Peanut Butter Cup Pie

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Oh the sweetness of it.  This aint no tryin’ to be healthy pie.  It’s a super sweet candy pie.  It’s a sugar bomb in a graham cracker shell.  If you like chocolate and peanut butter this is the pie for you.

It starts with a graham cracker crust followed by a layer of chocolate.  Rich, luscious peanut butter mouse is swirled on top, and crushed peanuts and candies dance across the surface.

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The nice thing about it, is that you can use a premade shell if you would like, or you can make little tartlets.  You could also mix some of the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream and have a layered peanut butter and chocolate mousse that you serve in a glass.

This particular pie was made for a birthday present and it was a huge hit! We put out extra whip cream in case anyone wanted more, and one person ate 2 pieces with mounds of whip cream!  Impressive. I easily made it gluten free by using gluten free graham crackers.  It’s been about 15 years since “the birthday girl” had peanut butter pie – all because the crust usually has graham crackers made with wheat.  Now you can find the crackers at many grocery stores, so it was exciting to get a chance to make it.  Pretty sure this will be another request when someone needs a chocolate peanut butter fix!

Peanut Butter Cup Pie

Crust

8 oz graham crackers

6 T melted butter

1 t sugar

1/4 t cinnamon

Chocolate Layer

1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 T evaporated milk

1 t vanilla

1 T honey

Peanut Butter Mousse

1 C Creamy Peanut Butter (I use a natural brand, but not fresh ground.  It should not be separated)

1/2 C confectioners sugar

1 C heavy whipping cream

Buttered 9 in deep pie pan

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Break the graham crackers into pieces, add the sugar and cinnamon, and pulse in a food processor until they are crumbed.  Pour in the melted butter and continue to pulse until the the crumbs are moist.  Press them evenly into the pie pan and up the sides.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  I then let it cool down for a while.  I don’t think you should rush any of the steps or it might mess up the pie.

Melt the chocolate chips, evaporated milk, honey and vanilla in a double boiler.  Okay…that sounds good but I don’t have one.  So I just take a pot, put a colander over it, and put the glass bowl of chocolate in the colander so it’s not actually touching the water but the steam still escapes through the holes and heats up the bottom.  Make sure to stir and watch it.  Once it’s melted it looks glossy.  Spread the chocolate over the cooled pie crust.  I only use about 1/2 of the mixture, but you have more to use if you want a thicker chocolate layer.

Cool this down for a while.  I put it in the freezer for a good 1/2 hour or so.  It should be firm before you put the mousse on it.

Make sure you chill a glass bowl and the whipping cream in your freezer.  This will make the next steps go more quickly.

In a separate, smaller glass bowl, beat the peanut butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar together until nice and creamy.  You can add a little salt if you want to, but if you’re adding dry roasted, salted peanuts on top I don’t think you need to do this.  Add about a quarter of the chilled cream to the mixture and beat thoroughly.

Wipe off your beaters, and take out your chilled bowl.  Pour the remaining cream into the bowl and beat until soft peaks form.  Spoon about 1/3 of the peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream and beat for a few seconds until mainly incorporated.  Finish folding it in with a rubber scraper.  Repeat 2 more times with the remaining peanut butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while you wait for the chocolate to be set.  The chocolate doesn’t need to frozen, it just needs to be hard enough that the mouse can be spread on top.

Spoon the mousse over the chocolate, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for a couple of hours.  I topped mine with crushed peanuts, splashes of chocolate, candy bits, and whipped cream.

 

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Beer Battered Smelt

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My impulse buy at the grocery store yielded tonight’s recipe for the Wisconsin tradition of Friday Fish Fry.

Fish fry is so popular on Friday nights that even Sushi restaurants have it.  Even Mexican restaurants have it.

People that never go out to eat, still go out on Friday nights for Fish Fry.  And beer battered fish fry is the tradition.

It’s not a light tempura coating, it’s a rich coating that yields a satisfying crunch and a deep color that grows off of the fish like a a quartz.  Sometimes it seems a little oily, sometimes not.  In Wisconsin, fish fry comes with cole slaw, fries, tartar sauce, and wedges of lemon.  If they offer you potato pancakes OR french fries…well, that means they know what they are doing.  If they nonchalantly ask if you want sour cream or apple sauce with those potato pancakes…well…do what you want.  I like the apple sauce.

