Friday, July 29, 2011

Pineapple Jalapeno Margarita Martini

I have had this recipe in 'draft' mode longer than any other recipe... I guess I needed to do more research to make sure it was worthy. Hahaha, if you believe that... I like you.

If you don't like spicy, then you probably won't like this drink.  It is hot, I won't deny it.  I am sitting here with burning lips as I write this, having just finished my final test project.  Don't you just loving test projects???

I first had this at a great cocktail lounge in Portland called Mint with some friends that I hadn't seen in 20 years.  A couple of these and all your long lost friends will instantly be bosom buddies again.... for the record, they would have become bosom buddies even if I only had a cup of coffee. These friends are wonderful and little did I know that Todd is about the best mixologist ever... he even makes his own triple sec!  His bar, Elixirs, is legendary, but don't look for it on Google... it's in his house- invitation only.

Love to reconnect with friends and enjoy time together.

Make some time this weekend for some fun together.

Makes 2-3 martinis
3 slices jalapenos (remove seeds unless you want it super hot)
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 jigger tequila, or vodka
2 jigger pineapple juice
2 jigger lime simple syrup, or sweet sour mix
1/2 lime, juiced
Zest of one lime
Chunky salt, like Maldon

Dip the rims of the glass in water, then in salt and lime zest. (I didn't do that in my picture, I retain salt like crazy!)

Muddle jalapeno slices and cilantro with the lime syrup and about 1 cup of crushed ice.  Muddle just means to smash all the ingredients together with the ice, getting the flavors to meld together.  You don't need a special instrument, I used the handle of a wooden spoon.

Add vodka (or tequila) and pineapple juice. Shake and pour in glass .



Lime simple syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1-2 limes, sliced

Boil the syrup until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to get a bit thicker.  Strain out the lime pieces and discard.  Bottle the syrup and keep in the fridge until you want to perk up almost anything...

Cranberry juice, vodka and lime simple syrup... is .... yummy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dulce de Leche Icebox Cake

Icebox cake... yeah, meaning you don't cook it. 
Perfect for a hot summer.... well, maybe the Pacific Northwest is the only place in the U.S. not having a hot summer, but we can still enjoy a yummy icebox cake. Basically, it's a whipped cream 'filling' layered between thin cookies, then the whole thing is refrigerated and the cookies meld together with the cream to make a light fluffy cake like dessert.  May be better than cheesecake... just sayin'.

I had heard of an Icebox cake, but never had one... kind of a 1950's thing, or something.  I wasn't around in the 50's and my Mom never made this... pity, it's pretty awesome!

Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart do an Icebox Cake if you want to look up some other ideas for this technique.

I used a can of Dulce de Leche... so fantastically yummy it should probably be against the law.  You can buy Dulce de Leche in the Hispanic section at the grocery store...
or... you... can... make... it. 

It might scare you... it scares lots of people. 

I've done it twice, and I intend to do it again, but it involves simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in water for 2-3 hours. Mine didn't blow up... but really I can't be responsible for yours, in case you do something silly, like letting your pot boil dry.  I will give you the recipe (at the end), because this is some stuff you will want to be able to make to impress everyone who comes in contact with it, but for gawd's sake... be careful!!!

2 cups whip cream
8 oz marscapone, or cream cheese
1 can dulce de leche

2 boxes of crisp, thin cookies like Anna's Swedish Thins Gingersnaps or chocolate wafers

Whip together the cream cheese, the dulce de leche and the whip cream.  Beat on slow until its all mixed and then gradually turn up the mixer.  It takes about 3-5 minutes to get a stiff mixture as the whip cream in the mixtures fluffs up.

In a springform pan, put a double layer of cookies at the bottom (I didn't add quite enough to mine shown in the picture below).  Add about 1/4 to 1/3 of the whip cream mixture.


Add more cookies, pressing down on the whip mixture to fill all the gaps and to make a uniform level layer.  Continue as long as you have cookies and whip cream.  Cover with foil and refridergate overnight, or at least 8 hours. 

P.S. I took all my busted up cookies and pulverized them and used them as a decoration on the top.  Not sure it really adds to the aesthetics of the dish or not...

Yum... just sayin'.  You will like this.

