Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone Fakeout

Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone Fakeout

The crispness in the air, the cool temperature, the speckled leaves on the trees remind me that it is the middle of September, and one might say that I've come a little late in the season for an ice cream party. But that’s where they’re wrong: it’s never too late to have ice cream! Am I right? If you agree, I have got a recipe for you! It is inspired by my New York City trip this summer with my husband and a couple of friends. One of our destinations was Big Gay Ice Cream where we had the most amazing treats. I had the Salty Pimp, a vanilla soft serve ice cream infused with dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, covered in a chocolate coating, and plopped on top of a cone which was drizzled with dulce de leche and sea salt. It was pure bliss. I knew I had to share the experience with you.

Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone Fakeout

It all starts with soft serve ice cream. Since it is not an item many of us have in our home, and since I wanted to keep this recipe as easy as possible, I use regular vanilla ice cream. Big Gay injects dulce de leche into their soft serve once it is scooped onto the cone. I, on the other hand, layer softened vanilla ice cream in a container and drizzle each layer with dulce de leche before refreezing. The authentic Salty Pimp is dipped into a special chocolate glaze. I use store bought chocolate Magic Shell but jazz it up with a little pinch of cinnamon and chili powder (thanks Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate for the Salty Pimp's spice secret!). Once the two main ingredients are prepped, assembly is quick and easy if you do one thing...make a drip tray for the cone to catch the chocolate dripping. It will spare you from a lot of agony. Trust me. Dipping the cone into chocolate proved to be VERY messy because the ice cream tends to fall of the cone. Let's just say, many things on the work surface end up brown. Keeping the cone upright and pouring magic shell on it is a better option but still produced an excessive amount of dripping on the cone. When I came up with the drip tray, it was life-changing.

Paper plate drip tray and an ice cream cone beside it

An ice cream cone inserted with a paper plate drip tray

I have had many great ice cream treats in my day, but Big Gay Ice Cream is one my the top two favorites. If you are in the East Village or West Village area in New York City, seek them out (also try the Rue McClanahan, an ice cream sandwich with pecan praline cookies and bourbon ice cream, while you're there...utter nirvana!). It is going to be worth your time. I guarantee!! 

In closing, I probably sound as if I am being paid to endorse this ice cream shop. Unfortunately, I am not. I enjoyed their ice cream and I just showing them some love!!

Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone Fakeout

 Salty Pimp Ice Cream Cone Fakeout:

3 cups vanilla ice cream
1/2 generous cup dulce de leche (comes in a can)
6 wafer ice cream cups (cake cup size)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 scant tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 scant tsp. chili powder (optional)
1 (7.25 oz.) container of chocolate Magic Shell
3 small paper plates

Soften ice cream at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the drip trays by tracing the top of the cone on the center of each paper plate. Cut out a hole that is about 1/8" inside the line (you want the hole to be slightly smaller than the outline you just drew). Place dulce de leche in a microwaveable bowl an microwave for about 10 seconds or until it turns into spreadable consistency. Spread half of the ice cream into a 4-cup capacity plastic container. Spread or drizzle 2 tbsp. dulce de leche onto the ice cream. Top with the remaining ice cream. Spread or drizzle on 2 more tbsp. dulce de leche. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze about 1 hour.

Using a knife or spoon, spread 1 tsp. of the remaining dulce de leche on the inside of an ice cream cup. Sprinkle about 1/16 tsp. of the sea salt into a cup. Repeat for the remaining cups. Add cinnamon and chili powder to the Magic Shell container. Shake vigorously for 1 minute. Place two scoops of ice cream onto a cup. Sprinkle with 1/16 tsp. sea salt. Slip on the drip tray so it sits just below the lip of the cup. Slowly squeeze a little bit of the Magic Shell on the the ice cream, rotating and tilting the cup slightly to spread the chocolate. Allow it to firm up slightly. Repeat several times until the ice cream is covered in chocolate. Carefully slide the cup out of the drip tray, wipe clean, and reuse (use the backup drip trays if needed). Assemble the remaining cups. Enjoy! Makes 6 servings.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spaghetti with Beef and Linguica Red Sauce

We love Portuguese sausages (chourico and linguica) in my household: we serve them with eggs and toast, add them to homemade hash browns, grill them for sandwiches, add them to cheesy dips, throw them into soups, and slip them into shakes. Okay, disregard that last one...just checking to see if you're paying attention! Essentially, they are very tasty and are always present in one form or another in my fridge.

