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Crab Cake Mini Muffins

You always have fun when you’re eating crab cakes. Actual fact. But, here is the thing about crab cakes: Lots of work.

I made Wolfgang Pucks recipe once and it took me about an hour. They were really incredible, so if you ever get your hands on some really amazing, fresh, never touched a can, right out of the sea- kinda crabs, that would be a worthy recipe to slave over.

This time of the year, food is more about the biggest shine for your time. You have about a zillion things to cook for right now: the holidays, your office party, your kids school gathering-that-we-legally-can’t-call-a-party party, AND family type people. Here you go: 15 minute crab cakes. Looks super fancy, like you spent that hour I spent with those other crab cakes, craveably addictive, AND 15 active minutes, then bake.

 

Crab Cake Mini Muffins 

3 tbs cream cheese

2 eggs

1 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (Tabasco, Tapatillo)

1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped

1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

½ tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tbs green onions, chopped (more for garnish if desired)

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs (plus ¼ cup for topping, divided)

¼ cup flour

6 oz lump crab meat, drained

Makes 16-18

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until softened. While the mixer is on high, add the eggs, one at a time until well combined.

Reduce speed to medium and lemon juice, mustard, and hot pepper sauce, mix until combined.

Add the Old Bay, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, green onions and mix until combined.

Add ½ cup Panko and flour and mix until combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the crabmeat with a wood spoon or spatula.

Very generously grease enough mini muffin tins to hold about 18 mini crab cakes.

Add the crab mixture to the wells of the mini muffin tins until just below the top. Sprinkle the top of each mini muffin with the remaining ¼ cup of Panko.

Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes

Questions that I think you might have:

 

If I don’t own a mini muffin pan, can I make this in a regular muffin pan?

I don’t recommend it. My guess is that by the time you get the inside cooked (about 30 minutes) the outside will be burnt and dry. But my other guess is that if you buy a mini muffin pan, you will use it all the time.

 

I like to dip things, What about a dipping sauce?

 

I like to dip things too. Easy dippin’ sauce, since I know you have a ton of other things to do: 1 cup sour cream, 1 tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp hot pepper sauce. Adjust depending on taste, oh and throw some of those green onions on top.

 

I don’t like hot stuff, can I leave on out the pepper sauce?

 

They will be bland. But the small amount that is called for isn’t enough to make it spicy. They sell Tabasco in supper tiny bottles, and it lasts for about a million years in the fridge.


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Top Five Best Classic Pies: Reinvented

 

A pie post for you. I feel a little guilty about this, even though I know this is super valuable information if you were, in fact, the person who was chosen to bring the pie this year. Usually, I spend all weekend cooking, baking and photographing to present to you 3 solid posts each week. But, I was at the International Food Bloggers Conference all weekend and I didn’t get a chance to indulge in my weekend food rituals. I did, however, have an awesome non-cooking weekend meeting all of those friends that I only see in the computer, giggling over glasses of wine, eating beautiful & copious amounts of food, making juvenile jokes, and turning on-line friendships into lasting ones. 

So, instead of trying to "throw something together" that isn’t worth the web space it takes up, or just forgetting about you and how much I value your visits to my little corner of this huge blogland, I am providing my picks for the BEST pies for Thanksgiving. 

Pie that is both familiar and brand new. Three are made from my own hands, and two are picks from other very talented bakers that I love and hope to try out some day. 

I do have a great post lined up for Friday, an amazing pre-Thanksgiving appetizer. 

And next week I will be bringing to you fun, delicious and inventive ways to use leftovers. 

But for today, please enjoy my favorite twists on old favorites. And forgive me for "calling in sick" today. 

Staring with an EASY and delicious homemade crust is a must. 

1. Caramel Apple Pie: Traditional Apple Pie with a Creamy Caramel Makeover

This will become a family favorite. Creamy caramel, apples and an adorable start crust.

2. Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie: A Chocolaty Version Of A Traditional Pie

This beauty includes a chocolate pie crust, chocolate ganache and fresh cherries. Even Warrant would be proud.

3. Sour Cream Pumpkin With Bourbon Whipped Cream: A Creamy Boozy Version Of A Fall Favorite 

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple. Make the best one they have ever had and top with a bourbon whipped cream.

4. Chocolate Pecan Pie: From She Wears Many Hats

I have been wanting to try to make a Chocolate Pecan Pie and this one looks pretty damn perfect. 

