Friday, December 30, 2011

Grandma's Apple Pie and Las Vegas

My dad, mom, me, and my sister Kimberly
Sorry that it's been awhile since my last post, but over the holidays, I traveled to Las Vegas to visit my family.  While there, I had the opportunity to spend quality time at my parent's house and was also able to explore and visit some amazing sites.  The best thing about my family living right outside the city is that they know their way around, and are therefore able to show us things we might not otherwise see.  So, if you're ever traveling to Las Vegas, here are a few of the places, off the main strip, that I would recommend you visit.
Death Valley National Park

China Date Ranch

Red Rock Canyon

Caves that were once inhabited by Charles Manson and his "family"
Now, back to the main reason that I originally started this post, which was apple pie.  Yummy!!!  For me, it's not Christmas in my household, unless there's an apple pie for dessert, and not that I'm bias or anything.....but my grandma's apple pie is the best!  The pie was always, and still is, a running joke between the two of us.  You see, every year that she'd bring the pie over on Christmas, it'd be burnt.  I never cared though, and when I moved out of state and started making the pie on my own, she'd call me just to ask if I had burnt it, like she did.  I guess you could say I still give her a hard time about it, but it's all in good fun!  Don't worry though, the cooking times that I'm providing for you will not burn the pie, unless you like it a little more crispy, like my grandma.

Grandma’s Apple Pie
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2 pie crusts (I use Pillsbury)
6-8 granny smith apples, depending on size and desired amount
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
4 oz. butter, cut

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, cut the apples into small chunks (removing the skin), then place the chunks into a medium size bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Pour the mixture over the apples and then stir together.  It’s important to make sure that all the apples are well coated.  Therefore, this may take a minute or two.

Push one of the pie crusts into the bottom of a pie pan and pour the apple mixture on top, spreading out as needed. 

Cut the butter into 6 skinny square slices and place them randomly around the top of the apples, with at least 1 directly in the middle.

Take the second pie crust and roll it out on a flat surface.  Cut 4-5 vent holes towards the middle of the dough.  Now, take the dough and place it over the apples.  Press down on the edges in order to seal the 2 crusts together.

Brush a little milk over the top of the crust and sprinkle lightly with sugar. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Bake the pie for another 30-40 minutes and then remove it from the oven and let cool on wire rack.  Now slice, and enjoy!

Tip for making apple pie: I recently discovered why there has always been a gap between the top of my crust and where the apples start.  Apparently, apples lose water while they cook, which is what causes them to shrink.  A way to help avoid this, and to make an apple pie that does not separate from it’s crust, is to boil the apples in hot water for about 8 minutes.  Once they’ve boiled, drain them, and then lay them out to dry on some paper towel.  You may need extra paper towel to pat dry the tops.  I couldn’t believe how well this trick worked.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baked Brie en Croute with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Pecan

Up until a few weeks ago, Brie was something that I'd seen pictures of online and in magazines, but never sampled.  It's not because I didn't want to try it either, but rather the opportunity never presented itself.  However, did you happen to notice that I said, "up until a few weeks ago."  Recently, while I was over at a friend's house for dinner, she presented brie as an appetizer.  Being a big fan, let me rephrase, a HUGE fan of cheese, I knew that I needed to try it.  One bite and I was completely hooked!

I wish that I had a better photo of this recipe to present to you, but I was running late for the party that I was taking it to.  Therefore, you will just have to believe me when I tell you that it's delicious!

Baked Brie en Croute with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Pecans
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½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. bourbon
½ package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 round brie (13.2 ounce)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat.  Using a sharp knife; cut the brie in half horizontally, in order to form two thinner discs. 

In a small bowl, stir together the light brown sugar, chopped pecans, and bourbon, until well combined.

Place the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface and using a rolling pin; gently roll out the fold lines.  Place half of the brie directly in the middle of the puff pastry sheet and top with part of the brown sugar mixture.  Top that with the other half of the brie and then add on what is left of the brown sugar mixture.  Wrap the pastry around the brie, making sure to pinch tightly at the top, in order to form a seal.  Place the brie onto the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the surface of the pastry with the egg wash.

