Happy New Year ~ Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipHappy New Year! I hope you had a fun and festive celebration to ring in the New Year, whether it was big or small. :)

In addition to the beef Wellington canapés, I also made these cute little cucumber cups yesterday. This is a way to dress up plain vegetables so they are ready for a party! :)Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipCucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

2 large English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds

Bottled ranch dressing (or any dip of your choice)

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks

2 medium celery stalks, cut into thin sticks

With a small melon baller, scoop out most of the seeds from the cucumbers. Make sure not to scoop all the way to the bottom so the dressing can be contained in the cup.

Add about a ½ teaspoon of dressing to the bottom of each cup. It won’t look like a lot, but when the carrots and celery are added, the dressing will rise up the sides a little.

Add as many of the carrots and celery sticks as you like to each cup.

PS. The appetizer in the background was another fun way to dress up carrots for the party. :) I simply peeled a large carrot lengthwise so I ended up with long strips. Then I piped a small bit of store-bought hummus along each strip and rolled them up. The hummus acted as the glue. The finishing touch was a little more hummus piped inside the middle, and a thin round slice of carrot on the bottom as the base.Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

New Year’s Eve Party! ~ Beef Wellington Canapés

Beef Wellington CanapésAs 2015 is coming to a close, I made these mini beef Wellington canapés as my last hurrah of the year. :) These little Wellingtons had all of the flavors of their full-sized counterpart – puff pastry, mushrooms, beef tenderloin, and prosciutto. They were fun and festive, and oh so cute!Beef Wellington CanapésBeef Wellington Canapés

6 ounces crimini mushrooms

1 sprig thyme

1 splash dry white wine

1 sheet puff pastry, refrigerated

1 egg, beaten

4 ounces beef tenderloin

Approximately 5 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until they are approximately the size of coarse breadcrumbs. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the mushrooms (without oil) with the sprig of thyme until the mushrooms are dry. Add a splash of white wine, and cook until the pan is dry once again. Remove the thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured work surface until it is about double in height and width. With a pizza wheel or pasta roller, cut the pastry into small squares. Place the squares on the prepared sheet pan. Cover the pastry with another piece of parchment, and cover the sheet pan with another sheet pan so they are nesting. This will ensure that your puff pastry won’t puff too much. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the top pan and top parchment paper. Let the pastry cool enough so you can handle it, and then lightly brush the beaten egg on each piece. Bake for 3 minutes more, or until shiny and golden.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Sear until the meat is done to your liking. After it has rested for 5 minutes, slice as thinly as possible.

To assemble, scoop a small spoonful of the mushroom mixture on the top of each piece of puff pastry. Top with a thin slice of steak. Roll a small piece of prosciutto into a tiny tube, and place it on top of the steak. Serve immediately.Beef Wellington Canapés

Happy Christmas! ~ Star-Topped Mince Pies

Star-Topped Mince PiesHappy Christmas! I hope you had a lovely Christmas Day. :)

These sweet little star-topped mince pies were the grand finale of my Christmas dinner this year. They were the perfect finish, and just the right size after a beef Wellington feast.

I used Nigella Lawson’s cranberry mincemeat recipe with a few small changes. I replaced the brown sugar with a diced apple and a little extra honey, I used two oranges rather than one, and I added a dash more of brandy, since it was Christmas after all! 😉

For the crust, I used store-bought pastry cups, but I also made my own pastry. I could have just used the ready made cups, but I really wanted to make stars for the top. :-) Then I had a lot of extra dough after making the stars, so I made some homemade shells, as well. They weren’t as fancy as the ones I bought, but I actually preferred the texture and taste. Using a food processor, the pastry is very easy to make…It literally only takes 5 minutes, so I figured I could fit that into my holiday schedule. 😉 This is the same short crust pastry dough I used for my meat pies this September, and it worked as beautifully for sweet as it did for savory.Star-Topped Mince PiesStar-Topped Mince Pies

Cranberry Mincemeat

Recipe based on Nigella Lawson’s cranberry studded mincemeat

¼ cup port

½ apple, peeled and diced

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup currants

½ cup raisins

¼ cup dried cranberries

2 clementine oranges, zested and juiced

3 tablespoons brandy

3 drops almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons honey

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the port, apple, fresh (or frozen) cranberries, and spices. Cook until the cranberries begin to bubble and pop. Then add the currants, raisins, dried cranberries, and the orange zest and juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the fruit has absorbed most of the liquid. If you still have many whole cranberries, you can squish them with your spoon to help them incorporate into the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat. Then add the brandy, extracts, and honey. Stir until everything is well incorporated.

