Thursday, February 28, 2013

Grasshopper Pie

This pie is perfect for St. Patrick's Day, the holidays or during those times when only pie will do. I'm curious - are you a cake or pie type of person? My husband is strictly pie. He'll eat cake but only if it's drowning in ice cream or even better when it's in an ice cream cake.

I'm not so picky. For me cake satisfies that nostalgic 'I want to relive my fifth birthday' craving while pie is more immediately gratifying and sinful - just a good 'ole down and dirty sugar fix. And the older I get the more types of pie I like which is GREAT news for my figure as I begin the downward spiral called the mid thirties. Take that, metabolism!

But of all the pies out there, this may be the most lethal kind. It is so light and fluffy and cool, disappearing like a snowflake on the tongue, that you might trick yourself into thinking it's just a bunch of calorie-free air. Well just go on and think that sweetheart. I for one won't spoil the fantasy.

By the way I had my reservations about using marshmallow fluff. I worried that it would make the pie taste 'fake' or sickly sweet. I've never been happier to be wrong. I also have to add that this was a 'cover my bases' pie I made for Christmas - an extra dessert just in case we blew through the rest. I even used one of those pre-made graham crusts so my expectations were fairly low. And OH the irony - it was the favorite dessert of the night even over the fancy desserts I actually slaved over.

Grasshopper Pie
This pie is so easy you could make it in your sleep. The other great thing about this pie is you can play artist when adding the green food coloring. Add a little as I did for that classic mint green or go whole hog and make it wake-me-up-before-you-go-go-green.

1 chocolate graham crust (store bought is fine)
1 jar 'jet puffed' marshmallow creme (7 oz)
1/4 cup creme de cacao blanc
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
few drops green food coloring, to color preference
silver dragees or colored sprinkles for decorating, optional

In a medium/large bowl, mix together the marshmallow creme, creme de cacao, and mint extract. Set aside while you whip the heavy cream in a standing mixer or in another bowl with a hand held mixer until the cream holds soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the marshmallow mixture then add a couple drops of food coloring and gently stir to mix. Pour into the prepared pie crust and refrigerate at least 4 hours until firm. Decorate with dragees or sprinkles if desired before serving.

You can also freeze the pie if you like more of a frozen texture or for just a few minutes if it needs firming up before slicing but I personally like it straight from the fridge with that soft as air texture that the fridge gives it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Have some steak, Baby. Smothered in The Pioneer Woman's Creamy Onion & Blue Cheese Sauce.

I'm on the Pioneer Woman diet. At the rate I've been cooking her recipes, I'll be ready for slaughter by Mother's Day. I'm gonna make a damn fine marbled ham.

I'll post all of the recipes soon but this onion blue cheese sauce begged to go first. Not gonna lie - you need to love you some blue cheese. Also not gonna lie - your whole household better love blue cheese because its scent will linger like a ghost until the next morning. This was no problem for me though - I could bathe in the stuff. Kidding.

The only changes I made were to use half and half instead of heavy cream which I'm SURE would be even richer and more ridiculous, to go a little lighter on the Worchestershire sauce and to boil it for several minutes to thicken it in light of not having used the heavy cream.

But I'll post it just as she makes it because I personally don't want to mess with a tall redhead nicknamed The Pioneer Woman.

Pioneer Woman's Creamy Onion Blue Cheese Sauce
* From Ree Drummond via Food Network

4 rib eye steaks (about 5 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick softened butter
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 cup heavy cream 
3 to 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
Preheat the grill to a high heat or light your outdoor grill.

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and smear both sides of the steaks with 1/2 stick of the butter.

Grill the steaks until medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side, and then remove from the heat and keep warm. (You can also saute them in a skillet over medium-high heat if you prefer.)

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and then saute the onions until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Pour in the cream, a dash of salt and pepper and the Worcestershire sauce. Let it bubble up, then add the blue cheese and stir together to melt, adding more pepper or Worcestershire sauce as you wish.

Place the steaks on plates and spoon the sauce over the top.

Take a bite. And the world at long last will make sense.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Maple Cinnamon Granola via #CooksNetwork


I've been invited by the lovely folks at Williams Sonoma's Cooks Network to share a favorite February recipe with my readers and this granola is it! For me granola has to have texture, variety, and a touch of cinnamon without being too sweet. Many granola recipes use so much oil and/or sugar that it defies the 'health' factor completely. Here the light sweetness comes from real maple syrup infused with fresh blueberries... Yum.

This granola is right up there with my favorites of all time - Urth Caffe's in LA and Jo's in Austin. What's your favorite granola?

