Gorgonzola and Fig Terrine
Looking for something to serve for a large crowd? How about something that's a little fancier than your standard cheeseball? Well, here you go.
Even if you don't like blue cheese, you still may like this recipe. It's sweet and savory, all in one bite. Perfect for a dinner party or a large gathering.
Gorgonzola and Fig Terrine
Place the figs in a saucepan with the red wine, thyme, and sprig of sage. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Drain and discard the thyme, sage, and wine. Set the figs aside to cool.
Put the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Add the Gorgonzola, bourbon, and salt. Mix for 1 minute. Don't over mix, though.
Spray a 1 quart loaf pan with cooking spray. Line the inside with plastic wrap and spray the plastic wrap. Mix together the figs, chopped sage, pecans, and parsley. Spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture in the pan. Scatter half of the fig mixture on top and spread the remaining cheese over the figs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours. Refrigerate the remaining fig mixture until ready to serve.
Remove terrine from pan and place on serving platter. Garnish with remaining fig mixture. Serve with crackers and sliced pears.
Traditional ratatouille is nothing more than roasted vegetables tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It's a simple way to prepare and serve a side of vegetables.
But then Pixar released a movie where a Paris rat cooks better than most humans and for his best dish, he serves a gourmet version of Ratatouille. When this movie cam out, recipes circulated around the web trying to mimic the movie version. Thomas Keller, famed chef of The French Laundry and other incredible restaurants, was the man behind the curtain, so-to-speak. He's the one who made the food that the cartoonists drew for the film. Thomas Keller, I am not (no where near his genius). However, it didn't stop me from trying my hand at this dish. His recipe is a bit more involved than mine, but that's ok. He's a world-class chef and I cook for a family of four.
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced thin
1 yellow squash, sliced thin
1 eggplant, sliced thin (Japanese eggplant is the best choice but it's rather hard to find)
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375ºF (191ºC).
In a sauce pan, combine the diced tomatoes, roasted bell pepper, garlic, and shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree. Add lemon juice and oregano. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. I added a touch of sugar to mine because it was a little too acidic. Pour into the bottom of a casserole dish.
Now, layer your vegetables on the sauce. I chose to put a layer of eggplant, then a layer of orange bell pepper. Then I ended with a layer of zucchini and yellow squash. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients: garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle this on top of the vegetables. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Served with a simple roast chicken and bread and you will have a nice family meal.
I grew up in Ohio and every Ohioan has a recipe for Buckeyes. The buckeye tree is the state tree but their nuts are poisonous to humans. So, instead, Ohioans decided to make a candy resembling the nut but made with chocolate and peanut butter. Because, you know, chocolate and peanut butter go oh-so-well together and won't poison us.
But... if you are not from the great state of Ohio, then you may refer to these as "chocolate covered peanut butter balls," as I've heard non-Ohioans call them. That's ok. You can call them whatever you like. But in Ohio, they're Buckeyes. And they are beloved by all.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar (sifted if you so choose) and mix well. Mixture should be creamy but stiff. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for one hour. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler set over hot simmering water. Using a toothpick, dip the balls into the chocolate and then place back on the wax paper. Refrigerate at least another hour before eating.
I grew up with these cupcakes. They aren't your traditional cupcakes with a huge swirl of fluorescent frosting sitting on top. No, these are simple cupcakes. Very easy to make. Very. You might even invite your kids into the kitchen to assist you in baking.
My Grandma C made these cupcakes all the time and every time I make them, I'm reminded of her. I left the instructions as she would have made them. So, when it says, do not mix until the last item is added, that means, do not mix until that point. Got it? Grandma said so, ok? And be sure to share, because she would have wanted you to.
Preheat oven to 350º. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
Put ingredients in bowl in order given. Do not mix until last item has been added. Fill cup cake papers 1/2 full. Bake 10-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.
Cooked Caramel Frosting
Bring brown sugar and butter to a boil. Add milk and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool mixture to room temperature (if it's too hot, the frosting won't set up). Whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir until thoroughly combine. More powdered sugar may be needed to achieve desired consistency. Frost the cupcakes.
One of the best gifts to give (or receive) during the holidays are the ones we actually make ourselves. Candy is not difficult to make and it is quick. In under an hour, you can make a pound of candy to put in a tin, tie with a bow and give to a friend.
I make this particular candy every year because it never lets me down and makes people happy. I mean, who doesn't want toffee, almonds and chocolate? I got the recipe from an older cookbook, Rose's Christmas Cookies. I'm not sure the cookbook is still in print since I've had it for close to 20 years.
And one more thing ... adjust candy temperatures for high altitudes. For every 1000 ft above sea level, reduce temperature to which candy cooks to by 2ºF.
Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee
from Rose's Christmas Cookies
Yield: 1 pound
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are chopped very fine but not powder fine.
Sprinkle half of the almonds over a 7x10 area on a cookie sheet. Place near the range. Also have the baking soda and vanilla near the range as well.
In a heavy, medium-size saucepan, preferably with a nonstick lining, combine the brown sugar, water, and butter. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Stir often to prevent burning and cook until mixture reaches 285º on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat because the mixture will continue to rise to 290º. Add the vanilla and baking soda. (Work quickly!) Pour toffee over the nuts. Immediately scatter the chocolate pieces over the hot toffee. Press the chocolate lightly with your fingers so they start melting. After about 5 minutes, the chocolate will be soft enough to spread with a long metal spatula in an even layer over the surface of the toffee. Dust the chocolate with the remaining chopped almonds. Cool completely and break into irregular pieces.
