English Muffin Za!

Did you ever realize that you have been making something that you have been eating since before you were allowed near the stove (especially after the “screwdriver in the light socket incident”) wrong?

I mean, not totally wrong, but just wrong enough that my – in this case English Muffin Pizza – never quite matched up to the ones my mom made.

SO, I went to da Google and – whatd’you  know? It was the temperature!

I’d been doin mine at the standard 350º, when, in fact, da Google assures me that 375º is optimal.

And, of course,da Google was right.

So, let it be known that this is the way to make English muffin pizza.

Oh, and if you have the opportunity, do look for Bays English Muffins by the eggs at your market. We prefer the sourdough, but original was all they had when I was at Target.

Note: this is not a sponsored post. Bays has provided me with nothing more than the enjoyment I get when biting into one of their most excellent English muffins.

So, here’s the deal. Heat your oven to 375º and line a rimmed baking pan with foil.

Split your English muffins and arrange, split side up in the pan.

So, here’s where I am gonna be a big vague; it is your English muffin pizza, so you get to choose how you top it.

I used a jar of Trader Joe’s pizza sauce with cooked ground turkey, black olives and one tablespoon of Sherry Peppers Sauce stirred in and simmered for just a bit.

I also sautéed some sliced ‘shrooms in butter and avocado oil, along with another tablespoon of Sherry Peppers Sauce until the ‘shrooms were nicely browned on the edges and any pan juices were cooked away.

Oven heated. Pan prepped. Sauce made. ‘Shrooms sautéed. Muffins split and arranged in the pan.

Cheese!

Spoon the sauce (with meat and olives or what have you) over the split English muffins to cover.

Top the sauce with cheese – I used a nicely aged Provolone I had in the fridge, but you could go with Swiss (my mom’s default, and really quite nice on these), or a blend of your own favorite(s).

Top the cheese with the ‘shrooms (or pepperoni, or whatever other topping you prefer), then pop the pan into the oven for ten minutes.

The cheese should be melted, bits of the English muffins should be browned at the edges, and you should have a practically perfect little ‘za!

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Firecracker Sauce

Never let it be said that I turned my nose up at an interesting condiment.

And this is most certainly that!

Wicked tasty, too!

The original recipe called for using this sauce on shrimp tacos, and I am pretty certain that that would be a fine application.

But, why limit oneself? So far, we have loved this sauce on carnitas tacos and even with

beer-battered fish and chips.

It also makes a kinda nifty burger sauce.

INGREDIENTS
•1/3 cup mayonnaise
•3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
•1 tbsp Cocktail Sauce*

*My own cocktail sauce is loaded with more horseradish and lemon than store bought, and I use a chili sauce base that doesn’t contain any corn sweeteners, so, bonus!

Method is wicked simple; a couple of hours before you plan on using your sauce, combine the ingredients together until nicely blended, transfer to a lidded jar, and stash in the fridge to allow the flavors to blend.

Tasty, tangy, and good for so very much more than shrimp.

Bang!

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Butterscotch & Bourbon Pudding

We were having one of the last gatherings of the holidaze season and, well, it was the holidaze, so I wanted a wow-worthy dessert.

Pudding!

“Pudding?”

Yeppers! Home made and with a not so secret ingredient: bourbon.

No, this pudding is not for the kiddies, people, trust me on this.

I found the recipe on line, but there seemed to be so many errors in method and unnecessary warnings about “danger” that I am not linking to it.

I also,of course, changed a few things – like, the amount of bourbon called for.

All in all, it was a big hit, and since many of our dinner guests at this meal have issues with gluten, did I mention that this pudding is Gluten-Free?

Coolio!

A quick note: a large, non-stick pan and low heat will be your best buddy with this recipe.

INGREDIENTS
•1/4 cup unsalted butter
•1 cup dark brown sugar
•2 cups heavy cream, divided
•1 cup whole milk
•1/4 cup bourbon
•6 large egg yolks
•1/4 cup corn starch
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt*
•2 tsp vanilla extract

*No Kosher salt? No problem! Just use 1/4 teaspoon of table salt instead.