 Here's some more flavoring ideas for other versions of Icebox Cake-
  • Mocha whip cream and chocolate chip cookies
  • Chocolate cream with chocolate wafers cookies
  • Peach whip cream, gingersnaps, layers of fresh raspberries, or jam
  • Margarita whip cream with thin lime shortbread cookies
  • Salted Caramel whip cream and Graham crackers

Homemade Dulce de Leche
In a large dutch oven with a lid, add 1-2 cans of unopened sweetened condensed milk. Remove any labels.  Cover with water and bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 hours, ensuring that the water level remains OVER the top of the cans.  It takes about 2-3 hours.  It keeps a very long time (unopened) in the fridge.   Here is a link to more info from Wikipedia too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pam Tooke's Cincinnati Chili

My friend Pam Tooke gave me this recipe.  She is a crack up. She makes me laugh.  I love her comments on stuff.  Too bad she lives in Conneticut. I miss her.

But she knows chili... Cincinnati Chili.  It's like no other chili out there, it's got a yummy, warm spice to it, and there are no beans. It's the perfect chili for a hot dog, or do some crazy thing that they do in Cincinnati, put it on spaghetti noodles. 

I got to know Pam on a bus, in Ireland.  We were part of a business tour (all play, no work) in England and Ireland. 27 Bridal Directors from around the U.S... what a hoot.  Pam and I had to sit in the front of the bus, every day... because we get car sick. Have you seen the roads in Ireland?
So we sat together.
At the front, eyes on the horizon.
Have I mentioned that Pam can talk... a lot? 
If you know me, you know I can talk quite a bit too.
We were instant buddies. 
She is naughty too.. which is why I liked sitting next to her.

Pam, thanks for the great recipe and for being such an enthusthiastic fan of my blog!

(I made a triple recipe, so there is more ingredients shown than listed below)

Serves about 4-8, either as a main dish or a side dish
1 lb ground beef (I now use ground turkey), preferably fine ground
1 12 oz can of Tomato Paste
3 Cans of water
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1-4 Tbsp chili powder
3 bay leaves
2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp allspice
1 teaspoon cumin and/or Cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients, there is no need to cook the meat or onion ahead of time.  Just mix and bring to a boil, stirring to keep the pieces small.  I used a potato masher to make sure that the consistency was fine without any chunks.  It looks kinda gross at this point... I won't lie.

Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Keep a lid handy and the mixture covered to reduce splattering as it simmers.  I cracked the lid in order to reduce the moisture and thicken it. . Be sure to stir the mixture to break up the meat. It should have a fine consistency. This is a photo of the chili about half way through the cooking time.

Serve over fine spaghetti with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and diced onions. I used whole wheat pasta.... pretty darn sure that is probably wrong on some many levels if you are a purist.

I borrowed some of the details below about Cincinnati Chili from Wikipedia, because I thought it was fun!

Ordering Cincinnati chili is based on the series: Chili, Spaghetti, Shredded Cheese, Diced Onions, Beans. The number before the "way" of the chili determines which ingredients are included in each chili order. Thus, customers can order a:
Bowl: chili in a bowl
Two-way: chili and spaghetti
Three-way: chili, spaghetti, and cheese
Four-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and onions
Five-way: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and beans
and optionally, the:
Four-way bean: chili, spaghetti, cheese, and beans (beans substituted for the onions)
(The preceding basic menu is entirely traditional. Some chili parlors have altered the traditional menu method, declaring on their menus that a Four-way is chili, spaghetti, shredded cheese, and either diced onions or beans.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Coconut Curry Sauce

This recipe is dedicated to a friend who posted on Facebook, her 4 favorite ingredients, and that she wished she had a good recipe including them all. 

Fish, Coconut Milk, Curry and Cilantro. 

I love stuff like that, I find it very fun to see what I can come up. Erin is a funny, sweet, smart gal who makes me smile daily with her updates on being the mom of two beautiful girls.  I love her take on things, and by reading comments from other friends, I see that she is loved by everyone she meets.

It also helps that these four ingredients are also in my big list of favorite flavors too! Next time, I might try a minced up jalapeno to add a little more heat, but otherwise, this is just right the way it is.

4 servings
1 teaspoon sesame oil  
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced or 2 tsp. garlic hot pepper paste
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green onions
2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2-4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 (6-ounce) mahi mahi fillets, or other firm white fish
3 cups hot cooked rice, calrose or basmati
4 lime wedges 

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add pepper and onions; cook 1 minute. Stir in curry powder, curry paste, and cumin; cook 1 minute.

Add soy sauce, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and coconut milk; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Stir in cilantro. Place fish in the sauce, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness. Remove the lid for the last five minutes of cooking to help reduce and thicken the sauce... or not, you decide.  The sauce is incredible on the rice...

