Coconut Pecan Spread

Coconut seems to be one of those foods that people have a definite opinion on:  you either love it or hate it.  Janna and I both love it.  LOVE.  And what better way to enjoy coconut than combined with crunchy pecans, mixed into a messy, delicious batch of sweet custard and piled high onto a Dark Chocolate Cupcake? Okay, so maybe there are some other equally delicious ways to eat it, but it’s hard to beat that yummy combo!

This blog post just happened to coincide with my nephews birthday.  It’s a labor of love for me to make birthday cakes for the family whenever possible, and this time the request was for German chocolate cupcakes.  So, I baked 2 dozen Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, topped them with the spread and delivered them to the birthday boy, all the while snapping pictures, of course.

This spread is more than just a cupcake topping.  It’s pretty versatile and can be used as a filler or frosting for layer cakes, a topping for ice cream, a finishing touch for cinnamon rolls…the sky’s the limit!  However you do it, enjoy!
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Ingredients
:
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
10 oz sweetened flake coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
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Directions:

In a large saucepan, whisk together the milk, egg yolk and vanilla until well blended.  IMG_5513Add sugar and butter and cook on medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly, about 10-12 minutes.  Resist the urge to turn up the heat to avoid scorching

Once thick, remove from heat and stir in the coconut and pecans until well combined.  Allow mixture to cool completely before using as a spread or filling.

Makes about 4 cups.
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Joanie’s Favorite Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

I can honestly say that these are the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had.  No exaggeration.  I’m a big chocoholic and, in my opinion, the darker the better!  Sure there’s a time and a place for milk chocolate (and even white chocolate, though that’s not really chocolate) but dark chocolate takes the cake.  Or rather, MAKES the cake!

I came across this recipe from Life, Love & Sugar in the news feed of our Facebook page.  The chocolate cake was layered with a decadent pumpkin cheesecake and frosted with pumpkin icing.  The photos were so beautiful and enticing that I was more than happy to test it out for a friend.  While the original layer cake was delicious, the chocolate cake really stood out to me.  Since then, it has been my go-to for chocolate cake.

This recipe is rather quick and easy, and you don’t need a mixer.  So far, it has been absolutely fool proof.  The best part is, they are so rich and delightful that you really don’t even need icing…that’s just a bonus.  =)  However, if you do want something sweet to spread on top, try our Basic Buttercream or Coconut Pecan Spread.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark baking chocolate powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water water
2 tsp real vanilla extractIMG_5447

Directions:
Prepare your pans ahead of time.  Line cupcake pans, OR thoroughly grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.  You may consider adding parchment paper rounds to the bottom of the pan to ensure an easy release.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together thoroughly.
Dry Ingredients

Add eggs, buttermilk & oil and mix until combined and glossy.
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In a measuring cup, combine the boiling water and vanilla and add it to the chocolate mixture.  Give the batter a final stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.  The consistency will be a little runny, but, trust me, it’s perfect.
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Pour the batter into prepared pans.  For cupcakes, leave about 3/8 inch to the top of the liner to avoid ugly muffin tops.  =)
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For cupcakes: bake 25-30 minutes.  (My stone pan takes 30 minutes on the dot, every time.  Metal pans may need a little less time.)
For round cakes: bake for about 35-40 minutes.

You know your cake is done with you can insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out clean.  However, DON’T disturb the cake until the final minutes of baking.  You don’t want to cause it to collapse.  Collapsed cake is not pretty, I’ve seen it.
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Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to cooling racks and let them come to room temperature before you frost them.

Makes 24 cupcakes (25 if you’re lucky!) or one decadent, layered round cake.
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Grapefruit Pie

I love citrus and grapefruit is one of my favorites.  It reminds me of being at my grandparents house in Florida and picking the tart fruit right from the tree!  As I was testing my key lime pie last year I started thinking about the possibility of grapefruit pie.  I’ve tried different variations of grapefruit pie over the last year and finally came up with one that I think is perfect.  As I researched grapefruit pie, I realized that they all use the actual wedges, and made a fruit pie, while I wanted more of a custard.  So I juiced the grapefruit and simmered it and reduced it by half so it was super sweet and super tart.  I also used the zest of one whole grapefruit to make sure it had tons of flavor.  Then I took the custard base that I use for the key lime pie and used the grapefruit juice and zest instead.  I couldn’t be more happy with the results and I hope you like it too!