Smelt are almost never available for fish fry any more. They are little lake fish, about 4 inches long, that used to be prevalent in this area. As they began to disappear from the lakes they were replaced by more readily available fish like perch or bluegill.  Today, cod is the most common fish at restaurants.

These little guys were fresh caught in Canada, our friendly neighbors to the North.  As you can see, they were completely cleaned and have no faces.  I’ve eaten them whole, and once they are fried you can eat them completely.

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I do have a gluten free recipe for fish fry and will share that another time.  For now, enjoy a traditional beer battered fish, and use the batter on any fish you like.

Prost!

Beer Battered Smelt

1/2 pound smelt (feeds about 4 if you have sides)

1 C all purpose flour plus more for coating fish prior to cooking

1 t baking soda

1/4 t garlic salt plus more for sprinkling

pepper

super cold beer

2 T lemon juice

Hot oil

Put your beer in the freezer to get it really cold.  Pat the fish dry and then coat in flour.  Let it sit there while you do everything else.

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Heat up your dutch oven to just under just under medium.  If you have a deep fryer go ahead and use that and get the setting to what they recommend for fish.

Whisk the flour, garlic salt, a few turns of the pepper mill, and the baking soda in a glass dish.  Get your lemon juice ready.  Lay out paper bags to lay the cooked fish on.

Once the dutch oven is hot, pour in enough oil to make it deep enough to handle the fish.  I made the mistake of not having enough grapeseed oil so I had to add olive oil when I cooked this, but I prefer straight grapeseed oil.

Get your beer out of the freezer and slowly pour in, bit by bit, whisking constantly.  I can’t give an exact measurement, but it’s usually about less than 6 oz at the end.  You want no lumps, and runny, but not liquid like milk.  Just a cohesive batter that pours in an even stream off the whisk.

Add about 1 T of the lemon juice and whisk it in fast.  I usually stop to watch it bubble up, but that’s just me.  Grab your little fish by the tail, shake off any excess flour and swirl it into the batter.  Gently lay it into the oil.  Just one to begin with.

Cook the first fish by itself.  It takes like 2 minutes.  Once it’s just about done, start putting in the others.  As you pull each fish out and drain them on the paper bag, sprinkle them with some more of the garlic salt.

About 1/2 way through, grab the lemon remaining lemon juice and whisk into the batter to get more fizz.

I think smelt is best served in a pile!  Let everyone dig in and enjoy!

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Chicken Saltimbocca

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Apparently “saltimbocca” means “jumps in your mouth”.

Not a command, like “get in my belly”, but meaning something closer to “dances on the tongue”

I would say that’s true, because the combination of proscuitto, sage, and spinach makes it pop in your mouth.

I’m thinking that Saltimbocca would be an awesome restaurant name.  I can even see the design of it.  Modern Rustic.  Get in My Belly is more of a food truck name.

I’m also thinking that spinach and sage go really well together and you almost never see recipes with the two of them.

Spinach and Sage would also be a good restaurant name.

I actually went to a restaurant called “Quatro Tette” which means “Four teats”.  Or breasts.  The story behind the name is that it was opened by 2 women.  And between the 2 of them, they had 4 breasts, and that’s how it got it’s name.  There has to be more to the story, but that’s what I was told.  What a mystery!  It was in a village called Mantova.

I went to another restaurant called “Big Guy’s”.  This was in America. Once you saw the owner, it was apparent how it got it’s name.

A lot of Italian foods have names that are colorful and describe the history of the dish.  Saltimbocca is a name that seems to describe the flavor.  But even here, I think there is a bit of a mystery.  It’s origins seem clouded in history.  Some say it’s Roman, some say from Brescia, and others say that it’s popular in Switzerland.  A lot of places make it with veal, and it’s not always rolled up.  Sometimes it’s served flat with the insides of the roll now served on top.  I guess you could slap that between two slices of bread and it would be a great sandwich!

Ooh!  Another good restaurant or food truck name.  Slap Happy.  Sandwich place.  I’m on a roll…groan.  That was not intentional.  The “on a roll” pun was not intentional.  Just the way my brain is working today!  But I’m kind of giggling over here…

This dish is fairly quick to make, a little over 1/2 hour and you can cut down on the time even further by purchasing thinly sliced chicken fillets.  Just make sure to adjust the cooking times because the fillets are very thin.