Let the mincemeat cool before using in your pies.Star-Topped Mince PiesWhole-Wheat Short Crust Pastry

Based on a recipe from BBC

125 grams ivory whole-wheat flour

Pinch of salt

55 grams cold unsalted butter, cubed

Approximately 5 tablespoons ice water

With a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and butter until the butter is the size of small peas. Gradually add the water until the mixture comes together. Add only enough water to combine everything. You may not need a full 5 tablespoons. Form the dough into a disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes before rolling it out. It also freezes well. Just take it out of the freezer and refrigerate the night before you will need it.Star-Topped Mince PiesTo assemble, grease a mini muffin pan very well, and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 425 F.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a very thin sheet. Cut out circles for the crust and stars for the top. Carefully fill the muffin pan with the crusts, fill each crust with the cooled mincemeat, and top with a pastry star. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the pastry is golden, and the bottom crusts are baked through. Let cool before serving.Star-Topped Mince Pies

Merry Christmas! ~ Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cup CookiesThese festive little cookie cups will make a perfect dessert for your Christmas meal. I think Santa might like them too! 😉Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cup CookiesI made a simple whole-wheat sugar cookie dough for the cups and handles. They have a lot less sugar and butter than many recipes to keep them a little lighter. Then I filled the cute little cups with my favorite chocolate mint pudding that is a regular at our house.

If you are looking for a fun way to spend a few hours in the kitchen, I think you’ll enjoy these. (Or if your holiday schedule is already full, make them next month. :) I think hot cocoa is just as fitting in January as it is in December! Why should December get all the fun cookies? 😉 ) Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy giving these a try.Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cup CookiesPeppermint Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups

Cookies:

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

Approximately 1/8 cup milk, dark, or white chocolate (to attach the cup handles)

Pudding:

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 1/2 cups skim milk

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon peppermint (or mint) extract

To make the cookies:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In a second large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture, and beat until just combined. You may need to hand mix the last bit if the dough becomes too thick for the mixer.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare a mini muffin pan by greasing it very well. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Reserve about 1/4 cup of the dough for the cup handles.

With the remaining dough, roll approximately 1-inch balls between your hands, and place them in the prepared muffin tin. Push the center of each ball until it squishes up the side of each hole. Make sure to press the sides and bottom firmly so there are no gaps in between the dough and the pan, and make sure the top is neat. The sides and top will be visible in the final product.

With the reserved dough, roll small pieces into thin lines, and fashion them into tiny cup handles. Place the handles on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cups for about 15 minutes, or until firm, rotating the pan halfway though. Let cool for a couple of minutes before removing the cookies from the pan. Bake the handles for about 7 minutes, or until firm, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool the cups and handles completely on a wire rack.

To attach the cup handles:

Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Place all of your cups on their sides in the cleaned mini muffin pan to prop them up. The side of each cup should be facing up. Dip the edges of the cup handles in the chocolate, and gently place on the side of the cups. Let stand to dry for at least an hour.

To make the pudding:

Begin by placing a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Set aside.

Off the heat, in a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa powder. Turn the heat onto medium high. Gradually add the milk, whisking well to dissolve the cornstarch. Add the egg yolks, and whisk until incorporated.

Continue to whisk occasionally, until big bubbles begin to form. At that point, reduce the heat to low. Cook one more minute, whisking constantly. The consistency should be creamy and thick.

Remove the pudding from the heat and pour it through the strainer into the bowl. Add the vanilla and mint to the hot pudding, and whisk until well incorporated.

