Monday, February 8, 2016

Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Fondue

When I was little, we used to make "dipping desserts" quite often.  My brother and I loved using long wooden skewers or toothpicks to dip fresh fruit into warm, gooey, melted chocolate.  As an older child, I learned that what I thought was a fun treat invented by my mother was really a classic chocolate fondue.  It remained a favorite dessert for me, and in college I was excited to learn that a fabulous fondue restaurant was close-by.  It was a dinner request I'd make when my parents were in town, when a boyfriend took me out for my birthday, or just because a group of us wanted to do something different!  Several years later, my (now) husband took me to Melting Pot to celebrate our first Valentine's Day together, and in commemoration, my mother-in-law would later give me a fondue set for Christmas.  Now I have two small children, who find that dipping fruit into melted chocolate is great fun, and a cure for an upset tummy!  Who'd have thought?!

12 ounces dark melting chocolate
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons Chambord (raspberry liquor)
Fruit, pound cake, marshmallows, etc. (for dipping)

Heat a small saucepan of water over medium-low heat to a simmer.  Place another mixing bowl (metal or glass) over the pan to form a double broiler.  The bowl on top should not be touching the simmering water.  Combine the melting chocolate and milk in the double broiler and stir continuously until completely melted and smooth.  Stir in the Chambord.

Transfer melted chocolate mixture to fondue pot.  Serve immediately with fresh fruits, marshmallows, pound cake, graham crackers, or other favorite "dippers"!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Caramelized Onion Dip

The big game is coming up this weekend and I don't know about you, but football food is a must whether you're just watching for the commercials or you're a die-hard fan.  Last year I featured a few menu ideas here and here and I also have several game day favorites here so you can add this recipe to the mix.  It's a little bit time consuming, but it's so much better than the jarred or (gasp!) canned version at your local grocery.  Skip the powdered crap and make it from scratch!!  Need the recipe for the best Super Bowl Sunday ever?!  Whip up your favorite dips, build some monster sandwiches, pour half a dozen bowls of chips, and keep the beer extra cold!

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds onions, halved and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
french fried onions and paprika, for garnish

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 40 minutes.

Raise heat to medium and season onions with salt.  Stir in vinegar and simmer until absorbed.  Stir in thyme and remove from heat.  Let cool.  Coarsely chop the onions.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Fold in sour cream and chopped onion mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour (or up to overnight) before serving.  Garnish with fried onions and paprika.  Serve with chips, crackers, and fresh veggies for dipping.

Recipe adapted from Martha's American Food, by Martha Stewart.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Individual Southwestern Chicken Pies

The holidays are over and my work schedule seems to be insane, even though I still work the same three shifts per week I always did.  Either way, cold weather is setting in and I feel the need to stock my freezer with precooked meals so the men in my life can eat well-balanced suppers when I'm not home in the evenings.  These chicken pies are adorable (I mean, who doesn't like food that looks like a cupcake), freeze well, transport well, and pack loads of veggies into one portion!  What more could you ask for?  Oh wait!  They're the perfect marriage between chicken pot pie and a loaded burrito...two family favorites at my house!  I just know you'll enjoy them as much as we do!

For the filling:
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese, divided
1 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

For the crust:
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lime
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425 with a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan inside.

For the filling, sweat onion, bell pepper, corn, beans, garlic, cumin, and cilantro in 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, about 5 minutes.  Combine the stock and sour cream.  Whisk 2 tablespoons flour into the vegetable mixture to coat, then whisk in the sour cream mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in chicken, 1 cup of the cheese, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the crust, whisk 3/4 cup flour, cornmeal, jalapeno, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and zest in a bowl.  Stir in milk, egg, and 1/4 cup oil and combine well.

Scoop 1/3 cup cornmeal batter into each well of the hot pan.  Bake 5 minutes.  Scoop 1/2 cup filling into center of cornbread in each well and bake 20 minutes more.  Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over pies and bake until melted, about 5 minutes.  Let pies stand 5 minutes, then run a knife along the edges to release and serve with salsa on the side.

Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home, March/April 2014.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New England Clam Chowder

On a cold snowy day, nothing beats a hot bowl of soup.  Especially a thick velvety clam chowder like this one.  Even better if when your husband, after being told of your dinner plans, offers to stop by Panera on the way home to pick up a few bread bowls for serving!  Yesterday, as my family was walking along the National Mall during DC's first snow of the year on a family outing to the Smithsonian, I was dreaming of this soup.  It's rich and comforting, filling but not overly heavy.  And it reminds me of our weekend trip to San Francisco, when our oldest was a baby, and we had bread bowls and chowder for lunch on the pier after touring Alcatraz.  So many happy memories, ladled into the perfect bowl of sourdough, warming my heart!