Ground linguica  is a smoked and cooked Portuguese sausage. As the name suggests, it is a ground form of the linguica. It is seasoned with paprika and a number of other spices as well as garlic. As you would expect, the sausage is wonderfully flavorful. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to it (but I hope you do!), so substitute in this recipe if you must.

A good way to use ground linguica is to add it to spaghetti sauce. I incorporate it into my everyday meat sauce to get a different flavor profile. Try it if you are looking for something slightly different than your usual weekday spaghetti and sauce, not to mention that it's easy to make and perfect for a busy schedule. Hope you like it as much as we do!

Spaghetti with Beef and Linguica Red Sauce:

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more if you like heat)
3/4 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground linguica *
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup beef broth
1 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 (13.25 oz.) box spaghetti
1 stem basil, leaves chopped

Preheat a large pan on medium high heat. Add oil then onion. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, stir. Add ground beef, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook beef until brown, breaking up into small chunks. Add linguica. Cook for 1 minute, using spatula to break up chunks. Pour in crushed tomatoes and beef broth. Add sugar and bay leaf. Stir and allow to come to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times during this period.

While sauce simmers, cook spaghetti according to package direction. Drain. Serve sauce over pasta. Garnish with chopped basil. Makes about 4 servings.

*Ground linguica is precooked sausage. If you are substituting with an uncooked sausage, add it to the skillet the same time as the ground beef.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Chef for a Day

I would like to start by thanking my husband, Paul, for being the biggest supporter of this little blog of mine. He is one of its main recipe taste testers and promoters. Because of him, my Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf was chosen as a featured item in a special lunch event called Chef for a Day where he works. Since Paul submitted the recipe, he got to wear an apron and chef’s hat as well as serve the dish to customers in the cafeteria. The event was a success with batches selling out in just over 1 hour! Pretty good performance considering it was only one of many lunch options.

I was not present, but I would like to share some pictures taken on my husband’s cell phone.

This is Paul waiting for the hungry crowd. Doesn’t he look like a proud papa?

Paul standing behind food counter in the cafeteria

Do these meatloafs look good or what?! They were served long with a Ceasar salad and rolls, a delicious lunch indeed.

A tray of two Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

A food counter with a bowl of Ceasar salad, a bowl of  rolls, and a tray of Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

Here’s Paul again, serving meals with lightning speed and a smile. Hmmm…how to get him to do more of that at home?...

Paul serving up plate of food

Before I leave, I would like to give a special shout out to Susan for being a big fan of this meatloaf and for recommending it to pretty much every one she knows. Lastly, a special thanks to Kim, the general manager of the cafeteria, for allowing this event to happen and to Chef Mark who recreated my recipe so expertly.    

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Caramelized Apple Bread with Cinnamon Sugar

Caramelized Apple Bread with Cinnamon Sugar

It has been feeling like autumn lately here in the Northeast with daytime highs of 70’s and nighttime lows of 50’s. In fact, some of the foliage on the trees has already changed color! Truth be told, I don’t mind the fall-like, dry, crisp weather. It is very much smack dab in the middle of my comfort zone. However, this cooler climate makes me think of seasonal dishes, and what’s a better prelude to autumn cooking than with apples?

Caramelized Apple Bread with Cinnamon Sugar

What inspired me to make this bread was a recent trip to a local fresh produce market. It was there that I had apple cider donut straight from the fryer and dipped into cinnamon sugar. It left me wanting more of the taste of fall, so I decided to dedicate the next post to apples. But rather than doing another deep fry recipe after I just posted one (and I wanted to avoid making another baked donut at this time), I decided that bread would be great option. And how good it is! With layers of caramelized apples, the sweet scent of spice, and sugar in the raw and cinnamon sugar topping, this bread is a beautiful thing.

