Monday, January 31, 2011

Foodbuzz Tastemaker: ConAgra

I know I've sung the praises of Foodbuzz a few times now in posts about cool products that I've had the pleasure of testing through their Tastemaker Program but I am here to do it again, this time it's some items that are well loved pieces of most home cook's repertoires, peanut butter (specifically Peter Pan) and Rotel. I recently was fortunate enough to receive a nice package of ConAgra products (in addition to the aforementioned there was a nice big can of PAM spray and a can of Hunt tomatoes that will surely see chili soon!) and a super cool HD Flip Cam! Normally I would do anything to keep myself behind the camera instead of in front of it but the stipulation was that part of the deal was to film some of your favorite SuperBowl in front of the camera I got stuck! Oh well, just don't make fun of me and somehow I'll survive :)

While I only provided footage of one recipe, I made a number of 'Bowl' recipes that I wanted to share, for those of you who know me, pro football isn't usually my shtick but since the Horns were in a pretty sorry state this year I have to watch something!

As I pondered what to do with my ConAgra bounty I realized the easy (and fun) course of action involved preparing a dish for each team playing....and of course I can't forget a "Dallas" dish to honor the Jerrydome where it's being held and lastly I had to pay a little homage to the Saints as the last champ.

So without further adieu, in the order that they were served:

As a tribute to the Steelers:

Terry Bradshaw's Blue Cheese Chips
*This was modified to make it slightly less calorie laden

12oz Thick Cut Kettle Chips
2oz Blue Cheese Crumbles
1/2 cup Bacon Crumbles
3 Green Onions, sliced on a bias, green parts only
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, roasted and then diced
Seasoned Sour Cream (recipe to follow)

1. Spread chips evenly on an oven safe dish. Dollop with sour cream and then sprinkle bacon bits over the top. Bake at 350 for 2-4 minutes.
2. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Seasoned Sour Cream
6oz Light Sour Cream
1oz Mayonnaise
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Celery Salt
1/2 Tsp Cayenne
1//8 Tsp Curry Powder

While it's not my creation these were a certain hit, everyone loved the chips and they complimented the traditional buffalo wings well!

As my tribute to the Packers:
Spicy Cheesehead Cheddar Ball
8oz Softened Light Cream Cheese
1/2 Tsp Cayenne
1 14oz can well drained Rotel
4oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup Bacon Crumbles

Mix all together, shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight. Serve with crackers

While I, like many of my Texas-brethren, am conflicted in my feelings about the new home of the Cowboys I can't deny that it's a pretty fab home for this years SuperBowl, so in homage to the Stadium:

Jerrydome (Cowboy Stadium) Tex Mex Pizza
1 Cornmeal Pizza Crust (recipe to follow)
1/2 14oz can rinsed and drained black beans
1 14oz can Rotel Tomatoes
8oz shredded cheese
1 1/2 cups Cilantro Pesto (recipe to follow)
(Fajita meat would be good but I didn't use any)
1/2 Medium Red Onion, thinly sliced

Layer pesto, cheese and toppings onto crust, bake at 500 for 8-10 minutes.

Cornmeal Crust
2 Tsp Active Dry Yeast
Pinch Sugar
2/3 Cups Warm Water
1 2/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Cornmeal
1 1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let it bubble/foam up (takes appx. 10 minutes).
2. Mix flour, cornmeal and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in the center and add in yeast mix.
3. Knead well for 7-10 minutes then set aside in a warm, draft-free location for 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.

Cilantro Pesto
1/4 Cup Toasted Pecans
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Cups Cilantro Leaves
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 - 1 Tsp Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Blend all together in a blender or food processor until desired consistency.

Last but certainly not least, as a fond reminder of a city that is dear to my heart and the underdogs who showed everyone last year, New Orleans Saintly Peanut Butter Pie!

New Orleans Saintly Peanut Butter Pie
1 8oz light cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Peter Pan Peanut Butter
8oz Light Whipped Dessert Topping, at room temperature
1/2 Tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Pretzels, crushed
3 Tbsp Butter, Melted
Chocolate, optional to shave over the top.

1. Mix crushed pretzels and butter and press into pie plate, bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let come to room temperature.
2. If desired, drizzle melted chocolate over the bottom of the crust and allow that to set as well.
3. Mix cream cheese, sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and whipped topping together very well (so no lumps exist) then pour into shell and chill overnight.
4. Shave chocolate over the top the next day if desired.

I wanted to give one big THANKS to Foodbuzz and ConAgra for the neat package of stuff I got to use to show-off some favorite Football foods, hope everyone has a Happy Superbowl!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 favorite cooking gear, a slight obsession

For years as a kid I would watch my mom (many of you know her as Texas to Mexico) feed her dish/kitchen gear obsession through trips to vintage and thrift stores, eventually her hobby became employment when she turned her interior design and collecting skills into a booth at a local antique store. I never put much thought into her collection because really as a kid who cares about old furniture and plates and such?

Truth be told it has rubbed off on me. It first struck when I was in college and started grabbing bits and pieces of Harkerware until I ended up with a nice large set of plates, serving plates, small bowls and other odds and ends. The Harkerware fit in neatly with my love of 1950s/1960s style kitchen stuff, at the time I was convinced I would one day have a kitchen full of vintage appliances, etc. Funny how the ease of finding modern pieces supplanted that! Next on the list came Fiesta dishes, which I adore but I came late to the party when it comes to collecting Fiesta and the prices are already higher, so it's more of a splurge for me.

