3/21/2014

St. Louis Style Pizza

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I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I have made this in the last month.  But I think I am even more embarrassed to tell you that I don't make just two as the recipe is written.  I make four. My husband and two older children claim they can take one whole pizza, fold it in half, and stuff their faces full.  Although they haven't yet tried that gluttonous technique, they do manage to put quite a few pieces away in one sitting.  My youngest and I eagerly rob each pizza of its corners ☺.  (There is just something special about those corners.)  And the leftovers are packed away in school/work lunches.  

I didn't grow up with this style of pizza, but with the frequency that I have been making it, I am apparently making up for lost time.  The crust is very thin and almost cracker-like.  There is no yeast in the dough and the only leavening agent is baking powder.  This dough is perfect for those of you who are wary of working with yeast.  The original sauce was quite bland and way too sweet for me, so I dialed back the sugar and added a few herbs and garlic (you just gotta have garlic in pizza sauce).  Then I brightened up the tomato flavor with a little red wine vinegar.  The original cheese blend was Cheddar and American, but after a little research, I learned that a true St. Louis style pizza uses Provol cheese.  It is a blend of Cheddar, Swiss, and Mozzarella.  I can't find that in my local markets, so I use my own ratio of the three cheeses. The secret ingredient to the cheese blend that makes this pie stand out is liquid smoke.  Not much-- just three drops.  It adds a nice, subtle smokiness.


Bake it in a hot oven until golden brown.  Cut it into squares (pie shapes are a no-no) and fight over the corners.

3/19/2014

Leek, Cheddar and Guinness Dip

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St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, but that is no reason to put away your stout glasses for another year.  We enjoyed this as an appetizer this past Sunday as part of our toast to the Irish and man, oh man was it a hit.  In fact, my husband and children threw their hands down and had to walk out of the room to compose themselves before returning for another round.

Onions, cheese, and beer? SOLD! But not just any onion.  Sweet spring leeks are the star in this spread.  The original recipe called for Neufchatel cream cheese, but I am not a big fan of that flavor. You know what they say-- "where there is fat there is flavor"☺.  I also added a little mustard and Worcestershire to balance the richness of the dish.  A garnish of parsley provides some freshness and color as well.


I served this with rye crackers, but you could use toast points or pumpernickel bread as well.  And in case you have any leftovers (I highly doubt it, but we did since there are only five of us), it is delicious when spread on the Guinness Caraway Rye bread with thinly sliced leftover corned beef.  Just sayin'.

3/16/2014

Sunday Dinner

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Glazed Carrots
Guinness Caraway Rye Bread



Raise your hand if you have tossed back a few green beers this weekend.  My hand is not raised.  Yes I do have a little Irish in my blood, but I'm not one to party in to the wee hours with the leprechauns. However, I will certainly take the opportunity to enjoy a Sunday meal full of some Irish and Irish-American classics.

I have shared a caraway rye bread recipe before, but this one takes that flavor to a whole new level with the addition of Guinness in lieu of plain old water.  It adds a rich chocolate/coffee essence and it gives the dough a deeper, almost amber color.  

Warm with a slather of some good Irish butter (like Kerrygold) is the way to serve this bread.  But it is just as good to snack on at room temperature or to use for some leftover corned beef sandwiches.

3/14/2014

Sausages with Guinness Gravy and Colcannon

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"Aye laddie, is there a heartier meal in all the land?"  So said a fellow traveler at the inn tucked into a hollow off a rural road in County Cork.  We dined and then danced into the wee hours, fueled by Guinness and this delicious dish lovingly prepared by Molly, the sharp-tongued yet gracious innkeeper ....OK, that didn't really happen.  But it felt like it did after we ate this meal.

Irish bangers and mash-- this is classic pub fare of the Emerald Isle.  And hearty it is when cabbage and onions are cooked with the potatoes for that Irish classic, colcannon.  Some colcannon recipes call for bacon or ham, but I like to keep it all about the veggies and tubers and let the meat stand on its own.  And in this dish it does. The sausages (Chicago readers-- I use Winston's family market brand) are cooked first, then bathed in the velvety Guinness gravy that puts it over the top.  When accompanied by colcannon, you have a meal that will fortify anyone in need of sustenance to make it through the more "liony" parts of March.  Forget putting hair on your chest.  This meal will make even the most metrosexual man in your life want to shear a sheep and take up hurling (an Irish sport that sounds awesome, look it up).

3/12/2014

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cheesecake

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After a big Sunday dinner, my children and husband usually take the sweet and savory leftovers on Monday for their school/work lunches.  And this Monday happened to be one of those times.  So as I am strolling through the isles of a certain super store at lunch time on Monday, I get this text from my husband--  "Should do a reality show.  Put pieces of that cheesecake in front of  people in the middle of a diet regimen.  Film their anguish for cheap laughs."  I snickered out loud and responded, "That's too funny!"  He then sent another text--  "Damn good cheesecake. Best I've ever had."  I can't argue with that.