5. Spicy Sweet Potato: From Bitter Sweet   

I love the spicy take on a southern favorite


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Homemade Green Bean Casserole, the Grown-up, Food Lovers Version

I have a lot of Non-American readers, making it necessary for my to explain why I’m doing a post about a green bean casserole.

In America, we have this very strange tradition of making our Thanksgiving feast from cans of food. Nearly every dish that most Americans grew up eating on that November Holiday involved a can of soup, or a package of Jell-o. I see you all, nodding your American heads in agreement. A smile for Grandmas Jell-o salad that still graces your Holiday table because your own kids would FLIP if it wasn’t there in that big Pyrex bowl. I know, don’t think I was exempt from this in my upbringing. But we are grown-ups now. We live in a country that has over 13 million acres of farm land dedicated to fruits and veggetables. We even grow 100 million TONS of produce every year.

We should eat it.

A lot of it. Eat food, not chemicals.

Try it, my American friends, we are lucky enough to live in a country with more produce that we could ever eat. Let’s give it a shot.

Could you do it? Cook an entire Thanksgiving without ONE can? I’m gonna.

Grown-up Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients

Topping:

  • 2 leeks
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs salt

Casserole:

  • 5 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 cups Crimini mushrooms (baby bella), washed and chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1 cup cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Cut the leeks (white and very light green portion only) into thin rings. Cut the onion into thin slices. place in a small bowl and toss with the olive oil to coat. Add to a baking sheet and add the Panko bread crumbs and salt, toss to combine.
  3. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, tossing about every 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when a golden brown color is reached.
  4. Place the green beans in a pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes and immediately drain by pouring into a colander, rinse with cold water for 2 minutes to stop the cooking.
  5. In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they turn a dark brown. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  6. In a separate bowl, add the chicken broth and the flour, stir to combine. Pour into the pan through a mesh strainer to remove any flour lumps. Stir until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the cream and stir until combined. Return to heat and allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the green beans and 1/2 cup of the onion/leek mixture, stir. Pour into a 2 quart baking dish.
  7. Time management tip: If you want to make this the day before Thanksgiving, this is where you stop. Cover the baking dish and put it into the fridge. Put the cooled onion/leek mixture in a separate container of Ziplock bag to prevent them from getting soggy from sitting on the top of the casserole all night.
  8. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Remove foil, add onions, and bake for 10 more minutes or until warmed through.

(note: if you are cooking this after removing from the fridge, as in the above Tip, cook covered for 20 minutes then add the onions and bake for ten more.)

That’s Nacho Crostini

More party food for y’all. These are fun because Corstini’s sounds fancy and Nachos are the greatest of all American Tex-Mex bar food.

I brought these to another book club, or more accurately, a Girl-Talk/Wine-Time club. We talked about our babies, working mom vs stay at home mom, birth stories, laughed about those things we (all) think but are kinda embarrassed to say out loud.  This is a healing ritual for all you people who just became parents. An incredible club to belong to, as long as you find others who will let you speak freely, without judgement. Tell you their deep dark secrets and find that you share the same ones. Book? Oh yeah, we didn’t like it. Horrendously violent and self indulgently written. Next time, we are reading What Alice Forgot and I hope that there is some type of food item in that book that I can spend time obsessing over and attempt to recreate, like my Caramel Cake from The Help. Here’s hoping.

nacho-crostini2

Nacho Crostinis

1 baugette, sliced into 1 inch thick slices

3 tbs butter

1 large tomato, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or whateva your fav Nacho cheese is)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large avocado, sliced

1 tbs sliced black olives

Preheat the broiler in your oven.

Heat 1 tbs butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the slices of bread and allow to cook until toasted, about 2 minutes, turn over and cook on the other side. Don’t crowd the pan with too many slices of bread, cook in batches if necessary, adding more butter when the pan gets dry.

Places the toasted slices on a baking sheet.

Add the tomato, onion and cilantro and add to a small bowl, toss to combine (you can also sub in Pico De Gallo for this, but make sure to drain well or it’ll make the bread soggy).

Top each of the toasted bread slices with the tomato mixture, sprinkle with a generous amount of cheese. Place the baking sheet under the broiled and toast for 2-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top each Crostini with a slice of avocado, then a dollop of sour cream, then a slice of olive.

