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Monday, December 31, 2012

Venison Chops and Ras el Hanout Butternut Squash

This is a new experience for me, crafting recipes, and relying on someone else to execute them. But, I am laid up with a foot in a cast, so I have to depend on my husband to do most of the cooking. 

I had been craving some red meat, and we have an entire freezer full of venison, but grilling this time of year is problematic. I also wasn't sure I could coach Ray through pan searing chops and finishing them in the oven. He did a spectacular job ! 

The side dish was really just needing to use up some squash, and wanting to try this new spice I purchased. The result was a restaurant quality dinner. Excellent work, sweetie !!

Venison Chops with Bleu Cheese Sauce and Ras el Hanout Butternut Squash

For the chops:
6 four ounce venison chops (cut from the backstraps)
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. Season chops on both sides with grill seasoning, and let meat come to room temperature. Heat a large, oven proof skillet over high heat, and add olive oil to pan. Sear chops approximately 2 minutes on each side, then place skillet in the oven, and cook 4-5 minutes to medium rare. Remove from oven and let rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces bleu cheese
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, cook and stir until smooth and golden. Slowly add milk. Simmer over medium heat until thickened. Stir in bleu cheese, and simmer until cheese is melted. 

For the squash:
1 medium butternut squash (approximately 2-3 pounds)
4 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons ras el hanout
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 
1 teaspoon pepper 
Start 3 quarts of water to boil. Peel and dice squash into 1 inch pieces. Cook until tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain water, and return to pan. Add butter, and spices, and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning as you like.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Grapefruit Brulee with Goat Cheese Frozen Yogurt

Yes, we are still working on the citrus we received from Florida! It has been a challenge to my creativity, because I usually just eat the oranges and grapefruit we have on hand, I rarely cook with them.

We grill fruit quite often in the summer, and serve it with ice cream. These Florida grapefruit had a nice sweetness, so brulee seemed like it might work, and since we have the cool brulee torch, why not ? And I had goat cheese that needed to be used up, so why not make my old favorite stand by, goat cheese honey frozen yogurt ? Is this a holiday dish ? I suppose since citrus is in season this time of year, it must be !

I have to thank my husband, Ray, for the prep work on this and the next several posts. I am laid up with foot surgery, so while I dream up recipes, he has to be the sous chef !

Grapefruit Brulee with Goat Cheese Frozen Yogurt
2 large pink grapefruit
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Cinnamon and nutmeg, for sprinkling
Cut top and bottom off each grapefruit, then slice off skin, making sure to remove all of the pith.  Slice each grapefruit into four equal slices.Place slices on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar, then dot with butter. Using brulee torch, lightly brown each slice until bubbly. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg, and serve with goat cheese frozen yogurt (recipe follows).

Goat Cheese and Honey Frozen Yogurt
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup watered
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Inaudible small saucepan, mix together honey, sugar and water. Warm over low heat until honey is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add goat cheese to honey mixture, and blend until smooth. Stir in yogurt, and again, blend until smooth. Add to ice cream maker and mix according to manufacturer's instructions.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dreamsicle Bites

Part two of the cookies made with oranges ! I actually used the same base dough recipe that I use for my chocolate chip cookies. Originally, I was thinking about putting white chocolate chips in these, but I don't really like them, so why do that ? I would basically be making cookies just to give away. Instead, I chose to frost these with a light glaze with vanilla and orange zest. The result is a bright, light cookie that is a nice contrast to most of the overly sweet cookies served during the holidays.


 Dreamsicle Bites

2 sticks butter (1 cup) softened
3 oranges, zested and juiced (juice should not be more than 1/2 cup)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour

For the glaze: 
3 tablespoons orange zest 
3 tablespoons orange juice 
1 tablespoon white vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar 

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together the butter, orange zest and juice, and eggs. Add vanilla and sugars, and mix well. Slowly add dry ingredients. Consistency of the dough should be like play dough, not sticky to the touch, but not dry. Form into 1 inch balls and drop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes just until golden brown. Remove to cooling rack to cool. Mix together glaze ingredients and frost. Let frosting dry completely before storing. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate Orange Cookies

We received a gift of a very large box of oranges and grapefruit from some very dear friends who had visited Florida this winter. Since there are only two of us, there was no way we could possible eat them all, so I needed to get cookin'! I wanted to find a way to use some of them in my holiday baking. Ray suggested a dark chocolate orange cookie, because this is one of his favorite flavor combinations. 

