Cornmeal Muffins with Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese

September 30, 2009

Chef’s Notes: I found this recipe in “Soup Makes The Meal” by Ken Haedrich.

I made them last night for dinner, and then for breakfast I warmed one up and had it with poached eggs. I really enjoyed the muffins – moist, hearty, and full of flavor. My only complaint is that the blue cheese disappeared. Does it need more cheese? Did the cheese not have a strong enough flavor?

bacon pecan corn muffins

Cornmeal Muffins with Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese

Cornmeal Muffins with Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese
Makes 12 muffins

¼ to ½ # bacon
1 ½ C. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 C. fine-ground yellow cornmeal
2 ½ T. sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 ½ C. milk
¼ C. vegetable oil or unsalted butter, melted
¾ C. finely chopped pecans, toasted or not
½ C. crumbled blue cheese

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the bacon in a large skillet and fry until it is crisp-cooked. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. When cool enough to handle, chop and set aside.

Sift the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg until frothy, then blend in the milk and oil or butter. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the liquid all at once. Stir briefly, add the bacon, pecans and blue cheese and continue to stir just until blended.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the tops are lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack, or, if you’re serving them immediately, put them in a cloth-lined basket and serve.


Almost Like An Almond Joy® Pie

September 20, 2009

Chef’s Notes: My cousin Amber gifted me with two monstrous mutant spaghetti squash. As I debated what to do with all that squash, she suggested pie. I’m quite sure she meant an Italian lasagna-type dish, but I wondered if a dessert pie was a possibility.

I found a recipe for Mock Coconut Pie, a custard-type pie with lemon flavoring. Aside from the possibly coconut-like texture, I didn’t see how it deserved that name. I wondered how it would taste if I would replace the lemon juice with coconut extract.

And then I started thinking about Almond Joy candy bars – coconut, chocolate, almonds – yum. Could I incorporate those flavors into a pie? Absolutely…and oh my this pie is über delish!

Almost Almond Joy

Almost Like An Almond Joy® Pie

Almost Like An Almond Joy® Pie
8 slices

Chocolate Pie Crust
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick butter, cold
1/4 C. + 1 tablespoon water
4 tsp. cocoa powder
4 tsp. sugar

Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a small bowl. Set it aside. Put the cold butter in another bowl. Cut the butter into tiny pieces with a knife and fork. Now add the flour mixture to the bowl with the cut up butter. With your hands, start mixing them together. Squish it between your fingers. Start adding the water, little by little. Again, mix well with your hands. Squish it together.

Now, turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead it with your hands by folding it over, turning it one quarter turn, and folding it again. Keep doing this until it’s smooth and round, without any lumps. Roll the dough flat until it makes a circle that’s a little bigger than your pie pan. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and then unroll it across the top of your pie pan. Cut off the rough edges around the edge of the pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely before adding filling.

(My dough was very moist, not at all the texture of pie crust, and impossible to roll out and transfer to the pan. I spread it with my hands directly in the pie pan, as thin as I possibly could, then trimmed the edges. Weird, but it cooked and tasted fine.)

“Coconut” Filling

1/2 C. sugar
3 eggs
1/4 C. butter, melted
1 T. imitation coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla
3 C. cooked, shredded spaghetti squash (Make sure it’s well drained. Mine was very watery.)
1/2 C. whole natural almonds, coarsely chopped to make about 1/4 cup

Beat together the sugar and eggs until light and frothy. Add the butter, coconut extract, and vanilla, and beat until well-blended. Stir in the spaghetti squash. Pour into pie shell and sprinkle with almonds. Bake 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Chocolate Drizzle
Melt 2 – 3 ounces milk chocolate (or about 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips) in double boiler. (I had to add a splash of milk to get a drizzle consistency.) Drizzle the chocolate over the pie.

Store pie in the refrigerator.

Almost Like An Almond Joy® Pie

Almost Like An Almond Joy® Pie

Spaghetti Squash & Black Bean Baked Dip

September 20, 2009

Chef’s Notes: While looking for recipes to use spaghetti squash, I found Spaghetti Squash-and-Black Bean Salsa. Sounded good but I was more in the mood for a baked dip. So, I used the idea of the salsa to concoct a layered baked dip. This was tasty, but I’m not sure the spaghetti squash is really necessary. It adds texture, but that’s about it.

