Monday, 26 August 2013

Garlic Fingers

To finish off the pizza family. . .

First thing's first you will need a recipe for Pizza dough and Garlic Butter

Garlic Fingers

Ingredients:

Pizza dough recipe
1 Recipe Garlic Butter
About 1 1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella
1 Tablespoon Parsley

Instructions:

Roll out the pizza dough to roughly 1/4-1/2 inch thick and melt the garlic butter. Brush the garlic butter over the entire surface of the pizza dough. Evenly spread the mozzarella over the garlic butter. Sprinkle parsley over the top of the cheese and bake in a Preheated oven at 400°F for about 7-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is a nice toasted brown color.

Let the finished garlic fingers sit on the hot pan for about 5 minutes before you slice it, the cheese will firm back up just enough that it is easier to eat, and easier to cut.

Enjoy!

Home Made DQ Style Dilly Bar (With Chocolate Ganash Recipe)

I had a brief moment were I think I must have gone insane because I decided to get really ambitious, in August, during the most humid heat wave I can remember. During this heat wave madness I decided that for my lovely fiance's birthday party I would make something special.

So I made this;


A home made Dairy Queen style dilly bar. I didn't name this so laugh all you want. But it was fantastic. I made a french vanilla bean ice cream and used a silicone muffin tray to shape the ice cream into round disks. Then I let the ice cream firm up in the freezer for about 3 hours. While the ice cream disks were setting I made a creamy chocolate ganach. My ice cream treats didn't have the same crunchy chocolate shell as Dairy Queen, but I am pretty proud of them.  

So to make Chocolate Ganash things couldn't be simpler.

Chocolate Ganash

Ingredients:

9 Ounces of milk chocolate
2-3 Ounces of dark chocolate
1 Cup whipping cream

Instructions:

Place the milk and dark chocolate in a large bowl and set a stiff wire whisk nearby. In a small sauce pan bring the whipping cream to just a boil. Pour the whipping cream over the chocolate and whisk quickly until the chocolate has melted and the ganash looks even and doesn't have any lumps.

And that is Chocolate Ganash! Use it in desserts and impress your friends with your French awesomeness.

Next, ideally while the ice cream is setting in the molds in the freezer, let the ganash cool to about room temperature. Or chill it in the fridge until about 30 minutes before dipping the ice cream.

Prepare a pan or tray that will fit in the freezer and line it with parchment paper.

Once the ganash is ready and the ice cream is set, pop the ice cream out of the molds and stick a candy stick in the middle. Carefully and quickly dip and coat the ice cream pops with the chocolate ganash and place the coated ice cream pops on the parchment lined tray. Work quickly or work in 20 minute intervals because the ice cream will melt.  Place the finished ice cream pops in the freezer for about another hour to let them firm up again. After this I wrapped All mine in Plastic wrap and tied them with a ribbon. Yay ribbon.

Keep frozen and enjoy on a hot summer day and wow your friends!

Enjoy!

Rustic Garlic Butter

Rustic Garlic Butter

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup butter
1 Teaspoon rosemary
1 Teaspoon basil
1 Teaspoon parsley
2-3 Cloves garlic, smashed, or finely minced or extra finely grated

OR

1/2 Cup butter
1 Tablespoon pizza spice
2-3 Cloves garlic, smashed, finely minced or extra finely grated

Instructions:

Leave the butter at room temperature for at least an hour, or until it is soft and easy to mix. Add the rosemary, basil, and parsley and stir once or twice, just to get the process started. Add the garlic mince or paste, and mix really well. Once everything looks evenly mixed the butter is ready to serve. Leaving the butter to rest for an hour before serving also helps the flavors mix. Once prepared the butter can be stored in the fridge for about two weeks.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Garlic butter should pretty much be a staple recipe for most home cooks. You can whip it up and easily prepare a home made garlic bread, or even just serve the prepared butter with bread or rolls at the table. I also sometimes use left over garlic butter to season chicken before I cook it, or to saute vegetables. It's easy and useful to have around. Oh and since we are still in lobster season, this is excellent to melt down and dip fresh steamed lobster into.

Here is a secret, sometimes when I am feeling a bit more lazy I just use a tablespoon of my pizza spice blend as the seasoning per 1/2 cup of butter, then the fresh garlic cloves. The flavor is a little different, in that it is a bit more spicy. 

