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Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

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Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

About a week ago, my wife was looking for a box of Crunch ‘n’ Munch Caramel Popcorn that I had bought. I had bought two boxes and she had eaten one over the course of a couple of days. She assumed that the second box was hers, too, since I know she likes it. A reasonable assumption, but one that was proven wrong, because I had a craving the night before. Poor thing was so disappointed!

Never wanting to leave a woman disappointed(*wink, wink*), I decided to pop onto the computer and do a little secret research. Most of the recipes called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have on hand, or exact temperatures and extra steps that I just didn’t want to deal with for a quick recipe to surprise my wife with on short notice. To the rescue came a recipeI found through Pinterest at http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/23/peanut-butter-caramel-corn/ . Take a look, if you have a chance, you may find something else you like there as well! I like to give credit, where credit is due, and support those people who have helped me with a great recipe.

This recipe is simple, easy, and can be done in a matter of about 20 minutes with pretty common ingredients and equipment. There’s no need for a thermometer or precision. What you will need is some measuring cups, a small sauce pot for the caramel, a medium sauce pot with a lid for popping the corn (or you can use microwaved or air popped), a large mixing bowl for combing the popcorn and caramel a spoon or wire whip and a rubber spatula.

Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Butter and Honey Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients:

  • 10 cups unflavored popped popcorn (homemade or 1 standard size bag)*
  • 2/3 cup dry-roasted peanuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
 *I think I use a little more popcorn and stretch the caramel out a little thinner.
Directions:

Pop the popcorn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set aside.

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Popped a good sized bowl of popcorn and leave room for mixing!

Line a sheet pan with parchment and a little non-stick spray. Put the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. You can cover it initially to help it come to a boil, but it isn’t required. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it go for about three minutes.
Boiling sugar and honey...HOT!!! Be careful.

Boiling sugar and honey…HOT!!! Be careful.

 

Carefully remove the mixture from heat and add the salt, peanut butter and, if using, the optional peanuts.* Stir until well-combined.
Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Peanuts, salt, and peanut butter added and stirred well.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and, using a rubber spatula, turn the popcorn until the caramel is evenly distributed.
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Pour the popcorn onto the prepared sheet pan and carefully spread the hot mass out evenly to cool completely. (See header photo) When cool, break up the caramel corn into bite-sized clusters and try not to consume it all in one sitting!
*The recipe actually calls for the peanuts to be added after the caramel is poured on the popcorn, I think…but I wanted mine coated with the caramel as well.
So, I dove into the recipe and knocked it out. I have to admit, It wasn’t *quite* completely cool when I broke mine up into clusters and presented it to my wife…so it was just a tiny bit chewy. But that didn’t really matter…my wife was suitably amazed and impressed with my thoughtfulness and effort. Then she tasted the popcorn…amazing! She could not put it down. It was a MAJOR success! Eventually, she made me take it away from her, so she wouldn’t eat it all. Again, being the loving husband, I finished the rest of it. This one really is a winner. I hope you’ll try it and enjoy!
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Soup for One from Home Canned Pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

Home canned pumpkin

I have several pint jars of pumpkin sitting in my pantry that I canned after Halloween this year. I decided to pop open a jar and make some soup!

First, I drained the liquid from the pumpkin and transferred it to a small saucepan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

Drained pumpkin in a sauce pan.

(If you substitute store-bought canned pumpkin, you might need to ADD a little water, as it is “solid pack”, meaning that it has had a bunch of water removed.) Then I added about 1/3 cup of buttermilk and a pinch each of powdered ginger, garlic powder, salt, fresh black pepper, and ground coriander.

Spices and buttermilk added.

Spices and buttermilk added.

I combined those ingredients until smooth, using a hand blender, while I brought the soup up to temperature over medium-high heat. I decided to add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of half’n’half and blend that in as well.

Blended, with half'n'half added.

Blended, with half’n’half added.

To have a little more fun, I added croutons to the glass canning jar that the pumpkin had been in, and topped them with about a 1/4 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

Croutons and Gruyere cheese.

I poured the soup over the cheese and croutons and stirred. It was stringy with hot cheese and tasted like a soup and grilled cheese sandwich, all blended together!

Soup!

Soup!

Obviously, you could just eat the soup, without the croutons and cheese. You could vary the flavor by changing the flavor of croutons and/or the type of cheese. Also, you could vary the spices added to the soup. Cumin, instead of coriander; mustard powder, rather than garlic; add some chicken stock for a non-vegetarian option. It’s a versatile little soup that you can spice to suit your tastes, plus it’s quick and easy! Enjoy!

