Sunday, July 29, 2012

185. Almond Joy Syrup and Chocolate Pancakes


Men: Please feel free to read or I won't be offended if you skip over the first few paragraphs.  If you chose to read, just be warned that I warned you, it may be TMI.  LOL

I have a confession.  I may seem like I am a chocoholic by the things that I share and post on my fan page and blog, but the truth is, I really don't eat that much.  EXCEPT, once a month. So where do all the yummy sweets go?  To our neighbors and friends of course.

I will spare you the details but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the meaning of the phrase "once a month".  During the days that lead up to this event in my life, because these days (at 45) it's an event, my body informs me that any healthy thought of eating right that I may have sworn upon my soul, body and mind... is out the window. I become almost a different person in regards to my eating habits.

I thought you were only supposed to have cravings while pregnant.  

All I want to eat is chocolate and to drink, cover your ears, DR. PEPPER!  I have about half a soda can a month.  It does the trick.

What better way to start off my "week" than with something that I will tell you, is, in every sense of the phrase, comfort food.  I wrapped my arms around my plate, that was stacked with three rich chocolatey brown pancakes and we shared a moment. I believe I may have actually closed my eyes and whispered the words, thank you.  Once I added the almond joy syrup to the equation, I never looked back.  6 pancakes later, my belly was full and I was in need of a nap.

I smiled, they smiled.

We knew.

Love at first bite.  The pancakes and syrup have moved up the ranks and now rest amongst those  favorite foods that I keep mentally pinned in my head.
  
My craving had been fulfilled.  A new favorite found.

Pancakes are so simple to make from scratch.  They are filled with simple whole ingredients.  When we add chocolate to the mix we take them to the next level. This is a bit of gourmet cooking to be shared with your families OR to be made and hidden in the back of your fridge for late night snacks.

Purely your choice!  LOL

Recipe:  Chocolate Pancakes

Makes: 22-24, 1/4 cup servings

1 1/2 cups of flour
3 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/4 cups of milk
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons of melted butter

Almond Joy Syrup, recipe below

Prepare your grill.  I set mine to 350 and let it warm up while I make the batter.

In a mixing bowl, add all of the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the 2 egg yolks, melted butter and milk.  Beat well.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Add the milk/egg/butter mixture to the dry.  Mix.  Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Isabella had a great time stirring the batter for me.  It looks like she even grabbed a taste to make sure it would past the taste test.  She will make a fine cook for her family.
Your batter should be the consistency of chocolate cake batter.
 

I use a 1/4 cup to add my batter to the grill.  The pancakes will start to bubble and this is a good sign they are ready to be turned.

Remove from grill and serve immediately.



Recipe:  Almond Joy Syrup

I know you will think this is odd because there are actually no Almond Joy candy bars in the making of this syrup.  It is just the flavor that you get when the ingredients are combined.  I could have easily called it Nutella  syrup but the fact that it has coconut oil and it definitely lets you know that it is an ingredient, it made sense to me to call it what it taste like not necessarily what it was made out of.

ENJOY

1/3 cup of coconut oil
1/3 cup of Nutella
1/3 cup of real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients.  Blend for 4-5 minutes.

Pour into a cup to serve.  You can also warm the syrup up in the microwave.

NOTE:  I also make this with peanut butter and it taste so good, but the coconut is still a presence in the flavor.

















Friday, July 27, 2012

Sifting Through Life: Rainbows and Unicorns

Sifting Through Life is a concept that I have been thinking about for a while.  I started reading a book by Dianne Jacobs, Will Write for Food.  You may have heard of it before if you write about food or have a blog that deals with food topics.

I have enjoyed the remarks, comments and suggestions that she shares in the pages of this book.  She takes us inside the editors office and shares with us the in's and out's of what makes your writing successful. She also talks to many people in the industry and through their advice they help you with becoming a better writer.

A constance line kept leaping off the pages at me, "find your voice."

What does that mean?

Laying in bed I think about these three little words.  While driving my daughter to school I ponder the line.  I have thoughts and I have some ideas swirling in the inner walls in the space behind my eye balls.  They come and go.  I argue with myself about what is my voice, isn't that just an opinion?  Who wants to hear my opinion on anything? I have found my voice on several occasions and it back fired on me.  Back and forth, back and forth…..

I once heard a popular country western singer say, "I was once told that I would not be allowed to have an opinion in the public eye because then nobody would like you, or, buy your records?"  Do you believe that?  Do I believe that?