Bake until the puff pastry has turned a nice golden color and appears crisp.  This will take about 35-45 minutes.  Allow the brie to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a serving platter. 

This appetizer goes great with crackers or apples!

Source: Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Monday, December 19, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs in a Garlic Bread Bowl

I'm very excited to share today's post with you!!!  It's an idea that I've been wanting to try, ever since I happened to stumble upon it online.  This isn't going to be like one of my traditional posts though, it's really just going to be more of a helpful guide, and hopefully an inspiration, for a fantastic meal!  In my eyes, it takes the concept of spaghetti and meatballs to a whole new and delicious level!  The best part about it, other than tasting AMAZING, is it's super easy to make!

Start off by lightly spraying ramekins (1 cup size, 3 1/2" diameter) with cooking spray.  Next, place in a little sliced mozzarella and mild/sharp cheddar cheese.

Add in a few meatballs and sauce.

Top the meatballs with thin spaghetti that's been cooked and coated in sauce.

Garnish the top of the spaghetti with another piece of mozzarella cheese.

For the garlic bread bowl, I used my own homemade pizza dough recipe, but you can always buy pre-made dough from the store.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out and cut into circles.

Make sure that the circles are large enough to hang over the sides of the ramekins.  In order to accomplish this, you may need to roll them out a little more, after they've been cut.

For the bread bowl to mimic garlic bread, I made a glaze that consisted of melted butter, roasted garlic, a little garlic salt, parsley, and thyme (add in as much of each ingredient as you would like).  Once all the ingredients were combined, I brushed a generous amount of the mixture onto the tops of the dough that were covering each ramekin.

I preheated the oven to 450 degrees and then placed each ramekin onto a pizza stone and baked for 15 minutes.  The top of the dough will begin to turn a nice golden brown.

When that occurs, remove the pizza stone from the oven and add on a second coat of the garlic butter mixture.  Continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  You'll know they're completely done cooking because the crust will look crispy and golden.  Remove the ramekins from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.

Once the ramekins have cooled slightly, invert them on a plate.  The easiest way to remove the ramekin is to give it a slight twist and then pull up.  (I'm sorry that I did not get a picture of this step, but I was just too excited to start eating.)  The garlic bread will serve as a bowl and catch the spaghetti and meatballs!

Garnish with a little Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh parsley!  Enjoy!

The next time I make this, I plan to add more spaghetti sauce and maybe a little green pepper.

Source: Nibble Me This

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cinnamon-Sugar Streusel, French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

Every so often a cupcake comes along that I absolutely need to try and this was definitely one of them!  I can't believe that I've never thought to make a cupcake like this before, especially seeing how much I love breakfast food!  And being honest for a moment, as unhealthy as it can be, French toast is pretty much one of my favorite breakfast foods.  Therefore, when I discovered this recipe online, I practically had to wipe the drool off my computer.  I immediately hit the "add to favorites" button, so that I wouldn't lose the recipe, and started thinking of a reason that I'd need to make them, which didn't take long.

Once I had the cupcakes frosted, I rolled the edges ever so gently in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkled with a little extra powdered sugar.  They turned out absolutely perfect and tasted just like a heavenly piece of French toast!


Cinnamon-Sugar Streusel, French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream
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Makes 24 cupcakes
For the Streusel:
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

For the Cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the Streusel:
Whisk together the brown sugar, sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and salt, in a medium size bowl.  Cut in the cold butter, or use your hand to help squeeze the butter into the mixture.  You should have some pebble size or larger pieces.  Cover and freeze while you prepare the cupcake mixture.

To make Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners, and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; lightly whisk until just blended.  With the mixer set to a medium speed, add in the butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla and then beat until smooth; this will take about 30 seconds.  If needed, scrap down the side of the bowl and stir together any remaining flour.

Place a little of the batter onto the bottoms of each cupcake liner and top with a little of the streusel.  Cover with more batter and then top the cupcakes with more streusel.  Yummy!