The fish should flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve fish sprinkled with more cilantro, with more sauce, rice, and lime wedges.
Don't skip the lime squeeze, it really is yummy!

Like curry?  Here's another good one...
Spicy Shrimp Curry

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sourdough Picnic Meatloaf

I know picnic meatloaf isn't the sexiest name, but really, I couldn't think of anything  better...

Artisan Pate al la picnique??? 

Nah, too sissified...

Anyway, this is a yummy, easy to pack picnic food that you don't have to grill or reheat, it is delicious cold. You can make it with a combination of meats, but I do suggest lean meats, especially if you decide to use some sausage because of the fat content. Pictured below, I show one loaf of bread, but the meat recipe makes enough for two. You could halve the meat mixture, but it's way harder to find packages of 1/2 lb. of meats.  Either make one loaf, and a small regular meatloaf, or get two loaves of bread!!!

This is such an easy thing to do, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it earlier.
When I was shopping for the bread, the bakery lady was asking if I was using the loaf for spinach dip, and when I told her what I was doing, she got so darn excited, wanting to try it herself.  Give it a go, I think you will like it...

(Whoops, forgot to photograph the egg!)

Makes 2 large loaves, should feed 8 big eaters, or 16 small eaters
2 large round sourdough loaf, unsliced
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork sausage, hot or mild
1 egg
1 cup Fresh bread crumbs (from the middle of the loaf)
1 Tbsp pesto
2 cups spinach (optional, but recommended!)
1 med onion
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper

Cut the top 1/3 off the bread, like this:

Then, scoop out the middle of the bread, leaving about 3/4"-1" of the bread around the edges and also on the bottom. Use the bread you remove to make some bread crumbs in your food processor.

Chop your spinach and your onion, I did it in a food processor, which makes it super easy, and makes the mixture fine enough to mix with the meat without big chunks.

Mix the meats, the bread crumbs, the egg and the spinach/onion mixture together.  You can microwave a tablespoon of the mixture for 15-30 seconds to check the seasoning and adjust as needed.  I found I did not have to add any salt or pepper because my sausage was so flavorful.

Sprinkle the bottom with cheese at the bottom of your bread, and fill the rest with the meatloaf mixture.  Add more cheese on the top, and put the top of the bread back on. 

Wrap the entire loaf in a couple layers of foil.

Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours on a tray.  If you have an internal thermometer, it should be 160 inside. You can flip the loaf to cook on 'its top' to avoid the bottom from being too crisp half way through. Unwrap and bake another 10 minutes to crisp the outside and to evaporate any liquids that accumulate.  Even if it looks a bit "soggy"... it will be fine... and delicious, I promise.

Serve at once, or let cool, re-wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to head out for your picnic. Keep well chilled until ready to eat. Serve with Dijon mustard

Have fun!

Let your imagination go with this one... you could change the flavors to suit your desires, here's more ideas:
-Ground beef, green chilies, taco seasoning, pepper jack cheese.
-Ground turkey, turkey sausage, sundried tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella
-Ground lamb, feta, kalamata olives, fresh basil

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Strawberry Flan (Tart)

This is the first dessert that I remember making on my own, yep, it's that easy!  I think I was about 10 or 11 years old. This was a family favorite for years, fantastic tender cookie crust, custard or cream cheese filling, luscious berries and a sweet glaze.  It's a showy dessert that is easy to make ahead for a party, or even to bring somewhere. It always pleases.

I feel bad that I've taken so long to post this dessert because I realize that optimum strawberry season is mostly over nationwide. 

STILL...  you can still make a great flan with other berries.... like raspberries!

I have to address the name of this... Strawberry Flan... I added "tart" in parentheses so that you would know what I was talking about...

We've always called an open face fruit tart at our house, a Flan (said flan, like plan). 

We called that yummy egg custard dish, creme caramel (no matter what country of origin), so years later I was confused when people call that Flan (FlahN.... make it sound long and kind of hoity toity). 

So I looked it up online trying to figure out if this was something crazy that our family did, or did others call a tart "a flan"???
Lots of explanations out there on tarts, flans, pies and even quiches, some rather heated discussions online. I'm not getting into that, this is a FLAN, and I'm sticking to it. Obviously there are two types of flan...