I have, for a while, thought that my blog and fan page are places were I want the environment to be happy and positive.  I want those warm fuzzy's and some days I need them.  I want the unicorn and rainbow pleasantries, they do make me smile.  I don't like a lot of drama and this is partly because I have had my fair share.

I chose to change.  I started over.  I made decisions that affected myself in a way that would allow me to grow.  It hurt.  I cried.  Life happens and as much as we want to pretend that it's all "unicorns and rainbows". It is not.

I have been writing this blog for a year and it is my passion and my dream.  I have had the best time meeting new people, experienced new activities, loving life and being successful.

So why change what has worked?  Simple.  I want to be honest with my readers.  I want to connect to my readers.  I want to show that even when life throws you a fast pitch there will be some days you take a hit to the face but on most you catch it with a well fitted mitt.  I like the thought that you can't love sugar if you have not experienced the flavor of something sour.  The value of sweet sugar becomes elevated.

I want to share, encourage and teach others that life can be rainbows and unicorns most of the time.  I am not a therapist, nor do I have a crystal ball, but I do have a desire to be happy no matter the cost.

So how much information is too much information?  I don't know.  I thought I would just write my thoughts in a single post from the previous weeks events and share what ever comes to mind.

You are my friends and I know that when I write it will be an opinion.  I like to believe that we can have similar or opposing opinions and still get a long.  I value feedback and comments and I understand that you may not always see things like I do, I am okay with that.  Lets just be kind to each other.

I love writing and this is a way for me to journal my thoughts, trials, triumphs and the journey of this life.

I talked about honesty above.  I want to be honest with you about who I am and where I have been.

My road is not a road that has not been taken by many people before, in fact, they are all very normal events in the life of children and adults, some good and some not.  The real question is, what is normal?

There is no agenda to my writings, just an opportunity to write, to find my voice.

Sifting through any life is a challenge that brings smiles, tears, laughter and frowns, but it is something as humans, we all do.  To find someone else that can relate, understands us or simply cares is half the battle to happiness.  We all want to be understood and validated.

Join me on this weekly journey of how I handle my life. This will include events of the past, the  present and my goals for the future.

Sherron, Simply Gourmet





Wednesday, July 25, 2012

169. Almond Pretzels with Almond Dipping Sauce



When Cory and I left Utah two years ago with our kids, pets and the few possessions we could put into our 30 foot travel trailer, I can only imagine the thoughts that went on in our families and neighbors minds.

It reminds me of a scene in Beauty and the Beast when the towns people are describing Belle's father, "oh, you know, crazy old Maurice". Only there were a few more of us than one Maurice and we were not crazy.

What were we?  We were unemployed, ready for an adventure and change but most of all I was longing for some time with my kids.  Our lives had become busy.  We had church activities on the weekend and through out the week, we had civic responsibilities, sports, dance, school, work…sounds familiar?  We had a life.  A very busy life.

We made a choice to let life take us where ever the wind blew.  Cory found work teaching on line and then, through some friends, he found work that allowed us to work and travel for one year before we settled down again.

Poppies down by the Naval Academy, right before you go over the bridge.


Why one year?  Kids.  We do a lot for our kids.   They had fulfilled the so called "mid-life crisis" that their parents were going through and we had promised them we would only stop our lives for one year

Our lives did not stop. 

We laughed late at night around camp fires while listening to the wild life creep and creak behind us and the stars shown ever so brightly above us.  We talked into the wee hours of the night all crammed on our rv size queen bed.  We ate meals together on red and white checkered table clothes in the most wooded, green and serene state parks in 12 states.  We discovered each others interest through visiting museums, historical sites, movies, malls, parks, university's, city centers, etc…

What we stopped was not our lives but the noise and chaos that we sometimes cannot escape.  I for one had a hard time saying no, I was booked beyond belief.  My year off taught me to value my time.  It allowed me to work and hone on the one thing I enjoyed filling my time with, and that was my family.

We came to this area on a contract with IRS and my husband ended up working for a local company.  

To say that Annapolis is our home almost causes me to tear up.  I had no idea that a place could so easily root itself into my heart.

A pair of windows on a home downtown.


While on the West coast I yearned for the opportunity to live on the East coast.  I was drawn to this area.  Even before we decided on which neighborhood, school district or county, when the map was open my finger automatically fell on Annapolis.  We stayed for two months in our trailer looking for the perfect fit for our family.

