Monday, December 24, 2012

Classic Crème Brûleé

Classic Crème Brûleé

 

·        2 cups heavy cream

·        4 egg yolks

·        ¼ cup sugar

·        1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

·        8 teaspoons fine granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 300˚ F. Heat a pot of water, keep warm.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and ¼ cup sugar; cook, stirring, until steam just starts to rise. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg yolk and vanilla until blended with the whisk. While keeping the mixer on “stir”, gradually pour in hot cream mixture. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl; divide among four 7-oz ramekins. Line a 3-inch deep baking pan with a clean kitchen towel and place ramekins on towel. Pour hot water into pan until it comes halfway up side of ramekins. Cover loosely with foil. Bake until set; approximately 30-35 minutes (the centers will shake slightly when pan is shifted). Remove from the oven and allow ramekins to cool to room temperature. Chill at least 3 hours or up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Just before serving, sprinkle 2 tsp. of sugar on each custard and caramelize with a kitchen torch.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oreo Truffles

Today I took Oreo Pkg

and Cream Cheese and made Close-up 2.

 

You can find the recipe by clicking here. These are super easy and make a great gift for friends, family, and neighbors.

There are a few things that I do differently than the recipe. First of all, I let my servant the food processor do most of the work. First I use it to crush the Oreos.

Oreos in FP

Just Pulse until you have the Oreos finely crushed. Then remove 1 1/4 cups of crumbs for using later to sprinkle on the coated truffles. Then add your cream cheese to the processor bowl.

Oreos   Cream Cheese in FP

Put your lid on and process until well combined. It will form a ball…kind of like when you make pie crust in the processor.

I then use a 2 TBSP. scoop to form the truffles and place them on a parchment lined pan. If you don’t have a scoop, just roll with your hands as directed in the recipe.

Truffles ScoopedTruffles on Parchment

I like to place the formed truffles into the refrigerator to chill before dipping them.

While they are chilling, melt your coating. I used white confectionary drops. I used a double-boiler, but feel free to use the microwave. I feel like I have more control using the double-boiler, but that is personal preference.

Melting White Chips

Once my chips were melted, I found that they were not a good dipping consistency. Therefore I added a tablespoon of shortening and mixed it well. I always start with melting JUST my coating then adjust by adding shortening, a small amount at a time, until it is the right consistency. Different coatings (or even different brands of the same type of coating) will melt differently. So just experiment!

Truffle Being CoatedCoated Truffle to Parchment

Drop one Oreo truffle into the coating and cover well. Then remove (tap your dipping utensil lightly on the side of your pan to knock off excess coating), place on the parchment paper, sprinkle with a few reserved cookie crumbs, and allow to harden. I have a handy little candy dipping tool, but you can use a fork.

Continue coating truffles one-at-a-time until they are all finished. As you can probably tell from the last photo, Oreo crumbs will probably fall off into your coating. Don’t stress about it! Just stir it into the coating and pretend that you meant for them to be there all along!

Once they have hardened, I put them in paper candy cups and store until time to deliver them.

Truffles in Paper

I like to deliver just a few goodies every few days throughout the Christmas season…..just enough for a little treat. My neighbors accuse me of trying to kill them with kindness otherwise!

 

BONUS:

From the experimental cooking category…

Experimenting with Leftovers

I had a little left-over melted coating and Oreo crumbs. So while the coating was still warm, I stirred in a spoonful of peanut butter and the crumbs. Then I spread it on a piece of parchment. It has now set up (though a little softer than the plain coating) and it is YUMMY! It reminds of those ol’ time little crunchy peanut butter bars.

peanut butter bar

Enjoy!

Sammi

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Looking for My Christmas Spirit…

First of all…I will be copying this to all three of my blogs. So to you few followers of all…no, you’re not crazy!

Now on with the story….

I can’t find my Christmas spirit this year. I forced myself to put up our tree, hoping that just doing it would help. I still haven’t made my topper yet…but the tree looks nice. I didn’t however find my Christmas spirit by decorating it. Actually it made me a little sadder.

Christmas 2010 016

A few nights ago, I went to our community’s Christmas party. The company and the food were wonderful, as usual; but no….I didn’t find my Christmas spirit there either. I came home feeling a little sadder.

