Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Quesadilla Crisps and A Sip and See

"These cheesy,salty quesadilla crisps are perfect party fare. Make ahead and reheat in 5 minutes and guaranteed to be a party pleaser!"


It isn't often enough that one gets to welcome a baby to this world. What a fun time we had enjoying little Aiden. Before we know it he'll be walking! But let's backtrack a moment. Over Labor Day one of my closest friends, who happens to be the grandma, asked if I would mind hosting a sip and see. I had never heard of a sip and see until a few years ago. An old Southern tradition, I'm told, to welcome the baby; a little sip, a little see and everyone is happy! It's not really a shower, though some did bring gifts. And we did have a photo backdrop courtesy of Zoe!


Zoe and I settled on a "welcome to the world" theme. The menu was fun to plan. Our event was held from 1-3 which didn't make it lunch, so that simplified things a bit. Of course I hardly took any photos and those I did were with my phone which has an awful camera! In any case I think you get the idea.




I kept it simple and purchased the falafel and BBQ buns. Folks were most fascinated by the buns with many thinking they were rolls, until we coaxed them to take a bite. Almost sorry we did because we had few left over. Those that were we placed a poached egg on top and had them for Sunday morning breakfast. Well worth it to seek out your favorite Chinese dim sum place to purchase these. I've been buying them since the kids were young and I still am happy to say that the same place is still in business! Here's to you King's Land!


My quesadilla crisps were also a winner-but they always are. Being able to find 4" street taco tortillas really makes these perfect for a party. I  cut them into two and serve them without salsa which keeps things easy. Truly they don't need salsa as these quesadillas become crispy and with their salty exterior it is almost like eating a crispy tortilla chip except  filled with cheese, green chile and onion. Honestly, I picked up the salt thing many moons ago and that is what gives these that extra special touch!


Perfect for a party these quesadillas really didn't take long to make. I grated all the cheese in the food processor, and then mixed in the onions and chilies. The tortillas came 12 to a package so that made 24 wedges. Yes, I can do math! I made 4 packages, so that worked out to 96 cheesy little quesadilla crisps! It took me an hour to do these but I don't think that's so bad considering how many it made. They are easily reheated as you need them and everyone including the kiddos love them! Perfect for a Halloween party, but really perfect for just about any occasion. You will hope for leftovers with these!

More Party Pleasers:







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Yield: About 48 wedges

Quesadilla Crisps

These cheesy, salty, quesadilla crisps are perfect party fare. Make ahead and reheat in 5 minutes and guaranteed to be a party pleaser!
prep time: 30 MINScook time: 15 MINStotal time: 45 mins

INGREDIENTS:


  • 2 packages of "street taco" sized tortillas
  • 4 c grated cheese (I used cheddar)
  • 2 4 oz cans diced green chilies, drained
  • 1/2 c diced onion
  • 4 T melted butter
  • Coarse Kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl combine cheese, chilies and onion. Mix well.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush a large sheet pan with melted butter. Sprinkle generously with 2 t coarse salt. Place 7-8 4" tortillas on sheet.
  3. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture on each tortilla. Spread over surface evenly.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and fold in half, pressing sides gently together. Remove from sheet pan and let cool if serving later. Repeat until all tortillas are used. Store in refrigerator if reheating later.
  5. If reheating, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350. Place quesadillas on sheet pan in a single layer. Heat for about 5 minutes. Slice in half, (I use a scissors) when removed from oven. Serve warm.
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Cornmeal Olive Oil Cake and Rosemary Pears

"This cornmeal olive oil cake is the perfect cake for cornbread lovers.It is also the perfect cake for fall. So simple and rustic and perfect with poached rosemary pears."


I'm not going to let another fall go by without giving you this recipe. I've baked it several times now and each time it has received accolades. Most recently Zoe's boyfriend informed me he really liked this simple cornmeal cake because it had no frosting and he is not a lover of frosted cakes.  Frankly I'm not sure how he will fit in this family of frosting lovers, but at least he knows one good cake when he sees one. This rustic cake made with olive oil and honey and lemon zest, for those who like lemon, is simply made in one bowl. It is a cake for lovers of cornbread and seriously who isn't a lover of cornbread? This luscious yellow cake stays moist for a long time and is simply love at first bite.

