Halloween Bacon Oreo Bark

I know friends are starting to talk in amazement about Christmas decorations going up, and Black Friday Sales being advertised before Halloween has come and gone.  But I’m still stuck in wonderment that Halloween is this week- How did that happen??  Correct me if I am wrong but weren’t we enjoying a long Labor Day weekend a few days ago?? 

Obviously it’s been busy and here we are going to a Halloween party tonight- Bring your best treat.  Awesome.   When it comes to “on the fly” treats, one of the best options is the bark road.  If you have even a little bit of a sweet tooth you are likely to have a bag of chocolate in your house.  Melt that chocolate and throw in whatever looks good- candy, salty snacks, herbs, dried fruits, cereal, marshmallows, ect and you’re done in 15 minutes.  I did this in shorter time then it took Sir Wes to fill out his absentee ballot this morning.

The kiddos are able to help with making bark as well- I know my niece and nephew, Lady Corree and Sir Sully would love it! 

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
  • 10 Halloween Oreo’s, crushed
  • 4 slices cooked bacon, rough chopped

Method

Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Place pot with water on stove over medium heat, and place a metal bowl on top creating a double boiler.  Add chocolate and vegetable shortening and stir while the chocolate slowly melts.  When the chocolate is smooth add the crushed Oreo’s and bacon and mix well.  Pour onto the lined pan and spread evenly.  Pop in the refrigerator until set and then break into pieces. 

Serves 1-8 people, depending how piggy!

Here is to hoping Thanksgiving still happens and we don’t just skip to Christmas!  Because we all know- Thanksgiving is the best food holiday! 

Newsworthy Ginger Pumpkin Soup

I had dinner with a few clients last week that were not only interested in planning their potential event; they also loved food- what a great conversation we had!  One of the questions they asked was how all the food based reality shows affect us, as Chefs.  I told him that most of us love it; the rise in foodies is great, as we now have even more opportunity to talk about our trade, our passion!  Most Chefs love what they do; they have to love it to be ok with the lifestyle it provides and we are more than happy to talk food with anyone and everyone. 

Another question that was asked was what dish am I known for, as a chef.  I’m not sure if I was just nervous, or my mind went blank but I really struggled with this question.  I gave a few answers after stumbling for a couple moments, but the question stayed with me causing me to think about the years of my career that led me to where I am, and what dishes or events stood out to me as milestones. 

Way back in 2006, I was working at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which not only catered in the convention center, but Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Richard Petty, and the Polynesian as well.  And in some cases we also would travel to one off locations- Orlando Science Center, private homes, even to the trails of Disney’s Wilderness Preserves.   One event in particular that stands out to me is a backyard holiday party that we catered.  It was at a lovely private home in downtown Orlando, with a beautiful yard and the most gracious hosts.  We drove our huge truck thru the old narrow neighborhood streets, and unloaded a kitchen, bars and tables up thru the driveway into the backyard which was transformed into a gorgeous dining venue under the old oak trees. 

A few hours later as the guests arrived, we were filling the backyard with scents of seared lamb and grilled beef.  I was busy roasting mini pumpkins and filling them with the soup I had made, which the guest adored.  Seconds and thirds were donned out with such pleasure.  There is no better reward for a chef then to have someone comeback for more, especially when you are just in the beginning of your career.  After the party came to a close, we packed the trucks up and drove back to the resort to unload.  Sitting next to the chef on the way home, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had done an incredible job, that’s all I needed to hear to fuel the culinary passion. 

The next week came and Chef asked me to write down my recipe for the soup; there was a food writer at the event and they wanted to share the recipe with their readers.  After I was sent a copy of guidelines for published recipe writing, something I still use today, I quickly sent off the recipe.  When I saw the recipe here I was pleased as punch. 

I would say this is one of my first dishes that I have been known for, and the best part is that today, almost 6 years later it still is a timeless dish! 

 Ingredients

  • 8 mini pumpkins
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 2-3lb pumpkin peeled, seeded, and diced ¾ “pieces
  • ½ cup brandy 
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

 

Method: 

  1. Cut small round in pumpkin and remove the top.  Clean out the seeds and pulp.  Brush with a bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in the 400 oven for about 20-25 minutes before serving.
  2. Sweat the shallots in oil until translucent.  Add the fresh pumpkin and sweat until fork tender.  Add brandy and allow to cook, reducing volume by half.  Add chicken broth and pumpkin puree; simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree the garlic and combine with the wine and set aside.  Puree soup with hand held blender in batches.  Adjust to desired consistency with more chicken broth or water.
  4. A ½ hour before serving add a couple of tablespoons of the ginger and wine combo, cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg to reach desired flavor.
  5. Serve with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese on top.

