Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pumpkin Coconut Cheesecake Bars with a Coconut Pecan Crust

The title is a mouthful.  The bars are an even more delightful mouthful.  Decadent and silky.  Not overly sweet.  In my mind it brought together the best of Indian cuisine and Southern comfort food.  Spicy, warm, sweet and silken. 

The inspiration from this came from a Facebook conversation with a friend on Christmas Eve.  I needed to bake something.  ANYTHING.  I've been slammed with work from three shows.  That, coupled with the usual Holiday chaos has left me with precious little time to cook, let alone enjoy it.

My friend suggested pie.  After a quick perusal of my pantry I discovered pumpkin puree, coconut milk, pecans and flaked coconut.  Back around  Thanksgiving I had thought about making pumpkin cheesecake bars.  The discovery of the coconut milk teased for a twist...

Cobbled together from recipes at Taste of Home, Alida's Kitchen, and Alaska from Scratch

yields 12 servings

The Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup toasted pecans, finely crushed
5 Tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/2 tsp ginger

for the filling and topping:
11 ounces light cream cheese
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
6 oz coconut milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger

The Process:
for the crust: 
Preheat the oven to 350

In a large bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the pecans, coconut and ginger.  Reserve about 3/4 cup of the mixture for the topping.

Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a greased 8 inch square baking pan.  Bake for 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

for the filling:
Lower to the oven temperature to 325

In a large bowl cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, corn starch and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs, and beat on low until combined.  Stir in the coconut milk.

Pour 3/4 cup of the filling into a small bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, brown sugar and ginger.

Pour the coconut filling over the cooled pecan crust.  Gently dollop the pumpkin filling  over the top.  

Smooth into an even layer, or if desired, gently swirl the pumpkin into the coconut with the tip of a knife for a marbled effect.  Sprinkle with reserved crust.

Bake the bars fro 35-40 minutes or until the filling is mostly set, but still slightly jiggly in the center.  Cool to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably over night.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Bread pudding may be Ross' kryptonite.  When we go out to eat, we usually forgo dessert, either for economy or due to a full belly.  However, if bread pudding is on the menu, all bets are off.

I like mine a little more custard-y.  Ross prefers his a little more bread-y.  Either way, dot it with a generous helping of fruit--whether it be diced or fresh--and a healthy splash of booze of some sort and we are in heaven.

This version is buttery and rich--not too custard-y, but certainly not dry.  Feel free to change up the breads and fruits.  Sourdough and peach?  Oooo...maybe next time...

adapted from recipes from 1001 Recipes (edited by Martha Day), Paula Dean, Chef Point Cafe

serves 8 to 10

The Ingredients:
for the pudding:
1 lb loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, day old and cubed
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the sauce:
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup bourbon

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Generously butter a 9 x 13 baking dish using 1 Tbsp butter.  Toss the cubed bread with the diced apples.  Add the bread to the prepared dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, bourbon and vanilla.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread.  Gently press the bread down into the mixture to make sure it is soaked. Allow to rest for ten minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining butter and brown sugar until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Cover the bread mixture with aluminum foil. Place the covered baking dish in a deep pan. Pour water into the deep pan until it comes about halfway up the covered baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.  Uncover, dot with brown sugar mixture and bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve warm with sauce.

for the sauce:
Whisk together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Add bourbon and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drizzle over warm pudding, reserving the rest on the side.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seafood Paella

A very merry Christmas to all!  Ross and I are alone today...basking in each others presence on this chilly glorious Christmas Day.  So we splurged on a bounty of fresh seafood.  Paella for two...

adapted from 365 Main Courses Edited by Jenni Fleetwood

Serves 2 generously

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 oz Spanish chorizo
5-6 oz fresh squid, cleaned
1 small red pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup short grain or risotto rice
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
6 jumbo shrimps 
1/2 lb little neck clams, cleaned
1/2 lb mussels, cleaned
6-8 oz lobster tail, shell split down the center

The Process:
Prep the squid, Gently pull the tentacles away from the body with a twisting motion.  Cut the head from the tentacles and discard the head and innards. Pull the tentacles back to reveal the beak and gently squeeze...the beak and cartilage should slide out easily.  Remove the long clear cartilage from the body.  Rinse the body and tentacle in cold water and pat dry.  Cut the body into rings and the tentacle into pieces.  Rinse and scrub the shellfish.

Soak the clams and mussels in cold water for about 20 minutes to remove sand and grit.  To remove the breads on the mussels, hold in one hand and pull the beard toward the hinge.  Scrub clams and discard any that are not tightly shut.

Heat the oil in a large wok or paella pan.  Add the onion and garlic.  Saute over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.  Add the chorizo and saute until lightly browned.

