Mojito

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Mojito

mojito

Ingredients –

3-6 large mint leaves
2 sugar cubes
1 lime, juiced (approx. 30ml of juice)
3 oz. 10 Cane rum
Soda water to finish

Preparation –

In a rocks glass add the mint, sugar cubes, and lime juice. Muddle for a few moments until the cubes are busted apart and the mint is bruised nicely. Fill 3/4’s of the way with ice, add in the rum and stir. Finish off with soda water to the rim and garnish, if you like, with a couple fresh mint leaves.

Footnotes – 

I’m really pushing 10 Cane rum not because I own any stock in the company but because I think the smoothness of this particular rum makes an awesome mojito. Most mojito recipes call for a white rum, which 10 Cane is not; however it’s very light color will be masked by the cocktail as a whole, and it has a sweetness that lingers not to mention a definite lack of molasses aftertaste that I find so common in other rums, even light ones.

First published on my fb February 10, 2013 at 1:39pm
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Rum-spiked Sangria

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Rum-spiked Sangria

Yes there are hundreds of recipes for sangria out there. At this point I don’t think anyone can say with any clarity or authority what exactly a sangria should be made with. Here’s a recipe that I like very much as it boosts the alcohol content with some nice light rum without overpowering the wine. This version is best made the day before you plan on drinking it since the alcohols need time to linger with the fruit.

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Ingredients –

1 cup sugar
2 limes, 2 lemons, 2 oranges
2 cups light rum (I use 10 Cane as it has no molasses flavor that lingers as do many other rums)
1.5L Yellowtail Sauvignon – Merlot or some other Sauvignon mix; refrigerated, in any case

Preparation

In a glass pitcher add 1 cup sugar; 2 each thinly sliced limes, lemons and oranges; 2 cups light rum. Stir well and let this chill overnight or about eight hours. Muddle the fruit a bit then add in 1.5L of your favorite Sauvignon mixes (for this batch I used Yellowtail’s Sauvignon – Merlot). This recipe is easily halved for one pitcher’s worth. This could be served on the rocks but I like it chilled, straight out of the fridge.

Feel free to throw in any other favorite fruits – strawberries, cherries, starfruit, I dunno.

Aerate your wine! It really does enhance the flavors. Check out the thing on the left, in the photo above – that does wonders for even a cheap bottle. I would never have believed it and in any case I’m not one that’s been blessed with a wine enthusiast’s palate but even I can tell a huge difference.

 

First published on my fb February 7, 2013 at 5:27pm

Todd’s Roasted Peppers & Capers Pub Cheese

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Todd’s Roasted Peppers & Capers Pub Cheese

So  I was in Target food shopping (in Kapolei) and wanted some pimiento cheese spread to go with some nice bread and beer that I’d bought. I couldn’t find pimiento cheese; I couldn’t find pimientos either. I decided to make my own pub cheese instead and I think it turned out pretty awesome. Here’s my recipe and the photo shows it being served with a mix of spicy olives, sweet peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. And crackers. And beer, of course.

546909_10152241478595510_1951672139_nIngredients:

8 oz medium cheddar cheese, freshly grated
2 oz hard Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 jar roasted bell peppers, chopped finely
2 Tablespoons gourmet capers, drained
cayenne pepper
black pepper
sea salt

Grate the cheeses – please don’t buy it in the bag! – and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise, a dash of cayenne pepper, black pepper and sea salt, and mix this up thoroughly. Add a bit more mayonnaise if it seems too dry. Add in the roasted bell peppers and capers and mix very well; I like to use a chopping motion and spin the bowl as I go around. (You’re adding in the peppers and capers after the first mixing so they don’t get pulverized – it takes a good few minutes and some muscle power to get the cheeses and mayo mixed well.)  Like many things we make in our kitchens, this tastes better after it’s sat in the fridge a few hours or overnight. Serve with crackers, hearty toasted bread, pretzels, pita chips, etc. This has strong flavor components – it’s awesome with a hoppy IPA style beer. As always, leave out and/or substitute if you see something in my ingredients list that you’re sure to hate.

First published on my fb November 8, 2012 at 8:07pm

Stuffed Peppers, Vegetarian Style

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Stuffed Peppers, Vegetarian Style

So I made stuffed peppers a few weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting the recipe and a couple pics. I wish I had more time to cook because I really do enjoy it. I use as many fresh ingredients as possible and this naturally makes a big difference in the flavors. I also use porcelain lined cast iron cookware almost exclusively since it’s so easy to cook with and can move from stove top to oven without missing a beat. Feel free to add in more herbs & spices such as basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, e.g. I hope you’ll find some inspiration from this recipe!