Chicken Saltimbocca

2 large chicken breasts sliced sliced horizontally through the center to make 4 fillets, and pounded to a uniform thickness

5 fresh sage leaves

About 1 C baby spinach

4 slices prosciutto

fresh grated parmesiano reggiano

1/2 red pepper chopped

1 C chicken broth

1 T lemon juice

2 T olive oil

1/2 T butter

toothpicks

salt and pepper

skillet

Tongs

Wooden spoon

Heat your skillet to medium, and preheat your oven to 180 F to keep the chicken warm while you finish the sauce. Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, but go light on your salt because a lot of the ingredients already have a salty taste.  Place 1 sage leaf, a flat, even layer of spinach, and a piece of proscuitto on each breast. Honestly, a piece of proscuitto is too big for the chicken breast, so just cut or tear it to fit.  Grate some fresh parmesiano over the top.

Starting from the fat end, roll it up and secure with a toothpick.

Add your butter to the pan, and it should start to brown pretty quickly.  Then add your olive oil, swirling the pan to make sure everything is incorporated.  Place your saltimbocca in the pan, starting with the bottom of the roll.  Brown each side, which only takes 2-3 minutes per side.

Add the chicken broth, the last sage leaf and peppers to the pan, cover, and cook for about 6-8 minutes or so.  Remember, if you’re using fillets from the store they might be very thin, so the initial browning might almost cook those little guys.  Once the liquid is in the pan they could be finished in another few minutes.)

Remove the chicken from the pan and place in serving dish.  Put in the oven to keep warm.

Turn the heat up to med high or high, and use a wooden spoon to stir the sauce and scrape up anything from the bottom.  Once the liquid is reduced by about 1/3, stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.

Remove the chicken from the oven, pour the sauce over them, grate some more parmesiano on the top and serve.  A good dessert for this dish is the lemon ricotta mousse!

 

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Grilled Salmon with Asian Marinade

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Grilled salmon is seriously one of my favorite.meals.ever.  I almost never order salmon when out at a restaurant because this is usually better.  I’m not just saying that, it’s true.  And it’s one of my most requested recipes.

If you have people over for a barbecue, having salmon with the asian marinade and chicken with barbecue sauce is a great combination.  I pretty much always serve it with vegetables that have been coated in olive oil and then seasoned with curry spices.  You can’t really tell that there is curry on the grilled vegetables but all the flavors meld together in a perfect combination.

Any leftover salmon can be used to top a fresh, crispy salad the next day, so I always save some of the supper just for that purpose.  As long as you have fired up the grill you might as well grill as much as possible at once.  You’ll have a couple of days of grilled vegetables to use for your lunches or suppers.  Just stick in the oven and reheat at 350 F for a few minutes and you’ll get that straight off the grill flavor to add a punch to every meal.

Try the marinade on your chicken wings as well!  And if you’re interested in seeing some superb supper knife skills, serve chicken wings to some Italians.  Americans grab chicken wings with their hands and tear them off the bone with their teeth.  About 50% of the Italians I’ve seen grab a fork and knife and quickly perform chicken wing surgery of the most delicate kind.  Leaving the bone behind and a neat little pile of meat on the plate.  It’s really fascinating to watch!

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Grilled Salmon with Asian Marinade

1 lb salmon filets

1/4 C Braggs Amino Acids or low sodium soy sauce

1/2 C orange marmalade

1/2 T roasted chili paste

1/2 t sesame oil

1/2 t roasted sesame oil

1/4 t grated ginger, you can always add more

1 small grated garlic clove

dash fish sauce or a bit of anchovy paste

dash hot sauce

1 t saki or sherry cooking wine

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a bowl, and then pour into a plastic storage bag large enough to hold the salmon.  I usually have the salmon cut into 1/2 pound pieces.  Marinade for an hour or 2.

Preheat the grill (gas) to 400F and oil the grate.  Discard marinade, oil the skin of the salmon, and cook the salmon skin side down for about 5-6  minutes or so.  I turn it a quarter way about 1/2 way through so there are nice grill marks.

Flip the salmon and repeat on the other side.  The salmon is best when you take it off the heat when it’s not quite fully cooked in the center, so don’t depend on times alone.  Once you plate it and start eating, it will be perfectly cooked and and come off in large flakes.  Not dry at all!

This marinade is also excellent for chicken wings.

 

Lemon Ricotta Mousse

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This is sunshine in a glass, and it all starts with the lemon curd.

Beautiful, not too sweet, tart, silky lemon curd that can be eaten in so many ways.

I’ve served the curd with pound cake, in a schaum torte, or mixed with yogurt.  I’ve eaten it plain and topped with berries.  I’ve added lime juice or ginger root juice to it.  I plan on making a savory recipe with it, so we’ll see how that goes.

