Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

1 ½ lbs. of ground turkey (traditional beef may be substituted)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Small bag of frozen vegetable mix (corn, carrots, & peas)
½ head of cauliflower
3 Yukon gold potatoes (or any kind will work)
2 cups of chicken stock/broth
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 heaping tbsp. of light sour cream
½ cup of fat-free Half & Half (or use the real thing)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and oregano (or use 1/4 tsp. each of dried seasonings)
Few shots of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon of flour
Paprika, optional

In a large pot, boil cauliflower and potatoes until tender in salted water.

While the cauliflower and potatoes cook, take a frying pan, and heat olive oil. Add ground turkey and cook until browned and done. Season the meat with the spices (cayenne, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano) while it’s browning. Next, add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle flour over all and give a good stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two. Pour in the 2 cups of stock, then, add the frozen vegetables along with the Worcestershire Sauce. Let mixture simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, until it’s thickened, and the flavors have “married” nicely.

Drain potatoes and cauliflower and mash with a potato masher. Add butter, sour cream and Half & Half. Mix until combined.

In a large casserole dish lightly pre-coated with non stick cooking spray, add turkey mixture. Add potato mixture as top layer.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbly, if you bake it while still hot.If you preparing ahead of time, bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Southern Ambrosia Snowballs

I have had this recipe for over a year now. In fact, I had thought about making these for the cookie exchange last year but didn’t get around to it. They seemed like they would be simple and fairly light compared to the more chocolate heavy cookies.

The food processor made the crumbs quickly and easily. I mixed the other ingredients and added the crumbs and mixed away. Everything seemed to come together, but not so much that I could knead it like the recipe suggests. I tried to add one mini marshmallow in each cookie, but it was so difficult to close the cookie around it that I quickly gave up on that. Also, when I tried to roll the cookies in the coconut, no where near as much stuck to my cookies as in the pictures. Maybe I handled the rounded cookies too much and lost some of the ‘stickiness.’

Even though the cookies didn’t quite come out like expected, they still tasted good. The flavor of the Nilla wafers with orange was a good combination. I was ok with less coconut flavor-wise, but the picture of the cookies on the website definitely look prettier. In the end it was a good recipe to try out, but I do not think they will be a part of my normal rotation.

From Good Housekeeping Yields: 24 snowballs

• 5 tablespoon(s) light corn syrup
• 3 tablespoon(s) orange marmalade
• 2 tablespoon(s) orange liqueur or orange juice concentrate
• 1 box(es) (12-ounce) Nilla Wafers, finely crushed
• 48 mini marshmallows
• 1 3/4 cup(s) sweetened coconut flakes
1. In a bowl, combine the corn syrup, orange marmalade, and orange liqueur. Stir in the crushed vanilla wafers until moistened and knead together until well mixed.
2. Use your hands to shape the mixture into 1-inch balls, filling each with 2 mini marshmallows. Roll each ball in the coconut to coat and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Cookie Exchange

I had a few friends over last weekend for a lunch and cookie exchange to celebrate the holidays. Of course I couldn’t make just one kind of cookie. I made Southern Ambrosia cookies, Irish potatoes, Irish creme delights and peanut butter cake truffles. Along with some red velvet cake truffles that I still had.

For lunch, I made the sweet potato pasta I bought from the Lilburn Farmers market at the end of the summer with a garlic walnut mascarpone sauce. And a turkey shepherd’s pie; I got the recipe from the Cuisinart website. They are having a photo contest at the moment where you pick a recipe on their website, make it and photograph it and submit it. That fit my lunch perfectly. It was not made with beef (a request of one of my guests), was a part of the contest, and was ‘healthified’ by adding cauliflower to the mashed potatoes. I also made the cheese burger buns from a few weeks ago, except that I made them into 16 smaller rolls rather than the 8 larger burger buns.

Irish Creme Delights

I believe that I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden website. If I find out otherwise, I will be sure to update that information. Just be careful to read the directions thoroughly. When I first started making this recipe, I accidentally added 1 tablespoon of instant coffee rather than 1 teaspoon. Needless to say, there was no saving that batter and I had to start again. Here is the recipe:

• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 1/4 cup shortening
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur or 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• Irish Creme Frosting
• Ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine butter and shortening. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, the coffee liqueur, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.
2. In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.
4. Spread Irish Creme Frosting over cookies. If desired, sprinkle with additional cinnamon.
5. Irish Creme Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat in enough half-and-half or whipping cream (1 to 3 tablespoons) to make a frosting of spreading consistency.
6. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Culinary Christmas!!!!!