I used my usual chocolate chip cookie recipe, and started creating from there. The addition of the citrus gave the cookies some amazing loft and a fluffiness I wasn't expecting. I can only assume the acid in the orange juice reacted with the baking soda. This is really an unusual texture and taste, they are delicious!

Dark Chocolate Orange Cookies

2 sticks butter (1 cup) softened
3 oranges, zested and juiced (juice should not be more than 1/2 cup)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour
1 package dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together the butter, eggs and orange juice and zest. Add in eggs, vanilla and sugar and continue to mix until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix together until dough is not sticky to the touch, but not crumbly. Stir in chocolate chips. Form into one inch balls, and drop on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until just golden on top. Remove and let rest on pan for 2 minutes, then remove to racks to cool. Makes approximately 4 dozen.

Pig Candy-Candied Bacon

So, it's ridiculous, really, the idea that you could win a bake off with candied bacon. And yet I did !

I wasn't going to bring it, but I love this stuff so much, I wanted to share it with my coworkers. Making this is truly a labor of love, and I made a two pound batch so that everyone would have a taste. My idea was that I would put it out on the sample table, go sing some Christmas carols, then come back and take a photo to post on my blog...this is what I returned to.

So, there are no pretty photos of the finished product this time, but let me tell you, it was a smashing hit. Our contest at work has three categories you can win, Best Dessert (non-cookie), Most Traditional, and Most Unique. Some people voted for the Pig Candy in all three categories ! Crazy. And although it is time consuming, it isn't difficult, so add it to your list of holiday goodies today !

Pig Candy 

1 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (the real kind)
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Cover a jelly roll pan with foil. Place a baking rack (I use a cookie cooling rack) on top of the pan.  Mix together the sugar, syrup, vinegar and pepper until it is a thick glaze. Place bacon pieces on the pan, and bake for 7 minutes. Brush each piece generously with the glaze and return to oven. Bake for 7 minutes, remove from oven and turn bacon over. Brush again, glaze generously and bake for an additional 7 minutes. Repeat this process until the bacon is crispy and well glazed. Cool on wax paper, and eat ! Each pan will take approximate 30-35 minutes to complete.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oreo Popcorn

I am going to break every rule I have for food with this recipe, but DANG it's good. 

I just don't eat pre-processed or store bought food very often (except for my snack chips addictions, which is where this started). I love salty foods, and I like the sweet-salty pairing. Someone at work was talking about these treats that are Oreo truffles, which are, to my recollection, Oreo cookies, cream cheese, powdered sugar and white chocolate ? Way too sweet for me. I was trying to think of a way I could make something like this for our holiday bake off at work, but still make it something I would like to eat. Adding a salty component seemed like the best way to go. 

Of course I could have made popcorn, but I have a heathen love for this fake, crazy puffcorn. You know the stuff, all salty, buttery and airy. I figured if I could toss it with some almond bark, and throw some Oreos on it, I might be able to score some points at the bake off. Well, it doesn't look all that pretty, but the taste is spot on. And no, I didn't win with this recipe, but I lost to my own Pig Candy entry (that's candied bacon, for you non-believers). That recipe will follow !

Oreo Popcorn 

10 cups yellow puffcorn
1 package vanilla almond bark (10 ounces)
25 Oreo cookies, crushed finely
Lay the puffcorn out on a foil covered cookie sheet. melt the almond bark in the microwave until smooth. Drizzle over the puffcorn, then stir until mostly coated. Sprinkle half of the cookies over the mixture, stir to coat, then sprinkle the remainder over and stir until combined. Cool until set and break apart into pieces.