 Serves 8

** Note:  Adding the ginger to early or using the powder form can result in a spicier soup. With the dry ginger the longer a soup cooks with it the more of a peppery flavor it gets.

 Serving the soup in a mini roasted pumpkin is not only a creative vessel; but the flesh of the pumpkin enriches the soup adding an earthy complexity.

 To answer the question of what dish am I known for, this may be one of them, but to me it is more of an accomplishment that encouraged me to continue the path I was on.  We all have points in our career that are highs and lows, I would like to think both the highs and lows are equally important as lessons. 

Welcome to pumpkin season!

Peach and Tarragon Peach Mason Jar Pie

Happy Independence Day to all!  Sir Wes LOVES the 4th of July, I secretly think he has the goal to participate in Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, which just thinking about makes me a little sick.  Most years we stick with a batch of Sangria, a cookout and a trip down to Celebration to see the fireworks instead.  Yesterday I made a dessert that would be perfect to pack on any picnic, park, beach, or backyard.

Peach and Tarragon Mason Jar Pies

I can’t resist the scent that comes from the piles of peaches at the market, the smell is so strong you can taste it.  I love this quote of a Farmer describing his peaches on NPR, “Drips off your elbows, drips off your chin, drips off your face, drips onto your shirt, onto your pants, onto your shoes … We just want the consumer to know out there, that this is an awesome fruit and it’s a great time of year.”

Easy Travel Peach Pie!

Fresh peaches and a leftover pie dough sheet in the fridge, perfect for this all American holiday!  I had a bit of fresh tarragon staring at me from the refrigerator shelf , so I added that into the filling.  I love adding herbs to fruit, they just add a different, refreshing twist.

  • 4 peaches, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon chopped tarragon (basil or cilantro will work here too)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 pie dough sheet, use your favorite recipe, or purchase one
  • 4 ½ pint mason jars

To prepare the filling:

Place all the peaches, sugar, tarragon and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Allow to gently simmer, pulling out the juices of the peach, with the sugars thickening the juice.  After 15 minutes remove from heat and cool in refrigerator.

To assemble Mason Jars:

Roll out dough to a standard pie thickness, cut out 8 circles of dough by using the top of the mason jar.  In each jar place a cutout on the bottom and scoop the peach filling into the jars.  Top with the remaining dough. 

Place mason jars on baking sheet and cook in oven for 30 minutes at 425°.

The smell of peachs makes my mouth water!

Happy Independence Day, may we all appreciate the freedom we have, thanks to the service men and women who have provided it so courageously!

My Father’s Specialty- Doughboys!

Growing up my Mom was the one in the kitchen most days making dinner for the family, but my Father did have a few specialties.  Some good, and some just fun to remember!  He made great burritos, I still make them the same exact way at home for my family.  He also made great pancakes and held his own as the grillmaster.  He did make spaghetti one time, and I’ll just say it was only once, and Sir Ryan and I are still talking about it.  There are a few other traditional things my Dad makes during the holiday season, Nut Bread and Mincemeat Pie.   Now- the nut bread always disappeared within the same afternoon, but the mincemeat pie lasted a bit longer, it wasn’t our favorite.  

But with the mincemeat pie came something we loved…Doughboys, made out of the pie shell scraps.  A little cinnamon and sugar sprinkled and then baked, brought us to the kitchen like little dogs, begging for scraps.  Gone in minutes. 

My Dad was the only one that made them right!

With all the pies being baked in the kitchen over holidays, I think the Doughboys were the saving grace, from having one of us sneak a slice before dessert was served.

Dough Boys

  • 1 pie dough
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • flour
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine ( These are optional, and any nut could be used)

Roll the pie dough on floured surface a little bit thinner then you would a regular pie shell. Combine the sugar and the cinnamon, mixing well. Sprinkle the mixture over the pie dough and spread the nuts evenly. Cut the dough into thin triangles and roll into small croissants. I took half of the dough and rolled in a tube, threw it in the freezer for 10 minutes and then sliced it to make wheels. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in an oven, set at 425 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool and hide one for yourself before they are all gone.

Scooby Snacks

Of all the meals and treats my Dad ever made, this was my favorite, this was something that only came around once or twice a year but they were heavenly.

My Dad’s Famous Doughboys!

He has many talents, a couple of them in the kitchen, a few on the golf course, a lot in the business world but what he is best at, is being a Dad!