My, oh my, oh my!!! I had a great Christmas, especially for my kitchen. Though I think my kitchen cabinets and bookshelves are groaning at the fact that I need to find places for all my new 'toys.' Here is a run down of all the wonderfulness!

- Breville Pie maker: see my previous post on this one. I couldn't be more excited!! Well, actually I could be if it was actually here and not on back order until February.
- Pullman bread loaf: for making sandwich bread
- America the Edible by Adam Richman
- A Silpat: this is actually my first Silpat, I can't wait to actually try it out. I've just been using parchment paper all the time.
- A set of 11 biscuit cutters from the Culinary Institute of America: I can finally make my crab turnovers using a real cookie cutter rather than a drinking glass.
- The Pastry Chefs Companion by Glenn Rinsky
- Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
- More Best Recipes from America's Test Kitchen
- Baking Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen
- 8 piece garnishing tool set in folding bag by Berghoff: includes a lemon zester, three sizes of melon ballers, channel knife, butter curler, peeler and apple corer
- a table scraper: like the ones they use at fancy restaurants

And the piece de resistance...(imagine trumpet flourishes)

**** A Kitchen Aid 6 quart Professional stand mixer. This was an unintended gift for myself this year. I saw this at my sister in law's house the day before Christmas when we went to go visit. It was something she had been looking at for many years and finally the stars aligned and the price was just right. She got a 30% off coupon for her Kohl's charge card for all purchases through Christmas eve in the mail. Plus a $10 off coupon. The $499 mixer was on sale for $399. Then there was the $10 and 30% off. And there is a mail in rebate for $50. And they were doing Kohl's cash where you got $10 in Kohl's cash for every $50 you spent, good for the weed after Christmas. So in the end, it was $290 after taxes. Plus I will send in the rebate for $50 back and I got $50 of free money to spend at Kohl's. It was a deal that I just couldn't pass up. My mixer has been struggling with bread dough since it just didn't have the horse power to knead it as well as I would like.

I know I keep justifying my purchase over and over, but its a big purchase for me. I am looking forward to making wonderful recipes with this new mixer, which will get lots and lots of use, without a single doubt in my mind.

Good Ol' Fried Chicken

I know that the week before Christmas probably isn't the ideal time to pull the deep fryer back out, but that didn't stop me! My husband loves a buffalo chicken sandwich he gets at Publix and wanted to recreate it at home. Instead of sub rolls, we made these sandwiches on wraps.

So starting with a Sam's sized package of boneless skinless chicken tenders, I went to town with a traditional breading set up. We seasoned the flour with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Then on to the egg wash and then plain bread crumbs. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got through the entire package.

A quick glance in my Professional Cooking textbook suggested a cooking temperature for 325-350F, until the chicken was done. Our first batch of 4 chicken strips went into the fryer preheated to 350F. Without knowing exactly how long the chicken would need to cook, we left them in for about 10 minutes. The breading was quite dark at this point, but we didn't want to remove the chicken before it was ready. A quick cut revealed that we had cooked the chicken thoroughly.

We lowered the cooking temperature of the second batch to 325 and increased the cook time to 12-15 minutes, depending on the size and number of strips in the basket. This turned out to be the ideal setup. Luckily we were able to get it right by the second batch and we didn't need to over or under cook several batches before getting it right.

Buffalo Chicken Wraps:
Boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
onion powder
garlic powder
eggs, lightly beaten
plain bread crumbs
oil, for frying
whole wheat wraps
cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
yellow mustard, if desired
Texas Pete hot sauce
dill pickle chips

1. Prepare the chicken: Trim chicken as needed. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a dish. Place the beaten eggs in a second dish and the bread crumbs in the third. Dredge the chicken tenders in the flour mixture, removing any excess before coating in the egg wash. Cover the chicken with bread crumbs.

2. Fry the breaded chicken strips in small batches (the amount per batch will be determined by the size of your fryer) in a deep fryer preheated to 325F. Fry for 12-15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Check to make sure the cooked through.

3. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and transfer to a large (or lidded) bowl. Pour on the desired amount of Texas Pete hot sauce and toss to combine.

4. Prepare the wraps with the desired ingredients. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Truffles

I have had requests that I expand my cake truffle inventory and one of the ideas that came up was red velvet. The cake itself was easy enough, there are countless recipes out there for this classic cake. I went back and forth as to whether I would include some chopped pecans in the cake or frosting, but in the end time constraints won out this time. I was super busy on Sunday and wanted to get the cake in the oven so I didn't spend the time chopping up the pecan halves I had in the pantry.

