Monday, March 30, 2015

Old Man Winter GO AWAY!

It's Monday, March 30 and it is snowing outside. WTF! This winter doesn't seem like it will ever end. If old man winter were an actual person I'd be lining up to kick him in the jewels right about now! I have seriously had it with the damp and cold and gray. With the cold sucky weather hanging around, I decided to make a big pot of sauce to ward off the cold. Because I was feeling particularly creative and wanting beef, I decided to use some if it to make a very non-traditional version of steak pizzaola. I had some lovely strip steaks that were on the thin side which would work perfectly since I was pan frying them. A travesty, I know, but it's too damn cold out to grill....well for me anyway. They'd be cold by the time you bought them inside. First,I got my cast iron skillet smoking hot with a little oil. I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper and seared them on both sides and then put them aside. I turned the heat down and added sliced onions, red bell pepper and sliced garlic to the pan and sauteed them all until nice and soft. Then I deglazed the pan with some white wine and let that all simmer down. After a couple minutes I added a cup or two of the home made marinara and stirred it all to combine. Then I returned the steaks to the pan to let them finish cooking through and bring everything up to temperature. Boom. Done. Easy as pie. I served the steaks over a bed of mashed cauliflower and then spooned the vegetable and tomato mixture over it. Finally I topped it with some thin slices of fresh mozzarella and dinner was served. You could certainly hit the cheese with the broiler to brown it up but we were hungry and the cheese was melted enough by the heat of the food beneath it. Hubs really enjoyed this meal as it was filling but not heavy. It this weather continues I am sure we will be eating it a few more times before it gets too hot to make pots of sauce.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring where art thou?

It was 15 degrees outside this morning. fifteen. fucking. degrees. Seriously WTH!! Last I looked at my calendar it clearly said SPRING! So, why am I still freezing my ass off every morning. OK now that that is out of my system.....for now....I can say that this is the weather the sugar houses have been waiting for. You see, with this endless cold, they are behind schedule too. In order for the sap to flow, sugar maples need freezing nights and thawing days. Fortunately for those tree tappers, we have been eeking out temps of 40 or so during the day so they can now make up for lost time. Then one of my favorite food blogs, Foodie With Family, posted a recipe for Amish Maple sandwich cookies (a.k.a. whoopie pies). That and the bottle of maple whiskey that I bought on my last ski trip, and I had a maple trifecta on my hands. I had been DYING to bake something with that whiskey since I purchased it and so I decided to bring that Amish recipe to the dark side. Let me tell you it was SO worth it! Now the original cookie recipe called for rolling out the dough. When I made mine the dough was very sticky and there was no way I was going to try rolling it out. It would have been a disaster. So, I just dropped in on a foil lined baking sheet and it worked out just fine. He is how I did it:

Maple Whiskey Whoopie Pies (Adapted from Foodie With Family)

For the Cookies:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon maple whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2¾ cup flour
For the Filling:
  • 1 cup softened butter 
  • 1 cups shortening
  • 2 cups marshmallow fluff,
  • 1 tablespoon maple extract
  • 2 Tablespoons maple whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350F

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream together shortening, butter and sugar. Slowly add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoon onto a foil lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a wet spoon. Bake approximatly 15 minutes until set. Allow to cool.

While the cookies are baking add the filling ingredients to a mixing bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until smooth.

When cookies are cooled, assemble with the filling.

I had tons of leftover filling so you can always divide it and experiment with other flavorings! I made traditional chocolate Whoopie Pies too with plain filling and some that I mixed with peanut butter. They were all super yummy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top O' The Morning To Ya!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day Everyone!
Hope you all have donned your green and have your traditional Irish meal planned. I, myself, have a lovely corned beef cooking away in the crock pot as we speak. When I get home from work I will roast up some potatoes, carrots and cabbage to go with it and dinner will be complete. I never really got into the whole boil everything to death part of corned beef and cabbage. Soft slimy cabbage and mushy carrots and potatoes are just so bleh when compared to the taste of roasted, or even sauteed veggies. But, to each his own. Today I am not giving you a recipe for corned beef and cabbage, there are plenty out there already. What I am going to do is sing praises for the newest addition to the sorely lacking culinary scene in my town. This past winter a new Irish pub, The Inishmor, opened in town and Hubs and I decided to try it Friday night in honor of St Patrick's Day weekend. This is the third or fourth bar/restaurant to occupy this space since we moved into town and actually the first time I ever walked into the place. I had checked out the previous occupants online and, well, their offerings did not tempt me in the least. Just the same ol', same ol'. When I check out the the Inishmor I saw offerings I had never seen before - Curry Fries!? And the Beer list! OMG! Finally some variety! I was ecstatic!  So we beat feet over there Friday night and had, without a doubt, the BEST Irish meal I have ever had. I had the special of Irish bangers and colcannon mashed potatoes. The sausage was very mild and served with a rich onion gravy that I swear was made with beer (but can't be certain). The potatoes were LOADED with spring vegetables, not just cabbage but kale and fresh peas, too. I thinks there may have been more greens than potatoes, which was a lovely change from what the other Irish themed places in the area serve. I washed it down with a couple of Mackenzie's Black Cherry Ciders - Double YUM!
Hubs had the chili cheese burger special which was made with an unusual, but tasty, sweet chili. It had a mild kick he said but I only tried a bite so I can't confirm. For the record we tease him unmercifully about his tender palate and say ketchup is his hot sauce so I doubt it had that much of a kick, lol. But when he sliced that burger in half I have to say it was cooked PERFECTLY! A nice pink medium, just like he asked. It was one damn good looking burger. I will be trying one on my next visit....I think! That depends on what the specials are! LOL!

Bottom line is that I am THRILLED that we finally have another quality dining option in town and I hope that they do well and stick around for a long time. If you are ever in this neck of the woods I highly recommend a visit!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chopped at Home Challenge - Entry #1

man, I wish they would let you enter more than 1 recipe for this contest. I have so many directions I could go! But, for this entry period this is what I went with. You had to include chicken breast, red peppers, greek yogurt and Sargento 6 Cheese Italian blend in you rrecipe. In hindsight I am thinking that I should have used honey yogurt in my recipe instead of plain. It would have tasted great and been more creative than the plain stuff. Oh well. No turning back now.

Cheesey Chicken Canneloni in Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

Canneloni Filling:
1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached and shredded
1 small container ricotta cheese
1 Cup Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Blend cheese
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt

10 fresh pasta sheets (can substitute egg roll wrappers)

2 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1-5.3 oz container plain Greek yogurt
2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
2-3 oz milk or cream (about half the yogurt container)
1 tsp salt

Additional 1 Cup Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Blend cheese

Mix canneloni filling ingredients together
Place 2-3 Tbs of the filling on edge of pasta sheet and roll to make canneloni
Meanwhile in a medium sauce pan, simmer garlic in oil over low heat until fragrant. Add yogurt, milk and red pepper and blend with an immersion blender (or transfer to a traditional blender) and blend until smooth. Bring to a low simmer. Once simmering remove from heat and place enough in a baking dish to coat the bottom. Add canneloni to the dish and cover with remaining sauce. Top with 1 cup Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Blend Cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. remove foil and bake 10 minutes more.