Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cooking With The Ones You Love Part 3: Snacks

Snacks are one of the most important meals of my day.  I'm actually being serious.  I would not survive with out a little something to eat in between meals.  I've been known to carry around snacks, especially pretzels, in my purse or in my car.  You just never know when you'll be stuck in traffic or out running errands and really need a snack.  So to complete this month's Cooking With The Ones You Love I have teamed up with one of my best friends who also enjoys a great snack.  

Amanda and I met in college and our lives have taken us, mostly her, to many cities and countries keeping our friendship "long distance."  However, after years of always saying we would be neighbors, even if we were old and senile and didn't really remember each other, she recently made the move to sunny California.  Amanda shares the same love and passion for food as I do.  I am often thankful to her for introducing me to new and "weird" ingredients.  She is forever supportive of my cooking and is always ready for the next taste test.  Since she has become my neighbor (I still can't believe it!!), we have already spent many hours in my kitchen together cooking up something yummy while holding a scrumptious glass of red wine.  

Homemade Soft Pretzels 

I love a good pretzel and so does Amanda and along with our pretzels we cherish a really good dip.  Amanda and I have come a long way from our college days of dipping our pretzels in cream cheese (which is still really good by the way).  So we thought we would share with you our grown up version.  As I researched homemade soft pretzel recipes I found them to all be very similar.  Instead of creating my own this time, Amanda found that Alton Brown from Food Network was the best one to share.  You can find it here.  As for the dips, those where created by us.

Pretzel Dips

Smoked Gouda and White Cheddar with Mushrooms Dip

1 tablespoon plus 1 small pat butter 
1 cup brown crimini mushrooms, minced
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white cheddar, shredded
3/4 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan melt the small pat of butter over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside

Wipe out the pan and return it back to the burner.  On medium heat melt the 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes until smooth.  Slowly add the milk and whisk to combine for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the cooked mushrooms and stir constantly using a wooden spoon for 15 minutes.  The sauce should become thick and coat the back of the spoon.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses.  Stir until all the cheese has melted.  Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine and serve warm with homemade soft pretzels.

Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Marshmallow Fluff Dip

1 - 7 1/2 ounce jar marshmallow fluff
1 - 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl combine the marshmallow fluff and cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth.  Add the cinnamon and mix to combine.  Serve with homemade soft pretzels.

Note:  This is a spin off of my cousin's fruit dip.  This recipe can be tweaked in many different ways and is so good that it can be eaten by the spoonfuls.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cooking With The Ones You Love Part 2: Dessert and Cocktail

My sweet tooth sister joined me this week to create the perfect Valentine's Day or Love Day as we call it, dessert and cocktail.  Melissa and I have been cooking together ever since we learned how to use the microwave and old enough to use the oven.  As kids our summer days were often spent just the two of us while our parents were working.  This gave us time to "bond" and be creative with our lunches.  Fortunately for us and everyone else we have come a long way from microwaving hot dogs, frozen chicken nuggets and using unnecessary amounts of mayonnaise as the "glue" to our sandwiches.  

With an extra special love for sweets my sister has become an amazing baker.  She is known for her incredible Christmas cookies, delicious pies, and beautifully decorated cakes.  Her endless creativity in her baking helped her create the perfect dessert for me.  Knowing that she had to satisfy my savory side as well, she mixed just the right amount of sweet and salt to make this Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce.  Oh, and don't worry we created a Chocolate Infused Bourbon Cocktail to compliment this delectable dessert.

Although we live 3,000 miles away from each other, our countless phone calls, FaceTime chats and emails keep us close and give us this opportunity to share our love with you.  Happy Love Day!

Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup pretzels, crushed
1 cup pecans, crushed
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
Course sea salt to taste
16 ounces Baker's semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-10 ounce jar caramel sauce (I use Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the pretzels, pecans, melted butter and raw sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Press the pretzel mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes to set the crust.

In a medium saucepan, cook the chocolate and heavy whipping cream on low heat until the chocolate has melted, constantly stirring.  Set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, flour and granulated sugar for about 5 minutes until thick and lemon colored.  Slowly beat in the chocolate mixture to combine.

Pour batter onto the prepared pretzel crust.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until the center is almost set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack.  Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes then carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen.  Cool for 1 hour more on the wire rack and then refrigerate overnight in the springform pan.  

Remove the cake from the springform pan and serve with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce per slice covering the cake. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and enjoy!

Chocolate Infused Bourbon Cocktail

Chocolate Infused Bourbon
6 ounces bourbon
6 squares of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Candy Bar

Place the chocolate and bourbon into an airtight container.  Allow to infuse for 3-6 days.

2 ounces Chocolate Infused Bourbon
1/2 ounce Frangelico
1 square Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Candy Bar

In a rocks glass pour the Chocolate Infused Bourbon and Frangelico over ice.  Stir to combine and garnish with dark chocolate square.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cooking With The Ones You Love

Spending time with my husband in the kitchen has been a little less frequent these days due to our opposite work schedules.  However, yesterday was a treat to have him home on my day off.  We were finally able to cook a meal together and actually enjoy it without rushing off somewhere.  Cooking together hasn't always been enjoyable.  We have had to learn to accept each others methods and techniques, especially when it came to chopping, cooking fish and seasoning certain foods. Despite our differences I have to say our love for food will always remain the same.  Creating together in the kitchen has brought us closer together and has kept our relationship strong.  It has taught us to be accepting, open and encouraging of one another.  But to be clear I think I have to start at the beginning where my love for food, cooking and entertaining began, my parents.

I have many memories of my parents cooking together in the kitchen.  Whether it was just a weeknight dinner before taking my sister and I to dance class or one of their huge backyard parties they often threw during the summer months, they did it together and always (well mostly always) with finesse.  Just like Greg and I, my parents too have had and still do have their fair share of differences in the kitchen.  My Dad is constantly changing his recipes.  He is always creating something new and more interesting by adding new flavors or completely deleting something from his original recipe.  My Mom on the other hand keeps it traditional.  Her recipes mostly remain the same, never disappointing her guests.  

As much as I would love to share one of their amazing recipes I can't.  They are family secrets and if you want a taste you'll have to stop by their place for dinner.  In the meantime, Greg and I want to share one of my favorite dishes that he created.  His Maple-Bacon Salmon with Baby Broccoli is the perfect sweet and savory dish to start off this month of cooking with the ones you love.

Maple-Bacon Salmon with Baby Broccoli

2 6-8 ounce salmon fillets
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 strips bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 baby broccoli
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large shallot, sliced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the salmon by seasoning it with salt and pepper.  Next rub the brown sugar into the salmon fillets.  Sprinkle the cinnamon on top and set aside.

In a small pan cook the chopped bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.  Drain the grease and set aside.  

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Carefully place the prepared salmon fillets in the pan.  Cook for 5-7 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid.  Cook covered for another 10-12 minutes until done in the center.  Turn off the heat and let it rest in the pan for about 5 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan.  Add the garlic and shallots and cook until the garlic has browned a bit.  Add the baby broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to combine.  Add the dry sherry and stir to absorb the liquid.  Cover with a lid and cook for another 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  The baby Broccoli should be slightly al dente.

Lastly, add the maple syrup to the small pan of cooked bacon. Cook on medium heat until combined and hot, about 2 minutes.  Place the maple-bacon on top of the salmon fillets and serve immediately with the baby broccoli.  Serves 2.