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Ingredients for filling:

1 cup grapefruit juice, I used Ruby Red but any variety will do (One very large grapefruit will give you about 1 cup)
Zest from your grapefruit
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3 large egg yolks
1 9″ graham cracker crust  (or you can use a ready made crust)

Ingredients for crust:

2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbs granulated sugar
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp vanilla extract
*If you don’t have a vanilla bean you can double your vanilla extract.
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Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a 9 inch pie plate mix the graham cracker crumbs with the sugar.  Pour the butter into the dish and mix with a fork until all the graham cracker is coated.  Press mixture onto the sides of the dish and then press into the middle making an even thickness throughout.  Set aside.

To make the whipped cream, put the heavy cream into a cold mixer bowl (I stick mine in the freezer beforehand for a few minutes).  Using the whisk attachment and the mixer on high, whip the cream until it thickens up and forms peaks (3-4 minutes).  Turn the mixer off and add your vanilla and powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on medium to incorporate the sugar and vanilla.  Once finished, put the whipped cream into a lidded air-tight container and store in refrigerator.  You will need your bowl and whisk attachment again so you’ll need to wash it.
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Squeeze grapefruit juice into a small bowl or sauce pot.  Strain out seeds and big clumps of pulp.

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Simmer in sauce pot on med/high heat to reduce by half.  This will take approximately 10-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally.  You will end up with 1/2 a cup of reduced juice.  Add the zest and cool in an ice bath.  (Don’t skip the ice bath!  You do this so you don’t cook the eggs by adding hot juice.)

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Once the juice isn’t hot to the touch (it’s okay if it’s warm) add it, the sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks to a mixer bowl.  Using your whisk attachment again, blend on high until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes.

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Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.  grapefruit5

Let pie rest out of the oven for 10 minutes before chilling it in the fridge.  Top with homemade whipped cream and serve cold.
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Blackberry Mousse Cheesecake

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Blackberries are synonymous with Fall in the Pacific Northwest.  Everywhere you go you can find fresh blackberries for sale, blackberry shakes and smoothies, blackberry desserts, jam & syrup…you name it!  I’m lucky enough to have access to TONS of wild blackberry bushes that are heavy with ripe, juicy berries.  I’ve been a little obsessive this season about making sure I’ve picked enough to last me through the winter, and my torn up hands are proof of that!  But, it’s well worth it to have a nice supply in the freezer.  Not only are they amazing in tons of recipes, but they also make flavorful (and pretty!) little ice cubes for your water.

This recipe is a spin off from my Key Lime Cheesecake recipe.  I used the same basic method with a few key ingredient swaps.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a dessert girl, but I could eat these all day!  It’s light and moussy with tons of blackberry flavor, not to mention the color!!  They’re pretty little things!

Keep in mind, the recipe as written includes the blackberry seeds.  If you are someone who is sensitive to those hard little seeds, just replace the 2 cups of blackberries with 1 cup of fresh, strained blackberry juice.  Also, you can prepare in two ways: traditional cheesecake in a spring-form pan, or, my favorite, cheesecake mini’s (as pictured above).

Happy Blackberry Season!!

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 package Graham Crackers (approx 1 ½ cups crushed)
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Blackberry Mousse:
2 cups fresh blackberries (or 1 cup fresh, strained blackberry juice for seedless texture)
¼ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
2 envelopes Knox gelatin
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional Blackberry Syrup:
1 cup fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

To Prepare Crust: In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs.  Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture is the consistency of wet sand.  Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased spring-form pan.  (If you’re making individual cheesecakes in a cupcake pan, scroll to the bottom for further instructions.)   Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.Crust.jpg

To Prepare Blackberry Syrup:  In a small saucepan, mash blackberries.  Add lemon juice and cook on medium heat until they release their juices, 5-10 minutes.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer.  Return to pan, add the sugar and cook on medium for another 5 minutes or until liquid coats the back of a spoon.  Allow to cool completely.

To Prepare Blackberry Mousse:  Add blackberries to a medium saucepan and give them a quick squish with a fork.  Add water and Knox gelatin and allow to sit about 5 minutes until the gelatin begins to develop and the liquid thickens.Blackberries.jpg

Add eggs and sugar and whisk until eggs are well beaten into the mixture.  Turn your heat on medium and stir constantly while the mixture slowly comes to a boil.  Stirring is VERY important, you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs in your cheesecake!

