Monday, September 28, 2015

Coffee Meringues

If you're looking for a textural treat, look no further than a meringue. One bite and you'll understand the beauty that is a lightly crunchy and pleasantly chewy exterior crumbling into a pillowy center. 

Plus- how lovely are these things?

  In order to make meringues socially acceptable to eat at any time of the day, I decided to step up the plain ol' recipe and make Coffee Meringues- what could be better with a morning cup of joe?

Coffee Meringues 

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 TB instant coffee powder (depending on how strong a coffee flavor you'd like)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 200.

In a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and hand mixer) whip egg whites and cream of tartar together until thick and foamy. On high speed, begin adding sugar to the egg whites, a few tablespoons at a time. This should take about a minute. 

Continue to whisk on high until egg whites have achieved stiff, glossy peaks. Whisk in vanilla and instant coffee. 

Add mixture to a piping bag (or ziploc bag with corner snipped) and pipe onto the parchment lined baking sheet- leaving approximately 1 inch between meringues. If desired, garnish each meringue with a coffee bean. 

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turning pan halfway through baking. When time is up, turn off the oven but do not open or remove meringues. Leave in the oven for at least 1 hour. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Fondue It- Classic Swiss Fondue

This week, I decided to get down with my Swiss heritage and indulge in something I've always waned to try: eating a 1/2 pound of cheese in one meal.

A.k.a.- fondue.

Ooey, gooey- Good God it's Fonduey!
That's right, Melinda- I've never had fondue. But that all changed last night, and now? Now I will be on the hunt for a proper fondue pot so that my cheese will be forever melty.

Fondue is easy- I'm not sure why it took me so long to try making it. Plus- talk about a casual meal. Look in your fridge/pantry- what would go well with cheese? (FYI- the answer is pretty much everything and anything.)

Since it was just the two of us, we kept it simple with some crusty sourdough, pears, smoked ham and pickles. You could also do bits of steak, apples, or any fresh or blanched vegetable of your liking!

Classic Swiss Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 pound Emmental cheese (could substitute Swiss cheese if necessary)
  • 2 TB cornstarch
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TB kirsch (optional, or a dash of port or brandy could be substituted)
  • Nutmeg, salt, pepper and dry mustard- to taste
Dippables: bread, meats, vegetables, pickles, apples, pears

Grate the cheeses and gently toss with 2 TB of cornstarch. Set aside.

Rub a split garlic clove around the inside of a heavy bottom sauce pan or fondue pot. Discard garlic.

Add in wine and lemon juice over medium/high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Slowly begin to add cheeses, whisking steadily until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth. If using, add in the kirsch.

Season with nutmeg and dry mustard, adding in salt/pepper to taste. The cheese should provide a decent amount of salt, so taste often and add salt slowly!

Serve immediately. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Little Breakfast Indulgence

I walk a fine line when it comes to the sweet/savory breakfast blend.

I'll never be one of those people that piles their eggs, bacon and pancakes onto the same plate and then covers everything with hot sauce and maple syrup. Bleh.

But a little bit of bacon crumbled into pancakes? Oh my.

Maple biscuits covered in sausage gravy? Yes.

Chocolate, maple AND bacon? Perfect.

This Maple Bacon Crack Bread is such a fabulous blend of gooey maple syrup and brown sugar, coupled with everyone's favorite salty breakfast meat. Add a few mini chocolate chips and a bit of red pepper flakes to cut through all the sugar and you've got the perfect balance of sweet and savory going on, my friend!

One note- I was a fool and didn't grease my aluminum foil. Ideally, parchment paper with about 1/2 a can of cooking spray (okay, maybe not that much) will keep the sticky syrup from gluing your bread to the pan!

Maple Bacon Crack Bread

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tube crescent roll dough
  • 1 pound bacon- slightly undercooked and chopped
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray liberally with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325.

Roll out crescent dough and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle on half of the brown sugar and maple syrup. Add bacon pieces, then top with remaining syrup/sugar. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and red pepper flakes (if desired). Bake for 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

**I'd really like to try this with a homemade shortbread crust instead of the crescent dough. If anyone wants to give it a go before I get around to it- let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Toasted Coconut Flan

Custard-based desserts are one of my favorite treats that I often forget about.

