Honey Pear Vinaigrette

My wife fell in love with a pear, pecan and cranberry salad from a nearby restaurant and asked me to recreate the dressing. This is my close approximation.

  • 1/4 cup pear-infused balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together and serve.

Bonus: The salad she liked was mixed greens, sliced pears, pecans, cranberries and a bit of blue cheese crumbled on the top. It’s great with this dressing!

(Nearly) Sugar-Free Flourless Chocolate Torte

About a year ago, my beloved wife decided she was going to radically change her diet. She has some health challenges and one day decided she was going to stop eating any refined sugars and basically all refined carbs. No pasta, no white flour, no rice. I’m so proud of her for the determination and grit that she has shown, but it’s a bit of a challenge for me to cook without all of my favorite ingredients!  This torte is one of the success stories from me taking that challenge. The recipe that I adapted comes from Deb Perelman’s wonderful The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Note: If you are totally sugar free, you’ll want to use unsweetened chocolate and probably increase the stevia (or sucralose or whatever) by another tablespoon or two. Also, I have substituted agave for the honey with fine results.

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 4 ounces 90% (or unsweetened, see notes) chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup of honey (see notes)
  • 4 tablespoons stevia
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to spit a little bit until small brown flecks start appearing at the bottom of the pan. The butter will be aromatic and smell like nuts. Once your butter browns, take it off the pan and stir in the chopped chocolate. Stir or whisk until it is well mixed and allow it to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and/or line a 6″ springform or round pan and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs and sweeteners until it’s smooth and consistent.  Add in the cooled chocolate mixture (make sure to scrape the brown butter bits off the bottom of the pan) and keep beating until it becomes a rich brown color and all ingredients have been well incorporated. Add the vanilla and salt and mix some more.

In a larger bowl (or your stand mixer bowl) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 using as few strokes as possible.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the cake puffs up (it will deflate shortly). Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then release the cake and allow to fully cool on a plate or a wire rack.

 

Peach Crisp

Even though my beloved Georgia peaches took a beating this year, you should be able to find some for this. Canned peaches have worked for me in a pinch as well, although I adjust the sugar when I go that route.

 

 

Crispy Topping:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup of oats

Put everything except the butter and oats into the bowl of a food process and pulse a couple of times to mix everything up. Add the butter pieces and half of the oats, then pulse a few more times until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Then add the rest of the oats and pulse two or three more times. Put the entire thing in the refrigerator for 15 minute or so. I usually do this first and then work on the fruit.

Also, I usually preheat the oven to 375 degrees at this point.

Fruit:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 Pounds of Peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest

Toss all of this together and pour into your baking dish. If you’re like me, peeling the fruit takes forever and it’s been way more than 15 minutes for the topping to set. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and then bake about 40 minutes.  I usually turn on the broiler at the end and get the top perfectly golden brown.  **Caution** If you do this, DO NOT walk away from it.  Stand there and stare at it until its done or it will get away from you!  (Ask me how I know.)

 

, July 13, 2017. Category: Desserts.

This One is to Show You I’m Serious

A bonus recipe that is probably my second most requested recipe.  Make this Peanut Butter Cheesecake today.  Seriously.

 

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 10 tablespoons Oreo crumbs
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 ounces melted milk chocolate (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Set a large tea kettle of water to boil.

Use a 9-inch springform pan. Tear off a rectangular piece of 18-inch aluminum foil, and wrap it underneath the springform bottom and fold up along sides of pan, creating a water-tight barrier. It’s a good idea to use a second piece of foil to ensure water tightness.

Inside the pan, brush bottom and sides with melted butter. Drop in crumbs, and tilt the pan around to coat bottom and sides with crumbs evenly.  Press crumbs into place.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar cheese and beat about 3 minutes on low speed.  Add peanut butter and beat until combined.

Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla extract, mix. Add heavy cream, mix. Add a pinch of salt. After ensuring all ingredients are mixed evenly and thoroughly, pour mixture into the prepared pan.

Place springform pan into a roasting pan.