Melt the butter over medium low heat, stirring every now and then, until it is thick and wet and well blended, but the sugar hasn’t melted just yet – mebbe five minutes or so.

Whisk in one cup of the heavy cream, and still over medium low heat, cook for another ten minutes or so, stirring once in a while.

You begin to see how that low heat is your best buddy here.

At his point, the butterscotch is gonna thick a bit, and be very silky smooth.

Whisk in the remaining cup of heavy cream, 3/4 of a cup of the whole milk, and the bourbon, and the vanilla, then turn the heat to low and let’s get the egg mixture put together.

Whisk the 1/4 cup of remaining milk into the corn starch in a large mixing bowl until smooth, then whisk in the six egg yolks and the salt.

This is the part I differed with the original recipe, which called for simply pouring the egg mixture into the warm butterscotch pot.

Nope.

I chose to ladle a bit of the butterscotch mixture into the egg mixture while whisking until it was well incorporated and then added another ladle just for safety sake.

This is called tempering, and if you skip this step, you may very well end up with butterscotch scrambled eggs.

Now that the egg mixture has been warmed up, feel free to whisk it into the remaining butterscotch in the pan, still over low heat.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding has thickened and just begins to bubble.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a storage container or individual dessert glasses.

I was a bit short on pudding glasses at the time, but a container with a tight lid worked a treat.

Stash the container in the fridge to chill until needed and, bonus; the pudding maker gets to lick out the pan!

 

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Overnight French Toast

Who doesn’t like waking up to a tasty batch o’ French Toast in the morning?

Well, OK, one of my nephews, who gets skeeved out about egss, so, yeh, not him quite so much.

But, most everyone else, right?

And the cool thing with this recipe, you put it all together the night before, so, come morning, heat up the oven, pop it in, then sip your coffee and chill for a bit.

Genius, yes?

INGREDIENTS
Nut Topping:
•1 cup brown sugar
•1/2 cup butter
•2 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup or corn syrup
•1/2 tsp allspice
•1 cup chopped pecans and walnuts

Custard:
•1-1/2 cup half & half
•6 eggs
•1 tsp vanilla
•1 tsp Cointreau
•1 tsp cinnamon
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

•One loaf French bread, sliced

Note: no French bread? No Problem! Use your own fave, slightly stale bread.

Melt the butter with the brown sugar, and Lyle’s (or corn syrup), and allspice in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring often.

Stir in the nuts and toss to coat.

Grease a rectangular two quart baking dish and spread the nut mixture evenly across the bottom.

Arrange the sliced bread over the top of the nut mixture, pressing the slices gently into the mixture.

Beat the eggs together with the half and half, vanilla, Cointreau, cinnamon, salt and Aleppo pepper (trust me on this, every kitchen should have Aleppo pepper in its spice rack) until well combined.

Pour this over the bread and nut mixture, again pressing the bread down a bit so it is well coated in the custard, then cover tightly with foil, and stash in the fridge overnight.

Note: here’s a thought – if you were fancying breakfast for dinner, you could just do this in the morning and enjoy at night, mebbe with some sausages on the side.

Whenever you plan to enjoy this, pull the baking pan out of the fridge while you heat your oven to 350º.

Remove the cover and bake for 45 minutes.

Cut into squares and serve with the nut mixture on top.

And mebbe a bit off to the side, for to nut goodness to the sausage,

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Mixed Berry Vodka – How Was It?

A bit over a month ago, I put a batch of Mixed Berry Vodka together to serve friends at the holidaze.

The thing is, I got started late, because, stuff, and so, it has taken until this snowy January Saturday that I’ve been able to decant and sample my mixture.

The result?

Not too, too bad at all, nice flavor, terrific color, and, all in all, a keeper.

So.

To recap.