I also like to whip this recipe up with my mortar and pestle, that way I know all the herbs are well ground in, and their oils have been released to create a brighter flavor, and it also ensures the  garlic is finely incorporated as well. Only use a mortar and pestle if you have one that is stone or ceramic, something non-porous. If you don't have one at all, well a small bowl and sturdy fork will also get the job done.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Boozey Blueberry Jello Shots

Boozey Blueberry Jello Shots

Ingredients:

About 30 disposable shot glasses
About 30 fresh large blueberries
1 Package berry blue jello
1 Cup boiling water
1 Cup ice cold rum (if you are using less rum, top up to one cup with ice cold water)
2 Ounces rum
1 Tablespoon sugar

Instructions:

The night before whisk the sugar into the 2 ounces of rum to dissolve. Add the blueberries and top up with enough water to cover all the berries. Let them soak in the fridge over night.

On a large tray set out all of the shot glasses, and before starting drain the soaking blueberries and place one or two berries in the bottom of each shot glass.

Boil a cup of water and pour the jello package into a large bowl with a lip for pouring. Add the boiling water to the large bowl and whisk to dissolve completely. Add the ice cold rum to the jello and stir to mix well.

Pour the Jello mix into each shot glass, trying to be even about how much each gets. Once done place the tray in the fridge for about 5 hours until the jello sets.

Keep chilled in fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Made these for a birthday party, they were excellent! However I like to make my jello shots as strong as possible to surprise people, you may not want to have exceptionally strong hello shots so there is a trick to this, to lower the alcohol levels in them you can do a few of the following things differently.

First I gave my fresh blueberries a nice bath in rum and sugar for about 36 hours, because I love boozey fruit in summer. This is a step that can be skipped if you want.

Second I made the jello half water and half rum, so I made a standard one package of blue berry flavored jello, by boiling one cup of water and adding one cup of ice cold rum while following the other jello instructions. You can easily lower the alcohol levels by not using a full cup. Anything between 1/2 and 1 full cup of rum is a good amount for yummy jello shots.

So for most alcohol, soak the blueberries for up to 2 days in sugar and rum, and use a full 1:1 ratio of water to rum in recipe.

For less alcohol, use fresh blueberries and less than one cup of ice cold rum topped up with water or a fruit juice (not kiwi or pineapple) to make the one cup ice cold liquid to start the setting process.

Ps. You can switch up the flavors and use any fresh berry with it's matching or a complimenting berry flavor. Except for kiwi and pineapple! These two fruits have different enzymes in them which react with the gelatin in jello, meaning if you add a fruit like kiwi or pineapple, the jello wont ever ever set and you have created a hot science mess.

Also if you use a tooth pick a jab a hole in each of the berries, more fresh berry flavor gets into the rum. More berry is better berry.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Rustic Bolognese Italian Pasta Sauce

Rustic Italian Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

2 Can diced tomatoes
1 Can plain tomato sauce
1 Small can of tomato paste
1 Large white onion, finely diced
3-4 Cloves garlic finely minced
1 Green pepper
1 Red pepper
 2 Teaspoons black pepper or more
2 Teaspoons salt or more
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons basil
1-2 Tablespoons oregano
1 Teaspoon thyme
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1-2 Pounds ground beef


Plus if you want. . .

3 Stalks celery
1-2 Carrots
4-6 white/button mushrooms
1-2 cups fresh spinach
OR 1/2 package frozen spinach
extra peppers
1/4 pound ground pork or sausage
2 Whole dried bay leaves (remove before serving, bay leaves stay hard and sharp and just aren't very nice to eat)

Instructions:

First get all the vegetables ready to go. First using the food processor with a blade attachment, pulse the onion and garlic until evenly minced. Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a really large stock pot and heat to medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. While the onions and garlic are cooking, pulse the red and green pepper together and set aside in a medium bowl for later. If you are adding celery or carrots, add them to the bowl with the peppers. If you are adding spinach, broccoli, or mushrooms pulse them through the food processor all together and set aside until later.

By now the onions should have been cooking for about 10 minutes and should be a nice light golden brown color and are starting to release some nice smells. Season the pot with salt and pepper and add the ground beef, and if you are also adding pork or sausage add that as well.

Scramble cook everything together until the meat is no longer meat and a meat thermometer says it's safe. Add the bowl of minced peppers to the pot and scramble cook for about another 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes add any of the remaining vegetables you want, and then add the cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir to mix evenly.

