Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Only dressed tomatoes need apply.

It's tomato season at our house, where anything that has tomatoes in the recipe is game for trying. When tomatoes are paired with basil - I'm all in. Found a sheet pan recipe for roasted potatoes and bruschetta chicken - that seemed like a no-brainer.
I probably made a few too many potatoes - Andy claimed there were just the right amount of potatoes. The star of the dish was the bruschetta that you made to put on top of the baked chicken. I'm an avid bruschetta lover. It contains several things I love, basil, onions, garlic, and red wine vinegar. Oh and toss in some tomatoes too. I'm not all about the tomato. I like it in things, I like it cooked in sauces, even on a sandwich here and there - but to pick up a tomato and just eat it? Nope. To eat a cherry tomato and squirt the goo all over? nope. No thanks. But chop it up, add some onion, garlic, basil, red wine vinegar (or in this case balsamic), and salt and pepper? Yes. Very good. I'm weird - I know - I've accepted it... let's move on.

Sheet Pan Bruschetta Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 ounces baby red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
For the bruschetta
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray.
To make the bruschetta, combine tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and basil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken in a single layer onto one side of the prepared baking sheet.
Place potatoes onto the opposite side of the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Add olive oil, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Gently toss to combine.
Place into oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Top chicken with mozzarella during the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
Serve immediately, topped with bruschetta.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ganache - the unknown Crack Filler

If there's something my coworkers do well, it's eating. There's always some sort of food on the counter ready to be consumed by someone. To that end, we decided a potluck was in order. When I say we, it wasn't really we, as in me... I was asked to coordinate it, likely because I'm female and have the gene of organization. So... I organized a potluck.
I decided to bring a dessert because I figured it would be easier. Decided it should probably be an Oreo Cheesecake. I asked Andy if I should do a baked or a refrigerator cheesecake... of course, it should be baked. So, I baked a cheesecake. The recipe said to do a water bath. Ugh... It was a crazy night when I was baking and I said "forget it" and just filled a pan of water and tossed it in the rack below. Now I'm WELL aware WHY you do the water bath. it's not for the steam, blah blah blah... I was tired, I was not feeling great, and this was my answer to the problem. The recipe also suggests leaving it in the oven for an hour after the oven is off. My oven doesn't just turn off.... it runs endlessly until it reaches a temp that it feels it's safe to turn off. So now you have all my excuses why this was the most cracked cheesecake in the history of cheesecakes. I don't wonder WHY this happened, I know why just wow... it was like the Grand Canyon of cheesecake cracks. The good news was this cake is covered in ganache. Yes, crack filler. NO ONE KNEW!!! It was just more deliciousness for everyone.
All in all the potluck was a success - we all walked away with bell aches from eating too much. The cheesecake was very good - even if overbaked, it was very good. Well worth the whining and extra work.

Oreo Cheesecake Recipe
12oz Oreos, completely crushed into a crumb
3 Tablespoon Butter, melted
24 oz Cream Cheese, very soft at room temp.
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 heaping cup Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 Vanilla Bean Pods (cut in half and the caviar extracted with a knife)
3 Large Eggs, at room temp.
5oz Oreos, crushed with some larger pieces
Chocolate Ganache
8 oz Dark Chocolate Finely Chopped
4 oz Heavy Cream
Whipped Cream
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2oz Oreos, crushed

Grease a 9-inch springform pan (affiliate link) set aside. Preheat oven to 325F. In a food processor, crush the Oreos till they become a fine crumb. Add melted butter, stirring until fully combined. Press into bottom and slightly up upsides of prepared pan. Place in fridge while you make the cheesecake.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat cream cheese for 3 minutes on medium to high speed. Add granulated sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add heavy cream, sour cream, vanilla extract, vanilla bean caviar mixing until fully combined. Add in eggs one at a time. You should have a creamy batter with no lumps. Gently fold in crushed Oreos. Pour into prepared pan. Place 9-inch springform pan (affiliate link) in a 10-inch cake pan- place cake pan in roasting pan (affiliate link) and fill roasting pan (affiliate link) with hot water halfway up the sides of the cake pan. This prevents ANY water from getting in the cheesecake and you don’t have to wrap everything with foil.
Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, the middle of the cheesecake should jiggle just a little bit. Turn oven off and let cool in oven for 1 hour then take out of roasting pan (affiliate link) and wrap with plastic wrap. Let sit in the fridge overnight.
Chocolate Ganache
In a medium bowl add chopped chocolate and set aside. In a small saucepan add cream and cook until just boiled. Pour directly over chocolate, let sit for 3 minutes. Then using a whisk, mix the chocolate and cream until a silky texture. Pour over chilled cheesecake then put back in the fridge to set.
Whipped Cream
When ready to serve Cheesecake, take your bowl and whisk attachment to the mixer chill it in the freezer for 5 minutes. When ready whisk heavy cream for 1 minute, add a splash of vanilla. Whisk until stiff peaks form. Using a pastry bag and any tip you like to pipe the whipped cream around the edges of the cake, I like to pipe mine pretty high. Then crumble crushed Oreos on top. To serve use a hot clean knife cut slices of cheesecake. Store in fridge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hey Honey - how about some honey?

