Month: November 2014

Maple Pumpkin Crème Brulee

(makes 12-14 servings, depending on the size of ramekins)

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Gourmet neighbor to the rescue. Vanilla infused maple syrup. Regular maple syrup is just fine.

Gourmet neighbor to the rescue. Vanilla infused maple syrup. Regular maple syrup is just fine.

3 ½ C heavy cream

1 ½ C maple syrup

1 C pumpkin

1 t vanilla

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14 egg yolks

1 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

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COLOR!

In a sauce pot, combine cream, maple syrup, pumpkin and vanilla. Stir to blend. Place pot on stove over medium heat. While this is warming, combine yolks, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Once cream mixture is warmed through, remove from heat. (No boiling…just steam rising!) Ladle a small amount of warm cream mixture into the egg mix to temper. Once eggs have been tempered, pour remaining cream mix into yolk mix. Whisk gently to combine. You do not want to incorporate air into the custard mix by vigorously whisking. Just blend well with a gentle hand. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain your custard mix into a pitcher. This takes some patience as the pumpkin pulp slows the straining process down. Just keep stirring the strainer basket to allow the custard to flow through. At this point, the custard can be refrigerated for use later. I have held it for 2 days before cooking.

For baking, custard cups need to be place in a towel-lined baking dish. (Two 9” X 13” Pyrex baking dishes work well.) Pour equal amounts of custard into each cup. (Your choice here on what to use: shallow, deeper, porcelain, Pyrex.) I actually used two different sizes. Just make sure to group same sizes together for baking. Using a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife, pop any air bubbles which come to the surface. Pour enough warm water into the baking dish so that it comes up halfway on the sides of your ramekins. Carefully place baking dish into a preheated 300 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional 20 minutes. At this point, you will be getting close to completion. I pulled out one baking dish, but left the other for an additional 10 minutes. You are looking for the slightest jiggle. I call it a “tight jiggle.” In other words, the custard is almost set. Cooking to the “set” stage in the oven risks over cooking. The “tight jiggle” stage is the point at which the custard should be removed to the counter. It will finish setting up as it cools down in the water bath. Once the water bath feels room temperature, remove custard. Allow for additional cooling (15-20 minutes) on the counter before chilling in the refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap once custard has chilled.

These hold well for several days. For serving, blot the tops of the custard with a paper towel to remove any surface moisture that has accumulated. Place an even layer of raw sugar on top of the custard. Pour off excess. Torch the sugar evenly until sugar has melted and is a dark caramel color. Allow it to harden for a minute or two before eating. Fanning aides in the hardening process too.

A broiler is another option. Not my favorite. But works. Keep a close eye. For the torch, purchase one at a hardware store. They are inexpensive and the propane canister will last you forever – unless you weld on the side. Avoid “Barbie” torches from fancy cooking stores. Useless.

I apologize for the wordiness of the recipe. Many of you have cooked using a bain-marie or water bath. However, I approach each recipe assuming you have no prior knowledge of the technique described.

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Now we’re talkin’.

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This did not make it to my neighbor. SO GOOD.

This did not make it to my neighbor. SO GOOD.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.

GIVE THANKS.

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Cranberry Compote

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4 C fresh cranberries

1 C orange juice

½ C sugar

1 t ground ginger

½ t cinnamon

½ t orange extract

Zest from one orange

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A smidge of this on top of the maple pumpkin crème brulee…on a left-over turkey sandwich with brie…many uses.

Combine all ingredients in a stainless sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst and liquid is reduced. Some whole berries are fine. Chill and serve.

Black Bean Soup

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(serves 8-10)

1 pound black beans, soaked in water overnight

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¼ C vegetable oil

2 green bell peppers, diced small

1 large yellow onion, diced small

6-8 garlic cloves, minced

¾ C red wine

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1 T dried oregano

2 t cumin

1 ½ t red pepper flakes

5 bay leaves

1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes and juice

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6-7 C chicken stock (or vegetable)

1 T salt

Juice from one lemon

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COMFORT

In a preheated soup pot, add vegetable oil. Add bell peppers, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until mix begins to stick and vegetables soften. Add red wine to deglaze and reduce until it is almost completely evaporated. (See photo) Add some stock at this point (1 C) to prevent sticking. Add oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and tomatoes. Stir well. Add remaining stock, salt, juice and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook over a gentle boil until beans are tender. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add more stock if you desire a thinner consistency. I prefer thick. In fact, I suggest taking an immersion blender and placing it right into the pot for a few zaps. This thickens the broth nicely. The soup freezes well. And guess what? Prepared ahead and reheated is always better with this recipe. Serve with fresh pico de gallo, queso fresco and cornbread.