I have a daughter at AACC, a son at Broadneck and a soon to be kindergartner.  We love our home.

Annapolis, MD is an amazing place that wraps it's gentle swaying sails around your heart and takes you back in time.  When down at the city docks, I often will close my eyes, listen to the waves and feel the sea air on my face.  

Happiness.  Joy.  Home.


A boat that is always docked in the harbor.  I love this boat.  


While we were on our mini adventure, I was not able to bake very many things.  Our oven was not the greatest.  I missed cooking bread, pretzels, brownies, cakes and all sorts of doughy yumminess.

I am pretty sure I have made up for it while living here this last year and a half. 

I learned to make pretzels, and then I discovered that I could coat them with almond gooeyiness and take a simple pretzel recipe and add a gourmet touch, giving my family the most mouth watering experience; all with one pretzel.

You can also find a step by step tutorial HERE of how I had my daughter help me make the plain pretzels a few months ago.  They are really easy for your kids to make.


Recipe:  Almond Pretzels and Almond Sauce


makes 12 pretzels 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Dough to rest: 30 minutes
Bake: 8-10 minutes

2 cups of warm water
1 Tablespoon of yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
5 cups of flour

1 cup of warm water (for the water bath before baking)
1/4 of baking soda

Topping:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1/4 cup of ground almonds or almond meal
a few drops of almond flavoring
chopped nuts for topping

To make the dough:

Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Let rise about 4 minutes.

In Kitchenaid, add flour and salt.  When yeast has activated, add to the flour.

Mix until combined and then knead for 6 minutes. Turn your oven to 500 degrees.

Let dough rise for 30 minutes.  When a few minutes are left on the rise time, prepare your warm water and baking soda mixture.

Have two cookie sheets ready to go.  Dump your dough onto your table and cut into 12 sections.  I usually cut the dough in half, then those halves are split in half again. From the four quarters on the table you should be able to get three smaller sections which will total 12 small mounds of dough.

Spray your table with Pam and start rolling your dough into long "snakes, about 20 inches.  Dip each strand in the warm water/baking soda mixture and then shape your pretzel on the cookie sheet.

Have your oven trays so that one is in the middle and one below that.  Add your sheets together.  Let them cook for 4 minutes and then switch the trays.  If you want your pretzels to be darker then just add an extra minute or two.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

You can serve your pretzels two ways:  Add butter and Kosher salt or add the almond glaze and serve with the sauce.  Both ways are amazing!  To add butter, when you transfer them to the cookie sheet coat each pretzel with melted butter and immediately sprinkle with salt.

To make the almond glaze and sauce:

Add all of the ingredients above into a small pan.  Warm the sauce on the stove until the brown sugar is melted and the mixture is well combined.  At the end of the cooking time for the pretzels, remove the trays.  Using a pastry brush, brush the pretzels with the almond glaze.  Return to the oven and cook for 3 minutes.  The glaze should be bubbly.  Remove and transfer to a rack. 

I love serving these pretzels with an extra side of glaze, so don't fret if you have some left over.  If you need more just follow the directions and make a second batch.

NOTE:  You can add chopped almonds also, but be careful because the will burn easily if the oven shelf is too close to the heat.









Monday, July 23, 2012

168. Patty Melt Sandwiches


Grilled onions, cheese, hamburger and rye bread.

Quite simply one of the best sandwiches.  The flavors are perfect together in my opinion.

Now don't get me wrong, I did say ONE of the best sandwiches.  I have many favorites but this is one that I have not had in a long time…like many, many years…a long time.

Growing up in the restaurant business this was a staple on our menu.  You don't see it very often now a days.  I wanted to introduce my family to something that was part of my school days as a teenager.

This and fresh cut french fries…OH boy those were the days of eating endless amounts of fried foods and greasy burgers.  LOL

I don't do that anymore and my kids don't regularly eat this way either, but every once in a while I am okay with it.

I love this recipe because it's a great use of simple ingredients.  I did not flavor the meat other than salt and pepper.  I wanted the onion, cheese and rye bread to be the star of the night.

I used two different types of cheese on my version to add a gourmet flair to the sandwich.  It looks amazing in the presentation and the combination of cheese's left you thinking about the sandwich well past dinner time.

ENJOY an old classic my friends, I know I did.