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 pounds fresh clams (littleneck or Manilla), scrubbed well
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 thick slices bacon, minced
2 small yellow onions, finely diced
1 large rib celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large or 2 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and finely diced
leaves from 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over low heat.  Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until it forms a roux.  Don not allow flour to brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and the clams to a large saute pan, discarding any clams that do not close when tapped gently.  Place over medium heat, cover, and cook until clams open, 2-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the clams and cooking liquid cool slightly.  Discard any clams that did not open while cooking.  Using your fingers or a small spoon, pick the meat from the clam shells, allowing juice to fall back into the soup pot and removing meat to a cutting board.  Discard the shells.  Strain the cooking stock to remove any grit.  Chop the clams coarsely.  Set clams and stock aside.

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large stock pot.  Gently saute the bacon, onions, celery, and carrot, stirring constantly, until tender.  Do not brown.  Add the clam stock, half and half, milk, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 5 minutes.  Stir 1 tablespoon on the chowder mixture into the roux and stir until smooth.  Add the roux back to the chowder, stirring to thoroughly incorporate.  Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Just before serving, add the clams to the chowder and simmer 2-3 minutes longer.  Add salt, adjust seasonings to taste, and garnish with fresh parsley.

Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook, by Gayle Pirie and John Clark.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Colonial Christmas Pomanders

I'm from Southeastern Virginia, right down the road from Colonial Williamsburg.  Naturally, I'm drawn to the classic styles of the area (and era), and that doesn't disclude Christmas decorations!  For out final holiday craft this season, allow me to introduce pomanders to you!  Traditionally a Christmas air freshener, as well as a way to ward off disease, a pomander is made from a piece of fruit (usually citrus) and whole cloves.  Once dried, the natural air freshener will last for years!

citrus fruit, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit
whole cloves

Simply place the whole cloves into the flesh of the fruit in any pattern you'd like.  Allow the fruit to dry for several days, letting the natural oils and fragrances perfume your home!  If you'd like, tie a sturdy ribbon around the fruit and hang from a window or chandelier.  Use the pomanders in drawers, cupboards, or as part of your seasonal decor (or year round!).  Enjoy the scents of the season!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa Mix

I've been itching to publish this post for a while now, but these are my boys' Christmas gifts for their teachers this year, and, since a couple of the teachers are Facebook friends of mine and my blog publishes to my Facebook page, I had to wait.  Well, the class Christmas parties were Friday, so now I'm safe!  My grandmother made a version of this cocoa mix and sent it to my mom in college care packages.  And then my mom did the same for me.  She and her friends would also put together packages of cocoa mix for various Wives Club craft fairs during my dad's Marine Corps career.  It's the best hot cocoa you can imagine, and this recipe makes a ton, so you don't need to worry about running out!

1 25-ounce box non-fat dry milk (like Carnation)
1 18-ounce jar coffee creamer (Coffee Mate)
1 16-ounce box powdered chocolate drink mix (Nestles Quick)
1 heaping cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup ground cinnamon
1/3 - 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine all ingredients in a huge mixing bowl.  Ensure thoroughly combined and all ingredients equally distributed.  

To make a cup of hot cocoa, boil 1 cup of water and stir in 1/3 cup of dry mix.  Stir well.  Add a splash of vanilla and a dollop of whipped cream to make it extra special!

Giving your cocoa mix as a gift?  Here are some ideas for packaging:
-Zip-lock bag of cocoa mix placed inside a decorated brown paper lunch bag
-Mason jar with pretty ribbon
-Like I did it below:  I placed a single serving (1/3 cup) of the mix into a clear cello bag.  Place a few of the single serve bags into a larger gingham sack, along with instructions on how to make hot chocolate.  Tie up the sack with a Christmas tag or jingle bells, and place the sack into a mug!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Old-Fashioned Cinnamon Ornaments

My oldest son is getting to the age that he likes to help in the kitchen.  He also likes crafts and experiments, calling them "projects".  When I saw these ornaments online a while ago, I knew this was a craft he'd love and would be fun to complete together, while my youngest was napping.  I also remembered many of these "antique" ornaments hanging on a kitchen Christmas tree at my mom's house growing up, likely purchased at a primative/Americana store during that phase of my mother's adventures in home decor.  My house just smelled like Christmas while these were baking, and now they're the perfect gift to give his teachers before Winter Break!

1 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups ground cinnamon, plus more for rolling
1 tablespoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 200. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the applesauce, cinnamon, and cloves and mix until dough comes together (it may take a few minutes). The dough will be rather wet and should form a ball without being too sticky. Add additional applesauce or cinnamon if needed.

Sprinkle a clean surface with cinnamon. Place the dough on the surface and sprinkle with more cinnamon. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick, sprinkling with more cinnamon to keep from sticking.

Cut out with cookie cutters and place on the pan so that they aren’t touching. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to poke a hole into each ornament (to attach string). Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until rock hard.

Once cool, you may need to "re-hole" the ornaments to get the string through.

Makes about 12 ornaments, depending on size.