I don't think I need to sell you on the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  But as for the texture, cheesecake can be hit or miss.  Dry and over cooked-- miss.  It's almost tough to eat at that point.  This here beauty-- bullseye!  I don't know if it is the creamy peanut butter addition to the filling or the eggs to cream cheese ratio, but it is hands down the smoothest, creamiest cheesecake that I have ever put in my mouth!  

Unlike the more traditional graham cracker crust, this recipe uses store bought peanut butter-filled sandwich cookies.  I used the popular store-bought variety Nutter-Butters, but since it is Girl Scout cookie distributing time, I can't see why you couldn't use up some of those Do-Si-Dos.  Better to put them to good use rather then have them laying around tempting you.  Wait... then you'll have this cheesecake laying around tempting you!  Dilemmas...

3/09/2014

Sunday Dinner

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Brunswick Stew

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cheesecake


Dream with me for a moment... A warm and sunny summer day, sitting in the backyard, sipping a beer, and tending fire to my grill.  The image almost brings a tear to my eye.  Or maybe that tear is because I am using up the last of my hickory smoked pulled pork from the freezer.  Or maybe it's because I know I won't be smoking any meat anytime soon because my grill is still covered in several feet of snow!  Yeah... the latter is the tear jerker.

The only thing that can make me feel better at this point is a Sunday dinner that is reminiscent of summer barbecues and flavors.  Cue the southern classic-- Brunswick Stew.  It is a thick vegetable stew with various meats.  It is more commonly served as a side dish, but with all those veggies and meats, I like serve it as a main dish.  The meats can range anywhere from chicken to squirrel.  I'm not quite so sure about the squirrel, but I do use chicken and I raided my freezer for the last of the pork.  As far as the vegetables, I use the traditional tomatoes, lima beans, and corn.   What really makes this recipe stand out is the addition of hickory barbecue sauce to the base.  It makes it very rich in flavor and helps thicken the sauce.  Season with some good hot sauce to taste and keep dreaming of those warm summer days with every bite.

3/07/2014

Oatmeal Praline Ice Cream

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You know that ol' saying-- "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em"? Well after the snow storm that blew through this past Tuesday, that's how I'm feeling about this winter and the two feet of snow that is still on the ground!  UNCLE!!  So, it's time to break out the ice cream maker and dream of warm summer air (let's just bypass spring), sandals, and sitting in the back yard eating ice cream.  I can almost taste it.  But for now, I'll just enjoy this frozen treat.

A few weeks back, I shared a recipe for oatmeal cookies.  If you are a fan of that flavor, you will most certainly enjoy this.  It is a light cinnamon flavored ice cream with an oatmeal praline mixed throughout.  The oatmeal praline might cause some dental damage if you eat it by itself, but once it is churned into the ice cream, it softens to a chewy texture just like an oatmeal cookie.  My children said this is like eating oatmeal cookies and milk.  My husband said it tastes like breakfast (he loves his sweetened oats and his favorite is here).  I say it just tastes purtty darn good.

3/05/2014

Muffuletta Deviled Eggs

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Deviled Egg, I have someone I would like you to meet-- The Muffuletta.  I'm sure most of you are familiar with deviled eggs.  But for those of you unfamiliar with a Muffuletta, it is a sub-style sandwich that originated from Italian immigrants in New Orleans.  It consists of layers of various meats and cheeses like mortadella, salami, provolone, and mozzarella.  These delicious components are placed on Sicilian style bread that has been spread with a generous helping of olive salad.  That's a good sammich.  

What is olive salad, you ask?  It's a combination of pickled vegetables, chopped olives, Italian seasoning, and olive oil.  It's not something I use quite a lot (ok, very seldom and only for muffuletas and now these deviled eggs), so I purchase a small jar from the market.   

To keep the egg filling from being overly greasy, I rinse the olive salad and drain it well.  I incorporate the usual deviled egg suspect-- mayo, but I kick up the Muffuletta flavors with grated sharp Provolone and a generous garnish of chopped hard salami.  To brighten the flavors, I added a little red wine vinegar and a flat-leaf parsley (that adds a little color as well).

3/02/2014

Sunday Dinner

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Paprika Twists

Crawfish Étouffée
Steamed White Rice

Coffee and Chicory Crème Brûlée



Crème Brûlée just rules.  Whether or not you agree with that statement might determine whether or not you join me in reading about, then making this heavenly version of the classic dessert.  

Think of a great cup of coffee combined with the textural pleasures of a great crème brûlée.  It's like café au lait in pudding form with a sweet bonus.  But not just any old coffee.  Staying true to my love of all things creole, I use the coffee and chicory blend from the original French Quarter coffee stand, Café du Monde.  The flavor profile of that particular grind is something special.  It has a deep chocolate coffee taste with an herbal essence from the chicory.  A little "tap tap" on the magic shell of sugar made solid by the torch gives way to a creamy wonderment that offers new revelations with each bite.  And believe me, you'll have to slow yourself down so as not to gobble the whole ramekin before you realize you haven't breathed in over a minute and the room is spinning and you've got kaleidescope eyes and.... well--- it's darn good.    

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