Once the mixture has thickened remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  Add the blackberry mixture and mix on medium speed until well combined, scraping the sides and bottom so that all of the cream cheese is incorporated.  Refrigerate until cool stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  When the blackberry mixture has cooled, fold in the whipped cream.  Whipped cream step.jpg

Pour the mousse into prepared crust and smooth it out with a knife or the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

To release from the pan, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan before opening the spring-form clip.  Remove the pan cuff.  Place a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, then flip it over onto a flat surface.  Gently insert a butter knife between the crust and the pan and the the cheesecake should easily release.

Before serving, drizzle with blackberry syrup.
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Variation:

To prepare cheesecake mini’s, fill cupcake pans with foil liners (recipe makes about 24).

Note: You cannot prepare mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once because the cheesecake mixture will firm up in the mixing bowl if left unpoured.  If you don’t have at least 24 cupcake spaces, you can purchase disposables at any dollar store or grocery store.

Distribute graham cracker mixture evenly into all foil liners, about 1 tablespoon each.  Press firmly into the bottom of each cup.  (Try using a clean spice bottle for this.)  Crust Mini.jpg

Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Once crust has cooled, fill with prepared blackberry mixture all the way to the top of the foil liner.  Refrigerate until cool and set, at least 2 hours.
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Top with blackberry sauce and fresh berries.  Indulge!
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Orange Essence Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is one of the most abundant fall vegetables here in the US.  And zucchini bread is one of the most popular ways to use it up, especially when your garden produces an abundance of overgrown, deep green squash.  While I don’t have a garden (just a few tomato plants on my patio), one of my associates at work has generously shared this years zucchini crop.

Quick breads often seem more like cake than bread, and I’m ok with that.  Classic zucchini bread is so comforting and delicious!  However, I wanted my zucchini bread to really stand apart, so I started baking.  And baking.  And baking.  I don’t know how many loaves and muffins I’ve given away in my quest for the perfect bread, but it’s been a lot!  However, it has been well worth it because I really do believe that this is the best zucchini bread I’ve ever had.  It’s subtly sweet with just a hint of orange while still maintaining that classic zucchini bread flavor.  If you like to drizzle yours with a sweet glaze, I’ve included directions for a quick orange glaze that perfectly compliments it.  I hope it’s your new favorite!

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 large orange
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts or unsalted pistachios (optional)

Orange Glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspooon orange zest

Makes about 2 full-sized loaves, 4 mini-loaves, or about 24 muffins.
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Directions:

Prepare your loaf pan or muffin tins.  I highly recommend using parchment if you’re making loaves because, for some reason, this bread seems to stick to my stoneware EVERY time if I don’t.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off the orange being careful to get as little white pith as possible.  Toss the orange peel and the granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulverize until the peel is very finely minced into the sugar.  Set aside.Orange Sugar 1.jpg

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla, brown sugar and orange sugar together.  Add sifted ingredients to the wet mixture and beat will.
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Stir in the zucchini and nuts until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40-60 for a loaf pan.
Bake approx 30 minutes for muffins.

Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or small tester into the middle.  When it comes out clean, it’s done!

Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes (not necessary for muffins using liners), then turn them out and let it cool completely.

To prepare optional glaze: whisk sugar, orange juice and zest in a bowl until smooth.  Drizzle over bread.

Enjoy!
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Rainier Cherry Crisp

The produce in the Pacific Northwest is abundant in the summer!  Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all that goodness.  Right now, in mid summer, we have cherries and apricots coming out of our ears!!  Traditionally, rainier cherries aren’t used in pies and baking because theyre not very tart, just sweet and delicious.  I decided to give rainier cherry crisp a try anyway.  I’ve added lime juice to give it a little tartness.  This crisp turned out 100 times better than I expected.  I was very pleasantly surprised upon the first warm, cinnamony bite.  My husband and I ended up eating several large spoonfuls right out of the dish!  This crisp is best served hot (you can reheat in the microwave if needed).  I bet its fantastic ala mode as well!  So without further ado, here is my recipe for Rainier cherry Crisp.

* I apologize for the lack of pictures, I was too excited while creating this dish to remember to stop and take pics!  I will add pictures and re-post next time I make it.