Place roasting pan on middle rack in oven, securely, and pour enough boiling water to go half way up side of springform.

Bake for 55-60 minutes. Doing the jiggle test: gently shaking the springform pan, the outside of cake will appear firm but the center will jiggle like Jell-O, and the top will not look browned, thus giving the appearance that it is underdone. But this is what you want because the hot cheesecake will continue to cook.

Turn off oven. Use a wooden spoon to open keep the oven door ajar a couple inches in order to cool. Leave cheesecake in oven for an hour.

Remove springform pan from roasting pan, place on rack on counter to cool to room temperature for 2-4 hours.

Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.  Optionally, drizzle melted chocolate over the top.

I Know It’s Been Years…

I was guilted into posting again. Life got crazy when I started teaching seminary, but things are getting back to normal now.  I don’t have any witty banter or even pictures, but this lasagna is one of the most asked for recipes that I have.  I hope you like it!

 

Lasagna alla Dave

Sauce:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (mild or sweet), either loose or removed from casings
  • 2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp basil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp black pepper

 

Filling:

  • 1 16 oz container of small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese, with ½ cup or so reserved for sprinkling on the top
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

 

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large stock pot, saute onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add sausage and saute until brown. Drain fat and add garlic. Saute for another minute or so. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Boil lasagna noodles in salted water for a few minutes LESS that what the box says. The noodles should be just shy of fully cooked. Drain the pasta and set aside until they cool off a bit.

Mix all ingredients for the filling in a medium sized bowl.

Once the noodles are cool enough to handle, spread sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 (or larger) pan. Place a single layer of noodles in the pan, then spoon about ¼ of the cheese filling on top of that. Cover this layer with more sauce and then repeat the layers until you have used all the pasta. Sprinkle the reserved mozzarella on top.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has started to brown a bit.  If you have the patience, let it rest for 10 minutes or so after taking it out before serving.

Real Mac and Cheese is BAKED!

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to visit with my wife’s extended family.  Her saintly Aunt Debbie and Uncle Roger invited the forty or so people to descend upon their house and cause total havoc.  They were spectacular hosts and thought of every possible contingency.  Seriously, we had a great time and are eternally grateful to them.

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Both of these boys were more interested in pine cones than mac and cheese.

At one point, Aunt Debbie was concerned that the kids weren’t going to have the mac and cheese that she promised them with one of the enormous meals we had, so she asked me if I would help out.  I jumped in there, and judging my inability to find even a single noodle left out of the 3 pounds of macaroni that I made, people liked it.  Here’s a more normal sized recipe. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings (you could use butter or canola oil, but why?)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like extra sharp)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I think plain yogurt would work too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (you could use panko or dried if you want)
  • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put large pot full of water on to boil.  Cook the elbow noodles to al dente and then drain well.

While the noodles are cooking, heat 3 tablespoons bacon drippings in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  When oil is hot (you’ll smell it), add the flour and stir to coat.  Cook for a few minutes and it should turn into a light brown paste.  Whisk in the hot milk and make sure to get into all the corners of the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and it will thicken after a minute or two.  Adjust with a bit more milk if it gets too thick.

Add cheese and whisk until smooth.  Add sour cream, cayenne sauce, salt and pepper.  Taste it and adjust as needed.  When you are happy with the sauce, pour the cheese sauce over the drained noodles.  Mix well and don’t worry if it seems a little saucy.  Pour the mixture into a 9×13 pan.

In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings (or melted butter) and hit it with a little kosher salt.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the topping is nice and golden brown. 

It’s a Napoleon. Not THAT Napoleon…

I have gushed about my affection for different foods in previous posts.  You must believe me, though, when I share my absolute adoration for all things pastry.  Pastry is a last-meal-on-earth kind of thing for me.  (At least part of it, anyway.  It’s not all that exclusive a list, really.)

He looks like a real charmer, doesn’t he?