Recipe:  Patty Melt Sandwich

1.25 pounds of hamburger, enough for 5-6 patties depending on how thick you make them
2 whole onions, sliced
sliced cheese, I used provolone and cheddar
loaf of rye bread, two slices needed per sandwich
butter
salt/pepper
olive oil, for sautéing the onions

Combine your meat, salt and pepper.  Form into patties and set aside.

In a medium size saute pan, add olive oil and sliced onions.  Cook the onions until they are brown and reduced in size.  One onion only makes about 3/4 of a cup and this is not enough to do all of the sandwiches.  It will look like a lot of onion, but trust me, you do not want to skimp on the onion.


Set onions to the side.  Prepare cheese, sliced into thin sheets.

In a frying pan, add your bread that has been buttered, lay a piece of cheese on each side.  Add onions and then the meat patty.

Grill toast and combine the two slices of bread to form a sandwich.


Presto magic, you have a patty melt.








Wednesday, July 18, 2012

167. Messy Corn on the Cob



Last summer I went to DC to meet my cousin for dinner and we ate at Founding Farmers restaurant in Georgetown.  

I loved the concept of the restaurant.  They source their food from local farms in the area.  

Our food was memorable to say the least.  

I have wanted to try this style of corn for a very long time.  Some refer to it as Mexican Style Corn. 

I am just going to admit this now, when I eat something really good I tend to make noises that cause my family to turn their heads.  This was one of those occasions.  I could not help myself, the flavors were fantastic.  I think I said, " mmmmm, this is so good" about a 100 times and then ordered two more.  

I actually dreamed about that corn.  TRUE STORY!

I woke up and ran to the store to buy some more corn on the cob.

When I returned home I wanted to do my own twist on this corn on the cob.  I have recently fallen in love with smoked paprika.  The light went off in my head and this is how my corn became a monthly staple in our home.

Quite honestly I would eat this weekly if my family would allow it.  The best part is the mayonnaise and paprika leave a great mess on your face.  It's hilarious to watch others eat the corn.   We always warn our guest that it will require extra napkins.

This is just another example of how you can take something as simple as corn on the cob and "JAZZ that puppy up" into a gourmet side dish.  

Recipe:  Messy Corn on the Cob

ears of corn, I usually do at least one per person then add 4 more
mayonnaise
grated parmesan cheese
green onions, finely sliced
Smoky Paprika Spice Mix (recipe below)

To prepare corn:  

In a large pot, bring your water to a rapid boil.  Add corn for 3 minutes to blanch it.  

On your grill, let the corn get nice and grilled, usually takes 8 -10 minutes.  This offers great flavor to the corn kernels.


When corn is done, remove to a plate.

This is the messy part, slather mayonnaise onto each piece of corn, sprinkle with the smoky paprika spice mix, add your parm cheese and then add a few slices of green onion.

Serve with lots of napkins and corn picks, if you have them.  Your friends will thank you later.

Recipe: Smoky Paprika Spice Mix

1 tablespoon of Smoked  Paprika
1 teaspoon of each of these spices: garlic powder, onion powder and salt
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of each:  chili powder and pepper

To add spice:  add red cayenne pepper (just be careful and warn people first)

Combine together and store in sealed jar or container.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

166. Grilled Peach Caprese Salad



I have fond memories of peaches.  As a child, it was one of my favorite fruits to have each summer.  When I became an adult and got married, it was one of my favorite fruits to can.  I  remember my early days of canning and having quart after quart of peaches to do each day for a week solid.

By the end of the week I really had to question if it was worth it.  My hands were raw, my house was hot from boiling water, and my life stopped until I could get them all "up" for the months to come.

It was during these months that I was and will always be grateful that I canned those peaches.  The flavor, texture and sweetness are always a welcoming surprise to my mouth during the cold months of winter.  A little bit of summer in the months of December and January.

Grilling peaches is a new concept to me.  It seems lately that a lot of chefs, mixologist and bloggers are rediscovering this technique.  Like anyone else, I wanted to give it a try.

Yesterday I grilled up 5 peaches and used them in a variety of ways.  This peach Caprese salad was my first recipe to play with.

It's simple.  I like that.

It's beautiful.  My guest love that.

It's a quick entree, side dish or snack.  My family definitely LOVES that.