I paired up the rich chocolately bright red cake with a vanilla buttercream. I didn't want anything too strong, the vanilla was a good complement. And white chocolate was the natural choice to dip the truffles in.

All of that was easy, then comes the decorating part of things. I am trying to improve my presentation skills, since eating is just as much about seeing as it is tasting. For a little bit of drama, I melted some red chocolate and thinned it with some canola oil. I put that into a pastry bag and created red zig zags against the stark white truffles. The red was perfect for the red velvet cake and these look gorgeous!

I don't think I need to change the cake recipe at all, nor the vanilla butter cream or white chocolate to dip in. I would say the only thing I may change (or even just have as an option) is the addition of chopped pecans. I also see that some people garnish with coconut, which would be another option to create a more complex flavor profile.

Cappuccino Steamer Debackle

While perusing the King Arthur Flour catalog the other night, I came across something called cappuccino steamers. The concept was new to me, but I found it quite intriguing. You place 2-3 of these fudge-like candies on a stick and swirl them into a mug of hot milk. Or just eat them right as they are. There is also a version for hot chocolate, but since I made the powdered mix, I went for the cappuccino flavored ones.

This is actually the second time this week I have made this recipe. The first was this past Sunday. And I totally messed them up!!!! I was trying to make a few different things at once and did something completely and utterly stupid. I didn't have espresso powder, so I figured that I could use coffee instead. My intent was good, but I was in such a rush I grabbed the wrong coffee...the real ground coffee, not the instant coffee. I was wondering why the coffee didn't dissolve in the sugar mixture, but didn't think it through at the time.

Then on Monday, I pulled the blocks out of the fridge and it hit me what I had done. As much as I hate throwing anything away, I knew there was no salvaging this one. What was I thinking?!? I wasted all that time and the ingredients, but I try not to beat myself up about it. There are always mishaps in the kitchen and I just need to move on from them. On the plus side, I can guarantee that I won't make that mistake again!!!!

Cappuccino Blocks
* 1 cup heavy cream, divided
* 1 tablespoon espresso powder
* 2 tablespoons corn syrup
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vanilla bean crush or vanilla extract
* 2 cups chopped white chocolate
* 1 tablespoon cocoa, natural or Dutch-process
* 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
* wooden sticks or stir sticks


1) Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.
2) Place 1/2 cup cream in a medium saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt, and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.
3) Cover the pan and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan, and check the temperature; it should be 235°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If it is, remove from the heat; otherwise let it boil for a minute or two more.
4) Once the mixture reaches 235°F to 240°F, add the vanilla. Be careful; it will splash and splutter when it hits the hot liquid. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to cool.
5) Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a saucepan. Heat until it?s just beginning to steam.
6) Remove from the heat, and add the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.
7) Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine.
8) Combine the cocoa and ½ teaspoon espresso, and sprinkle the chocolate with some of the mixture.
9) Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, to set.
10) Turn the chocolate out of the pan and flip it over; sprinkle with the remaining cocoa/espresso powder blend.
11) Cut into 1" cubes. Stack two or three on a wooden stick. Roll in cocoa, or whatever you sprinkled on the top and bottom. Wrap in waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap to store.

Yield about 64 blocks, 21 servings.

Making Marshmallows

For a cute addition to the hot chocolate mix, I made homemade marshmallows. I have read that homemade taste better than those from the bag so I wanted to give it a try. I went to the old standby: the King Arthur Flour website (

I made homemade marshmallows for the first time and it really wasn't all that difficult. The directions were clear and easy to follow. I allowed the marshmallow to set up overnight in the glass dish. I wanted to cut it into cute holiday themed shapes and found a few small cookie cutters that I thought would work. I chose a christmas tree, santa head, stocking and a snowman. After trying some of them out, I found that the stocking was the only one that really came out looking like it was supposed to. I greased each cookie cutter and also tried dipping them in confectioner's sugar, but the best still seemed to be the stocking since there were no hard edges.

I was worried that none of the cookie cutters would work, but I am happy with the stockings. A few didn't turn out quite as pretty, but once I regreased the cutter they looked better. I placed the stockings into a container and sprinkled with more confectioners' sugar to keep them from sticking. Then I put on an air tight lid. I plan on placing a bunch in small bags for each Christmas gift bag. They should be perfect with the hot chocolate.

