Month: December 2014

Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée

(7-8 portions, depends on size of ramekins)

4 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out


12 egg yolks

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1 C sugar

In a saucepan, add cream, vanilla and vanilla bean (seeds and bean) and bring to a simmer. Bubbles around the edges…no need to boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for about 15 minutes.

In a bowl combine egg yolks and sugar with a whisk until smooth ribbons form. Careful not to over beat.

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Slowly drizzle cream mix into yolk mix while stirring and carefully blend together. Through a fine mesh strainer, pour the custard mix into a pitcher. Place into the refrigerator for a few hours or until cooled. There will be a film on top. Scrape off the film. Pour custard mix into ramekins for baking.



Ramekins need to be placed in a towel-lined Pyrex baking dish. (13 X 9 or larger) Add enough hot water that it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Larger ramekins will yield seven portions. Carefully place into a preheated 300 degree oven and bake for 27 minutes. Carefully rotate the baking vessel and bake for another 27 minutes or until there is a very tight “jiggle”. Remove baking pans to the counter and allow creme brûlée to remain in the water bath. Wait until the water is room temperature before removing ramekins. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and refrigerate. Once the creme brûlée is cooled, cover them with plastic wrap.
These are best made a day or two ahead.




 For burning off, follow instructions in the recipe for Maple Pumpkin Creme Brûlée.

Highmade Pickled Veggies

Prepped veggies:

1 small head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 large jalapeños, seeded and diced
8 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 ounces French green beans
5-6 small sweet peppers, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal



3 C filtered water
3 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C Kosher salt
6 bay leaves
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C honey
Zest of half a lemon
Zest of half an orange
2 t black peppercorns
2 t coriander seeds


Place prepped vegetables in a large stainless steel bowl. In a large non-reactive pot, add brine ingredients and bring to a boil for about one minute. Careful not to inhale too deeply near the boiling pot. Carefully pour boiling  liquid over prepped vegetables. Allow to sit for 15 or so minutes. Place a Pyrex pie pan on top of the veggies making sure that they are completely submerged in the brining liquid. Place the veggies into the refrigerator overnight for marination. They taste better the longer they marinate. These will hold for a couple of weeks, maybe longer.


Place into jars for storage or gifting. Great condiment. Other vegetables are suitable such as radishes, fennel, cucumbers, turnips….

Cheddar Dill Biscuits

(makes 14-16 small biscuits)

2 C self-rising flour
1 C Wondra flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar


1/2 C sharp cheddar, finely grated
2 T fresh dill, finely chopped


6 T Crisco shortening, chilled and diced into small pieces


2 C buttermilk

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1 C all-purpose flour for shaping
2 T butter, melted for biscuit tops
Fresh cracked black pepper

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In a bowl, combine self-rising flour, Wondra, soda, salt and sugar. Mix well with a whisk. Add cheddar and dill mixing well. Add chilled Crisco pieces and mix in well with your finger tips until flour is crumbly looking. (I like to place flour mix and Crisco pieces in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. Then, once everything is very cold, begin working the shortening into the flour. Add the buttermilk to the flour mix in 1/2 C increments and carefully fold. You may not need all 2 C of the buttermilk. You do want a wet batter. (see photo)

Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough and drop it into the bowl of all-purpose flour. Toss the biscuit in the flour until it is evenly coated. Shake off excess. Place biscuit into a Pyrex pie pan that has been coated with non-stick baking spray. Continue making biscuits until your pie pan is full. The biscuits should snuggle up to each other. Brush tops with melted butter. Add a few cranks of fresh black pepper on top and you have the start of the best biscuit you will ever eat.

Place biscuits into a preheated 425 degree oven and bake for 25 minutes. They should be nicely browned. Remove to a cooling rack and wait for about 10 minutes before sliding the entire biscuit form onto the cooling rack. Pull biscuits apart and just try to eat only one.



Chili Spiced Pecans

2 T butter
1/4 C light brown sugar
1 t paprika
2 t chili powder
1 T cumin
1/2 t salt


4 C pecan halves


1/4 C apple cider vinegar


In a large preheated skillet, add butter and swirl until melted and bubbly. Add brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and mix well. Add pecans and stir to coat evenly with sugar/butter mix. Add apple cider vinegar and bring mixture to a boil. Continue to stir and mix until liquid evaporates and pecans are evenly coated. Spread pecans on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Place into a preheated 325 degree oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate cookie sheet and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Pecans can stick together. Break apart for munching. Careful, these are impossible to stop eating.



Hoppin’ John Soup

(serves 8-10)


1 pound dried black-eyed peas, (soaked overnight in water) rinsed and drained
1/2 C olive oil
1 pound ham steak, trimmed and diced into pieces


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6 stalks celery, diced
6-7 carrots, peeled and diced
2 small yellow onions, diced
8 large cloves of garlic, finely minced


1/4 C apple cider vinegar

1 T plus 1 t dried thyme
5-6 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
1 t red pepper flakes

10 C chicken stock


2 C cooked white rice

Fresh parsley, finely chopped for garnish

In a large preheated soup pot, add 1/4 C of the olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add ham pieces and cook until nicely browned. Remove ham to a paper-towel lined plate. Pour off any excess oil.

