20130328

SWEET POTATO LATKES


Instead of that tired old sweet potato casserole
how about some
SWEET POTATO LATKES
this year?

My mom was full blooded Czech so potato pancakes, aka latkes, were a staple in my house growing up.  Being Protestants and/or Catholics, however, we did not call them latkes but latkes they were indeed!

Little nuggets of shredded potatoes, mixed up with some flour, egg, seasonings and fried to a delicious, crispy nosh to die for.  Mom always served hers up with homemade applesauce which made them even better.

I didn't learn they were also "latkes" until many years later when I was working as an advertising artist in New York and the owner of the agency, also my amour at the time, took me "home to Mama" and she served up....Potato Pancakes!!  Hers came with a little dollop of sour cream and a bit of caviar so it was a new taste experience for my childhood potato pancakes, one that I enjoyed greatly, thank you very much!

Here is my version of these classic Passover - Easter snacks with a little bit of Diva twist, I used sweet potatoes and served them up with some spicy Cherry Salsa!

SWEET POTATO LATKES
with Sour Cream and Cherry Salsa

INGREDIENTS
3 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes, Shredded
3 Eggs
1/3 C. Flour
3 Scallions (Green Onions), Sliced 1/4"
Kosher Salt & Pepper to Taste
Peanut Oil
Optional: 1/2 T. each of Ginger, Cardamom
Serving: Sour Cream, Micro Greens, Sauce

TOOLS
Shredder
Large Mixing Bowl
Large Skillet
Ice Cream Scoop
Spatula
Wire Racked Baking Sheet
Paper Towels

DIRECTIONS
Shred your sweet potato(es) by hand or in your food processor.
Dry them by wrapping in a towel.
Mix the eggs, flour and scallions in the large bowl.
Stir in the shredded potatoes.
Add about 1/2" of peanut oil to your skillet on medium and bring it almost to smoking point.
Scoop out the mixture carefully into the hot oil, flatten slightly with the spatula.
Fry 2 to 3 minutes per side or until GBD (golden brown delicious), don't crowd the pan, repeat with the remaining batter.
Remove onto the wire rack on top of the paper towel lined cooking sheet.

BAKING OPTION: Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or line with a silpat and bake for 25 minutes on one side then an additional 15 minutes on the other side.

Freezing: Place the latkes in a lidded container or a Ziploc bag by stacking the latkes one layer thick, separating each layer with wax paper or parchment paper.

Reheating: Place the frozen latkes on a wire rack on a baking sheet and heat at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (unfrozen latkes at 350) for 10 minutes (unfrozen for 5 - 8).

Top off with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with a few micro greens and serve with applesauce or another favorite sauce.  I served with some Cherry Pepper Salsa (from Benjamin Twiggs.)

Mazel Tov & Dobrou chuƄ!



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20130324

BERNIE'S BOURBON PECAN PRALINES for National Pecan Day!

 MY MOM'S BOURBON PECAN PRALINES
for 
NATIONAL PECAN DAY
 
My mother could make a mean praline.  It was a treat we looked forward to but it was one of those recipes she only did occasionally.  They weren't traditional for any holiday and we didn't get them often but, every once in a while, there she was standing over a pan with a candy thermometer and we knew we had pralines coming!

I also remember stopping at a Stuckey's on nearly every road trip and getting a praline there too.  I think my Mom had a fondness for pralines.  But Mom put bourbon in hers and that gave hers a definite edge over Stuckey's!

I've had her recipe forever but I was never able to master it until one day a few years ago. I have no idea what I was doing wrong before that or what I did right then, but now I've got it - and I'm not letting it go!  Maybe it was the pan, I did get a copper pan!  I'm not letting that go either.....