It’s the best when you can make it with lemons from your own tree.  I was so excited when these little guys began to grow! They start out so tiny, bit by bit they get bigger, and then you seem to wait forever for them to turn yellow so you can pick them.

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This mousse has a velvety texture that lingers on the tongue. You can make it lighter and more airy by omitting the ricotta.  And I almost always use organic foods when cooking.  It’s especially important if you are using the lemon peel.

Have fun trying it, I know you’ll love it!  This recipe is for about 8 servings and can easily be cut in 1/2.  It’s also great for luncheons or family gatherings, but if you’re making it for a crowd, stick to doing it in small batches, especially when it comes to the cream.

Lemon Ricotta Mousse

Lemon Curd

6 T butter, cubed (room temperature)

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks

1 C bakers sugar (this is a super fine sugar)

1/2 C +2 T fresh lemon juice (I used a combination of Meyer Lemon and regular lemon)

1 t grated lemon zest

Whipped Ricotta Cream

1/2 C ricotta cheese, drained if too much liquid

1/4 C powdered sugar

2 C heavy whipping cream

sauce pan

microplane for zesting

glass or stainless steel mixing bowls

hand mixer

Lemon Curd – Combine the butter, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, and cream with the hand mixer.  Pour in the lemon juice and beat together until mixed.  Pour into the sauce pan and put on a burner over low heat.  Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes or so.

Turn the heat up to medium low, and continue to cook for another 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly.  It will go through some changes and start to thicken up.  At this time, really make sure to keep stirring so that it cooks evenly.  Once the white or frothy parts start cooking down, the beautiful lemon yellow curd will start to appear.  I take it off the heat once there is a just the faintest traces of white froth left, and then stir it super fast to finish it up.  You should be able to draw a line through the curd on the back of your spoon.  Mix in the lemon zest. Pour into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Make sure to press the plastic wrap on top of the curd so that it doesn’t form any kind of skin on top.  Chill for at least an hour.

Whipped Ricotta Cream – chill the ricotta, cream, bowls and beaters (or whisk) in the freezer for a little bit so everything is very cold.  Beat (or whisk, I just use beaters) the cream and sugar together until it starts thickening, but before it has any kind of peaks.  It should be whipped, but not ready yet.  In a separate bowl beat the ricotta and a little bit of cream together until it’s kind of fluffy.  Add to the whipped cream, and continue to beat until it starts to form peaks.  This goes very very fast once you add the ricotta.  Do not over beat or you’ll have butter!

Take your curd out of the refrigerator and stir it with a spoon to loosen it up.  Add a 1/2 cup of the curd to your ricotta cream and fold in.  Follow with the remaining 1/2 C.  If you want it more lemony, go right ahead and add more. You’ll have curd left over, to use for whatever you would like!

You can put this into your serving dishes right now and refrigerate them until it’s time for dessert.

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Maryland Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

 

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I’ve been craving crab cakes for about a week. And I bet it’s been at least a year since I’ve made crab cakes.  I like them simple – a lot of crab, not a lot of breading, and just a little bit of seasoning.

This is a Maryland crab cake because it uses blue lump crab caught off the shores of the state of Maryland in the US.  The cold Atlantic water makes for a sweeter meat.  It’s the same with lobsters caught in the Atlantic.  A sweeter, cleaner tasting meat.

If you can’t find Blue Lump Crab, you can use any type of crab you have available.  You can even use this recipe for shrimp cakes.

*funny story – I dropped a piece of crab, and my dog who has large ears specifically designed for hearing even a small crumb hit the floor, was on it immediately.  The look on his face was PRICELESS!  He loved it.  The moment they were done cooking, he took off at full speed to his food dish, feet skidding on the floor as he slid around the turn.  He totally thought that was his supper. Sorry bud, these cakes are for people!*

Here is looking all handsome and all ears on the Verdon River in France.  This has nothing to do with crab cakes. It’s just a chance to share a picture of my dog, who helps me cook by staring with an intense and unwavering gaze.  So he should get some credit.

Liam Verdon River

This recipe makes 8 cakes from a pound of crab meat, and are easily converted to Gluten Free. They can be served hot or at room temperature.  Some people eat them cold in a sandwich with a slice of tomato. They also make an INCREDIBLY TASTY Eggs Benedict.