INGREDIENTS
•1.5 L vodka
•1 bag frozen sweet cherries
•1 bag frozen dark cherries
•1 bag frozen blueberries
•1 vanilla bean

Cut the cherries in half (you want to maximize the amount of cherry surface exposed to the vodka) and place in a large container along with the blueberries and the vanilla bean.

Pour the vodka over all, give it a gentle stir, then cover tightly and stash in a cool, dark place for a month or so.

When done, strain the berries and vanilla bean out and transfer your now deeply red vodka into another suitable container or two.

Enjoy.

I don’t think that my mom-in-law will object to my using the carafe that I make her Arnold Palmer’s in when she is visiting got pressed into service for the greater good of berry infused vodka.

All in all, a nice treat.

 

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Creamed Spinach

With the new year, a lot of folk have made promises to eat a better, more balanced diet, and we are no exception.

Of course, that still doesn’t mean I plan on giving up my Irish butter and whole milk!

Take this recipe, based on Tyler Florence‘s creamed spinach recipe. It does use butter – but only one tablespoon – and it does call for cream, but if you feel that strongly about it, whole milk or half and half will work a treat in its place.

But.

Stay away from those 2% or non-fat “things.” Doubt me? Look at the ingredients on the back and tell me if they don’t look like some science experiment gone wrong.

Anyway, back to the spinach. Tyler’s recipe called for two pounds of baby spinach, but this one bag was the perfect serving for the two of us with no leftovers. Always a plus.

INGREDIENTS
•1 tbsp avocado or olive oil
•1 tbsp unsalted butter
•1 onion, minced
•2 garlic cloves, minced (or more, to taste)
•1 bag fresh baby spinach
•1/2 cup heavy cream
•1/2 tsp nutmeg
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Melt the butter with the avocado or olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.

Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft – about five minutes.

Add the spinach and toss with tongs to mix with the onion, garlic, butter and oil.

Cook, continuing to toss the spinach mixture, until it is wilted and the pot is kinda dry.

Turn the heat to low and stir in the cream and seasonings.

Cook, stirring often, for ten minutes more.

Serve hot.

This batch went perfectly with parsley potatoes and a rack of Pineapple and Pepper Relish Barbecue ribs.

Go ahead, enjoy your spinach.

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Pineapple Pepper Barbecue Sauce

Sweet, but with just the right amount of a kick to it, this sauce is a pretty terrific way to zip up your cocktail meatballs, ribs, chicken, or pulled pork.

Here’s the thing, though…

I started out with my own home made Barbecue Sauce and Pepper Relish to make my version. The recipes are at the links above, and, if you make your own, I think you’ll be pleased; but, feel free to use your fave barbecue sauce and pepper relish from

the store, too. There is nothing at all wrong with going that option!

INGREDIENTS
•24 oz Barbecue Sauce
•8 oz Pepper Relish
•6 oz pineapple juice
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Stir all of the ingredients together in a medium pot over medium-low heat.

Cook, stirring often, for about 90 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the color a deeper, richer red.

That’s all there is to it!

Great sauce, as I said, for ribs, but do try it out on your next batch of cocktail meatballs or sausages.

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Gyro Dip

Yeh. It’s January 2, so, technically, the holidaze are over…

But…

I still have some celebratin’ to do; and what better way to celebrate with friends and family with a delicious layered dip that tastes a whole heckuva lot like a gyro?

The first time I made this, I bought actual gyro meat and tztatziki from our fave Greek pizza and sammich place.

This time, I did not get the chance to set it up; so went with ground pork and store bought hummus and tzatziki.

Know what?

It was still a hit!

Probably due in part to the Greek Seasoning from Penzeys – my official spice merchant; and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

INGREDIENTS
Meat:
•1 tbsp avocado or olive oil
•1 lb ground pork
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•2 tsp Greek seasoning
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Kosher salt
•1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Dip:
•Hummus
•Tzatziki sauce
•Diced red onion
•Chopped grape tomatoes
•Sliced peperoncini
•Sliced Persian or English cucumber
•Crumbled Feta cheese

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Note: want to use ground lamb in place of the ground pork? Go for it! My market was out the day I stopped in.