BERNIE'S BOURBON PECAN PRALINES

INGREDIENTS
4 C. Toasted Pecan Halves
2-1/2 C. Sugar
1-1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1-1/2 C. Heavy Cream
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Kentucky Bourbon
Pinch of Kosher Salt

TOOLS
2 Large Baking Sheets
Parchment Paper
Large Copper Pan
Whisk
Candy Thermometer
Wooden Spoon

DIRECTIONS
  • Prep your baking sheets by lining with the parchment paper.
  • Mix both sugars and the baking soda in your saucepan.
  • Stir in the cream.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reads 235 Fahrenheit.
  • Immediately whisk in the butter until it is all melted.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon until blended.
  • Add the nuts and switch to your wooden spoon.
  • Stir the mixture vigorously until it thickens, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Immediately start dropping by spoonfuls (my wooden spoon is a heaping tablespoon) onto the parchment lined baking sheets.
  • Allow to set until dry to the touch - about 30 minutes.
  • Wrap in individual candy wrappers and store in a sealed container.
You can keep these at room temperature and they'll stay fresh for a week.  You can also freeze these for a month or two.

Box up and give as gifts or just eat the whole freaking bunch yourself!  But don't blame me if you can't fit into your skinny jeans later......

Happy National Pecan Day!!

P.S. There's a BUNCH of great Pecan Cocktails and my recipe for Candied Pecan Liqueur over at The Martini Diva Blog today too!


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SMOKY BACON & EGG SALAD - Easter Egg Recipe for Leftovers


In a week everyone who celebrates Easter is going to have a TON of boiled eggs to deal with.  After all the family fun of coloring, hiding and finding Easter Eggs, Mom is left with the quandary of what to do with all the boiled eggs nobody really wants to eat.

So it's Deviled Eggs, Egg Salad, Spinach Salad garnished with Egg and so forth, ad naseum.  Yes, this is yet another recipe for Egg Salad but this one isn't just any old Egg Salad, this one has BACON and sour cream!  Try this one, Mom - you'll be a hero and you won't be wasting any of those Easter Eggs this year! I'll also bet you might be asked to make it other times of the year....

SMOKY BACON & EGG SALAD

4 Lg. Boiled Eggs, Diced Small
4 Slices Cooked Bacon, Crisp & Crumbled
1/4 C. Sour Cream
1 Tbsp. Chopped Chives
2 Tbsp. Best Foods (Hellman's) Mayonnaise
2 Tsp. Onion Powder
1/2 Tsp. Smoked Paprika
Pinch of Marjoram
1/8 Tsp. Smoked Sea Salt
1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper

Mix everything, except the bacon, together and chill for at least an hour. Fold the bacon into the egg salad just before serving to keep it from getting soggy, then serve as a sandwich on 12 grain bread (or any grain bread with a slight sweetness to it.) Garnish with potato chips and slivers of dill pickle.

Happy Easter & Happy Easter Egg Eating!

 

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20130321

CREAMY ASPARAGUS BRUSCHETTA RECIPE


 Just in time for all that Fresh Spring Asparagus!
CREAMY ASPARAGUS BRUSCHETTA

These Creamy Asparagus Bruschetta are absolutely delicious, not to mention pretty healthy!  They're a perfect cold appetizer to serve for Spring with all the lovely fresh asparagus popping up (from the ground and in your markets!)  I discovered these at a nice cocktail party but those were made with mayonnaise and served on crackers which got soggy, so  I made what I thought were some appropriate changes.

First, I substituted Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise, and I blanched my asparagus instead of boiling it so my asparagus would be al dente. Also, that recipe didn't have capers and I don't think they used the caper juice, just lemon juice, but I like the extra tartness the capers and juice added.

I also like using capers in recipes because then I get to tell people that capers are the pickled buds of a flower! Capers (Capparis spinosa) are the bud from the Caper Bush which is sometimes called a Flinders Rose, and it is indigenous to the Mediterranean.  Little Tip: Be sure to taste you mixture before you salt it because capers bring a bit of salt on their own. (But you know that you should be tasting your recipes as you cook, right?)