Pate Sablee (shortbread cookie crust)
Makes about 1- 9" tart pan

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

8oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
1-2 tsp Lemon juice

Or use my Pastry Cream recipe from my Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes (shown)

2 lbs. Strawberries

Red jelly, like currant

NOTE- Works beautifully with the following fruit, especially if you do it in 'rings' of colorful fruit!
-Sliced kiwi
-Sliced peaches

You can make the crust in a stand mixer, a food processor or a regular bowl.  Mix all the ingredients just until it starts to hold together. Don't over mix, or it will be tough.

You can roll it out, but I usually just press it into a tart pan with a removable bottom with my fingers.  Use a fork to poke holes in it, that will help it to stay flat while you back it.  Or, you could use pie weights, or uncooked beans. If you use any of the pie weights, use a piece of foil first, then the pie weights. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 until it is golden on the edges and looks cooked. Cool.

When cool, add the pastry cream, or the cream cheese frosting.

Remove the green strawberry hulls. I like to cut off a small amount of the berry with the hull, so each berry has a flat surface to lie on in the pastry for a uniform look.

Position each strawberry around the edge, trying to fit the berries in a uniform manner so that all gaps are filled.  You will still be able to see the pastry cream a bit, but once you get the glaze on there, it will be filled in!

Like this...

Melt the currant jelly, or other red jelly, in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is smooth, with no lumps.  Let it cool a bit, stirring it occasionally to ensure it stays lump free.  You don't want to use hot glaze or it will "cook" your strawberries.  Using a pastry brush, dab and brush the glaze over each berry, and all the areas between the berries.  Chill until ready to serve.


California Eggs Benedict

WOW, I wish my picture was as great as this tasted.... it sure is hard to photograph things in twos, especially two things covered in yellow sauce! Just KNOW this was so good...

Went to breakfast with some friends a couple of weeks ago, and one ordered California Eggs Benedict and the other Migas.... me?  Well, I didn't have anything because I forgot I had a breakfast date and had already eaten... how sad was I?  Anyways, I was checking out my friend's breakfast and deemed it a great idea, that could use a couple of "Piper Tweaks".

It's such a simple idea, I wonder why we didn't think of it earlier?  Sauteed fresh spinach, avocado, tomato slice and a poached egg on a sourdough english muffin and hollandaise... but oh no.... I could NOT do regular hollandaise on that.  I did Chipotle Lime Hollandaise... which is pretty much the best thing you ever tasted. Learned some new stuff today... did you know that hollandaise needs acid in order to work??? Yep, I had a flop this morning, but I re-made it changing one little thing (Lime), and viola, it worked beautifully. Don't worry about making hollandaise... it's simple can take just 3 minutes!  Here's a link to another blog posting Hollandaise Sauce- Easy Blender Recipe
Mr. Meat-Eater (aka 'the guy I'm married to') thought it was great brunch, but that a couple of strips of crisp bacon would have been a terrific addition. But of course, what wouldn't be improved by a couple of strips of crisp bacon?  But this is a rich and flavorful dish, and really, you could just skip the meat.

Serves 2 (with more sauce than anyone should eat... but you probably will)
2 Sourdough english muffins, split and toasted
2-4 slices of tomato (depends on size & how much you like it)
1 bunch of fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 avocado, slices or mashed*
4 egg, poached, or fried

Get some water onto boil, add some salt and about 1 tbsp of white vinegar. (Something about the vinegar helps the egg whites to stay together in the hot water). Once it boils, reduce heat to make it simmer.

Chop your spinach and dice your onion.  Saute the onions in a non-stick fry pan until wilted, then add the spinach.  Cook for just 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted too. Season well with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Slice your tomatoes and your avocados. 

Crack an egg into a small bowl (This makes it easier to 'slide' it into the water). In your hot simmering water, slide the egg into the water.  It make look like the egg white is going everywhere, but it mostly holds together.  Cook each egg about 3-4 minutes for a soft egg, and about 4-5 for a slightly firmer yolk, and no runny whites.

Put the english muffins in the toaster. 

Make the hollandaise (below).

Assemble the  eggs benedict.
1. Muffin half
2. Avocado, *mashed is best... it doesn't slide around like the slices do!
3. Sauteed spinach and onions
4. Slice of tomato
5. Poached egg
6. Chipotle Hollandaise

Chipotle Lime Hollandaise
1 egg yolk
1 chipotle pepper, canned with some adobo sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tsp. dijon mustard, or dry mustard
1/2 cup butter, melted and HOT

Here's my trick for hollandaise, first; melt the butter in a pyrex container in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Don't even bother to unwrap the butter....

