Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheese Ball Pops

One 2013 food trend is serving ‘anything on a stick.’  We’ve seen skewered appetizers, entrées and desserts.  I’ve even seen salads on skewers this year.
My fear is that sticks will no longer be in style for 2014 and I’ll be left with a drawer filled with all sizes and lengths so I decided to create a cheese and fruit platter on a stick.  I combined several of my favorite cheeses and call it “Cheese Ball Pops.” I love goat cheese, so I always use it when appropriate...and sometimes when not, but you can substitute your favorite cheeses to make it the perfect hors d’oeuvre for when you next entertain.  If you don't like goat cheese, try feta.  

§  1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
§  1/2 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
§  4 ounces crumbled goat cheese (or feta cheese), at room temperature
§  4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
§  1 cup grated Swiss cheese
§  2 teaspoons honey
§  16 lollipop sticks


Combine finely chopped pecans and cranberries in a shallow dish.
In a food processor, mix the cream cheese, goat cheese, Swiss cheese and honey until it’s combined and smooth. Place in refrigerator for 15 – 20 minutes. 
Scoop out the cheese mixture with tablespoon or small ice cream scoop and roll each spoonful into a ball with the palms of your hands. Roll each ball into the pecan-cranberry mixture, coating all sides evenly.
Place each ball on a tray lined with parchment or waxed paper. Insert a lollipop stick into the center of each ball. Cover the tray in plastic wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator to chill and firm for at least one hour. 
Remove the tray from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Cheese Ball PopsEnjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pumpkin Mousse

I promised to share my hors d’oeuvres and entertaining recipes with you until the holidays and was ready to post my recipe for a cheese platter on a stick which I call “Cheese Ball Pops,” but I just realized that this is my last blog post before Thanksgiving and wanted to make sure you had the recipe for my favorite Thanksgiving dinner dessert, Pumpkin Mousse.  This dessert is so light, no matter how much turkey you ate…or overate, you will always have room for this happy ending.

For those of you who are new to my blog, there are several recipes I previously posted you may want to add to your Thanksgiving Menu.  Instead of mashed sweet potatoes or candied yams, try my Praline Sweet Potatoes.  These potatoes can be made a day in advance.  Actually they taste better on the second day.  If you typically serve soup at the beginning of the meal, this Pumpkin Soup is a winner.  If you don’t, be sure to try this soup any time during the fall and winter.  It is quick and easy to make and next to the Bacon Candy, this is one of those recipes about which I receive the most comments.

§     1/4 cup dark rum
§     1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
§     1 (15-ounce can) pumpkin (not pie filling)
§     1/2 cup granulated sugar
§     1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
§     2 extra-large egg yolks
§     1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
§     1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
§     1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
§     1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
§     1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Sweetened whipped cream
§     1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
§     1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
§     2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place the rum in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.  In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Set the bowl of gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear.

Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.

To prepare sweetened whipped cream, in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form.  To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into a clear bowl or parfait glasses, add a layer of whipped cream. Repeat, ending with a third layer of pumpkin.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight for the gelatin to set completely. To serve, decorate with whipped cream.  I like to serve with cinnamon graham crackers or ginger snaps for crunch.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Pumpkin Mousse. Enjoy! 

Note:  Pumpkin filling can be scooped into profiterole shells and topped with powdered sugar.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jack Daniel's Brown Sugar Brie en Croute

Most of the recipes I post on this blog are my own, but I couldn't continue to post my favorite hors d'oeuvres without sharing this very special recipe with you.  I make Brie en Croute often.  In the summer, I top the brie with homemade pesto and pine nuts.  Occasionally I use green grapes and sliced almonds.  Figs are trendy, so I have recently baked the brie with fig jam and served it with crackers, fruits and fresh figs.  But when I attended a shower at Carol’s home where she served this Jack Daniel’s Brown Sugar Brie with Nuts, I couldn’t tear myself away from the plate. 

Although I know there was a lot of food at the shower because that’s how Carol entertains, I never left the seat on the couch next to the coffee table where this Brie was displayed.

§     1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
§     1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
§     1 Tablespoon Jack Daniel’s or any bourbon
§     1 sheet frozen puff pastry, pre-packaged
§     1 (8-ounce) wheel Brie
§     Carmel Nut Sauce (see below)
§     Sliced apples, pears and crackers for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Defrost puff pastry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and unfold.
Stir together first 3 ingredients.  Place puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface; roll out fold lines. 
Spread pecan mixture in a 5” circle in center of pastry.  Place brie on top of pecan mixture. 
Wrap pastry around brie, pinching to seal tightly and place folded side down onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown.  Cool 10 minutes.