Of late I haven't actively searched for a lot of specific types of dishes but when my great-grandmother passed away two years ago I did inherit some neat pieces, including some Pyrex Visions cooking pots, at the time I thought, sure I'll see if I like them but didn't think much about it. Silly me, the two pots I inherited from Nana have become the backbone of something I have found to be an invaluable tool on a near daily basis.

I have always loved the colorful array of mixing and serving bowls that have been made by Pyrex,I'm currently lucky enough to have two sets of them, one is a great multi-colored set of mixing bowls, of which I just adore the ad that went with them originally:

I've also got a beautiful turquoise and white collection of 'Cinderella' bowls, again, I love the original ad...I'm a bit of a vintage ad junkie : )

Pyrex is fantastic because it comes in a variety of kitschy vintage colors and patterns but also because it is durable, easy to clean and easy to cook in. Outside of the pretty Pyrex live my favorite, the Visions cookware, it's not the most beautiful dishware you've ever seen but it is fantastically durable and has been fantastic, especially lately with the candy, chocolate, etc. that gets cooked up around the Christmas holiday!

My set of Visions cookware has been used and abused so I went searching for an image just to show off what it looked like originally out of the box (not that I ever saw the box):

I have an array of pots, skillets and even a well loved double boiler. So, after my lengthy rant about some of my favorite vintage kitchen goodies I thought it would be prudent to share a few of the candy recipes I made in my favorite pots, enjoy : )

Fleur de Sel Caramels
*Adapted from Martha Stewart's Recipe

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

1. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
2. Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
3. Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
4. Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp Fleur de Sel over the top.
5. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Brandy-Caramel Truffles
*Adapted from Cooking Light
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons evaporated whole milk
1 tablespoon golden cane syrup (such as Lyle's Golden Syrup)
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1.75 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1. Combine brown sugar, milk, cane syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.
2. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon and vanilla extract. Add chocolates; let stand 1 minute. Stir until smooth.
3. Pour into a shallow dish; cover and chill 4 hours.
4. Heat a tablespoon measure with hot water; pat dry. Scoop chocolate mixture with spoon; dip in cocoa. Roll into balls. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Both of these were tasty and fabulously easy to make, I'll be adding them to the annual cookie/candy list for sure, what I love about the truffle recipe is you could swap in just about any liquor you like and change the flavor to the tune of infinite possibilities!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kickin' Mexican Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

Each year I make some standby Christmas Cookie recipes but I also go perusing the cookbooks and internet for recipes that look like they should be added to the plates I give to family and friends. While digging around this year I stumbled across a contest on the Cupcake Adventure Contest put on by Scharffenberger Chocolate, as much as I enjoy cupcakes I haven't really been part of the cupcake craze that has swept the blog and culinary community the last few years, I enjoy making them occasionally but not the creative, crazy varieties and decorations that some make, so I was a bit surprised by my interest in competing in the contest. Needless to say, the point of the contest is to use some really nice, high quality chocolate in an adventurous cupcake using some pretty interesting ingredients, you are required to use at least one of the following: stout beer (oatmeal, chocolate, imperial or any other stout); ricotta; buttermilk; coconut butter, coconut milk or coconut cream; saffron; molasses (light, dark or blackstrap); adzuki bean; fresh beet; sweetened condensed milk; fresh or whole dried chili pepper; bee pollen; meyer lemon; almond flour; and Sumatra coffee bean.

The possibilities are endless but I felt a certain affinity towards the spicier varieties and made a Mexican Hot Chocolate inspired cupcake.

1/2 Cup Butter, at room temperature
1 Cup White Sugar
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Cream of Coconut
1 Tsp Vanilla
4 Lg Egg Whites
3oz Scharffenberger Extra Dark Chocolate Bar, melted
3oz Scharffenberger Dark Chocolate Bar, melted
1/2 Tsp Chipotle Powder
1/2 Tsp Ancho Chile Powder
2 Tsp Cinnamon Powder
1/2 Tsp Ginger, powdered
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper, powdered

14oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Tbsp Cream of Coconut
1 Pinch (appx 1/2 Tsp) Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp Water
1 Tsp Cinnamon Powder
3oz Scharffenberger Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped
3oz Scharffenberger Semisweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 Cups Powdered Sugar

Sugared Chile Peppers
Crystallized Ginger

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, chile powders, ginger, cayenne and cinnamon powder.
3. Add flour mixutre to butter/sugar mixture alternately adding in small increments of flour and cream of coconut until all has been incorporated.
4. Stir in vanilla and melted chocolate.
5. Fold in egg whites.
**Batter will be very thick**
6. Scoop into 12 regular sized cupcake papers in a muffin tin.
7. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

1. Melt sweetened condensed milk, salt, water, vanilla, cinnamon, cream of coconut in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat until all is well incorporated and chocolate is smooth.
2. Let cool to just shy of room temperature and using a stand or hand mixer incorporate the 2 cups powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments.
3. Spread generously on cupcakes.

Add sugared chiles or crystallized ginger to top of cupcake for pretty and tasty presentation.

It looks a little light in the photo but I assure you it's a dark chocolate lovers dream : )