Valentine’s Day Recipes

Valentine’s Day Recipes

Valentine’s Day is upon us. I hope that you are ready for that special dinner.   If not, don’t worry, we have compiled a list of our most popular Valentine’s Day recipes.  Start it off your night with a nice refreshing cocktail!  Then select an entree and a couple of sides.  Finally pick one of our Valentine’s Day Desserts. You can even pick two.  Try our sinful chocolate souffles and strawberry poppers.  Hope you have a great date night.

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Pralines

Pralines

A couple of weeks ago, I visited New Orleans.  While visiting New Orleans, I enjoyed all of the fabulous food and drinks that I could.  I had everything from beignets to po-boys.  However, my favorite treat was the Praline.  It was sweet, nutty with a hint of caramel.  They are freaking delicious!  So as soon as I got home, I had to find a recipe to recreate these delicious treats. Of all of the recipes that we tried, this recipe created the most authentic tasting pralines.

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Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding

There is no dessert out there, that screams bbq, better than banana pudding. If you go to any hardcore bbq joint in the south they will have a banana pudding. It is a great dessert that is cool, refreshing and balances out the smoke of the main dish. So I decided that I had to have an awesome banana pudding in my repertoire. This banana pudding is amazing and I hope that you get a chance to make it for yourself.

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S’more Mix (AKA S’more Crack or S’more snack mix)

S’more Mix (AKA S’more Crack or S’more snack mix)

The other day I was watching TV and they were going over the history of the S’more.  It totally got me wanting one and I didn’t have a campfire handy.  So I wandered through the store and came up with a handheld way to make them for me or for a party.  The S’more Mix, still only uses three ingredients. Plus the S’more Mix comes out just as good, or dare I say, even better than the original.

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Valentines Day Pressed Cookies

Valentines Day Pressed Cookies

My family loves to eat cookies.  Some of our favorite cookies are pressed cookies.  They are easy to make, equal in size and consistent in quality.  They are basically the easiest cookies in the world to cook the same repeatedly.  In order to make these we had to pick up a cookie press.  After looking at  various reviews online we decided to pick up an Oxo Cookie Press.  Next since it is Valentines day we decided to make some Valentines cookies.  This was easy as a few of the various cookie cutters included with the Oxo cookie press were hearts, flowers and teddy bears.  Perfect for Valentines Day!  The go to dough for these cookies, is Dana’s Mother’s recipe.  Thanks for letting me reprint this Jane.

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Labor Day Menu 2014

Labor Day Menu 2014

Here is my Labor Day Menu.  All grilled, all the time.  It is the end of the summer and you and your family should spend the entire day outside.  For that reason, my whole menu is cooked outdoors.  It starts with some delicious shrimp and ends with a grilled nectarine.  Also, included is a nice grilled lemonade cocktail that will keep you socially lubricated all day.  Enjoy!

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Not so Epic Fail – Cheese Strip Danish

Not so Epic Fail – Cheese Strip Danish

Cheese Strip Danish

Dana and I love Entenmann’s Cheese Strip Danish.  So I decided to try to recreate it.  Well I was partially there, but it was a fail.  I failed to let the danish proof so the final product was a little dense. Further, I am pretty sure that the instant yeast that I purchased did not activate.  So these two issues combined to leave me a doughy mess that did not come out right.  However, my flavors were pretty spot on.  So I am pretty sure that I will be able to figure it out the next go around.  When I get it right, I will definitely post the recipe for all to see.  However, I have listed my errors and ways to fix them, so you can try it out for yourself.  It is a pretty easy recipe.  Let me know what you think.

Cheese Strip Danish

The basis for this dough is a buttery yeast dough that uses milk as the base.  So I took a standard milk dough and added cold butter like a pie.  It was pretty spot on.

The Dough

Warm up the milk on the stove or in the microwave.  You want to heat it till it is about 105 degrees.  Basically you can put your finger in it and it is slightly warm.  Next add the yeast to the milk.  Let the yeast get all bubbly and delicious.  Roughly 10 minutes.

Yeast Mixture

Error #1 – Make sure that your yeast is good!

In a large bowl add the flour, sugar and salt.  Then using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the dough like you would for a pie crust.  You want the butter pieces to be about the size of a pea.  Once the butter is cut into the flour you have two options.  Continue by hand in a mixing bowl, or transfer to the bowl of stand mixer and proceed.

Cut in the butter

Using either method, add the bubbly milk mixture and mix.  Then add the two egg yolks and stir.