Allow to come to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Season again with salt and pepper and add the basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, as well as the bay leaves if you are using them. Keep heat low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Taste the sauce and adjust as needed to taste.

Serve with pasta, or make a lasagna, or mix the sauce with about 4 cups cooked macaroni noodles, place in a casserole dish and top with shredded cheese and bake until hot and bubbly for a super easy and yummy casserole.

Enjoy!!

Notes:

Also known as my one pot to cure everything! It is loaded with meat, and vegetables and is excellent as a sauce with hearty rotini noodles, or used to make lasagna, or a yummy tomato beef casserole. I call it my one pot to cure everything because of several reasons, first because I find that it works best when you make a giant pot of it and divide it up into a few portions to freeze and use in some different ways (curing hunger and "whats for dinner??" a couple times), second because I usually do end up putting any vegetable I have in the fridge, including but not limited to carrots, spinach, celery, mushrooms, extra peppers in the fridge, broccoli, and lentils (all the goodness!). Finally it is my one pot to cure everything because I like to believe that it has so much goodness in it from all the veg and love cooked into it that it can cure anything! Not really, but it is pretty healthy and up there with Nana's soup for making a cold winter night feel better.

I am going to list all the ingredients and the approximate amounts of each that I use but they are only a guideline. This is the kind of sauce that needs to be tasted and adjusted as you go to ensure the flavors are well blended and taste pleasing. So keep in mind if it too strong a flavor try adding extra basil or a bit of brown sugar to balance it, if the sauce is a little bland extra oregano, pepper, salt, and thyme can help brighten it up. I also incorporate all the vegetables by using a food processor with a blade to finely mince everything, so I will be including a food processor in my instructions, but if you don't have a food processor a really fine mince will also get the same results, or a standard chopped veg consistency will give a thicker chunkier sauce. The choice is up to you, I just happen to prefer a slightly smoother sauce.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bandera Pizza Bread

Bandera Pizza Bread




Ingredients:

1/2 recipe Pizza Dough
Pizza Spice
1/2 Cup shredded Mozzarella
3-4 Tablespoons Italian Dressing
3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Prepare the pizza dough and the pizza spice and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a small pizza pan with parchment paper.

Roll out the pizza dough into a circle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread the Italian dressing over the top. Sprinkle a even layer of pizza spice over the Italian dressing. Spread the cheeses over the top and transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for between 7-14 minutes, checking after 7 and 10 minutes. The bandera pizza bread is ready when the cheese is bubbly and brown, and the bottom is a golden toasted color. Allow the pizza bread to sit for 5 minutes before cutting, and cut into small wedges.

Goes great as a side with some Italian dishes. . .

In case you wondered, this is sometimes served with Santa Fe Ranch Dip, or Spicy Ranch Dip.

Enjoy!

Notes:

So I may have mentioned before that I pretty much die for any kind of potato, especially fried. But there is another food which I love much more than I should, and I have a large behind to show for it! That other food is garlic bread and garlic fingers, and other forms of garlic and butter and cheese on bread. But sometimes I just have to admit it to myself that while I love garlic fingers with lots of fresh garlic butter and cheese, I sometimes want something just slightly less heavy, and maybe a little less likely to have the consequence of terrible garlic breath for days. When the latter is what I am after I make Bandera pizza bread. Its pretty easy to make, and tastes awesome. Plus most people don't have any idea what it is and are just impressed to have something new and different. I count on having a few new and different things when I have people over, it tends to leave them feeling more impressed with the meal. But I digress. . . Bandera pizza bread! Awesome to eat and easy to make.


PS October 2013: Sometimes I also make a hybrid Garlic-Bandera Pizza Bread where I put a thin layer of melted Rustic Garlic Butter on the pizza dough before the Italian Dressing and pizza spice. Everything could always use more butter. . . .

PS April 2014

Pizza Spice

Ingredients:

1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Pepper
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
3 Teaspoons dried rosemary
1 Teaspoon thyme
2 Teaspoons basil leaves
1 Teaspoon oregano leaves
1 Teaspoon parsley leaves
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon onion powder
1/4 Teaspoon paprika (optional, this makes it a bit more spicy)

Measure and mix everything together. Enjoy. 

Garlic Twist Bread

This is another recipe adapted with love from my time working at a pizza house! It is a cute twist on a bread stick and people love it! It has always been a big crowd pleaser at my house when I make it and people love to hear how easy they are to make because they look great when they are cooked.

