Thursday, October 31, 2013

Alice's "Drink Me" Martini

A group of us wore costumes from Alice in Wonderland for a Halloween party last weekend. 
There are so many fantastic costumes to be had in that story; Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, White Hare, Cheshire Cat but you really need, an Alice, to make the storybook costumes cohesive.  
I didn't particularly want to be the blonde haired Alice in the simple dress.  
Kind of boring in comparison somehow, so I had to think about what kind of props would make me as exciting as all the others.
I know!
A "drink me" bottle of potion (pre-mixed martinis) is certainly recommended.  
As you may remember, when Alice drank from the little vial she found with a tag that read "drink me", she got very, very small.  
This cocktail is certainly quite strong, which is why I added sparkling water to the recipe.

Makes two "small" martinis (enough to share)

2 jiggers white rum
2 jiggers white coconut rum, or malibu rum
1 jigger blue curacao
1 jigger triple sec
1 jigger whipping cream, or half and half
1-2 jiggers of sparkling water 

Mix everything except the sparkling water into an ice filled cocktail shaker.  Shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a glass and top with some sparkling water, or serve over ice.

It's a beautiful blue that matched my Alice dress just right...  
It's amazing how a small flask of a blue concoction will make you quick friends at a party. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monterey Bake- Cheesy Rice with Chilies

In college, I only lived in the dorm for one year, but I was warned about the cafeteria by my older sister and her friends.  The food was awful and they only recommended one dish, Monterey Bake.
I was suspicious...
It looked like... well... a casserole!
We didn't grow up eating anything that remotely resembled a casserole, or even a "hot dish".  It just wasn't in my Mom's repertoire.  I like that about her.
But, this... this dish was special.  In fact, I can single handedly blame this dish for my freshman 10 weight gain. I don't recommend that you eat this every day, OK?
To my family, this is the ultimate comfort food.  It's also very budget friendly.

I love that this recipe is best with LEFTOVER rice.  Cook up a big batch one night, and the next night, use the leftovers for this recipe. I like that.

Makes an 9x13 pan

8 cups leftover rice
1 cup sour cream
4 oz pkg cream cheese
1 packet ranch mix (or you can use my recipe for homemade)
1 cup milk
1 7oz. canned green chillies, diced, mild
1/4 - 1/2 cup pickled jalapenos. OR 1-2 Tbsp fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced
1-2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese, or cheddar, or a combination of both
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper 

Bread crumbs (omit if doing gluten free)
Parmesan cheese 

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients (except the topping items) in a large bowl.
Add into a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 for about 1 hour until getting crispy and brown around the edges.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Thai Turkey Burger

Still thinking fondly of my trip to Thailand and all the amazing flavors there.
I actually dreamed this up one night lying in bed trying to sleep.
I had many of the fresh ingredients on hand from something else I made and wanted more of those flavors in my mouth...  fresh cilantro, basil, chilies and lime.
I had ground turkey... so what about a Thai burger??? 

It was so good, that I actually thought of keeping this one to myself and submitting it to someone "Build a Burger" contest and winning a prize...  
Ah heck, why wait to share?  
I want you to be as happy as we were.
We are going to make this one again, and again... and again.

Makes 4 - 5 oz burgers

20 oz ground turkey (7% fat is best)
1 lime, zested
1 Tbsp garlic chili paste
3 Tbsp green onions, minced
3 Tbsp cilantro, minced
2 Tbsp basil, minced
1 tsp salt

Slaw Dressing:
2 limes, juiced
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp garlic chili paste
2 Tbsp peanut butter

2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup mung beans
3 Tbsp green onions 
2-3 chilies, like bird's eye, or jalapeno (optional)
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp basil, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix the ground turkey with all the spices and herbs.  Mix well.  Shape into balls, then pat into patties. Grease your grill (or spray your patties with a bit of oil) and grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until they are to your liking.

Serve on toasted buns with plenty of slaw, and a little mayo, if desired.  

In the bottom of a large bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together with a whisk.  Add the fresh veggies and herbs.  Toss about 10 minutes before you serve it.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Almond No Bake Bar Cookies

Do you like SWEET?  Well, good these are the cookies for you.