I served this yellow cake with rosemary pears. Rosemary pairs well with pears or apples or even persimmons and always screams fall to me. This simple honey rosemary infused syrup is the perfect poaching liquid.  You may also choose to roast your fruit and skip the rosemary if you prefer, but I do think the herb gives a subtle and luscious flavor. I'm always hopeful I'll have some leftover pears and lucky for me I did, as they were spooned heartily over my morning yogurt. Frankly it made my morning feel a bit more special.


 Life has been busy at our house lately. Zoe came home, we had our sip and see which I'll share next week with some popular cheese and green chile quesadilla crisps. We ventured to the botanic gardens and up to her boyfriend's father's brewery. In case you get caught on I 70 near Georgetown during ski season and need a break from traffic, make sure to stop by and have a beer at Guanella Pass Brewery. Steve has some good sips, with the saison being my favorite. And even if you don't get stuck, this is a fun destination from Denver. Being up in the mountains, even for just a short time always makes me feel like I'm on vacation!

Courtesy of Guanella Pass Brewery

This is a Fast Friday and I still have loads to do; however my guilty conscious overtook me and I knew I needed to get this post done. My recipes are piling up and I need to start getting them out to you. As soon as I finish this I'm off to pick up a painting we won at an online auction and I can't wait to see it. I've never bid on anything before so this was a first! Then it is a matter of trying to get the leaves out of my house and back into the yard where they belong. I hate leaf season because the dogs track them in and they are the teeny tiny leaves that are so hard to pick up. I'd have a much better time eating cake!


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A Few More to Devour:







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With just a little bit of cake, pears and whipped cream left over, I decided to make these cornmeal cake "parfait" jars. In my mind it looks a bit more festive than just a slice of cake on a plate. Plus it also packs well. Crumble up some cake, and build your layers with your favorite poached or roasted fruit and some whipped cream. Pour a bit of the fruit liquid over the top and seal the jar for later. These kept really well and it is always fun eating out of a jar. Those silver spoons are meant for cocktails-they are actually straws- and my father bought them before I was born when he was stationed in El Paso during the Korean War. They had belonged to my grandmother and now they are mine. I just love them and use them every chance I can get!









Yield: 1 9" pan

Cornmeal Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary Pears

This cornmeal olive oil cake is the perfect cake for cornbread lovers. It is also the perfect cake for fall. So simple and rustic and perfect with poached rosemary pears.
prep time: 35 MINScook time: 30 MINStotal time: 65 mins

INGREDIENTS:


  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 c yellow cornmeal
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1 T finely grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c honey
  • Chopped Pistachios for garnish or Glazed Pecans (optional)
  • Whipped Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream for Topping (optional)
Poached Pears
  • 3 semi-ripe pears, unpeeled and sliced or chopped into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour a 9"by 2" round cake pan.
  2. In a large mixing cup, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal.
  3. In a large bowl using an electric mixer or fork, (I used a fork) beat eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil and lemon zest, if using. Beat until frothy and add dry ingredients and beat until all is incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached. The sides will also be a bit golden.
  4. Let cake cool in pan, on a rack. Remove from pan and cool. Serve with fruit and ice cream or whipped cream.
Poached Pears
  1. In a large saucepan combine sugar, water, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sugar is dissolved over medium heat. Add rosemary and pears and simmer until pears are tender and syrup has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove rosemary before serving.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pommes Anna Muffin Cups AND My Folly

"These muffin cup Pommes Anna are really just crisp and golden potatoes on the outside, while creamy and tender within. Impress everyone with this easily made side dish and have them begging for more."


So summer is officially over and that means Manservant's building season is coming to an end. We just had our first snowfall and I'm happy to report that there are no leaks! Of course, just because building season is over, doesn't mean that he is finished building. He is 90% finished but somehow keeps finding more things  to do. Painting is still not complete which means my decorating isn't either, but that leaves me all winter to shop. So without further adieu....

First I had to choose my bear!


All opened up and ready for visitors!


Someone is more interested in his frisbee!


Come on in!


