Scalloped Potatoes – must try

So I am going to go out on a limb that when I posted this recipe 4 years ago; none of you made it. Do you want to know how I know. I googled my blog while I was at the store to make sure I had what I needed and noticed I left out an ingredient hmmmmmm. Not my first time and probably won’t be my last. But a couple of my close friends that read my posts called me out on missing ingredients before and no one said anything this time.

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You can sprinkle a little of the cheddar cheese on top – I did not in this picture. My mouth is watering as I am typing and looking at them – they are SO good!

As you can probably tell I don’t make these very often; not because they are not crazy good; only because there are rich and creamy which so they would not be your weekly go to if you wanted to watch what you eat. I was trying to come up with a way not to deter you from wanting to try these. They truly are worth making/eating once in a while

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I used a mandolin to slice my potatoes but it is not necessary


Ingredients
4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
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Directions – making a roux
In a small sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add all of cold milk at once stirring with a whisk; season with salt and cayenne. Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk and it thickens a bit. Reduce heat and stir in cheese.

Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes.

repeat with second layer of potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for an hour at 350°F

 

Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies?

I really love these cookies, I mean what’s not to love, butter, sugar and nuts. They are super easy to put together and rather quickly too. I don’t know why but they are generally only made around this time a year. Maybe because they look like a snowball?

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How cute are my fish teaspoons?

I have heard them called many things; Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Italian wedding cakes, snowballs, snowball cookies, and butterballs to name a few. Why so many names? Why called a cake when they clearly the size of a cookie?
IMG_3719.JPGIn doing a little research the names Russian versus Mexican seem to come from what nut you choose to use. Russian tea cakes use Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. And Mexican wedding cakes use pecans. The names snowballs and butterballs seem to be more of whatever your family has grown up using maybe? The cake versus cookie has a long explanation but I will try to condense it A LOT. Mexican weddings used to not have the typical tiered creations that we have here in the US instead they had tables with all kinds of confections for their guests and these were popular. The Mexican wedding cake cookies are known as polvorones. The Russian name is said that they were a popular treat at tea time for Europeans. 
IMG_3718.JPGPreheat oven to 325 – prepare 2 cookie sheets either with parchment, spray or silpat mat

2 cups whole pecans or walnuts, chopped fine
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but cool
⅓ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar for rolling cooled cookies

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Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
Place the remaining nuts in a food processor and process until they are the consistency of corneal, careful not to over process and make butter. Stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
IMG_3713.JPGCream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute or two. Beat in the vanilla; scrape as needed. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough just comes together; about 15-20 seconds. Scrape again as needed and process till dough has all come together a few more seconds.
IMG_3714.JPGWorking with 1 tablespoon at a time, use a cookie scoop if you have one to make them all the same size. Roll into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes; just until the tops are barely brown. Rotate halfway through cooking.
IMG_3716.JPGCool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes or so. Roll cookies into confectioners sugar, gently shake off the excess. They can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days, or frozen for a couple of months. Just before serving roll them again in confectioners sugar to coat again; tap off the excess.
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Recipe: Cook’s Illustrated

Garlic & Herb Compound Butter

By now you should know if you are cooking or just eating for Thanksgiving. I have hosted Thanksgiving at my home for at least the last 13 years straight. We have been as few as 7 to as many as 23. Over the years I have only changed a few things to try to make it easier on me and in return on everyone that comes for dinner.
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I used to make one large bird, now I search for anything 10 lb and under. I feel with even cooking two smaller birds at the same time not only does it take less time in the oven, I find they are much juicier. I use the same roasting pan and they fit perfectly side by side. I can also give away a carcass for someone else to enjoy turkey soup at their house.

I also enlist whoever is around Wednesday night to help peel and dice all the vegetables place them in their pots with water and store them in the cold storage area off the garage till we need them on the stove. This year I ordered fresh rolls, I usually make them but I was my local store and there was a sign up sheet for fresh made rolls from a local bakery and I stood in line long enough; plus it was super easy to just sign my name.  KP would this be considered an impulse buy?  She loves shopping with me and always chuckles at my impulse register buys. They put things by the registers for a reason hmmm!
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This weekend is for finishing up my table center piece, I make new place cards every year so I need to finish those up.

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Before

 

 

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After

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I will toast my ciabatta bread for my sausage stuffing well actually dressing; I don’t stuff my birds. I put apples and onions in mine. And I’ve also made a garlic herb compound butter to cover my turkey’s before putting them in the oven YUM!
img_4732I do have to confess, I was just going to make herb butter, but I double checked with my daughter; should I add garlic? She was like YES we are garlic – she is right we are a little on the obsessed side of garlic so if you are not you don’t HAVE to add it.

