. I loved them. They also used cream of mushroom in place of cream of chicken and I loved that too. Really...I love them all!! So, I have decided to put together a basic cheesy potato casserole 101 for those of you out there who are afraid to live a little and step outside of your cooking box. A potato is a potato, you can't mess it up. No matter how much cheese and cream you add to it, it will always love you back! We will be making these in a few weeks for Christmas since this is typically the potato on Christmas day along with a spiral ham and southern green beans. So, pick your potato, pick your cream, pick your topping and get to work!

Cracker Barrel/Funeral/Crack/Cheesy Potato Casserole

Type of frozen potatoes that will always work:
Crinkle Cut Fries
Shoe String Fries
Shredded Hash-browns
Cubed hash-browns

Pick your soup- 1 can per bag of potatoes:
Cream of Chicken
Cream of Mushroom
Cream of Celery

Pick your Cheese- you need 2-3 cups:
Extra Sharp Cheddar
Colby Jack
Pepper Jack

Toppings - need at least 1 cup and you will add 2 Tbsp melted butter:
Crushed potato chips
Crushed butter crackers like Ritz
Crushed corn flakes
Crush gold fish
3/4 cup cheese (DON'T drizzle the 2 Tbsp of butter on this. Come on people!)


1-8 oz container of Sour Cream
1/4 cup milk
1 stick of butter melted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Additional Add Ins:
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
2 fresh diced jalapenos
1 small onion diced - can add either raw or saute in 2 tsp olive oil for 5-8 minutes then add in
1/3 cup green onion diced
1/2 cup red or green bell pepper diced

To assemble, pick your potato, pick your soup, pick your cheese (if you want cheese on the top then reserve back 3/4 cup) add the Must Have list. Top with your desired topping and drizzle over 2 Tbsp of melted butter(except if using cheese)

Few of my favorites:
Traditional: Crinkle cut fries, cream of mushroom, Colby jack cheese, sauteed onion and cheese topping
Texas Style: Shoe string potatoes, cream of chicken, add in bacon and jalapeno,pepper-jack cheese, potato chip topping
Kathy's: Shredded Hash-browns, cream of celery, cheddar, corn flakes
Caroline: Cubed hash-browns, cream of chicken, add in onion and red bell pepper, sharp cheddar and Ritz topping

Enjoy Y'all!

On a Roll!! - Maple Pork Tenderloin

Okay, I know, four posts in one day?! I am trying to make up for lost times. This weekend I put together my giant cookbooks that are full of items and recipes I have seen and torn from all sorts of magazines. Yes, I have even torn some out of magazines from the doctors office. I know, I am that girl! But, when I see something I must have it. I look flipping through the pages of these books. Some of the things I have in my books I clipped in college! Crazy. Other ideas I have in my books I have recently seen resurface on pinterest as "original" and yet I have clippings dating back ten years ago of the same thing! Anyway, I have several new things I want to make and found some of my recipes I scratched in pen in the midst of cooking that I hope to get to sharing with you all soon. I am getting a new camera for Christmas so my plan is to start taking more photos and posting those as well. Because once you start drooling you start cooking, right?!
Well, this recipe is nothing too original, just super yummy this time of year and super simple. It is a maple pork tenderloin and would be divine with creamy cheese grits (although I made noodle kugel with it)
This is great for when you have company and cooks up in a jif!

Maple Pork Tenderloin
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/3 tsp salt
2 pork tenderloins (the long skinny ones)

Pour all of the above into a zip lock bag. Rub the mixture all around and over the meat to make sure it really gets in there. You can marinade this for 30 minutes up to overnight.
Remove from mixture and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes until meat thermometer registers 180. Remove and let it rest 3-5 minutes before thinly slicing. I like to serve with creamy horseradish sauce.

Enjoy Y'all!

What's up Butternut? - Instant Butternut Squash Soup

This time last year I was preparing to teach a holiday cooking class. It was gobs of fun and I enjoyed being able to research and write and read about food and calling it all "work". For me it doesn't get better than that. One of the recipes I sort of made up on the fly was an instant butternut squash soup. I am no expert on butternut squash, I have used it in several different methods and I have had many different variations of soups so my goal was to try to bring them all together to bring out the sweet buttery simple goodness of the lovely veggie. I think I might have pulled it off. My husband even ate a small bowl and that is saying A LOT!  So, for those of you and in a yummy soup mood try this one on for size. I hope it hits you in the right spot and brings you a little comfort during this joyous season!!

Instant Butternut Squash Soup
1 lb butternut squash cut in cubes (this can be found in most stores already ready to go this time of year)
4 cups chicken stock ( you can use veggies too)
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ginger
Dash of cayenne
2 Tbsp butter

Place squash in a microwave safe bowl with 1/3 cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 7 minutes until fork tender.
In a blender or food processor place all of the above ingredients, including the squash but NOT the butter and blend until smooth. Pour soup into pot,  add the butter and simmer on medium heat until warmed and slightly thickened.
Serve with sour cream and crumbled bacon if desired (but really, who wouldn't want to?! )

Enjoy y'all!