Next year I will put a desk where the white table is. Notice Manservant's windows! He made the stained glass in college! He put a bowl for washing hands and a wine glass rack. That goes without saying! And notice the cute little spoon on my push out window. I didn't show you up above, but there is more storage!


The South wall with opening window and my cute folding Costa Rican rocker that I found on Craig's List for $35!


I like to sit in it, but don't get to do it very often!


If I stand up and someone is taking my photo, it looks like this!


This is my view!


And when I serve dinner it looks like this!


I guess we will have to wait until next year to see the final results, but at least it is very close! And I love it! A lot! With lots of exclamation points!!!!!!!! 


And now it is on to these cute little Pommes Anna. Such a fancy name for someone named Anna who must have loved potatoes. I think the name should be changed to Pommes Abbe, because I believe I love potatoes more than Anna, but then I didn't know Anna, so maybe it's a tie.

This is an easy way to make Pommes Anna/Abbe. Much easier than making it in a giant cast iron skillet and then having to flip it over to brown the other side. Trust me on this because I have done it and now there is no going back. This recipe is your reason to conquer this dish, because now you don't have to flip a heavy hot cast iron skillet upside down. You only have to flip a muffin pan onto a cookie sheet and that is a WHOLE lot easier. 


Serving little individual rounds is like WAY better than serving someone a slice.This way no one fights about who got the larger slice...everyone gets the same sized serving. And trust me, these potatoes are worth fighting over. Golden and crisp on the outside and creamy and tender on the inside; I'm so glad there are some leftover for me!  (Thanks to Seasons and Suppers for turning me onto these!)

I make these beauties in deep dish muffin cups. I like them to fill me up. I find if they are made in a regular muffin pan they are much skinnier, so to speak. They become almost a really thick potato chip. Not there is anything wrong with that! However on a dinner plate I like something more substantial, so take your pick on what size you prefer.


The variations on these are incredible. Next time I will do these with duck fat. And maybe the time after that I will use truffle oil and truffle salt. And then there are those baked with Parmesan cheese. Oh My! Feel free to embellish these, as they are just waiting to be made up.


Perfect for fall, these potatoes loved by Anna and Abbe, make the house smell grand. But of course, they also taste pretty, pretty grand, too!

Some more spuds:

Hashbrown Spud Cup                          Truffle Scalloped Potatoes                 Cajun Potatoes

              

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Yield: 6 Servings

Pommes Anna in Muffin Cups

These muffin cup Pommes Anna are really just crisp and golden potatoes on the outside, while creamy and tender within. Impress everyone with this easily made side dish and have them begging for more.
prep time: 25 MINScook time: 60 MINStotal time: 85 mins

INGREDIENTS:


  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 t chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 c fresh grated parmesan (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt butter and brush 6 large muffin cups with a bit of it. Place one thyme sprig in each cup. Stir in chopped thyme and garlic to the rest of it. Cook over low heat until fragrant. (I often do this in the microwave but be careful it doesn't sputter out of control. Set aside.
  3. Using a mandoline, slice potatoes (no need to peel), into very thin, even rounds. (This is the reason to use a mandoline.) Place in a large bowl and toss with garlic herb butter, salt and pepper.
  4. Start placing potato slices into each cup. Remember the bottom of the cup will be the top. Try to do this in a circular fashion. If using parmesan sprinkle a little between each layer. When the cup is filled to the rim, press down lightly to compact. Drizzle any remaining butter on top.
  5. Cover muffin tin with foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife. This took me about 40 minutes, but this will vary base on the thickness of the potatoes and the size of your muffin cups. Remove foil.
  6. While these are baking place a piece of parchment on a baking sheet with a rim that is large enough to hold your potatoes when they are flipped. When potatoes are ready to be flipped, remove foil. Loose stacks with a butter knife and place parchment covered pan on top of your muffin pan. Now holding one hand on the bottom of the muffin pan and one on the top of the baking sheet, carefully flip these over.
  7. Increase oven temperature to 425. Place potatoes in oven and bake for about 10 minutes.Now using two spatulas, carefully flip them over again. (I use the back of one spatula to slide the potatoes on and the other as a flipper. Hope that makes sense.)
  8. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the bottom is crisp and golden. Remove from oven and flip thyme side up. Serve and enjoy!
  9. Note: I have had great success reheating these in a convection oven straight from the fridge. Bring them to room temperature. Place on parchment and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pie Crust Apple Strudel and Other Stuff

"This simple apple strudel is made with prepared pie crust, fat apple wedges and loaded with raisins, walnuts and cinnamon. Topped with whipped cream, this strudel is a keeper!"