I found this store in town, named Cleo's fine oils and vinegars.   I have been wanting to visit it for some time and I was finally able to get over there last week.  Can I just say, it is possible to want to drink basalmic vinegar.  I didn't believe the TV reporter when they told me this.  I thought it would be too twangy, sour and bitter.  I was wrong!  When you get a quality balsamic vinegar and when it's flavored it is like comparing artificial syrup to the real thing.

The vinegars were thick, sweet, flavored and in my opinion, perfect.  I chose two.  The peach balsamic vinegar and the bordeaux cherry….was I in for a real treat!

Just note that if you use a regular flavored balsamic on this salad, it will change the dynamics of the salad.  It won't be bad, it is just that the peach vinegar adds so much to the flavor of the tomato, cheese, basil and grilled peaches.

Enjoy this simple, yet beautifully displayed salad that will have your guest wanting more.



Recipe:  Grilled Peach Caprese Salad

Per salad instructions.
1 grilled peach, peeled and grilled until marks appear on the peaches
3-4 slices of mozzarella cheese
3-4 slices of tomato
3-5 leaves of fresh basil
Peach Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

To grill my peaches, I peeled them first.  Added some olive oil to coat each one.  Set my grill to 350 and added them to the grates.  I let them cook for 5-7 minutes on each side.  This was enough time for them to get warm and to see the grill marks.


Remove them from the heat and slice them into even slices.

Slice your tomatoes and cheese.

Layer your salad on small plates.  Drizzle your oil and vinegar over the top of each salad and season with salt and pepper. 

Sprinkle the small leaves around the plate.


Monday, July 16, 2012

165. Vegetable Tian



I spend a few minutes each day chatting with myself, do you?  My conversations range from things I should have said to questions I would be asked if I were on a radio station.  All quite silly things to be truthful.

With these said conversations I solve many world problems, issues with family and convince myself that I pretty much have all of the answers.  If only someone would ask.  Of course I am joking, I don't have all the answers but sometimes it's fun to pretend that we do.  

On this day, a week ago, I was playing the what if game.  What if I were on a radio show and someone asked me,  "who would you say was your greatest influence in the kitchen?"

I was so quick and on my feet for this pretend interview that I immediately said, "why, my grandmother of course".

This is when the conversation became really fun and active in my head.  I actually had to disagree with myself and somehow I was okay with that.

I stopped the interview, and proceeded to have a quick moment of reflection.  This is what I learned about my influences for my passion of cooking and preparing food.

1.  My grandmother did influence me in the kitchen on many levels, but she was not the ONE influence.  The thing I learned and remember most often, is that when you are making a recipe always put everything away as you use it.  Then when your cookies are made, there is not a huge mess to clean up (hubby please take note).  I realized that my grandmother made the same things for dinners.  She rarely altered the food fare on the table.  Her influence for me was the desire to be in the kitchen and work with my hands.  She made fabulous desserts.

2.  My mother worked and owned a restaurant.  I was influenced by being in the kitchens and smelling the food that was being prepared.  My Mom worked really hard so that her three girls could have the things they needed and wanted.  She taught me to work hard and this has influenced my passion for cooking and writing.  Along the way my Mom has continued to try and learn new recipes, I love this desire to evolve and create.  She has continued to learn new things.

3.  I love to travel.  When we have traveled in the past we visit the museums, the parks, the rides, the tours and the tourist spots of most places we visit.  I have decided that most cities and towns have pretty much the same functions with a few unique places to visit.  The key is finding what makes each of those places unique and different.  I find that this is fondly found in the foods that are served around town.  Food tells a story of the region or location just as much as the people or museums do.  Traveling has had a huge influence on the way that I cook and find inspiration. I often return home from a trip and try to find recipes or develop recipes that remind me of where I had just been.  

4.  My family, health and desire to eat right probably have the greatest influence over how I cook and what I make.  Without my kids I would not have a reason to make big meals, prepare for birthdays,  save recipes, share or teach with them my love for making bread and this list could go on an on.



Getting back to the question, "who would you say was your greatest influence in the kitchen?" I would have to say my family, my love for traveling and my willingness to never stop learning.

It's these influences that influenced this dish.  I did not develop this dish, it has been around for years.  I just had the ingredients on hand, new that my family would love it, saw it on several other blogs, immediately thought of my time spent in France and it was my ever increasing desire to do something new and different that influenced this dish to be made last week.  As my life changes I am sure my influences will too.  I look forward to the adventure ahead.  

This is a simple way to use your veggies from the garden to create a dish with a gourmet flair and appearance.  Using sprigs of fresh herbs adds that special little touch to make your family and friends ooh and ah. 