575781_10151917615580510_903161383_nIngredients:

8 large peppers, tops off & seeded (trim tops of peppers, chop up & add to the stuffing)
Olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 packages Gardein or other vegetarian crumble
1 cup corn
3 vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups Spanish rice
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper, Hungarian paprika

Preparation:

In a large pot boil 10-12 cups salted water. Submerge peppers in boiling water for 3 minutes; remove and drain (this is called parboiling, by the way. It helps soften the skins of the peppers, in this case.). In a large skillet with high rim (or a dutch oven) heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Saute garlic one minute. Add onion, salt & pepper to taste; saute onions until translucent. If you chopped up the tops of the peppers, add them in and saute with the onion. Add in vegetarian crumbles and saute until defrosted, 10 minutes or so. Add more olive oil if it starts to look dry. Add corn, half of canned tomatoes (reserve the rest for the baking pan), and rice. Stir and saute until all liquid has evaporated. Add Parmesan cheese and stir thoroughly. Taste to see if you like the stuffing; adjust spices if you want. Pour the rest of the canned tomatoes into a 9X13 baking pan then arrange peppers in the pan. Stuff the peppers. Cover with tin foil and bake in 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover, top with mozzarella cheese, and bake/broil for a few minutes until cheese melts. Sprinkle with paprika.

Let these sit for 10-15 minutes to set up.

First published on my fb July 14, 2012 at 12:35am

Gâteau Pithiviers

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Gâteau Pithiviers

Okay so I just made this and I have to share the recipe right away – it’s too good to wait. This is a Pithiviers, a stuffed pie using puff pastry. For the filling I’m using a frangipane1 spiked with Myers Dark Rum. The only other ingredient is puff pastry. Please note that I used an egg wash to make the top golden brown. There is another way, which is footnoted; and indeed both methods can be used together which I haven’t tried before but intend to do so one of these days.

gateau

Ingredients –

1/2 cup superfine white sugar
1 cup ground almonds2
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. dark rum
1 (17 oz.) pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed3
egg wash and/or powdered sugar4

Preparation –

Preheat oven to 400F.
Make the frangipane: In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until pale colored and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks gradually. Stir in the rum then finally fold in the ground almonds. Set aside.
On a floured surface, flatten out each pastry sheet. Cut the corners off of them to make circles. Place one on an ungreased baking sheet. Spread the filling over pastry to within 3/4 in. of edges. Brush pastry edge with water.
Make 8 crescent-shaped cuts5 in the top of the remaining pastry sheet. Place the sheet over the filling and press edges to seal. Crimp the edge, curling it back up on itself. At this point, if using the egg wash method for browning, then lightly brush it over the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Check that it’s nicely browned on top. Remove from oven, let set on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Filling will be very hot so, as tempting as it is to slice a piece right away, let it cool completely on the rack before moving over to a cutting board.

Footnotes –

1 Frangipane being the term used to describe a filling either made from or flavored like almonds. I was tempted to substitute 1/2 tbsp. of Disoronno amaretto liqueur for an equal amount of the rum; I didn’t do this and though the aromatics would have been a nice addition, the flavor of the ground almonds still shines through in this recipe.

2 Almonds can be expensive especially if found on the baking aisle amongst the chocolate chips, etc. I went over to the snack & nuts aisle to compare prices and in the same store, almonds in a can were half the price (49c. per oz. as opposed to over a dollar per on the baking aisle). I imagine I could go to the farmer’s market and get an even better price on a bulk purchase – and that might happen as I get the feeling I’ll be making this again. Anyway, I tried my coffee grinder, thinking I could do little batches of whole almonds but this didn’t didn’t go well. My food processor made quick work of the whole lot. I’m lazy to clean the thing, I admit.

3 I put the box into the fridge for a few hours to thaw. If allowed to reach room temperature without unfolding the pastry first, it just creates a big mess and not so pretty pastry. As the photos show, I still need some practice with dough in general; I like to say that my baking looks “rustic” which is my fancy word for “amateur” I suppose – but I’m working on it!

4 Instead of using the egg wash, powdered sugar can be dusted over the top of the pie during the last ten minutes of baking. This will caramelize the sugar and it sounds delicious but I haven’t tried yet. A third way of going about this is to combine both methods: egg wash at the beginning, pull pie out of the oven at the 20 minute mark, dust with powdered sugar, put back in the oven.