You know why?  Because, it's super easy to remove it when it's done!  I know, I must be pretty lazy...

In a blender, add one chipotle chili with some of the adobo sauce, one egg yolk, 1 tsp of dry mustard and the juice of half  lime.  With the blender running, pour the hot melted butter through the hole in the lid.  It should immediately thicken and be a nice sauce.  I usually add the hollandaise back into the still warm pyrex while I am finishing the rest of the meal.

If you like breakfast as much as I do, here are some other favorites!
What's in the Fridge Frittata
Huevos Rancheros, Mexican Eggs and Tortillas
Piper's Joe's Special

Friday, July 22, 2011

Maple Dijon Salmon Fillets on Spinach Salad

The Perfect Summer meal.


We call anything over 65 degrees "Summer" in Seattle, at least the meal made me happy, because the weather certainly does not.

I bought the double pack of Grey Poupon dijon mustard at Costco the other day, just about the world's biggest bargain at $6 for two BIG jars. This little recipe booklet was tied onto one jar. So, of course, I had to look at it... after finding my reading glasses.  Jeez, it was small.  Of course, I changed it, but I was inspired by it. 

Looking at other versions of this recipe online, I noted that some used  balsamic vinegar and some used Soy Sause.  The balsamic vinegar is like everyone's favorite ingredient these days, but I will admit that it's not always my 'go to' item.  It adds another level of sweetness to the marinade, but I think I will use soy sauce next time I make it, or even the Soy Sauce Tabasco I have in there.  Either way, I really loved this dish and you can't beat it for simple, and easy to make.

Serves 4
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or Soy Sauce
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets 
Cooking spray 
2 10oz. bags of fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
Other chopped veggies as you like (sliced mushrooms, red bell peppers, red onions)

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; remove half to another small bowl, add the remaining marinade to a ziploc bag and add salmon. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 20-60 minutes.

In the small bowl with the remaining marinade, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and whisk until emulsified.  Add 1-2 Tbsp of water until you have a good salad dressing consistency.
Prepare grill or broiler.

Remove salmon from bag, reserving the marinade. Place salmon on a foil "boat" for your grill or use a grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray. You could do this right on the grill, but the marinade is going to make a mess, and because of the sugar content, it could burn.  Make your life easier and just make a little foil pan....

Cook for 6-10 minutes until the fish starts to flakes easily when tested with a fork; baste salmon occasionally with the reserved marinade.

Toss the spinach greens with the reserved dressing. To serve, make a bed of the spinach on each plate and top with a hot fillet of salmon.  If the salmon wilts your salad... so much the better!


Here's some other great ideas for salmon:
Crispy Lemon Tilapia -  Just use Salmon instead for this recipe.
Halibut with Bagna Cauda Citrus Sauce  - Just use Salmon instead for this recipe.
Salmon, Spinach & Garbonzos baked in foil

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brownies topped with Pretzels and Toffee

Salty, crunchy, fudgy with toffee and nuts... hmmm, now let me think...

Does that even sound good?

Heck YES it does...

I can't think of much more to say about these brownies, except just make them and then try not to be alone with them.  Better yet, package'em up and give them away as quickly as possible to make friends and influence all over the place.  Such a simple way to dress up brownies, such an amazingly yummy way to take it to the next level.

P.S. Try not to eat a ton of pretzels while you are baking... you will want to save those calories for brownies, just take my word on that.

Makes about 18-21 big brownies
One 9x13 pan

4 squares BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate (1 oz squares= 4 oz total)
3/4 cup  butter
2 cups sugar
3   eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup  flour
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts, optional
1 cup crushed pretzels, broken into bits
1 cup toffee bits

9x13 pan, lined with foil, sprayed with non-stick spray. This makes it way easier to get your brownies out of the pan and is highly recommended.

Top with pretzels and toffee bits, give them a little pat to make sure they stick to the brownie batter. I broke my pretzels up in a ziploc bag, and I included all the salty pretzel dust from breaking them up to the top of the brownies too.... it's where are the salt is!

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, try not to overbake if you want them nice and moist and fudgy. Let the brownies cool for about 1-2 hours if you want to get nice clean straight edges.

Maybe it would be a good idea to go for a long walk while they are cooling...

If you like brownies, and you like WINE, you might also like this recipe!
Dark Chocolate Merlot Brownies