ENJOY!

8-3-2012 This recipe was shared on Amee's Savory Dish: Fit and Fabulous Friday.  Go check out the other amazing and healthy recipes.

Recipe:  Vegetable Tian

zucchini
potato
yellow squash
tomatoes
1 red onion
minced garlic
fresh herbs, I used thyme from my garden
1/2 cup of cheese, I used Edam.  Cheddar, Jack, Parmesan all can be used too.

Why are there not any ingredient amounts?  Simply because this dish can be made in a 9X13 or as an individual serving.  You decide how big or how much you want to make and that will determine what you will need to have on hand.

For me, I did one of each (except for the tomato, I had two).  This was prepared in a 7X10 tian (shallow ceramic baking dish).

Preheat your oven to 375. 

Cut your veggies.  I used a mandolin and this is how I was able to achieve the consistency in width for each veggie.



Saute your chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil.




In the bottom of your baking dish, spread the onion/garlic mixture.  Start stacking your veggies and then laying them in rows in your dish.  You can pack them tight if you want, they do reduce and shrink a bit when cooked.


Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.  I added 4 sprigs of thyme.  Cover with foil and bake until done.  Mine took 40 minutes to cook.  It was all based on the potatoes (they took the longest to cook).  When they were done, I removed the foil and added some cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

163. Maryland Crab Dip with Breadsticks


Crab dip for a party, without the added browned butter crab.

One of the joys of living in Maryland is the crab.  I cannot tell a lie and this is a glorious feature for me. 

I simply love Maryland Blue Crabs.



I have family and friends that ask me to compare our crab to theirs (dungeness on the West Coast) and it's hard for me to even compare. 

Blue crabs are a bit sweeter and I believe the texture of the meat is softer as well.  You don't need butter or seasonings to indulge in the pieces that you pick.

Blue crabs come in a variety of sizes, male or female and are available everywhere in my community. 

You will find them in baskets being sold out of the back of trucks, sold at restaurants by the dozen and half dozen or, and this is awesome, you can simply go out your back door, drop a trap and BAM..you will have a few crabs to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

Yes, I did say breakfast.  When you love crab as I do, there is never a bad time to eat crab.  LOL


I eat crab picked fresh from their warm shells, in soup, in crab cakes, dips, soups, raviolis and even a few pieces added to the top of a Bloody Mary.  We DO know how to partake of crab in Annapolis.


This dip was prepared on Saturday for a group of friends that meet once in a while to celebrate, cook and enjoy the company of other chefs, culinary specialist and friends.  We simply love food.

I wanted to get adventurous with my recipe but I stayed true to the course and presented a simple version of my dish.  This changed when I returned home, I chose to add a gourmet flair.  You will find the recipe below and I will share with you the two versions.  

I also experimented with adding Old Bay Seasoning to my breadsticks.  I found the seasoning on the breadsticks to add a lot of flavor to the dip.

I hope that you will enjoy this simple yet gourmet way of eating Maryland Blue Crabs.

Individual size portion with the brown butter crab.

Recipe:  Maryland Blue Crab Dip

1 lb of crabmeat
2 (8oz) pkg. of cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning, feel free to add more if this is a flavor you want to be strong
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of shredded cheese, for inside the dip (I used sharp cheddar but you can also use mild)
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of finely chopped green onions, tops only
shredded cheese for topping

To add the brown buttered crab topping:

1 cup of crabmeat
3 T. of butter

NOTE:  As with any shell fish, make sure to run your fingers through the meat to make sure there are  not any shells.  To find a shell freaks some people out…LOL

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, add cream cheese, mayo and sour cream.  Using an electric mixer, whip the three together for two minutes until smooth.  Add the Worcestershire Sauce and Old Bay.  Blend until smooth and well combined.

Fold in the crabmeat, cheese and green onions.



Using a pie dish, rectangle pan or stone ware, add your dip.  The smaller the pan the deeper the dip and the longer it will take to warm up.  I use a small rectangular pan that measures 6X9.  I also make individual portions in ramekins.  It just depends on the party and amount of guest I have.

Add a sprinkle of cheese and a few green onions.


Bake dip for 30 minutes, or until sides are bubbly and the cheese starts to brown.  Individual size ramekins will require their cook time to be less, 15 minutes.