Serve immediately, enjoy.


Thank you to all the ladies of my Mom’s group. You have all meant so much to me in the past 18 months. I found you when postpartum, colic, lack of sleep, total life-change, overwhelming baby-love…had me completely consumed and I felt alone in the big City of Los Angeles, without any Mommy friends. You understood me, shared advice, laughs, tears, food and never judged me. I am a better mom and better human because of you.





Salted Hefeweizen Brioche Rolls

Napa SmithWheat is a perfect baking beer. It has crisp, clean flavors, sweetness and bold tones that hold up to the oven. A smooth wheat beer with citrus and peach notes.

I enjoyed this beer, the baking, the drinking, the flavors. It was an easy beer to enjoy and gave me a sense of the brewery. Relaxed, comfortable and welcoming. I’ve lived in California most of my life, and traveled all over the world and I have a firm believe that Napa is a place that needs to be experienced, a beautiful escape from the rest of reality. Winding along the back roads of  Napa county, meeting locals, sampling the local food, drinks, produce…You’ll feel like you are living in a distant land far away from the life you know. In Napa, people love to eat, drink and cook with only local ingredients. It’s charming, as if Napa could exist all on it’s own. A little bubble, a snow globe of a world, swirling around itself filled with fresh-baked bread, handmade pies and locally sourced beer.

 Salted Hefeweizen Brioche Rolls

1/2 cup room temperature Hefeweizen Beer (Napa Smith Wheat Preferred)

1 envelope of dry active yeast (1/4 oz)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoons sea salt,

3 large eggs

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Topping:

1 tbs melted butter

1 tbs sea salt

  1. Add the beer to a microwave safe container heat in the microwave for 10 seconds, test the temperature (you want it between 105 and 110) and repeat until the desired temperature is reached. Put the beer in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow it to get foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, salt and sugar and mix on low with the dough hook attachment until shaggy, flaky lumps form (about 1 1/2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until combined.
  5. Add the softened butter (softened is important), beat until the dough gathers around the hook and is smooth and shiny.
  6. Coat the inside of a bowl with olive oil and place the dough ball in inside.
  7. Wrap with plastic wrap leave in a warm place until it’s double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Grab the dough at the sides until it has deflated.
  9. Allow to rise a second time at room temperature, until it has doubled in size, deflating every 15 minutes by grabbing the sides, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove from the bowl and place on a floured surface, shape into a long log, about 4 inches wide and 1 foot long.
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut in 3 equal sized pieces.
  12. Then cut each of those pieces in half (you will now have 6 pieces.)
  13. Now cut each of those pieces in half and you will have 12 equal sized pieces.
  14. Each of these pieces will be a roll, but you have to make some more cuts first.
  15. Cut each slice into 3 equal sized pieces, rolling each into a ball and placing all three into the same well of a greased muffin tin. Repeat for each slice.
  16. Cover with plastic wrap, place in the fridge and allow to double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  17. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle generously with sea salt. This is when you break out the fanciest salt you have. Or buy some just for the occasion.
  18. Preheat the oven to 400. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.
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Pecan Pie French Toast

I’ve already told you all about my deep love for weekend breakfasts. But maybe I haven’t told you why.

I have this amazing husband, that I sometimes think loves me more that I deserve. And I always worry that I’m going to fall off this pedestal he’s placed me on.

And I have this daughter that is already cooler and more spectacular than I will ever be. I know I’ll always be proud of her, but I worry about her being proud of me.

And I have to leave her 5 days a week and go to an office. And help people.

And I worry. About being a good mom. About all the insane things that could happen to Tater, because it happened once to someone, somewhere, one time, 12 years ago.

I worry that I spend too much time away from her. Is she happy enough? Am I doing the right thing by working? Would I lose all sanity if I was a real life Stay At Home Mom? I want her to have all the things that I didn’t, but one of those things is lots of one on one time…

Being a mom is so hard. No matter what your situation.

And even though these scary thoughts consume my drive to and from work, and sometimes make me cry, I always know that I can count on weekend breakfast. I know that no matter what else made me feel like a failure during the rest of the week, I can feel like I did something right.

