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Friday, December 31, 2010

Bacon Mac & Cheese with Gruyère

What are you doing New Year's?  We are staying in and grilling out filets.  We are also having this mac and cheese.  We had this for Christmas Eve and I LVED it!  It rivals the Gnocchi Mac & Cheese I made earlier this year.  The recipe is from Chef Michael Symon.  He created the recipe for the official Wisconsin cheese website.  There are 12 Michael Symon recipe creations on the site (so far).  I believe this is the first of many that I will be trying.

This is extremely simple to make.  Nobody would guess that that it is a quick stovetop mac and cheese - I love that!  You really should splurge on the gruyere, it really makes this mac and cheese special. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spicy Meat Sauce - The Meatball Shop

This is the sauce that we had with the meatballs from yesterday.  The recipe is also from The Meatball Shop in NYC.  It is really easy to make.  It is also pretty spicy.  It isn't burn your mouth or make your nose run spicy, but it makes your mouth pretty warm.  If you aren't into spicy foods, just reduce the amount of red pepper flakes.  We happen to really like spicy food, and we loved this sauce!  The original recipe calls for ground pork shoulder.   I had sausage in the fridge, so I used that instead.  I thought the sausage worked really well.  I will definitely be making this sauce again and again.  

The Meatball Shop - Spicy Meat Sauce
8 cups
NY Daily News
(Printable Recipe)

1 large yellow onion, small dice (about 2 cups)
1 pound sausage
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans tomatoes, chopped (preferably San Marzano) (I pulsed mine in the food processor)

Cook the onions and sausage with the olive oil, chili and salt over a medium heat in a large pot (6 quarts), stirring constantly until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the onions are soft and beginning to brown (about 15 minutes).

Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for five minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes and stir constantly until sauce begins to boil.

Continue cooking for 35 minutes, stirring every four or five minutes so that the sauce does not burn.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beef Meatballs - The Meatball Shop

I love a really good Italian meatball, but I haven't been able to replicate the same taste/texture at home - until now.  I have finally found a great meatball recipe courtesy of The New York Daily News.  They wrote an article about The Meatball Shop in NYC, and, much to my pleasure, they included several recipes.  I was SO excited to try them out.  I decided to go the traditional route and make the beef meatballs first.

Wow!! These meatballs were amazing!  They were very moist and flavorful.  I really liked the creaminess that the ricotta added.  I think that is the missing ingredient to my previous meatball attempts.  The meatballs were as good (if not better) reheated the next day for lunch.  We both really liked this dish and thought it was just as good as anything we have eaten in an Italian restaurant.  I wish I knew about The Meatball Shop when we were in NYC this Fall - we will have to check it out next time!

The Meatball Shop - Beef Meatballs
24 meatballs
NY Daily News
(Printable Recipe)

2 pounds 80% lean beef, ground
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
½ teaspoon fennel seed, ground
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450.

Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Drizzle the olive oil into a large baking dish (9 x 12), making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).

Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs, making sure to pack the meat firmly. (I used the large pampered chef scoop)

Place balls into the oiled baking dish so that all are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their neighbors in a grid.

Roast until firm and cooked through (about 20 minutes).

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lemon Velvet Cream Pie

Look no further, this is the BEST LEMON PIE!  I saw this recipe in the November issue of Better Homes & Gardens and put it on my list of Christmas desserts.  We usually just have a regular lemon icebox pie, but the title of this recipe really made me want to try it. Lemon Velvet Cream Pie - who doesn't want to try that?!

The original recipe calls for a regular pie crust.  Chicken Legs insisted on a graham cracker crust, so I changed it.  The original recipe also stated that the pie would be very full.  I took that to mean that it wouldn't fit in the standard 9" deep dish pie pan, so I decided to go with a springform pan.  I am so glad that I did.  The filling was all the way to the top of the graham cracker crust - perfect! 

The pie tasted fantastic.  It didn't make it through the weekend.  Chicken Legs finished it off Sunday night.  I am using this as my "go-to" lemon pie from now on.  If you prefer key lime pie, just substitute key lime juice for the lemon juice.  We will be trying it that way soon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Melting Moments

These cookies were a gift from one of my employees, Elise.  Elise makes these cookies every year, they are one of her family's Christmas traditions.  They refer to these cookies as Pink Hamburgers - because of the pink icing.  The cookies are very light and delicate.  The filling has cherry juice and almond extract.   The almond flavor is more prominent and I love it!  Elise brought these cookies to a cookie swap we had a few years ago and I've been in love with them ever since. 