Cover the pudding directly on the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Before serving, whisk it one more time to make sure the consistency is smooth.

To assemble:

Place the pudding into a piping bag to neatly fill the hot cocoa cups. Use the back of a small spoon to smooth the top.Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cup Cookies

Healthy Holiday Hors d’Oeuvre ~ Cauliflower Flatbread

Cauliflower FlatbreadCauliflower is usually a part of my holiday table, whether the occasion is Thanksgiving or Easter. It is so versatile that it can be made into anything from a mash that rivals mashed potatoes (like I made last St. Patrick’s Day) to an appetizer that is very much like a flatbread! It really is a pretty amazing vegetable for which I am thankful today. :)

This unique spin on flatbread can be used in any way traditional flatbread is served — with an olive tapenade, with melted cheese, or even with your favorite pizza toppings. I’d recommend it as an appetizer that is out of the ordinary to start off your Thanksgiving meal!

Cauliflower Flatbread

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, cut into approximately 1/2 inch pieces

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, grate the cheese until it is the size of tiny pebbles. Transfer the cheese to a large bowl. In the same processor, (no need to clean the bowl), process the cauliflower in two batches until you have fine pieces that look a little like rice. Transfer the cauliflower to a clean dishtowel. Squeeze as much excess moisture as you can out of the cauliflower. Discard the liquid. Add the cauliflower to the bowl with the cheese. Then add the eggs, oregano, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Combine until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.

On the prepared baking sheet, spread the mixture into a thin layer, about 1/8 inch thick. Bake for about 45 minutes, turning the pan half way through, until the cauliflower is golden and crisp on the edges.

Cut with a pizza wheel and serve immediately.

One More November Holiday ~ Indian Pudding

Indian PuddingToday is National Indian Pudding Day! (Yes, surprisingly, it is actually a real holiday. 😉 ) I have never lived in New England, and I have to admit, I wasn’t familiar with Indian Pudding until recently. But then I read about its fascinating history as one of the first American recipes, and I had to give it a try! It’s a fusion of classic hasty pudding from the Old World, corn from the New World, and molasses from early American trading with the Caribbean. The dish is simple, but delicious and comforting. If you missed the big holiday today ( 😉 ), this dish would also be lovely on your Thanksgiving table.

I based this recipe on one from Bon Appétit magazine. I cut the recipe in half to make only 4 servings. I used skim milk rather than whole, I reduced the sugar a little, and I added more spices and seasoning.

Indian Pudding

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

2 3/4 cups skim milk

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream for serving

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Grease a 9-inch casserole dish. Set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine the milk through the cinnamon. Whisk occasionally to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is hot, cook for about 15 minutes, or until thickened. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the butter and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Bake until the pudding is golden and set in the middle, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool slightly before serving with whipped cream.Indian Pudding

A Reason to Celebrate ~ Brisket Braised in Stout

Brisket Braised in StoutI love little holidays that give us a reason to celebrate, no matter how big or small they are. :) Tonight is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night in Great Britain, which has a long and interesting history. The holiday is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires on this autumn night. It is also International Stout Day! A fun little celebration set aside to appreciate that dark and unique style of beer.

In honor of the day, this brisket braised in stout seemed like a fitting dish. It is a perfect meal to warm up before a chilly fall evening outside by a bonfire, and of course, stout plays a starring role! The original recipe was from Bon Appétit magazine. I used Guinness, since it pairs beautifully with beef. I also used oil rather than bacon fat, and trimmed the meat of as much excess fat as possible. It is one of the most delicious beef recipes I have made in awhile, and I would highly recommend giving it a try!

Brisket Braised in Stout

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more if desired

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more if desired

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

6 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of all excess fat

2 tablespoons high heat oil, such as safflower

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed

12 ounces Guinness stout

6 whole pitted prunes

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

6 cups thinly sliced onions

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 pound medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus more if desired

It is best if the first part of this recipe is done the day before you are planning to serve the dish.