I've never liked those "no bakes" that are all sad, dumpy brown lumps... but these... these are different.  They have SHAPE, and FLAVOR, and CHEWY caramel and CHOCOLATE.
Plus, even if you have to stand at the stove, stirring, for a while, these cookies are easy, easy, easy.

Remember.... "no bake" does not mean "no cook"...

Makes about 60 small squares
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond  extract
3 cups quick cooking oats
24-30 caramels, unwrapped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup of cream

Grease a 9x9 inch square pan. Line with a piece of parchment, or foil, over hanging over two sides.  This makes it easier to pull out.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and almond extract. 

Mix in the oats and sliced almonds. Cook over low heat 5-7 minutes, stirring until ingredients are well blended and begin to look a little 'toasty" and starting to brown and get sticky. Press 2/3 of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan while the mixture is still warm (be careful!). Reserve the third for topping.

Meanwhile, microwave the caramels with 1 Tbsp of water for 30 second increments, stirring each time.  Should take about 1 min 30 second.  

Pour smooth caramel over the pressed oatmeal and almond mixture. 

Heat cream to steaming hot in microwave pouring over chocolate chips and and  stirring frequently until smooth. 

Pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"The Works" Baked Potato Casserole

An easy make ahead side dish that would be perfect for the holidays.
The leftovers are fantastic for breakfast too...

Last night, after a cold and foggy day, we decided to stay in and have a good ole fashioned steak dinner.  Usually we just have veggies and salad with our steak, but I just wanted a cozy side dish to warm things up. I didn't have anything specific in mind, but I have been looking at a huge package of pre-cooked bacon that someone bought for a fishing trip and didn't use. Go figure, right? It's a good problem to have.

So here's what I made up... maybe not entirely that original or unique, there must be thousands of "works" potato dishes out there.  But I'm pretty happy with what I whomped together late last night. 

I'm in love with this now.

 Serves 6-8

4-8 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed, about 4 cups
1/2 onion, diced
2 leeks, sliced, and diced
1/4 cup green onions, minced, plus more for top
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked, diced
2/3 cup whip cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated, plus more for top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Dice up the onions, leeks (the white part and a little bit of the pale green part), garlic and bacon.  Saute in a fry pan over medium high heat, stirring, until the onions and leeks start to get a little color and soften.  

Be sure to heavily salt and pepper the potatoes when you mix everything together so you get enough flavor.

Add in the uncooked potatoes, green onions, cream, cheese and salt & pepper and toss to mix.  Add to a greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover, add a bit more cheese and green onions, if desired, and bake for 15 more minutes.

I think this could be done in the crockpot too.  I'd cook it on low for 2-3 hours after sauteing the onion/bacon mixture and then adding everything to the crockpot.

This casserole works well to make ahead and reheat too.  Great for dinner, or brunch! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rum Raisin Cake

I remember that yummy Bacardi Rum cake from the 1970's and 1980's?
Wow, I always loved that stuff.
Here's my version.... it doesn't have any cake or pudding mixes, just ingredients that you might already have around the house.  It's not hard to make from scratch and certainly easier than running to the store for a bunch of mixes.

I know not everyone likes raisins, but everyone likes rum, right?
So, maybe you can get people to try it. I happen to like both raisins AND rum, especially together.

This cake has quite a lot of rum in it, so it's best not to share with the kiddies.  In full disclosure, someone served this to me before I was of legal age, and I turned out alright.

Makes one bundt cake, serves about 10-12

Breadcrumbs (for pan)
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup raisins
1 Tbsp rum, or 1 tsp rum flavoring

1/2 cup rum
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Soak the raisins in 1/2 cup of rum, ideally, you would want to let them soak for 1-2 hours.  Drain off the rum that wasn't absorbed and RETAIN it for the glaze, adding a bit more rum to make a 1/2 cup again.  My raisins absorbed about 1/4 cup.

Adjust oven rack 1/3 from bottom of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 9x3-1/2-inch tube pan and dust it lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs. I know that may sounds crazy, but using plain, dry breadcrumbs gives the cake a nice outside texture and makes it easier to remove from the pan too.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In large bowl of electric mixer cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs individually, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula to keep mixture smooth. On lowest speed alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the milk in two additions, scraping the bowl with the rubber spatula as necessary and beating only until smooth after each addition.  Add the soaked (drained) raisins and mix one more time gently.