Last night, we went out to a very nice dinner with friends. Prime rib, filets, and other yummy things were ordered. There was no tiramisu on the menu…so I skipped dessert. I had a lovely time. We traveled to and fro in a winter wonderland as snow softly fell. I came home with no more Christmas spirit than when I left.

In talking to a few friends…and even reading a few other blogs, I am finding that I am NOT alone with this lack of Christmas spirit this year. My friends and I are VERY fortunate. Our husbands have good jobs, and they work hard. We all have everything we need and much of what we want. And we are smart enough to know how blessed we truly are…and we know that it is all by God’s grace. Which makes my our lack of Christmas spirit even MORE frustrating. We know why we are celebrating this season. We know that the greatest gift we could EVER receive is one that we have already accepted…the gift of salvation through Christ. So why these feelings? I don’t know. My friends and I have discussed possibilities…we are at a stage where our on children are older and we are likely years away from grandbabies. So perhaps we are missing the magic of Christmas through a small child’s eyes. Christmas is over commercialized….But I don’t think that is it. I long ago threw away notions of giving just to keep up with Joneses…I give for the true JOY of giving, not because I feel obligated to do so. My husband said that I just needed some snow…for which,  evil looks were sent his way. (At the time there was no snow on the ground….and I have a real love/hate relationship with snow, but that is a story for another time). Perhaps I am just more than usual missing HOME! Maybe it is just a combination of all those things and more.

Whatever the reason, I have come to the conclusion that my Christmas spirit…or at least that feeling that USUALLY envelopes me…may not show up this year. I may not get the urge to fill my home with the aromas of cookies, cakes and pies baking. I may not unpack the rest of my Christmas decorations. I may not even have many gifts under the tree….or make lots of candy treats for my family and neighbors. And it will be OKAY! I WILL do some baking and I WILL make some Oreo Truffles because my son loves them! But unless something BIG happens soon, I don’t think I will be doing my usual CHRISTMAS CRAZY.

With all of that said….maybe my job this year is to help someone else find their Christmas spirit. While I am truly blessed, I do not live in a happy bubble. I know that many out there are suffering. So instead of just my USUAL Christmas donations, I have decided to actively look for those that “need a little Christmas”. (I know this is turning into a small book…but bear with me…PLEASE)

My first “find”:

I am from NC…so every few days I check out the Charlotte Observer online to see what is going on back home. Today there was an article telling how one of the shelters in Charlotte has a goal of collecting a ton of dry oatmeal by Jan. 31 to help serve the increased need this year. DRY OATMEAL! A relatively inexpensive, easy, nutritious meal. Something that MOST of us take for granted---or even COMPLAIN about---on a cold morning! Since it is NOT convenient for me to donate to that particular shelter AND there are hungry people EVERYWHERE, I have decided to donate some simple dry goods, including oatmeal, to my LOCAL food bank. I hope to make it a regular habit…not just a once-a-year, make myself feel good thing. I CHALLENGE you to do the same AND to ask those you know to do the same. (If you have a blog, please share the challenge there.) I imagine that many of those in need today may have sat down with friends in another Christmas season and ate prime rib or a perfectly cooked filet….and never imagined that they would one day need to ask for a bowl of oatmeal! One day it may be I or YOU or someone you love. It is not this day however. So this day (or this week), I give and thank God that I can!

* I did a quick Google search and found that my little, itsy-bitsy town has its own food bank. I have lived here for 2 1/2 years and had NO idea…so maybe I have allowed myself to live in a happy little bubble!

 

Sammi

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Have a Nearly Stress-free Thanksgiving

 

I have control issues. Yes, I know…a character flaw. For as long as I can remember, I have cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal….except the TURKEY. The turkey is man’s job. He smokes it.

For several years, Thanksgiving was a VERY stressful day for me. But I finally got SMART and started do what I could a day or two (or more) before Thanksgiving.

Our menu is always the same:

  • Smoked Turkey
  • Cornbread Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes w/ Giblet Gravy
  • Sweet Potato Soufflé
  • Green Beans w/ Shallots and Bacon
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Rolls…well USUALLY.
  • Pumpkin Pie w/ Whipped Cream

 

So a couple of weeks ago, I made pumpkin pies and froze one for Thanksgiving.

010011012017018020

Apparently I didn’t take a picture of the finished product…but I promise, there is one in the fridge ready for tomorrow!

