Friday, July 31, 2015

Italian Sausage with Pesto Toasts

My perfect, easy, quick and delicious dinner.  Yes.  I know.  It is hard to believe.  But it is soooooo goooooooooood.  And easy.  And quick.  Did I already mention how delicious it is?  Italian sausage, red sauce and pesto toasts.  The flavors all complement each other so well - the slight saltiness from the sausage and pesto, the natural sweetness from the sauce along with crusty bread.  It's enough to make me swoon with gastronomic excitement!  

Italian Sausage with Pesto Toasts
Serves 1

1 Italian Sausage, cooked (I like to use hot or spicy)
3/4 Cup Red Pasta Sauce (spaghetti sauce from a jar works just fine - use your favorite!)
2 Pieces of Crusty Bread
2 Tablespoons Basil Pesto

Step 1:  Spread the pesto on top of the bread.  Place on baking sheet and put under the broiler.  Broil until toasty.  Set aside.

Step 2:  Meanwhile, slice your Italian sausage into small bite sized pieces.  I like to slice the sausage the long way first and then slice it into smaller bits from there.  Put the sausage into a small pan and head on medium high heat, just until it begins to sizzle.  We want to brown the sausage just a bit.  

Step 3:  Once the sausage starts to brown, add the pasta sauce.  Stir until combined and continue cooking until the sauce is heated through.

Step 4:  To serve, ladle the sauce/sausage into a shallow bowl and place the warm pesto toast on the side.  To consume, dip the toast into the sauce.  Or, place the sauce on top of the toast with a piece of sausage . . ..heaven!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Burnt Sugar Cake

I love burnt sugar cake.  I cannot tell a lie.  The subtle hints of burnt sugar flavor along with vanilla overtones are amazing.  What does burnt sugar taste like?  Toasted marshmallows.  No lie.  And to make this cake, you first melt some sugar down into a syrup.  And then you use that syrup as an ingredient in the cake and the frosting.  I'll warn you though - the cake and the frosting are both very sweet.  In the photo below, I made a layer cake and used vanilla custard as the filling and topped the cake with some fresh raspberries for depth and contrast.  It was amazing.  In fact, I'm a little sad the entire cake is now gone.  I sure could go for a piece.

As well, I have to confess that the recipe below is one I found here.  The only differences I made are that I filled the cake with custard (instead of frosting) and I used raspberries to adorn it instead of pecans.  I also wanted a more stiff frosting, so I used more butter/shortening + vanilla.   Be sure to check out that blog.  She has some great photos to go with the instructions.

Burnt Sugar Cake & Frosting

Ingredients & Instructions For the Burnt Sugar Syrup:
1 and 1/3 Cup White Sugar
1 and 1/3 Cup Water

Step 1:  In a skillet on the stove, add only the sugar.  Turn on the heat and set to medium-low.  Don't stir, just let it be.  It will begin to melt.  Just let it do it's thing.  Go empty the dishwasher, pet the dog, enjoy a Diet Coke.  Do whatever, just don't disturb the sugar.  Let it melt until it becomes a thick amber liquid.  This took about 5-10 minutes for me.  

Step 2:  Once it has melted, add the water by stirring in a little at a time.  It will sizzle and talk back to you, but it will calm down.  Little by little, add the water and keep stirring.  Add all the water and once it is all incorporated, let it cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You will now have a nice, beautiful and delicious burnt sugar syrup.  Turn off the heat and set aside the syrup until later.

Ingredients and Instructions for the Burnt Sugar Cake:
1 and 1/2 Cups White Sugar
3/4 Cup Butter, room temp
2 Eggs (yolks/whites divided)
3 Cups All Purpose Flour + extra for preparing your baking pans
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Burnt Sugar Syrup
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cup Milk

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare your baking pans by greasing and flouring them (I used a set of three pans).  Set aside the pans.

Step 2:  In your mixer bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until completely cohesive.

Step 3:  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Then,add this to the creamed butter/sugar.  Also add the egg yolks and mix on low until combined.  While running, slowly add the milk and vanilla.  Once combined, add the 1 cup of burnt sugar syrup and continue to mix until all combined.  Stop and set aside.

Step 4:  In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Once formed, gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.  

Step 5:  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pans.  Place pans in the oven and bake 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Set aside and let cool.

Ingredients and Instructions for the Burnt Sugar Frosting:

1 Pound Powdered Sugar
Remainder Burnt Sugar Syrup
1 Cup Shortening or Butter (room temp)
1 Tablespoon Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Step 1:  In a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer) add 1-2 cups of powdered sugar along with the shortening or butter.  Beat until well combined.  Now, add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until well combined.  It should be very thick.  

Step 2:  Into the sugar/shortening blend, add about half the syrup.  Mix well to incorporate.  Add in the vanilla and milk.  Beat well to incorporate.  At this time, determine if your frosting is too thick, too thin or just right for your needs.  If too thick, add a little more syrup and continue to beat the frosting until it's mixed in.  Continue to do this until you reach your desired consistency.  If too think, add a little more powdered sugar.

Once the cake has cooled completely, assemble the cake as you normally would for any other layer cake.