Ingredients:

Filling:
4 cups fresh rainier cherries, pitted and halved
1  Tbsp. corn starched whisked in 1/3 cup cold water
2 Tbsp. lime juice (or lemon)

Crisp:1/3 cup a/p flour
3/4 cup quick oats
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl, mix cherries, corn starch and lime juice until combined.  Put cherry mixture in a 8 or 9 inch round pie dish.  in a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar, mix to incorporate and then add the melted butter.  Mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  Evenly spread the oat mixture to the top of the cherries.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Enjoy warm!

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Key Lime Cheesecake

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Imagine a dessert that’s sweet, tart, silky, crunchy, rich and fluffy all at once.  Are you imagining Key Lime Cheesecake?  This sweet treat is one that will awaken all your senses…and is quite possibly my favorite dessert!  It’s so refreshing when it’s served ice cold on a hot day.  

Occasionally, I take orders for baked goods/desserts and this one is the one that’s most requested.  Don’t be intimidated by all the steps, it’s really quite simple!  You can even prepare the crust ahead of time or, if you’re really in a pinch, you can purchase prepared graham cracker crusts (this recipe fills 2!).  That being said, I highly recommend making your own crust with the addition of the unsweetened coconut.  The coconut really adds something special!  You can usually find it in the bulk section of the grocery store.  If not, ask!  Want to present your cheesecake in a more festive way?  Scroll to the bottom for a fun variation: cheesecake mini’s!

Go ahead, try this one!!  Your time and effort will be rewarded!  

Ingredients:

Crust
1 package Graham Crackers (about 1 ½ cups, crushed)
½ cup unsweetened coconut
⅓ cup granulated sugar
6 tbs butter, melted
½ tsp cinnamon
*If you choose not to use coconut, just increase your graham cracker crumbs to 2 cups.

Cheesecake
1 cup Nelly & Joe’s Key Lime Juice
¼ cup water
2 envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
zest from 1 lime
½ cup butter, softened
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional: additional heavy whipping cream to decorate plus granulated sugar to taste.

Special Equipment: Springform PanIngredients w Logo.jpg

Method:

Preheat oven to 375* F.

In a food processor, process graham crackers until they turn to coarse crumbs, add in coconut and pulse until combined.  Crumbs w Logo.jpg

Transfer to a bowl, add melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly combined and mixture clumps.
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Press crumbs firmly into the bottom of an ungreased springform pan.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool completely.
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In a 2 qt saucepan, combine lime juice, water and gelatin.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Add sugar, eggs, and lime zest.  Lime Zest w Logo.jpg

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Whisk up the mixture until completely combined and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it just begins to bubble.  DO NOT allow it to boil.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together until well combined.Cream Cheese & Butter w Logo.jpg

Pour the hot lime mixture into the cream cheese mixture.  Beat with an electric mixture until thoroughly combined, approximately 2 minutes.

Refrigerate for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  You want the mixture to cool down, but not set up.

In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  (DO NOT add sugar.)

Once lime mixture is cool, fold in the whipped cream.  Make sure you combine it well, but some marbling is okay.

Pour mixture into the prepared crust, smooth out the top and refrigerate for several hours to allow cheesecake to firm up.
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Once cheesecake has set, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the edges.  Slowly release the clasp and press the cake up out of the pan.  You can remove the bottom piece of the pan by putting a sheet of parchment over the top of the cheesecake, putting a cutting board (or other flat surface) over the parchment, then flipping the whole cake over.  Insert a butter knife between the pan and crust and the crust should pop right off.  Place your serving platter on top of the crust and flip the cheesecake back over.  Carefully remove parchment from the top.

You can serve your cheesecake naked, or decorate with whipped cream.

Whip approximately 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.  Add in sugar to taste, one tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness is reached.

Use the whipped cream in a piping bag or frosting gun to create all sorts of designs.  My favorite is the roses and stars (pictured), which is created by using a 2D star tip.  Decorate w Logo.jpg

Variation:
You can create cheesecake mini’s, which is my personal favorite way to prepare this dessert, and it’s a lot easier to serve.  Fill cupcake pans with paper or foil liners.

Note:  You cannot prepare the mini’s in batches, they must all be done at once.  If you don’t have at least 24 spaces in cupcake pans you can purchase disposables at any dollar store/grocery store.

