Monday, April 18, 2016

Cranberry Cheese Squares

I've had a huge bag of cranberries in my freezer since Christmas (and it's April), so I decided it was about time I used them in something.  I'd considered doing cranberry cheesecake, but decided to cross cheesecake with bars instead.  (I like bars!)  They came out so good, that I made another batch with the remaining cranberries to send with Justin to work so he could share (and double-checking my recipe writing!)

The topping and crust is a little salty, the cream cheese filling is lemony and the cranberry sauce is tart with a cinnamon and vanilla warmth.  All three layers just seem to compliment each other so nicely, I was way pleased with this recipe!  It's a little time consuming but I've made them twice now and they're really not that hard - you just have to dedicate some time to them.

Justin was feeling like something early from The Offspring.  "Jennifer Lost The War" from their 1989 self titled album.  This was actually the first time I've heard this song, I think.  -jen

Prep Time:  45 minutes
Cook Time:  40 minutes
Cooling Time:  minimum 2 hours
Difficulty:  Medium
Makes:  20 bars

Cranberry Sauce:
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups rolled oats (also known as old fashioned oats)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
 Cheese Filling:
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • zest of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Make the cranberry sauce first by bringing water, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Add cranberries and bring back to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring intermittently - cranberries will pop and begin to break down.  (Careful not to let it boil over!)  Remove from heat and refrigerate to cool while you continue with the other steps.  

Grease a 13"x 9" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, butter or coconut oil.  Set aside.

For the crust, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  Stir in melted butter and coconut oil until combined and all flour is absorbed.  Mixture should be slightly clumpy but break up easily.  Set aside 1.5 cups for topping but spread the remaining mixture into your prepared baking dish, pressing it evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.  Set aside.

While crust is baking and sauce is cooling, make the cheese filling.  Using a hand mixer or the whipping attachment on your stand mixer, whip the softened cream cheese on high for 2-3 minutes until very smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly on high until smooth (remember to scrape the bottom).

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over your baked crust.  Stir in corn starch to cooled cranberry sauce, then gently dollop  over the top of the filling and gently spread it evenly with the back of a spoon, trying not to mix it into the cheese filling.  Sprinkle the remaining flour and oat mixture evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  I like to refrigerate them overnight.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Buttermilk Corn Bread Waffles

I'd been thinking about corn bread several times over the last few weeks, but hadn't really had anything lined up in the menu that sounded good with corn bread.  But when Justin took all of the Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits to work with him this morning, it didn't leave us with anything to eat with our leftover chicken pot pie filling.   My first instinct was to just bake some corn bread, but as I was whipping up a batter, I decided some crispy waffles sounded way better.

VERY COOL NOTE:  I actually learned something cool and healthy as I was making these - you can use ground up flax seeds mixed with water to substitute eggs!  My recipe requires 2 eggs and of course, midway through making the recipe with all my dry ingredients mixed, I realized I only had 1 egg in the fridge.  I figured I could use a little extra butter to kind of substitute it, and after Googling, that is an option, but another option I found sounded way cooler.  1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water substitutes 1 egg... thank you very much, vegans!  It's probably not a good substitute for most people because I imagine most people don't keep flax seeds on hand.  We, however, often have some in our freezer for making granola.
(This site I found has a list of 5 Egg Substitutes - great resource!)

I also recognize that most people don't keep buttermilk in their fridge like we do.  You could make this recipe with whole milk, but you have to do a little more adjusting than just that.  Do not use baking soda, but instead add 2 additional teaspoons of baking powder for a total of 3 teaspoons.  Buttermilk has a higher acid content and needs the baking soda in baking applications.  It's science... you heard?

I'm listening to Lagwagon's "Razor Burn" as I am typing this sentence, so that's the rock I'm going with.  -jen

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  25-30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  5-6 waffles
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar (2 tbsp if you like your corn bread less sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (or 2 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tbsp water)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (or melted coconut oil)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs and melted butter.  Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients all at once.  Mix just until all dry ingredients are combined.  Spoon into waffle maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.  (Mine cooked in 5 minutes.)

Note:  If you wanted to just bake corn bread using this recipe, just grease a square (9"x9") baking dish, pour in batter and bake in an oven preheated to 400 F for 15-20 minutes.