I cooked yummy food for my little family. We ate it together. And we all smiled. For a small window of my week, we were perfect…. except when Tater put eggs in her Big Girl cup, and threw toast on the ground, and cried because I was taking too long to get it all to the table, and she fed Sophia raisins that could make dogs sick…OK, perfect doesn’t exist when you are a human and being a mom makes you see that gap as a huge chasm that you will never even make it half way across. But weekend breakfast makes it feel smaller.

I know that when I get old, I won’t remember the lack of sleep. The long commutes on LA freeways. The tantrums that drive me to a crazy place. But I will remember that smiling face. The family breakfast. Even though I have less patience than I want to have, and the thought of all the responsibility that goes along with parenting makes me so overwhelmed…. I still believe that theses really are "the good 'ole days." At least that’s how I will remember them. When I live to be 100.

Pecan Pie French Toast

(Will make you feel a little bit closer to perfect.

To be made during those weeks when you need to know that you did at least one thing right)

For the Filling/Topping

1 stick of butter

1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup (like Karo)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups chopped pecans

2 lightly beaten eggs

For the Toast:

8 slices of thick cut bread

3 eggs

2 cups of milk

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, combine butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, allow to boil for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the pecans and vanilla and allow to cool to about room temp.

In a large bowl, combine the 3 eggs,  milk, 1 tsp vanilla, salt, and sugar and whisk to combine. One at a time, soak each slice of bread for about 30 seconds. Add to a hot pan over medium-high heat, coated with non-stick cooking spray. Cook on each side for about 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet, sprayed with non stick cooking spray (slices will be stacked, two slices high, so you only need a baking sheet big enough for 4 slices.) Repeat for all slices.

In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs until combined. Add to your cooled pecan mixture and stir until well combined (if the pecan mixture is too hot, you will make scrambled eggs, make sure it’s room temp). Return to heat and allow to boil, stirring frequently,  for 2-5 minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool a bit.

On one slice of bread, add about 2-4 tbs of the pecan mixture to the center. Top with another slice of toast. Repeat until you have 4 "sandwiches "  of pecan pie stuffed french toast on a baking sheet.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Add to a plate and top each serving with 2-4 tbs of the remaining pecan mixture.

Enjoy.

Give yourself a break, you are a good human. You made a great breakfast, the rest of the world can wait.

Printable: Pecan Pie French Toast

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Thanksgiving Craft: Chocolate Turkeys Made From Halloween Candy

Edible Thanksgiving crafts! Tater really isn’t old enough yet for this (but that kid will be tortured with many holiday crafts in her life, once she is old enough) but this is perfect for kids who are a little older. And an excellent way to use up that left over Halloween candy. They only take a few minutes each, and would make an adorable name card holder for your Thanksgiving feast.

For each Candy Turkey you will need:

2 miniature Reeses Cups

1 Hersheys Kiss

1 Yellow Starburst Candy (one can be used for up to 4 turnkeys)

1 Red Starburst Candy (1 can be used for 8-10 Turkeys)

1 Orange Starburst Candy (1 can be used for 2 Turkeys)

6 Almond Slices

Candy Melts to be used as "glue" (you may also be able to use Hersey’s kisses for this job)

1 Squeeze Bottle (can be found at most craft stores)

1 toothpick

Start by putting about about 1/2 cup of Candy Melts (Hershey’s kisses should work fine as well) in your squeeze bottle. I’ve only had one of these squeeze bottles for about a year and I use it all the time, so handy. After I’m done with it I just store it, with the candy melts still inside, in a large ziplock back and reheat it when I need it. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds, remove and shake to check consistency, heat for another 30 seconds and repeat until the chocolate is melted.

Then squeeze a small amount of melted chocolate on the top of a Reese’s cup (removed from all wrappers) and place the narrow end of the almond slices in the chocolate.

Use all six almond slices to make the Turkey tail, about halfway around the Reese’s cup.

Set aside and allow to dry.

Unwrap the red Starburst candy and cut off a small sliver (if this is a craft that kids are helping with, make sure to make all cuts yourself, or have the kids use a butter knife)

Cut the slice in half the long way to make a long skinny strip.

Take your long skinny "gobbler" and wrap it half way around the point of your unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss

Pressing the candy into place should be enough to hold it.

Cut the corner off your unwrapped yellow Starburst Candy.

Smash it and pinch it, to soften it and mold it into the shape of a beak then gently press into the point of the Hershey’s Kiss until secure.