Warm the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the ground pork and seasonings.

Cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until it is cooked through and most pan juices have evaporated.

Drain well and stash in the fridge until needed. I did mine the day before, then warmed it up in the ‘wave just before making the dip.

To make the dip, spread the hummus across the bottom of a large, flat bowl – this glass baking dish worked a treat.

Spread the warmed, then slightly cooled meat over the hummus, then add the tzatziki on top of that.

Next, the veggies.

I was traveling to this gathering, so prepped mine and stashed ’em in a bag along with the Feta to bring along and top the dip at the last minute.

Serve with pita chips or regular crackers, or, what the heck, rice crackers are good here, too, so, enjoy.

This was a total hit, on a par with my cracked pepper chicken pâté.

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Pâté for the New Year!

Some folk maintain that it is good luck to eat beans at the new year.

Not me.

I believe that any year that ends with, and then the next year begins with peppery, smooth as silk chicken pâté has got to have been a mostly good old year and a fairly fortuitous new one coming up.

Even if some crappy stuff happened, this pâté will make it all better

Truly.

INGREDIENTS
•9 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick + 1 tbsp)
•1 onion, diced
•1 large garlic clove, sliced
•1 shallot, diced
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
•1 lb chicken livers, trimmed (remove any little white bits of tissue from the livers)
•1-1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp salt
•1/4 tsp allspice
•1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
•2 tbsp brandy

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Melt four tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic, shallot, and Sherry Peppers Sauce and sauté, stirring often, for five minutes or so, until the onion is beginning to turn translucent.

Stir in the apple and continue to cook for another five minutes.

Remove from the pan and set aside.

Melt another four tablespoons of butter in the pan and add the chicken livers, allspice, salt, and peppers.

Cook, turning the livers often to brown all sides, for five minutes, then add the apple and onion mixture along with the parsley, toss to blend together, and cook for another five minutes or so, until the livers are thoroughly cooked.

Remove from the heat and stir in the two tablespoons of brandy.

Transfer the mixture to a blender with that one remaining tablespoon of butter and pulse, stirring and scraping down the sides of the blender container, until your pâté is as smooth as you like it.

I like mine wicked smooth.

Give the pâté a taste and, if you think it could use it, stir in some more black pepper and/or brandy – I tend to run heavy with black pepper, but you do what you like.

Transfer the pâté to storage jars and stash in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Note: did you know you can also freeze pâté for up to one month?

This recipe makes a fare amount of pâté, so a stashed one crock in the fridge and, since my holidaze gatherings are not yet over, sealed another tightly and tossed it in the freezer for the next time.

I love it when a plan comes together.

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Drunken Grapes

Just in time for the new year – here’s a way to up your alcohol consumption whilst seeming to be healthy (we call it “Drinking Wisconsinbly” around about here)!

You steep grapes in a blend of prosecco and vodka, then roll ’em in sugar and – bonus! – then you get to drink the leftover prosecco and vodka!

I call that a holidaze miracle.

So, let us swozzle some grapes…

INGREDIENTS
•Red and green seedless grapes
•1 bottle prosecco
•1/2 cup vodka
•1/2 cup sugar

Wash the grapes remove from the vine, and place in a large bowl.

Pour the bottle of prosecco over the grapes, then add the vodka and stir to combine.

Cover the bowl and stash in the fridge for at least one hour.

Remove the grapes from the liquid, transfering the liquid to a pticher for later enjoyment.

Place the grapes in a large rimmed pan – a roaster works a treat here – then sprinkle the sugar evenly over all.

Stir to combine, then transfer the grapes to another bowl for serving.

Confession: I have a couple of gatherings coming up in the next week or so, so I have one bowl of grapes ready to go for festivities tomorrow, and then a bag of prepared and sugared grapes stashed in the freezer for next week, because, who could so no to drunken frozen grapes?

Not my Book Club, I can guarantee you that!

Happy New Year!

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