You can plate these up and serve as individual appetizers as pictured or you can leave the Creamy Asparagus in a serving bowl with a serving spoon and set the baguette slices in a bowl or basket next to it as a DIY buffet dish.  When I'm rushed I take option two! 

I changed the recipe a bit after the photo.  I noticed that the one inch sized pieces I originally chopped the asparagus into when I first served these made the bruschetta a little difficult to eat, so next time I made this I chopped the asparagus into smaller pieces which worked much better!

BTW, a little trivia for you:  If you substitute caper berries and caper juice in a Dirty Martini you will then be having a Filthy Martini!  Which would be a pretty good cocktail to serve with these!

INGREDIENTS

1 Small Baguette
1 Bunch of Asparagus
1/2 C. Unflavored Greek Yogurt
2 Tbsp. Fresh Dill, Chopped
2 Tbsp. Capers
1 Tbsp. Caper Juice
1 Tsp. Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Chopped Fine
Salt & Pepper to Taste
16 Asparagus Tips, 3"+/- Long
4 Cups Cold Water
1 C. Ice

TOOLS

Large Sauce Pan
Large Bowl
1 Large Collender
Chef's Knive
Small Mixing Bowl
Large Bowl
Mixing Spoon

DIRECTIONS
  • Blend together the yogurt, dill, garlic, capers and caper juice, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in the small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  • Slice the baguette into 1/2" slices on the bias then place under the broiler until slightly browned, set aside. You should get about 16 - 18 pieces.
  • Clean, peel and dry the asparagus then cut into 1/2" long pieces on the bias.
  • Add the ice to the ice water in the large bowl.
  • Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil, add all the asparagus pieces and blanch for 5 minutes.
  • Quickly move the asparagus to the iced water to shock. This stops the cooking process.
  • Drain and dry the asparagus.
  • Fold the asparagus into the yogurt mixture.
  • Top each baguette with a spoonful of the creamy asparagus mixture.
  • Top each with a small spear of asparagus (or a few chive twigs or a sprig of fresh dill).
  • Plate and serve.

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20130318

MINI REUBEN SANDWICHES


 MINI REUBEN SANDWICHES

I always have a ton of corned beef leftover from my St. Patrick's Day meal.  I love corned beef sandwiches so that's okay by me, but I thought that corned beef sandwich idea could take a little leap into appetizer territory so:
MINI REUBEN SANDWICHES

INGREDIENTS
4 Slices of Rye Bread, Toasted on One Side
1/2 Pound of Corned Beef, Sliced Thin
4 Slices of Swiss Cheese, Sliced into Quarters Lengthwise
1/2 C. of Sweet & Sour Beet Cabbage* (Recipe Below)
Mustard(s) of Your Choice
16 Sprigs of Chive

TOOLS
Knife

DIRECTIONS
Toast your rye bread on one side then slice in quarters lengthwise.
Spread the un-toasted side with a bit of the mustard.
Layer on a nice amount of sliced corned beef.
Top the beef with a slice of the Swiss cheese.
Place under your broiler until the cheese is melted.
Plate up then add a small spoonful of the Sweet & Sour Beet Cabbage.
Garnish with a sprig of chive and serve.

 Pair these up with my POTATO LEEK SOUP made with the corned beef stock for a yummy appetizer or meal combo!

*SWEET & SOUR BEET CABBAGE
INGREDIENTS
1 Head of Cabbage, Shredded
1 Red Onion, Julienned
1/2 Can Pickled Beets, Juice Drained, Beets Julienned
1/2 C. Sugar
Juice from Pickled Beets + Water to Equal 1 Cup
1/2 C. Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt

TOOLS

Saute Pan
Knife
Wooden Spoon
Measuring Cups

DIRECTIONS
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large saute pan/skillet.
Saute the onions for a few minutes on high.
Add the shredded cabbage, salt generously.
Add the beet juice/water. sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and cook until the cabbage is tender.
Season to taste.


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POTATO LEEK SOUP - What to do with Leftover Corned Beef Recipe #1


POTATO LEEK SOUP
or
How to Use Up That Corned Beef Stock from St. Patrick's Day!