(Man, I wish I’d gotten a manicure before I made this post)

Then cut off a small amount of the orange Starburst Candy and roll into a ball, flatten and press onto the kiss above the beak to make an eye.

Make another one, the same size to make the other eye.

Dip one end a toothpick into your melted chocolate and place a small dot in the middle of the orange eye.

Retrieve your Reese’s cup and turn it to the smaller side, opposite end from the one with the almond feathers. Place a dot of chocolate in the center.

Then place your Hershey’s Kiss head on top of that.

Slice off a small piece of your orange Starburst Candy.

Squeeze two thirds of it, making it narrow while leaving one end flat.

Make two cuts in the flat end to resemble Turkey toes (there is probably a more scientific name than "toes").

Make another Turkey leg, using the same method. Then place both over your second Reese’s cup, hanging down just slightly to the side of the middle. Place a dot of melted chocolate on the top (this is be used to fuse the Turkey to the base)

Retrieve your Turkey, and shave a small amount of the bottom Reese’s cup, below the Turkey face, between the almond feathers.

Place the Turkey, cut side down, on the base, over the legs.

Cute, right?

You can use this with your name card holders for your Thanksgiving place settings, or just put them on each plate. So cute.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

If you read my How To Make Stuffed Cupcakes post, these pictures probably look familiar to you. I had so many people ask for that recipe (OK, one. One person asked, but still…) that I decided to post my recipe for Boston Cream Pie cupcakes.

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

For the Cupcake:

2 cups of flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 stick of butter

1/2 cups of sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tbs vanilla extract

4 egg whites

3/4 cup of whole milk

1/4 cup of oil

For the Filling:

 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs, plus one extra yolk

2 tbs flour

2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Ganache Frosting:

2 cups dark chocolate chunks

1 cup cream

1 tsp espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter (softened!) and sugar and cream until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well combined. In another bowl, add the milk and oil.

A bit at a time, add the egg whites to the butter and beat on high until well combined and fluffy. With mixer on medium, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture, alternating between the two until everything is just combined (don’t over beat).

Add the batter to the cupcake papers until about 2/3 filled.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched.

Allow to cool.

While those are baking, make the pastry cream. You’re gonna love this stuff. I hope that this is what you will make from now on to fill your cakes with, instead of frosting. SO delicious, and pretty easy to make.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring the cream to a slight simmer, removing from heat when bubbles start to form around the edges. You don’t want to boil you cream, just heat it.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs and yolk, and flour until well combined and slightly frothy.

While continuing to whisk the egg mixture, add the cream about 1 tbs at a time. This is called tempering and basically, it’s a way to avoid turning your pastry cream into scrambled eggs. Once your have added about half the cream a tbs at a time, pour the rest in slowly and whisk until well combined.

Return the pastry cream to the stove and stir over medium/high heat until it comes to a rapid simmer. Continue to whisk until thickened, between 5 and 10 minutes. The cream should leave a track when you drag the whisk through it.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. This needs to cool before putting into a piping bag. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface of the cream. This will avoid that gross skin that used to grow on top of the homemade pudding your grandma used to make when it sat in the fridge too long.

You may, or may not remember my How To Make Stuffed Cupcakes post, but you use the same method of filling as I used for those.

Take a small paring knife and remove a chunk of the center of the cupcake. Make sure you leave an ample amount of the wall and sides of the cupcake intact or the filling will run all over the place.

Once the cream has cooled, spoon into a piping bag. Pipe the pastry cream into the middle of the cupcakes.

Next, make the ganache. Ganache is really easy to make, and a fantastic alternative to frosting. This can also be used as a fabulous cake filling.

Put the chocolate in a heat safe bowl, sprinkle with espresso powder. You can omit the espresso powder, but the coffee flavor doesn’t come through with such a small amount. Coffee brightens the flavor of chocolate, that’s why so many chocolate cake recipes call for it. Heat the cream (microwave or stove, either is fine) until hot and steamy but NOT boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir.

For a while, you are gonna stir and stir, and it will just look like chunky chocolate milk.

Don’t worry, it’ll all work out. Just keep stirring until it’s smooth and creamy.

Dip your cupcakes in the warm ganache, swirl a bit.

You can also spread it on with a spoon or pipe it on with a piping bag.