Mix in the egg

If you are mixing in a bowl, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead.  This will be tough at first as the dough is sticky but after a bit it will become nice and smooth.  You may need to add a little more flour to get the dough perfect.  Make sure not to add too much flour.

The Dough Ball

If you are using a mixer, use the dough hook and slowly add flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides.  Remove from the mixer and place on a floured surface to form into a ball.

Error #2 – At this point is where I screwed up.  I should have placed the dough in the fridge to rest for at least an hour so that the butter stayed cold.  Next time I will wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge.

Creating the perfect size pan.

I don’t know about you, but I could not find a pan that was perfect for the Danish. So using a 9×13 pan, some foil and parchment I made the perfect MacGuyver Style pan.

Make the pan

Roll two pieces of foil into long tubes.  Then place them along the long edges of the 9×13 pan.  Then line the pan with parchment, rolling the edges around the two long tubes of foil.

MacGuyver Danish Pan

The Danish

Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into three equal pieces.  Roll the pieces into 13 inch long snakes.

Roll into snakes

Lay them into the MacGuyver Pan that you created and press the edges together to form channels.

Form into the danish pan

Error #3 – Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.  I did not allow the dough to proof so I was left with a dense doughy danish.  Eww.

The Cheese Filling

Using a mixer beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and salt together.

Mix the cheese

Then spoon the filling into the channels.

Fill the channels

Error #4 – I used way too much filling.  My filling recipe is enough for two danishes.

Finally place the pan in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

Bake

Error#5 – I cooked mine way too long.  I was watching a rerun of Gold Rush and left the danish in the oven for 30 minutes.  The bottom got a little crispy.

Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.

While the danish cools mix up the icing.

Icing

In a large mixing bowl, combine your powdered sugar and salt. Add in your vanilla extract and milk. Pour over your warm danish. You may use extra milk to for a thinner glaze.

Drizzle

Drizzle over the danish and enjoy!

Not so Epic Fail - Cheese Strip Danish
 
The basis for this dough is a buttery yeast dough that uses milk as the base. So I took a standard milk dough and added cold butter like a pie. It was pretty spot on.
Ingredients
Danish
  • ¾ cup: warm milk
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ granulated sugar
  • 1 stick butter, cold
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¾ tsp salt
Cheese Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
Vanilla Glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
The Dough
  1. Warm up the milk on the stove or in the microwave. You want to heat it till it is about 105 degrees. Basically you can put your finger in it and it is slightly warm. Next add the yeast to the milk. Let the yeast get all bubbly and delicious. Roughly 8 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl add the flour, sugar and salt. Then using a pastry blender or a fork, cut the butter into the dough like you would for a pie crust. You want the butter pieces to be about the size of a pea. Once the butter is cut into the flour you have two options. Continue by hand in a mixing bowl, or transfer to the bowl of stand mixer and proceed.
  3. Using either method, add the bubbly milk mixture and mix. Then add the two egg yolks and stir.
  4. If you are mixing in a bowl, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead. This will be tough at first as the dough is sticky but after a bit it will become nice and smooth. You may need to add a little more flour to get the dough perfect. Make sure not to add too much flour.
  5. If you are using a mixer, use the dough hook and slowly add flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. Remove from the mixer and place on a floured surface to form into a ball.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Creating the perfect size pan.
  1. I don't know about you, but I could not find a pan that was perfect for the Danish. So using a 9x13 pan, some foil and parchment I made the perfect MacGuyver Style pan.
  2. Roll two pieces of foil into long tubes. Then place them along the long edges of the 9x13 pan. Then line the pan with parchment, rolling the edges around the two long tubes of foil.
The Danish
  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into three equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 13 inch long snakes.
  2. Lay them into the MacGuyver Pan that you created and press the edges together to form channels.
  3. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Then spoon the filling into the channels. The filling recipe makes enough for two.
  5. Finally place the pan in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
  7. While the danish cools mix up the icing.
  8. In a bowl mix the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt.
  9. Drizzle over the danish and enjoy!

This was a pretty spot on recipe minus the various little errors that I had. I am pretty certain that it would come out perfect with the few little changes listed above.