Of course I had to taste my creations. These marshmallows are light and fluffy and tasted amazing! I just ate a few small pieces as I was cutting them out (hey, there are scraps when using a cookie cutter, I couldn't just let them all pass by!). I haven't tried the marshmallows in hot chocolate yet, but that is certainly on the agenda!

Hot Chocolate Mix

I got the recipe from a 'gifts in a jar' book. Combine the following in a large bowl and then transfer to a wide mouth mason jar:

3 1/2 cups non fat dried milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup coffee creamer
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

To make one serving of hot chocolate: place 5 tablespoons of hot chocolate mix and add boiling water. Serve with marshmallows, if desired.

Christmas gifts

The last few years I have given homemade gifts for a few friends and coworkers. Last year, I made a cinnamon pancake mix and some muffins and cookies. I also added in a spatula. That seemed to go over well. I have also made a bunch of types of cookies and given people cookie tins.

This year I decided to do something similar. I went for an 'evening in' theme. I made hot chocolate mix in a large mason jar as the main part of the gift. I also have homemade marshmallows in the shape of a stocking and cappuccino steamers. And thats not all! Since they seem to go over so well, I dipped more pretzel rods in either milk or dark chocolate. I don't think I will have the time, but if so I hope to add some caramel corn to the gift bags.

So hopefully these will combine to make a great movie night package!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheese Burger Buns

Yes, you read that right. Cheese Burger Buns, not cheeseburger buns. These delightful rolls (from the King Arthur Flour website: resulted in a recipe that I will be sure to make over and over again.

The recipe calls for Vermont cheese powder, which I do not have. I used grated parmesan instead. My original intention was to use freshly grated parmesan cheese, but I didn't have time to go by the store to pick up a block, so I went for the old Kraft standard. The dough formula and make up are straight forward. If you want more details, be sure to visit the recipe above.

We used these buns for cheeseburgers and it worked out great. It was a nice change from the usual store bought bun and I hope to keep making my own in the future. The texture was nice and the parmesan and onion flavors complemented the burgers.

Since the recipe makes 8 and we only used a few for dinner that night, I made both of our lunch sandwiches on these buns. My sandwich consisted of Laughing Cow light swiss cheese (only 35 calories...yay!), ham, one slice of salami, romaine lettuce and mustard. I put it in the toaster at work, which was a great idea. The bun was nice and warm and all the flavors came together.

My husband had cheddar, salami and mustard on his roll. He didn't like it quite as much, thinking that the parmesan and onion actually overpowered the flavor of the cheddar and salami. After last night, there was only one roll left when I went to make his sandwich for today's lunch. I can't say that I am not happy that he wanted regular sandwich bread for today. I would have shared the last roll with him, but I was not about to argue when he offered to save the last one for my lunch tomorrow. Yippee!!!

It is now noon as I write this and I am getting hungrier by the second. I have been thinking about my sandwich all morning! I can't wait to hit the toaster and enjoy my lunch. And the best part is, I will still have one roll left for tomorrow!

Cheese Burger Buns
* 3/4 cup lukewarm water
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 1 large egg
* 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/3 cup Vermont cheese powder OR 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or the finely grated cheese of your choice
* 3/4 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt*
* 1 teaspoon onion powder, optional but good
* 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
* butter for brushing on top
* *Use 3/4 teaspoon salt if you use cheese powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt if you use grated fresh cheese


1) To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead them — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, somewhat tacky dough.
2) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container large enough to allow it to at least double in bulk, cover, and let it rise for about 60 to 70 minutes, till it's just about doubled.
3) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into 8 pieces.
4) Round each piece into a smooth ball, and place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently flatten the balls to about 3" diameter.
5) Cover the buns and let them rise till they've expanded nicely, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
6) Brush each bun with melted butter.
7) Bake the buns till they're a light, golden brown, about 18 minutes.
8) Remove the buns from the oven, and brush them with butter again. Place them on a rack to cool.
Yield: 8 big buns.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Speaking of more pie adventures...

I got an email for this last week and it really took all my will power not to just buy one on the spot. There are a lot of kitchen related items that I find interesting and want to have, but it is unusual for me to have the initial 'I want it NOW'-Veruca Salt-esque reaction. But I held off...and put it on my wish list (its so cool that you can add items from other websites to your list!). And then sent that list to my family for Christmas ideas. Hey, they were asking for ideas, all I did was add an expensive thing I really wanted in hopes that my wish would come true. That is the definition of a wish list, is it not?