Beer Poached Apples With An Amber Ale Caramel Sauce

I came across Albion Amber Ale, from Marin Brewing Co this week. It isn’t a traditional Amber, but the flavors are bright and complex. One taste of this brown ale, and a caramel sauce immediately came to mind. The rich toffee and nut flavors paired beautifully with this recipe and the strong caramel and malt flavors came through in the sauce in such an amazing way.

Even if you skip the apple, this sauce is so incredible you can eat it right out of the jar with your fingers.

Beer Poached Apples with Amber Ale Caramel Sauce

4 fuji apples

2 1/2 cups (20 oz) Amber Ale

2-4 cups hot water

2 cups brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tbs butter

Peel all four apples with a vegetable peeler. With an apple corer remove the core of the apples. Place in a large sauce pan or pot, cover with the beer. Add enough water so that the apples are no longer touching the bottom of the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a strong simmer. Roll the apples with a fork frequently to insure that all side of the apples are evenly cooked. Poach for 20 minutes or until the apples are fork tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the apples.

Raise the heat to a strong boil and reduce the liquid to 1 cup. Depending on how much water you added, this should take about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the brown sugar, stir until dissolved. Add a thermometer with a clip to the side of you pan, submerging the tip in the liquid, but making sure it does not hit the bottom of the pan.

Boil, without stirring, until the temperature reaches between 225-230 degrees. Remove from heat and stir until the bubbling subsides. Add the cream and butter, stir to combine. Allow to cool.

Top the apples with the caramel and the chopped nuts.

Another fabulous way to serve this is to chop the apples, and serve the apples, nuts and caramel over vanilla ice cream. Amazing.

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Party Food: Mini Galettes {Strawberry Brie & Bacon Goat Cheese}

The requirements for party food are pretty simple, but hard and fast.

  1. Yummy
  2. Must travel well
  3. Must have the ability to sit at room temperature for extended periods of time
  4. Bonus if it evokes this sentence from at least one other party goer: "Can I get that recipe from you?"
Mini galettes also have the added bonus of being adorable and fairly easy to make. If you want to make them with store bough crust, I may pound on you a little bit. The crust takes about 8 active minutes plus it’s really, really SO much better than store bought.
Feel free to make these your own and use what ever flavor combinations you love.
Miniature Galettes

CRUST

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1/3 cup ice cold water

FOR THE STRAWBERRY BRIE

4 oz brie, cut into slices

3/4 cups strawberries, chopped

1 tbs butter, melted

2 tbs sugar

FOR THE BACON GOAT CHEESE

6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped

3 oz goat cheese, crummbled

1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped (don’t use frozen, too much water)

Makes 12 (6 of each)

In a food processor, combine 1 1/3 cup flour, salt, sugar and butter, process until well combined. Add the remaining flour and process again until combined. Transfer to a bowl and add the water with a wooden spoon (don’t add the water while the dough is in the food processor or your dough will be brittle and cracker-like). If the dough isn’t moist enough, you can add more water, a tsp at a time until the consistency is right. Form dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. You can make this up to 5 days ahead of time, just place the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, in a large zip lock bag.

Place your chilled dough on a well floured surface. Top with more flour and roll until your dough is fairly thin and even. Cut out 12, 4 inch circles. I didn’t have a biscuit cutter that size so I used a margarita glass.

Place the dough circles on baking sheets that are either covered with parchment paper or sprayed with cooking spray.

Strawberry Brie:

A Trader Joe’s just opened on Friday down the street from my house. I am inappropriately excited about living within walking distance from such a fabulous food source. I bought these cute mini brie wheels. These are also fantastic to make mini baked brie out of, but that is for another post.

I cut each wheel into 3-4 slices. If you don’t live by a Trader Joe’s, you can also just use regular brie and cut it into slices small enough to fit inside the circle.

Place about 1 tbs of brie in the center of 6 of the circles. Top with about 2 tbs of strawberries.

Fold the edges up over the filling, leaving the center open. Pleat and press the edges when necessary.

Brush each of the 6 Mini Galettes with melted butter, sprinkle with about 1 tsp of sugar each.

Bacon Goat Cheese:

For the remaining 6 circles, add about 1-2 tbs of goat cheese to each circle. Top with 1-2 tbs of chopped spinach, sprinkle with bacon.

Fold the edges up over the filling, leaving the center open. Pleat and press the edges when necessary.

Brush the folded edge of each of the 6 Mini Galettes with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown.