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3 Romas – gutted and diced-, 2 jalapenos – gutted and diced-, 1/2 a yellow onion – diced small and rinsed-, chopped cilantro, spritz of salt, and drizzle of EVOO…PERFECT PICO

Skillet Cornbread

1 C yellow cornmeal

1 C flour

1 T baking powder

2 T sugar

1 t salt

¼ t cayenne pepper

~

1 C buttermilk

¼ t baking soda

~

2 eggs, room temperature (running warm water over eggs works)

5 T butter, melted

 ~

1 T Crisco shortening

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Ok, so I don’t have the coveted iron skillet that has been perfectly seasoned with years of kitchen love. This stainless sauté pan worked nicely.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a skillet in the oven to heat. While this is heating, make your batter. Place cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cayenne in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix well. In a separate container, place buttermilk and baking soda. Stir to combine. In another bowl, combine eggs and butter. Gently mix. Add both liquid mixes to the dry mix. Fold together. Remove skillet (careful!) from the oven and drop the shortening into the pan. It should be sizzling hot. Swirl shortening around to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. Spoon cornbread batter evenly into the hot skillet. Place back into oven and bake for 16 minutes, rotate and cook another 15 or so minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown. Remove and cool for about 15 minutes. (Make sure you leave a towel on the skillet handle as a reminder of the heat. It is easy to mindlessly grab the handle and do some damage!) Carefully loosen the cornbread and cool it further on a wire rack. However, it is important to remove the cornbread while it is still warm. Cooling on the rack insures a nice crisp crust. Slice and serve.

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I’m using this recipe for cornbread dressing. I like the ratio of flour to cornmeal and the not too sweet addition of 2 T sugar. Great crust.

Highmade Meatballs

(makes 23-24 quarter cup-sized meatballs)

4 slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces

1 C buttermilk

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1 ½ pounds ground chuck (80/20)

½ pound ground pork

3 slices prosciutto, finely chopped

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½ C grated parmesan

1/3 C parsley, finely chopped

2 egg yolks

2 T garlic, finely minced

2 t salt

1 ½ t black pepper

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Place bread pieces in a bowl and add buttermilk. Make sure all pieces are coated. While bread is soaking, combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Once bread has soaked up buttermilk, add it to the meat mix. Get your hands dirty. Work the mixture until it is well combined. Using a ¼ C ice cream scoop, portion out meat mixture and loosely form them into balls. A ¼ C measure works well too. Place meatballs on a wire rack that has been placed over a cookie sheet. Make sure the wire rack has been sprayed well with non-stick spray. Allow a little room between the balls. Place them into a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, rotate and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before you remove them to a paper towel-lined sheet pan for complete cooling. (They can stick a bit to the rack if you let them cool all the way.) At this point, they can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for use later. For serving, warm them in the chunky marinara sauce until heated through. Meatballs can be cooked on the stove top and browned in a skillet with vegetable oil. I find the baking method easier and definitely less messy. Not a fan of frying in the house.

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Pan sauté polenta in olive oil and butter.

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What could warm you up better than this on a cold night?

Chunky Marinara

(makes enough for 10 servings)

¼ C EVOO

1 ½ t crushed red pepper flakes

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1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 T minced garlic

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2 – 28 ounce cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes (Carla insists!)

1/3 C fresh basil, coarsely chopped

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1 T Kosher salt

1 T sugar

Juice from one lemon

In a preheated sauté pan, add EVOO. Once it shimmers, add red pepper flakes and season the oil for a minute or two. Add onion and carrots. Sauté over medium heat. Add a spritz of salt and pepper. Once onion is translucent, add garlic. Once garlic releases its aroma, add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat for about 30-40 minutes, covered. With these crushed tomatoes, you want to contain the steam and not evaporate the liquid. Of course, a small amount of water can be added should the sauce become too thick. Again, I find that this sauce prepared a day ahead works best. The sauce can also be frozen and used at a later date.