Press about 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each.  I like to fill all the cups before pressing to ensure the mixture is spread evenly.  Bake about 7 minutes at 375.

Fill each cupcake with the prepared lime mixture, you should have more than enough to fill each cupcake to the very top (any excess can be refrigerated and enjoyed without crust).  Refrigerate until cooled and set, at least 2 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Serve ice cold and enjoy!

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Rustic Blue Cheese Apple Tart

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I can’t recall the day I decided that I actually like blue cheese.  For years I considered it a disgusting, smelly hunk of mold, hardly classifiable as food.  Then one day, it was like someone flipped a switch and now, I crave the stuff!

This delicate recipe is a little twist on a blue cheese pizza that was prepared during a cheese class at my favorite local produce store, Chuck’s Produce.  Their resident “Cheese Whiz,” Andrew, allowed us to taste several varieties of blue cheese in various different ways.  One of the cheeses he sprinkled over his apple pizza and topped with agave syrup.  It was delicious!  For my version, I replaced the pizza dough with the lighter puff pastry, which I think lends itself better for a breakfast item, and used organic clover honey as the drizzle.

Aside from the incredible sweet & savory combination, you’ll love this recipe because it uses minimal, common ingredients and it is really quick and easy to prepare, while still being impressive in both flavor and presentation.

Are you a blue cheese lover?  If not, maybe this recipe will change your mind.  If you already love it, enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry
1-2 fresh apples, sliced (Honey Crisp or Pink Ladies taste great!)
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
Honey (enough to drizzle)

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Directions:

Follow thawing directions on the puff pastry box.  Lay pastry sheet out flat on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for approx 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Pastry will puff up…a lot!  It’s okay, it,s puff pastry, that’s what it’s supposed to do!  Once golden, remove from oven.  Puff.jpg

Slice and core apples and arrange evenly on the cooked pastry.  Top with blue cheese crumbles and drizzle with honey.4 pix.jpg

Bake for about 15 minutes or until blue cheese is golden and apples are soft.

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Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and what better way to celebrate this Irish holiday than with some traditional Irish fare.  And you can’t get any more “traditional Irish” than Shepherd’s Pie.  Originally called “Cottage Pie” this hearty dish was a means to use up roasted meat of any kind.  The Shepherd part didn’t come into play until 1877, and is generally used when the meat is lamb (mutton).

However, I am not a fan of mutton, plus it’s super expensive, so I opted for a more economical, typically American choice: ground turkey.  Affordable, lean, and easy to find in any grocery store, ground turkey can be a great substitute in many recipes that call for ground lamb, wild game, or beef.  The mild flavor is like a blank canvas with so many possibilities to please your palate.  If you prefer to go the traditional route, you can use mutton or beef, or even a mixture of the two, in place of the turkey.

There are quite a few steps that take you back and forth so don’t forget to read the recipe through first!  There’s a lot going on, but all the steps are oh, so worth it!  I hope you enjoy my spin on this dish.  Enjoy!  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

Mashed Potatoes:
6-8 Medium potatoes, peeled
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1/2 cup full fat sour cream
Salt to taste

Pie Filling:
1 lb Ground Turkey
1 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen corn
5 Tbs butter, divided
1 Cup onion, diced
3 Celery stalks, chopped
3 Large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Tbs all purpose flour
2 Cups turkey or vegetable broth
4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp ground thyme
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen English peas
Salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
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Directions:

Peel and quarter potatoes.  Fill a large stock pot with water, add the potatoes and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once potatoes are tender, drain and set aside.

In a deep skillet or sauce pan, brown meat.  Remove the cooked meat from the pan and set aside.  Keep the pan and drippings for a later step.  (If you’re using ground beef or lamb, you may want to drain it, as these meats are much fattier than turkey.)

