Monday, July 30

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Crostini

Crostini: yummy bite size pieces of bread which have been topped with a variety of ingredients. Perfect for tasting parties, appetizers, or just because.

Ever have one of those days you just want to have an appetizer-just because? I do. This came about on one of those days, since then it has been a requested dish/recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Full time: 20 minutes (does not include onion caramelize time)
Serves 4-6 (12 crostini)

You will need:

1 small loaf French bread, sliced into 12 slices
4-5 mushrooms, diced fine
1 cup caramelized onions (store bought or home made)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Let us begin:

Place your caramelized onions in a sauté pan and turn heat to medium.

Warm onions through completely.

Stir in diced mushrooms and olive oil.

Cook 5-8 minutes or until mushrooms cook down.

Stir in 1/4 cup balsamic and remove from heat.

Line your French bread in a serving plate.

Place 1 tbsp ricotta on the center of each slice.

Top ricotta with approximately 1 tsp onion mixture.

Drizzle over remaining balsamic and enjoy!

HOW TO: Caramelize Onions

Caramelized onions are a great way to spruce up most dishes. They go great on pizza, salads, and bruschetta. The great thing about caramelized onion is their taste. The onions natural sugar themselves and become sweet and soft. This makes even the targets onions shine!

Caramelizing onions is actually very easy it just takes a little time and know how. You can caramelize large batches of onions and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. But once you see how easy this is, it may become a family favorite made often!

To begin caramelizing onions you will need to know how much you need for your recipe. Every one-two pounds of onions will become approximately a half cup onions. (The best amount to caramelize is five pounds. This will give you just under two cups. But not everything needs that many onions.)

When working with your onions you can choose to either slice the onion in half and then slice it up. Or just slice it up, I prefer the first method. This won't change the taste or cooking times, just the end appearance. Onions that have been sliced first will be small when done.

You will also have to decide if you want to caramelize on the stove top or in the oven. Again neither will effect the taste but, cooking in the oven takes a significantly larger amount if time. Stove top will take approximately thirty minutes to cook down for two-five pounds. In the oven this could take two hours. This recipe will be for stove top, but if you prefer the oven method just cook onions on sheet try and stir ever thirty minutes at around 275 degrees.

You will need:

2-5 pounds onions, sliced roughly 1/4" thick
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar

Let us begin:

In a large sauté pan place olive oil, onions, and butter.

Turn on medium heat and stir. Allow butter to melt.

Once butter has melted sprinkle over sugar and salt. Reduce heat to low and stir.

Allow to cook for 20 minutes stirring once or twice.

Once a light brown color begins to develop lower heat to simmer and stir.

Allow onions to develop a golden color and your done!

Use in your favorite recipe and enjoy!

Saturday, July 28

Super Simple Salted Caramel Brownies

These days everyone has the salted caramel bug. It is a catchy one, you find it in cupcakes, donuts, lattes, and ice cream. I decided to take my homemade salted caramel sauce and a box of brownie mix and join them hand in hand. This is a match made in heaven, a very gooey heaven!

Full time: 1 hour (includes cool time)
Makes a 9x9 pan of brownies

You will need:

6 soft caramel candies, diced
1 box fudge brownie mix, any brand
-any ingredients called for on box oil, water, egg, ect.
2 cup salted caramel sauce, store bought or homemade. Here is mine:
2 tbsp sea salt, fine ground

Let us begin:

Preheat your oven to whatever temperature the box call for typically 375

Line a 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Set aside for a moment.

Mix brownie mix according to package.

Pour half of the mix into the pan and spread even.

Drizzle 1/2 cup caramel sauce across top of brownie mix.

Space diced caramel bits across top of brownie mix, but don't push down.

Pour remaining brownie mix over the top.

Drizzle remaining caramel sauce over the top of brownie mix.

Dust over the top with sea salt.

Bake in oven according to package. Note the caramel will slightly change cook time. I find they usually take 10 minutes longer then recommend but, make sure to check them.

Make sure your inserted tooth pick comes out clean, but check more than one spot, as you may hit a caramel pocket.

Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

MAKE IT: Caramel Sauce and Salted Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce has always been a favorite topping for sundae lovers. It has a large variety of uses, cakes, pies, ice cream, and pastry all benefit from this sauce. It also makes a great drizzle for lattes and presentation.

Making caramel sauce it actually very easy, the only trick is to watch and stir it. This will prevent it burning.

These days "salted caramel" is the new favorite. It has been popping up on everything salted caramel hot chocolate and salted caramel popcorn are my favorite. With just one simple ingredient substitution and the addition of extra salt, caramel sauce easily becomes salted caramel sauce!

Both of these are a great staple sundae bar topping, can be used for dessert toppings, and keep well in the refrigerator. I suggest slightly warming them prior to use, it will make drizzling easier.