Creme brulee, pots de creme, custard pie- all deliciously creamy, subtly sweet, and an incredible way to end a meal. Plus, custard is like....stupid-easy to make, dawg. 

...sorry. That last bit was weird. I haven't had my coffee yet. 


My favorite custard-based dessert is flan. I go weak in the knees for that creamy, caramel-soaked bite of goodness. 

But despite my love of this easy-to-make and even easier-to-eat sweet, I've never actually made flan. 

Crazy, right? 

Never fear- this situation was remedied in full last night. 

This Toasted Coconut flan is a luscious blend of coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, freshly toasted coconut, and the most amazing ingredient I've added to my cupboards in a long time: Cajeta.

See all that thick, gooey gorgeous caramel sauce on my humble flan? That's cajeta- a Mexican caramel sauce made from goat's milk. Imagine if caramel sauce hit the gym. 

This sauce is intense in all the right ways. I may or may not be saving some to drizzle on ice cream later. 

Cajeta- it's worth the search. (Or be lazy and get it just a click away.)

Now- back to the flan!

Toasted Coconut Flan
Flan can be made in individual ramekins or in a standard 10 cup bundt pan. 
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk 
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 TB vanilla
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup cajeta (you can definitely substitute caramel sauce, but I'll definitely judge you just a little)
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
Preheat the oven to 350. 

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine all ingredients (except the cajeta and shredded coconut). Whisk together until all ingredients are thoroughly combined- you don't want globs of cooked egg in your flan!

Spray (and I mean SPRAY) the bundt pan, then drizzle in the cajeta. Gently pour the flan mixture into the bundt pan. Cover top with foil. Plan bundt into a large roasting dish, then fill the roasting dish with water until it reaches halfway up the side of the bundt pan. 

Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes. The center should still jiggle slightly. Place bundt on a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes. Chill, covered, for at least 3 hours. 

In the meantime, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add shredded coconut and stir constantly until most of the coconut has begun to turn golden. Remove pan from heat, but keep coconut in the pan until it has cooled (this will allow it to continue toasted without burning). 

Once flan is chilled, flip onto a serving plate and top with toasted coconut. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Fabulous Football Dips!

Last Christmas, my soon-to-be in-laws gifted me something wonderful....

"Triple Slow Cooker" - how could I NOT love that?! Three times the slow cooking fun, all in one little package.

Yesterday, I realized I really hadn't taken this baby out for a whirl since I got it. Not cool.

I also realized that it was Sunday, which meant football, which meant football-y watching foods were in order.

Ya' know..there's nothing like a trio of hot dips to break in a slow cooker and celebrate the start of football season!

Buffalo Chicken.

Jalapeno Popper.

Crazy Queso.

Any one of these dips would be a great addition to Game Day, and if you happen to have incredible in-laws that gift you awesome triple slow cookers, I would highly encourage you to make all three!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
I think the secret to great buffalo dip is to use Blue Cheese instead of Ranch. The buffalo sauce is strong enough that the dip doesn't taste overly 'blue cheesy', so even if you've been a die-hard Ranch fan your whole buffalo wing life, I'd say give it a try!

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped chicken (go ahead and use a rotisserie chicken!)
  • 1 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese (please grate your own!)
  • 1/2 cup Blue Cheese dressing
  • 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with chips and celery sticks. 

Jalapeno Popper Dip
The great thing about this dip is that you can really adjust your heat level using more canned jalapenos, freshly chopped jalapeno peppers, or any other kind of pepper that floats your boat!
  • 1 8 ounce block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (colby jack or Mexican blend)
  • 1 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 1 4 ounce can chopped jalapenos
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with a sturdy chip (fritos work well).

Crazy Queso Dip
I'll admit, I was skeptical of this recipe...cream of mushroom soup and Rotel? But for some reason, all the flavors work together. The addition of some crumbled sausage would make this dip even better!
  • 1 small block Velveeta cheese
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker (or on the stove in a saucepan) and heat on low, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are hot and melty! Serve with tortilla chips, pita bread or corn chips.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Divine Wine Mushrooms

I'm a little overwhelmed by these mushrooms. I contemplated calling them "Holy Sh*t Mushrooms" because that's what I said after my first bite. They are seriously amazing.

