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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sausage Potato Balls

What is it about about making mashed potatoes that there is always left overs?  I'm convinced if we all donated our left over potatoes, we could feed small countries. This post is a little late to help you out with your left over Thanksgiving potatoes, but wait a few weeks, you'll probably have more. 

In this recipe, I'm giving you the base ingredients without definitive amounts. Be creative with this, adding in left over herbs and cheeses for extra flavor.  Use a trial and error method of adding in just little amounts at a time until it feels and tastes correct.  Don't be afraid, meat and potatoes are very forgiving. 

Tips and tricks:  Mashed sweet potatoes would work great in this recipe. Substitute turkey for the sausage if you have left over turkey. You can bake or fry these, I opted for the baking method for a slightly healthier option. Freeze any extras, then when you need to round out dinner or fill out a to soup it will only take minutes to defrost. 

Sausage Potato Balls

Cook sausage, set aside
Place left over mashed potatoes (roughly 2-4 cups) in a large bowl.  (If you have left over boiled, roasted or grilled potatoes- just mash them with a fork)  It's easiest to work with them when they are warm. so warm slightly in the microwave.

Sautee until soft

diced onion (about 1/2 cup)

Add and continue to sautee for one minute:
minced garlic cloves (about 2-4 cloves)

Add onions and garlic to potato bowl, along with:
Shredded cheese (I used cheddar, roughly 1/2 - 1 cup)
a few spoons of cream cheese
fresh chopped chives (couple of tablespoons)
a little melted butter (Couple of tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste
warm cream or milk or broth (about 1/2 cup)
seasoned bread crumbs (about 1 cup)

With a whisk, whisk all the ingredients together, slowly adding cream to thin out the potatoes as needed.  You want the potato dough to be soft, but not runny; it needs to be able to hold it's shape.

Cut the sausage into 1 inch pieces.  Take a scoop of potatoes and place them in the palm of you hand.  Push one piece of sausage on the spuds, then form the potatoes around the meat into a ball.  Roll the potato in a plate of breadcrumbs (I season my crumbs with parmesan cheese, pepper and salt).  

Set the balls on a cookie sheet and continue until you've used up the all the spuds. Bake them in the oven until the the breadcrumbs begin to turn brown and crisp.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Roasted Pear Bellini

The night I created these scrumptious drinks we were heading to a friends housewarming party on the North side.  They had bought a beautiful place and I can't wait to go back for movies in the backyard!  The weather was teetering on fall, but yet one of the last summer nights nice enough to pull off my ankle wrap sandals. The drink really lends itself to a crisp fall day or a snowy holiday / hot tub drink- they are warming, rich, slightly spicy, comfortable and downright delicious. Have them with a holiday brunch in place of a traditional mimosa or to kick off your evening of cheer.

Tips and tricks: Use whatever pear is your favorite variety.  Peel off the skin and cut the pear into pieces before roasting it, it's much simpler than attempting to do this after the pears are roasted. You can use champagne, prosecco or cava- whichever you prefer. My preference is for the latter two.

Roasted Pear Bellini

2 pears, peeled and quartered
3 Tbls brown sugar
fresh ground pepper (about 10 turns of the pepper grinder)
5 cloves
pat of butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place above ingredients in aluminum foil, close up the foil and bake in the oven for about 1 hour.

Remove the foil package from the oven, cool slightly and remove the cloves.  Place the foiled ingredients in a blender.  Add:

Lemon zest (1/2 lemon)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Blend until smooth.  Thin with a little apple juice if the mixture is too thick (it really becomes  quite similar to baby food texture).  You can blend it by hand if you prefer a chunkier texture.  Chill. I like to add a few cloves to the mixture while it's cooling- just be careful not to put them in the glass.

Place 1 or 2 scoops of the roasted pear mixture in the bottom of your champagne flute. Add champagne, prosecco or cava.  Stir slightly, and top off with more bubbly.  Enjoy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lemon-Spiked Meringues with Fruit Coulis and Chocolate Whipped Cream

Even though the hearty winter season of chili and big beefy stew is upon us, it's nice to have a light dessert to compliment those big meals.

Our friend Marianne invited us over for a little football and crockpot stewed ribs (yum!),  I called dessert.  While I would normally save these melt in your mouth, sugary wafers of goodness for summer fruits, they can also be a nice compliment to a hearty fall or winter meal.   The key is going to be the toppings.  Staying in the fruit realm, I choose to create two toppings to give the depth to the dessert - a blueberry port and a bourbon plum sauce.  The addition of the alcohol helped to deepen the flavors for a slightly heartier effect without overwhelming.   To top it off, I went out on a limb and made a fresh chocolate whipped cream.  The whipped cream matched wonderfully with the blueberry port, bringing out the deep flavors of the port; I wold probably prefer the the plum sauce with a normal vanilla flavored whipped cream. And because of the fruit sauces, I did add a hint of lemon to the meringues, it was a delightful touch.

All in all, it was a great night of food, friends and football.  If I had to do it all over again, I would add a spoon of vanilla custard to each meringue for a sturdier dessert (I added a custard recipe that would work great with with this recipe, below).  Regarding the fruit sauces - I always say, use whatever you have handy; so if you have raspberries and red wine rather than plums and brandy on hand, just go with it and adjust the flavors to your liking!