Add the prepared squid, sauteing for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the peppers and tomatoes.  Simmer for 4-5 minutes until the peppers are tender.  Add the wine and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add the rice and saffron and lobster tail.  Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the temperature, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the peas, shrimp, clams, and mussels.  Stir the seafood gently into the rice.  Simmer the paella over low heat for an additional 20-25 minutes. or until the shellfish have opened and the lobster tail is cooked through.  Discard any mussels or clams that haven't opened.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve hot.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow Day Cocoa

Nothing beats a hard day of shoveling like coming in to hot cup of cocoa.

Growing up, hot cocoa had a special place in my heart.  Come fall, I would trek out to the chilly soccer fields to watch my brother kick the ball around with his team mates.  That early in the morning nothing fended off the cold quite like a cup of cocoa.  Even a cup of cocoa made from a pouch with hot water.

Mom always upped the ante.  After a cold day of shoveling or playing we would often come in to a pot of rich cocoa on the stove.  Thank you Hersey's.

This cocoa ups the ante a notch further.

Adapted from Hersey's cocoa recipe

The Ingredients:
1/3 cocoa powder
1/2 cup vanilla scented sugar*
1/3hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
dash of corriander
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream

The Process:
Combine the cocoa, sugar, salt, cinnamon and coriander in a medium saucepan.  Slowly stir in the hot water and mix until well combined.  Bring the temperature to a boil over medium high heat.

Reduce the temperature to low.  Whisk in the cream, milk, and vanilla extract  Stir until heated through.  Label into mugs and garnish with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired.. 

*stick a pod or two of spent vanilla bean in a jar full of granulated sugar.  Add more sugar as you use it up.  The vanilla pods will keep fragrant for months

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roasted Corn and Red Cabbage Slaw

How about a break from the holiday carb fest for something a little more colorful and crunchy?  This tex mex slaw comes courtesy of Driftless Organics.  The November storage box had in it not only a plethora of root vegetables but two beautiful heads of red cabbage.  The roast corn is ridiculously easy to prepare, even in the middle of winter.  Frozen corn can go a long way.

The slaw is a great side dish on its own, but it is even better as a taco filling.  Fish tacos come to mind.  Our tasty dinner consisted of seasoned ground turkey, a smear of sour cream and a mound of this beautiful purple slaw wrapped up in a corn tortilla.

It was hard to stop...

recipe courtesy of Driftless Organics 

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 medium head of red cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated
1 cup frozen sweet corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
3 Tbsp yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste

The Process:
Preheat broiler.

Combine cabbage, red onion, and carrots in a large bowl. Set aside.

Toss sweet corn, garlic, and red pepper in oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Spread on
a baking sheet in an even layer. Place under broiler for 7-10 minutes, watching carefully and stirring occasionally, until the corn is completely thawed and starting to brown. Let cool.

In a small bowl whisk together spices, yogurt, lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. Add the dressing and corn mixture to the cabbage and toss to coat. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Paula Deen's Corn Casserole

Usually I avoid canned and pre-packaged foods like the plague.  But every once in a blue moon the urge hits.  This is pure, greasy awful comfort food.  Sort of a mix between cornbread and corn mush.  Only Paula Dean....

Adapted from Paula's recipe at The

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix
2 green onions, minced
1/2 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

The Process:
Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl, stir together the both cans of corn, corn muffin mix,onions, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with cheese. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sticky Ginger Garlic Chicken Drummies

Need a batch of something simple to serve to a crowd?  My usual standby is a crock pot full of chicken drummies.  I tried an "Asian"  inspired version for a holiday party a mere few weeks before I started blogging.  In fact, I believe that recipe helped spawn my desire to blog my growth as a cook.  I should have sat down that night and typed the recipe up.  I can't seem to find it now...

Ah well.

This recipe is fairly similar.  It hits those same sweet and salty notes, though the chicken is not as fall off the bone tender as the holiday version (I will continue to kick myself until I unbury that recipe!)*

Four marinade ingredients and two cooking options.  The recipe will work equally as well for a variety of other cut of chicken.  The cooking time in the oven may vary for thicker cuts such as breasts or thighs.  And the marinade is easy to scale up or down for any amount of meat.  In the end I believe I made about 6 pounds of meat...roughly 28 drummies.  We'll start with two pounds here...

adapted from CanaryGirl via FakeGinger

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken drumsticks or wings
1/2 cup soy sacue
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, minced

The Process:
Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic together in a large zip top bag.  Massage until the sugar is dissolved and garlic and ginger evenly distributed.  Add the chicken, seal and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or preferably overnight.

for the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a lightly oiled baking dish.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 and the juices run clear.

in the crock pot:
Dump the contents of the zip top bag, marinade and all, into the crock pot and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8.  This version is more likely to fall off the bone...

*It seems I did save the recipe from that holiday party.  Just goes to show how much of a mess my bookmarks currently are.  You can find the original recipe at Gina's Skinny Recipes

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Drunken Cranberry Apple Pie

After all of that starchy glorious food from Thanksgiving dinner, what better way can you think to end the day than with a slice of pie, a cup of coffee and a table sprawled with board games.