To add the brown butter crab:

Right before the dip comes out of the oven, 5 minutes before hand.  Melt your butter in a small pan and brown the butter.  Stir and watch it carefully so that it does not burn.



When the butter is browned, turn off the heat and add the 1 cup of crab.  Toss gently and remove from heat.


Remove the dip(s) from the oven and gently spoon the brown butter crab on top.  I garnished my dip with a few green onions.

Serve warm with crackers, fresh bread or breadsticks (recipe below).

Recipe:  Old Bay Seasoning Breadsticks

5 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 cups of warm water
1 tablespoon of salt

1 stick of soft butter
Old Bay Seasoning
Salt
Parsley flakes


Preheat oven to 425.

While oven is preheating, find a cookie sheet and add the stick of butter.  Set aside.

In your Kitchenaid with the dough hook, add the flour and salt.

In a two cup glass bowl, add the warm water, sugar and yeast.  Let yeast activate.  3-5 minutes.

Add yeast to flour.

Turn on mixer and let the two combine.  Set timer for 5 minutes and let the kitchenaid knead your dough for the 5 minutes.

Cover dough for 15 minutes while it rest.

5 minutes  before dough is done resting, add the cookie sheet to the oven so that the butter melts and starts to brown.  Use the middle rack in your oven.

Spray an area on your counter or table with Pam and roll dough out to a bit less than 1 inch thickness.  I try to roll the dough the length of my cookie sheet, not as wide because as you pick up the sticks they tend to stretch.

Remove your cookie sheet from the oven, sprinkle Old Bay on to the butter and bring to your work space.  After you have rolled the dough out, use a pizza cutter and cut into strips.


Pick up each strip and roll in the warm butter and bay seasoning.  Line them up close to each other.


Because the pan and butter are both hot, the dough will start to rise before your eyes.

Sprinkle the breadsticks with more Old Bay, Kosher salt and Parsley Flakes (this is a personal choice as to how much you want to add).


Let rise for 5 minutes and return to the oven to bake.

Bake breadsticks for 8-12 minutes.  Watch them towards the end.  













Monday, July 9, 2012

164. Seasoned Chicken Breast




Some days you just don't want to cook, or maybe that is just me.  I wake up in the morning knowing that I have a few pieces of meat thawed in the fridge.  

I try to rub two brain cells together and come up with a fun, creative and new way of eating the same piece of meat I have been buying for 30 years.

Then, it hits me.  It's okay to make it simple and stick with what has worked in the past.

This is that dish I always fall back on.  WHY?



It's easy and can be used in many ways.  I have used this chicken in casseroles, in tacos, with pasta or served over a beautiful salad.  

I rarely change it up and stick with the same recipe every time.  That is a big deal in my world..LOL

This is not fancy but it's functional.  When your day is busy or your family is in and out, they can easily reach for a chicken breast or grab a cup of diced chicken pieces.

A simple piece of chicken can easily make any meal feel gourmet,  and without too much effort.

Recipe:  Seasoned Chicken Breast

3-4 Chicken Breast, boneless
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 an onion, sliced
1/4 cup of diced green onions
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
salt
pepper
Lawry's Seasoned Salt 


Find a pan that is large enough to hold your chicken breast.  Add oil.

I like my temperature to be set to medium and allow the pan and oil to heat up.  I use a stainless steel pan and the heat is an important aspect of cooking so that the meat does not stick.

Add your chicken breast, onions, garlic and spices.  Cook until the chicken releases easily when moved with a fork. (picture below)

Turn over the breast and re-season with salt, pepper and Lawry's Seasoned Salt. (picture below)

The total cooking time takes 12-15 minutes for a chicken breast that is less than an inch thick.

Before removing from the pan, check to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.  I usually cut a small slit in the back and spread with a knife and fork.  

Remove chicken to a plate and serve with pasta and sauce, over a green salad or as the filling for a taco.

The leftover onion, garlic and spices in the pan can be turned into a gravy by adding some flour and milk OR a nice wine to make a reduction.  








Tuesday, July 3, 2012

162. Homemade Salsa or pico de gallo






Is it salsa or pico de gallo?  I actually used the same recipe and made both.

One version is chunky, hence the pico de gallo title and the other is blended, hence the salsa name.

I like this tidbit that I found about pico de gallo,


"The term "pico de gallo" is Spanish for "beak of rooster". According to food writer Sharon Tyler Herbst,[1] it is so called because originally it was eaten with the thumb and forefinger, and retrieving and eating the condiment resembled the actions of a pecking rooster."