Caramel Nut Sauce:

Combine ½ cup cream, ½ cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar and 2T light corn syrup in small saucepan. 
Bring to boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.  Cover and boil for 1 minute.
Uncover and continue to boil for 3 – 4 minutes without stirring.  Mix in 1 cup chopped pecans.
Cool, then spoon around warm brie. 
Serve brie warm with assorted crackers, apple and pear slices.   For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, got to Jack Daniel's Brown Sugar Brie en CrouteEnjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nuts, Nuts, Nuts

I thought after two months of posting only hors d’oeuvres and finger foods I might get requests for something different, but all the feedback I am getting is asking me to continue until the holidays are over.  Whenever I serve cocktails, I serve nuts along with my typical hors d’oeuvre display.  Bars serve salted nuts to make you thirsty so you’ll buy more drinks, but I always serve nuts because I believe drinks and nuts complement one another.  Today I’m giving you the recipe for two of my favorite nuts.
The Glazed Pecans have a sweet and tart flavor.  The Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts are sweet, salty and spicy with the added flavor of fresh Rosemary….two very different flavor profiles.  I must admit, I like the Glazed Pecans better, but every time I serve the Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts, men can’t tear themselves away.
Glazed Pecans

§  1 cup pecan halves
§  1/4 cup brown sugar
§  1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
§  1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. 
In a large skillet over medium heat, stir brown sugar, oil and balsamic vinegar for about 2 -3 minutes until the sugar melts and syrup bubbles. 
Mix in the pecan halves and stir until the nuts are toasted and syrup coats them evenly, about 4 -5 minutes. 
Turn nuts out onto the prepared parchment paper and separate the nuts using 2 forks, dragging them out of any puddled liquid.
Cool completely.  Nuts can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container.
Union Square Café’s Bar Nuts

§  2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
§  2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
§  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
§  2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
§  2 teaspoons sea salt
§  1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm and Enjoy! 
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, got to Nuts, Nuts, Nuts.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Monte Cristo Poppers

The success of this blog has provided me many opportunities, the latest of which is having been asked to be a contributing writer in Travel Host Nashville Magazine.  This magazine is found in hotel rooms city wide and gives visitors to Nashville an overview of our city.  In each publication I will be featuring a local chef who will share a signature recipe with readers.  The first edition is in print and online.  Check out my feature article in the Chef’s Corner on page 46 in the first edition.

All my life I have seen Monte Cristo sandwiches on the menu but never dared order it.  I love the thought of a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich, but even I couldn’t rationalize ordering a sandwich that was deep fried, dusted in powdered sugar and dipped in raspberry jam.  It wasn’t until I met Ms. Frances, Grace's mother, did I dare eat one.  She loved Monte Cristo sandwiches but would rarely order one because it was so big, and she knew she couldn’t finish it. When I offered to share it with her, her eyes lit up and I have to say, so did mine.  I’m not sure if it was dining with me or knowing I was going to share the meal with her that excited her more.  I miss Ms. Frances who passed away earlier this year.  I wish she were here to see my new version of this old favorite.
These poppers have everything I love about the Monte Cristo sandwich…the crusty bread, powdered sugar, raspberry preserves, ham, turkey, and melted cheese, but they are bite size and perfect to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or on a buffet.

§  1 package of Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits (8 count)
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or shredded cooked ham
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or shredded cooked turkey
§  1/2 pound of thinly sliced or grated Swiss cheese
The amounts of sliced meats & cheese are approximate; structure the amounts to fit your tastes!
§  Panko breadcrumbs
§  Powdered Sugar
§  Raspberry Preserves
§  Oil for frying

The person at the deli counter is happy to thinly slice my cheese and shred my cold cuts to make them easier to stuff into the dough.
This recipe will make 32 poppers. Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces.  Using your hand or a rolling pin flatten out each piece into a small circle. Onto each disc of dough place a small amount of turkey, ham and Swiss cheese. 
Pinch together the dough to close and roll into a ball. Repeat for all 32 discs.  Roll each popper into Panko breadcrumbs.
Add enough oil to a heavy bottom small pot to be 2 inches deep.  I don’t like to waste a lot of oil on deep frying and do not reuse the oil, so I typically use a small saucepan and can only fry 2 or 3 poppers at a time.  It takes a little longer but I don’t use a lot of oil.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees and add the poppers, in batches, and fry until they are golden brown all over. It will only take a few minutes.
Remove poppers from the oil and place on plates lined with slightly crunched aluminum foil.  I like to use aluminum foil rather than paper towels as it creates small creases where the oil can drain.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are still warm. Serve warm with raspberry preserves for dipping.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, got to Monte Cristo Poppers.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sweet Onion Dip

As promised, I will spend the next few months posting my favorite and most requested recipes for hors d’oeuvres, dips and finger foods perfect for holiday entertaining.  I was first introduce to this Sweet Onion Dip when I asked Carol to bring something to a party I was hosting. 
I may not have a perfect palate, but I think mine is better than most; and although she did tell me it was Sweet Onion Dip, I could have sworn there was something else in there….my guess was crab.  I was so surprised to hear that this delicious dip had only three ingredients. 

2 cups finely grated Sweet or Vidalia Onions
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
2 cups Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise
Pinch of salt (optional)

Any time I use a recipe where one of the ingredients is mayonnaise and the dish requires baking, I always use Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.  It is the only mayonnaise I have found will remain creamy and will not separate when baked.  However, it is important to heat the dip and remove from the oven when warm and still creamy and before it begins to boil and bubble which may cause the mayonnaise to separate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Grate onions and shred Swiss cheese.  

Prepare your casserole dish by spraying with non-stick cooking spray to keep the dip from sticking. In a small bowl, mix together grated onions, shredded Swiss cheese and Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise and add a pinch of salt.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

The unbaked Sweet Onion Dip can be prepared several days in advance.  Simply keep in the refrigerator until ready to use and bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until warm and lightly browned.  Do not over bake as the mayonnaise may separate.

Serve immediately with crackers or corn chips. 

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Sweet Onion Dip. Enjoy!