So, you made a Corned Beef dinner yesterday for St. Patrick's Day? DON'T throw out the stock!!!! Use it to make this delicious soup!

INGREDIENTS
Stock from Corned Beef Brisket
3 Leeks, Cleaned and Sliced Bite Size
15 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cut Bite Size
1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary
1 Sprig of Fresh Thyme
1 Onion, Diced
1/2 Cup Sliced Carrots
2 Stalks of Celery, Chopped
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Sour Cream or  Creme Fraiche
Chives for Garnish

TOOLS
Knife
Stock Pot
Measuring Cups

DIRECTIONS
Sweat the onions, carrrots and celery in some olive oil in the bottom of your stock pot until slightly transparent.
Add the remainder of the ingredients to your stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
If you like you can use your immersion blender to cream the soup at this point.
Serve up with a dollop of sour cream of creme fraiche garnished with a sprig or two of chives.

AMUSED SOUP
Another fun presentation idea for your Left Over Corned Beef and this Potato Leek Soup served up with a side of cucumber slices topped off with a little Balsamic and EVOO:


Now, my very next post will be using the leftover corned beef so stay tuned!!

OTHER RECIPES FOR LEFT OVER CORNED BEEF


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20130314

GREEN TAMALES with CHERRY SALSA


GREEN TAMALES
with
CHERRY (Pepper) SALSA

 OK, I admit it, I don't always cook everything I eat from scratch.  I'm an illustrator/graphic designer by trade and I run 2 websites, 3 blogs and 3 online shops all by my lonesome so I pretty much work at everything but food most of the time.  A lot of that time is taken up by creating cocktails and the recipe cards to go with them.  One of the reasons I got into a food blog was to get creative with the munchies I had with those martinis!

With that little explanation aside, I confess to having a few things in my freezer that I can just pull out and zap at the end of a very long day.  I don't do frozen box dinners - too much salt, too much sauce, too little flavor and not enough food, but I do have a few favorites that are fairly healthy and pretty decent tasting.

One of those favorites are the frozen Green Tamales I get at Trader Joes.  They're pretty good for something I can stick in the microwave and you can dress them up with just a good salsa and some salad or some micro greens if you're going for an appetizer serving.

That's exactly what I did here.  I had a nice jar of Cherry Salsa from Benjamin Twiggs, which has a good share of heat from the peppers, and some micro greens so I made myself a nice snack for my happy hour dinner!

STEPS
Reheat the Green Tamales according to the package.
Spoon some cherry salsa (or whatever flavor you like) onto your plate.
Place the hot tamale (lol, pun!!!) on the salsa.
Top the tamale with some shredded cheddar cheese.
Place a good pinch of micro greens on top.
 
Enjoy with my Cherry Margarita-Tina.


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20130309

CRAN-CHERRY ORANGE BREAD PUDDING with Drunken Cherry Rum Sauce & Orange Whipped Cream


Last week I came upon this box of cranberry orange pound cake slices I'd forgotten about until they were too dry to eat as is, so I decided to recycle those into bread pudding!

Since I had the oven already on for my Baked Salmon Cupcakes (don't go eeeuwww, they're really just yummy Salmon Cakes baked in a muffin tin), it was simply a matter of getting on with the recipe and whipping them into a batter and resetting my oven to 350.

I happened to also have some Wisconsin Dried Cherries from Benjamin Twiggs (sent me to create some martinis & dishes) and I always have rum, so these little Cran-Cherry Orange Bread Puddings were getting a Drunken Cherry Rum Sauce!