Elise also gave me these super cute cat measuring cups!  They couldn't be any cuter, well, unless there was an orange one.  Cant' wait to put these to use.

Melting Moments
(Printable Recipe)

1 cup softened butter
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp milk

Combine all ingredients except 1 cup flour in mixing bowl and cream thoroughly. Add remaining flour a little at a time. Chill dough for half hour. Line baking sheet with foil. Roll dough thin between wax paper (3/16 of an inch). Cut out small round cookies with doughnut hole center (1 ¼ inch). They can be bigger but these cookies are very delicate and it can be hard to handle the larger ones. Place cookies about ¼ inch apart on lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees, 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Carefully remove foil with cookies from baking sheet and set on cooling rack. Cool for 20 minutes.

1 cup powered sugar
2 Tbsp soft butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
few tsp maraschino cherry juice

Mix together powdered sugar, butter and almond extract. Add juice from maraschino cherries and mix until smooth and creamy. Dab about 3/4 tsp icing on flat side of cookie. Gently twist another cookie into place to make a little sandwich.

Makes about 2 ½ - 3 dozen cookies.

I found another variation on these cookies on the web. It is basically the same except you don't roll out the dough. You make balls and just flatten them. (sounds easier to me!)

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Creamy Limoncello

Several months ago my Mom sent me a link to an NPR article on homemade creamy limoncello. I've had limoncello before, but never creamy limoncello.  It looked easy, so I decided to make it for the holidays.

This doesn't take very much actual hands on time.  It just takes some planning.  The rinds soak for a week, but in a pinch you can soak them for 48 hours.  I ended up soaking mine for 9 days - the longer you soak them, the more intense the flavor will be.

Limoncello is meant to be served chilled.  It is best to store the limoncello in the freezer.  It won't freeze because of the high alcohol content.  I used Everclear.  If you can't find Everclear, you can use 100 proof vodka.

I ordered the bottles from Speciality Bottle when I ordered the vanilla extract bottles.  I ordered the labels from My Own Labels and matched them with the vanilla extract labels.

I thought the lemon and orange peels looked really cool while they were steeping

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Red Velvet Brownies

I saw this recipe in the December issue of Southern Living and knew I had to try it.  I had never heard of red velvet brownies - red velvet cake but not red velvet brownies.  I was intrigued.

I took last Friday off and had a chance to give these a try.  OMG!  These are unbelievable!!  This is my new favorite Christmas treat.  I've made it so many times this holiday season that I have the recipe memorized!  These are super easy to make (maybe too easy), and I love that it only uses one bowl!  (less cleanup for Chicken Legs)

This is the kind of dessert that calls to me in the middle of the night.  I had to get up last weekend and eat one for breakfast.  I gave these away to friends and co-workers instead of a pound cake this year.  These will be a new holiday tradition in our house.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I saw this post on The Italian Dish last year, and I LOVED this idea!  I immediately made plans to give homemade vanilla extract to my friends and coworkers this Christmas.  It is SO easy!  You only need two ingredients - vanilla beans and vodka.  Who knew it was so simple?!   Make sure to plan ahead - this needs to steep for about 8 weeks before it is ready to use.  I started this back in October so I could give it out at Christmas.

I used The Italian Dish's recommendations for supplies.  I got the Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Beanilla, the bottles from Speciality Bottle Company and the labels from My Own Labels.

The cards are from moo.com - I love them!  I even decorated the Plain Chicken for Christmas.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

4 oz unflavored vodka
1 1/2 vanilla beans, split

Combine in a 4 ounce bottle and let steep for 8 weeks.  As you use the extract, fill the bottle up with more vodka and you will have extract forever.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nine Sons Rising Biscuits & NY Butcher Shoppe

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Nine Sons Rising to see if I would be interested in trying out their biscuits.  Nine Sons Rising was founded by two mothers with nine sons between the two of them! They make gourmet biscuits, preserves and dessert toppings from all-natural, in-season ingredients and have distribution in the New York Butcher Shoppes throughout the Southeast.  I had never been to the New York Butcher Shoppe in Cahaba Heights, so I was really excited to check out both!

I was given vouchers to sample four biscuit flavors.  I chose Angel (plain), Bleu Cheese, Sweet Potato and Devil (jalapeno jack).  They were all really good!  Our favorite were the Devil biscuits; they packed a nice kick from the jalapeno jack cheese.  I could even see bits of jalapenos.  