It seems that September has passed me by and if I can offer up just one recipe it better be something with apples. Apples to fall is kind of like asparagus to spring-don't you think? I know many might argue that fall means pumpkin, but being Jewish, apples and honey are in my DNA. Our new year, with this year being 5778, is celebrated in September and traditionally apples and honey are eaten together to remind us to have a sweet year. 


I adore apples and my new favorite apple is the Kiku. These crisp and very sweet apples are what I want in my fridge. They aren't easy to find so when I do find them, I buy them! I love my apple cake and apple pie and apple sauce and just apples, but it is strudel that holds memories for me. No, I didn't have a grandmother that made strudel dough, but I did have a mother who long ago paid visits to the Stop and Shop in the Loop in Chicago and would drive the 50 miles home laden with glossy white baker's boxes, filled with long, golden, flaky strudels. She made sure no one cut in line, and there were always lines at Stop and Shop; once she even had an altercation with someone cutting in line. My mom exited with strudels but I can't say what the other woman exited with. Somehow I don't think it was strudels.

I like baking apple strudel and though I don't do it often, in the past I've always used filo dough. Yes filo dough gives a flaky crust and though it really isn't hard to work with, it does take a bit of time when buttering all the layers. The other problem I have, at least when making strudel, is that unless the pastry is served right away, the bottom crust gets soggy. I've tried to remedy this by using breadcrumbs and lots of buttered layers, but still I don't find the strudel keeps very well, unless one want to reheat every slice.


Enter the pie crust. I loved this version. I was able to keep the strudel for over 4 days without it getting soggy. I didn't cover it, but instead left it on the counter. The crust was able to keep its crispness and it didn't get soggy. Now keep in mind I do live in Colorado where the humidity is low, but this did work for me. Next time you are thinking pie, think strudel. With pie crust. This was a breeze with prepared pie crust and the recipe also calls for frozen apples. To tell the truth I've never looked for frozen apple slices in the grocery, so I did freeze my own. Just a few hours in the freezer and they were perfect. I cut them thick, so when eating the strudel I tasted apples, which was very good indeed.

Side note-I prepared this Francois Payard apple honey tart for Rosh Hashanah. The recipe made two. Frankly, it looked great but tasted disappointing. I amped up the spices and flavors on the second one, but still it tasted MEH! And it took forever to make. Skip this if you see it and make pie instead. Or just make this strudel. Everyone will be impressed! Below is the strudel recipe and if you want to read about the flood and the rest of my September, keep reading! It was a crazy month.


Yield: 16 Servings

Pie Crust Apple Strudel

This simple apple strudel is made with prepared pie crust, fat apple wedges and loaded with raisins, walnuts and cinnamon. Topped with whipped cream, this strudel is a keeper!
prep time: 45 MINScook time: 45 MINStotal time: 90 mins

INGREDIENTS:


  • 2 pie crusts, thawed (I like Trader Joe's, but the Pillsbury crust works great also!)
  • 5-6 c frozen apples, peeled and cored) sliced thick and uniform (Freezing produces a starchy apple that holds up great when baked.)
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • Sugar for dusting
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting
  • Whipped Cream for serving