Filled with Good Memories!

Thanks Dad for being a loving Father and a trusted compass!

Bloodymary Gazpacho

Happy Mother’s day to all the Momma’s, the Grandmothers, the Doggie Momma’s, the Single Dad Moms, the Stepmoms and the Soon to be Mommies out there!    I live about 7 hours away from my Mom, so we wont be spending the day together, but she knows I am thinking about her.  The last time we were together on Mother’s Day was about 8 years ago and we celebrated by going to a fabulous brunch.  I think the meal of brunch belongs to Mother’s Day, and I love it because it is where absolutely anything goes!  

Happy Mother’s Day Queenie!

I’ve mentioned my mother, Queenie, not being the most skillful in the kitchen, but I haven’t given her credit to the Bloodmary’s that flow from her pitchers (my Dad may argue that he makes them, but I know she drinks them…).  In fact, she likes them well enough to have taken Bloodymary’s as her Fantasy Football team name as well as her email address.

Thinking about my mom, and what I thought she might like, and what she could actually make I landed on Bloodymary Gazpachos.  The vegetables in the gardens are hitting their stride, the cucumbers are fully grown, the tomatoes are ready, we have peppers we don’t know what to do with, and corn is hitting the bins….spells out gazpacho to me. 

Mise en place, mostly from the garden!

When you have a Mother’s Day brunch to bring something to why not make it Bloodymary Gazpacho.  Serve it in a rocks glass over ice, or if drinking at brunch doesn’t fit the crowd, just put it in a soup cup and watch the guests relax!

Bloodymary Gazpacho

  • 3/4 cup diced green tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup, peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 Tbsp diced jalapeno
  • 4 Tbsp corn kernels, raw
  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice
  • 10 oz bloodymary mix
  • 8 oz vodka
  • Kosher Salt
  • Granulated Sugar

Method

In a food processor or blender add the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, corn and lime zest and juice.  Give only a few pulses, keeping a “gazpacho consistency”.  Add in your favorite bloodymary mix and preferred vodka and quickly mix.  Adjust flavor with salt and sugar; all bloodymary mixes are different so only add a pinch at a time.  Refridgerate until ready to serve, overnight will allow the flavors to meld.  Pour over ice in a rocks glass or as a soup shooter.  Garnish with your favorite pickled vegetable, a stalk of celery, a stuffed olive,  or a spicy pepper.  This recipe also makes a fantastic shrimp cocktail dip!

Makes 4 cocktails

Summer Garden Vegetables

Cheers to all the Momma’s- may your day be filled with love, memories and celebration!

Happy Mother’s Day Queenie! Love you!

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Jalapenos- Ole!

Jalapenos and peanut butter….jalapenos and peanut butter.  Something I could not get out of my head since about 2 years ago when a friend requested I bring some to a meeting we would both be attending.  The friend claims to be from Mexico, and claims that jalepenos and peanut butter are a delicacy when you hit the roads south of the border. Jalapenos and peanut butter….  2 years later, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo…I had to try them. 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Jalapenos

Sir Wes has a nice little jalapeno pepper plant growing in the backyard, which I helped myself to.  After washing them I carefully split them length wise, not cutting the top part.  I swirled my paring knife around a bit and then I gently tapped out the seeds. 

Dessert from the backyard!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 small jalapenos, seed and inner flesh removed
  • White and dark chocolate coins

Method

Blend the peanut butter, sugar and salt together until smooth.  Carefully fill each jalapeno and wipe any excess peanut butter.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler as directed by the package instructions.  Gently dip the filled jalapeno into the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper until the chocolate coating is set.  Refrigerate up to a week.

Sweet and Spicy!

The jury is still out on jalapenos and peanut butter, but all have agreed they are not for the meek! 

Who is willing??

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Ole!!

Krispy Kreme Donut Hole Cake

While on a trip to Sir Wes’ hometown, Fairhope, Alabama this summer an event shock the small community- a long time landmark closed its doors, the Midtown Mobile Krispy Kreme was no longer taking orders.  I never could have imagined how much of our conversations would have been consumed by this over our stay.  It was at this point that I really understood my husband’s love of Krispy Kreme.

This is a clip from the Press Register:

“The Midtown Krispy Kreme, which opened in 1972, closed permanently at 11 a.m. Tuesday, halting conveyer belts that company officials boasted once made 1,000 dozen doughnuts an hour.  

By noon Wednesday, workers had taken down the sign out front and boarded up the windows.  