Day 1: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Combine all of the ingredients from the salt through the thyme in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over the beef. Preheat a large pot over medium high heat. Add the oil, and wait until hot and shimmering. Add the beef and cook until caramelized on both sides. Once brown, move the beef to a plate. (It will not be cooked through.) Pour 2 cups of the chicken broth into the pot. Scrape the fond from the bottom of the pot, and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, add all of the ingredients from the stout through the sugar. Bring to a boil once again. Return the beef to the pot. Add the onion slices and garlic over the top of the meat.

Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Braise the beef for about 1 hour. Remove the pot from the oven, and remove the cover. Turn the beef over. (The onions and garlic will fall into the broth.) Return the pot without the cover to the oven. Braise for about 30 minutes more. After 30 minutes, add 1 more cup of the broth. Cover the pot again, and braise for another 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Transfer the beef to a plate. Add 1 more cup of chicken broth to the remaining liquid in the pot. Add the mushrooms and carrots, and then return the beef to the pot. You may need to add a little more broth to cover the vegetables. Cover and return the pot to the oven. Braise for about 45 minutes longer, or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spoon off any excess fat from the surface of the broth. Move the beef to a cutting board, and thinly slice across the grain. Bring the broth with the vegetables to a boil. Add the mustard and 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and whisk to combine. If desired, season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar to taste. Add the meat back to the pan. Cover the pan with the lid. Place the pot in the oven and cook until everything is hot, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve.

Happy Halloween! ~ Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinTo celebrate one of my favorite days, I made a fun and festive dinner – A spicy Creole pumpkin soup served inside of a roasted pumpkin. :)

First I roasted a little sugar pumpkin. A friend of mine brought a larger version filled with fondue to a party, and it was a showstopper! I just had to try it! (Thank you for the idea and the tips, Karen!)

Just cut off the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and goop, and then replace the top. Spread olive oil evenly all over the outside of the pumpkin, including the stem. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast at 450 until the flesh inside is soft. My little sugar pumpkin only took 40 minutes, but a larger pumpkin would take a little longer.Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinYou could use this pumpkin serving bowl with any favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The Creole pumpkin soup I made tonight was based on a recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans called Tableau. The unique soup was a little spicy, and perfect for our Halloween dinner!
Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted Pumpkin

Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Based on a recipe from Tableau

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved

8 cups water

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

12 ounces andouille chicken sausage, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can puréed pumpkin

1 teaspoon mixed Creole or Cajun seasoning

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded

In a large stock pot, add the shrimp shells and the water. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain. Reserve the liquid and discard the shells.

Preheat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage. Brown the sausage on both sides. Remove the sausage from the pot, and set aside onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pot, add the onion, celery, and thyme. Cook until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic, and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and cook until it starts to darken slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer the mix to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to a pot. Add the Creole seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken sausage and the chicken breast. Simmer over low heat to combine all of the flavors, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

The Witches’ Brew wine bottle printable came from TheGraphicsFairy.com. They are free to use, and oh so cute! I hope you’ll check it out!Halloween Wine Label

Everything Pumpkin! ~ Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

Pumpkin Deviled EggsI absolutely love anything and everything pumpkin at this time of the year! (Almost as much as these little squirrels. 😉 ) I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin custard, pumpkin curry, and now, pumpkin deviled eggs! Mind you, they aren’t pumpkin flavored eggs. That might be a little too much, even for me. 😉 They would be perfect for Halloween or even Thanksgiving.Pumpkin Deviled EggsYou can use your favorite classic deviled egg recipe, or use my lightened version below. The extra paprika mixed in is what gives them their pumpkin color.Pumpkin Deviled EggsPumpkin Deviled Eggs

8 hard boiled eggs, cooled, sliced in half, yolks removed, 1/2 of the yolks reserved

3 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon paprika, plus more for garnish