In my picture above, I used 1 cup of custard (2 cups total) between the cake layers instead of frosting.  Once I frosted the cake, I added fresh raspberries to the top.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Basil Pesto

So, I feel kinda weird about posting a recipe for basil pesto.  It's just so easy to make . . .but here I go.  And here is why:  I LOVE BASIL PESTO.  Can I get an Amen?

The garlicky, slightly salty flavors blended with fresh basil just pair so gosh darn well together!  And it is sooooooooooooo versatile.  So many applications; so little time.   I will share a list of some quickies at end of this post.  But for now . . .without much further adieu . . .

Basil Pesto
Yield:  Approx. 1 pint

2 Cups Packed Fresh Basil Leaves
2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
2/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Kosher Salt

In a food processor, add your basil leaves to the bowl of the machine along with the garlic and cheese.  Pulse a few time to begin the breakdown of the leaves and garlic.  Scrape down the sides and add a generous shake of pepper and Kosher Salt and also add the pine nuts.  Replace the lid and begin to process.  While the machine is running, slowly stream-in the olive oil.  Once all the olive oil is combined with the leaves, taste.  Does it need more salt or pepper?  If so, add to-taste.  

To store, place in a jar and store in the fridge.  

Here are few of my favorite ways to use pesto:

  • Eat it straight off a spoon 
  • Schmear it on a piece of toast and top with tomatoes and bacon
  • Take a fresh tomato, dice it and toss with pesto for an easy side dish
  • Top a tortilla with pesto, add sliced tomato and some mozzarella.  Place it under the broiler until the cheese melts.  Viola!  Quick and easy pesto pizza!
  • Toss with pasta - add in some chicken and your favorite veggies for a yummy hot or cold dish

Friday, July 10, 2015

Frozen Mocha

A long, long time ago Dairy Queen had something on their menu called Frozen Hot Chocolate.  It was my favorite . . . .it was a cross between a slushie and milk shake and it was chocolaty.  It wasn’t as heavy as a milkshake, but it was plenty dairy-liscious (unlike slushies).   After a few years, it disappeared off of their menu but it has never disappeared from my memory.   Over the years, I've managed to replicate it.  It's cool, it's frosty, very rich and chocolaty.  It's the perfect treat for a hot July Friday morning ;)  And when I thought about it, you know what makes it even better?  Instant Espresso.  Oh yes.  Yes, indeed.  This just went from frozen hot chocolate to Frozen Mocha!  You can thank me later.

Frozen Mocha
2 Servings

1 cup Milk (I used skim)
½ cup Half and Half
½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ cup packed Brown Sugar
¾ tsp Vanilla Extract
3 Tablespoons Instant Espresso
Pinch of Salt
2 cups Ice Cubes

Blend the milk, cream, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a blender until well combined and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the ice and blend until slushy.  Transfer to glasses and serve immediately.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

This may just be my kryptonite (I don't even know how to spell that!).  Seriously, I am addicted.  These scones are the reason I have gotten up each morning for the past 10 days.  The anticipation of eating them with a nice iced latte is almost too much!  They are tender, slightly buttery with fresh, juicy raspberries and sweet bits of white chocolate.  And they are a cinch to make.  I promise.  These would be great for a 4th of July breakfast . . . sub 1/2 the raspberries with blueberries and you'll have a red, white and blue scone!

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones
Yield:  12

6 Oz.  Fresh Raspberries
1 Cup White Chocolate Chips
2 and 1/2 Cups Flour, plus more for your work surface
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) of Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 Cup Sugar + additional for sprinkling on top
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Course Salt
2 Egg Yolks
3/4 Cup Buttermilk

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two large cookie sheet by spraying them with non-stick spray and set them aside.

Step 2:  In a food processor, pulse together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until pea-size pieces form. Don't have a food processor?  No problem!  In a large bowl, add the same ingredients.  Cut in the butter until pea-sized pieces form.  This can be done using two forks or by using a pastry cutter.

Step 3:  In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolks. Slowly pour the buttermilk mixture through feed tube into processor, pulsing until dough just comes together.  Or, if you are not using the food processor - pour over the crumbly mixture in the bowl and gently stir with a rubber scraper until just barely incorporated.

Step 4:  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface pat flat with your hands - just flat enough to sprinkle the raspberries and white chocolate chips on top.  Next, carefully fold the dough in half and pat out again.  Be sure to capture any escaped raspberries or white chocolate chips and exile them to the top of the dough.  Fold the dough in half again and pat out again.  Once again, capture any renegade raspberries or chips and exile to the top of the dough.  Once last time, fold in half and pat down - this time pat down to about 1 inch high oval/rectangular shape. 

Step 5:  Cut the dough into 12 pieces.  You can this with a sharp knife or pizza cutter by cutting down the center to make two long pieces - and then cutting each long piece into 6 equal pieces.  Using a spatula to gently lift the scones one at a time - place them on the cookie sheets (6 scones per cookie sheet).  Sprinkle the tops of the scones with sugar and place the baking sheets into the oven.  Let bake about 15 minutes, until just beginning to brown.  

Let cool slightly before eating.  Store in fridge.