Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

mygrandmasrecipebookThank you Morgan for this delightful recipe! If you’ve never visited mygrandmasrecipebook.com, you are in for a treat – or two! Morgan chronicles some great old-fashioned recipes including this one she sent exclusively for my blog!

Chocolate Hedgehog Slices

This is a very nice, traditional Australian recipe from the 70’s and 80’s that is often served for afternoon tea or parties.  I remember my grandmother and mother both making this for children’s birthday parties or just a special treat.

Ingredients
400 grams (14oz) plain sweet biscuits/cookies (shortbread or plain graham crackers would work)
250 grams (9oz) unsalted butter
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecan nuts


Putting the biscuits/cookies in a zip-loc plastic bag, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or other heavy tool until they are small pieces.


Melt the butter in a large bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and stir until mixed.


Add the other ingredients and the biscuits, and then stir to combine.

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Line a lamington tin (13” x 9” slice tin) with baking or greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into a thick layer.

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Refrigerate for 1 hour; before the slice is set too firmly, cut into squares.

Keep refrigerated until served.

Notes:
It is possible to substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

This is an unbaked recipe using eggs, so it is not advised for young children or pregnant women. Please practice good egg safety.

Note from Brad: This no-bake dessert really hits the spot when you need a chocolate fix.  And since it uses cocoa powder and nuts, it’s a bit healthier than other sweets! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Better yet, make it at home and tag me (@GourmandBrad) and Morgan (@grandmasbook) on a photo of your concoction in Twitter.

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10 Apps No Cook Can Live Without

I know this is a dramatic title. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Huff Post lately! But seriously, these are the apps I rely heavily on while in my kitchen. And as always, feel free to chime in and share what apps you find indispensable to cooking.

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iPhone camera
What would I do without my smartphone camera? I use it to take pictures while I’m cooking which is handy. But more importantly, I take photos of recipes in magazines whenever I am in a waiting room! Remember the days when you were in the doctor’s office and found a recipe you wanted to try, so you had to either write it down on a scrap of paper or secretly tear it out of the magazine? (OK, I never did that!) Now I snap a photo and refer back to it when shopping or ready to cook.

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Epicurious
This was the first cooking app I ever used and it continues to be a mainstay. I’ve compiled many of my favorites in the recipe box feature. I like the categories such as “picnic ideas,” “main course salads,” or “Mexican tonight.” Photos, reviews, ratings, and step by step instructions make this a user-friendly resource that is loaded with recipes. Epicurious features a suite of mobile applications, including one for your smart Samsung fridge!

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Grocery Store
I’m not going to recommend any specific grocery store since I have no idea what’s available in your area. I will tell you however, that if your favorite store has a useful app, download it! I really like the Wegmen’s app. I can add all my ingredients to the list and it will organize them by aisle for faster shopping. It gives me a total of what I’m about to spend. Other cool features include tons of recipes and even a prescription refill option.

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Coupons
You might already have a favorite coupon app since there are a few out there. This one from coupons.com allows you to register your loyalty card, add applicable coupons to your account, and redeem them right at checkout. It takes some time to scroll through the available coupons whenever you go shopping, but saves you the trouble of clipping and storing paper coupons. Since I love to cook, it helps keep costs down on my grocery bills.

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Grill
If you like grilling, then the Weber’s Grill app is one to consider. Besides a slew of grilling recipes, it serves up grilling techniques and a handy timer. It has a grocery list feature, but since I use my grocery store app, I haven’t really taken advantage of that section.

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Thermometer
This is more of a product than an app, but it’s the app that makes it so cool. Weber’s iGrill products mean you are no longer tethered to the grill or oven when cooking. The app on your phone keeps you updated on internal temps. If like me you start talking to your guests in the kitchen while your meat is cooking out on the grill, then this is a lifesaver.

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Converter/Calculator
If you’re a baker, this app is for you. Scale recipes up or down like a pro. Convert between metric and non metric measurement.

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Substitutions
Have you ever been up to your elbows in a recipe only to find you are missing a critical ingredient? I sure have! Substitutions is a handy app to have when you need to find a way to make a recipe work when running to the grocery store that minute is not an option. Even better, the app helps you find substitutions for ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Brilliant!

