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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

I have to admit I was bragging about my pizza making skills to my parents, and they kind of called me out ! We play this game where I have to make pizza using only ingredients we have on hand. Since it was Sunday, and there was football, it made sense to make a Philly Cheesesteak inspired pizza. 

This one was actually so easy it was almost a no-brainer, but everyone loved it so much, it definitely makes its way onto the "keeper" list of recipes. If you don't have the roasted red pepper spread, any marinara on hand would replace it. 

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza 
For the crust: 
(makes enough for 2 thin crust pizzas) 
3/4 cup water 
1/2 teaspoon yeast 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 cups flour plus more for rolling 
Preheat oven to 500, if using pizza stone, preheat stone as well. Warm water in microwave 30-45 seconds until just above room temperature. Stir in yeast and let rest 5 minutes. Add in flour and sugar, and knead until smooth. Divide into two pieces. On floured surface, roll until desired size and thickness (this should be quite thin). I usually roll onto parchment paper if baking, or foil if grilling. 

For the toppings: 
2 tablespoons roasted red pepper spread, pureed roasted red peppers, or marinara sauce 
1/4 pound Italian beef, diced 
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper 
1/2 cup onion, diced 
1/2 pound provolone cheese, cut into strips 
Spread red pepper spread over crust. Top with meat, then peppers, onions, and cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven, let rest for 2-3 minutes, then serve. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Black Forest Cake

Doesn't he look happy ? This was my dad's request for his birthday, it has become something of an ongoing challenge over the years, he thinks of this as the ultimate birthday cake. 

Many years ago there was a Polish restaurant in our home town that served a Black Forest cake. It was good, but it was also commercial (although I can't convince my dad of that, and the owner, of course, wasn't going to admit it either). I have made simpler versions of this with pie filling in a flat pan, because, quite frankly, I hate making layer cakes. The closest I ever came to the commercial version was probably 10 years ago, when I made a pretty sloppy one that tasted really good. My skills have improved over the last several years, so I decided to step up and take the challenge again this year. 

Black Forest Cake is really more technique than anything. It is time consuming, for sure. So, when I started running out of steam at the point where piping on whipped cream was required, my lovely husband Ray stepped in, frosted the entire thing and garnished the cake with a cute smiley face. Hooray for teamwork! 

Black Forest Cake 
1 chocolate cake  recipe (you can use your favorite recipe, even a good box mix will do here)
2 cans sour cherries, drain off 1/2 cup of the juice
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cherry brandy
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vanilla
Make your chocolate cake according to the directions, and bake in two 8 inch round cake pans. Let cool, and slice in half. While cake is baking, place cherries in a sauce pan, and add sugar and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine the reserved cherry juice and corn starch, and gently stir into the cherries. Simmer the cherries over low heat, stirring frequently until thickened, remove from heat and cool.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, whip together the cream, powdered sugar and white vanilla until stiff peaks form. Place one slice of the cake on a serving platter, brush lightly with cherry brandy, and then spread on a thin layer of the whipped cream. Spread a layer of cherries on top of cream. Top with a second layer of cake, and repeat this process. Top with one more layer, and brush with cherry brandy (you will have one layer left, which you will use for a garnish). Don't worry too much about crumbs in the whipped cream, because you are going to add a layer of them onto the outside to help cover that up !

Spread whipped cream generously along the outside of the cake, making sure you leave enough to pipe an edge on the top and bottom. Crumble the remaining layer of cake, and press the crumbs onto the outside of the cake. Using a pastry bag, pipe and edge along the top of the cake (see photo) and around the bottom. Spread remaining cherry mixture into the middle of the cake. You can add a decorative touch (like a smiley face!) to the top, if desired. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving for the cake to set.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roasted Beet Dip

I saw this recipe awhile back in Food and Wine magazine, and since I love beets, I knew I needed to make it. I didn't have some of the ingredients on hand, however, so of course I had to improvise ! 

I have to say I wasn't really prepared for the odd color, it is magenta ! But perfect for the holidays, you could top it with some scallions for a touch of green and it would be an excellent addition to any potluck spread. 

I also finally found the perfect use for my "Hipster Dust" ! This was a spice rub sent to me by the creators, and it is a vegan spice combination, but I quite honestly don't make many vegan or vegetarian dishes. The original recipe called for za'atar spice, which I didn't have, and is difficult to find. Since the Hipster Dust was quite spicy, I thought it could substitute, and it was amazing in this dish! You can find it, and other recipes that use it at 

Roasted Beet Dip 
4 medium beets, roasted, peeled and diced (you could also use canned here to save time) 
1 cup Greek yogurt 
2 tablespoons maple syrup 
1 jalapeno, diced 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 tablespoon Hipster Dust (sub in za'atar spice or garam masala if needed) 
1 teaspoon salt 

Place all ingredients in the food processor, and blend until smooth. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cranberry Orange Relish

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I should repost some of my favorite side dishes, in preparation for the big day. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, because of course I love to cook, and to spoil the people I love with yummy things to eat. 