Bake for 18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Completely cool on a wire rack and then store in an airtight container, until ready to be frosted, or frost right away.

Maple Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, on a high speed, until light and fluffy.  Slowly, beat in the powdered sugar until well combined, while scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Stir in the vanilla, salt, and maple syrup.  Add in the heavy cream and whisk together on a high speed, for around 4 minutes.

Source: Bakingdom

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mini Crab Cakes

Jeff and I were invited over to a friend's house for a wine tasting party last night and everyone was asked to bring a bottle of wine and an appetizer to share.  I've been dying to try these mini crab cakes, ever since I'd found the recipe, so I knew right away that it's what I'd make.  I also felt that they'd go perfectly with the occasion!

When the buzzer went off and it was time to remove the mini crab cakes from the oven, they looked absolutely mouthwatering.  I couldn't wait to try one, although I did.  Another great thing about this recipe (in addition to them looking, in my opinion, elegant), is that they were very quick and easy to make.  This worked out perfectly for me because I was pretty short on time, due to a 5K I had run that afternoon.  The crab filling can actually be made a day ahead of time and stored in a covered bowl, in the refrigerator.  This was definitely a step I full took advantage of, and am glad I did. 

These little crab cakes were absolutely delicious and will most likely become a holiday appetizer in the very near future.

Mini Crab Cakes
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Makes 24
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
¼ cup sour cream
½ tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. minced fresh chives, divided
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
8 oz. fresh lump crabmeat, patted dry and coarsely chopped
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
Additional fresh chives, for garnish

In a small/medium bowl combine the cream cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, and the egg.  Beat together with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add in the sour cream, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of chives, salt, and cayenne pepper, then beat again until the mixture looks smooth.  Using a spatula, gently fold in the crab meat.  (This mixture can be made up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 24-well mini muffin pan with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, add the Panko breadcrumbs, ½ a cup of Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of minced chives; stir around.  Slowly add in the melted butter and toss with a fork until everything is well coated and moistened.  Place a little bit of the Panko mixture into the bottom of each well of the muffin pan and press down to form a crust.  (I find that the bottom of a shot glass is the perfect size to help accomplish this step.)  Next, place some of the crab mixture on top of each of the crusts.  Lastly, sprinkle a little more of the Panko mixture on top of each crab cake.

Bake until the cakes turn a nice golden color and are set.  This should take around 30 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Gently run a knife around the edges of each cake and remove them from the pan.  (These can be baked around 2 hours before serving.  Reheat at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, and then serve.)   

Feel free to garnish with fresh chives!

Source: Annie's Eats

Monday, December 5, 2011

Double Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

A few weeks ago, while I was roaming around Target, I happened to notice that they had holiday flavored m&m's on their shelves.  More specifically, cinnamon.  I love cinnamon, so I knew I needed to think of something I could make that would incorporate them.  Cookies, of course, were the first thing that came to mind, but what kind???  That was the question I've now spent a few weeks pondering.  (I know...I know....I can't believe that the m&m's have been sitting in my cabinet, untouched, for almost 3 weeks now!)

However, tonight I was having a serious craving to open up the bag of m&m's.  I didn't want to just waste them though, by eating them plain, so I decided to bake up a batch of cinnamon sugar cookies and include them in the batter.  What a great idea!  They definitely hit the spot!   

Double Cinnamon Sugar Cookies
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3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon m&m’s

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and then set aside.  Next, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, set on a medium speed, blend together the 2 types of sugar until well combined.  Add in the softened butter, and mix until a grainy paste is formed.  This will take about 2-4 minutes.  Scrap down the side of the bowl as needed.  Then add in the eggs and vanilla extract.  Beat at a medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add in the flour mixture and mix at a low speed until just combined.  Be sure not to over mix.  Using a spatula, gently fold in the cinnamon m&m’s.  Cover and place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Once chilled, shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar topping.

Place prepared cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat.  (If you desire you can always top cookies with more m&m’s)  Make sure the cookies are about 2 inches apart, and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with a glass of milk and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from At Home in Alaska