Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

Pork belly lardons – ’nuff said.

Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

(makes 2 flatbreads)

2 cups pork belly cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons sour cream
3 teaspoons chives, chopped
1 package pizza dough
Oil, to grease pan
Flour, to roll out dough

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork belly in batches so that cubes are distributed evenly in order to brown.  Season each batch with a half teaspoon of salt and pepper.  Add 1/4 teaspoon rosemary to each batch.  Drain well browned pork belly on a paper towel and let cool.

2. Roll out pizza dough into two ovals.  Spread each with 2 tablespoons of sour cream.  Sprinkle each flatbread with 1 teaspoon with chives and half of the pork belly mixture.

3. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until dough is cooked.

4. Let cool for a minute before slicing into 6 pieces and garnishing with remaining chives.

Kielbasa Stuffed Pretzels

A mouth-watering recipe for homemade pretzels that steps up the standard ‘pigs in a blanket’ appetizer standard.

Pretzels

1 batch pretzel dough (see below)

2 packages quality kielbasa or bratwurst

Baking Soda

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Pretzel salt (or coarse kosher salt)

1 tablespoon oil

Pretzel Dough

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 package dry yeast

4 cups flour

In a large bowl dissolve sugar into the warm water.  Add package of dry yeast and set aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.  Stir in four cups of flour, one at a time.  Either using the dough hook attachment or kneading by hand*, knead the dough until smooth (about 5 minutes).

Remove the dough and grease the bowl with oil.  Add the dough back to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest in an hour in a warm area.

While the pretzel dough rises, slice kielbasa into half moon shapes and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  On the stove, bring one pot of water combined with half cup of baking soda to a boil.

Prepare the pretzels by breaking off quarter sized pieces of dough and wrap around a piece of kielbasa.  Once 10 are assembled, place into boiling water for 2 minutes or until they rise to the top.  Remove the pretzels and place on a greased baking sheet.  Drizzle butter on top of each pretzel and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Continue making pretzels in batches until all of the pretzel dough has been used.

Serve hot or cold with spicy mustard.

Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter
Salt

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones = Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever

The holidays are here again and just as they bring added joy to our everyday routines, they seem to bring a similar sweetness to the things we eat.  Pies,  yule logs, ginger snaps & cheesecakes are lurking around every corner.  And then there are holiday cookies, which are not just everywhere but seem to be the perfect homemade holiday gift. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’ll take a luscious cheesecake or chewy snickerdoodle cookie any day, but what about everything else?

Not surprisingly when our office decided to hold a holiday pot luck last week, the sign up list was filled up with all things sugar.  As I perused the list, contemplating what to make I noticed the discrimination and concluded that I would be playing on behalf of Team Savory.   My holiday cookie recipes & gingerbread house would just have to wait their turn.

Ironically enough, my final contribution was a variation on a typically sweet item – the scone.  Except this one was speckled throughout with pockets of melted cheddar cheese and bits of spicy jalapeno.  It was creamy & moist and the consistency was so perfect you felt like a scone scientist looking at all of the different layers after you broke it in half.

I found the recipe from Smitten Kitchen who states the recipe is adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag.  With little to no recipe tweaks on my end except a little extra cheddar and jalapeno for good measure, this recipe is incredible.  If my description above isn’t enough to convince you, please I beg, just make the darn scones for yourself.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Peter Oleyer at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, via NY Mag

makes 8 large scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, divided
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, diced
2 small jalapeños pepper, minced (I wimped out and used only one only to find my scones entirely heat-free)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter and sauté the jalapeños in it until soft, about two minutes. Let them cool, then place them in a small bowl with the cheddar cheese and coat them with one tablespoon of the flour. Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs and cream and add to the flour-butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold mixture until it begins to come together. Add the cheddar-jalapeño mixture to the dough and mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than one minute. Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness and either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a biscuit cutter. Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the scones with egg wash and place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones, Part II:  How to make an AWESOME breakfast sandwich

The holiday potluck turned out fantastic and to my surprise, the dessert table was not the largest spread there!  Take that sugar (I’ll see you again soon I’m sure, however).  The scones were also a big hit and at the end there were only a few leftover.  Now, usually scones are best to be eaten on the day they are made.  These bad boys however were quite moist and given the proper attention, I was positive they could be re-purposed over the weekend.

Sunday was the perfect day to find out.  A gloomy and lazy day from the start, brunch on the couch with a large pot of coffee seemed quite fitting.  I checked out the scones waiting patiently in my fridge and once I deemed them fit for service, came up with these Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwiches on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones.  And the surprise,  I paid homage to the season as well as the scone’s sweet roots by adding a bit of honey.  Sweet & savory, now that is truly the best of both worlds!

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones

2 eggs
4 slices bacon
Cheddar Cheese (or whatever you have on hand)
2 Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones (I made mine smaller than it says in the recipe above)
Honey
Butter

Slice scones, place in low oven until just toasted.  Cook bacon in a skillet until done to your liking.  Remove grease and melt butter over low-medium heat.  Fry eggs in skillet 2 minutes until just set.  Flip over and place cheddar cheese on top, cover with lid.  Cook another 2 minutes until cheese is soft and melted.

Spread bottom of scone with honey, place egg & cheese down and top with bacon and the scone top.

Enjoy!

And yes, this was deemed as the best breakfast sandwich ever as one happy guest stated.

The second sandwich was already eaten so pardon the crumbs!

BLT

My brother wanted me to post this photo of the BLT he made using the latest loaf of Whole Wheat Bread.  You would think an 18 year old male would cringe at the thought of using anything whole wheat when it comes to bacon – but he loves this bread!  Check it out….

BLT

Whole Wheat Bread

Not so long ago I was terrified of baking yeasted breads.  Sure I had made plenty of quick-breads and biscuits, but you hear so many horror stories of making homemade yeast bread that I decided I’d rather not waste the limited time I had in the kitchen.

All of that changed, however, once I got my very own Kitchenmaid electric stand mixer this past Christmas.  From the moment I ripped off the wrapping paper and saw that it came with a dough hook, I was determined to bake my own bread.

Scouring the internet after the holidays I found this recipe for Simple Whole Wheat Bread from Allrecipes.com.  Almost everyone who left a comment said how easy this bread was to make, even for beginners, so I decided to give it a try.

Well, guess what? They were right! This bread came out perfectly the first time, even though I messed the recipe up a bit.  Ever since then, I aim to make this bread at least once a month.  The recipes makes three loaves so I usually will either give one or two away or freeze the other two until I am ready to use.

Now the only problem is that I can’t stand to buy store bread anymore…. homemade is so much better!

Simple Whole Wheat Bread
from AllRecipes.com
Click here for the recipe
(Note: The recipe calls for about 2/3 cups of honey, but I’ve added up to 1 1/3 cups with delicious results!)
Kitchenaid

my Kitchenaid

DoughAlong with yoga, punching down bread dough is one of my favorite ways to  release stress!

FinishedFinal Product

(P.S. Aren’t my rooster towels great!)