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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Homemade Corn Dogs

In honor of National Corn Dog Day, I couldn't resist the chance to recreate this classic dough wrapped hot dog.  It combines all of our favorite ingredients into one; for Dave it's the breaded dog and for me it's the meat on a stick that really sells it!

As I began to make my adult version of this theme park favorite, Dave asked why we couldn't just have regular corn dogs.  Answers lofted through my head - Staying away from fried food, not good for you, the house will smell, I don't shop in the frozen isle... but what it really came down to was that I just like to put my own spin on things.  What's the point of the exact replication?  If they cloned the Leaning Tower of Pisa - would you be as excited to take a trip there instead of to the original Italy?  Would you pick apart the things that are wrong or slightly different than the one you remember?  Do feel free to insert a stick into these not-exact-replicated dogs if it makes your loved one feel better!

Have fun with cooking, be adventurous, but if you want a regular old 'childhood' corn dog, I would suggest driving to your local fair grounds and getting the real thing.  Either way, be fat and happy while you do it!

Tips and techniques:  Careful not to overwrap or double up the dough.  The outside will brown but the inside might still be doughy.  Just once around with the dough is plenty. It's important to pinch the seams together or the cheese will leak out during cooking.

Phyllo Dough Wrapped Corn Dogs

1 sheet of Phyllo dough, thawed for 30 minutes (or to package directions)
4 hotdogs
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 Tbls worchestershire sauce
1 Tbls Tabascco (less if less heat is desired)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 egg

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar, worchestershire sauce, tobascco and garlic powder together and set aside.  Roll out the Phyllo dough so it's about twice the size of what you started with.  Carefully plan out how to wrap up the dogs; I used all four corners, and into the center.

Cut the dough, place the hot dogs on the dough.  Before wrapping them up, spread the cream cheese mixture onto each dog.  Then wrap up each and pinch the seam together, use a little water to help the seams hold together.

Place seam side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet pan.  Brush the tops with the egg for a more polished look.  Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the corn dogs are all golden brown, at 375 degrees.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yellow Pepper and Lemon Hummus Dip

We were having a small, impromptu afternoon drink with friends; I feel anytime drinks are involved, there should be snacks to go with them.  Perhaps it's an expectation that was been embedded by the bars of my youth who served little bowls of salty snacks; more recently it's the free popcorn available at many Chicago bars.

No-one is blind to the idea behind those salty snacks, and yes, we do drink more because of them ... but there is a chance I was going to drink more anyway!  Salty snacks was not my goal of this get together, it was just to have a quick afternoon munchie- nothing more. 

My last minute go-to dip always starts with a can of beans- white, black, garbanzo, whatever is in the cupboard.  This particular dip takes one extra step to roast the peppers but your house will smell delicious. Think of it as modern day tea time- only with drinks and dip rather than tea and crumpets.  It's Fat and Happy time.

Tips and Techniques:  Serve with a crusty bread, almonds and hunks of pecorino cheese. Use the leftovers as spread on sandwiches.

Lemon Yellow Pepper Dip

1 can White beans (Northern, Navy or Kidney)
2 yellow peppers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small shallot, sliced
Olive oil
1 lemon, zested
handful of parsley
fresh ground black pepper

Cut peppers in half, clean out seeds.  Drizzle olive oil on the peppers, roast in the oven until the skin blackens (about 20 minutes if under the broiler). Half way though roasting, add the garlic and shallots to the pan, drizzle with a little olive oil.  Remove from oven, remove skins from peppers and roughly chop

Place the peppers, garlic, shallots and beans in a food processor, pulse a few times.  Add in the handful of parsley, the zest from the lemon along with 1 tbls of the juice.  Turn the processor on and drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency is reached.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Homemade Choco Taco

There is a freezer vending machine at work which stocks ice cream bars, frozen tv-dinner type meals, and burritos.  By far the populist item is the Choco Taco.  In fact, these delectable old school snacks are so enticing that often the vending machine will sport a hand scribbled post it crying - "More Choco Tacos please!!"  

I'm not sure if it was the desire to fill that post it note request, or the challenge alone - but it was in my head to recreate that crunchy, chocolatey goodness of yesteyear and that's all I could think of for two straight days.  The result was stunningly delicious!   

Mine were mini, two bite morsels of a crunchy crepe/cookie-like cinnamon taco shell, painted with a layer of bittersweet chocolate on the inside and then filled with a homemade cinnamon ice cream, topped with crushed mixed nuts and finished with a chocolate drizzle.  Yum-O.  This is fat and happy that I want to share with everyone...after I'm full, that is.