Spaghetti Squash & Black Bean Baked Dip

Spaghetti Squash & Black Bean Baked Dip

Spaghetti Squash & Black Bean Baked Dip
Makes about 4 one cup servings

2 C. canned black beans, drained
1 jalapeño, minced
1/4 C. red onion, minced
1 T. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. cooked spaghetti squash
1 C. chopped tomato
2 T. fresh parsley, minced
1 T. lime juice
3/4 C. cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine beans, onion, chili powder and salt. Mix together, mashing beans slightly. Place bean mixture in shallow baking dish or divide evenly into four ramekins. In same bowl, combine spaghetti squash, tomato, and parsley. Put squash mixture on top of beans. Drizzle with lime juice. Sprinkle with cheese. Place in oven and bake 30 minutes.

Served with Spicy Tortilla Chips.

Coffee Marinade for Steak I

September 20, 2009

Chef’s Notes: Usually, I’m a “don’t do anything to my steak” kind of girl. Throw it on the grill until it stops mooing is my preference. But one day as I was blog browsing, I saw a recipe for a coffee marinade for steak. Initially I dismissed it, but the idea continued to intrigue me. I googled it, and was surprised at the number of hits. Was I missing out on culinary decadence by not trying this, I wondered. I incorporated the ideas of several recipes to create my own concoction. And I must admit I’ve become a “do this to my steak” kind of girl.

Steak with Coffee Marinade

Steak with Coffee Marinade

Coffee Marinade for Steak
(enough for two 8-ounce steaks)

1 T. olive oil
¼ C. minced red onion
1 T. minced garlic
¾ C. water
3 T. instant coffee granules
½ C. balsamic vinegar
¼ C. Russian (or red French) salad dressing
¼ C. Dijon mustard
1 T. minced fresh rosemary
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Tenderize steaks and place in gallon-sized Ziploc baggie, pour marinade into baggie, and seal shut. Marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Cook steak as desired (grill or broiler); discard marinade.

Also check out Coffee Marinade for Steak II.

Served with sautéed spaghetti squash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Alfredo Sauce

September 14, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This was a dish that was served at the Italian restaurant I once worked at. Their recipe is top secret (and they’ve got Mafia connections! 😉 ) so this is only a close approximation. This dish is very rich and satisfying…and is best enjoyed with Frank Sinatra on the stereo and goblets filled with wine.

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Alfredo Sauce

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Alfredo Sauce

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom-Alfredo Sauce
Serves 4

4 boneless chicken breasts

1 T. olive oil
1/2 C. wine (red, white, or a splash of both)
1 T. minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp. fresh basil, minced
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

3/4 C. ricotta cheese
1/2 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 C. unsalted butter
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 C. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 C. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

Pound chicken breasts as thin as possible, at least to 1/4-inch thickness, and place in shallow glass dish. Combine all marinade ingredients except olive oil in food processor and process. Slowly pour in olive oil and continue to process until mixture is blended and frothy. Pour marinade over the chicken, turning to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade. Combine filling ingredients and spread evenly onto each chicken breast. Fold chicken, tucking in the ends as much as possible. Place filled chicken breasts onto baking sheet and put in oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

To prepare sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and mushrooms.

Place chicken breasts on individual plates or serving platter. Cover with sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Potatoes Au Gratin with Italian Sausage and Spinach

September 8, 2009

Chef’s Notes: This recipe is a new twist on a classic favorite. Potatoes au gratin are enhanced by Italian sausage and spinach for a comforting dish that is full of flavor. (This recipe was submitted in the Taste of Home Calling All Casseroles recipe contest.)