My family loves homemade guacamole, salsa's and dips.  

I had a special request to make this for our upcoming outing for the 4th of July.  The recipe is a no brainer if you have made this before.  It has basic ingredients and you adjust the temperature with more or less jalapeno.

You can make it more unique by adding mango, pineapple, cucumber, cumin or jicama.  

Recipe:  Salsa/Pico de Gallo

4 cups of tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup of diced red onion
2 jalapeno's, no seeds and diced very small (seeds add heat..if you want that, then leave them in)
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 T. minced cilantro or more
1 T. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

NOTE:  Fresh jalapeno's vary on heat.  I have had 10 jalapeno's and 9 were not hot but the one was like eating fire.  I recommend sampling your raw jalapeno before adding it to your salsa to verify how hot your salsa will be.  You can also use jalapeno's from a jar.  

Dice the tomatoes into small squares.  I usually leave the seeds and soft pulp out of my salsa.

Dice the onion and jalapeno's.  Mince the cilantro.  Add more cilantro if this is a flavor that you love.

In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients.  Taste.  Adjust. Taste

Part of making a recipe is sampling the food.  You will want to make sure the salt/acid levels in your salsa meet the expectation of your taste pallet.  If you need more acid, add a bit more lemon.  Needs more salt, add more salt. Spicier?  Add more jalapeno.  

I usually take my mixture and put half in the blender to make it into my salsa.  My family likes this best with their chips because the chips don't break.

ENJOY!




Monday, July 2, 2012

161. Fajita Salads and a Family Visit



If you live in the east, then you already know that it is hotter than hot…and that is pretty hot!
I have seen the temperature this week rise to 110 with the heat index and felt like I could not breathe outside.  I have not felt that way since my time in Nevada when I was a teenager.  That was a pretty scary feeling.

I am grateful for my grill outside.  This is something that over the past year I am finding myself using more and more, in fact we use it all year round.  I can do that in Maryland (another reason I love it here).



I usually do not buy pre-made spice packets because I already have so many individual spices at home.  On this day I wanted fajita's and threw my own mix together.  My family loved it and this salad was a hit, along with the salsa.  ENJOY!



Recipe:  Fajita Salads


To make meat:

1.5 pounds of top sirloin steak
1 red onion, sliced in half
2 bell peppers, cut in half with seeds removed


To make Fajita Spice, I used 1 teaspoon of each:  garlic powder, onion powder, salt, smoked paprika, cumin and chili powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Mix well.


Season the steak on both sides with liberal amounts of spice mix.  Have your grill temperature get to about 400 degrees. 


Add meat and veggies to the grill.  You can use a veggie basket so that the onion does not go through your grill grid.  Cook until charred on all sides.


Grill steak on both sides until meat is medium rare.  Depending on thickness of your meat, this will take about 10-12 minutes.  I recommend using a meat thermometer or checking the meat so that you do not over cook your steak.


Take meat off of the grill, cover and let rest while you prepare the onion/bell peppers.


Take the onion and bell pepper and slice into strips.  Add olive oil to a saute pan and continue to brown the mix.  The onion and bell pepper should start to caramelize and turn brown.  Remove from heat.


Slice meat into thin strips.  I used a platter to first add the bell pepper/ onion mix and topped it with the meat.


Prepare your salad.  I used spinach and lettuce.  I also served sour cream, salsa, jalapeno's and ranch for those that would like additional condiments.  


You can add your favorite veggies to make this salad suit your families taste buds.

If you would like to see pictures from my visit with my family, see below.  It was a whirlwind two weeks, 6 state visit and a ton of fun.



My sister and I took a bicycle ride through the diamond district.  This was the best!  We screamed and laughed the whole way.  The driver was amazing.  We would come within inches of cars and people and he never had an accident.  I will never forget this ride.

The carriage ride through Central Park was so much fun.  It was a great way for my family to see a bit of the park and to learn some history too.


We found the Naked Cowboy right off the bat.  It was fun to see this icon of NYC.  He is wearing underwear, it is just hidden behind the guitar.

Rye and I on the carriage ride.
My Mom and Sisters first time to Time Square.

Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

A man at the Irish Festival in Annapolis.  Cute head!

Trip to DC…the white house in the back ground.

Amish carriage ride through the hillside in Intercourse, PA.


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