I would expect nothing less from something that takes 9 hours.

Yeah- 9 hours. 9 hours of smelling these delicious morsels simmering away. 9 hours of my mouth watering uncontrollably. 9 hours of hovering over the pot, hypnotized by the burgundy broth.

The original recipe called for 4 pounds of mushrooms. I was only feeding 4 people, so that seemed a bit excessive. I went with 2 pounds. Now I'm kicking myself for not making the full amount because there were NO LEFTOVERS. Heck- I wish I would have triple the original recipe.

If you want a dish to really amp up a dinner or impress as a appetizer, these mushrooms are a must. The flavor is outrageous- meaty, buttery, garlicky, and just a touch sweet from the reduced wine. I will be bringing these to holiday parties and company potlucks for years to come!

Divine Wine Mushrooms

  • 4 pounds white button mushrooms, whipped clean
  • 2 sticks salted butter + 4 TB butter
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 cups (1 quart) full bodied red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon works nicely)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Chicken Bouillon cubes
  • 4 Beef Bouillon cubes
  • 1 tsp dried dill (in a pinch, a splash of pickle juice will do the job.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Fresh ground black pepper (a few turns of the pepper mill should do the trick)
  • Parsley, minced
Place all ingredients (except for 4 TB butter and the parsley) into a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 6 hours.

Remove the lid and cook the mushrooms for another 3 hours, adding in the 4 TB butter during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Garnish with parsley and enjoy!

Note: if you're short on time, you can condense the cooking time to only 6 hours! Cook the mushrooms for 4 hours on a slightly vigorous simmer, then uncovered and simmer at a medium/low heat for another 2 hours- until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Laziest Recipes Ever: Breakfast Pizza

Pizza has a delicious place in my heart.

Sleepover fuel, after-the-bar munchies, 'I burned dinner' fall-back, or just plain "I don't feel like cooking tonight" meal is such an easy thing to love.

Now, if you'd ask my fiance what culinary category he holds near and dear, pizza wouldn't even have an honorable mention. No sir, for him it's breakfast all the way. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, hashbrowns- the man doesn't discriminate when it comes to breakfast.

So, seeing as we're getting married in a few short months, I decided to practice that relationship skill so vital to a happy union: compromise.

Compromise in the form of Breakfast Pizza. The best of both worlds, really.

Before you get all overwhelmed with the thought of making pizza dough from scratch and homemade country gravy, just remember!- I promised this was one of my 'laziest recipes ever', and I very much intend to deliver on that.

The Laziest Recipes Ever: Breakfast Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust (homemade or store bought dough. No judgement here)
  • 1-2 cups country gravy (make your own from the sausage fat, or use a store bought package of white gravy)
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage (ground meat, not patties or links)
  • 6 slices bacon,diced 
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I'd recommend 1 cup motz and 1 cup cheddar)
  • 6 eggs
  • Hot sauce, maple syrup and green onions for garnish
Heat oven according to pizza dough requirements. If making your own dough, I'd strongly suggest adding a splash of maple flavoring. Roll out dough and place on a greased sheet pan.

Brown sausage in a large skillet until mostly cooked through. Remove from skillet and add in diced bacon, browning until just slightly undercooked. (You don't want the meat to overcook/burn in the oven). 

Make gravy according to package directions. If making your own gravy, remove fat from pan and add back in 2 TB, along with 2 TB of flour. Whisk together and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in 2 cups of whole milk, whisking. Cook until mixture is thickened and be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper. 

Add gravy to the pizza dough, followed by sausage, peppers and cheese. Sprinkle bacon over the top, then crack 6 eggs over the pizza. Bake according to dough directions, or at 425 for 20-25 minutes, until egg whites are set. 

Remove from oven and drizzle on maple syrup, hot sauce of choice (Cholula is delicious), and green onions. 


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What More Brides Need to Know About Wedding Dress Shopping

I wrote this post for an online wedding planning forum, and it got such a great response that I decided to share it here as well.