Gingerbread Ale Beer Bread

Beer bread is simple. A few ingredients creates a soft, but dense bread. The basic principle is to use the beer as the yeast. Although beer is great in this capacity, adding a leavening agent like baking soda, or self rising flour, is important to help keep the bread from becoming too dense. The simple ingredients open the possibility to so many different types of flavorings. Beer bread can be sweet or savory.

I got my hands on a few bottles of the Gingerbread Ale from Bison Brewery for this batch of beer bread. The gingerbread flavors worked so well with the recipe, leaving a mild but distinct flavors of ginger and beer.

Gingerbread Beer Bread

3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 cup chopped pecans

12 oz Bison Gingerbread Ale

TOPPING:

2 tbs melted butter

2 tbs brown sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a large loaf pan with butter flavored cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2/3 cup brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and pecans. Stir until well combined.  Add the beer all at once. It will foam up. Stir quickly to combine. Don’t worry about lumps, thats normal.

Add to your batter greased loaf pan. Pour the melted butter on top of your loaf and sprinkle with the brown sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the butter has completely absorbed into your loaf and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of your loaf comes out clean.


Figs In A Blanket

Only three ingredients. Perfect for a party, and I do believe that Halloween kicks off the party season. The fall is filled with holidays, parties, my birthday…OK, so maybe there is a chance you’re not thinking about that last one. The number one food related question people ask me is about recipes for easy, yummy party food. First, party food generally has to travel well. Second, it has to survive at room temp for extended periods of time. Third, it has to be a crowd pleaser. I do believe, Figs in a Blanket meet all of those requirements.

Figs in a Blanket

12 figs

12 slices of bacon

3 oz goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut the figs in half.

2. Scoop out a large portion of the insides with a melon baller (a small spoon should do fine as well).

4. Fill the hole with yummy goat cheese.

5. Re-assemble the fig and wrap it tightly with a strip of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.

6. Place figs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, turn over and bake until the bacon is cooked through, about 8 more minutes.

Pesto Breakfast Tart

I love breakfast. I eat it every day. Most days, it’s whole wheat toast with peanut butter when I’m running out the door. But on those lovely lazy days when I’m home with my amazing husband and adorable little lady, I make breakfast. This tart is a favorite. Easy to put together, but looks and tastes very impressive.

Pesto Breakfast Tart

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

3 strips of bacon

2 tbs butter

2 tsp pesto

1 roasted red pepper, chopped (jarred is fine)

3 asparagus spears

4 basil leaves, chopped

4  Safest Choice eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and roll with a rolling pin in each direction a few times to make the pastry thinner, wider, and longer. Transfer the pastry, and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. poke several dozen holes in the puff pastry to avoid large air pockets from forming.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Allow to cool a bit.

While the pastry is baking, cook the bacon in a skillet until mostly cooked, but not crispy. Chop into pieces. (Don’t forget to save your bacon grease so you can make my Bacon Fat Tortillas)

In a microwave safe bowl, add the butter and pesto. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir and repeat until melted. Brush all over the pastry with a pastry brush.

Top with chopped basil, chopped bacon and chopped red pepper.

Place the asparagus flat on a cutting board, hold the stem tight with one hand, and with the other, shave the asparagus with a vegetable peeler.

Crack 4 eggs directly onto the puff pastry, one in each corner, avoiding the edges. Leave at least a once inch gap on all sides.

I love a runny yolk. LOVE. It’s natures perfect sauce. And Safest Choice Eggs are pasteurized so I can serve them without fear of ruining my perfect breakfast memory with a nasty bout of Salmonella poisoning. It’s pretty genius.

Sprinkle with the shaved asparagus, then with the salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for an additional 15 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs have set and turned white. Cut the tart into four squares.

How To: Make Bacon (or Vegan) Tortillas


Every time that Mr. Fits, Tater and I are all home, lucky enough to wake up with no place to go, I make breakfast. I love this ritual, and I hope that it continues well into my old, old age (I do plan on living past 100, cooking the entire way, aided by a Rascal Scooter if necessary). Most of these breakfast involve bacon. For the past few months I have been saving the rendered bacon fat by pouring it through a mesh strainer into a small container and storing it in the fridge, waiting for brilliance to strike. I found the homemade tortilla recipe of the fabulous Rick Bayless (who is on my "Culinary Crush" list) and the bacon finally had a grand purpose.  If you are kosher, vegetarian or watching your saturated fat intake, or just crazy enough not to like bacon, you can use vegetable shortening, Smart Balance Light (it’s actually vegan), butter or oil.  Although the flavor won’t be the same if you use another fat and you will have to watch the ratios since these fats all behave differently. But if you can, save bacon drippings and try the bacon flavored tortillas, so incredible.

