Monday, December 19, 2011

Grandma's Peanut Butter Balls

This year my cousins and I gathered the family together to make Christmas cookies for the first time. We realized that over the last couple of years the sweets offered at our family Christmas dinner were lacking in a big way. Our favorite treat was not being made by Grandma anymore, which was fair. It was time we took over. Luckily, Grandma still had the recipe around.

Now, I'm sure the idea of Peanut Butter Balls is nothing new to you. I've seen them around done in a variety of ways - super fancy or healthy and whatnot. Well, these are kind of Plain Janes in a way. These keep it simple and a little bit '70's with peanut butter, rice crispies, Hershey's chocolate bars and paraffin wax. Yes, I said wax. To some of you this may seem odd, but trust me - they just aren't the same without it. It makes the chocolate melt smoothly and keeps the shell shiny and hard - perfect for popping. And, trust me, it's hard to pop just one. 

Grandma's Peanut Butter Balls

  • 3 Cups Rice Crispies
  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 1 Pound Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Cups Chunky Peanut Butter
  • 1 Hershey Bar
  • 1 Package Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Square Paraffin
  1. Melt butter and mix everything by hand and form into balls
  2. Refrigerate overnight (in a pinch - freeze for a couple hours
  3. Melt chocolate and wax together in a double boiler and stir until smooth
  4. Keep liquid while dipping balls with toothpicks
  5. Place coated balls on wax paper to set
  6. Store in fridge

Crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty. Obviously *the* favorite.
And, I gotta say a BIG THANK YOU to my cousin for bringing all the ingredients and for bringing an excellent hotdish for us while we were hard at work. I'm going to have to get her over here to do a guest post. I told her she should submit it to this year's Hotdish Revolution. I'll have a run for my money! Oh, and before I forget, speaking of ingredients - she brought Smart Balance peanut butter and margarine, I believe - so if you're so inclined, by all means, substitute away! I must admit - it worked perfectly and they were just as tasty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baby Bello Mushroom and Chicken Pot Pie

If you haven't noticed already, I love me some hotdish. My favorite category of such being The Chicken Pot Pie. And I do it many ways. It's almost never-ending, the possibilities... I get swept away, it's true! If you haven't already tried my Honey Mustard Horseradish Chicken Pot Pie, well, fine! Maybe you like your flavors more subtle. That's fair.But, then, you really must try this one. 

Don't be scared of mushrooms. If you think you don't like them because of the texture or something, chop them a bit more finely and I promise you, you won't be sorry that you added them in. Over the last few weeks I've been playing a lot with mushrooms in dishes because my husband likes them and that umami flavor is perfect for this blustery winter season. I have found my kids even like mushrooms. I'm still in shock about that one. Writing it down feels weird. I'm not making it up! I'm going to keep putting mushrooms in everything for this season, so stay tuned for my Cream of Mushroom and Artichoke Wild Rice Soup and other mushroom-inspired recipes. 

Baby Bello Mushroom and Chicken Pot Pie

You Will Need:
  • Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Frying Pan
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • 9x13 Casserole Dish (or any large glass/stoneware baking dish)
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock 
  • 6 Leaves Fresh Sage (or 1-2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence, etc)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Small Bag Pearl Onions (12 or so?)
  • Handful of Frozen Spinach 
  • 1/2 Pint Baby Portobello Mushrooms
  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil or EVOO (I find that Canola Oil or the like works better when doing chicken on the stovetop)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 Sheet Puff Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wash and chop mushrooms and prepare onions (cut top bit off, leave whole), set aside
  3. Heat butter in saucepan on medium low
  4. Mix in flour into a paste
  5. Add stock, stir occasionally
  6. Mince garlic and sage, add to roux, salt and pepper to taste, stir
  7. Heat frying pan on medium, add oil
  8. Chop chicken into small pieces, add to frying pan when hot
  9. Add soy sauce (if you haven't heard me on this one already, don't be so shocked! It makes sense, I swear - it's not going to seem like you're eating Chinese take out all of a sudden. It's just salty goodness)
  10. In casserole dish sprinkle chicken, mushrooms, onions and spinach evenly
  11. Pour roux mixture into the dish and top with puff pastry
  12. Bake 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden
This pot pie is so earthy and comforting. We've had some crazy wind and rain the past couple weeks and pot pies and soups have kept our family going through these dreary days. I hope you all enjoy!

You could easily make this pot pie vegetarian, too - substitute chicken stock for vegetable and add potatoes in substitution for chicken! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cranberry Jalapeno Chutney

I'm going to go ahead and call this a chutney. Since this blog is kind of a confession, I will admit to you this - I'm not sure if it would traditionally be called a chutney, but from what I gather from the Food Network, I'm at least not far off. And it sounds fancier than salsa or sauce. Right? I look forward to the day that I have time to spend learning - hopefully even at culinary school. I think a huge part of going from a home cook to a professional chef is techniques that I don't have names for. My style of cooking being a bit more like MacGyver and less like Sameh Wadi of Saffron here in Minneapolis, but hey! It works.

Anyway, when I went to make an appetizer for Thanksgiving I was drawn to the idea of doing cranberries and cheese. Originally, I expected to just spread the cranberry relish that my mom makes every year onto cream cheese and, voila - appetizer. But, then I got inspired and came up with the Cranberry Jalapeno Chutney, and boy am I glad I did. It is so fresh tasting and an easy twist on the classic cranberry sauce (unless you're used to the canned kind, and then, no, it's not like that :). 

I made a Brie en Croute using the chutney and it was a big hit. I'll be making it again for Christmas, the colors and flavors are really perfect for the holiday season. Don't be afraid of the jalapenos, either. The flavor is more a "green" taste than a spicy one. There is very little heat to it, but the jalapeno adds to the mint and contrasts the tart juicy cranberries perfectly. And, this could stand alone as a sauce, too - slathered on leftover turkey for a little sandwich, instead of gravy or on glazed ham - amazing. And the colors and the aromas are so vibrant and perfect for this time of year. 

Cranberry Jalapeno Chutney

You Will Need:
  • Medium Sized Saucepan
  • Zester
  • Citrus Squeezer
  • Small Cutting Board
  • Small Knife
  • 1 Pint Whole, Fresh Cranberries
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Lime
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw - I think it makes a nice difference, but not necessary!)
  • Small Handful of Fresh Mint (about 6 leaves)
  • 2 Jalapenos (they were on the small side, couple inches long)
  • 3 Scallions (if using it just for a sauce, chop into the green to top after cooking)
For the Brie en Croute:
  • Puff Pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • Your Favorite Brie Cheese
  1. Wash fruit and mint
  2. Add water and cranberries to saucepan and set to medium heat
  3. Add orange and lime zest
  4. Add orange juice and pulp
  5. Add lime juice (try not to use pulp, it tends to be too bitter)
  6. Add sugar and stir
  7. Mince mint leaves and add
  8. De-seed and finely chop jalapenos and add to saucepan
  9. Chop scallions into thin rings and add
  10. Bring to boil and reduce on medium low heat
  11. Let cool at room temperature and place in fridge or serve warm
  12. For Brie en Croute:
    1. Set oven to 400 degrees
    2. Roll out pastry dough or cut to fit (I used a bit of extra dough for the angel and dusted it with cinnamon)
    3. Spread the chutney over the dough in the middle
    4. Place the brie on top
    5. Fold in corners and flip over onto a cookie sheet (spray or use foil or parchment paper)
    6. Brush with an egg wash (tablespoon of water and an egg)
    7. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden