Saturday, March 6, 2021

CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE

I’ve always called this Aunt Sharon’s Chocolate Buttermilk cake because I got the recipe from her when I was a teenager, but I have been making it from scratch with my own flourish (specialty quality ingredients as in the homemade rum vanilla, cocoa and cinnamon) for more years than I care to admit, so is it hers or is it mine now? I have tried other recipes over the years, always looking for that new PERFECT recipe, but ALWAYS come back to this one because it just works EVERY time!

CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CAKE

CAKE
2 cups KING ARTHUR all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup QUALITY buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
2 LARGE eggs
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 heaping tablespoons QUALITY cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1 cup boiling water

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • If you are going to cut and layer this cake prepare the jelly roll pan with parchment paper and non-stick cooking spray, otherwise leave it un-greased.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and eggs. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the cocoa.
  • Whisk together to combine.
  • Pour the boiling water in the pan and allow it to bubble a bit, then turn off the heat.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture stirring together for a minute to cool the chocolate.
  • Pour in the egg mixture, stirring together until smooth, then pour into a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking sheet) and bake for 20 minutes.

CHOCOLATE FROSTING for sheet cake
1 3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
6 tablespoons WHOLE milk
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (1 pound bag) powdered sugar

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth.
  • Add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar, stirring together.
  • Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, pour the warm icing over the top. You’ll want to avoid doing much spreading, so try to distribute it evenly as you pour.

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM for layer cake
1 pound butter, softened
7 cups (2-1 pound bags) powdered sugar
4 heaping tablespoons QUALITY cocoa powder
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
1 tablespoon WHOLE milk

  • Cream butter.
  • Sift together the cocoa, cinnamon and powdered sugar into the creamed butter and blend well.
  • Add vanilla, blending well. If too stiff add 1 tablespoon WHOLE milk to thin.

APPLE SLAB PIE – 3 WAYS – APPLE CARAMEL, APPLE CHEDDAR & APPLE STREUSEL

I’ve been working on this post since last July when I promised to find my slab pie recipes for my nieces.  Katie and Lulu I am so sorry this took so long – I sure hope you enjoy them!  I hope having all 3 versions together inspires you to make your own.

Today I made “half” pies in the same pan so they almost looked more like a galette, but they tasted perfect!

APPLE CHEDDAR SLAB PIE
Pie Crust dough for a 2 crust pie (homemade or Pillsbury)
3/4 cup + 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 LARGE lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons COLD unsalted butter, cubed
1 LARGE egg, beaten

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Lightly flour your work surface.
  • Unroll first pie crust and sprinkle with 1/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese. Top with second crust and roll out to a 17×12 inch rectangle.
  • Place crust in a 15×10 jelly roll pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  • In a large mixing bowl toss apple slices with lemon juice, salt, sugar and 1/4 cup of the flour.
  • Remove piecrust from refrigerator.
  • Spread apple mixture evenly into crust.
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese.
  • In food processor pulse together the brown sugar, rolled oats, 1/4 cup flour and cold butter until crumbly.
  • Sprinkle evenly over pie.
  • Fold crust edges over pie like a Galette.
  • Brush with egg.
  • Bake 35-45 minutes until browned.
  • Cool 1 hour.
  • Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

APPLE STREUSEL SLAB PIE
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon +1 teaspoon QUALITY cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon FRESH ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
12 ounces COLD unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup + 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Lightly flour your work surface.
  • Unroll first pie crust and sprinkle with 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Top with second crust and roll out to a 17×12 inch rectangle.
  • Place crust in a 15×10 jelly roll pan.
  • Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
  • Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar mixture with 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the butter and 2/3 cup chopped walnuts cutting in butter until coarse crumbs form. Set aside.
  • Combine remaining sugar with apples and 1/4 cup flour.
  • Spread apple mixtures over crust evenly.
  • Fold crust edges over pie like a Galette.
  • Sprinkle with crumb mixture.
  • Bake 35-45 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  • Cool 1 hour.
  • Cut into squares and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

I did save the BEST for last, at least in my opinion.  This pie tastes just like a caramel apple! The beauty though is that there is a thin and flaky crust that houses the juicy apples and crispy crust and is drizzled with a luscious homemade caramel for a melt in your mouth tasty treat.

CARAMEL APPLE SLAB PIE

CRUST
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup CRISCO butter-flavored shortening
8 tablespoons cold water

  • Spray a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and toss with a fork. Repeat using 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it is moistened and knead the dough into a ball.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 19×13-inch rectangle.
  • Wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it into the prepared baking pan.
  • Ease dough into the pan and up the sides, being careful not to stretch it.
  • Trim dough to ½ inch beyond edge of pan.
  • Fold dough edge over and flute as desired.

APPLES
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons QUALITY ground cinnamon
1/2 cup golden raisin, optional
3½ pounds granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (about 10 cups)

  • In an extra large bowl combine the sugar, ⅓ cup flour, cinnamon, raisins and apples.
  • Toss until coated.
  • Spoon the mixture on the dough and spread evenly.

CRUMB TOPPING
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, cold

  • In a large bowl, stir together quick-cooking rolled oats, packed brown sugar, and all-purpose flour.
  • Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Sprinkle EVENLY on top of apples.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until apples are tender.
  • Cool slightly.

NOTES:

  • IF you are in a hurry, melting the butter and using a fork to mix it all together works well too.
  • IF TOP IS BROWNING TOO QUICKLY, COVER LIGHTLY WITH A PIECE OF FOIL.

CARAMEL
1 cup PACKED brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon PURE Vanilla
Pinch of salt

  • Mix all ingredients together until smooth in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat.
  • Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker.
  • Turn off heat.
  • Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.
  • Drizzle on top of apple slab pie.

NOTE:  If you don’t use all your streusel topping, it stores perfect in the freezer.

Friday, March 5, 2021

TUSCAN CHICKEN TOMATO SOUP

TUSCAN CHICKEN TOMATO SOUP serves 6

8 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tablespoons avocado oil, plus more for toasting bread 
Salad Supreme garlic bread sprinkle
2 tablespoons salted butter OR 2 seasoned butter cubes (see notes)
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced OR 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken pieces 
1 LARGE shallot, diced 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons QUALITY tomato paste  (I use Classico sun dried tomato pesto)
14-ounce can QUALITY diced tomatoes 
14-ounce can QUALITY tomato puree 
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 to 2 tablespoons honey 
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, plus whole sprigs, for garnish 
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper 
One SMALL 6.52-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained 
Mini QUALITY Mozzarella balls 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°.
  • Lightly coat the bread with oil on both sides and place on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted and browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over a medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the oil is hot, add the chicken (if you’re using the raw thighs otherwise rotisserie chicken pieces are added later), onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to brown and the chicken is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir until everything is well coated.
  • Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken broth, beans, honey and oregano.
  • Add in rotisserie chicken pieces, if using.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, stirring well and bringing to a simmer for 10 minutes or so until flavors are well blended.
  • Add the marinated artichoke hearts to the soup and stir to combine.
  • Tear the toasted bread into large chunks and place in the bottom of soup bowls OR use grilled cheese croutons for an extra yummy plus.
  • Ladle the soup over the bread.
  • Top each bowl with several mini Mozzarella cheese balls, chopped oregano and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

NOTES: When I buy FRESH herbs (thyme, tarragon, oregano, basil…), I chop them up and make butter cubes in my lidded silicone trays to freeze and have on hand for recipes just like this. It adds another layer of flavor.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

CHILI HONEY LIME SALMON

 

 

CHILI HONEY LIME SALMON

2 limes – 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice (about 1 lime and 1 lemon juiced) and 1 lime cut into wedges
1/4 cup FRESH chopped Italian Parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
4 garlic cloves, minced
+/- 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili flakes (based on spice level preference)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
4 FRESH salmon fillets
4-6 baby sweet red, orange, yellow bell peppers, de-seeded and diced
1 large shallot, sliced thick

  • Preheat oven to broil settings on high heat.
  • Cover baking sheet with foil.
  • Spray foil with cooking oil spray; set aside.
  • Whisk together lime juice, parsley, olive oil, water, garlic, chili flakes, cumin and salt together to combine.
  • Add the honey and whisk again until well combined.
  • Arrange the salmon fillets, peppers and onion in a single layer on the prepared baking tray.
  • Pour half of the marinade evenly over salmon, peppers and shallots, turning to coat well.
  • Broil until the peppers are just beginning to char at the edges and the salmon is cooked to your liking, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and serve immediately with lime wedges and remaining marinade for added flavor.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

WHITE BEAN, CHICKEN & SAUSAGE STEW

 

WHITE BEAN, CHICKEN & SAUSAGE STEW
1 Johnsonville beef sausage, cut into 1/4-1/2 inch slices
1-2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks **(see notes)
2 + 1 tablespoons avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 onion, chopped or 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced into half moons
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped FRESH parsley
1 tablespoon chopped FRESH thyme
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 cups chicken broth **(see notes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Garlic salt
1 baguette, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
Parmesan cheese, garnish

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add sausage pieces and cook 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove from pan to drain off excess grease.
  • Season chicken pieces with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add to pan and sear 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Remove chicken pieces and add to sausage to drain.
  • Add remaining oil to pan along with the onions, carrots and celery mirepoix to saute 3-4 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes with their juice, rinsed beans and chicken stock, stirring to blend.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil, turn down heat and simmer 10-15 minutes more.
  • Return meats to pan along with Parsley and Thyme, stirring to blend and coat meat pieces with sauce.
  • While stew is simmering, make the croutons.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Melt butter and whisk in garlic salt.
  • Toss croutons to coat in butter mixture.
  • Transfer bread pieces to sheet pan. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes, but watch closely to prevent burning.
  • Serve with croutons and Parmesan sprinkle.

NOTES:

  • If you prefer a soup to a stew, use the 4 cups of chicken stock.  Otherwise use 3 +/- cups to your desired consistency.
  • Often I substitute turkey breast or even rotisserie chicken pieces. If you use rotisserie chicken pieces, wait to add them until you are adding the sausage back in.

CRISPY CHEDDAR CHICKEN with LOADED BACON MASHED POTATOES

CRISPY CHEDDAR CHICKEN with LOADED BACON MASHED POTATOES

Golden cheesy crispy chicken is ALWAYS a recipe for success. When you add melted cheddar and BOLD spices along with a CHEESY stuffed mashed potatoes you have WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER.

CHICKEN
3/4 pound thin chicken steaks
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/3 cup FINELY shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon QUALITY season salt
scant 2 tablespoons butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Adjust rack to top position.
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  • Pat chicken dry and season with FRESH ground black pepper.
  • Place on prepared baking sheet.
  • Evenly spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto tops of chicken.
  • Melt butter in a medium microwave safe bowl.
  • Stir together the melted butter, Panko breadcrumbs, seasoning salt, and cheddar cheese.
  • Divide the Panko mixture evenly between the chicken steaks, pressing to adhere.
  • Roast on top rack until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. TIP: For a deep golden crust, broil chicken for the last 2-3 minutes.

POTATOES
3/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced into ½-inch pieces.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives

  • Place potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover by 2 inches.
  • Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Drain and return potatoes to pot.
  • Add sour cream, 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 tablespoon butter.
  • Mash until smooth and creamy, adding heavy cream as needed.
  • Stir in half the bacon and half the chives.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.

ASSEMBLY

  • Divide chicken and potatoes between plates.
  • Top potatoes with remaining bacon and remaining chives.
  • Serve immediately.

FRENCH ONION MANICOTTI

This is the French onion soup you eat with a fork! Caramelizing the onions takes the longest, but is the savoriest part of this meal! Don’t try to rush this process or you’ll ruin that cheesy goodness that will give you your comfy, cozy meal for a cold winter’s night!

FRENCH ONION MANICOTTI serves 4-6 depending on appetite
4 sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped thyme
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 box manicotti shells
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 tablespoon WONDRA flour
1 ½ cups chicken stock
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese, for topping
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, for topping
FRESH parsley or thyme for topping

  • Melt butter in a large cast iron (or oven safe) skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onions.
  • Sprinkle with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper, sugar and thyme. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes until the onions caramelize, BUT watch them closely so they don’t burn! Turn down the heat as necessary.
  • Once caramelized, add garlic, sauteing 30 seconds more. Turn off the heat, but leave them in the pan.

  • While the onions are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the manicotti shells 6 minutes to al dente’. Drain and carefully place them on a piece of foil coated in non stick spray to cool.

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.

  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, egg, Gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt, pepper and dried thyme.
  • Add half of the caramelized onions from the pan and stir them into the ricotta mixture to create your filling.
  • Fill each shell with the filling, stuffing it full but not overflowing.

  • Turn the heat to medium-low under the remaining onions in the pan.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Slowly stream in the stock while stirring, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes while the mixture thickens a bit. Stir in the cream.
  • Turn off the heat and place the shells in the french onion sauce.
  • Melt the butter and whisk in the breadcrumbs with a fork until evenly coated.
  • Top with the Mozzarella cheese followed by the breadcrumbs mixture.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and bubbly.
  • Serve immediately with a Parmesan and fresh herb garnish.