Maple Cinnamon Granola
* Makes a large amount but will last for a month in a tightly sealed container and/or can be frozen.

4 cups old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons flax seeds
4 teaspoons wheat germ
1 1/12 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4-1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup blueberry maple syrup (gently heat 1 cup of real maple syrup with 1/2 cup of blueberries in a small pan over a low flame on the stove for 12 minutes or until blueberries have begun to burst and turn the syrup a blue tint)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 300. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Make sure there are no big clumps of coconut.

Spread out onto two large oiled baking sheets. Bake the granola - one sheet at a time (trust me on this - otherwise one will burn) on the middle rack turning the granola every ten minutes until granola is just very lightly toasted - about 30 minutes total. You don't want it to get too golden brown or the blueberries will become like rocks once it cools.

Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.

* This post is a collaboration with Williams-Sonoma, but all words and opinions are my own.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rich & Chewy Butterscotch Brownies with Smooth Criminal Caramel Icing

When I first tasted these years ago at Rebecca Rather's former eatery - Rather Sweet - I thanked the dear Lord her restaurant was over an hour and a half from my house. Only distance could keep me from buying and eating these damn bars by the truckload.

They're so rich that after your first bite you're like 'holy sh*t - this is too much. No self respecting person would ever finish one of these.' Only the weird thing is the brownie has already disappeared. Into your stomach.

The problem was I bought her cookbook. And there the little vixens were again staring at me from a glossy photo all cute and wrapped up in wax paper.

It took me years to pull the trigger and make them for two reasons. One - I was afraid they wouldn't live up to my memory of them and two - I was afraid that if they did I'd be in BIG trouble.

They lived up.

The bad news of course is what this means for my backside. And my frontside. All my sides really.

But who cares! It's almost Valentine's Day.

Little sidebar real quick... For years I insisted on cooking on Valentine's Day (in hindsight I believe I was possessed.) Luckily the demon has left me and I now insist on going out to eat. Dirty dishes = UNSEXY TIME. As does making something your husband doesn't even like like filets with artichoke gruyere fondue like last year (he thinks gruyere smells like something I can't repeat on a food blog.)

Like I said I learned my lesson. That said I have no problem with making dessert for Valentine's Day. Particularly one that can be made ahead like these butterscotch brownies.

They truly are the stuff dreams are made of. And wether your spending Valentine's Day with your luva or spending it solo on the couch watching Nashville on DVR (ideally I'll be doing both!) - these bars will ensure it's a happy one.

Rich & Chewy Butterscotch Brownies with the Smooth Criminal Caramel Icing

Makes 2 1/2 dozen (30) 2 x 3-inch bars
* Rebecca uses unsalted butter in both the brownies and the icing. I use salted because I adore the sweet/salty thing when it comes to caramel recipes. It still won't be too salty, IMO.
2 sticks salted butter at room temperature
3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chopped pecans, toasted (I omit them but it's up to you!)
2 sticks salted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the brownies:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13 x 18-inch pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium high until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat 1 minute.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the pecans and pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake until just set and slightly puffed, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before icing.
To make the icing:
  1. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan set over medium heat. When the mixture bubbles lightly, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 more minutes. Set aside.
  2. Using the paddle attachment on the electric mixer, beat the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half and vanilla on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter mixture and beat until combined. Pour over the cooled brownies and spread evenly. Allow the brownies to sit at least 30 minutes for the icing to set. Cut into squares.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Pasta (Bow Ties in a Rich Provolone Cream Sauce with Shallots, Ground Turkey and Portabello)

Make this for someone you have warm fuzzy feelings for, someone you owe money to, or someone that birthed you.

All kidding aside this is quite possibly the best pasta I've ever made. There is something unmistakably nostalgic about it -  like a turkey tetrazzini and beef strogonaf mashup - yet to compare it with these humble dishes would be an insult. My husband who turns his nose up at mushrooms in pasta (and even tetrazzini of any kind) declared it his hands down favorite pasta.

While parmesan would probably work here, I highly recommend seeking out a block of Provolone Piccante cheese for this (I can find it at HEB and if I recall it's less expensive than parmesan anyway.) There is a unique sharpness to this cheese that when mellowed by the sweet shallots and creamy mascarpone turns into molten liquid crack. I realize all cream sauces are decadent but this one is both decadent and sophisticated, both showy and comforting and it somehow infuses the pasta with flavor rather than just coating it.