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Pairing
If you are an average Joe (or in my case, Brad) like me, your knowledge of beer, wine, and cheese is limited to what you like. But that’s not always helpful when it comes to entertaining. That’s why it’s important to have a couple of useful apps for wine, beer, and cheese pairing suggestions. Unfortunately, I have not come across one app that does it all, but I have a couple that I rely upon. Here they are:

Pocket Wine Pairing
PairWise

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Plus one bonus!
Cheese & Wine

What’s on your smartphone that makes home cooking easier? I’d love to know!

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

If you are a Stromboli aficionado, please don’t be offended. I know I broke a few rules, but honestly, this recipe I whipped up is delicious. Like it’s relative, the pizza, you can use whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. I highly recommend you get a bit adventurous and try a few new combinations.

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This is where the purists will pitch a fit…

I used my French bread recipe as the base. Most recipes call for a pizza dough, but I like the sweet, chewy texture of the French bread I make, so I took culinary license!

Follow the recipe linked to below, but STOP when you get to the directions for punching down the risen dough and separating it into two halves.

French Bread Recipe explained in excruciating detail with photos!

Ingredients for Filling
2 packages or 1 pound sliced Black Forest ham
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Directions
While your dough is rising, prepare your filling ingredients. I sliced and sautéed a green pepper in some olive oil. If you wanted to use spicy sausage, you would cook, drain, and cool it. You could slice and fry up an onion.

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Roll out dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Layer cheese, meat, and vegetables. For my two Strombolis, I used mozzarella, ham, and peppers on one and I used ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and provolone on the other. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tightly. Please on cookie sheet and brush on egg wash.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Baking time will vary depending upon your oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a small dish of pizza or red pasta sauce for dipping. Please note I did not spread sauce inside of the Stromboli before baking. I was worried it might get a little soggy after sitting. Since the recipe makes two, any leftovers are easily wrapped in tin foil and reheated later.

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How do you like your Stromboli? Please share your preferences!

“New” Cuisine is Not Always Better

I love retro foods, so when I stumbled across Mary’s delightful website Old Fashioned Recipes, chock full of oldies, but goodies, I hit the jackpot! She provides recipes for award-winning chocolate cake, creamy scalloped potatoes, chicken pot pie, and much more!

Mary was kind enough to include one of my favorite family recipes for my grandmother’s banana cake. It’s nice to know gram’s cake recipe found an audience among people who love simple, yet delicious home cooking.

If you’d like the recipe to Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting or to browse similar fare like your Gramma used to make, then be sure to visit her site!

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Every so often I like to curl up with a good book and a glass of single malt. This weekend, the books were from my overloaded stack of beloved cookbooks. I know I typically share a favorite recipe each week, but today I’m sharing a few old friends! I hope you will be inspired to share a bit about your favorite sources for recipes as well!

Mr. Food Cooks Pasta
Art Ginsburg
Copyright 1993 by Cogin, Inc.

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I picked up my copy of “Mr. Food Cooks Pasta” back before Borders went out of business. It was tucked away on one of those bargain shelves. It’s been one of my go-to sources ever since. The writing style is easy to read and conversational. And though this little black and white book lacks any pretty photos, I still find myself using it on a regular basis.

Mr. Food, Art Ginsburg, provides a guide for pasta shapes, includes a simple chart for sauces and uses for each shape, and the opening chapter on pasta “particulars” includes a brief history and cooking instructions. Next, one of the best sections, is a quick pasta recipe chart for “meals in minutes.” The follow-on segments include pasta appetizers and side dishes, pasta soups and stews, pasta salads, pasta main courses, family favorites, and pasta sauces.

Since I love to cook and eat pasta, it’s great to have this guide to an easy and delicious meal! I think I’ve made almost every recipe in the book at least once. Many of the dog-eared corners are turned down to save the ones I like best.

Ginsburg is not Italian to my knowledge, but no matter, whether lemon linguine or chicorina soup, this cookbook is a winner in my book.

Barefoot Contessa at Home
Ina Garten
Copyright 2006 by Ina Garten

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Quentin Bacon’s photography in Ina Garten’s fifth cookbook is true food porn! After the cook’s lengthy introduction (and to be honest, I’ve never read it) she leads right into chapters entitled soup and sandwich, salads, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast.

She includes a nice section of small places to visit in the Hamptons for food. These are places she mentions on her cooking show and would be fun to add to your traveling itinerary if vacationing in the area. The last section called menus takes all the recipes from the cookbook and puts them together into menus you can try at home. I think this is brilliant!

