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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Little Peeps Peeping In My Kitchen

Since my health has taken a twist, limited my abilities in the kitchen. I have dedicated myself, to make things simpler in the kitchen. Whereas, my disability doez not prevent me from doing what I love the most. Cooking and baking has been a major part in my life, there is no greater joy than being in the kitchen making a delicious dish or a sinful dessert.
There's strange things coming from my kitchen. They only come around once a year, they're cute, sweet and tasty. What are they? Peeps! Why buy them at the store, when they're much cheaper to make at home. Plus you can involve the kids, grandkids or just the whole family and make it a fun family night.
The first time I made peeps, I used a pastry bag to form my shapes. But with Parkinsons, arthritis and lupus, that task can be somewhat a challenge. After careful planning and hours of trial and errors, my efforts finally paid off.
Having made my own marshmallow and marshmallow creme, I know what is expected and was ready to take on the challenge. With this new technique, even one never having experience in a kitchen can make these with the greatest of ease.

Why buy these, when yoi can make them cheaper at home? Recipe For Peeps 7 1/2 tsp. Unflavored gelatin, or 3 envelopes 1 1/2 c. Sugar 1 c. Light corn syrup 1/2 tsp. Salt 1 tbsp. Vanilla 1 tbsp. Cornstarch 1 tbsp. Powdered sugar Colored sugar, optional Food coloring, optional Lots of butter for greasing pans and your hands In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water. Stir until dissolved and then set aside. Prepare candy mixture in a meduim-sized saucepan, beat sugar, corn syrup, salt and vanilla over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stop stirring, but occasionally give the saucepan a swirl. Insert a thermometer and bring mixture to 240, about 7 minutes. Remove candy mixture from the heat and carefully pour the mixture into the bowl, containing the gelatin. Add another 1/2 cup of water and beat on high speed for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, this is where you want to divide your marshmallow, if you want to add coloring. In separate greased pans or single pan, pat down the marshmallow using your fingers. (Be sure to butter your fingers, for this will be a very sticky job). Cover and set the marshmallow aside and allow to set for at least 4 hours. I like to allow it to set overnight. When you're ready, turn the marshmallow out onto a flat surface and get your cookie cutters. Combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Dip your cutters into this powdered mixture each time you cut out a mashmallow shape. This allows a smooth cut and prevents the marshmallow from sticking to the cutters. With your fingertips, wet them with water and coat the peeps. Then dip the peeps into the coarsed colored sugar. Allow to air dry on a cake cooling rack. I used chocolate sugar beads for the eyes. After they are dried, you can wrap them in plastic or just start eating them. Chef's notes: The peeps will keep for a week if stored covered.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rock Candy For All Ages

Rock candy is a simple sugar candy, that can also double as a science project. For it shows how crystal forms in the caves everywhere.
The process can take up to a week, but it's fun to watch the sugar crystals grow over time.

Rock Candy 2 c. Water 4 c. Sugar 1 tsp. Flavored extract, optional 3-4 drops food coloring, optional Glass jar Skewers or piece of heavy thread Prepare your jar, by washing it in hot water to clean it. Then cut a piece of thread, a couple of inches longer than the jar and tape one end to a pencil and tie a paperclip to the other end. Place the pencil across the top of the jar and wind the thread (not the paperclip) is one inch from the bottom of the jar. The paperclip is used to keep the thread straight, as the crystal begins to form. If using skewer, secure the skewer with clothespins balanced across the jar's opening. Wet the thread or skewer with water and coat it with sugar. This will give the crystals, something to hang on to as they begin to form. Set the thread or skewer aside to dry, as you begin to make the sugar syrup. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. As the water is boiling, add one cup a sugar at a time, allowing the sugar to dissolve between each cup of sugar. You will noticed, that after each addition of sugar, it will take longer for it to disolve. Continue to stir and boil, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat. At this step, it is best to add your flavorings and colorings. Allow the syrup to cool for ten minutes, then pour into the jar. Then lower the thread or skewer into the syrup, making sure the thread or skewer is one inch from the jar's bottom. Place jar in a cool place, away from bright lights, where it can sit undisturbed. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap or paper towel. You should start to see sugar crystals forming within 2-4 hours. Allow the rock candy to grow until it is the size you want. But don't let it get too big, that you can't get it out of the jar. Once it reaches the size you want, remove it and allow to dry for a few minutes. Then enjoy or wrap in plastic for later.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A New Improved Chicken Cordon Bleu

What's better than Chicken Cordon Bleau? Well nothing I guess.
I was chatting with a friend named Barbara today, we got to talking about what our favorite food was. I asked her if she had any favorites, she responded that she had none. So I dug deeper and asked, what she preferred, Chicken, Beef, Pork or Seafood. She then answered that she preferred and also said that she like Chicken Cordon Bleu.
Without further discussion, I decided to make today's subject Chicken Cordon Bleu. But not just any traditional Cordon Bleu. With today's society, we have become more conscience to a more healthier approach and with many time restraints, time is an issue as well.
So Barbara, this Chicken Cordon Bleu is for you.

