Friday, March 16, 2012

Rowdy Reuben Dip!

This dip makes me so happy. The first time I had this was at a party with my sister (told y'all her friends were good cooks!) I had never really had too many Reubens before having this because I was always scared of the kraut and rye...but now things are different. And my life will never be the same. When we left this party I told my sister she had to get this recipe. I called and texted and harassed her until finally it popped up in my email one day and I rushed out the door to buy all of the ingredients to make it. It is so simple, yet so amazing! It has all of the wonderful elements of a Reuben involved but you can just nibble on the dip for hours and hours instead of taking it all on at one time. I love to serve this with thick Fritos for dipping but you could serve it with toasted party rye or a thick cracker like wheat thins. Really, I could just use my fork! I am having some friends over tomorrow so I don't have a picture of it all golden bubbly but use your imagination. I wanted to get this to you asap so you can grab the stuff to make it. I promise this has all of the makings for the perfect St. Patty's Party!!

1 8 oz container of cream cheese softened
1/2 cup sour cream (can use low fat...maybe you should use low fat!)
1 Tbsp coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tsp dried onion flakes
1 cup sauerkraut drained
4 small packages of the cheep corned beef (I mean, the cheap stuff that is .80 a pack!) or 1/2 pound of deli sliced corned beef chopped
1, 6oz container of Swiss cheese slices chopped (you can shred a 1/2 block of Swiss cheese but I like the large cheese cubes so that they are oozy and melty when I dip my chip in!)
Combine all in a bowl. Pour into a greased baking pan. Bake at 370 for 25 minutes covered, remove the cover then bake for 5 additional minutes until golden on top.

Enjoy Y'all!

Pinkie the Pineapple - Pineapple cutting 101

I love pineapples! I remember my parents going to Hawaii when I was younger and bringing back a box of fresh Dole pineapples from the plantation. They were amazing! I loved their fresh bright sweet smell and how the juice just ached to dribble down my chin. The salesman and I were lucky enough to get a trip to Hawaii for our honeymoon from family and friends and we also visited the Dole plantation while we were there. It was so beautiful. We had rented a jeep for that one day and made a quick trip around the island and our last major stop was the plantation. We both quickly gobbled up as many pineapple delights that we could get our hands on including freshly cut pineapples and pineapple sherbet. It was all amazing.
Well, one trick I learned early on in my cooking days was how to properly cut a pineapple. I worked for a full service bridal store where I went to college and we did on site catering. The chef didn't care for many in the store but for some reason he let me come in and chat and observe while he worked. He taught me how to properly cut a pineapple to get the least amount of waste and even chunks. I still use the same method to this day and am always in shock when I hear others say they don't know how to cut one. Pineapples are super easy to cut and are well worth the elbow work since a whole pineapple is about a third of the price of what you would pay for a precut one that has a nasty brine over it to prevent it from getting brown. And canned pineapples...don't go there. It is sort of like canned chicken and you know how I feel about that. The only time I will allow you to use canned is if you are marinating with it...and that's about it.
 Lay the pineapple down flat and cut off  top
 Flip it and cut off the bottom
 Stand the pineapple up.Using either a sharp flat or serrated knife, begin cutting off the sides  by gently pushing your knife down. Be sure you are far enough in to remove the seeds but not too far in to remove too much flesh.
 Continue to cut around the pineapple until all sides are removed.
 Now, you want to cut a triangle form to remove the core, so cut one large chunk off at an angle (you can see I am right next to the rounded center)
 Cut the remaining two sides off. That will leave you a nice core to nibble on. You can also throw the core into a pot of steeping tea to infuse it with some yummy flavor!
 Now you have these three large wedges. Cut them in long strips, then turn and cut them into cubes.

Ta-Da! You did it! How easy was that??
So, for all of you who have been scared to get on your big girl britches and learn, fear no more!
Enjoy Y'all!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Goin' Green - Grasshopper Pie

I don't really do to much for the St. Patty's day holiday other then plan elaborate menu's in my head. The salesman is not a fan of traditional corned beef and cabbage (go figure!) so I usually come up with other alternatives to have for the evening. We don't really go out for that night since we have little muffins and don't want to put ourselves out there with all of the crazies so I try to do something fun for the evening here. One of my favorite green treats to make is frozen grasshopper pie. It is so easy and so delicious and makes everyone happy around here. I don't have a picture to share (sorry!) but I plan to make this for our weekend Patty Party so hopefully a picture will be posted soon. But, don't let that stop you from trying this. I promise, you won't be sorry!