There are so many caramel recipes floating around the internet. In fact, I've tried many of them. Some are great. Some - not so great. But this recipe is one that I have had for many years. In my vast treasure trove of recipes that are currently sitting in a box waiting to be organized, I have several recipes from my grandmothers. This is one such recipe, straight from my Grandma C, who died last January at the age of 98. I know - 98!? She called these English Caramels and I remember eating them at Christmas time when I was very young.
The caramels are chewy and soft and once you eat one, you simply cannot stop. The recipe is basic, so you can vary up the flavorings (like use peppermint or other extracts) or even add a little sea salt on the top (you know, for "sea salted caramels").
Also... as with all candy making, if you live at a higher elevation, you need to adjust the cooking time/temperature. Here's the basic rule of thumb for candy making at high elevations:
For every 1000 feet above sea level, reduce candy temperature (the temperature to which the candy cooks) by 2ºF.
Grease a 13x9 metal baking pan. Place near the stove.
In large saucepan (3-4 quart), combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, cream, condensed milk, and vinegar. Stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Stop stirring and bring to a boil. Cook until the temperature reaches the firm ball stage, approximately 248ºF. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Cool for 15-20 minutes and then cut into squares with a sharp knife. It is easiest to remove the caramel from the pan and cut it on a lightly oiled cutting board. Wrap the individual squares in wax paper.
Note: This recipe makes a lot, so you can cut it half it easily. We had a family production line going with my husband cutting squares of wax paper, me cutting the caramel and the kids wrapping the pieces.
The Basics: Cooking with Alcohol
Cooking with alcohol is one of those things that seems a little daunting, especially if you are new to cooking in general. Alcohol brings flavor to a recipe by heightening the flavors of the other ingredients. However, before you start cooking with alcohol, you should know a few basic concepts.
Tips for Cooking with Wine:
In the basic sense, wine is fermented grapes. However, there are several varieties of grapes, along with several ways to make wine from combining certain grapes to the actual fermentation process. I will not get into the ins and outs of wine because that information will fill a book (or several books). I will, however, give you the most basic information regarding wine and cooking.
Wine Pairing: I took a wine tasting class from a sommelier who told us that while there are rules for pairing wine with food, it does not always matter. He said to drink the wine you like with whatever food you make. That’s probably why I drink Pinot Noir with nearly everything. But… if you are really curious about the rules of wine and food pairings, check out Food and Wine’s article.
Tips for Cooking with Beer:
Brewing beer involves making a mash with grains (like barley), adding hops and yeast, and then allowing it to ferment. Hops is one of those ingredients that has taken over the world of microbrew. Every microbrewery makes pale ales or IPAs that are incredibly bitter and hoppy. I may be in the minority here but I would rather have a beer that is dark and full bodied and sans a lot of hops.
You can successfully cook with beer but you need to be choosy as to what you use since some beer can get bitter when cooked.
For a good, simple guide to beer, check this out.
Tips for Cooking with Spirits:
Spirits include all those hard liquors that might be taking up room in your liquor cabinet. Aside from doing shots or making martinis, some spirits add that something extra to certain recipes and are well worth using in the kitchen.
Whiskey or Bourbon – Made from fermenting grains like barley and then aged in barrels. Any good tasting Whiskey will make a great BBQ sauce or even a bourbon crème anglaise (white sauce for desserts like bread pudding).
Vodka – made from distilling cereal grains or potatoes. Can be used in cooking light meals or sauces. Most popular recipe is Vodka Pasta Sauce http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/penne-with-vodka-sauce-recipe.html
Tequila – Made from the Agava plant grown in Mexico. Use tequila instead of white wine in fish dishes, especially dishes that are made with shell fish and are spicy. (Tequila Lime Scallops, anyone?)
Brandy or Cognac – Made from distilling wine. Cognac is distilled in a particular region in France. Brandy is the same thing except made elsewhere around the world. I like to add a splash of brandy to a sauce at the very end of cooking. It adds that something "extra."
There you have it. The basics of cooking with alcohol. Now, go forth and impress your friends and family by making Coq au Vin (recipe coming soon, I promise!).
These are probably one of the simpler cookies to bake at Christmas time. However, you need a cookie press in order to make them. I've had my press for several years and they come in all shapes and sizes. Check out Amazon.com for more info regarding purchasing one.
But be careful, these cookies will go fast! They are buttery and sweet with a hint of vanilla. Santa will surely enjoy a quite a few!
Preheat oven to 400º.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and extracts. Mix in flour and salt.
Divide dough into 3 portions, providing you want to color the dough. One portion will stay uncolored (white). The other two can be colored red and green. Add more flour to the red and green dough to compensate for the extra moisture, about 2-4 tablespoons flour.
Place the dough in a cookie press and form the desired shapes. Bake until set but not brown 5-6 minutes.
Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.
*Note: The cookie sheets need to be cool/room temp to the touch and wiped off between batches. My cookie press is a bit finicky, so hopefully you'll find one that is less tempermental.
Pistachio and Date Cookies
It's holiday time - the time of year when we eat lots of cookies and sweets. While I have a lot of cookie recipes to share, I thought I would share a rather simple one that contains dates and pistachios. We like pistachios, right? Dates? Of course! Why not put them together in a cookie?
The cookies are delicate and small and would be perfect for a holiday gathering. Or maybe you don't want to share them with anyone. That's ok. They're your cookies.
Pistachio and Date Cookies
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and orange zest until well combined. Beat in the flour. Add the dates and nuts; mix until thoroughly blended.
Roll 1 tablespoon of cookie mixture in your hands. Shape into a crescent. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool. When cool, roll in powdered sugar.
*Finely chop the dates in a food processor. Lightly grease the blades of the food processor before you pulse the dates to prevent them from sticking.