Friday, February 24, 2012

Some More S'Mores, Please!



I love s'mores!  Heck, what's not to love!  Graham crackers....chocolate and marshmallows!  There is ONE thing I don't like about s'mores....the chocolate DOESN'T melt!  The chocolate stays hard and crunchy!



Well, problem solved!  Meet my No Bake, no campfire needed idea for S'Mores!





No Bake S'Mores Cake

1 jar (12 or 13 ounces) marshmallow cream
¼ cup milk
18 graham cracker rectangles
1 large box of instant chocolate pudding, prepared according to package directions for pudding
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate Sprinkles (optional)

Remove lid from marshmallow cream, heat on 50% power in the microwave for 75 to 90 seconds, until you can squeeze (or easily spoon) half of marshmallow cream into a medium bowl.  Add milk to the remaining marshmallow cream in the jar, replace lid and shake to mix the milk with the marshmallow cream.  Pour mixture into bowl with the first half of the marshmallow cream and stir to mix well.  Place this mixture in a quart size resealable bag.  Cut a small piece from the corner of the bag.



Lay 4 graham cracker rectangles and one square (rectangle broken in half) on a plate, 







spread one fourth of the pudding over the graham crackers, all the way to the edge.  








Squeeze one fourth of the marshmallow cream over the pudding.


Repeat layers three more times, ending with the marshmallow cream.  Place in refrigerator for one hour to firm up layers.


Spread the thawed whipped topping on the top of the cake and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.  Return to refrigerator and allow to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight, before serving.


To serve, cut into pieces and place on plates.


Serves 16

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beignets Aren't Just A Nawlins Treat!



Start celebrating Mardi Gras 2012 this weekend!

One of my favorite treats when visiting Nawlins  is Beignets and Café Au Lait at Café Du Monde!  I know, it sounds really touristy, BUT, for me, it is so traditional!  Something I have always done!  Now, will I stand in line…..usually not, unless it is really short!  There are times of the day when there is no waiting and it’s very easy to get my favorite treat!

And then there is always the pleasure of making beignets at home!  Honestly, it isn’t difficult!  It may take a little waiting time and you may need to clean up some splattering’s of grease; along with some wayward powdered sugar (actually, there may be a LOT of wayward powdered sugar!)….BUT, it is so worth it!

A powdered sugar hint.....when bringing the beignet toward your face.....DO NOT breathe in OR out when taking a bite!  Breathing out causes a snow storm....breathing in results in a coughing fit!

Make the dough up the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator, in the morning, simply roll out, cut out the beignets, let them rise one more time and fry!

Make sure you sprinkle the beignets with the powdered sugar before they cool!  Some of that sugar will melt into the beignets and just become tasty goodness!

This just may become your families favorite special Sunday morning treat!

Beignets    

1 envelope active dry yeast (always check the freshness date)
¾ cup lukewarm water (between 105 to 115 degrees)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup evaporated milk
3 ½ - 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco)
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar

Combine the yeast, water, and sugar in a bowl.  Allow yeast mixture to sit until frothy, about 5 minutes, then add the salt, egg, and evaporated milk, mix well.

Place in a food processor and add half of the flour, pulse several times until it starts to come together.  Add the shortening all at once and pulse several times again.

When the shortening is incorporated start adding the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time until most of it is incorporated. The dough will be forming a ball.  Turn the dough onto a floured work surface to finish by hand.

Knead the dough adding just enough flour as necessary to make a non-sticky and smooth dough.  Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, loosely cover with a towel and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.

Remove from the refrigerator and punch it down, turn it onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle that is about 1/2" thick. With a knife working at a diagonal to the rectangle, cut into 2" wide strips. Now cut into diamond shapes by making diagonal cuts in the opposite direction.

Place the cut beignets on a floured baking sheet to let rise about 40 minutes in a warm place (Heat oven to lowest setting and turn off, leave door ajar for 5 minutes, then place beignets inside and close door).

Remove beignets, heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan to 360-370 degrees. Place 2-3 Beignets into the hot oil at a time, being careful not to smash or deflate them.

When they are golden brown, flip them over until golden brown on the other side (They go pretty quickly so start checking them right after they go into the oil). Remove to paper towels to drain, sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar! Enjoy!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

If Y'all Knew Sushi, Like I Knew Sushi


I've tried before to make sushi at home....disaster! They were HUGE, funny looking, oddly shaped and lacked uniformity!  So, I put away my sushi mat and rice paddle.



But, the sushi making seed has been growing in my head for awhile and I decided to try again!  But, first, I would need instruction.  Classes?  Videos? 


NO!


I needed to watch sushi being made in person and watch the techniques!  So, I have made many, many, many trips to sushi restaurants to watch (and eat)....just for the sake of research (can I write that off?)


I don't have a recipe to post here, but, I did find some helpful hints at the website, Make My Sushi.  My sushi rice was a combination of several recipes because none of them sounded quite like what I was looking for, but included a sushi grade rice, rice vinegar, sugar and salt.


One roll was a take off on my husband's favorite roll at the moment!  You can find it at Jack's By The Tracks in Pascagoula, MS.  If you are down that way, check them out!  GREAT joint!  Music, sushi, fish tacos to die for and wonderful people!  (Did I mention a great beer and wine list, too?)  Just make it a destination!  Al loves their Crawesome - stuffed with crawfish tempura, cream cheese, asparagus.  On the outside, sesame seed, tobiko, spicy mayo and tuna!  