Add remaining 1/4 C of olive oil to the soup pot. Add celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Add a spritz of salt and cracked black pepper. Sauté until vegetables take on some color. Lower heat if things are browning too fast. You want a deep dark color on the bottom of the pan. Once the vegetables release their moisture, continue cooking until the liquid evaporates.

Add cider vinegar to the vegetables and cook until it has almost completely evaporated. Add thyme, bay leaves, cloves, red pepper flakes and peas. Add stock, ham pieces and mix well. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender.

Just prior to service, portion a 1/4 C of cooked rice into each bowl and ladle hot soup over the top. Garnish with fresh parsley. There should be no need for additional salt as the ham is salty enough for the whole pot.

I always keep the rice and soup separate.

And, this will taste better after an overnight rest.

Wild Rice and Chicken Chowder

(serves 8-10, recipe can be cut in half)


1 ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms

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2 T butter
2 T olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
4-5 stalks celery, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced


8 large cremini mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered

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1/2 C dry red wine
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
8 ounces green peas

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4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
2 T dried thyme
1 t red pepper flakes

8 C chicken stock

Meat removed from one whole rotisserie chicken, torn into large pieces

2 C heavy cream

2 C wild rice, uncooked



Place porcini mushrooms in a container with two cups of hot water and allow them to steep for about 20 minutes.

In a preheated soup pot, add olive oil and butter. Once melted and bubbly, add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt/pepper. Sauté until vegetables soften.

Remove the hydrated porcini mushrooms and chop them into smaller pieces. Strain the reserved liquid through a paper-towel lined strainer into the soup pot. There is often gritty sediment in the mushroom liquid. Add cremini mushrooms, red wine, sweet potatoes and peas. Mix well.

Add bay leaves, cloves, thyme and red pepper flakes. Mix in well and add 8 C of stock. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer until sweet potatoes are tender. Add chicken, heavy cream and cooked wild rice just before service. Adjust seasoning with salt and cracked black pepper.

If the soup is made a day or so ahead, leave out rice, chicken and cream.

For the rice:
Rinse two cups of wild rice. Place into a sauce pot with 5-6 cups of water and 1 t salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cover rice. Cook until tender. You may not use all the water. Just depends. Wild rice takes more time. This rice has some “tooth.” I like to keep it separate from the soup and just add it when warming.

Not Your Momma’s Macaroni Salad

(serves a crowd, can be cut in half)


1 pound pasta (macaroni, rotini, penne)
5-6 celery stalks, diced small
1 – 7 ounce bar of sharp cheddar, cubed small
1/2 pound of smoked ham, cubed small
8 ounces green peas, blanched
3/4 C of red onion, diced small and rinsed
3 ounces of arugula

In a large pot of boiling water, add 2 t salt and pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain and allow pasta to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and dress with Creamy Dill Dressing.

Dress just prior to service.

Adjust seasoning with salt and cracked pepper. Garnish will dill sprigs.


Herbed Cheddar Beer Bread

(recipe makes one loaf)



2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/2  t dried sage
1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 – 12 ounce bottle of beer, room temperature

2 T butter, melted

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add sage and mix well. Add cheddar cheese and mix well. Break up any clumps of cheese. Add beer and stir to combine. Spoon batter into a loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Drizzle melted butter over the top of the loaf. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. Bread will be dark golden in color. The aroma! Remove to a baking rack and allow cooling for about 30 minutes before slicing.



Hungarian Beef Stew

(serves a crowd, also freezes well.)


1/2 C olive oil

1 1/4 pounds of stew meat, cut into large pieces

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6-8 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
2 yellow onions, large pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces


2 T tomato paste
2 T flour
1 C dry red wine

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3-4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 t caraway seeds
1 t fennel seeds
1 1/2 T Hungarian paprika
1 t red pepper flakes
2 T brown sugar
1 small head green cabbage, core removed and cut into chunks
1 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes

8 C beef stock

1 pound new potatoes, cut into chunky pieces
2 small links of Spanish chorizo, sliced

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Salt to taste

In a preheated soup pot, add 1/4 C of the olive oil. Add stew meat in batches. Careful not to crowd the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Turn until well  browned. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate. Pour off excess oil.

Add the remaining 1/4 C of olive oil to the pan. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables begin to soften and take on some color. Add tomato paste. Mix in well and continue to saute until paste begins to darken in color. Add flour and mix in well making sure to thoroughly coat the flour with the veggie/oil mixture. Careful with your heat here. Once flour is mixed in, add red wine. Stir in well and continue to stir as alcohol evaporates. You will create a thick syrupy consistency.

Add 4 C of beef stock. Mix in well. Add bay leaves, cloves, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, paprika, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, cabbage and tomatoes. Mix together. Add remaining stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover the soup. Simmer over low heat for about an hour. Add potatoes and chorizo and continue to simmer until potatoes are tender. Salt to taste.

Truly, this will be best the next day once flavors have had a chance to meld. Reheat and serve over egg noodles.