I went one step further and topped them off with Orange Whipped Cream. Et voila! Those dreary little dried slices of pound cake turned into a decidedly improved dessert aka:

CRAN-CHERRY ORANGE BREAD PUDDING
with Drunken Cherry Rum Sauce & Orange Whipped Cream


 BREAD PUDDING INGREDIENTS
2 Cups of Old Cranberry Orange Pound Cake
1/2 Cup Dried Cherries, Chopped
1/2 + 2 Tablespoons Cup Dark Rum
Splash of Heavy Cream
1/4 C. Sugar
1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
Pinch of Kosher Salt
3 Eggs
1 C. Milk
Drunken Cherry Sauce (Recipe Below)
Orange Whipped Cream (Recipe Below)

TOOLS
1 Large Mixing Bowl
Measuring Cups & Spoons
Spatula for Mixing, Folding
Cooking Oil Spray
Muffin Tin

DIRECTIONS
  • Spray your muffin tin with the cooking spray.
  • First rehydrate your dried cherries a bit by soaking them in the rum for 15 minutes.** Microwave for 1 minute first to help infuse the cherries, then set aside while you prepare your batter.
  • Mix together all the ingredients except the pound cake chunks.
  • Fold in the pound cake until it's completely moistened.
  • Spoon cherries out of the rum and add to batter. (Save the rum for the sauce*!!).
  • Let this rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  • Spoon your batter into the muffin tins up to the top. (Bread pudding does not rise like cupcakes!)
  • Bake for 20 - 30  minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. (remember the heat carry-over - if you bake until the toothpick comes out completely clean your bread pudding cups will be too dry!)
ORANGE WHIPPED CREAM INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp. Orange Juice
1 Tbsp. Orange Zest
1/2 C. Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar

TOOLS
Large Stainless Steel Bowl, Chilled
Hand Mixer, Chilled Blades
Measuring Cups & Spoons

DIRECTIONS
Add cream to your chilled bowl.
Whip with hand mixer until soft peaks form.
Stir in the orange juice, orange zest and powdered sugar.
Whip until firm peaks are formed.
Refrigerate until serving time.


DRUNKEN CHERRY RUM SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1/2 C. of Butter
1 Egg, Beaten
1 Tsp. Orange Zest
1 C. Sugar
1/2 C. Cherry Infused Rum*
(you can add extra rum if you need to get the 1/2 cup)
Teeny Pinch of Sea Salt

TOOLS
Small Sauce Pan
Measuring Cups
Whisk
Medium Bowl
Medium metal strainer

DIRECTIONS
  • Melt the butter completely in a small saucepan
  • Remove from heat and allow butter to cool in pan but do not allow to solidify.
  • Add in the sugar and mix well.
  • Slowly mix in the beaten egg.
  • Return to stove and warm on medium until the sugar starts to dissolve.
  • Slowly add the orange zest and the cherry infused rum, being careful not to spill the booze anywhere near the open flame!
  • Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 or 4 minutes, remove from burner.
  • Stir in a small dash of salt (this will balance out the sweetness).
  • (The sauce can be refrigerated for up to two weeks and heated up in the microwave.)
You can now serve the warm sauce immediately over the Cran-Cherry Orange Bread Puddings, top with the Orange Whipped Cream, serve and take your bows!.

The bread pudding and the sauce can both be reheated for later servings.

**If you like you can double up on the Drunken Cherries and put some aside to add to the Drunken Cherry Rum Sauce, use as a cocktail garnish or just to nibble on.


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20130302

SALMON CUPCAKES with SPICY FROSTING

 
 BAKED SALMON CUPCAKES
with a Spicy "Frosting"

 Well, well, well, silly me.  I went and published this recipe on the WRONG BLOG!!!

I have several blogs, one of which is for my cocktail recipes, The Martini Diva Blog.  So, today when I was posting things up I totally brain hiccuped and published this recipe there!!

But I'm lazy so instead of taking that off and redoing it here, I'm just going to send you over there for the Baked Salmon Cupcakes recipe.....

While you're at it grab a few martini recipes. After this stupidity I'm grabbing one myself.....BTW, these were the result of the leftovers from my Baked Salmon with Blueberry Salsa!

Cheers!  Oops, I mean Bon Appetit!


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