INSTRUCTIONS


  1. Begin by freezing your apples, if you didn't find any in your frozen foods section. I froze my own in a single layer on a sheet pan for about 2 hours in the freezer. They should be thick. I got about 6-7 apple slices from each half.
  2. After apples are frozen, toss them with the sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, raisins and walnuts. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400. Take each pie crust and roll into a rectangle about 12 x 14. Place half of apple filling on the long side closest to you, leaving a two inch border. Roll up gently from the long side. (I only was able to roll this 2-3x. If you make a hole, just pinch it back together.) Do the same with the second pie crust. Place on an insulated baking sheet topped with parchment paper. If you do not have an insulated sheet, you can stack two pans together. I was able to bake both on the same sheet.
  4. Press roll together gently, flattening ever so slightly. Tuck ends in and brush well with a beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon if desired. Make slashes on the top of the strudel where you want your slices to be.
  5. Bake until golden brown for 20 minutes THEN turn oven temperature down to 375 and bake another 15-30 minutes or until filling is bubbling out of slits.Remove from oven. If there is juice on the baking sheet, pour it into the sink.Let cool to room temperature before serving. Serve with whipped cream.
  6. I stored this at room temperature for 4 days uncovered and it stayed crisp!
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Now to the rest of September. I left on short notice to go help out my in laws in Texas. Dickinson, Texas is the community that was just featured in the Wall Street Journal. Manservant's home town. Sad to say but his childhood home is probably nonexistent. The home where his parents have lived for 18 years, which my father in law built is OK, if you consider a lacking first floor OK. As we drove in towards the bayou upon which they live, it almost didn't look like a flood had taken place. Well, until you noticed the garbage. Heaps of garbage, which became mountains of garbage, the closer you got to their home. And these heaps of garbage contained toys and clothes and photos, along with drywall, carpet, insulation and mud. To be honest it felt sacrilegious  to be photographing these things; because these things were people's memories.



I didn't get an opportunity to venture into Dickinson proper, but everyone I met at the grocery and the donut shop had a story. And each story included a flood. A flood that left a few broken trees but mainly white caked dirt that was everywhere. White caked dirt that will turn into mud with the next big thunderstorm.


It was hard. It was hard because in the event of saving one's home one had to throw things away fast to be able to rip into the drywall to prevent black mold from starting to grow.


 Luckily my sister in law who lives in Dallas was able to bring fans with her, which helped save my in law's place. Those and about 10 people working three full days to empty it of life's clutter. Things were tossed so fast that it was just this week that my father in law, looking through the mountain of refuse, realized his briefcase was in the pile. He found his briefcase filled with several hundred dollars of American Express checks. I think he hadn't looked in that briefcase in years, but it was sentimental. Imagine looking out at your belongings for days because Dickinson has no idea when this stuff will be picked up. I don't even want to tell you the kinds of things that live in those mountains of trash.

We cleaned nonstop for 5 1/2 days and there is  mucho more work ahead. This is doubly tough because my MIL suffers from dementia. My FIL has an awesome caretaker for her, but hestill has her needs to attend to also. Not sure where this is going but some big decisions need to be made. My brother in law's house will probably be totaled by the insurance company. It takes patience waiting for the verdict-so to speak. In the meantime he is living with his wife and a dog they had just adopted a few weeks before the flood, in a small camper at the end of their street. They go to work each day and it will probably be at least a year for them to rebuild. My guess is they will do a lot of the work themselves, because everyone in the building trade is swamped-no pun intended. And that folks is the flood update.  TBC...

September did have some good things. We came home and managed to snag an invite to the premiere of the new Broadway musical, Frozen. It started here in Denver and now heads to Broadway. It's not Lion King, but it was a lot of fun. Then it was time to celebrate the new year and right after we were invited up to Aspen. That's a hard invite to turn down-so we didn't! During college, many moons ago, we were privileged to have friends who allowed us to use their gorgeous home while we were on break. We fell in love with Aspen and continued to take our kids up there for many years. Then life caught up with us and it has been at least 16 years since we've been there. The good news is that it hasn't changed. It still retains the charm and beauty that it did way back when. I am so happy!
Fall was splendid and glorious and in full swing at the Maroon Bells. The air had a crisp, clean chill, as did the wine. What a crazy September filled with ups and downs.






Then it was back for Yom Kippur and Manservant's birthday. We didn't do anything special, but it was special enough to have him home. Can't remember the last time he was standing in front of me on his birthday! I made him a steak and a small chocolate cake and then he was 61! How does this happen? And now it's October. Zoe comes home for a week as we are having a sip and see for her best friend and my best friend, to welcome their new baby and grand baby. And it just doesn't stop. But that's life, is it not? Beats the alternative!

A Few More Fall Foods:

            Cranberry and Apple Salad                                                       Apple Sharlotka
          

            Maple Pudding Chomeur                                               Not My Mama's Waldorf Salad
                                                                               
       
                


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