Monday, August 26, 2013

Easy Creme Brulee

I wish I had a nickel for everyone who says Creme Brulee is their favorite dessert.  Actually, I wish I had a creme brulee, not just a nickel.

And most of these folks think they have to go to a restaurant to get this creamy wonder.  But wait no longer-- it's actually super simple to make-- only 5 ingredients!  (Although one of my sons got mad at me for "ruining" his desire to have one in a restaurant, by making it so often at home!)  Remember that it's basically just custard, with a crackling, caramelized top.  Here's the easiest way to indulge:

2 Cups heavy cream
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks (save the whites for a health-conscious omelette, to make up for the creme brulee!)
1 tsp. vanilla (use the best kind you can)
6 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, stir cream and sugar until hot and sugar is dissolved.  Don't boil, don't get out a candy thermometer, don't make a big deal of this.  Just hot. 
2. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, then slowly drizzle hot cream mixture into yolks as you whisk them.  If you drizzle slowly, you won't cook the yolks or curdle them, and you'll just a have a nice, creamy mixture.  Stir in vanilla.
3. Pour this custard into 6 ramekins, custard bowls, or creme brulee dishes.  Line a roasting pan with paper towels, then place the ramekins on the towels.  Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for 1 hour.  You may need a few more minutes if you're using deep, rather than shallow ramekins.  Stick a knife into the center of one custard; if it comes out clean, they're done. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and let the custards rest in the water for 10 minutes.  Remove custards and chill completely, overnight if possible.
4. When ready to serve, sprinkle each with 1 Tbsp of powdered sugar (some use brown sugar, which also works).  Broil for a minute or less, until sugar caramelizes to a golden brown.  OR use a creme brulee torch to create the same effect.  Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes, so sugar can harden, then serve.  (Garnish with berries, if desired)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wagon Wheel Pizza

Yee Haw!  Here's a super easy recipe of mine that won the grand prize-- a gas grill-- in a contest sponsored by Original Western Dressing a few years back.

 It's so simple a child could make it, but it's a hearty meal and a great twist on usual pizza fare.  Fun for a hoe-down or cowboy-themed party, too.  If you can't find the dressing, try your favorite barbecue sauce!

3/4 lb. lean ground beef
3/4 Cup Original Western Dressing
1/2 Cup chopped red onion
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped mild green chilies
1 (12-inch) Boboli Italian Bread Shell (or any purchased, baked pizza crust)
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly, about 5 minutes.  Drain off drippings.  Stir in dressing, onion, and chilies.
2. Spoon meat mixture over bread shell.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese melts.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Strawberry Truffle Filling

When was the last time you had an indulgent, messy cream puff?  Too long, right?  Time to be a kid again, and take a bite of something jazzed up with chocolate and strawberries! 

This creation of mine was a finalist a few years ago, in the California Strawberry Festival's Berry Off cooking contest.  Cream puffs are super easy to make, so dive in and impress your family and guests!  (This makes 24; cut it in half for a smaller crowd.)

2 Cup boiling water
1 Cup butter
2 Cups flour
1/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
8 eggs

2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 Cup strawberry jam
1 (8 oz.) carton whipped topping (or use real whipped cream)
Powdered sugar, if desired, for dusting
Whole, fresh strawberries, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter in boiling water.  Add flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt.  Stir vigorously until it forms a ball.  Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each one.  Drop 1/4 cup of batter for each puff onto greased baking sheet.  Space about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in top of a double boiler (or microwave them 30 seconds at a time and then stir until melted).  In a large bowl beat cream cheese and jam until smooth.  Beat in melted chocolate, then stir in whipped topping.
3. When puffs are removed from oven, cool for a few minutes, then split them in half and remove any soft dough inside. Cool completely.  Fill with cream cheese mixture, dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with fresh strawberries. (Or drizzle them with melted chocolate, or dip them in chocolate icing!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blackberry Frozen Yogurt

Fresh blackberries... ahh.  Ice cream... even more ahh.
Okay, this is technically frozen yogurt, but it's still cold and creamy and perfect for a summertime dessert. Gorgeous color, too.  I found the recipe (as did many of you, I'll bet) on Pinterest and it looked so easy-- just two ingredients!-- that I had to try it.  Plus it uses my favorite yogurt brand, Greek Gods.  Here's the super simple recipe plus one ingredient I added:

3 cups blackberries
1 (24 oz.) carton Greek Gods yogurt, vanilla honey flavor
2 Cups powdered sugar, optional

First I crushed the berries in my food processor.
Then I poured half the yogurt into my ice cream maker, followed by all the berries, then the remaining yogurt.
 And  it works!  It comes out as very soft "ice cream" (freeze it thoroughly before serving).  However, this is frozen yogurt for people who think most desserts are too sweet.  In fact, they don't much like dessert; they're salt-and-spice people.  These are the women, at a party, who say, "Oh, try the punch; it's not too sweet," which tells me I'm not going to like it, and probably its main ingredient is ginger-ale. 
So, while my "sherbet" was still soft, I tasted it and realized I'd like it much better if it were a bit sweeter.  I stirred in some powdered sugar and now it tastes right.  To me.  If you like a less sweet mixture, by all means leave it out.  When I make it again, I'll add the sugar in the first place.
And here's another idea-- why not make this same recipe using other fruits, berries, or jam?  You can definitely taste the yogurt flavor, but since I like that brand, I think it's simply divine!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Garlic and Ginger-Crusted Salmon with Jamaican Mango Sauce

If that isn't the most mouth-watering name for a recipe that you've ever heard, then you just don't like fish.  But for those who do, YUM and YUM again.  This is another prize winner, but it's one that my husband, Bob, took 3rd place with a few years ago, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. See the photo, below.  This festival is a blast, by the way-- like a State Fair-- they even have garlic-flavored ice cream.  So watch for it, go and enjoy a wonderful feast.
Meanwhile, make this dish to dazzle your guests:

12 garlic cloves, minced
1 Cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (whirl the cookies in your food processor)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 eggs, beaten
4 salmon filets, 4 to 8 oz. each
nonstick cooking spray
1 Cup sour cream
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Caribbean Jerk Seasoning blend (he used Schilling/McCormick)
1 Cup chopped mango, fresh or bottled
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix half the garlic with the gingersnap crumbs and set aside.  In another bowl, whisk lime juice into eggs.  Dip salmon filets into egg mixture to coat, then into gingersnap-garlic mixture, coating both sides.
2. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.  Arrange filets in a single layer.  Bake until fish is opaque when center is pierced with tip of knife, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to warm serving platter.
3. While fish bakes, make sauce. In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisk together remaining garlic, sour cream, mayonnaise, and jerk seasoning until well blended.  Stir in mango and cook until heated through.  Spoon sauce over salmon filets and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.