 

Today I…

…hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs.

…assembled my Cornbread Dressing.

Blog Stuff 003Blog Stuff 004Blog Stuff 005Blog Stuff 006Blog Stuff 010Blog Stuff 011Blog Stuff 012Blog Stuff 013Note that I put oven temp and cooking time on the foil…so I don’t have to look at the recipe when it is time to bake.

…prepared my Sweet Potato Soufflé.

Blog Stuff 014Blog Stuff 015

…sliced the shallots for the green beans.

…and perhaps most importantly, got the mess from making those things out of the way.

I usually would have made rolls also either today or yesterday…but unfortunately I’m still playing “catch-up” after being sick last week….And honestly, no one will miss the bread.

In a few minutes, I’m going to make Cranberry Sauce, and I may go ahead and peel and cut the potatoes for mashed potatoes. I just have to put them in a pot,cover them with water and put them in the fridge; and they will be ready for me tomorrow.

Now with little to do tomorrow, I can REALLY enjoy my Thanksgiving with my family!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sammi

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Time-Line

No…I’m not giving a history lesson today. I’m going to give you my very loose schedule for getting prepared for Thanksgiving.

Saturday before: If your turkey is frozen, put it in the refrigerator to thaw. Make sure he is on a tray…don’t want any messes in the fridge.

Sunday or Monday:

  • Make a final shopping list and buy needed items. Make sure that you really have all those pantry staples that you THINK you have!
  • Bake cookies and decorate (or bake on Sunday and decorate on Monday)….although, I don’t think I will be baking cookies this year. I have some other projects that are taking my time…Plus with only 3 of us here, I don’t really NEED to bake cookies. 
  • Make cranberry sauce; refrigerate.

Tuesday:

  • Bake sweet potatoes for sweet potato soufflé and refrigerate.
  • Bake cornbread for dressing.
  • Make rolls and partially bake. (your own brown-and-serve rolls)
  • Check on the turkey and make sure that he is thawing properly.

Wednesday:

  • Prepare sweet potato soufflé and cornbread dressing, but DO NOT bake yet. Just put them in their casserole dishes, cover and refrigerate.
  • Make and bake pumpkin pie; refrigerate.
  • We serve our meal buffet-style. So I don’t set the table. But if you serve at the table, go ahead and set your table.
  • Boil eggs for deviled eggs; refrigerate.
  • Make congealed cranberry salad (if serving)
  • Plan something for breakfast that doesn’t involve major preparation. I have cinnamon rolls in the freezer! I also have plenty of yogurt, fresh fruit, and even instant oatmeal (something I keep around for “emergency” breakfasts)
  • If you are serving your Thanksgiving meal later in the day on Thursday, have some nibbles ready for snacking. I always make sure I have baby carrots, celery sticks, cheese, and crackers available. We usually have some sliced salami and olives in the fridge also. Even if you are serving earlier, you may want to have some quick snacks available…just in case dinner is delayed. Hey…we’ve all had Thanksgiving day glitches!!!
  • Once again, check on the thawing progress of the bird….you may have to prepare a cold bath for him if he isn’t cooperating…

Thanksgiving Day:

  • Morning:
    • Turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for proper atmosphere. Winking smile
    • Make frosting for cinnamon rolls.
    • Serve breakfast.
    • Make deviled eggs; refrigerate.
    • Chop shallots for green beans; refrigerate.

On to the SERIOUS stuff!…..

***Now I usually get a break. Man smokes our turkey so I just need to wait for him to tell me when he needs it. So….you will need to determine when you need to start cooking your turkey and….

  • 30 minutes before turkey cooking time
    • Make sure your dishwasher is empty or run a sink of soapy water to clean as you go..as much as possible.
    • Preheat oven.
    • Prep turkey.
    • Make the giblet gravy; refrigerate.
    • Cook turkey using your preferred method.
  • 1 hr. before serving time:
    • Preheat oven to 325 degrees(if it isn’t already ready already…)
    • Bake cornbread dressing and sweet potato soufflé (I adjust cooking time for soufflé to allow for lower oven temp.)
    • Peel and cube potatoes for mashed potatoes; place in pot and cover with salted water…
    • Unmold cranberry salad.
  • 30 minutes before serving time:
    • Start cooking potatoes.
    • Prepare green beans. (I steam the green beans in the microwave while I start cooking the bacon on the stovetop)
    • Check on cornbread dressing and S.P. soufflé…adjust cooking time, if needed.
    • Make whipped cream; refrigerate.
  • While turkey “rests”:
    • Reheat gravy over low heat.
    • Finish baking rolls.
    • Mash potatoes.

Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything and it is now time to serve your Thanksgiving meal. Don’t forget the deviled eggs and cranberry sauce in the fridge! Yep…I’ve done that.

Afterwards, we usually sit around miserably stuffed for a while before I serve the pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Sammi

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sugar Cookies—Part 1

Okay…I like a shortcut when I can find one. I have this WONDERFUL sugar cookie recipe. It is simple to make and simple to work with. I clipped it out of a magazine about 10 years ago. So I was just going to hop on the handy dandy internet and find ya’ll a link. Just one big, fat problem. I did NOT clip it from Family Circle like I thought…oh no, I clipped it from McCall’s magazine…which is no longer published.
The great thing about this recipe is that it has 7 variations in addition to the basic recipe. So you can have plain ol’ sugar cookies OR you can make one of the variations: chocolate, spice, lemon, peanut butter, hazelnut, pistachio, or almond.
So today I’m going to give ya’ll the basic recipe…and I will try (I promise) to come back and give the variations when time allows.

Sugar Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
In bowl, with mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. On low, beat in flour and salt. Divide dough in half; shape each into 1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap; chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On floured surface, roll dough 1/8-inch thick; cut into shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet(s). Bake 10 minutes or until lightly golden around edges. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet(s); transfer to racks to cool. Decorate.
Note: you can also sprinkle with colored sugar BEFORE baking if you are not decorating them with icing.
Store in airtight container, up to 2 weeks OR freeze, UNDECORATED, up to 3 months.

Okay…I will go ahead and give one variation…but only because it is the one I used to make my Thanksgiving cookies.

Variation:

Spice Cookie Dough

Omit granulated sugar and substitute 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses. Omit vanilla extract. Add 2 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. each ground cloves, ginger and nutmeg to flour.

To decorate like this, you will need some Royal Icing. I use the recipe that comes with the meringue powder that you will need to make it. I tint some of it brown and use it to pipe around the edges of the cookies AND to do the dot detail on the tops of the acorns. (enlarge photo for a closer look) Tint the remaining icing in your desired colors; then add a LITTLE water to each to make it a glazing consistency. Decorating one cookie before moving on to the next….flood the cookie with your desired main color. I use a tablespoon to gently fill-in the piped edges. Then add your additional colors and swirl OR use a toothpick to drag additional colors to make the leaf veins or turkey feathers. Then allow to dry completely before storing. I apologize if this is not making sense. I didn’t have a blog last year when I made these…so it did not occur to me to take step-by-step pictures. But if you DO have questions, feel free to e-mail me! Also, I promise to take some additional photos IF I bake them this year.

Happy Baking!

Sammi

Giblet Gravy

Okay…..this may be more than you want to face. You can always buy turkey gravy in a jar. I always buy some for when this recipe runs out since I live with gravy hogs. It is not bad…..but homemade is far superior! Plus you cannot live in the south and not know how to make gravy!!!!

Giblet Gravy

· Giblets and neck from 1 turkey

· 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

· 1 small onion, roughly chopped

· 1 carrot, roughly chopped

· ½ teaspoon salt, preferably coarse sea salt

· 2 ½ cups water

· Pan drippings from roasted turkey

· 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

· ¼ cup turkey or chicken stock or water

· ¼ teaspoon pepper, preferably fresh ground

Combine giblets (except liver….keep it for later….if you add it now it will become bitter), neck, veggies and salt in a medium saucepan; add 2 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add the liver and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a wire-mesh strainer over a bowl; discard the veggies. At this point I usually sit the giblets and neck aside for the dog, but most people actually chop the meat up to add to the gravy later.

Skim fat from pan drippings; discard fat. Add enough strained broth to the drippings to equal 1 ½ cups.

Combine flour and ¼ cup stock (or water) in a medium saucepan; stir until smooth. Add broth mixture to flour mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in chopped meat, if you are using it, and the pepper.

Makes about 2 cups of gravy.

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