Full time: 90 minutes (includes slight cool time)
Makes: 1 cup sauce but easily doubles

You will need:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

You will need:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar*
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sea salt, fine ground

*brown sugar can be used the results will be slightly darker and sweeter

Let us begin:

Allow butter to sit out on counter for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.

Once butter is temped, cut into pieces roughly 1/2 tbsp in size

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, spread sugar out evenly.

Turn heat on to a medium/medium-low and gently whisk sugar as it begins to melt. If you see lumps forming it is okay, just keep whisking they will dissolve down.

Once it appears melted stop whisking, just swirl the pan as it slowly cooks to a nice amber color that is even. This is where you need to watch, it can burn fast. If you have a candy thermometer I suggest using it, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees

Once it appears colored add in the butter pieces, just be careful it will bubble up.

Whisk until butter has completely melted into the caramelized sugar.

Remove from heat and slowly add in the cream, it will bubble up again do go slow. (If you are making caramel sauce add vanilla also)

Once liquid has been fully incorporated add in salt, whisk for 2-3 minutes to completely incorporate.

Set sauce aside for 30 minutes before using. Very important! The sauce is very very hot and sticky, using it now would be slightly "burny"

Once sauce has cooled transfer to storage jar or use, it can be stored for up to two weeks.

Friday, July 27

Italian Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala is an Italian Restaurant staple. Almost everyone has scene it and most people have tried it. Marsala is easy to make, quick to prepare, and fits into your dinner plans regardless of how laid back or fancy you want to be.

Traditional Italian Marsala uses dry Marsala Wine. Most restraints use sweet Marsala wine, the choice is yours. I prefer dry. Spinach is also traditional served with Marsala. The best way to prepare the spinach is to wait until the chicken is done. Remove everything from the pan and wilt the spinach quickly in the remaining sauce.

This recipe takes into the consideration that you will need sauce for spinach. Extra sauce will be made and scene in the pan. If you choose not to use the spinach you can cook pasta and toss it in the sauce or cut back on the amount of wine and sherry you use.

Full time: 45-60 minutes (includes spinach wilting time)
Serves 2-4

You will need:

1 pint sliced Mushrooms
1 bag 8-12oz spinach
2 pounds chicken thighs
1 cup Marsala Wine
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cooking Sherry
3 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground white or black pepper

Let us begin:

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and get the butter and olive oil melting together.

In a shallow bowl mix oregano, pepper, and salt.

Carefully place chicken into bowl and coat.

Rotate and coat second side.

Move chicken to hot sauté pan, skin side down and continue to cost remaining chicken.

Brown chicken for 5-8 minutes or until a light golden color appears.

Flip chicken over and brown bottom side of chicken.

Add mushrooms into pan and try to get the to tuck into the gaps around chicken.

Pour in sherry and wine. Lower heat to a low-simmer.

Cover and cook 20 minutes.

Test chicken for temperature, if it isn't 170 flip chicken over and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until proper temperature has been reached.

Once done, remove chicken and mushroom from pan.

Add in spinach and turn heat to high.

Wilt spinach just enough to soften.

Plate spinach alongside chicken topped with mushrooms and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25

Peanut Butter Cup Classic Cupcakes

Is there anything better than a peanut butter cup? I don't like chocolate and I eat peanut butter cups like crazy! The magical balance of creamy, soft peanut butter cradled in a coating of chocolate. Yummy!

As I continue on my cupcake contest at work, this combination seemed to be a perfect match for a cupcake. A nice peanut butter batter topped with rich chocolate fudge frosting creates a magical bite to enjoy. I hope you like these as much as my co-workers did!

This will make 18 cupcakes
Full time: 1 hour (includes cooling and frosting time)

You will need:

18 small peanut butter cups
3 eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup chocolate fudge frosting (store bought or homemade)

Let us begin:

Preheat your oven to 350 (or cupcake maker)

Line 18-2 1/2" cupcake/muffin cups with paper liners or lightly grease and flour. Set aside. If using a cupcake maker count out 18 paper liners and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, blend butter and peanut butter into a creamy smooth mixture.

Cream in sugar.

Cream in brown sugar.

Add in eggs and blend until fully incorporated.

Add in salt, vanilla, and baking powder.

Add in 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup milk. Blend until evenly smooth.

Add in 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup milk and continue to to blend until smooth.

Add remaining flour and milk. Blend until a rich and creamy batter develops.

Fill paper lined cup 2/3 and bake in oven for 15-18 minutes, testing after 12 to make sure you don't have a hot spot. (cupcake maker bake 10 minutes)

Allow to cool on cutting board or wire rack for 20 minutes or until cool enough to frost.

With frosting in a pastry bag or large zip bag with corner cut slightly...

Pipe the middle 2/3 of cupcake with roughly 1/2" high of frosting.

Place a peanut butter cup into the center of the frosting.

You are now ready to serve and enjoy!