When I first tried this recipe out on my wife, I think she might have cried a little bit (and not like that time she tried the gumbo).  It’s not just me this time.  I brought it to her just minutes after the pastry came out of the oven, the cherry sauce was still warm and the cream was perfectly chilled.  It was as perfect as a non-chocolate dessert can be.

 

Mini Cherry Vanilla Napoleons

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted (I use Pepperidge farm.  I can make the stuff, but it is a colossal pain.)
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Cream (see below)
  • 1 recipe Cherry Sauce (see below)
  • 1 egg beaten with a little water
  • granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take a 1 inch biscuit cutter and cut as many rounds as you can out of the puff pastry dough.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and space out the rounds evenly on it.  Lightly brush each of them with the egg wash and then sprinkle with some granulated sugar.  Bake for 8 or 9 minutes or until the are puffed up and golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Cut 3 of the puffs in half horizontally.  Take one of the bottoms, spoon on a cherry, some cream and then top with one of the other pieces.  Then spoon on more cherry, more cream and then top with one of the tops.  Repeat this with the remaining pieces and you should have 2 completed desserts with 3 layers of pastry each.  Do this with the remaining puffs. 

Sift some powdered sugar over the tops of them and try to make them last more than 20 minutes, I dare you.

Vanilla Cream

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat cream cheese with sugar until light and fluffy.  Fold in the whipped cream and vanilla. 

Cherry Sauce

  • 8 ounces sweet cherries (frozen works fine in this)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water (if needed)

In a small sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat.  Allow the syrup to come to a boil and let it simmer and it will eventually thicken a bit.  Add the frozen cherries and lemon juice.  Some times this will thicken into a nice saucy consistency and other times I have to bring the mixture back to a simmer and then add the cornstarch and water slurry (don’t you love that word?).  The cornstarch will thicken it the rest of the way. 

Dairy Free, Soy Free. Really?

Seriously, is life even worth living at that point?  I have my doubts.  A friend of mine recently presented me with this challenge, and I was intrigued by it.  How does one make a meal without butter, cheese, cream, or any of the other things that make life worth living?

I went to the Italian place of my culinary soul (because I’m a masochist) and couldn’t get lasagna out of my head.  So here follows my version of a sausage and vegetable lasagna with fresh pasta and almond milk béchamel sauce.  I used Blue Diamond unsweetened almond milk and I think it turned out really well.

 

Dairy Free, Soy Free Lasagna

  • 1 Recipe Lasagna Sauce (see below)
  • 1 Recipe Almond Milk Béchamel Sauce (see below)
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles, about 2 minutes undercooked (I made fresh ones, but dried is fine)

Ladle in some sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan.  Layer on noodles, spread a layer of béchamel sauce over the noodles, then top with sauce.  Repeat, alternating layers, until the noodles run out or the pan is too full.  Make sure your last layer of noodles is completely covered with sauce or it will dry out and get crunchy.

Lasagna Sauce

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 8 ounce can tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add a tablespoon or so oil and heat until shimmering.  Add sausage and brown well.  Remove meat from pan and drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of fat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, sprinkle with a little kosher salt and sauté until well browned.

While the onions and mushrooms are cooking, lay out the eggplant in a single layer on a plate lined with paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt and then microwave for 2 minutes.  Once the onion and mushrooms are browned, add the eggplant and continue to sauté over medium heat until it breaks down a bit.  Add zucchini and sauté until it starts to soften.  Add red peppers and hit it with another sprinkle of kosher salt.  Sauté all of the vegetables until they are soft, and then push the veg to the sides so there is a small empty space in the middle.  Throw in the garlic and cook it until it starts to smell good. 

Add all of the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.  (This sauce is actually best the next day, so if you can plan that far ahead, go for it.) 

Almond Milk Béchamel Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, warmed in the microwave
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Heat oil in sauce pan,  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or so.  Add flour and mix until it turns into a paste.  Cook until the paste turns a light brown color.  Whisk in the almond milk over medium heat and it will thicken nicely after a minute or so.  Add salt and pepper and then taste it.  Remove the pan from the heat and then add the freshly grated nutmeg. 