Turn the batter into prepared pan. Level top by rotating pan briskly back and forth.
Bake for 50-55 min and test.

Let cake stand in pan for about 3 minutes and then cover with a platter and invert.
Remove pan, leaving the cake upside down on a large serving platter. Prepare glaze by stirring the rum raisin liquid and the white sugar. It won't dissolve completely, but it will melt when put on the warm cake.  Stir and use at once, pouring half over the cake slowly, giving it time to absorb.Using a pastry brush, continue to soak the entire cake.  Allow to sit and cool.  Serve.

This cake might even be better the next day.  If doing a day ahead, cover and store at room temperature.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Cider & Bourbon Sangria

Don't you feel so special when you drink Sangria?
Yeah, very special... like you are hardly drinking at all.
It's just juice after all.
You might want to be careful with this one.
Bourbon, wine, triple sec... it will grab you fast.
Remember, sip, sip, sip. 
Not gulp, gulp, gulp.
Just some nice advice from your Mother/Auntie, sister, BFF, neighbor; whoever you want me to be. It's just good advice- so, take it already!

About 8 servings

1 orange, sliced into half rounds
1 apple
2 cups cider
1 bottle white wine, anything but chardonnay
1 cup bourbon
1/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup apple simple syrup (see recipe), optional
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
A sprinkle of Cayenne (optional) 
A dash of bitters (optional)
Cinnamon sticks, for garnish
Cut up apples and oranges in thin slices.  Add to a large pitcher.  Add in all other ingredients and stir. Chill until ready to serve.  Serve over ice.
The fruit is especially yummy after soaking in the mixture...

Apple simple syrup

I've been meaning to write a whole post on simple syrups... but until then, here's an easy way to make an apple simple syrup. This syrup would be great in either iced, or hot tea, or cider for kids.

1/2 cup brown, or white, sugar
1/2 cup water
Fresh apple peels from 1-2 apples (yep, just the peels)

Mix in a medium saucepan, bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain and chill. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Zuppa Toscana

You know, I like soup.
I think you should!
I have a bunch of soups on my blog... this post will make the #47 posting.

I didn't expect to like this one SO much.
Apparently, this soup is very popular at Olive Garden.
I don't really go there, so I never heard of it before.
It looked good, so I tried it.
WOW, this is now going to be one of my "go to" soups.
Ready in under 30 minutes.

Serves 4-6

1 med onion, chopped small
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
16 oz Italian sausage, regular or hot
3-4 pieces of bacon, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, might not need if you use "hot" sausage)
9 oz bag of kale or spinach, chopped
4-5 med Yukon gold potatoes, diced
6 cups chicken broth 
1 cup cream
2-3 Tbsp instant potato flakes 
Salt & pepper to taste

Saute the onions and garlic  over medium heat in the olive oil until they start to soften.  Add the minced bacon cook until the bacon is no longer pink.  Add the italian sausage and break it into chunks with your spoon.  You can break them into small pieces, or larger chunks.  I liked the chunks.  Cook until it is no longer pink and starting to brown.
Very important.... drain off any fat before going to the next step.

Add in the chicken stock and the diced potatoes, and turn up the heat to medium high.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are tender.  Add the red pepper flakes and pepper, and the chopped kale or spinach.  Reduce heat and add the cream, simmer and add in the instant potatoes to thicken the mixture.  Taste and add salt to taste, though it may be salty enough without any additional salt.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dirty Girl Scout Martini

A super duper yummy dessert martini that will cheer you up like a spunky little girl scout at your door with a fresh box of cookies in her hands.
What, cookie season isn't until February?
I need a Thin Mint Cookie right now. It was quite a day.

This is a somewhat ugly Girl Scout with a sallow greenish hue...
No matter,turn down the lights, sip, sip, sip and watch a great movie tonight.
Your thin mint cookie longing is now satisfied.

Makes one martini (but it is recommended to share..., so make two)

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur (or Creme de Cacao...)

1 oz Bailey's Irish cream

3/4 oz Green Creme de Menthe 

Pour the creme de menthe down the center of the glass
Mix the vodka, Kahlua and Irish cream in over ice in a cocktail shaker.
Strain and serve.