 Lemon-Spiked Meringues with Blueberry Port and Bourbon Plum Fruit Coulis topped with Chocolate Whipped Cream

Make the meringues first (start this the night before you need them)
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar, add at soft peaks
1/4 tsp cream of tarter, add when foamy
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest

Heat oven to 200 degrees. In a stand mixer, place 2 egg whites and begin to whip.  Add the cream of tarter when the eggs begin to get foamy.  When the eggs hit a soft peak, slowly add the sugar and the lemon zest.  Continue to mix on high until stiff peaks form, add the vanilla, mix until incorporated.

Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Form the meringues- to do this you can form the bowl of the meringue with the back of a spoon or put the meringue into a decorating bag, use a large open tip to form the base and sides of the bowl.  Bake for about 2 hours.  Shut off the oven and let sit overnight.

Make the fruit sauces:
Choose your fruit.  Simmer a few cups of the chopped fruit with about 1/2 cup sugar (or corn syrup), 1 tbls lemon zest and 1 tsp almond flavor.  As the fruit begins to thicken (could take 15-20 minutes), take your immersion blender and blend until smooth.  Add in 1/3 cup of your matching liquor and simmer 5 more minutes.

Make the whipped cream just before serving:

Chocolate Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbls cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla

Begin by whipping the cream, add the cocoa powder and slowly add the sugar.  When the cream becomes nearly whipped, add the vanilla.  Whippe until stiff.

Pour warm fruit sauces on the meringue and top with the whipped cream.  If you want to add the custard to this, follow the recipe below, place on meringues before the fruit sauce.

Vanilla Custard

1/2 cup sugar
3 tbls flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbls butter

Place sugar, flour and salt in a saucepan.  Gradually stir in the milk over medium-high heat until mixture boils.  Temper the egg with the hot custard, add back to saucepan; cook until it bubbles again.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.  Cool slightly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

It's not a secret that I make alot of ice cream, all from scratch, and always with the intention of trying to create something new, fun and interesting.  So when Dave asked me to make cookie dough ice cream, I was relatively uninterested in this request.  It seemed so plain and .... usual.  But I can't say no to Dave.

This cookie dough ice cream was absolutely fabulous.  I was completely blown over by the flavor, completely unexpected.  The dough was just the classic Nestle cookie dough recipe - Dave helped by following the exact instructions on the back of the bag. The ice cream itself is one of the heaviest custards I've made- but it's needed to stand up to the raw dough.  Don't skimp on the using the vanilla bean, it really does make a difference in the flavor.  You could use any dough that you want, but the classic chocolate chip dough is really quite amazing.  Enjoy this, make it for you and not the kids and try not to eat it all in one sitting!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 vanilla bean, spit and seeded
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt

Cookie dough- we used 1/2 of the batch of the Nestle recipe, and then made the rest into cookies.

Warm the cream, half and half and the vanilla bean over medium heat.  Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they are pale and fluffy.

Temper the yolks with the warm cream, add everything back into the pan along with a pinch of salt, and cook until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Stir often and be careful not to scorch the bottom. 

Cool the custard in a ice bath, place in the fridge overnight if you have time.  Place the custard in the ice cream maker and continue according to the manufacturers directions.  Add teaspoons of the cookie dough to the custard as it churns and freezes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baked Caramel Apple and Cranberry Pumpkin French Toast

Baking anything in caramel rocks, almost as much as wrapping anything in bacon does.  This dish takes a basic french toast idea, simplifies the cooking process and doubles the taste factor.  Make it the night before, let it steep in the fridge overnight and then simply pop it in the oven in the morning, leaving you time to put your feet up and enjoy your mimosa.

A friend had mentioned this idea to me the other day and it sounded terrific, so I created a recipe, played with the flavor combinations and I have to say- this is pretty terrific!  I choose a pumpkin pecan bread from Whole Foods- it was stunning, similar to a hearty Italian loaf but with the flavor of pumpkin and studded with pecans.  Absolutely super.  Baked french toast will be a great dish for the holidays, but why not be fat and happy other times times too?

Tip and Techniques:  Change up the fruit depending on the season - perhaps with bananas and blueberries or pineapple and raspberries- be adventurous.  I would also suggest using whatever bread you have on hand as well, don't feel limited to use a pumpkin pecan bread as I did, try a challah or even just a french bread loaf will work great.  Also, I made these in individual ramekins- but you can also do one large casserole dish or try filling a muffin tin pan.

Baked Caramel Apple, Cranberry and Pumpkin French Toast

Make the caramel sauce first
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cream

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the brown sugar and bring to boil.  Carefully add the cream and whisk until it all comes together.
 Keep the caramel on a soft boil for about 5 minutes, stirrring once in a while. Set aside.

Make the egg mixture:
4 eggs
1/4 cup cream or milk
1 tbls water
2 tbls vanilla

1/2 loaf of bread

Whisk all the ingredients together, except for the bread.  Choose the bread you are using and cut into various size chunks, add them to the egg mixture and press them down in there so they soak up the mixture.  Set in the fridge overnight or for a few hours.

Assembling the french toast:

Clean and slice one apple, in 1/4 inch slices.  Toss with a little fresh lemon juice to keep from turning brown.

Take the caramel and pour it into a greased pan, ramekin, muffin tin-whatever dish(es) you are using.
Sprinkle cranberries into the caramel, can use craisins instead of fresh cranberries.  Lay the apples onto the caramel in a single layer.  Piece the bread onto the apples, and pour any extra egg mixture that didn't soak in right over the bread.

Bake in a 400 degree oven until the top bread is crusty and the middle is set.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for minute.  Carefully tip the pan upside down onto a plate and serve.


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