Chicken Cordon Bleu 12 thin sliced chicken breasts, 3 ounces each Salt and pepper to taste 1 large egg 2 large egg whites 1 tbsp. Water 1/2 c. Seasoned breadcrumbs 1/4 c. Grated parmesan cheese 6 slices of deli ham, cut in half 6 slices of low-fat swiss cheese, cut in half Preheat oven to 450. Spray a large flat cooking sheet with cooking spray. Then set aside. Wash and dry chicken breasts. Lightly pound the breasts to make them thinner, then lightly season with salt and pepper. Lay the breasts on a working surface, place on top, a slice of cheese and then a slice of cheese. Roll and place on surface, seam side down. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg whites with the water. This is your egg wash. In another medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. This is your breading. Dip the rolled breasts into the egg wash and roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Then place on the flat cooking sheet seam side down. Once all rolled breasts are breaded, spray the breasts with the cooking spray. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Indulging On Chocolate Heaven

Have you ever thought, that there is a chocolate? After making these delicious little Chocolate Budinos, I am now convince that there is such a place.
I have made these tasty desserts many times in the past, while my wife was still alive and for my grandchildren many times over. They're very simple to make and very addictive as well.
For those not familiar, Budino is simply put-pudding- to be served in a glass, ramekin or unmolded for a little more show.
Budino is a sweet Italian dish, usually rich and creamy like a custard or pudding. It can be thickened with cornstarch or cookies to make it more like a souffle or ganache and be sauced with various flavors, including chocolate, caramel, dewy apple and butterscotch.

Chocolate Budinos

1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate
3 large eggs, plus 3 large yolks
1/2 c. Sugar
3 tbsp. Flour
12 tbsp. Butter, softened

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350.
Spray or grease a 9 inch cake pan, or a 12 cup muffin tin. I like to use the 24 mini muffin tin, for the bite-sized desserts. Wipe out the excess oil, using a paper towel.
Grate or chop the chocolate into a bowl and place on top of a saucepan with simmering water over low heat (be sure to use a heatproof bowl for this, or you can use a double boiler). Melt the chocolate slowly, stirring occasionally.
In a medium bowl, gently whisk the eggs together. Then add the sugar and flour, until the mixture is well incorporated.
When the chocolate is smooth, remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the chocolate is smooth again. Next add the egg mixture, stir until everything is thoroughly mixed together.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins or pour into the cake pan filling 1/2 full. Bake 18-20 minutes in cake pan, 11-12 minutes in muffin tin. The edges will begin to pull away from the pan and the center should look moist and shiny. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
While pan is still warm, place a flat cooking sheet over the cake or muffin pans and invert. Slowly lift the cake or muffin pan and the cake(s) should slip right out.
Best served warm with ice cream drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce. Or can be served just as it is.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Taking A Ride On The Orient Express!

Egg rolls are delightful and delicious for appetizers, but what about desserts? Also, do they really have to be oriental? To me, egg rolls can be filled with whatever your heart desires, and I desire something sweet and unusual. Like I always tell my friends and colleagues, I am not your every day normal chef. I have the tendency to be more of the abnormal out-of-the-box kind of chef, thinking of new ways to bring to the table, exciting and unusual ideas for the palate.
Today's recipe, brings together French cooking and the Orient.
Now once you have made these tasty egg rolls, be prepared for your friends and family to be begging for more. For these have the tendency to become very addictive.

Bananas Foster Egg Rolls

Egg Rolls:
4 egg roll wrappers
2 bananas
1/2 c. Brown sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon

2 tbsp. Butter
1/4 c. Brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 c. Orange juice
1/4 c. Dark rum
2 tbsp. Pecans, chopped (optional)

To make egg rolls:
Peel and cut bananas in half. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar, then roll bananas in the mixture. Place in center of a wrapper and roll it up like an egg roll. Deep fry until outside is golden brown and crispy.

To make the sauce:
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved. Stir in the cinnamon and then add the orange juice. Allow the liquid to reduce a little, then add the rum and ignite. When flames subside, add the pecans if desired.

To serve:
Cut the egg roll in half diagonally. Place on the plate and drizzle the sauce on top.

Make Your Burgers, But Try This Too!

Everyone can make a good hamburger, but sometimes there is more to a great burger. For it is what you put on it, that makes it an even better burger. Now, I'm not talking about seasoning, I'm talking about toppings or better, the condiments.
Now, I'm not talking about ketchup and mustard. They are far too common, but what I am talking about has flavor and brings a whole new meaning to the world of burgers. So, without further ado, here are two recipes to make your good burgers into first class great burgers.

Onion Marmalade

1 c. White onion, chopped
1 c. Red onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp. Oil
1/4 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Pepper
Dash of ground cloves
2 tbsp. Cider vinegar

Saute onions in oil in a saucepan, over medium-low heat for one hour or until very tender stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat.
Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool completely, before serving on the burgers.

Black Onion Jam

1 red onion
1 c. Balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. Brown sugar

Cut onion into thin strips. Combine with balsamic and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook 30-40 minutes, until the balsamic reaches a syrup consistency. Serve warm on the burgers.
Chef's note: This is also great on steaks as well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Cake Or Not A Cake?

Is this a cake or is it just a novelty dessert? It really depends on how you look at it really, for to me it is both.
This can be a fun project, for the kids, grandkids as well as a holiday or birthday cake. It is quite simple and it allows much imagination as to what you can add to it.

Popcorn Cake

24 c. Popcorn, popped
1 c. Spiced gumdrops
1 1/2 c. Peanuts
1 large bag of mini marshmallows
1/2 c. Oil
1/2 c. Butter

Mix oil, butter and marshmallows in a large bowl, microwave at 20-30 second intervals. Stirring between each interval, until marshmallows are melted and butter and oil are mixed in nicely (it will still look a little oily).
Mix in the remaining ingredients. Press into a greased bundt or angel food pan. Leave in the pan at room temperature for an hour or until it is completely set. Invert cake onto a platter, slice and serve.
Chef's notes: For fun variations, use colored popcorn.