Now for this recipe we will need a few other recipes;

Pizza dough
and
Pizza Spice

Also, I enjoy eating the twists as they are when they come out of the oven, but sometimes people need a dip. I suggest a spicy ranch dip.

I also suggest that the first time you try this you do so without adding the cheese, because trying to twist the bread around the cheese is a whole extra level of complicated. Try it first without cheese, see how it goes, and if it all goes well, try adding cheese the next time.

Garlic Twist Bread

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough
Pizza Spice
1/2 Cup melted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated

Optional:
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese shredded
1/4 Cup Mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll your dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4-1/8 inch thickness and in a rectangle shape. Mix the garlic into the melted butter and brush the garlic butter over the entire surface of the pizza dough. Sprinkle the pizza spice evenly over top of the garlic butter.

If you are going to try adding cheese, sprinkle the cheese over the entire top in an even layer now. You do not want the cheese too thick however, just a thin covering.

Next using a sharp knife, slice the dough into 2 inch sections along the short side of the rectangle. See the image below, the red dotted lines are where you should be cutting, roughly.



Once the dough has been sliced, it is time to add the twist! Starting at the top of a dough strip, begin to curl and turn the dough over itself until you have the entire strip twisted like a loose spring or a barrel curl like you would have in your hair. Carefully transfer the curled dough twist to the prepared parchment paper. Repeat process with all the dough strips. Once all the dough is twisted, bake in the prepared oven for between 7-10 minutes, or until they are a nice toasted golden brown color. 

I told you adding the cheese would be tricky, and it is ok is some cheese spills out of the sides while they are cooking. 

Enjoy!!

Pizza Spice

Pizza Spice




Ingredients:

1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Pepper
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
3 Teaspoons dried rosemary
1 Teaspoon thyme
2 Teaspoons basil leaves
1 Teaspoon oregano leaves
1 Teaspoon parsley leaves
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon onion powder
1/4 Teaspoon paprika (optional, this makes it a bit more spicy)

Instructions:

Measure all the ingredients into a small bowl, mix to combine. Store in an air tight container and shake over top of a pizza or bread sticks for an extra kick.

Or in butter with garlic, or on toast with butter, or in bread crumbs to crumb coat chicken, fish or pork, the ways to use this one are truly endless. Plus while I can't speak for everyone this spice blend has been a hit with everyone I've tried it on.

Enjoy!

Notes:

I had a summer job for two years at a pizza restaurant in my hometown. They never should have left me alone with the recipe books and all the ingredients, because I pretty much took all their secrets and ran with them! But I have only used them for good and in my own home, and it's been a few years and the recipes I had taken have evolved over the years so I don't feel so bad sharing them now.

This Pizza spice can be used to just add a little extra kick to a pretty plain pizza or I have some other ways that I use it, but those are recipes for another day. It is also good on home made garlic bread, garlic fingers, bread sticks, etc.  One of my favorite ways to use it is when I was lazy and didn't make my own pizza sauce and the store bough stuff tastes too bland, just sprinkle some of this over the sauce, add the rest of the toppings and BAM things are really kicked up a notch.

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

Olive oil (to grease dough ball)
1/2-3/4 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoon honey or sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2-3 or more cups flour, flour is a tricky thing you see

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, add the warm water and the honey or sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently stir once. Allow the yeast to activate for between 10 and 15 minutes, if after this time there is no activity in the bowl and the yeast hasn't frothed then throw it out and try again. We really need the yeast to be active and reproducing before we move on. In a small bowl combine 1 cup of the flour and the salt and stir to mix. Add the flour and salt to the water and yeast and stir, continue to slowly add flour until a lose sticky dough ball has formed. Flour a kneading surface well and turn the sticky dough out onto it. Dust the sticky dough well with flour, as well as your hands, and scrape out all the dough from the bowl that you can.

Slowly start to knead the dough by gently pulling and stretching the dough towards you and turning it back onto itself and pressing down with the heel of your hand, and then turning the dough in a clockwise manner about 1/4 of a turn and start stretching and pulling again. Repeat the kneading process, adding more flour as needed until the dough is firm, not sticky, and is elastic. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Some things just can not be rushed.