Potatoes Au Gratin with Italian Sausage and Spinach

Potatoes Au Gratin with Italian Sausage and Spinach

Potatoes Au Gratin with Italian Sausage and Spinach
Serves 2-4

2 medium potatoes
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1 C. milk
1 C. gouda cheese
1 C. provolone cheese
1 Italian sausage (turkey or pork)
1/2 C. red bell pepper, diced
1/4 of a package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 C. sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub potatoes and slice into thin slices. (You should have about two cups of potato slices.) Arrange potato slices in glass pie plate or other shallow baking dish. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then add flour and cook until the flour is lightly browned. Add milk, turn heat up to medium-high, stir and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. When mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes, remove from heat. Add the gouda and provolone cheeses and stir until the cheeses are melted. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and put in oven. Bake 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, cook sausage in a cast iron skillet until the outside is browned and it is just done enough so that it can be broken apart and crumbled. Combine the crumbled sausage, red bell pepper, and spinach in the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes. When the potatoes have cooked for 30 minutes, add sausage mixture to the potatoes, and stir to combine. Top with cheddar cheese. Return to oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Tantalizing Tropical Pizza with Herbed Wheat Crust

September 6, 2009

Chef’s Notes: You could make a phone call and have a pizza at the door in thirty minutes. Or you could take the time to create this pizza that is bursting with herb flavor in every layer and features a tantalizing array of toppings – balsamic thyme chicken, maple bacon, minted pineapple, red bell pepper rings, and a gouda/provolone cheese blend. It’s worth every second.

Tantalizing Tropical Pizza with Herbed Wheat Crust

Tantalizing Tropical Pizza with Herbed Wheat Crust

Tantalizing Tropical Pizza with Herbed Wheat Crust
10 slices

1 T. olive oil
2 T. onions, minced
2 T. bell pepper, minced
1 T. garlic, minced
2 medium very ripe tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. fresh basil, minced
1 T. fresh oregano, minced
1 T. fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)

1 pkg. yeast
1 C. warm water
1/2 C. canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 C. fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, chives, thyme, rosemary, parsley), minced
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour

Balsamic Thyme Chicken
1 T. canola oil
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 T. thyme, torn into small pieces
1/2 C. white wine
2 T. balsamic vinegar

Maple Bacon
2 slices thick cut bacon
1 T. real maple syrup

Minted Pineapple
1/2 C. fresh or canned pineapple tidbits
1/2 T. fresh mint, torn into small pieces

Red Bell Pepper Rings
1 red bell pepper

Cheese Blend
1 C. smoked gouda cheese, grated
1 C. smoked provolone cheese, grated

Garlic-Butter for Crust
4 T. butter
1/2 T. garlic

1. Make the sauce. In a small sauce pan, sauté the onion, bell pepper, and garlic in the olive oil. Peel and core the tomatoes, then coarsely chop and add to sautéed vegetables. Cover the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about ten minutes, or until most of the tomato juice has cooked away (about 10 minutes). Turn the heat down to medium-low, stir in the tomato paste, basil, oregano, parsley, and salt, and heat through (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and cool completely. While sauce is cooling, continue with the remaining steps.

2. Make the dough. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Add oil, salt, sugar, the half cup of assorted fresh herbs, and mix thoroughly. Stir in 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Mix until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Spread remaining flour onto counter; turn dough out onto counter. Knead dough, working in the additional flour, about 5 minutes, until dough is “bouncy” and not sticky. Place dough ball in lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover with towel. Place in a warm draft-free place to rise, about one hour. While dough is rising, prepare the toppings.

3. Make the chicken. Dice the chicken in bite-sized pieces. Heat canola oil in small cast iron skillet. Add chicken and thyme. Cook until chicken is done, about 5 minutes. Add white wine and balsamic vinegar, turn heat to medium-high, and cook until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

4. Make the bacon. Put bacon slices in small cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat. When bacon is browned on one side, turn over and drizzle with maple syrup. Cook bacon on second side, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate. When cooled, crumble.

5. Toss the pineapple tidbits with fresh mint.

6. Cut the red bell pepper into 8 or 10 thin slices.

7. Mix the cheeses in a bowl.

8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

9. When the dough has doubled in size (after about an hour), punch lightly to remove air bubbles, then let rest for 5 minutes. Punch dough lightly again, then shape dough on an oiled 16-inch pizza pan. Spread the pizza sauce over the dough, almost to the edges. Sprinkle cheese over sauce. Layer the toppings over the cheese – chicken, bacon, pineapple, and red pepper slices.

10. Place pizza on middle rack of oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned on bottom. When pizza is cooking, combine butter and garlic to make spread. After removing the pizza from the oven, spread the garlic butter on the outside edge of the crust. Cut the pizza into ten slices and serve.