Salt to taste

1 or 2 fresh chives, cut into one-inch lengths

In a small bowl, stir together the yolks, yogurt, mustard, mayonnaise, paprika, and salt until smooth. With a small spoon, fill the holes in the egg whites with the yolk mixture. (FYI, you will have more whites than yolk mixture if you mound the filling as I did. But no worries, whites are a great snack!) Smooth the mixture with your finger. With the back of a butter knife, make 4 small little lines in each yolk filling to imitate the lines of a pumpkin. Place the cut chives into the yolks to make a “stem.” Sprinkle extra paprika over the top as a garnish.Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

October Teashop Mystery ~ Country Captain

Country CaptainI love a good cozy mystery around Halloween, and right now I am reading the latest teashop mystery from Laura Childs called Ming Tea Murder. It is set in Charleston, South Carolina around Halloween. This is the third book I’ve read in this fun series. (If you’d like, check out the recipes I made to pair with the other two mysteries I have enjoyed from this collection, Steeped in Evil and Jasmine Moon Murder.) In the latest book, one of the characters cooks a dish called Country Captain. It’s a Southern dish, but it uses curry spices, dried currants, and peanuts, which is an unexpected and interesting combination. Just like the book, this recipe combines the East and the West, and it is filled with surprising twists! It’s the perfect pairing. :)

I love to learn about the history behind classic dishes, so I dug a little deeper online. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America describes the origin of Country Captain in this way: “Legend has it that a British sea captain who served it in India introduced the dish to locals either in Charleston or Savannah, port cities accustomed to both spices and sailors.”

I used a recipe from Saveur magazine, but I tweaked it a little. First, I used all chicken thighs since they stew beautifully. Make sure to remove the skin or the dish will be far too greasy. I reduced the amount of oil, and omitted the butter and the bacon. I also served it with brown rice rather than white.Country CaptainCountry Captain

Based on a recipe from Saveur magazine

3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons high heat oil, such as safflower

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, 3/4 cup tomato juice reserved

3 tablespoons curry powder

1/3 cup dried currants

2 bay leaves

2 cups steamed brown rice, for serving

Roasted peanuts, for garnish

Season chicken with thyme, salt, and pepper. Preheat a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken. Sear on both sides until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the celery, peppers, and onion to the pot, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and juice and cook until the juice thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, currants, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 325˚.

After the sauce is thickened, add the chicken back to the pot. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Cover and cook in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meat can easily be shredded off the bone with a fork.

In the meantime, prepare the rice according to the package instructions.

Serve the chicken with the sauce and rice, and garnish with peanuts.Ming Tea Murder

It’s Oktoberfest! ~ Beer, Sauerkraut, and Cheese Muffins

Oktoberfest MuffinsHappy Oktoberfest!

Even though I am typically a wine kind of girl, when Oktoberfest rolls around, I love to try the autumn beer at the market. Many of our local breweries make special beer just for the season. I picked up one from Pyramid Brewery, and instead of just drinking it, I decided to use it in some muffins. :) Then I took these muffins one step further…I wanted to add one more Oktoberfest flavor, so I added a little sauerkraut! I know it sounds a little odd, but it actually added a lot of moisture and flavor to the muffins without making them taste like pickles. These go well with chili, or they are great just as a snack (with a little beer of course! 😉 )

Oktoberfest MuffinsBeer, Sauerkraut, and Cheese Muffins

Makes 12

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, minced

3 cups ivory whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sauerkraut, squeezed to remove excess brine and finely chopped

12 ounces Oktoberfest beer

1/4 cup skim milk

Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 375.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook until the onion is slightly caramelized. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the caramelized onions, cheese, sauerkraut, beer, and milk. You may need to work it with your hands to make sure everything is well combined because the batter is very thick.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly into 12 muffins.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until cooked through but still moist.

The cute little flags came from PreppingParties.com. I actually used the artwork for the party banner, but printed it very small to make muffin flags instead. There are a lot of other sweet Oktoberfest printables in the same place that you might want to check out this season. :)

Prost!Oktoberfest Muffins

 

Savoring the End of Summer ~ Summer Vacation Crumble

Vacation CrumbleI’m enjoying every last morsel of summer. :) I hope you are too! This dessert is my last one of the year using summer’s fruits. It’s a perfect dessert to throw together using what you have on hand, because when you want to hang out at the beach or the lake, you don’t want to stop for groceries! 😉 I am calling it a Summer Vacation Crumble since it is also a good dessert to make if you are on vacation where you don’t have your usual kitchen staples for baking, like flour or sugar.