Once the dough is smooth and ready to go, use the olive oil to grease the outside of the dough ball on all sides and return it to the medium mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean and  slightly damp tea towel and let it rise for about 20 minutes. The olive oil works to help keep the outside of the dough elastic so it can stretch smoothly as it rises without drying out. Same thing for the damp tea towel. If a dough gets too dry she wont rise.

After 20-25 minutes the pizza dough is ready to go! I like to roll my dough out and bake it at 350°F for about 5 minutes before I add the toppings, I find the crust gets a better texture that way. Then I bake it for roughly another 10 minutes after adding the toppings still at 350°F. Check the bottom of the crust to see if it is cooked, it should have a nice golden brown color to it and the cheese should be bubbly.

Enjoy!!

Notes:

When I was but a wee youngster growing up in Nova Scotia, I went to what I now know to be probably the best schools on the east coast of Canada. They were a big part of the community and had so many extra curricular and enrichment programs that no one was ever bored or felt like there was nothing for them, and we were able to learn a lot of useful skills. We had construction where we learned how houses are built, by building exact scale models of houses, from the concrete foundation up. Followed by a fun time smashing our hard work to bits with a sledge hammer! In addition we had classes in mechanics, shop class, graphic design, typing, family care, and of course home economics! Which had both a sewing component and a cooking component, so we were able to learn basic clothing repairs and alterations, proper clothing care, and in the kitchen side of things we learned about reading ingredients, and calorie counts, and assessing the nutritional value of what we are eating and how to make our own meals.

My cooking teacher in school was a funny lady from Europe who did not really think us Canadian kids would ever have the exquisite palate she was accustomed to being around in Europe. So she taught us the very basics and the one thing she was determined to have everyone in school be able to make was the humble pizza dough. She was so determined that we learn this one recipe off by heart that it was the only recipe to be repeated every single year you took the class.

It has been, dear goodness, almost eleven years since I first learned that pizza dough is awesome and easy to make from scratch. Plus the texture of the dough is so much better with this recipe than it would be if you used a pre-mixed dough starter, or even worse the processed and packaged dough. That stuff is way too processed for my liking, and yes it might take closer to a half hour to make the dough, but the time is worth it. Plus it is a really versatile base for a meal and there are lots of options for what you can do with it. Pizza dough doesn't have to end it's life as just a pizza!

So this is a recipe that I use and it makes enough for one good sized pizza, but you can adjust pretty easily, just start with a bit more water if you need extra dough, and add more flour at the end. If you have made too much dough you can save it for up to two days in the fridge but you need to put it in a ziplock bag, or a container with a tight seal. You also need to be careful because the dough may continue to expand in the fridge for a short time, and you don't want it to bust free of its container.

One last tip, warm water is water that is not boiling and pretty close to being at your body temperature. The easiest way to check the water temp is the same way you test a bottle for a baby, the water temperature should be so close to your body temperature that when you touch it, you can't really tell if you are touching anything at all. Sounds weird, but try it out.

Ps. I like a slow cooked pizza but if you crank the oven to 400°F the pizza should be done in only 15 minutes or less.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Thai Peanut Sauce

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sweet chili garlic sauce*
1 Clove garlic, minced
2-4 Tablespoons water

Instructions:

In a medium bowl add the peanut butter, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and minced garlic. use a fork and stir well until everything has an even consistency, add 1-2 Tablespoons of water and mix again until you get a sauce that is still fairly thick, like a really rich BBQ sauce. Once mixed and at the right consistency the sauce is ready to use, or it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Heat wave finally over! I can use the oven again and try out some new recipes. First on the to do list, homemade Thai pizza, with peanut sauce, peppers, carrots, green onion, sesame seeds and some fresh roasted and shredded chicken breast. It was delightful, and definitely a supper I will make again.

Thai peanut sauce can also be used as a saute sauce, a dressing on a salad, pizza sauce, or a condiment for noodles. Useful recipe and really simple, plus this recipe has ingredients which are already just kicking around my kitchen anyways. Always a bonus when that happens and you don't always have to go to the store to get a specialty ingredient.

So this is my recipe for homemade Thai peanut sauce, I chose to use natural peanut butter with little to no added sugar, and since I still do not like nuts very much I used smooth peanut butter, but most people prefer the crunchy kind for this recipe. I also used a store bought Thai chili garlic sauce as the spicy kick, however if you don't happen to have any on hand you can easily substitute one Teaspoon of crushed chili flakes, an extra clove of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of honey*.