Top Ten Thanksgiving Recipes – Slideshow

Top Ten Thanksgiving Recipes – Slideshow
Smoked Turkey
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My top ten favorite recipes for Thanksgiving. Check them out and let me know if you argree!
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Soft Sugar Cookies With Light and Fluffy Frosting

Soft Sugar Cookies With Light and Fluffy Frosting

I was trolling around the internet looking for some inspiration and discovered these tasty cookies over at SavorySights.com.  They were posted by Fake Ginger and they reminded me of the super soft and delicious sugar cookies that the local Ukrop’s Bakery inside of Martin’s makes.  They were perfect.  Light and fluffy and exactly what I expected.  These cookies are almost like eating sugary air.  They are a must try.

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Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2011

Turkey Tuesday Roundup 2011

Well it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I wanted to give a few pointers. Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for any cook. Accepting or asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It can the one thing that keeps you sane during this sometimes stressful holiday. Below I have listed a few tips and shortcuts that can help ease your stress and make your thanksgiving a tad bit more joyous.

Choose your turkey wisely…

Choose a turkey based on the number of guests. Average is about 1lb per person. Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat. It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person. When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird. The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.

Check your local supermarket and sign up for a rewards card. They always offer a bird for less than $0.75 a pound. I paid $0.39 a pound at food lion. This can sometimes mean that you can get a 10 lb bird for less than a 4 lb turkey breast. Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome so this might be something to think about.

Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan. Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan. Go to the store with a plan.

Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound. So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw. That means that it should be in the fridge as you read this.

Brine the Turkey. Even though thanksgiving is only two days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird. Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions. If you find yourself with a frozen bird. Add it to a brine and thaw it in the fridge to do double duty and increase the speed of thaw.

Use a probe thermometer. Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking. Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time. Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast. If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again. Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Don’t use the pop-up thermometer. They are set to spring at 175 degrees. At that temperature the breast is already too dry. Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest. Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served. Definitely not good.

The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound. Includes resting time.

Don’t stuff the bird with stuffing. The internal temperature of the bird will not reach a temperature that is hot enough to kill the bacteria that will be absorbed by the stuffing. The only cure for this is to make the stuffing separately (AKA dressing). If you wish, you can cook the bird and the stuffing separately and then assemble them together before serving. That way you get the nice Norman Rockwell presentation.

Keys for seasoning a turkey…

Rub a mixture of olive oil and herbs under the skin and over it. You have to season the bird under the skin for the best results. See the herb paste that I made for my boneless turkey breast.

Using an injector you can pierce the outer layer and season the turkey from within. Coolness factor – by using a herb oil you can add ribbons of green throughout the turkey. This makes for an eye catching bird when you carve it.

Layer on the pork. Adding a bacon layer over the breast allows for added flavor and further prevents the breast from drying out.

Stuff the inside with aromatics. Halve an onion, some lemons and fresh herbs. Unlike stuffing these won’t be eaten and will add a tremendous amount of flavor to the finished bird.

Cooking the Turkey…

Place the seasoned turkey breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, make one out of carrots and celery. Make sure the turkey is not sitting on the bottom of the pan. Add a 1/2 cup of water or your favorite white wine to the bottom of the pan.

Start the turkey in a preheated 325 degree oven. Cook until the internal temperature is about 140-145 degrees.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the breast is 160 degrees.

Take the turkey out of the oven and wrap in foil. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. During this time the turkey will continue to cook and bring the temperature of the breast to 165 degrees.

Gravy tips…

Use the giblets. They package them with the turkeys for a reason. While you are cooking the turkey, simmer the giblets. Place them in a pot and cover them with chicken stock. Add an onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple carrots. Season with a little salt, pepper, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, and a bay leaf. Simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain out the solids and you have a perfect stock for making gravy.

Make a roux. Basically the start of gravy is to make a roux. Take 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs flour. Add them to a sauce pan and stir until brown in color. This will take the flour taste out of the flour and give you a rich nutty flavor as the base of your gravy. The key to a roux gravy is to use 2 tbs fat (butter) with 2 tbs flour along with 1 cup of stock.

You can use a slurry of water or chicken stock, and flour to thicken your gravy, but make sure to simmer it for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. The slurry is a 1 to 1 mixture. 1 part liquid, 1 part flour.

Don’t for get to add a splash of that starchy potato water.

Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of your favorite wine. Reduce and use that along with the giblet stock to make an amazing gravy.

After adding your roux, giblet stock, roasting pan drippings and a dash of starchy potato water, make sure to simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken.

Enjoy yourself…

Cooking is fun, don’t let a turkey stress you out.