While the meat is browning, you should have time to caramelize the corn.  Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the corn to a skillet and cook on medium-high heat until you see it start to turn dark golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Caramelizing the corn brings out the sugar and adds a really yummy layer of flavor.  Adjust the heat accordingly if it starts to scorch, you don’t want burned corn ruining your yummy dinner!  Caramelized Corn.jpg

In the pan you browned the turkey in, add 2 Tbs of the butter and let it sizzle on med-high heat for about 1 minute.  Don’t let it burn.  Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the carrots and celery all at once, reduce heat to medium and let it all cook together for about 5 minutes.Trinity.jpg

Make a well in the middle of the veggie pan and add 2 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoon of flour and whisk together to form a roux.  When the roux is golden in color, slowly begin to add about 1/2 the turkey stock, whisking as you go.  Roux.jpg

Once the mixture begins to thicken, add the rest of the stock, the fresh rosemary sprigs (whole, you’ll fish them out later), the thyme, Worcestershire sauce, English peas and salt & pepper.  Let this all cook together on medium heat for about 10 minutes.Rosemary.jpg

Now would be a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Back to the potatoes: Add the butter, garlic powder, sour cream and salt to the potatoes and whip with a hand mixer on medium speed until just creamy.  Fill your piping bag/tool using a large star tip, if using, and set aside…you’re almost there.

Remove the spent rosemary sprigs from the vegetable filling.  Make sure you get all the woody stems, those are no fun to chomp down on!  Add the browned turkey and the caramelized corn to the vegetable filling.  Filling.jpg

Transfer mixture to an oven safe baking dish, making sure to leave about an inch of clearance from the top.  I used a 2 quart round dish.  This would also be really cute in individual-sized cast iron pans, but I don’t have those.  Yet.
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Pipe the potatoes onto the top of the filling.  If you don’t have a piping bag, smooth individual spoonfuls of potatoes onto the filling mixture, starting around the edges and working your way to the center.  Whether you’re using the piping or spooning method, make sure the potatoes create a good seal over the filling.
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Into your 400 degree oven it goes, MAKE SURE to put a cookie sheet or piece of foil under it because it will most likely drip…mine does every time.  =)
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Bake for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown.  If it’s bubbling around the edges but the potatoes aren’t the color you want, you can broil it for 1-2 minutes but watch it very, very, very carefully!

The insides will be scorching hot, so let it cool and set up for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Dish up and enjoy!  This one makes great leftovers too!
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Taco Soup

Tacos are one of my favorite foods and I usually make them for dinner at least once a week in one combination or another.  Tacos also make great leftovers, check out Joanie’s Southwest Enchilada recipe for a great use of leftover taco fixins!!  This week it was all about taco soup, hot and steamy, and especially satisfying with loads of cheese and cilantro to garnish. I love it SPICY (surprise, surprise), and I mean make-your-eyes-water-and-your-mouth-drool kind of spicy.  Luckily, my husband also loves a little heat.  We keep a giant jar of chili paste in the fridge and use it on almost everything.  Of course, you can make this recipe as mild or as spicy as you wish.  To make it extra fiery, try adding diced fresh jalapenos, powdered cayenne pepper or just dump in some tapatio!  To tone down the heat a bit just use plain diced tomatoes instead of the ones with green chilies and don’t use tapatio or hot sauce at the end.

I’ve been on a couponing kick lately and have gotten some great deals on canned beans, taco seasoning, canned diced tomatoes and even tortilla chips!  So I put it all together in a big pot (or crockpot) and voila: lovely, spicy, mouth watering taco soup!  This soup is perfect paired with a cold, wintery evening, and like most soups even better for lunch the next day.

Makes about 6, 1 cup servings.

Taco Soup Ingredients

Ingredients:

2 Tbs butter
1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
6-8 chicken tenderloins or about 3 breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
0ne packet of taco seasoning
A few dashes of fresh ground black pepper
2 cans chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, with juice
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed

Garnish:
Tortilla chips, roughly crumbled
Shredded cheddar, Colby jack or Mexican blend cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Tapatio or other hot sauce, if desired
Sour cream

Method:

In a large soup pot cook chicken and onion in the 2 Tbs butter until chicken is cooked through and onion softens.Taco soup Meat

Add a few dashes of freshly ground black pepper, about 1/2 a can of the chicken broth, and the taco seasoning.  Stir around and scrape the bottom of the pan to unstick all those yummy chicken bits.Taco Soup Simmer

Let simmer for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more broth if it gets too dry and thick.  Add the rest of the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes with chilies and the black beans and let soup come back to a simmer.  Salt as needed.  🙂Taco Soup Beans

Taco Soup End

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream and cilantro!  I put a few dashes of hot sauce in it as well.  Enjoy!Taco Soup Final w Title