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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Eric and I love cooking, but there are times neither of us has the energy to make something involved. Instead of turning to takeout or frozen pizza on those nights, we often turn to breakfast. I’ve never had a problem eating breakfast foods for dinner. We only do it once every few months, which is just frequently enough for me to get excited about it and not often enough for me to get sick of it. Though we won’t be making breakfast for dinner any more than we currently do, I imagine we’ll be making these biscuits for breakfast again soon.

There’s something special about buttery, rich homemade biscuits. It’s hard to be upset when you’re enjoying a homemade biscuit, especially when that biscuit is filled with bacon, cheddar and chives. These biscuits were my kitchen therapy for the day, and as their scent filled my kitchen, I could feel the stress of my day melting away. These fluffy biscuits aren’t just for breakfast; they’re perfect for any meal. I think they would make a wonderful side to a classic Sunday dinner, as well as a fantastic addition to a breakfast or brunch spread. I will admit to being a little wary of the garlic butter on top because I was afraid it would overpower the other flavors in the biscuits, but it added the perfect amount of garlicky goodness to these biscuits without the punch of fresh garlic. The only major change I made in this recipe was in method. I read recently (I think in a Cook’s Illustrated recipe) that one of the best ways to incorporate butter into dough is by freezing and then grating it on a box grater. This trick takes all the work out of cutting the butter and makes it easier to mix in without overworking the dough.

Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits
Makes 10 biscuits

2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 to 6 Pieces of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400º. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and pepper. Grate the butter and add to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, gently and quickly rub the butter into the flour mixture until pea-sized pieces of flour form, being careful not to overwork the dough. Mix in the bacon, cheddar and chives.

Add the buttermilk and mix with a fork just until the dough comes together. Gently knead the dough in the bowl until it is no longer shaggy. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and continue kneading until a cohesive mass forms. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Cut evenly into 10 biscuits.

Transfer each biscuit to a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Mix together the melted butter and garlic powder and lightly brush each biscuit with the mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly golden around the edges. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Authentic Suburban Gourmet

Pan Seared Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce

Pan Seared Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce

Eric and I enjoy steak, but it’s not something we cook on a regular basis. After trying this recipe, however, that might change. You know how sometimes you’ll stumble across a recipe that is completely perfect? This was that kind of recipe for us. With minimal ingredients and effort, we had a fancy(ish) steakhouse dinner without leaving home.

This recipe starts with an inexpensive cut of meat, top butt. You may think that, in order to have restaurant-worthy steak, an expensive cut is required. I thought that until trying this recipe. Sure, it’s one thing to use a lesser cut if the steak is being marinated for fajitas. It’s another thing altogether when the steak is being pan seared and topped with pan sauce. I had my doubts that this recipe would result in a tender, flavorful steak, but I should’ve known better than to doubt the people at Cook’s Illustrated. This meal exceeded my expectations, and I foresee my red meat intake increasing in the near future as I try different sauces using this technique. The mustard cream sauce was my favorite part of this recipe, and it dressed up the steak nicely. The shallot and mustard gave the sauce a little kick that was balanced out but not suffocated by the cream. It’s what truly made this feel like a dinner out instead of a quick weeknight dinner.

Cook’s Illustrated has a wonderful primer on steaks and mentions that this type of steak is also known as boneless shell sirloin, butt steak, top sirloin butt, top sirloin steak and center-cut roast. Additionally, the flap meat steak can also be found as top sirloin tips, beef sirloin tips, sirloin tip steak and sirloin flap meat for tips. Just remember to keep an eye out for various names since they can vary by region and market.

Pan Seared Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce
Serves 2

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 boneless shell sirloin steak (top butt) or whole flap meat steak, about 1 pound and 1 1/4 inches thick
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard or coarse brown mustard

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper, then place in skillet. Cook, without moving, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip steak. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until well browned on the second side. For medium-rare, cook for about 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125º. For medium, cook for about 6 minutes or until steak reaches 130º.

Remove steak from skillet and place on a large plate or cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and allow to rest until the temperature reaches 130º for medium-rare and 135º for medium, anywhere from 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Return to low heat and add shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and increase heat to medium-high. Simmer rapidly for about 30 seconds and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the skillet. Add broth and simmer until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Add cream and any juices from the resting steak. Continue cooking for about a minute, then stir in mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp knife, slice steak about 1/4 inch thick against the grain on the bias. Arrange on two plates, spoon sauce over the top and serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, September/October 2005

Lemon Blueberry Bars

Lemon Blueberry Bars

I am unbelievably ready for fall and all the things that come with it. Fall weather is my favorite for several reasons, but one of the main ones is that it’s warm enough for sandals but cool enough for jeans and a cardigan. Pumpkin, of course, is the reason I really look forward to fall every year. Sadly, it’s still August, which means the unofficial start of fall is still over a week away. On a brighter note, that means there’s still time to enjoy summery desserts like this one.

I first made these lemon bars for my friend Erin’s birthday. They were such a hit at her party that I knew I’d have to make them again before summer’s end. I put off making them until I realized that as soon as I made my first pumpkin dessert, there was no going back to summer ones. Since I know I have little will power when it comes to pumpkin, it was imperative that I make these and soon. (Beware the pumpkin posts that await next month.) These lemon bars remind me a lot of cheesecake bars. They start with a thick, lemony graham cracker crust that’s topped with a tart, even more lemony filling. I haven’t used sweetened condensed milk much, and I had no idea it would create such a smooth, rich filling. To take the bars over the top, fresh blueberries are folded into the filling, providing a pop of flavor and color. These bars are a little sweet, a little tart and a lot delicious. I know fall is almost here, but these bars are almost enough to make me wish for an extra week of summer.