I have not come close to recreating all the yummy recipes in this extensive cookbook, but the ones I’ve made do not disappoint. Her Sunday Morning Oatmeal is a regular in my rotation and I have zero desire to ever try another recipe for coconut cake after falling in love with hers. Where I think she really shines though is in the dinner section. From cornish hens to Asian salmon, there are several delicious and doable recipes in this section.

Holiday Cookies
Martha Stewart
2006 Issue

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Okay, so Martha Stewart’s annual holiday cookie magazine is not exactly a traditional cookbook, but if you could see the tattered pages you would know I use it often. It’s really the perfect cookie guide!

This 2006 version includes more than 100 cookie recipes and the breakdown is spot-on (as my British friends would say). The table of contents features a photo of each cookie and they are categorized as soft and chewy, crisp and crunchy, light and delicate, crumbly and sandy, cakey and tender, rich and dense, and finally, chunky and nutty. Likewise, the recipe index in the very back is alphabetized by cookie with a picture of each one for easy reference.

I wish I had the time (and calorie allowance) to make and test each and every cookie, but rest assure I have given it the old college try! It’s great to have one consolidated source to find a recipes for chocolate chip cookies identified as crisp, chewy, or cakey. After all, some days you prefer one type to another!

If you don’t own your own copy to savor, keep an eye out for this magazine next fall. A complete cookie guide is a must-have for every home baker!

What are your favorite cookbooks? I hope you’ll share the titles below!

Snowstorm Cooking Plan – Enjoy the “Comforts” of Home

Snowstorm Cooking Plan – Enjoy the “Comforts” of Home

Road salt, snow shovels, firewood, bread, and milk top the shopping lists of most people as they prepare for a winter storm. But not me! If I’m stuck at home for a few days, sustenance is where my brain goes. A thorough scan of the pantry and freezer helps me shape up a shopping list to feed my cabin fever with comfort food! (Forget what your grandmother told you about feed a cold and starve a fever. That does not apply to cabin fever!)

I listed my menu below. The veal stew and carnitas are both items that can cook slowly all day. Of course the loss of power could alter my plans a bit since hot meals would then require preparation on the gas grill. Just in case, I will add hamburgers and chicken to my shopping list!

Day 1

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, scones, medium cooked egg in an egg cup, cantaloupe

Lunch: grilled tuna sandwich with provolone, cottage cheese, carrot sticks

Dinner: mac & cheese, pork chops, apple sauce, baked acorn squash rings

Evening: hot cocoa with marshmallows and maybe a rewarmed scone ( Shoveling snow burns a lot of calories!)

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Day 2

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, Amish baked oatmeal with bananas and blueberries drizzled with pure maple syrup

Lunch: grilled cheese, tomato soup (for dipping), side salad

Dinner: veal stew (see recipe below), home baked bread, roasted carrots

Evening: chocolate peanut butter mug cake (assuming I had to shovel for a few of my elderly neighbors!)

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Veal Stew – an old family favorite

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs. veal cubes
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1-2 chopped green bell pepper
1-2 pounds Italian sausage sliced into 1-inch pieces (I prefer sweet for this recipe since veal is so mild)
1 large can tomatoes
2 large cans tomato paste
water or stock to desired consistency. Could also add some red wine.
2 Tbs. oregano
1-2 Tbs. sugar
1 chopped onion
handful frozen peas
salt, pepper
1-2 tsp. baking soda

Directions:
Brown veal cubes in hot oil. Remove. Brown sausage in same pan. Remove. Add onions and saute until softened. Then add garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and saute a minute more. Mix in veal and sausage.

Pour can of tomatoes into blender and blend briefly to break tomatoes down. Pour blended tomatoes, tomato paste, water or stock and wine, plus sugar into pot with meat. Simmer 2 hours on low. Add bell peppers and 1-2 tsp. baking soda. Simmer to cook peppers. Add peas. Simmer to heat through.

Serve in bowl with fresh bread. Should be soupy enough to eat with a spoon and dip your bread!

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Day 3

Breakfast: cappuccino, OJ, ham and cheese omelet, rye toast, cantaloupe and blueberries

Lunch: rewarmed mac & cheese, raw veggies

Dinner: pork carnitas on tortillas, black beans, rice

Evening: warm chocolate chip cookies

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What will you cook this winter while snowed in? Please share your favorite comfort foods with the rest of us! Leave a comment below.