If it's your second one of the evening?  LOL... that's a risky idea, but if so, I recommend these easier instructions:
Dump everything into the shaker with ice, shake, shake, shake, and strain into a glass.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Cream Cheese, Spinach and Peas

Comfort food.  
Something that makes you feel good, something that Mom used to make.
Oh yeah, except my Mom never, ever made Tuna Noodle casserole, or hot dish, what ever you call it. I am sure she was capable, and I bet she even ate it when she was a girl, but she never thought it was something you feed your family.  Yep, a tiny bit of a food snob perhaps.  I love that she had that way back when.

However, I had to forge out on my own, into unknown foods with this one as a newlywed a long, long time ago.  I'm pretty positive my mother-in-law (rest in peace, so forgive me) didn't make a very good one.  Cooking was not her forte, shall we say it nicely? I'm thankful to her for that, because she raised an awesome guy that is appreciate, thankful, grateful for 99.9% of the things I put in front of him.  We'll talk about that other .1% some other time, okay?

Someone in my house loves this, and guess what, so do I!

In full disclosure, I made this recipe with half a box of pasta (as written below) but it is quite saucy, so if you have a crowd of 8 to serve, but all means try it with a full box of pasta.  I think it would work out just fine. 

Serves about 4-5

8-10 oz noodles, like macaroni or campanelle(as I used)
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup cheese, cheddar or jack
2 cans tuna, packed in water(not drained)
1 cup frozen peas
1-2 cups fresh spinach, shredded 

Get a large pot of salted water boiling over high heat for the pasta. When boiling, add the noodles and cook until almost  al dente, add the chopped spinach and the peas.  Cook for 1-2 more minutes, drain.

While you are waiting for the noodles to cook, saute the the onions in the butter over medium heat until they start to soften, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until combined together... it will start to thicken.  Add in the cream cheese and stir, add in the milk, stirring constantly. 

Add in the cheese and the tuna (with the tuna juice) and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  The sauce should taste yummy and delicious before you put in the noodles. Add in the fresh hot noodles and the spinach and peas.  Stir to combine and bring the whole mixture back to bubbling, then serve at once.
You could put this in a buttered pan and top with bread crumbs or crushed potatoes chips and cook for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees until bubbly hot. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mullagatawny Soup

I've been a lazy, sluggabed lately.
Which translates to: I have been cooking, but not writing about it. 
Yep, I cook and take pictures of food but don't finish all the niceties of a food blog post. 
There are worse things to be.

So, I went out to Wickipedia to see what they said about Mulligatawny... or Mullagatawny or whatever it is.

Per Wikipedia.... this soup is translated literally from Tamil, "Mulligatawny" or "Milagu thanni" means "pepper water" ("Millagu" means pepper and "thanni" means water). The dish the Anglo-Indians call "pepper water" is actually closer to Tamil ரசம்-rasam (pronounced russ-um) than "mulligatawny".

Blah, blah, blah... it means some Englishman probably invented it in India.

I like what Dr. Suess says much, much more....
Dr. Seuss used the term to refer to a fanciful creature in his book If I Ran the Zoo. The young zookeeper wannabe says, “I’ll capture them wild and I’ll capture them scrawny, I’ll capture a scraggle-foot mulligatawny.”

Now, doesn't THAT make you want to eat soup?
If not, maybe knowing that this soup is easy and delicious will do it for you???

Serves about 4-6 scraggle-foot mulligatawnies... I mean people.

1 Tbsp oil, or butter
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 large (or 12 mini) carrot,diced
1 cup celery, diced
1-2 cups chicken (or turkey), cubed and cooked
1 green apple, peeled and diced
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 Tbsp sugar
6 cups chicken stock
Water, as needed

Saute all the veggies in the oil (or butter) over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften.  

Add the apples, chicken and all the spices. Stir until the chicken starts to turn white, but no need to cook it all the way through.  The next step will take care of that...

Add the broth and the rice and reduce heat to medium low, cooking for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked through.  Stirring occasionally.  Taste, adding salt, pepper and sugar, as needed.  I do NOT usually add sugar to soup, but this kind of needed a sweet little kick to bring out the veggies, apple and curry flavors.

If you cook this too long, the rice will break down and continue to thicken the soup.  That's not bad, at all, but you may need to add more water to get it to the right consistency.

Some people add cream to their Mullagatawny, but I don't think it needs that extra fat. It's up to you...

This would be a great recipe to have for after Thanksgiving leftovers.