Tips and Techniques:  I used a pancake waffle pan (I picked this up at Dominicks grocery for $12 have been struggling to find a real use for it.  This was it!)  Though you can make the shells in flat fry pan- the waffle texture does add to the final product.  If you own a waffle maker, try that too.  Just remember the shell needs to be quite thin so not to overwhelm.  To save time you could purchase ice cream rather than make your own (if you really had to.)

Crepe-like Waffle Taco
1 1/4 Tbl melted butter
1/3 cup Powder sugar
1/2 cup (scant) buttermilk
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp coco powder (optional)
2 -8 Tbls of water
Mix all the above ingredients with a wooden spoon until lumps are gone (expect for the water).  Add water as necessary to thin out batter.  The batter needs to be quite runny- you may want to test cook one taco to decide if it is thin enough for you.  
If you do use the pancake waffle pan, brown on one side and flip.  use a fork or spatula to push the crepes down into the groves.   Remove from pan and mold over something thin and round- I choose chopsticks.  The crepes will crisp up quickly.  Allow to cool.

Melt about 1/2 cup of bitttersweet chocolate.  Carefully paint the inside of the shells with the warm chocolate.  This will help to protect the shell from getting soggy once the ice cream is inside and it can cover any holes that might be showing through.

Assembling the Choco Tacos
1/4 cup crushed mixed nuts (I crushed a variety of salted almonds, cashews, pistacios and walnuts with a rolling pin)
1/4 cup melted bittersweet chocolate
Softened ice cream (preferably cinnamon)
Take one taco shell, carefully fill with ice cream and push nuts on top.  Return to freezer immediately for about 30 minutes.  Melt chocolate, remove tacos from freezer and drizzle with the chocolate.  Serve immediately or return to freezer until ready to serve.
Ice cream filling tip- You can do this a few different ways- you can put softened ice cream in a pastry bag and fill it like you would frosting.  Or you can press softened ice cream in a pan, freeze and then cut out half circles. Or you can just fill the tacos using a spoon.  Find what works best for you- just work quickly and drop everything back in the freezer when needed if the ice cream is melting.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Apple Crepe Stack with Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Caramel Sauce

How often do you create a dish that has the potential to be a breakfast (or brunch) dish and also a dessert dish?  I'm quite excited about this recipe for a couple of reasons, one of which is for the versatility.  Second, Old Town Oils currently stocks a cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar, which we gave to Dave's Aunt Bonnie for a Holiday gift.  My plan was to purchase a bottle for myself and create a few recipes- so 3 months later, that's what I'm finally doing.  This is the first of many cnnamon pear balsamic recipes to come.

The balsamic vinegar tastes pretty similar to what you might think, with an immediate hint of cinnamon and an overall sweetness before even reducing it.  They suggested pairing this with coffee cake, which sounds wonderful, but I see the possibilities are going to be endless, especially paired with meat.  Today however,  I was in the mood for a good breakfast.

Crepes layered with pumpkin butter and thin slices of fresh apple draped in a balsamic caramel sauce then topped off with Greek yogurt hinted by the cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar.  Simply outstanding!  Perfect as a sweet start to the day...but I also see this topped with a vanilla or cinnamon ice cream at the end of the day and paired with a spicy Port.  Yum.  Do not hesitate, make this today!

Tip and Techniques:  I made small crepes using a small omelet pan so that the stack would be slightly high.  It does take some time to make the crepes as the batter needs to rest, so start them well before you plan to eat.  Use either pumpkin or apple butter- they will both yield fantastic flavors! You can even skip the apples if you want a more pancake-type of texture; the apples give it a nice crunch though.

Apple Crepe Stack with Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Caramel Sauce

1 cup sifted flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water (may need up to 1/2 cup more)
pinch of sea salt
2 tbls melted butter
1/2 cup pumpkin or apple butter
1/2 large red apple, sliced as thin as you can (using a mandolin will be the easiest way to slice the apple)

Mix the flour, eggs, milk, water and salt with a whisk, be sure to whisk out any lumps.  Add the melted butter and refrigerate for 1 one hour. Start the sauce below when you begin to make the crepes.  You'll make the crepes one at a time, brushing your pan with melted butter often. Pour only about 1/2 cup of the batter in at a time, swirling the pan to spread the batter as thin as possible. Flip when the first side turns golden brown.   As you stack the crepes, spread about 2 tablespoons of apple butter between each layer.

Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Caramel Sauce
1/2 large red apple, peeled and diced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbls butter
2 tbls brown sugar
1/2 cup water
fresh ground black pepper
2 tbls pear cinnamon balsamic vinegar

Add all the ingredients except the vinegar to a small sauce pan and simmer on the lowest heat for 5 minutes.  Add in the balsamic vinegar and continue to simmer until the crepes are completed.  Pour over the stack of apple crepes.  Top with the cinnamon pear balsamic yogurt (below).

Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Yogurt
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
2 tbls cinnamon pear balsamic vinegar
hint of ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients, keep chilled until read to use.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Soy Chai

My new-found interest in soy milk has sparked an onslaught of recipe fun.  I'll be honest- I'm not a big fan of the plain flavored soy milk yet (though I see it as an acquired taste and I suspect it won't be long before I'm there), but I love the protein that it brings. Great for a quick protein snack. So I've been testing recipes using soy milk instead cow's milk.  This one works absolutely wonderful.  It's warm, tasty and chocolaty and you'll never guess it's soy.  I do highly recommend using Silk brand soy milk as the taste is superior.

Tips and Techniques:  This is a small batch, only 2 cups worth, I would double this next time as both of us wanted more.  I used English Breakfast for my tea, but feel free to change up the tea to vary the flavor.  And you could use regular chocolate milk in place of soy- just be careful to not scorch either of them.

Chocolate Soy Chai

2 star anise pieces
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
2- 1" hunks of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
3 cardamom pods, smashed
2 cups chocolate soy milk
2 tsp black tea

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, simmer on low for 5 minutes- careful not to scorch the soy milk.   Turn off the heat and add the black tea.  Steep for 5-10 minutes (for a stronger tea flavor, steep more towards the 10 minute time frame.)

Strain the chai and enjoy immediately.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato and Chorizo Lasagna

 There is nothing like a hot, gooey pan of lasagna.  Nothing!  Sometimes though, you want that guilty pleasure without all the guilt.  I created this recipe to satisfy Dave's cheesy needs and my urge to be healthy and low carb, it worked great both of us.  Success!

Like any lasagna, it takes a few steps to put together but it's completely worth it.  I'm most excited about the leek yogurt sauce- so tasty I'll be using this over and over again. Bottom line is you can have hot and gooey indulgence and maintain your bottom line.  Go ahead, indulge and be fat and happy!

Tips and techniques:  Leave out the chorizo if you are looking or a vegetarian option.  Use whatever veggies you have on hand.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Chorizo Lasagna with Leek Yogurt Sauce

2 cups each of fresh cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cleaned and cut into large-bite size pieces
1 large sweet potato- sliced about 1/2inch thick
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot, sliced
dry white wine or broth
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 cups cottage cheese
2-4 oz goat cheese
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded cheese (mixture of cheddar, mozzarella,)
1/2 cup of chorizo (sauteed)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Toss the cauliflower, broccoli and green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, lay on a sheet pan covered with tin foil. Roast in a 450 degree over until crisp-tender.  You want the veggies to have some browned-roasted areas to them, but don't over roast or they will be too mushy.  Roast the sliced sweet potatoes on a separate pan and the leeks on a separate pan.   Set aside

Leek Yogurt Sauce:
Once the leeks are roasted, add them to a sautee pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
Add in the chopped shallots and garlic, fresh ground black pepper and a little seasoning salt- sautee until garlic and shallots are tender.   Add 2-3 cups broth or white wine (or broth) and simmer about 10 minutes.
Place all the ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth.  Add the yogurt.  If your sauce is too thick, simply add more wine or broth.  Return to pan and keep warm

Choose your baking dish, I used 4 individual ramekins, but you can easily make one larger dish.  Spray the dish with pam,  Begin by layering the dish with the roasted sweet potatoes to cover the bottom like you would with lasagna noodles.  Add a layer of roasted veggies (use up all of your veggies), sprinkle with cooked chorizo.  Spread a  layer of cottage cheese, crumble a little goat cheese and  a thin layer if shredded cheese.  Pour about 1/4 of the leek sauce over the layers. 

Top with a final layer of potatoes, pour more of the leek sauce over the potatoes. Toss the bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle over the potatoes.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until the edges are bubbly (about 20 minutes).  Remove from the oven and let it the lasagna rest before serving.  Serve the remaining sauce on the side.


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