Mom graciously brought up a praline pumpkin pie.  I'm still coaxing her for the recipe.  I do not believe I can go back to regular pumpkin pie after that treat.

And this apple pie.  This pie may have ruined me for any other apple pies down the road.  Go figure it was inspired by one of Jackie's concoctions at the Beeroness.  Her apple pie still out shines this variation.  She uses a cheddar cheese pie crust.  You laugh.  If you spend anytime in Wisconsin, you would know.  Apple pie and cheddar cheese go hand in hand.  Trust me.

What makes this pie so special, besides the cranberries?  The apples marinade in beer for an added boozy boost.


Inspired by Jackie's recipe at

The Ingredients:
recipe for dbl pie crust
6 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 cups cranberries
16 oz pale ale or wheat beer, I used Futhermore's Fallen Apple
2 lemons, juiced
2 tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch
2 Tbsp melted butter

The Process:
Place the apples, lemon juice and 16 ounces of beer in a bowl and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 hours, tossing every half hour to redistribute. Remove the apples from the beer and allow to drain and dry for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine the apples, cranberries, flour, salt, spices, sugars and corn starch.  Toss to coat and set aside.

Roll out half of the pie dough, line in a  pie pan and press into shape, removing any excess. Add the filling.

Roll out the second disk of pie dough and add to the top of your pie.  Crimp the top and bottom crusts together.  Cut holes to vent steam.  Or try a lattice top.

Brush crust with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool before slicing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wild Rice Risotto

I needed to go a little bit out on a limb for Thanksgiving.  As you can judge from previous posts, nothing I attempted was too terribly out of the ordinary.  I wanted to add a little more wow factor into the meal.  And nothing seems to impress others quite as much as risotto.

To tie the dish into the harvest meal a little more, I opted for a wild rice version.  Wild rice is huge in this region of the Midwest, and no doubt a staple of the native people and early fur traders and colonists.  The risotto itself is made from arborio rice, with the addition of a bit of wild rice for flavor and texture.  The wild rice adds a wonderfully nutty contrast an extra crunch to the creamy rice.

Of this dish, there were no leftovers...

adapted from Heidi's recipe at the Young Grasshopper

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup wild rice

1 cup arborio rice

6 cups chicken broth divided  
1 Tbsp olive oil 

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 cups chopped mushrooms

1 cup Chardonnay

1/2 cup grated Parmesano Romano
Kosher salt

The Process:
In a medium-sized saucepan bring the wild rice and water to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Warm the chicken broth in a saucepan over low heat.  Keep warm.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute over medium high heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat evenly.

Slowly pour in the white wine and add the mushrooms.  Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, stirring continuously.  Once the wine has been absorbed, add the warm chicken stock, one ladle full at a time, allowing each addition to be fully absorbed before adding the next.  Patience is key.  Stir gently and continuously.

Once about half of the stack has been absorbed, add about one third of the wild rice.  Continue to add the stock, alternating with rice, allowing the broth to be completely absorbed between each addition. 

After the last ladle of stock has been absorbed, and the rice is creamy in texture and slightly al dente, stir in the Parmesano Romano.  Remove the risotto from the heat. Season with salt to taste. Cover and let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. 

Serve warm with a sprinkling of your favorite herbs.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Hefeweizen Honey Rolls

As a home brewer an beer aficionado, it hardly seems appropriate for Thanksgiving to came and go without some dish using beer.   At first I thought I'd skip the rolls. I already had quite a bit of cooking on my plate.   As the day drew closer I agreed that perhaps some frozen rolls could find their way onto our table.  It wasn't until Jackie at the Beeroness posted her hefeweizen rolls that I know there was no way around it.  I was going to be baking my own rolls.

And I couldn't have been happier about it.

I've heard from more than one source that powder milk creates an incredibly tender roll.  It is the secret to Portuguese sweet bread.  And the beer, aside from adding a bit of flavor, aides in the leavening.  These rolls are so worth it.  You may want to pull them out for more than the occasional holiday.

Adapted from Jackie at

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 oz active dry yeast
5 cups bread flour
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup beer
4 eggs
4 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp butter, softened

for the glaze:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp coarse salt

The Process:
In a microwave safe dish, heat the cream in 20 second increments until it is about 110 degrees. Add the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt and dry milk powder. Add the cream and the beer, mix until just combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions.  Add the honey and butter and stir until combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Coat the inside of large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball place in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm room until doubled in size.

Turn out the down onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for about 1 minute.

Cut the dough in half, then cut each half in again to form 4 equal sized pieces. Cut each piece in half to create 8 equal sized pieces. Cut in half again to create 16 dough balls.

Roll each piece of dough into balls, place into a baking dish with a bit of space between each roll.  Cover and allow to rise until about doubled in size.

Heat oven to 400 (the perfect time is right after the turkey has been removed to rest)

Combine the melted butter and honey. Brush the top of the rolls with honey butter mixture, sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.