Some people like barbeque sauce with their chicken nuggets, some like honey, me? I like peach honey. Huh? What is peach honey? Well... allow me to explain. Peach Honey is peach skins cooked until they have no color left, then taking that liquid and cooking it down with sugar until it's syrupy and delicious. It's basically candy, liquid candy you can add to things like chicken nuggets, or tea, or anything you might use regular honey for.
The best part of making it, is you are using a part of the peach that normally gets composted or tossed in the trash. Making something delicious from the scraps. I used a candy thermometer this time to make sure it didn't get too hot and too thick. Nothing worse than cooking the sugar too hot - then pouring it into a glass to make hard candy inside a glass jar... oops. Also the opposite... sugary peachy water also isn't great. Somewhere in the middle - better.
I like to have a glass of ice water nearby, so I can dip out a spoonful, then chill it in the water to see where my texture is at. Works pretty well AND you get to have little tastes of the honey.
What a blessing to have a tree the produces such amazing fruit that we can do lots of things with. I look forward to seeing this tree grow bigger and continue to provide fruit for our family. Maybe the apple trees and the pear tree will eventually start giving us fruit... before we grow old and gray...

Peach Honey

Peach peaches. Cover the peach peelings with water and bring them to a simmer. Simmer away for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
When all the flavor has simmered into the water. Turn off the heat and drain off the peach peelings. What you have left is a beautifully colored, peach flavored liquid
Pour into glass measuring container, as the next step is to measure how much peach liquid you have. It is a 2:1 retio liquid to sugar. If you have 2 cups of liquid, use one cup of sugar.
Pour your peach liquid and sugar into a large pot. Stir until the sugar is dissolved over a medium-high heat.
Heat until 215 degrees, cool then pour into jars.
I refrigerate mine - you could can it in a water bath, but I make small batches and just refrigerate it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Braindead Woman makes Milkless Mac and Cheese

Having three 1/2 days of meetings turned my brain to mush, which apparently made for bad mac and cheese. Well, it wasn't bad, it was dry. Why was it dry? Because I forgot to add the milk that I had sitting there waiting to dump into the pot. [facepalm]
We have a new BBQ place near our house called City BBQ. I say near but honestly, the round trip to pick up food is an hour, but it's so worth it. So entirely worth it. They cater to my work too so I get to eat it even more often. They have awesome mac and cheese. SO good. It makes me want to make good mac and cheese at home. Good mac and cheese has 2 cups of milk in it, I can only assume anyway.
Andy made pulled pork in the smoker and I decided we needed some good BBQ sides to go with it. I even got the fancy noodles that City BBQ uses. My fail was the milk. Dang milk. When I tasted the noodles right out of the pan - before baking - they were delicious. Probably should have stopped there and served it from the pot. Even though it was dry - most of it went - so it couldn't have been that bad. I'm excited to make it again to see how much differences that milk makes.

Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese
16 oz. box elbow macaroni
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded (reserve 1 cup for the top)
2 cups milk
4 eggs beaten
1/2 stick of butter
4 oz. cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare macaroni according to instructions on box.
Drain and return to pot.
Add 3 cups of cheese, milk, eggs, butter and cream cheese.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish.
Top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Deliciously easy pickles that Andy couldn't stop eating

Pickles - let's talk about them. They are delicious and awesome and all things cucumber. Andy is all about pickles, so are my kids. We also have an abundance of cucumbers - which makes making pickles easier... when you have the needed ingredients. Usually, we struggle growing cucumbers but not this year. This year we have loads of them and they are crisp! Canning pickles is great - but sometimes you lose the crispness. I have used the special crisp crystals to help but more often than not I forget to use them and then it's Russian Rullet - will you open a jar of crisps or mushy pickles - yuck.
I'm an avid follower of Smitten Kitchen - because she's relatable and awesome. She posted this easy recipe for pickles that her family loves. When I say easy... for real - easy. Slice the cucumber and stuff them in a jar, then add salt, fresh dill, and vinegar. That's it. That's all. let the salt pull the moisture from the cucumbers and you have pickles, in a few hours you have pickles. She says you can add things - but Andy didn't need things added... he was eating them like candy and so were our kids. Guess that's a sign of good things.
Guessing I'll be making more of those pickles - probably soon! Good thing we have dill and cucumbers.

Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles
8 larger or to 10 smaller firm, fresh Kirby (pickling) cucumbers
3 teaspoons kosher, coarse or pickling salt (if using a featherweight brand such as Diamond, use a little more)
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup white vinegar

Slice your cucumbers very thin — I used 1/8-inch slices here but usually go even thinner on a mandoline. Place them in a 1-liter or equivalent lidded jar. Add 3 teaspoons salt and dill, then pour in white vinegar. Close the jar and give it a few shakes to begin distributing the ingredients.
You’re going to find the liquid level in the jar worrisomely low as it is well below the pickle pile line, but don’t fret. Within an hour or two, the salt will draw the moisture from the cucumbers and wilt them, while the liquid becomes a perfectly balanced pickle brine.
Place jar in the refrigerator near the front, which should remind you to shake it once or twice more over the new few hours. (Or whenever you’re back at the fridge.) You can eat them as little as 1 to 2 hours later, but they become ideal at 6 to 8 hours. They’ll keep in the fridge, submerged in their brine, for 3 weeks, though never around here.
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