This recipe is more of an inspiration rather than a hard and fast recipe. I think it would even be great with different fruits like blackberries or plums. Use whatever store-bought cookies sound good to you. I have used almond cookies and snickerdoodles, but I think ginger snaps and sugar cookies would also be delicious.Vacation CrumbleSummer Vacation Crumble

Serves 6

4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

½ pint blueberries

Enough maple syrup to sweeten the fruit to your liking

2 handfuls of all-natural store-bought cookies, crumbled (almond, snickerdoodle, or whatever sounds good to you!)

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix the peaches and blueberries together with the maple syrup. Transfer the mixture into one large baking dish or 6 small ones.

Work the cookie crumbs and the butter with your fingers until incorporated.

Evenly top the fruit with the cookie mixture.

Bake until the top is golden, and the fruit is bubbly and softened. Check the crumble after 10 minutes, and bake longer if needed. The individual ones will take less time to bake than one large one, and the time also depends on the ripeness of the fruit.

The cute little flags came from SmartSchoolHouse.com. I thought they added the perfect touch to the summery crumbles!Vacation Crumble

Happy Labor Day! ~ Printable Celebration Decorations

Labor Day PrintableHappy Labor Day weekend! I hope you are thoroughly enjoying the last of summer’s goodness. :)

I discovered the cutest little Labor Day decorations to add a little something extra to my mini apple pies. They could be used to top anything you like…cupcakes, drinks, or even hot dogs. Aren’t they adorable? The printables came from my favorite decoration website, CatchMyParty.com. I hope you’ll check out the site. (The next big holiday is Halloween, and they have so many sweet decorations for the occasion!)Labor Day Printable

 

 

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Dessert ~ Lemon Syllabub Trifle

Lemon Syllabub TrifleThe grand finale to our British anniversary dinner was a lemon syllabub trifle. I couldn’t make up my mind as to which dessert I wanted to make, so I combined three classic British sweets into one – Lemon drizzle cupcakes, lemon syllabub, and a trifle. :)

The lemon drizzle cupcakes were based on a recipe from BBC Good Food. I replaced half of the butter with coconut oil and the other half with nonfat Greek yogurt. I cut the sugar in half, and I replaced the self-rising flour with a combination of whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. (I put the leftovers in the freezer, and after thawing in the microwave for 30 seconds, they make a nice little treat with afternoon tea. :) )

Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

For the cakes:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup caster or fine sugar

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

4 eggs

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

For the drizzle:

Juice of 2 lemons

Powdered sugar, to taste (Maybe start with 2 tablespoons and add from there if you like it sweeter)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake papers. Whisk together the coconut oil, yogurt, sugar, and lemon zest until well blended. Then add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until well combined, being careful not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the lined muffin tin.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooling, make the glaze drizzle. Whisk together the lemon juice and enough powdered sugar to your liking. Prick the warm cakes in several places with a skewer, and then pour the drizzle over the top. Let cool completely.Lemon Syllabub TrifleFor the syllabub, I started with one more recipe from BBC Good Food. I replaced half of the heavy cream with nonfat Greek yogurt, and I cut back on the sugar. It was a delicious, creamy dessert on its own with a lovely little tang from the yogurt, wine, and lemon.

Lemon Syllabub

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons caster or fine sugar

2/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons dry white wine

Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Stir in the yogurt, and blend well. Add the wine, the lemon zest, and the lemon juice. Mix until everything is evenly incorporated.

Trifle

Lemon syllabub

Small berries, such as raspberries or blueberries

Lemon drizzle cupcakes, cut into small cubes

Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated

For ease, place the syllabub into a piping bag. In the base of a tall glass, pipe a shallow layer of syllabub in the bottom. Top with a few berries and then a few cubes of cake. Repeat until you finish at the top with the syllabub. Sprinkle with lemon zest on top.