Garlic Herb Butter

4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2-3 small bunches of fresh Sage
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
Chop them all up fine
3 cloves minced garlic
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You can use just a bowl and elbow grease or bring out your food processor. Cut the butter in pieces add to the bowl of the processor, add the fresh chopped herbs and a little salt and the minced garlic. Pulse till blended.

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It smells amazing – I can’t wait to use it

Now comes a kind of tricky part, placing the butter in the saran wrap so you can roll it into a log. By moving the wrap back and forth it will eventually with a little coercing become a log I promise.  It takes a couple of hours to get to its full flavor and set up. Store it in your fridge till you are ready to prep your bird. Gently loosen the skin of the breast meat on your bird and spread the butter under the skin and all over the skin. 

Happy Healthy Thanksgiving to all of you and thanks for supporting me week after week!

Fudge Topped Brownies

Chocolate calls my husbands name; at least that is what he says A LOT! I cannot tell you how many times I have found a lonely chocolate chip on the pantry floor while he was grabbing a handful to shove into his mouth when he couldn’t find anything else.

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I just took a pan of these out of the oven and the first words out of his mouth are “can I have one of those; or are they for someone else”? He has seen many a baked good leave the house without getting to have any of them. Fortunately for him I was planning on splitting the tray and only take half of them to work for my co-worker’s birthday.

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I know most people find it easier to use a box mix for brownies and I was definitely one of them. They taste good, they are simple and I have had many homemade brownies that just did nothing for me; until now. If you ever want to try a delicious and easy to make brownie you need to check these out I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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He is still bugging me for one; since I have to bring some of them to work, we have to wait for them to completely cool so they don’t crumble into pieces. We have had a lot of experience with cutting uncooled brownies; I am sure by now you know who I am talking about.

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You probably also noticed I made my brownies half with nuts and half without. I am sure this would never solve a nut allergy but it solves the fact the my son does not like nuts so I try to accommodate this by making sure when I bake I either split the pan or make 2 loaves be it banana or pear bread.

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1 cup of butter – 2 sticks melted
2 cups of sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
⅔ cup Hershey cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
½ cup milk
3 teaspoon vanilla – divided 1 ½ teaspoon each

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350’

Bake for 40 minutes

put first 7 ingredients along with 1½ teaspoon of the vanilla in a large bowl beat well. If you are adding nuts either add all now or do as I did and after adding batter to 9×13 pan stir into half of the pan.

In a pan or bowl heat or microwave the chips and condensed milk and the other 1½ teaspoon vanilla just till melted and pour over the brownies when they are hot out of the oven.

Let them cool before cutting and enjoy with a big glass of milk or some vanilla ice cream!

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Recipe shared by Julie Cordatos

Individual Chocolate Chip Cookie

My daughter has been home for a month now, while she was in Japan she and a few of her expat friends started a weekly meal from another country. One of the first things she did when she got home was declared she wanted to continue this tradition here at home. I personally thought it was a great idea. I will admit that my initial thought was one night off from cooking dinner sounded pretty cool to me but I knew the adventure would be so much fun! I knew the guys would be cool with it, I just didn’t expect how cool they thought the idea was.

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After the first week my son decided that he wanted to invite his girlfriend over for this AND he was going to make the native cocktail from the country/region. My husband on the third week invited one of his buddies over for Hawaiian night and his buddy made a traditional Hawaiian cake for dessert. That night; after a cocktail or two; my husband dubbed the weekly event Worldwide Wednesday BRILLIANT!!! Oh and he wanted to make the appetizer; which really meant that either Abbi or I was to also make an app.

So far we have been to Cambodia, Hawaii, Chile and Iraq which she made Sabih which was a pita pocket with fried eggplant, pickled mango and a couple of sauces. It was tasty and we all liked it except for my son he really was not a fan. Ab was a little crushed since this was the first dish she made that someone didn’t like. Welcome home Abbi did you miss your “little” brother? She ended up giving the rest of it to my in-laws and they LOVED it.

This last Wednesday I tried to make the dessert can you say epic fail! We again invited friends over and we were going to Chile so I asked them to bring some Chilean wine and I would make the dessert. My Tres Leches cake let’s just say I should have brought the wine. I figured out what I did wrong, and I will try making it again, just to show that I can. But I really need to score myself a kitchen scale, don’t tell my son Alex this, he thinks I have WAY too many kitchen gadgets already.