It was OK (what do you expect from me sitting in Northern Illinois trying to make Gulf Coast Sushi?).  It will hold him over until we get back south!



The second roll is a spicy tuna roll with tuna, spicy mayo, tobiko, cream cheese, asparagus and cucumber!  This one turned out MUCH better than the first!  



So, I have dusted off my sushi mat and rice paddle and I'm back at it!  Please, let me know if you have any ideas! 




Sayonara!

PS....Thanks, Alex for the title idea!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Easy Valentine's Day Dinner

Valentine's Day is just around the corner!  That special day for lovers or friends looking for love in all the right places (hopefully!).




I LOVE going to restaurants to try new foods AND have someone wait on me, but Valentine's Day brings so many people out to the local restaurants and they are always SOOOOO crowded, it makes intimacy and privacy non-existent!





So, instead of going out, why not create a wonderful (and easy) meal in the privacy of your own place!  You can make this up in advance, place it in the refrigerator and pull it out to bake!  Add some flowers, a special gift, some music, candles and my Microwave Flourless Chocolate Torte and you are set for a great evening!



Shrimp Au Gratin


6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups half and half
¾ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Pinch ground black pepper, or to taste
Several dashes hot sauce, to taste
3 cups cooked shrimp, chopped
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Whisk in half and half until smooth and thick.

In small bowl, mix together the cheeses, reserve ¾ cup to use for topping. Add cheese to half and half mixture and stir until melted. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce, taste and adjust seasoning.

Remove from heat, stir in shrimp and scallions until well blended. Pour mixture into large oven proof baking dish, or 6 individual oven proof baking dishes.

Mix bread crumbs and melted butter until well blended. Sprinkle reserved cheese over top of casseroles or divide evenly over individual dishes. Top with bread crumbs.  (If making ahead, stop here, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to baking and remove plastic wrap.)

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Microwave Poached Salmon





I caught a recipe similar to this on a recent talk show.  The end product looked wonderful, but, I thought the poaching liquid needed more flavor.  So I amped up the ingredients in the poaching liquid and the end result turned out incredible, both in flavor and appearance!

I love to cook; putting all my heart and energy into a meal is soul satisfying to me.  But, there are those days that the spirit exists, yet, there just isn’t enough fuel left in my tank to put too much energy into dinner….enter Microwave Poached Salmon!  Refrigerator to table in less than 10 minutes!

Eight ounces of salmon is enough to serve 2 people.

Microwave Poached Salmon

8 ounces Salmon
Salt to taste
Ground Black Pepper to taste
5 slices of fresh ginger
Zest from 1 orange (optional if using packaged orange juice)
Juice from 1 orange (or ¼ cup orange juice)
¼ cup dry white wine
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly smashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Canola Oil
¼ teaspoon sesame oil

Season salmon with salt and pepper and set aside.

In large microwave safe bowl, mix ginger, orange zest, orange juice, wine, garlic, cilantro (or parsley), oil and dill weed.

Place salmon in bowl with other ingredients, cover bowl with a microwave safe plate or plastic wrap.

Microwave covered bowl on high, for 4 minutes.

Remove salmon from liquid and serve.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Microwave Chocolate Flourless Tortes


I don’t know about you, but, when I get a chocolate craving, I want something delicious, melt in your mouth and decadent!  I always have chocolate chips in my pantry, and I suppose, I could pop some of those….but, that isn’t really going to fulfill the “want”!




I love these little ramekins!
My Chocolate Flourless Torte can fulfill the desire, but, when I get a craving, I don’t want to wait for an hour and a half!  I WANT it NOW!  So, after I picked myself up off the floor (pounding my hands and feet and wailing, I might add), I realized I could take my Chocolate Flourless Torte recipe, downsize it and make it in the microwave!



That puts chocolate decadence on my table in 10 minutes (or less)!  OH YEAHTHAT’S what I’m talking about!



So after a little forethought and “ciphering”, I decided on the ratios that I thought would work….and they did!  I am thankful I usually have a fairly stocked pantry and refrigerator!  (When my husband reads that last line, he will LOL!)

Microwave Flourless Chocolate Torte

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
2 ½ tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (preferred) or instant coffee powder (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, beaten

In microwave-safe glass bowl, combine chips and half and half.  Microwave chips and half and half, at 50% power for 2 minutes.  Remove and stir to melt chips.

Add butter a couple of cubes at a time, stirring the entire time to melt butter and incorporate completely into mixture.

Add sugar, espresso powder, vanilla extract and salt to chocolate mixture and mix well.

Continue to stir and add the egg, mixing until completely blended.

Spray two shallow, microwave safe dishes (no more than one cup capacity) with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly divide the chocolate mixture between the two dishes.

Microwave the dishes on high, for 2 minutes.  Tortes will appear wet on top.  Allow to rest for several minutes.

Serve warm.

*You can substitute bittersweet chips for semi-sweet chips, you may want to increase sugar to 2 tablespoons, if you like it sweeter.  You can also substitute milk chocolate chips with no increase in sugar.

Serve with raspberry sauce, ice cream or whipped cream.