Bacon Fat Flour Tortillas

(Adapted From Rick Bayless)

Makes 12 tortillas

INGREDIENTS

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling the tortillas

5 tablespoons of fat (bacon fat, vegetable shortening, etc)

3/4 teaspoon salt

about 3/4 cup very warm tap water

DIRECTIONS

As I mentioned previously, save your bacon grease by pouring it through a fine mesh strainer into a container with a tight lid (just pour the next round on the top of the previous) and keeping it in the fridge. This stuff is liquid gold, don’t pour it down the drain.

1.   Combine the flour and fat (I used 5 tbs bacon fat) in a large mixing bowl, working in the fat with your fingers, until completely incorporated.

2. Dissolve the salt in the water, pour about 2/3 cup of it over the dry ingredients and immediately work it in with a fork.

The dough will be in large clumps rather than a homogeneous mass.

If all the dry ingredients haven’t been dampened, add the rest of the liquid (plus a little more, if necessary).

3. Scoop the dough onto your floured work surface

and knead until smooth.

It should be medium-stiff consistency — definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough either. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

4.   Rest the dough.  Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball.  Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll).

5.  You can either press your tortillas using a tortilla press lined with parchment paper to prevent sticking, which I used

or you can roll them with a rolling pin using this method:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle:  Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle, lightly flouring the tortilla and work surface from time to time.

Make sure the tortillas are very thin, almost thinner than you think they should be.

6. Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  

Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface).

After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over. You will know it is time to flip when the edges look dry and lighter in color.  Bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until the other side is browned; don’t overbake the tortilla or it will become crisp.  Remove and wrap in a cloth napkin placed in a tortilla warmer.  Roll or press and then griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner and stacking them one on top of the other.

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies

I’m beginning to wonder about people who HATE pumpkin. I can see hating a particular pumpkin dish, but ALL pumpkin? Maybe you just haven’t had enough different types of pumpkin. I love pumpkin, but probably because I love anything that can blur the lines of what we expect. Pumpkin can be sweet, salty, savory, pie, pasta, tart…It’s a vegetable that can masquerade as a dessert! That’s pretty fantastic.

Here is my recipe for pumpkin cookies, with the added tartness of cranberry.

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies

 

Yield 24

 

1 1/2 cups of flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

 

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoon orange juice (no pulp)

(makes about 12 cookies)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

 

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and cranberries, whisk until combined.

 

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and both types of sugar on high speed until well combined. Add the egg, vanilla and pumpkin puree, mix until well combined. Turn the mixer on low and add the flour until just incorporated.

 

  1. On a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, drop about 2 tablespoon of the batter at a time, evenly spaced.

 

  1. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown and the cookies are cooked through.

 

  1. Allow to cool.

 

  1. To make the glaze, add the powdered sugar and orange juice to a bowl and mix well with a fork until combined. Spoon onto the top of the cooled cookies.


Pumpkin Hummus

So, what do you do when you roast 4 pumpkins and  end up with several containers FULL of homemade pumpkin puree? AND you have a husband that "Isn’t really crazy about that whole pumpkin flavor"? Besides the Pumpkin Pie With Bourbon Whipped Cream I made, and the Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies, I made hummus. Hummus, cookies and pie that I had the sole responsibility of consuming, which also turned into a few extra, much needed, workouts and spin classes. Totally worth it.

This hummus also became the "dressing" on my salad for lunch, and the schemer for my ham sandwich at lunch the next day. So many yummy uses.

Pumpkin Hummus

1½ cup  Cooked Garbanzo Beans, drained and dry

1 cup  Pumpkin Puree (step by step for how to roast a pumpkin)

2 Tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

¼ cup Fresh Lemon Juice

½ tsp  Salt

½ tsp  Ground Cinnamon

½ tsp  Ground Nutmeg

2 cloves Garlic, minced

¼ tsp  Coriander

Put it all in a food processor and blend it until its nice and creamy. Serve with bread, pitas, crackers, or veggies.