1 Chocolate cookie pie crust (you can make your own but this is easier!)
1/2 of a 1/2 gallon mint chip ice cream- softened
1 container hot fudge sauce
1 small container cool whip
2 cups crushed mint oreos

Spread half of the hot fudge sauce on to the bottom of the pie crust. Pop it in the freezer for a minute to firm up.
Next, place the ice cream into a bowl and stir in 1 cup of crushed oreos. Then, take the ice cream and gently scoop it into the pie crust as evenly as possible. Pop it back into the freezer.
Take your container of cool whip and spread it on to the ice cream and place it back in the freezer.
Place the jar of fudge sauce into the microwave and heat it up for about 20 seconds until it is a liquid consistency and easy to drizzle. Drizzle the remaining sauce evenly over the cool whip and top with the remaining crushed oreos.
Place back in the freezer and allow it to freeze for at least 3 hours. This can be make up to two days ahead. Set it out on the counter about 15 minutes before you are ready to serve.
The best way to cut the pie is to fill up a glass with super hot tap water and place you knife in the water for about 10 seconds until it is warmed up. Repeat after each slice.

Enjoy Y'all!

Little Bite of Happy - Mini BLT's

I don't know about you but I am aching for our local farmers market to open up. I love the fresh smell of peaches that hit you when you walk in and I love digging my hands into the big buckets of peppers and beans. I love the breeze of the fans that help circulate the smell of happiness all over the air. The market I prefer is only open from April through November so just a couple more weeks until I become a regular there. One of the best things to make for a party during the summer are these mini BLT bites with fresh tomatoes from the market. I know, I have stated many times that I don't like the taste of tomatoes but these are delicious and are a perfect and easy addition to any party you might be hosting. You can jazz these up by slow roasting the tomatoes but these are best when tomatoes are at their peak in the summer. And, you must have pesto with these. Now, I typically buy store bought pesto because I can't get myself to tear off every leaf of my basil in order to make one batch. Store bought does the trick for this so don't stress about homemade. These alone are worth throwing a party for!

Mini BLT's
12 slices sourdough bread (I think I used Peppridge farm)
8 sliced thick cut cooked bacon
1 cup good quality mayo
6 Roma tomatoes very thinly sliced and gently squeezed so some of the seeds and juice are gone
1 cup prepared pesto
salt and pepper

Use a small round cookie cutter (or juice glass) and cut out three circles from each slice of bread. Place on a clean cookie sheet and back at 350 degrees until toasted, about 20-25 minutes. Bread can be made up to two days ahead and stored in an air tight container
While the bread is cooking, line one cookie sheet with foil and place a cookie cooling rack on top. Lay the slices of bacon evenly on top of the cooling rack and place in the oven. The bacon will need to cook about 25-30 minutes until crispy. When the bacon has cooked and cooled, cut each piece into 4 pieces.
When ready to serve, spread a small amount of mayo on top of each slice of bread. Top with a tomato slice. Take the cup of pesto and spoon it into a zip lock bag. Snip off the end of the bag and drizzle the pesto over each tomato. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and top with bacon.
Makes 12-18 servings.

Enjoy Y'all!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Back with a bang - Almond Sugar Sheet Cookies