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Yellow Squash Casserole with Swiss Cheese and Cream of Mushroom Soup

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So, I’ve had this really easy recipe for a chicken dish that I got out of Southern Living Magazine decades ago. It’s boneless chicken, swiss cheese, cream of mushroom soup, white wine, bread crumbs and melted butter…baked for 45 minutes at 350F. Now that I have to cook for a vegetarian, I need to try some new things. I was looking for something to do with yellow squash from my garden and I decided to make this recipe.

Yellow Squash Casserole with Swiss Cheese & Cream of Mushroom Soup

Most of the ingredients for the casserole.

Most of the ingredients for the casserole.

5 c. Yellow Squash. cut into approx. 1″ cubes

1 medium Sweet Onion, thinly sliced

1 can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

About 2 cups of Shredded Swiss Cheese

2 cups Plain Panko Bread Crumbs

1/4-1/3 c. Dry White Wine

Salt & Pepper, to taste

5 T. Butter, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saute pan, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, but not browned. Spread the onions evenly over the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Sauteing onions

Sauteing onions

Cover with yellow squash and season with salt and pepper.

Onions, squash, salt and pepper.

Onions, squash, salt and pepper.

Evenly distribute the shredded swiss cheese over the squash.

Swiss cheese.

Swiss cheese.

In a bowl, mix the cream of mushroom soup and the wine. Ladle the soup mixture over the casserole, to cover.

Mushroom soup layer.

Mushroom soup layer.

Next, cover the casserole with the panko bread crumbs. Melt the remaining 3 T. butter and drizzle over the bread crumbs.

Panko and butter drizzle.

Panko and butter drizzle.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40minutes, until bubbling throughout. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve hot, over rice.

Served over rice...yum!

Served over rice…yum!

Vegetarian approved…and I liked it too! Enjoy!

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Easy Vegetarian Pazole in the Crock Pot

Easy Vegetarian Pazole

Easy Vegetarian Pazole…I went back and removed the big pieces of chili and chopped them. Next time, I’ll break-up into small pieces first!

Always looking for something vegetarian that is still satisfying. This one fits the bill! Traditionally made with pork, pazole is a Mexican stew made with hominy. Hominy can be purchased canned or dried. I find the canned to be easy and good. Plus, the liquid in the can adds both liquid and flavor to the stew. Pazole is a corn product that has been dried and treated in an alkali solution using lye or lime (not the citrus). Grits are nothing more than ground hominy. It can usually be found in white or yellow. The canned version is a bit chewy and looks large and puffy, compared to a regular corn kernel. Combined with some other common ingredients, it makes a great stew. It is also versatile! Some people might like to add chopped green chilies, crushed red pepper, hot sauce, regular corn, etc. In the summer, you could add some of that abundant squash and/or zucchini and use fresh tomatoes. I find my version here to be on the spicy side, but not killer. You can serve as is, or you could serve with some rice or macaroni. If you want to garnish it, I would recommend sour cream/crema, fresh cilantro and some crispy tortilla strips. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can Black Beans, not drained (or 1 pint, home canned)

1 large can Diced Tomatoes, not drained (fire roasted  is okay, or 1 quart home canned)

1 large can Mexican Style Hominy, not drained

2 large dried Guajillo Chilies

2  or 3 dried Pasillo Chilies

1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin

1 Tablespoon Ground Oregano

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Directions

Preheat a large crock pot on high temperature. Add all the canned ingredients and the oregano and cumin. Cover and let start warming. Break up the dried chilies and remove the seeds and stems. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the chilies for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on the power of your microwave. DSC04285

Cool enough to handle…do NOT breath the fumes as you remove the chilies from the microwave! When cool, break into very small pieces and add to the crock pot and stir to combine. (I missed that to bebin with and had to go back and fish the big pieces out and chop them.) Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or overnight on low. Refrigerate any unused stew. It will be even better the next day! Serve hot. Enjoy!

Ready to serve...but I'm refrigerating and serving tomorrow. It'll be even better!

Ready to serve…but I’m refrigerating and serving tomorrow. It’ll be even better!

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Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley Pizza

Trader Joe's Punjab Choley Pizza

Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley Pizza

An unabashed appeal to Trader Joe’s to try my recipe and publish it on their website. Maybe get a plug for my blog…maybe a sponsor? I don’t mind hawking a few Trader Joe’s recipes…I regularly visit my local Trader Joe’s and enjoy their products. This recipe uses their very convenient pre-made pizza dough, a spicy Indian chick pea dish that comes in a shelf-stable package (and is really good over rice!), and their Authentic Greek Feta packaged in a little plastic tub of brine that lasts well in the refrigerator. This recipe is versatile and easy. Add more or less cheese, to your taste. Add garnishes to your liking…if I had some on hand when I made this, I would have used some finely diced cucumber and some cilantro leaves after the sour cream drizzle. A very light dusting of cumin would be nice. In the summer, some roasted or grilled veggies. Maybe add a sprinkle of corn kernels before baking…hey, it’s pizza…do whatever you like! So far, it’s vegetarian, but it doesn’t have to be. Add some diced ham or tandoori chicken, maybe? Enjoy!

Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley Pizza      created by Matt Miller

Ingredients:

1 Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough

1 pkg. Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley

2 to 3 ounces Trader Joe’s Authentic Greek Feta, crumbled (to taste)

2 to 3 ounces Trader Joe’s Shredded Mozzarella (to taste)

3 T. Trader Joe’s Sour Cream

1 t. Trader Joe’s Half’n’Half or Heavy Cream

All –Purpose Flour, for dusting

Olive Oil or Non-Stick Spray

Directions:

Coat a mixing bowl with olive oil or spray with non-stick spray. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat in oil/spray. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

Dough and Punjab Choley

Dough and Punjab Choley

Preheat oven to 475F and place pizza stone in the center of the oven, if you have one, and prepare pizza on a flour dusted pizza peel  or cutting board. Otherwise, prepare the pizza and use a flour dusted pizza pan or pizza screen. First, squeeze bubbles out of dough and roll out in a circular shape to about 14”. Use a fork to poke holes in the dough all over. This is called “docking” and reduces large bubbles forming in the oven. Empty the contents of the Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley onto the center of the dough. Spread the Punjab Choley evenly across the pizza.

Assembled and just put in the oven.

Assembled and just put in the oven.

Distribute the mozzarella and feta cheeses evenly across the pizza as well. I recommend not covering with mozzarella as heavily as you would an Italian pizza.

Transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone or place the pizza pan in the oven. Bake until bottom is golden brown and the cheeses are bubbly and lightly browned.

Cooked and cut.

Cooked and cut.

While the pizza is baking, mix the sour cream and half’n’half or cream together to make a thick sauce. I like to put the mixture into a zip lock bag, seal and squeeze into one corner.  IMAG2454When the pizza comes out of the oven, cut into pieces and serve hot. Just before service, cut a tiny corner off of the zip lock bag and squeeze a drizzle of the sauce onto each piece. Enjoy!

Drizzled with sour cream and served.

Drizzled with sour cream and served.

Optional: You can garnish with finely diced cucumber and/or cilantro leaves, if you like.

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Pickled Hard Boiled Eggs…No, Wait! Where are You Going!?

Pickled Eggs. Oh, C'mon. Don't be afraid!

Pickled Eggs. Oh, C’mon. Don’t be afraid!

I started doing this awhile back, mainly because I was told that my father in-law liked pickled eggs.  The thing is, I realized that they are actually pretty good! I’m kind of picky though…I don’t just munch into one. I slice them in half and put a little salt and fresh pepper on them. Amazingly, months after you pickle them, the yolks are still like they are from a freshly boiled egg. The texture of the whites gets denser and takes on the pickle flavor, but not a very strong one.

I like having pickled eggs on hand for making a quick tuna or chicken salad, too! Easy. Throw in some mayo, finely chopped celery and/or pickles (sweet or dill), a squirt of mustard, capers, onions, whatever you like…boom!

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

Some possible tuna (or chicken) salad ingredients

Some possible tuna (or chicken) salad ingredients

Now, I have gotten into canning over the last couple of years and I have some of my own pickles that run low and I refill those jars…I can even combine jars, if I need more brine in one. I have used pickled beet brine as well. It adds a distinct color and earthy sweetness. If you add a little beet brine to regular dill brine, you’ll get a lighter color and sweetness. If you aren’t canning, though, don’t worry. You can use commercial pickle juices, just as well.

This egg came from a batch with a small amount of beet brine. Look at how fresh the yolk looks!

This egg came from a batch with a small amount of beet brine. Look at how fresh the yolk looks!

This is a great way to salvage eggs that are approaching or just past their freshness dates. (Boiling works better with older eggs, rather than fresh!) Cover with cold water, add a tablespoon white vinegar and a teaspoon baking soda and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat, cover and set a timer for 13 minutes. When time is up, drain and transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking. Peel under some warm running water and drop peeled eggs into the pickling brine. Refrigerate practically indefinitely.

By the way, remember my blog awhile back about buying eggs already boiled and peeled, for deviled eggs, at the grocery store? Don’t want to boil and peel eggs, but want to try pickling some eggs? Did I say “Boom!” already?

No, really! They're good!

No, really! They’re good!

So, I may be picky about how I eat my pickled eggs, but don’t let me stop you if you want to just bite into a whole one…enjoy!!!

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