Lemon Blueberry Bars

Lemon Blueberry Bars
Makes 16 bars

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the filling:
2 large egg yolks
1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and lemon zest. Stir in the melted butter until all the crumbs are moistened. Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Then whisk in the lemon juice and zest and stir until smooth. Gently fold in blueberries. Pour the filling over the cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes, until just set.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting and serving. Bars are best served chilled and will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

I have an ongoing list in the back of my mind of things I want to accomplish in the kitchen. At the top of that list, until recently, was canning. Now that we’ve tried it, Eric and I are hooked. Last weekend we made pickles and this peach jam, and I’m already thinking about what to make this weekend. Though I’m certainly ready for fall to arrive, I’m clutching the last few weeks of summer so that we have time to preserve as much of summer’s bounty as we can.

Up until this point, I had never actually eaten peach jam. I like blackberry the best and normally stick with it (unless I can find boysenberry, also a favorite). But when I saw this recipe on Annie’s blog, I knew I had to make it. Bright orange peaches and flecks of vanilla bean? Yes, please! Eric and I picked up a few pounds of ripe, juicy, local peaches at the farmers market and were ready to begin our first canning adventure. The canning process was much easier than I expected. We went to the library and checked out a few books on preserving, but there’s ample information to be found online as well. Since we had never made jam before, we decided to consult one of the books to find out what temperature the fruit needed to reach in order to properly set (between 218-222ºF). We canned this jam using a water bath canner, but you can preserve it using whichever method you like. Once we get a little more canning under our belts, I hope to share a how-to post. Needless to say, you’ll be seeing a lot more recipes like this from us in the future.

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam

Peach Vanilla Bean Jam
Makes about 8 cups

3 pounds ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 1/2 cups sugar
1-2 vanilla bean(s), halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (including vanilla bean seeds and pods) over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has partially caramelized and turned a dark orange color. Remove and discard vanilla bean pods.

Divide the jam evenly among sterilized half-pint jars and can using your preferred method. If you choose not to preserve the jam, the jars can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. If you choose not to preserve the jam, the jars can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

As seen on Annie’s Eats, originally from Tartelette

Peach Mousse Verrines for Josie’s Virtual Baby Shower

Peach Mousse Verrine

Food blogging is a truly magical thing. Though I’ve said it before, it bears repeating. It brings together people from different circumstances who share one common love. Friendships are made over conversations about food, but they continue based on so much more. When I met some of my friends at BlogHer Food earlier this year, I felt as though I’d known them forever. Before the conference, I made plans to share a room with my friend Josie. After meeting her (and the other people I “knew” beforehand), I was so sad to leave. I even got a little teary-eyed as I walked away from them, luggage in hand, knowing I had just experienced something amazing but not knowing when we would all see each other again. Since I can’t celebrate Josie’s upcoming addition in person, I’m so glad Annie is hosting this virtual shower for her.

Josie and I at BlogHer Food 2011
Josie and I at BlogHer Food

Josie, being a true Georgia girl, loves peaches. So when my peach drink concoction didn’t turn out as planned, I decided to go a different route and make a dessert instead. I wanted something that would be light, since showers of any sort are always (at least in my experience) heavy on food. I also wanted the recipe I chose to really showcase peaches. When I found this recipe, I knew it would be perfect. There’s minimal sugar added, which really allows the natural sweetness of the peaches to come through. Plus, it had that light texture I was hoping for. Though I made this recipe into four verrines, you could certainly make smaller ones. They would look lovely lined up on a dessert table in small glasses, each with a small spoon inside. The verrines start out with a peach purée layer that is brightened up with a little lime zest. On top of that is an airy peach mousse that makes up the majority of this dessert. Strawberry purée finishes off the verines, and you’re left with a light, fruity and refreshing dessert that tastes like summer in a glass. Josie, I hope you and the baby enjoy this, and I wish I could be there to share it with you in person.

To see the full roundup of posts for Josie’s virtual shower, make sure to check out the posts on her’s and Annie’s sites.

Peach Mousse Verrines

Peach Mousse Verrines
Makes 4

For the peach purée:
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup peaches, peeled, pitted and diced small
juice and zest of a lime
2 tablespoons sugar

For the peach mousse:
1/2 tablespoon gelatin
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup peaches, peeled, pitted and diced small
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the strawberry topping:
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
2 teaspoons water
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon of sugar
splash of lemon juice

To make the peach purée, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a very small bowl and set aside. Place the peaches, lime zest and juice and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined. Heat mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Divide evenly among 4 glasses and refrigerate until set.

To make the peach mousse, sprinkle the the gelatin over the water in a very small bowl and set aside. Purée the peaches in the bowl of a food processor until completely smooth. Place the purée and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When the mixture has cooled, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the peach purée. Divide evenly among the glasses and refrigerate until set.

To make the strawberry purée, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a very small bowl and set aside. Purée the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor until completely smooth. Heat the mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Divide evenly among the glasses and refrigerate until set.

Source: Tartlette