Served with chicken pot pie filling

Restaurant Style Salsa

I've been making this salsa over and over and over again the last few weeks.  We've just been plowing through it. 
Ridiculously fast to make if you need something for guests or a party or late night munchies, which is generally our case.  I'm having a hard time deciding if I like this salsa more?  Or pico de gallo more?  I think I must like them equally for different reasons.

I'm not sure why I didn't take better pictures of any of the batches I made.  All I did was take a quick pick in a plastic storage container.  We fancy.  Next batch (which won't be long) I'll try for some better pics.

Here's a band from my home state, Illinois - Blue Meanies with "The Infidelity Song".  -jen


Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  4 cups
Need:  Food processor or blender
  • 2 cans (14oz each) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 onion, rough chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, rough chopped*
  • 5 medium-sized garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1-1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
*For a medium spicy salsa, leave seeds in.  For a mild salsa, remove seeds.  For a hot salsa, add a second jalapeño.

No Cook Version:  Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until desired consistency.

Cooked Version:  I prefer to actually cook the canned tomatoes in a sauce pan over a medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes, then let them cool about 10 minutes before placing in a food processor or blender with all the other ingredients and pulsing until desired consistency.  Cooking them takes away some of the "tinny" taste from the can.  I've made it both ways and they're both good!  This is just my preference.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Buttermilk Biscuit Chicken Pot Pies

Crossing biscuits and gravy with chicken pot pies!  Our deconstructed pot pie?  Or our open-faced pot pie?  Whatever it is, it's freaking delicious.

Justin had been wanting to do pot pies recently; the traditional kind with a pie crust.  We even bought a perfect sized ramekin to make a family-size one in.  But... he's been on another Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuit kick and made such a perfect, huge batch.  We'd recently seen some traveling food show where a restaurant was known for their chicken pot pie biscuits and gravy and we both drooled on ourselves a little when we saw it.  We had the biscuits, we had the chicken, we had most of the vegetables... it was on!

I just roasted some seasoned chicken thighs at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes.  I leave the skin on while cooking and it comes out ridiculously crispy, like cracklins or chicharrones.  Then I removed it before pulling the meat off the bone.  I'm not going to lie... I ate 2 of the skins straight up and felt guilt.  Massive, delicious guilt.  I just threw the remaining skins into our freezer bag of broth-makin' scraps, but I kind of wish I'd kept one of the super crispy ones to chop up and sprinkle on top of the plated biscuit pot pies.

The potatoes I cooked real quick while I was chopping up and sauteing the veggies, it doesn't take too long to cook them.  The instructions are below.

This recipe makes a large amount of gravy/pot pie filling.  If it's more than you want, you can always freeze it.  Or just cut the recipe in half.  Or make somebody's day by sharing it with them... that's what we did.  Justin took most of the batch to work to share with his coworkers since it's just the two of us at home.

Going back a little ways with some Stiff Little Fingers doing "Straw Dogs".

Time:  about 35 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 10 cups (10 servings - large batch!)
  • 12 tablespoons butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 2 cups carrots, diced 1/2" (about 3 medium)
  • 1.5 cup celery, diced 1/2" (about 2 stalks)
  • 1.5 cup onion, diced 1/2" (about 1 medium)
  • 1.5 cups crimini mushrooms, diced 
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional for colour)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups potatoes (about 1 medium), diced 1/2" and cooked (see How To below)
  • 1 cup peas, frozen
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, cubed 1/2" (about 4 thighs or 3 breasts)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed basil, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits (see recipe here)
In a large skillet or stock pot (that holds at least 4 quarts), melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add carrots and celery, cook about 5 minutes.  Add onion and mushrooms, cook 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.  Add sage, black pepper and turmeric, cook 1 minute.  Add flour and stir until incorporated, cook 3-4 minutes.  Pour in chicken broth and whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to medium and stir in heavy cream, potatoes, peas, chicken, hot sauce and basil.  Add salt to taste and serve over Southern Style Buttermilk Biscuits.

How To Boil Potatoes
Dice potato into 1/2" cubes.  Place potatoes in a large pot.  Add cold water to cover 1" above the potatoes.  Add a generous amount of salt.  Bring to a boil and cook about 6 minutes.  Potatoes should be cooked through but still firm.