Fresh Pasta

  • 1 pound bread flour
  • 5 eggs (the fresher the better)
  • large pinch of kosher salt

Mix it all in the food processor until it looks like yellow pebbles.  Dump it all out onto a floured surface and knead it for a couple of minutes.  Put it in a ziploc bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. After the dough is rested, roll it out as thin as possible and cut into lasagna sized strips. 

Chubby Dipping! Is That Even a Thing?

OK, maybe that doesn’t conjure the greatest mental images, but I can’t help it.  As previously alluded to, I am not a slender man and I love dips of all sorts.  Onion dip, clam dip, spinach dip, bean dip, pumpkin dip, artichoke dip…you get the idea.

This is a dip switch and has nothing whatsoever to do with food.

Would you believe me if I told you that you could make three fabulous dips in just fifteen minutes?  (You should really, I wouldn’t lie to you.)  Last night I made a bunch of different dips for a function that my wonderful wife was having and I told her I would post the recipes.  So here are 3 of my tastiest quick prep dips that never fail.

 

Hummus

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained (aka chickpeas.  I ask you, which name is worse?)
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste, but you can leave it out if you want)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3-5 tablespoons water

I read this awesome trick to making the perfect textured hummus.  Warm up the garbanzo beans in the microwave for 30 seconds before you put them in the food processor.  It is seriously a night and day difference.  Add all of the rest of the ingredients except the water and turn on the machine and let it go to town.  After a minute or so it forms a sort of lumpy paste, add a couple of tablespoons of water while the machine is running.  When the water thins out the paste, watch the consistency and add water little by little until it gets to your liking.  Stop the machine and taste it.  Adjust salt as needed.  Serve with warm pita bread, pita chips, cut vegetables, or whatever else you like. 

Fruit Dip

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese (ideally this would sit out for an hour or so, but I cheat all the time and just squish it in the package a bit to get it more pliable.)
  • 7 ounce jar of marshmallow cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

This one is seriously impossible to mess up.  Put all the ingredients into a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer.  With a hand mixer (or whisk attachment) mix for 4-5 minutes until it is all fluffy and wonderful.  I think this one is really good with slightly acidic, firm fruit.  Pineapple, strawberries, tart apples, kiwis etc. 

Ranch Dip

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup ranch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Put all of the above in a bowl and whisk until combined.  Taste it and adjust seasoning as desired.  It’s probably the most versatile of the three.  I’ve used it for chicken fingers, raw vegetables, potato chips, pretzels, you name it.

 

The other thing I like about all three of these dips is that you can go crazy with the variations.  Parmesan Ranch dip, kalamata olive hummus, citrus zest fruit dip, I could go on and on.  Let me know what works for you!

September Birthdays Everywhere

It seems like there are a ton of birthdays this month of important people in my life.  My youngest turned 3 last week and both my mom and my mother-in-law had birthdays this week.  Apparently they were both recently taken with what I consider to be one of my B-list recipes that I only make when I’m low on ingredients or motivation.  It’s a simple tin foil dinner that you can have prepped in ten minutes or so and then let the oven do the rest of the work.  Happy birthday, ladies, and thanks for all that you’ve done for me!

Foil Dinner

  • 1 lb good quality ground beef, not less than 10% fat (Spring for the grass fed stuff, you won’t regret it)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 large russet or yukon gold potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 or so unpeeled cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and form a rough patty shape.  Don’t over work the meat.

Slice the onion, carrots, and potatoes as thin as you can.  I usually use a mandoline for this.  Tear off 4 large sheets of tin foil.  Alternate layers of potato, onion, and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, 2 or 3 layers deep, then sprinkle with pepper.  If you’re using the rosemary, this is where I usually put it.  Put the patty on top and then throw on the carrots.  Add the garlic cloves on the edges, if you’re going that route.  Give the whole thing another good sprinkle of salt and then seal the thing up with a drugstore fold.  (Fold it over long ways, then roll up the short ends.) 

Bake the whole thing for 45 minutes or so and then dig in.