I am probably not going to share her recipes here as I really would like her to maybe start her own blog someday, for now I will just be enjoying the journey first hand instead of hearing about it over the phone.

Love in a cup 007

So when you have an epic dessert failure I pulled out what I have dubbed love in a cup. A warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream; it takes so little time to make and EVERYONE loved it. Use your go to chocolate chip cookie recipe and instead of making individual cookies, put some dough in a ramekin and bake just till barely cooked through, top with some cold vanilla ice cream, zero to hero in what maybe 30 minutes max!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

 2 ¼C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

¾C sugar

¾C brown sugar

½C softened butter – if too dry add another ½ stick softened butter

2-3 handfuls of chocolate chips (I don’t like a lot of chips in mine, I’ve even left them out on purpose)

Cream the butter in a stand mixer or by hand add the sugars and mix well. Add the eggs mix until combined add the vanilla and dry ingredients to incorporate. Stir in the chips and done.

Pre-heat oven at 350’ spray your ramekin with nonstick cooking spray, fill the ramekin about ½ to ¾ of the way full and bake for about 20 minutes just till barely cooked through. Place on a small plate as the ramekin is super-hot and top with your favorite vanilla ice cream.

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Dough freezes well so you can make yourself one any night you want!

Individual Chocolate Lava Cake

Valentine’s Day date night was more of a weekend thing this year; due to yet another snow storm for the North East. I swear it feels like we are in a snow globe and a 5 year is having a blast shaking it and we can’t get it away from him. My husband has a plow route so making dinner plans was definitely out of the question.  We figured Friday night would be the only time we could sit down for dinner so we had a nice steak, pan seared scallops, smashed potatoes and roasted asparagus and I picked up some ice cream for dessert.

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Top off with confectioners sugar, fresh berries and a side of ice cream YUM

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The snow started around 10 am on Saturday and literally ended just a few hours ago. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to have dinner together Saturday night so I picked up some nice thick cut bone-in pork chops from a semi local butcher shop along with a couple of their baked stuffed potatoes; just a few things I could throw together quickly without a lot of fuss.  SO with that being said I wanted to make a nice homemade dessert.

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The Pork Chops were D’lish – A little Cajun seasoning and finished off with a little honey

My husband loves to tell me that “chocolate calls his name”. He’ll hunt around the kitchen and pantry looking for it. He’ll even go for my chocolate chips if he can’t find anything else. So I figured Chocolate Lava Cake would be a huge hit, and I could make it when we were ready for it.  This is the first time I have tried making them and they didn’t quite flow like I wanted them to but the flavor is really delicious and I know what I would do differently. (my daughter called me out on this statement. Apparently I have tried making these before; I honestly do not remember it. During the first book of our book club we made several recipes from the book and Abbi and I made the chocolate lava cake. I still don’t remember doing this but she does so there is it) I will not forget making this one, I have pictures and put it in writing!

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Individual Chocolate Lava Cake

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (room temperature)

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

2 Tbs AP flour

Eight 6 ounce ramekins

Confectioners’ sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

With rack in the middle of the oven; pre-heat oven to 400’. Grease and dust with either confectioners’ sugar or cocoa.

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Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt chocolate and butter in either a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a sauce pan filled with about an inch of water, do not let water touch the bottom of what you are using and do not allow water to boil. Stirring occasionally until smooth; remove from the heat and set aside.

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Using a stand a stand mixer with whisk attachment; whip eggs, yolk granulated sugar, vanilla and salt on high speed until volume nearly triples. The color should be very light, and the mixture should fall from the beater in a smooth thick stream, roughly 5-7 minutes.

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Pour chocolate mixture over egg mixture and sprinkle flour over the top. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold all together until uniformly colored. Ladle or pour into prepared ramekins. Bake until cakes have puffed up about; have formed a thin crust with the center being able to jiggle slightly when shaken very gently. 12-13 minutes. run a thin knife around the edges, invert onto a plate; let sit until the cakes release themselves, roughly 1 minute. Lift off ramekins. Dust with confections sugar if you chose to use.

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This was a little over done – a minute or two less would have worked better

Couple of notes: you can keep the ramekins in the fridge for up to 8 hours before baking. Let them set on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking.

I used cocoa powder but next time I would dust with confections sugar, cocoa was messy.

You can also use a spring-form pan if you want to make 1 large cake. It is best served warm (within 30 minutes) but can stay in the pan for up to an hour.  Bake at 375’ around 22-25 minutes for a 9 inch pan or 27-30 for an 8 inch. Let it cool for 15 minutes; then run a thin knife around to loosen the cake and invert on a plate.