Maryland Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1 pound Blue Lump Crab (make sure there are no shells, and drained of any water)

1/2 C (heaping) crushed Saltine Crackers or same amount Gluten Free Panko crumbs.  Don’t crush them fully into a powder, you want it flaky.  You can add a little bit of salt if going gluten free.

2 t Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 C mayonnaise

1 egg

dash worcestershire sauce

dash dijon mustard

dash hot sauce

grapeseed oil

wax paper lined baking sheet

pan for frying

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3/4 C Roasted Pepper in oil, chopped up

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 sundried tomato in oil, fine chopped

dash of hot pepper sauce

little bit of salt

wax paper lined baking sheet

For the crab cakes – mix the crab and Old Bay seasoning together, then add to the crushed crackers.  In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients.  Pour into the crab and cracker mix, and using your hands, mix thoroughly. Form into 8 cakes.  You want them to stick together, but don’t break apart those big lumps.  If you need to add a little more mayonnaise or a little more cracker, do so.  Put on the baking sheet and cover.  Refrigerate for an hour.

For the roasted red pepper sauce – add all ingredients to a blender and liquify.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate for an hour. This is pretty addicting and tastes clean and fresh.  I love to dip the snap peas in it, and it doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the crab!

Heat your pan to medium low, and then add enough oil to be at about 1/4 inch depth.  I put four cakes in at a time because I do not want them crowding, but you can fit more in there.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes per side.  This is where those oil splatter screens come in handy.  Transfer to paper towel to soak up any excess oil.  You can keep the first ones warm in an oven at it’s lowest setting, or just do a 2 fry pan method.

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Heart Shaped Lasagna

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Amore mio, mio Lasagna,

Quando ho visto questo cuore  fluttuare sopra il villagio di Torno, ho pensato “Anche i cieli celebrano il nostro amore”.

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Ti penso sempre. Tu sei nel mio sangue, e scorre nelle mie vene.

Se il mio cuore dovesse vivere al di fuori del mio petto, come potrebbe una padella 8 X 8 contenerlo? 

Presto saremo insieme … nel mio stomaco.

Conto i giorni e comprerò una buona bottiglia di vino rosso.

Ti piacerebbe questo?

*insert your Italian name here*

See?  I wrote this all romantic Italia style!   Here it is in English.

My Love, My Lasagna,

When I saw this heart floating above the village of Torno, I thought ” Even the heavens celebrate our love”.

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I think of you always.  You are in my blood and course through my veins.

If my heart were to live outside my own chest, how could an 8 X 8 pan contain it?

Soon we will meet…in my stomach.

I am counting the days and will buy a good bottle of red wine.

Would you like that?

*insert your American name here*

Have fun making this for your own love, and if you don’t have a love, make it for the one you’re with.  Yourself!  It freezes very well, and can be thawed and reheated.

Heart Shaped Lasagna

Lasagna noodles (this is the only tricky part – I use a gluten free fresh pasta that I purchase.  If you use a dry noodle, figure about 12 pieces, then par cook them.  Get them pliable, but not cooked thoroughly)

2 cups A Most Unusual Ragù (from previous post)

1 1/2 C ricotta con latte

little bit dry oregano

little bit fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 C fresh chopped parsley

little bit paprika

little bit fresh cracked pepper

1/2 pound very thinly sliced dry whole milk mozzarella

fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Heart Shaped Baking Pan

Cook noodles if needed.  If using a cooked noodle, gently oil them once you pull them out so they don’t stick together and lay them out singly on waxed paper. Only cook for about 1/2 the recommended time. Fresh pasta is best if you can find it.

Mix ricotta, herbs and spices in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Put 1/2 C of ragù in the bottom of the pan and spread around.  Put a layer of noodles on top, off unneeded or overlapping pieces.  Once it’s assembled you can cut around the edges to make a good heart shape.

Put a layer of mozzarella cheese slices on top of the pasta, then spread 1/2 cup of ricotta mixture on top of that. Add 1/2 C sauce, spread, and then add another layer of the noodles.

Repeat twice.  Once the last layer of noodles is on top, take a knife and shape the outside of edges of the lasagna so it is definitely heart shaped.  Top with mozzarella.

Gently press the center of the lasagna so that it is only slightly lower than the edges.  Place in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn oven to broil (high).  Grate Parmigiano all over the top, and put foil around the edges of the lasagna and pan.

Return to oven and broil for 2-3 minutes.

Pull out, let sit for a minute or two, drizzle fresh olive oil over the top, and serve.

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