I started working in a bridal shop this past January, and while I absolutely love it most days, there are some things I wish more brides knew before they started wedding dress shopping. As a bride myself, I'm so glad that I started this job before I went dress shopping- it really put a lot of things in perspective for me!
Anyway- here's my advice...

-Ignore your tunnel vision. You're beautiful. Stop worrying about your arms, your back, your hips or your stomach. While you're focusing in on your 'flaws', everyone else is seeing the whole picture and realizing just how gorgeous you really are. I can sincerely say that all of my brides have been beautiful, whether they were in a size 0 or a size 28.
-Size for now. " I'm in the process of losing weight, so I want to order a size or two down."- that's almost canon in the bridal gown industry. The size of your dress doesn't determine your worth or beauty. If that number bothers you so much, cut the stupid tag off and go on with your day. With all the stress of planning a wedding, why would you add on the possibility of not fitting into your wedding dress? You can always take a dress in, but letting it out can get tricky. I want you to air on the side of caution because I want to make sure you have a wedding dress- not because I want to help the alterations department make money. Plus, weight-loss and dress-sizing do not go hand-in-hand. It all depends where your body loses weight from, and what that translates to in inches. Fyi- all of this is especially true for your bridesmaids- they're the biggest 'process of losing weight' culprits and it makes me incredibly nervous for you- the bride - every time they insist on ordering down. (One horror story involved a girl that ordered a dress 3 sizes down from her current size because she was convinced she could lose the weight. She didn't, and with only a week to go before the wedding there was nothing that could be done to let out the dress or get a new dress ordered.)
-Everyone 'knows' it's the dress in a different way. So you didn't cry? That doesn't mean it's not your gown. If you feel comfortable, confident, and like a bride you're probably in 'the dress'. Can you imagine wearing this on your wedding day? Are you envisioning the wedding pictures of you in this dress? Does it put a little smile on your face when you see yourself in the mirror? Don't get obsessed about having the 'right' reaction to a dress. Trust yourself. And if you need time to think about it- TAKE TIME! The worst thing isn't taking time to think, it's getting pushed into buying a dress (by mom, by a sales consultant, by spur-of-the-moment panic) that you'll later regret. It always makes me a little sad when I have a bride come in to the store that has already bought a dress but later realized it wasn't 'her gown'.
-Bigger isn't always better. So your mom, aunt, fmil, cousins, bridal party, sisters, 10 closest friends and grandma all decided to come wedding dress shopping with you? I can't tell you the number of times a bride has wanted to hide in the dressing room or call it quits because she is too overwhelmed by all of the opinions waiting for her on the other side of the door. You don't need to please everyone. They'll all love the dress that YOU love, and if they don't, then too bad for them. I suggest going with a small group of people you really trust to make you feel confident in your choices. Once you find your dress, you can invite anyone else to the fitting, or just have them wait until the wedding!
-Quality, not quantity. I'm here to listen to what you want in a dress (shape, design, budget, etc) and then go find that dress for you. If we're communicating well, I can usually do that in under 10 dresses....but when your mom/sisters/friends/etc start to wander off and then come back with arm-loads of dresses, things can get complicated fast. They pull the wrong size, go over your budget, or pull something that is absolutely not what you want. And 30 dresses later, you're overwhelmed, exhausted, and can't remember what any of the dresses looked like. Pump the brakes, and if you do want to try on 30 dresses, just don't do it all in one appointment.
-Be nice to 'the help' and remember that we're only human. Believe me- I don't want to waste your time. I want to be respectful of your budget, your vision, and ensure you have the best possible experience dress shopping. One of the reasons I love my job is because you're trusting me to be a part of one of your biggest life events- how cool is that? So, I absolutely don't want to screw that up for you. I'm trying my best, but sometimes things are out of my control...the options in your price range, the dress sizes we have in store, the order time on a dress, the seating available in the store that day, etc... The appointment isn't fun for anyone when you or your party comes in with a 'it's totally fine to be a bridezilla' mentality. That being said, there are some consultants that you might not click with, so instead of enduring a frustrating appointment, go ahead and request to work with someone else. This appointment is all about YOU!