That is the last stop on our virtual culinary getaway to the UK. :) Cheerio for now!Lemon Syllabub Trifle

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Pie 3 ~ Pheasant, Leek, and Parsley Pie

British PiesThe final pie I made for our British anniversary pie extravaganza was a pheasant, leek, and parsley pie. :) I started with a chicken pie recipe from BBC Good Food, which I thought would lend itself well to the gamier pheasant. I loved the clean, fresh flavors of the leek, parsley and lemon zest that complimented the pheasant well.

Again, I did a slow braise with the pheasant, just as I did with the rabbit, which resulted in very tender meat and a bunch of extra pheasant stock to use for future recipes.

Pheasant, Leek, and Parsley Pie

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

Cooking the pheasant and the stock:

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 pheasant, about 3 pounds, cleaned

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tablespoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Preheat a large stockpot on medium high heat. When hot, add oil, and wait until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the whole pheasant, and brown on all sides. Add the remaining ingredients and cover everything with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, or until the pheasant meat is easily shredded with a fork.

Strain the stock, and discard the vegetables and seasonings.

Shred all of the meat, and reserve 2 ¼ cups of the stock for the pie. Freeze the rest of the stock for future recipes.

Cooking the pie:

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

2 leeks, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ¼ cups pheasant stock

¼ cup dry white wine

1 3-pound cooked pheasant, shredded

Zest of 1 lemon

1 small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the oil, and wait until hot and shimmering. Add the leeks, and cook until softened. Add the flour, stir well, and cook for about a minute. Gradually stir in the stock and wine, cooking until the sauce is thickened slightly. Add the pheasant meat, and heat until warmed through. Take the pan off the heat, and add the lemon zest and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, add the stew to small ramekins and top with the pre-baked shortcrust pastry. (The instructions for the pastry can be found here in the first beef pie blog entry.)

The sweet ending to our meal is up next. :-) A lemon syllabub trifle!

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Pie 2 ~ Rabbit Pie with Cider and Mustard

British PiesThe second pie I made for our trio of British anniversary pies was a rabbit pie. :) I wanted to make something out of the box, and rabbit isn’t something I use everyday. It was fun for me to cook with something different, and it felt like a special ingredient to use on our special day. It tastes a lot like chicken to me, so this recipe could be swapped with chicken, as well.

I started with a basic braise that left me with very tender meat and enough rabbit stock to freeze for later. (I use this method with chicken frequently. It’s a nice way to stock your freezer for the coming winter soup months! :) )

Rabbit Pie with Cider and Mustard

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

Cooking the rabbit and the stock:

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 rabbit, about 3 pounds, cleaned

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ tablespoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Preheat a large stockpot on medium high heat. When hot, add oil, and wait until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the whole rabbit, and brown on all sides. Add the remaining ingredients and cover everything with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, or until the rabbit meat is easily shredded with a fork.

Strain the stock, and discard the vegetables and seasonings.

Shred all of the meat, and reserve 2 cups of the stock for the pie. Freeze the rest of the stock for future recipes.

Cooking the pie:

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 small leek, finely sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seed

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup dry hard cider

2 cups rabbit stock

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 3-pound cooked rabbit, shredded

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the oil, and wait until hot and shimmering. Add the leek and fennel seeds, and cook until caramelized and softened. Stir in the flour, and cook for about a minute. Add the cider, stir well to fully incorporate the flour and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the cooking liquid by half.

Stir in the mustard, add salt and pepper to taste, and then add the rabbit meat. Cook until warmed through.

To serve, add the stew to small ramekins and top with the pre-baked shortcrust pastry. (The instructions for the pastry can be found here in the previous beef pie blog entry.)

Up next, pheasant pie!British Pies

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Pie 1 ~ Beef, Ale, and Mushroom Pie

British PiesI decided to make a meat pie for the main course of our British anniversary dinner. There are so many to choose from, however! I couldn’t make up my mind…So I made 3! :) I made these all ahead of time and froze them until we were ready. Now we have lots of leftovers to thaw whenever we want a special meal.