I've had the Lime of my life... - Brooke's Key Lime Dip

Okay, I know. Terrible title. But, once you have had this dip this will be the best way you will have ever enjoyed a lime in your life. Believe me, I know. I love limes. I grew up on sonic limeades and key lime pies. I hesitated sharing this recipe because once word ever gets out about this, I will be famous and I am holding the fame off for as long as possible. No really, if anyone has direct connections with the food network please hook me up. I don't need to have a show, just a book and publisher. Deal?! I will provide you with all of the lime dip you could ever imagine.
I made this for a women's event at our church. I have made it before but once you put something really yummy in front of a group of women, it is like throwing out chicken feed to the hungry coup. They all gobble up and cluck and shake with excitement. This had a similar affect on the women. I had one lady tell me she wanted to jump in the bowl and eat it, I witnessed another literally lick her plate as to note waste a bite. It's pretty good. And, when you see how easy it is you will be mad that you didn't think of it. But...hold on to your it is folks!!

Brooke's Key Lime Dip- to be served with fresh fruit, a must have with strawberries! you can even just serve with spoons!

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 10oz jar good quality lime curd (I like Dickinson's) warm it in the microwave in 20 second intervals about three times to loosen it up so it will mix in with a smooth non-lumpy texture.
2 limes - you will need zest and juice

Combine all in a bowl. If you want to double this (which you will) just add one additional can of milk and the zest and juice of 2 limes)
If you have any left overs (which you won't) fold it into a large container of cool whip and pour into a graham cracker crust for a yummy lime pie.

Told you, it was easy. Enjoy!

Edible Gifts - Ritz Toffee

Does it get any better then that? I love it when my gift are things I can savor and smell and share. This season I have been overwhelmed with sweets and sugarplums dancing in my head. Everything looks good! I have read and re-read recipes and flagged page after page of must tries that is is hard to know where to start. But, I must. So, last week I had a big group of girlfriends over and decided to try out a new recipe that I have been eyeballing for years. I had this item at a party years ago and the buttery richness and sweet salty after bite was burned in my memory. I found this recipe in a book of mine and it had very few instructions which 1. amazed me and 2. frightened me. I know that dealing with sugar can be tricky business so I am going to share with you the recipe with a few more details added that will hopefully help you put this on your top ten list of things to make to give to others. They are worth making and sharing, and making again and sharing again...because you don't want too many of these things hanging around your house or your heart will never be the same :) By the way...happy early holidays!!

Ritz Toffee aka Heavenly Crackers

1 Tube Ritz crackers
2 sticks salted butter
1/2 c sugar
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate (I prefer ghiradelli)

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Next, line your cookie sheet with the crackers. Set aside. Turn your oven to 350.
In a heavy saucepan on low heat melt your butter. When the butter is almost totally melted add in the sugar  and turn to a medium low heat and stir occasionally until the mixture starts to boil. Once the mixture reaches a boiling point, turn back down to a lower heat where it is still boiling and do not stir for three minutes. After three minutes, stir in 1/2 c of the almonds and pour the mixture over the crackers.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the sugar mixture has reached a nice amber color. Remove from the oven.
Put the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chips are melted. Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate over the crackers then immediately top with the remaining almonds. Allow the mixture to cool completely before breaking into chunks. You can even pop it in the freezer to speed up the process.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tis the Season

Today, I will not be writing about food. If you are only in this for the food then let me say now that I am sorry. Today is the first of several that I have not had to wake up at the crack of dawn to start working on my to-do list. These past few days and weeks have been filled with flour and sugar and fondant and cupcake liners and soap and kind of makes my head spin to think about it. I fell into bed last night with one heavy sigh relieved that my brain could start to focus on something else other then orders to fill.
This season of life has had such an impact on my life. This season of fall or autumn has had quite significant meanings for me. The first date I ever had with my husband was in the fall, the birth of my second child was in the fall. My senses really heighten in the fall due to the wonderful beauty that is ever changing and surrounding me that is all created by an artist whose majesty I have yet to behold. The fall represents life and birth and love and death and a promise that we are not forgotten. We are part of an amazing life group through our church. Our group has changed the past few years for many reasons with some couples coming and going and others who had to leave because of life circumstances but there is a core group that has stuck together and we now have some wonderful additions to our group who have no idea what they are getting into. Our group has been through so much, these are the people that go through the trenches with you and come up on the other side with a better understanding of your life and you of theirs. We are perfectly imperfect people in a perfectly imperfect world. Last night our discussion was about our group and about God's church and about the promise of grace that we all have. I am so grateful for this gift that at times it is overwhelming to me that I could ever be worthy for such a gift. Today in my study of revelation we learned of the King of Kings who will come riding in on his horse to pick up his bride and what a site it will be for all of us. This wonder and amazement is almost too much to take in and yet I am so thankful that we have a slight glimpse of this promise to keep us going. I need it. I need reminders that this is not it. That my busy life filled with business is not it. That my heart ache or pain is not it. That my purpose is much greater then I will ever know.
Thank you God for your promise. Thank you for this group you have surrounded our family with who will love us and provide a little light as to what the other side will be like. Thank you for never leaving us even when we don't understand this season we are in. But, thank you for making me perfectly imperfect and for providing a promise of something greater then I will ever imagine.