Is your mouth watering yet? I certainly hope so!

Caramelized Apple Bread with Cinnamon Sugar

Caramelized Apple Bread with Cinnamon Sugar:

For the Bread:
1 large apple
5 tbsp. room temperature butter, divided
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup water

For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
2 tsp. sugar in the raw
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Peel and quarter apple. Cut into 1/8-inch slices. Preheat a large skillet on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once melted, add apple, keeping it in a single layer as best as possible. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn apple slices over. Cover and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until apple slices are tender yet maintain shape. Remove from heat and leave uncovered. Note: if apple browns too quickly during cooking, reduce heat. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of apple: softer ones like McIntosh cooks faster than harder ones like Fuji.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, and egg. Beat on high for a minute or until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and water. Beat, starting on low and gradually increase to medium high, until mixture is smooth. Add flour mixture, one-third at a time and blend just till combined using a rubber spatula.

Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 loaf pan. Place one-third of the batter on the bottom followed by a layer of apple slices, using only one-third. Repeat layering two more times. Slightly press the top layer of apples into the batter. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until tooth pick comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center. Cool at least 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool completely on rack. Makes about 12 servings.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Sweet Pepper Relish Dip

I have made numerous versions of breaded chicken tenders for my family, but this one has got to be my favorite to date. The breading is light and crispy with the help of my secret ingredient, butter flavored crackers—it provides the crunch factor while keeping the breading light and airy. I also use an unconventional coating technique which keeps every bit of the cracker crumbs in place without building a thick gloppy coating. The chicken is dipped into a flour mixture, followed by an egg wash, and then dipped into cracker crumbs. But that’s not all—it then gets coated with a layer of cooking spray (I never said this was a light recipe!), followed by a misting of the flour mixture.  The result is a delicious light and crispy breading on the chicken.

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Sweet Pepper Relish Dip

To accompany these glorious tenders, I serve them with my sweet pepper relish dip. I know! How good is that!? It’s a piece of cake to assemble and takes these tenders over the top.

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Sweet Pepper Relish Dip

Make them and watch them fly off the plate!

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Sweet Pepper Relish Dip:

For the Chicken:
40 butter flavored crackers (I use Ritz)
1 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 heaping tsp. garlic powder
1/2 heaping tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 eggs
3 tbsp. milk
2 lbs. chicken tenderloins (about 12 to 16 pieces depending on the size)
Cooking spray
2 1/2 cups canola oil

For the Sweet Pepper Relish Dip:
3/4 cup sweet pepper relish
1/8 cup sour cream
1/8 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup ketchup

Note: You will need a small metal fine mesh strainer for this recipe.

Place crackers in a large plastic bag. Lightly smash into coarse crumbs using a rolling pin or the bottom of a sturdy cup, being careful not to take it to the powder stage. Place on a plate or a wide shallow bowl.

Combine flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika in a plate or a wide shallow bowl. Blend well with a fork. In wide shallow bowl, add eggs and milk. Whisk thoroughly.

To bread chicken: Dip into flour mixture, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture. Next, dip into cracker crumbs, patting crumbs onto chicken. Place on a flat surface. Continue breading the remaining chicken.

Place oil in a medium frying pan or heavy bottom saucepan. Preheat to 360 degrees F. Whatever size pan you use, make sure to add enough oil to cover at least 3/4-inch deep.

Spray a coat of cooking spray on tenders. This will help the top layer of flour adhere. Pour some of the left over flour mixture into a fine mesh strainer. Shake on a light coat of the flour over tenders, just enough to cover all of the crumbs. Turn chicken over and coat with cooking spray. Shake on flour mixture flour.

Place about 4 tenders into the hot oil. Don't pack theme in too tight. Cook about 3 to 5 minutes total, depending on the size, turning over once. Done when the outside is golden brown or when there is no pink in the center when sliced through. Place on paper towels to drain off oil. Continue cooking the remaining chicken.

To make sauce, combine red pepper relish, sour cream, mayonnaise, and ketchup in a small bowl. Serve alongside chicken tenders. Best eaten immediately—the coating will lose crispiness when stored. Makes 4 servings.

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