Green onions are an essential finish for me but I bet fresh thyme (though less of it) would be worth a try.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Pasta 
(Bow Ties in a Rich Provolone Cream Sauce with Shallots, Ground Turkey and Portabello)
Serves 5-6.


Olive oil, 1 tablespoon or enough to lightly coat the bottom of a dutch oven
1/2 cup shallots, chopped fine
Salt and pepper
More olive oil, as needed
2 large portabello caps, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Garlic powder, several shakes
1 pound ground white turkey meat
Red pepper flakes generous pinch
Generous 1/2 cup white wine
8 oz mascarpone
1 1/4 cups shredded provolone picante plus more for garnish (found in the gourmet cheese section of the market in a block like parmesan or manchego)
Lots of fresh ground nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped green onion, more for garnish
3/4 of a 1 pound box farfalle (bow tie) pasta


Fill a large pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling add a pinch of salt then the bow ties. Cook for 7-8 minutes or just until al dente. If the pasta is ready before the sauce, remove with a colander and hold it in a large bowl, reserving the pasta water in case you need some to thin out the sauce.

Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil - just enough to sauté the shallots in (about a tablespoon or so.) Let heat through for 30 seconds then add the shallots. Season with a good pinch salt and pepper and sauté until softened stirring often - about 4 minutes. Scoot the softened shallots to one side of the pan and add some more olive oil to the bare spot. Let it heat through for a few seconds then add the portabello to that side. Season with a tiny bit more salt and pepper as well as the garlic powder, then stir around the oil to coat. Let cook for one minute then stir the shallots and mushrooms together and keep cooking. If you're in a hurry, you can put the lid on for one minute to cook the mushrooms faster. Otherwise just keep stirring every so often, adding more oil to the pan if it gets too dry and the mushrooms start sticking to the bottom.

When the mushrooms have wilted a little, scoot both them and the shallots over to one side of the pan (add a little more oil if the bare spot is too dry) and add the turkey meat. Give it a couple minutes to begin cooking then stir everything together. 

Season with another teensy pinch of salt and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and keep stirring and cooking until the meat is no longer pink - about 8 minutes. Now add a generous half cup of white wine and raise the heat to high to bring to a boil.

Let bubble away, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by about half, but not so much that it's evaporated. You want a good 1/4 inch of liquid left in the pan - this will help make the sauce.

Reduce the heat back to medium/low and stir in the 8 oz package of mascarpone cheese until incorporated then the 1 1/4 cups provolone cheese and a good pinch of fresh nutmeg. 

When all mixed together, raise the heat to high again and bring to a bubble, letting the provolone melt and create a sauce. Just let bubble for a minute or two until thickened slightly. Reduce the heat back to low and stir in the 1/3 cup green onions. If the sauce is too thick at this point (more like a cheese spread than a sauce) add a little of the pasta water to it - a tablespoon at a time - when you add the pasta. On the contrary if it seems too loose and thin, add in some more grated provolone and let it melt in to thicken it up.

Stir the bow ties into the sauce and taste for salt and pepper. 

Serve in big bowls with additional grated provolone over the top and chopped green onions.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taco Stuffed Peppers

Some recipes are so simple you feel like a jack ass writing them down. Problem is I'm the kind of jack ass who won't remember to make it again if it's not written down. So here I go. Taco Stuffed Peppers. I made them with leftovers from taco night (refried beans and ground beef) but I bet any kind of taco night leftovers would be kick you in the butt good. Mexican rice in particular - ole!

And while we're on the topic of memory loss my one 'rule' about stuffed peppers is to lightly brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before filling and baking. This makes those initial bites of 'just pepper' worth eating as you're trying to carve your way to the good stuff. Again I'm only putting this in writing because I almost always forget this step.

Going to google early memory loss now... Check you later.

Taco Stuffed Peppers

* Serves 4 with a side dish like salad or quinoa.

2 bell peppers, whatever color floats your boat, cut in half length wise with seeds and ribs removed
Taco leftovers (suggestions follow):
Refried beans, liberally seasoned with cumin and coriander and fresh chopped cilantro
Cooked taco meat, such as ground beef or chicken cut into small dice or shredded
Sour Cream
Avocado slices
Shredded Cheddar Cheese or cheese of your preference
Fresh chopped green onions or cilantro for garish

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Place the pepper halves, cut side up on the sheet. Brush the inside cavities lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

From here it's all about building layers. I start with the beans, then the meat, then a dollop of sour cream, avocado slices, a teensy bit more salt and pepper and top with plenty of cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until peppers have wilted a bit and the cheese has melted and begun to get a nice lil golden crust. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving - garnish with chopped green onions or cilantro.