I used the same shortcrust pastry for all three pies. The recipe I used came from the BBC recipe website. I replaced the plain flour with ivory whole-wheat flour, and I ended up using a little more water than the recipe called for to properly moisten the whole grain flour. I ended up using 5 tablespoons, but add just enough for the crust to come together. This crust also freezes well for future use. I served my pies in little ramekins and just topped them with crust. Not only was it a cute presentation, but also I only needed a small amount of the rich pastry for each pie. To make the little interchangeable and removable crusts like I did, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the refrigerated crust to about 1/8 inch thick, and cut it into the shapes you want with cookie cutters. Brush the pieces with an egg wash and bake at 350 for about 15-18 minutes, or until golden, turning halfway through for even cooking.

The first pie I made was a beef, ale, and mushroom pie. I used a round roast, which is a fairly lean cut that braises well. I also used Canadian bacon rather than traditional bacon, and omitted the sugar completely. I replaced the chestnut mushrooms with criminis, since they are easier for me to find in the States. I also made several tweaks to the recipe for my American kitchen, converting grams to ounces and changing the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit.

Beef, Ale, and Mushroom Pie

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

1/3 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

3/4 cup boiling water

2-4 tablespoons high heat cooking oil, such as safflower

2 1/2 pounds round roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into inch-sized cubes

1 large onion, diced

4 large carrots, diced

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

10 ounces dark ale, such as Guinness

14 ounces low-sodium beef stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 small bunch of mixed herbs (thyme, bay leaf, and parsley), tied together

6 ounces Canadian bacon, small diced

8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced

Cover the porcini mushrooms in the boiling water for about 20 minutes, or until they are tender. Then remove the mushrooms, squeeze out the excess moisture, and reserve the liquid.

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Using a large pot with a lid and a heavy bottom, preheat on medium high heat. When it is hot, add some of the oil to coat the bottom, and wait until the oil is hot and shimmering. Add the beef in small batches, and brown on all sides. Set aside. Add the onion and carrots, and cook until caramelized and softened. Add the soaked mushrooms, and cook for about a minute more. Add the flour, stirring until it turns slightly golden. Place the meat and any juices back into the pan and stir well. Add the ale, stock, and porcini soaking liquid. Stir well to fully incorporate the flour into the liquid. Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste. Add the herbs. Bring the stew to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and place it in the oven for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to shred with a fork.

Meanwhile, preheat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a little more oil. Add the Canadian bacon, and cook until caramelized. Then add the crimini mushrooms and cook until they release most of their moisture. Remove from the heat. When the stew is cooked, stir the bacon and mushrooms into the stew.

To serve, add the stew to small ramekins and top with the pre-baked shortcrust pastry.British Pies

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Soup ~ Rocket and Courgette Soup (Arugula and Zucchini Soup)

Rocket and Courgette SoupThis week marks our 15th wedding anniversary, and since it’s a big year, we wanted to celebrate in a big way! We had an extravagant British-themed dinner that took me several days to complete, but it was a fun project that was well worth the effort. I wanted to tie this anniversary back to our engagement anniversary/Valentine’s Day celebration when we enjoyed a Downton Abbey themed dinner. Given that the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary is crystal, I thought another classic British meal with all the trimmings would also give us a great excuse to get out the crystal pieces we were given as wedding gifts but don’t use as often as we could. This crystal-studded celebration dinner was my anniversary gift to my hubby. :)

We started with a simple summery soup called rocket and courgette soup in the UK, but here in the States, we would call it arugula and zucchini soup. :) I based the dish on a recipe from BBC Good Food, and then added a couple touches of my own.Rocket and Courgette SoupRocket and Courgette Soup

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 teaspoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium russet potato, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

About 3 1/5 ounces, or 2 large handfuls, rocket (arugula)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan. Add oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and potato. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add the courgettes and stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Bring to a boil. Cook until the courgettes are tender. Next, add the rocket, and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. In small batches, blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Stay tuned for the main course…A trio of mini British meat pies!Rocket and Courgette Soup