5 Well you don’t really have to make super-fancy crescent-shaped cuts in the top but apparently this is de rigueur when making a Pithiviers. I did indeed make eight cuts in the top but since, as I’ve mentioned, I’m a bit of an amateur still w.r.t. working with fresh dough, I made them straight lines.

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First published on my fb January 26, 2013 at 9:07pm

Tomato Basil Tart

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Tomato Basil Tart

This is a recipe for which I have an absolute love affair. Use the freshest ingredients and make two pies – I promise, one is just not enough even if you’re cooking for yourself. I made this recipe over ten years ago, for a house party we had, and both tarts were gone in a heartbeat. This is a great recipe to use up all those extra home-grown tomatoes, if that’s a thing you do. I’m not going to footnote the herbs this time around – use fresh if at all possible; if not, 3:1 ratio of fresh:dried but it just won’t be the same without fresh ingredients.

pie

Ingredients –

Pastry for a 9 in. pie crust1
6 oz. whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
8-10 vine-ripened tomatoes (assorted colors if you please – in my pics, red & yellow)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, stalks removed, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, stalks removed, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper

Preparation –

Prep the tomatoes: Thinly slice all the tomatoes and lay them out on a baker’s cooling rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then turn over, repeat S&P. Do this in batches if necessary. Place all the sliced tomatoes into a colander to drain away excess moisture as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, mayonnaise, half the herbs and half the Parmesan cheese. Whirl this around until nicely incorporated. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil as it’s being mixed together. Set aside.

Blind bake the pastry according to what type you’re using.2 Set oven heat to 375F. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese over the hot crust.

Place sliced tomatoes over the cheese until you’ve covered that layer. Drop spoonfuls of the mayonnaise mixture onto the tomatoes and spread it around evenly. More tomatoes, the rest of the herbs, then the rest of the cheeses.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browned.

Footnotes –

1 For the pie depicted in this recipe, I used puff pastry from the freezer department. Feel free to use frozen pie dough, fresh pie dough, a prepackaged pie crust in it’s own convenient tin, etc. I enjoy puff pastry because it looks good when it comes out of the oven and has lots of butter and calories and tastes great consistently 😉 Hey I’m baking here, not trying to win a Mr. Fitness competition.

2 Well, okay, this part can get a bit tricky depending upon your kitchen accoutrement. Blind baking a pastry is basically this: putting the pie crust into the oven before anything else is on top of it, to half-bake the dough. This can be accomplished several ways. For my puff pastry, I did the following: Oven on 450; puff pastry into cake tin; covered dough with parchment paper then a thick layer of (obviously, I hope) uncooked pinto beans [there’s fancy ceramic or metal beads sold in places like Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma for this task, which I’m going to buy one day soon]; baked for 5 minutes; uncover dough, baked for another 3 minutes; then out of the oven and reset the temp to 375. Like I’ve said, there’s different ways to do this and mine may not be the best especially if you’re using a different type of dough.

First published on my fb February 10, 2013 at 4:03pm

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe is for cupcakes but I was sure it would be fine for 9″ pans (see pic below). Adjust cooking time to 25-30 min in that case – but always babysit your cakes! Test with toothpick in center, will come out clean if cake is done. Please Don’t Buy Frosting in Tubs! Make this easy Sour Cream Cheese Frosting to make your cake amazing:

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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
2 teaspoons red food coloring
4 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Sour Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 1/2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (12 ounces total)
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
20 ounces confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not over beat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese, softened, butter, sour cream and Pure Vanilla Extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Adapted from a recipe I found on www.AllRecipes.com

Todd’s Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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Todd’s Baked Spinach & Artichoke dip

So I was having a craving last night for my spinach & artichoke dip – went to the store this morning to gather up all the ingredients and I thought it would be nice to share my recipe with you nice people. Sometimes, inspired by memories of late nights at McGuire’s, I will even slice up some flour tortillas and deep-fry them, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese – not exactly a low-fat appetizer, sorry! But worth the effort.

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Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
1 package artichoke hearts, defrosted, rinsed, and dried
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted & drained
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (Asiago, Romano or Parmesan)
white pepper, salt
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 stalk green onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped and seeded tomato

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper, cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are light golden but not browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the mayo, sour cream, hard cheese and cream cheese with the back of a large spoon. Add white pepper and salt to taste, stir. Mix in the artichoke hearts, spinach and red bell pepper, mixing well. Pour into lightly sprayed 8X8 pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.

Garnish with the white cheese, green onion and tomato. Serve with pita wedges or crudites or chips, whatever.