I know, I know, it has been a while. That is the wonderful thing about having a virtual cafe as to a real one is that I can be "closed" for business at any time and my patrons will still stay loyal... hopefully. Things have been busy and good and I have been trying just to keep my head above water most days. I have had a big swing of business come in this winter so I have been making everything from bugs to castles. I have been cooking and feeding many others but have not had much of a chance to log my every day life around here. Sorry Y'all!
Last night I decided that I owed you guys something, and it better be good to make up for lost times. And I promise, this is it! I LOVE sugar cookies. I mean, LOVE them. I would take them over cake or ice cream any day. Not just any cookie and not just any sugar cookie, I love sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles. And, not just any sprinkles, I prefer sugar sprinkles so that I get a great crunch when I eat them that blends beautifully with a buttery cookie and smooth buttercream. I was going over a few recipes last night and came across one that peaked my interest. I am always on edge when I see things described as "the best". I am also very hesitant to put that description on things because not all of our taste buds are the same. So, I took their recipe and made a few changes of my own and I really do think these are some of the best sugar cookies I have ever had. My oldest muffin can not keep his eyeballs off of the pan and keeps sneaking in to take tiny fairy bites. If you like good almond kissed buttery, non dried out, moist sugar cookies then these are perfect. This dough could be chilled and rolled out and cut into cute shapes but I am WAY TOO LAZY for rolled out cookies. The idea of standing and icing one cookie at a time makes my head hurt. I can ice cupcakes all day long but when it comes to cookies I am a lazy bum. If you like icing on your cookies then this is the perfect creamy texture for your sugar cookie. It doesn't dry out and flake to pieces when you bite it and you don't have to pipe it into pretty little designs, you can just dump it and smooth it however you like because you must top your cookies with sprinkles once they have been iced. Now, your flavor of sprinkle is your choice and remember that all sprinkles are not created equally. I like sugar crystals as opposed to sanding sugar so that there is a larger grain and a larger crunch. You may prefer cute sprinkles like mini hearts or circles but those tend to have a mushy texture when placed on icing. But, your sprinkles are up to you. These are a great go-to treat when you need to serve a crowd because you can cut the cookies into whatever size you want. We tend to cut them into larger squares but you can cut them however large or small you like (I will not tell you the size we cut them into because you might think bad thoughts about me!)
So folks, get to cookin' so that you can forgive me fast!
Enjoy Y'all!!

Almond Sugar Sheet Cake Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp (do I need to get into the whole room temp thing again?)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp almond extract (if there is an allergy, use vanilla)
3 cups flour (when measuring, gently fill the cup then use something flat like a knife to level it off. Never jam pack a flour cup or you will way OVER measure and that is bad!)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour, soda and salt. Use a whisk and whisk it all together to make sure it is all combined (this is my lazy girl version of sifting!)
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat your sugar and butter on medium heat until it becomes light and fluffy, or "creamed", typically after 4-5 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bowl so that all of the butter gets an equal beating. Turn your mixer to a lower speed and add the egg, yolk and extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Using a measuring spoon, gently measure in a little of the flour mixture at a time with the mixer on low speed until combined. It has a very crumbly texture so I ended up removing the whisk attachment and finished mixing it with my hands to get is all combined.
Spray a large silver cookie sheet (I think it is a 13x17) with Pam or Baker's Joy (which is a must have for all baking and what I used. It has flour combined to help things not stick) Dump out the dough onto the cookie sheet. Use your hands to pat it as evenly as possible, then take a piece of either wax or parchment paper and lay it on top of the cookies and gently roll a rolling pin across the sheet of cookies to make sure it is good and even.
Place into a 350 degree oven and bake for around 15-18 minutes (I didn't exactly time things but I think that is about how long) It will have sort of a bubbly look across it and will be semi set to the touch. It will NOT turn a golden brown color so don't cook until it has become golden or it will be a burnt mess. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before icing.

Almond Buttercream
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
1/4 cup shortening (don't back out of me here! You need it to keep the icing soft and tender)
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla or lemon if you want to get crazy!)
1/2 tsp salt

Beat the butter and shortening together  until combined in the bowl of a standing mixer. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the powdered sugar, and remaining ingredients. If the buttercream seems super thick, add a splash  more of milk. If it seems too runny, add a bit more sugar. Beat the buttercream on medium speed for 3-4 minutes so it will have a light and fluffy heavenly texture.
Dump the buttercream on the cookies and spread it evenly with a flat spatula or knife. Immediately pour on your sprinkles of choice so that they will set within the icing.
These are great left at room temp uncovered. They will not get hard and yucky because of the amount of love put into them.
Seriously, go get to cookin'!!