I was really surprised at how they baked up.  The are very flat in the pack, and I was worried they wouldn't bake up.  But they did!  They were nice and fluffy.  I loved that they are baked frozen, straight out of the pack.   So easy!!

We had all 4 varieties with dinner, but these biscuits are perfect for entertaining.  They would be great sandwiched with some ham or pork tenderloin for a quick hors d'oeuvre.  I will definitely be serving these this holiday season.

Our experience at the New York Butcher Shoppe was wonderful as well.  They carry USDA Prime beef - we bought two NY Strips when we picked up the biscuits.  They were wonderful!  We enjoyed them so much that we went back and bought two hand-cut filets (and biscuits) for dinner last night.  They were the best steaks that we've ever had.  The New York Butcher Shoppe also carries wine, side dishes, sandwiches and specialty foods.  We are their newest fans!
This place is not to be missed!! If you are in The Ham - it is located in the Heights Village shopping center in Cahaba Heights (behind the Summit near Yankee Pizzeria and Dairy Queen).

New York Strips


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Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Treats

Christmas is 8 days away and Festivas is only 6 days away!  Here is a list of some of my favorite Christmas/Festivus treats - just in case you still need some inspiration!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Muddy Buddies

Muddy Buddies, Puppy Chow, Reindeer Chow - whatever you call this, it is good stuff!  My brother-in-law recently moved out to Colorado, and  I was looking for a treat that would be good to mail to him.  I knew I wanted to make a type of candy or snack mix and these Muddy Buddies popped in my mind.  I haven't made Muddy Buddies in ages.  I forgot how good this stuff is!  What's not to like - peanut butter, chocolate, powdered sugar.  I am going to make sure this is on our Christmas snack list from now on.

Muddy Buddies
(Printable Recipe)

9 cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex®, Wheat Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.

Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Almond Sour Cream Pound Cake

Every year I give a few special friends a Christmas pound cake.  I make the cake in my favorite Christmas tree Bundt pan and ice the peaks to look like snow.  I've been making a Vanilla Butter Cake for several years, so I decided to branch out with a new cake this year.  I decided on this cake from Paula Deen.  I love almond, and I've never had a bad Paula Deen dessert.  It had to be a winner.  

This recipe made enough for a Christmas tree cake and a loaf pan.  Chicken Legs sampled the pound cake loaf and gave it two thumbs up.  I used the glace icing that I use on sugar cookies to ice the peaks.  My favorite part about giving this cake to friends is the presentation.  I buy monogramed boxes from BakingBoxes.com and tie a big beautiful bow around it.  The pictures below don't do the box justice.  It looks so much better in person!  

Almond Sour Cream Pound Cake
Paula Deen
(Printable Recipe)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
3 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a tube pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and sugar together and then add sour cream. Sift flour and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture, alternately with eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and stir to combine. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool cake in pan for about 10 minutes and then unmold and cool completely on a wire rack. Frost cake when completely cooled.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peppermint Cookies & Cream Popcorn

One of my favorite Christmas cookies is a Peppermint Joe Joe from Trader Joe's.  Unfortunately, we don't have a Trader Joe's in The Ham, and I didn't make it over to Atlanta or up to Nashville to pick up a box (or six).  I was forced to come up with a homemade Peppermint Joe Joe fix.  I am really into popcorn treats this year, so I thought about the Peppermint Popcorn Bark I made last week.  I thought if the peppermint was good - Oreos and peppermint had to be better, right?  Right!! 

Be warned - this is highly addictive!  Chicken Legs, my official taste tester, took a bite and said "It's good".  He took another bite and said "This is really good.".  After another bite he said "Take this stuff to work so I don't eat it all!".   I gave some away, but I couldn't bring myself to give it all away.  It was just too good!

Peppermint Cookies & Cream Popcorn
2 bags microwave popcorn, popped
1 (6oz) box candy canes, crushed
1 pack Oreo cookies, crushed
1 1/2 packs Almond Bark
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or a few drops of peppermint oil

Place popcorn in a very large bowl - the biggest one you have. Pour crushed candy canes and Oroes on top of the popcorn. (I crush my candy canes and Oreos in the food processor) Melt one pack of almond bark according to instructions on the package. Add the peppermint extract or oil to the almond bark and pour over popcorn. Stir. The Oreos will absorb some of the almond bark and the popcorn won't be fully coated.  Melt the remaining almond bark and pour over popcorn.  Stir until popcorn is coated.  Pour popcorn on wax paper and allow to harden. Once the popcorn has hardened, break into pieces and enjoy!

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Monday, December 13, 2010

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