Originally posted on my fb 26th of May, 2011

Jam Tarts

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Before I get started with my recipe I’d like to share exactly where I found the inspiration for and adapted it from. There’s a pastry chef by the name of David Lebovitz, now living in Paris, who worked for years in Berkeley at Chez Panisse. Everything you could want to know about this charming fellow is on his website: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/

He’s published several books and shares many recipes there on the site. This particular recipe that I found is a pastry crust for making jam tarts; the dough doesn’t need to be rolled which is a huge plus in my world as I’m not keen on rolling dough in my tiny kitchen. I’d direct you first to his recipe here: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/07/jam-tart/ then scroll down to see what changes and suggestions I’ve made. It’s a versatile recipe, allowing for many different fillings as well as changes or additions to the dough, as you’ll see.

These have been a hit everywhere I’ve taken them – if they make it out of the house, that is.

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Ingredients –
9 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 Cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 Cups finely ground almonds1
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 Cups strawberry, raspberry or other jam2

Have on hand for toppings:
coarse raw sugar (turbinado, or demerara sugar)
powdered sugar
chopped nuts

Preparation –

Beat together butter and sugar until combined (room temp for the butter is important, otherwise it’ll take forever to cream the sugar into the butter). Mix in the egg, egg yolk and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients, until the mixture just comes together; if it still feels too sticky or wet, add more flour, a Tbsp. at a time, until it does come together. Measure out about 2/3rds of the dough, pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill it. Take the remaining dough and roll it into a log about 2-inches in diameter, wrap it and chill it, too.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to room temperature slightly. With the heel of your hand, press the dough into the bottom and sides of an non-buttered removable bottom tart pan, or spring-form pan, patting it evenly.3 Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Remove the log of dough from the refrigerator and slice in cookie-sized disks, then lay them over the jam. Top generously with coarse raw sugar, about 2 tablespoons.

Bake at 350 degrees until the pastry is golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

Footnotes –

1 I thought my coffee grinder could pull double duty as an almond grinder but I was sadly mistaken. Yours might be more adept at this. In any case, I used my large food processor and it worked wonderfully. I sifted the ground almonds through a fine mesh strainer, ending with an lovely almond flour. I used the larger pieces that were left over as a sprinkled topping on a couple of tarts. Even with the almond flour and extract in the dough it is still a subtle flavoring – which was complimented quite well with a blackberry jam for one of the tarts.

2 Any thick preserves or jam is perfect for this. I’ve also used Nutella and lemon curd, both with amazing results. Sift a bit of powdered sugar on the cooled Nutella to finish. I left off the demerara sugar in the case of the lemon curd, by the way.

3 I’ve also made small tarts, in a mini-muffin pan. To do this: make small balls of dough and push them into non-greased mini-muffin cups. The dough can be thin as it will puff a bit during baking. Drop small spoonfuls of whatever fillings and bake as directed above.

NB: I’ve used vanilla extract in place of the almond extract. I’ve made smaller tarts in some four inch tart pans that I found at TJMaxx, and instead of covering them with more dough I sprinkled the demerara sugar around the edges of the cooked tarts instead. I’ve asked David via email about making this a savory dough and he replied (!) that it would be easy enough: remove most of the sugar from the dough, keeping a bit in so that it will still brown, and add herbs, cracked pepper, whatever, and make a filling with tomatoes, cheese, pesto, capers, wherever imagination takes you.

Orzo Salad

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Orzo Salad

This is a simple recipe that I got from a friend. I’ve since tweaked it a tiny bit. It’s easy to make and quite yummy with all the fresh ingredients. No salt needed, thanks to the olives and feta.

orzo

12oz orzo pasta
1.5lbs cherry or salad tomatoes
½lb Kalamata olives
2lbs baby spinach
6oz crumbled feta cheese
Olive oil¹
Fresh ground black pepper

Preparation:
Set water boiling for the pasta. Slice the tomatoes in half and add to a large bowl. Slice the olives and layer on top of the tomatoes. Roughly chop the spinach (I like to remove the stems from the leaves beforehand, up to you) and layer on top of tomatoes. If you took the time and pulled the stems off of the leaves like I do, I bet the pasta is done by now! Drain and quickly spread it across the spinach – the hot pasta will wilt the spinach, so pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the top, and let it sit for a few minutes. I use this time to clean up 😉 A few turns of fresh black pepper, then mix well. Add the feta cheese, and stir gently.

¹For this particular batch, I used both regular olive oil and a tablespoon of lemon infused olive oil, from a company named Big Horn Olive Oil Company in Reno, NV. They have lots of great stuff! Check them out here: http://bighornoliveoil.com/