The turkey and the gravy can use a bit of wine, so can you. When I cook it is a 3-1 ratio. Three glasses for me and one for cooking.

A meat thermometer is the only way to cook a turkey. No checking charts or guessing based on a pop-up thermometer.

Make as many of the sides and desserts the day before. If you don’t have too much to do, you can relax with your guests and have a good time watching the Lions lose once again.
If you have any questions click the Ask Rex link in the top menu. I will be available all week.

Other Options for Cooking

How to Smoke a Turkey

How to Fry a Turkey

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Individual Peach Upside-Down Cakes

Individual Peach Upside-Down Cakes

Peaches are in season right now and they are sweeter than ever.  I have a pantry full of them.  I was looking for a new recipe that I have never even contemplated before.  Dana and I were brainstorming and one thing I have never made was an upside down cake.  So I looked around and my favorite celebrity chef Alton Brown had made a similar recipe.

Individual Peach Upside-Down Cakes – (From Alton Brown)

  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 medium peaches, peeled
  • 3 tbs finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ice cream and whipped cream for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel the peaches and slice them into 12-14 pieces each.  A quick tip for peeling peaches is to place them in boiling water for 3-4 seconds and then the skin just peels right off.

Easy way to peel peaches

If you find that the skin is still tough to remove, add back to the water for another 3-4 seconds and repeat.  That way you waste no fruit and the skin comes off easily.

Perfectly peeled peaches

Divide 2 tablespoons of butter between 4 six-ounce ramekins.  Then evenly sprinkle the brown sugar between the ramekins.

Lay out the peaches

Then lay the peaches evenly over the top of the sugar.  Then divide the ginger between the ramekins.

Mix the batter

Melt the remaining 1 tbs of butter.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  then add the sugar, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla.  Stir until just combined.

Evenly distribute the batter between the ramekins

Then pour the cake mixture divided evenly over the top of the peaches.

Bake on the middle rack at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is fully cooked.

Peach upside down cakes

Remove from the oven and let cook for 5 minutes.  Then run a knife around the edge of each dish and turn upside down onto a plate.

Top with ice cream and whipped cream

Top with ice cream and whipped cream and serve.

Peach upside down cakes

These little cakes were the perfect after dinner treat.  Put them in the oven when you sit down to eat and they are ready when you finish eating.  Delicious!

Tres Leches

Tres Leches

Over the past couple Months, Dana and I have been traveling a lot.  We have found ourselves in a ton of airports.  While we were waiting for one of our many delays, we stumbled upon one vendor selling Tres Leches cake.  It was awesome! Ever since that day, I have been craving Tres Leches Cake.  I researched the recipe and finally decided to make it.  To my surprise, it was an easy cake to make.  While easy, it does take some patiences as you have to wait a whole day for the milk to absorb into the cake.   It is worth it.

Tres Leches Cake – (From Alton Brown)

Cake

  • Vegetable oil or non-stick spray
  • 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Milky Glaze

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Maraschino cherries, for serving

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly grease a 13×9 inch pan.  Then lightly flour the inside.  Move the flour around to make sure that you greased all of the nooks and crannies.

Place the room temperature butter into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Whip the butter

Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, roughly 1 minute. Turn the mixer down to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute time period. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly beat after each addition.

Add the eggs one at a time

Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Sift the flour and then add it to the mixture in three equal parts.  Make sure to mix thoroughly after each addition.

The batter, all ready to go

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. It is noted that it will appear as if there is not that much batter in the pan.  It is perfectly OK as it will rise a lot.

Spread evenly in the pan

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and springy to the touch. Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Poke with holes when partially cooled

When the timer goes off, use a skewer or a fork to poke hole all over the top of the cake.  Then allow the cake to fully cool.  Roughly, 30-45 minutes.

Preparing the Glaze

While the cake cools prepare the glaze. Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half in a large bowl or measuring cup.

Pour the cream mixture over the cake

Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake.  This will look like a lot, but remember it will be absorbed into the cake.

Cover the cake and refrigerate overnight.

Homemade Whipped Cream

Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on medium/low until stiff peaks are formed.

Stiff Peaks

Change to medium/high speed and whisk until thick.

Spread the whipped cream all over the cake

Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Results

This cake was awesome.  It was creamy and delicious.

Tres Leches Cake

Cut each slice and add a maraschino cherry to the top right before serving.  This will prevent the cherry juice from running all over your cake.

Look at the creamy goodness that is tres leches cake

The texture and flavor of this cake was spot on.