This cranberry relish is similar to one my grandma used to make. I love it because it is sweet, tart and gingery, and not at all like the canned, jellied kind. The pinch of black pepper at the end is my addition, and I think it makes it perfect ! 

2 oranges
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspooons fresh ginger, peeled cut in fine julienne
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Zest oranges and add to the ginger. Then juice the oranges and set aside.

In a large saute pan, combine the lemon juice and sugar. Heat up slowly over low heat until the sugar starts to carmelize. When the sugar is carmel in color, add the ginger and orange zest. Stir and cook for one minute. Then add the orange juice, cranberries and pepper. Increase heat to medium, and cook until the cranberries have all burst, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool. Refrigerate.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Who doesn't love pot pie ? And even better that you can make this in the crock pot ?

I think pot pies were ten cents when I was a I showing my age ? And we used to carve our initials in the tops before we put them in the oven, so we knew which was which. Silly, right ? But, I still love the flavor. So, the goal here is to replicate the flavor, with the ease of a crock pot dish. I made biscuits, but you could easily make a quick crust and crumble over the top, and really have pot pie.

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie Soup
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into chunks
2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Place all ingredients in crockpot in order given. Mix together:

3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons corn starch

Pour over mixture in crockpot, and start on low. Heat on low for 8-10 hours until cooked through. In the meantime, you can make biscuits, or make a quick pie crust for garnish. Serve over biscuits, or crumble pie crusts over the top.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Kitchen Sink" Thanksgiving Stuffing

It's almost time for my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.Why is this my favorite, you ask ? Because it's all about food ! I love making the full on, traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

This stuffing is one Ray and I created together, because we each had distinctive memories of what we wanted, so in order to make both of us happy, we combined them ! It seems like a lot of ingredients, but it comes together really easily, and tastes great. Stuffing has to be my favorite part of Thanksgiving, after the turkey, of course, so we make a large batch!

Kitchen Sink Turkey Stuffing
1 pound pork sausage 
1/2 cup butter 
2 cups chopped onions 
2 cups chopped celery 
6 cups chicken stock 
2 teaspoons dried thyme 
2 teaspoons dried oregano 
2 teaspoons garlic powder 
2 teaspoons salt 
2 teaspoons pepper 
1 cup dried cranberries 
1/2 cup chopped, roasted chestnuts 
2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
6 cups dried bread cubes

Brown sausage in a large pot, add butter, onions and celery and cook until onions are translucent. Pour in chicken stock, and stir in spices, and cook over low heat until celery is soft. While this is cooking, place remaining ingredients in a large bowl. When stock mixture is cooked, pour over bread mixture and stir together. Stuff turkey, or place in a large casserole dish and bake, covered at 350 for 1 hour. You may want to remove the cover for the last 20 minutes if you like the stuffing crunchy on top.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crockpot Venison Bourguignon

We had a NICE hunting season this year. Our freezer is stuffed will all manner of cuts of venison, and I am so excited! I love the idea that we butchered this meat ourselves, I know the source, and I can pair it with either our homegrown veggies, or locally grown produce.

I have to admit, I am a Food Network addict, so I was watching a show last week about Beef Bourguignon, which is what inspires this dish. There is a bit of prep on the front end, but SO worth the really complex flavor this dish develops while it cooks. We served this over goat cheese potato puree...really awesome !

Crockpot Venison Bourguignon
For the meat:
3 pounds venison cut into bite sized chunks
1 bottle burgundy (minus one glass for tasting :)
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup black pepper (depending on your tastes, I like it peppery, but you can always add more pepper later if needed)
3 tablespoons salt
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1/2 cup sherry
Place venison and wine in a one gallon freezer storage bag, and place in the refrigerator.Marinate the meat in the wine overnight. Drain wine from the meat, saving the remaining wine for later.
Brown bacon in a large dutch oven. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, set aside. Combine flour, pepper and salt together in a large bowl. Toss venison chunks in flour mixture, and add to saute pan with bacon fat. Brown 3-4 minutes on each side, then remove cooked pieces to the crock pot. Add sherry to the pan, and deglaze, then pour over meat in crock pot.

For the stew:
2 large carrots, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 stalk celery, cut in half
3 dried bay leaves
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 14 ounce package frozen pearl onions
In same pan just deglazed, add butter and olive oil and melt together until bubbly. Add carrots, cook for 4 minutes, then add garlic and onions. Cook 4-5 minutes until all ingredients are tender. Add tomato paste, and saute until dark red, 3-4 minutes. Add to meat mixture. Pour remaining wine marinade over. Tie together the thyme, parsley, celery, bay leaves and rosemary, and push down into the crockpot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. At the 7 hour mark, add mushrooms and pearl onions, and cook one more hour. Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.

Just to make it more decadent, I made goat cheese mashed potatoes to go with this:

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and dices
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
In a dutch oven, combine potatoes, water and tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes are soft, approximately 30 minutes. Drain water from potatoes, return to pan, and add remaining ingredients. Blend together until smooth.