Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paula's Rich Caramel Brownies

I made this a few weeks ago for a BBQ. They are one of the recipes from my Paula Deen's Best Desserts collector's issue. They are delicious, and rich is right. Have a big glass of milk nearby when consuming these squares of chocolate yumminess.

What you'll need:
1 cup butter
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 and 1/2 cups sugar, divided
5 large eggs, divided
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (14-ounce) bag caramels, unwrapped (obviously)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

How to make them:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, combine butter and chopped chocolate. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat 2 cups sugar and 4 eggs at medium-high speed with a mixer until fluffy. Gradually beat in flour and salt. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine caramels and evaporated milk. Microwave on high, in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until caramels are melted and smooth. Paula says it should take 1 and 1/2 minutes total, but it took a lot longer for me. Pour over brownie batter, gently spreading to edges.

Instead of microwaving, you could also use a double boiler. Place a Pyrex bowl over a pot of simmer (not boiling) water, but make sure the bowl isn't touching the water, otherwise the caramels will burn. Stir constantly until the caramels are melted.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer until creamy. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until smooth. Beat in remaining egg. Spoon mixture over caramel layer, gently swirl batter with a knife. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool completely. Cut into small squares to serve.

Makes about 2 dozen brownies.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fresh Figs

About a week ago, I saw on Facebook that Fresh Market had fresh figs coming in and I got really excited. I've had figs before at restaurants and catered functions, but I haven't actually ever made them myself. They're great in salads, paired with cheese and make a great appetizer.

I prefer black mission figs. Cut them in half, stuff with a little goat cheese and wrap each half with a piece of prosciutto. Roast for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You could also use pair with blue cheese or fresh ricotta.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tuscan Pork Loin with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Last night we had my parents and my husband's parents over for dinner. It had been awhile since we had either over, and I'm not sure if we've ever had both over at the same time. It was a very nice evening.

My number one rule when it comes to entertaining is making a meal that you can do most of in advance of your guests arriving, so when they do arrive you can actually entertain. So roasts are a great way to accomplish this. But since it is so freaking hot outside, I didn't want to make something too heavy or rich like say a pot roast.

This pork loin was perfect because pork is a lighter meat in the first place, but this vinaigrette isn't a hot or heavy sauce. It can be made in advance and served at room temperature. I served this with roasted red potatoes and a nice mixed green salad. I finished the meal with a nice seasonal peach crisp and vanilla ice cream.

What you'll need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. chopped, fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt and pepper each
1 pork loin roast, (3 lbs) trimmed of fat and silverskin
1 and 1/2 pound red potatoes, quartered (figure 2-3 per person, depending on the size, and if they are really big, you might want to cut them in sixths instead of quarters)

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and coat a roasting pan with nonstick spray.

Combine the oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper in a large bowl, set aside.

Trim pork of excess fat and silverskin, then tie with kitchen twine in three places, both ends and one in the middle, so that it keeps its round shape and stays nice and tight.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Using tongs, toss the pork in the oil mixture, coating all sides. Then sear on all sides in the skillet. See the picture below.

Once seared, transfer the pork to the roasting pan. Toss the potatoes in the remaining oil mixture. Add the potatoes to the roasting pan, surrounding the pork roast. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the pork and the potatoes and roast for another 25-30 minutes, or until the pork reaches 150 degrees. Remove from the oven and tent loosely with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices and serve with the vinaigrette, recipe follows.

What you'll need for the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup shallots, chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. capers, drained
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper each
3/4 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor until tomatoes are minced. Slowly add the oil, blending to combine.

Serves 6-8. Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished product.

This recipe has been adapted from an issue of Cuisine at Home.

Here are some pics of the delicious peach crisp:

National Ice Cream Day

In honor of National Ice Cream Day (and month), I highlighted a few of my favorite local ice cream spots in my latest Tampa Food Examiner article. If you haven't been to any of these before, I definitely recommend them.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Great Brunch Spots in Tampa Bay

Check out my latest Tampa Food Examiner article for some great brunch spots in Tampa Bay. What's better than rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning and getting a great breakfast and mimosa? I can't think of anything.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Here is a great way to use that leftover barbecue chicken or pulled pork from Fourth of July weekend.

What you'll need:
1 pizza crust
1/4 cup or so of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 a red, yellow or orange pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
leftover chicken or pork, shredded
pizza seasoning and garlic powder
freshly grated parmesan cheese

How to make it:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (or according to the package directions).

Spread barbecue sauce over the crust, sprinkle with mozzarella, top with pepper, onion and chicken. Sprinkle with a little pizza seasoning, garlic powder and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Until the cheese melts and the vegetables are tender.

Spinach, Mushroom and Feta Frittata

Frittatas are my new favorite way to prepare eggs. I love omelettes, but often have trouble with the technique of folding them over. A frittata takes care of that issue. It is a similar concept, but easier to make. It is almost a cross between a frittata and a quiche.

What you'll need:
2 tbsp olive oil
about 6 ounces of button mushrooms, sliced
half a sack of baby spinach
5 eggs
2 tbsp half & half
fresh parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
feta cheese
salt and pepper

How to make it:
Start out with a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and once hot, add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, until browned and softened a bit.

While the mushrooms are cooking, whisked the 5 eggs in a small bowl with 2 tbsps of half & half and a couple spoonfuls of grated parmesan. The cream and cheese add a little richness. I also like to add some fresh cracked black pepper.

Now back to the skillet. Once the mushrooms are done, season with salt and pepper. Add a few handfuls of fresh spinach to the skillet and toss until it wilts. (You may need to add a little bit more olive oil to the skillet first.)

At this point preheat your broiler to high.

Back to the skillet, pour the egg mixture over the mushrooms and spinach. Stir it a few times, add some feta cheese on top, and cover with a lid. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until the bottom is set, but still a little runny on top.

Place the skillet under the broiler to allow the top to cook. This will take a few minutes. Once it is set on top, remove from your oven, very carefully. Remember to use a potholder. Then cut into wedges like a pie. Makes 2 main servings or 3-4 side servings.

This is by far my favorite one I have made to date.

Risotto Cakes

I have posted about risotto cakes before. See here. I just wanted to share the picture of how they look when made. They are delicious - crispy on the outside, but still cheesey and soft on the inside. As my BFF would say - they are little clouds of heaven.

For a basic risotto recipe, see here.

Flag Cookie Cake

Here is the picture of my flag cookie cake that I made this Fourth of July. (The instructions are listed in the previous post.) It could probably have been a little prettier, but you get the gist. It sure did taste good though. There wasn't a crumb leftover.