Though the last doughnut had been fried and glazed more than 24 hours earlier, a sweet smell still lingered there by early afternoon. A glassed-in shelf marked “original glazed,” “chocolate iced custard filled,” “powdered blueberry filled” and other flavors was bare.  

Employees didn’t know the restaurant was closing until that morning. Six of them were transferred to the company’s west Mobile location, while the remaining 11 were given a one-week’s severance check.

The Government Street store once made enough doughnuts to fill two tractor trailer trucks and a dozen delivery vans daily, but was down to filling just one van. The company, which once thrived on delivering doughnuts from Hattiesburg to Gulf Shores, is turning its focus to in-store, retail sales.

“I would rather make them hot and give them to you fresh than give them to you in a box when they’re two days old,” McAleer said. “That’s what we do best.”

So when Sir Wes requested a Donut Cake, I knew I could not wiggle out of it…. 

I wasn’t sure how to keep it together, but then thought about trying marshmallow, like you would when making rice krispie treats.

Sir Wes' Birthday Cake

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 7 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 40 glazed donut holes
  • 1 ½ cup chocolate buttercream
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Melt the butter and add in the marshmallows stirring until smooth.  In a large mixing bowl place the donut holes and pour the marshmallow over, tossing gently.  Immediately put into two plastic lined 8 inch cake pans.  Allow to set for about 20 minutes.

Flip the first layer onto a plate and gently remove the plastic wrap.  Spread ¾ cup of the chocolate buttercream over the donuts.  Flip second layer on top of the buttercream layer.  Use remaining ¾ cup of buttercream to spread over top. 

Melt chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler, when smooth and melted, add in heavy cream and stir well.  The glaze can be poured over the cake.  Allow an hour to set. 

Donut Hole Cake

Happy Birthday Sir Wes, I hope you enjoy my tribute to your hometown and a piece of your history!  XOXOX

A Donut Cake was a must for Sir Wes' Birthday this year!

Oatmeal Cream Pies- Move over Little Debbie!

And on the 12th Day of Christmas Cookies I discovered good things were worth waiting for.  Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies are by far the favorite new cookie that I made this year.  They are just plain awesome.  Taste just like Little Debbie’s version, except they are so much better.  Chewy and delicious; kind of ridiculous. 

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies

I discovered the recipe at the Beantown Baker.   

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tbsp boiling water

Filling

  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp unflavored gelatin (about 1 1/2 packets)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup water (divided)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces vegetable shortening

These will take you back to Elementary School!

Make the cookies

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside (or use parchment).

Cream the butter, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, sift together the salt, flour, and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture. Add the cinnamon and oats. Mix well.

In a small dish, add the baking soda to the boiling water, and then stir the mixture into the rest of the batter. Mix well.

Drop by the tablespoon onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake until the cookies are firm and just starting to turn golden around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack or a plate.

 

Make the filling

In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Let stand, stirring once or twice until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup hot water until well blended. Continuing to stir, raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Continue boiling for 30 seconds. Immediately remove from the heat. Stir in the gelatin mixture until it completely.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the vanilla.

With a mixer on medium speed, beat for 20 seconds. Gradually raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is stiffened, white, very fluffy, and cooled to barely warm, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar.

Add the shortening and beat until completely smooth.

The filling will set up as it sits, so wait until it is thick enough to spread or pipe before filling the cookies.

 

Little Debbie Who?

Hope you enjoy the last Day of Christmas Cookies, in my opinion- I saved the best for last!

Happy Baking!

Buckeyes

On the 11th Day of Christmas Cookies I made the cookie that started it all- The Buckeye, a true crowd pleaser.   Years ago a friend included me in her yearly Cookie Extravaganza and I was in charge of the Buckeyes.  It was a full day of baking, from early in the morning to late at night, I might have complained a bit, a lot actually, but there is always a smile on my face when I think about these days.   The Annual Cookie Extravaganza was the inspiration for the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies for sure, and how could I not deliver on my responsibility of the Buckeyes!

Ohio's Treasure, the Buckeye!

Is Peanut Butter and Chocolate ever wrong?     

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons shortening

Buckeyes

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar blending until the dough is smooth.  Shape into balls using 2 teaspoons of dough for each ball. Place on prepared pan, and refrigerate.

3. Melt chocolate and shortening together in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat.

4. Remove balls from refrigerator. Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball, and dip into melted chocolate. Return to wax paper, chocolate side down, and remove toothpick. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

Makes about 5 dozen pieces of deliciousness

Forget the Reece's Cups!

My yearly tribute to The Cookie Extravaganza and all the Cookie Girls out there!