High Chow Salad with Shrimp

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(serves 6-8)

1 small head Napa cabbage, core removed, finely sliced

½ head red cabbage, core removed, finely sliced

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1 red bell pepper, seeded and trimmed, cut into thin strips

16 or so French beans, cut in half and blanched

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2 large carrots, peeled and shredded

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¾ C of Edamame

½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

10-12 mint leaves, torn into larger-sized pieces

16 large shrimp, boiled and cut into small pieces

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1 C Chow Mein noodles

¾ C toasted almond slices

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Shredded chicken or a pan seared salmon filet works just as well. Or, go veggie.

 1 small can Mandarin oranges, drained

  3-4 scallions, finely chopped for garnish

Combine all ingredients except oranges and scallions. Lightly dress with orange soy ginger vinaigrette. Spritz with additional salt, if needed. Plate salad and garnish with scallions and mandarin oranges.

Orange Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

½ C Mango Ginger Habanero Sauce

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This can be purchased at HEB. If you do not live in the area, check out jelly.com. Most stores carry a full line of Fischer & Wieser products.

1/3 C rice wine vinegar

2 T soy sauce

1 ½ T Sambal

Zest from half an orange

1 C olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except olive oil, in a pitcher. Using an immersion blender, mix well. With blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until a smooth emulsification forms.

Moroccan Chicken Soup

(serves 8-10)

¼ C olive oil

2 small yellow onions, diced

6 stalks of celery, diced

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

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1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 large zucchini, cubed

1 – 12 ounce package of lima beans

1 – 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

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1 t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1 T turmeric

1 T ground coriander

1 T curry

1 t red pepper flakes

2 t salt

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8 C chicken stock

1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped

Shredded chicken from one whole chicken (Rotisserie bird strikes again)

Cous cous ( about 2 cups cooked)

Greek yogurt, cilantro leaves and toasted almonds for garnish

In a large preheated soup pot, add olive oil. Once it shimmers, add onion, celery, garlic and red pepper. Add a spritz of salt and black pepper. Sauté over medium high heat until onions are translucent and vegetables begin to soften. Add butternut squash, zucchini, lima beans, garbanzos and 2 C of stock. Add cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, coriander, curry, red pepper flakes and salt. Mix spices in well. Add remaining stock and bring to a slow boil. Once vegetables are fork tender, add chicken and cilantro.

Serve soup over cous cous and garnish with a dollop of yogurt, cilantro leaves and toasted almonds.

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Use the recipe for cous cous in the “dressings/sides” section. Leave out the the chili powder for this application.

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YUM. As one customer remarked, “This should be ‘mo-rockin’ chicken soup.”

Pumpkin Tart

(recipe makes one 10 inch tart)

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Crust:

1 C graham cracker crumbs

1 C ginger snap crumbs

¼ C sugar

½ t cinnamon

1 stick butter, melted

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Place ginger snaps into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. It will sound like you are grinding rocks. Be patient. Stubborn chunks can be broken by hand.

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Filling:

1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin puree

1 can condensed milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1 t nutmeg

½ t salt

Zest of half an orange

½ t orange extract

½ t vanilla extract

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For crust:

Combine both crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to mix well. Add melted butter and continue to mix well. Break apart any clumps. Press crust mix into a 10 inch tart pan that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Use a ½ C measure to press crust into pan. Make sure crust is evenly pressed. Place crust into a preheated 300 degree oven and bake for 12 minutes. (Place tart pan on a cookie sheet to catch butter drips.)  Rotate pan and bake an additional 12 minutes.

For filling:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and gently whisk until well blended. Pour filling into prepared crust. Place in a preheated 300 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate and bake for an additional 20 minutes. At this point, turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven, door closed, for an additional 20 minutes.

Remove and let cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

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A dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and you’re set. Thanks to my neighbor for the best cinnamon. Potent, fragrant…wow!