Monday, August 13, 2012

Baked Four Cheese Grits

Even though I wasn't born in the South, I eat like a Southerner. One of my favorite southern foods besides fried okra is grits. I don't really care how they are fixed...white, yellow, cheesy, buttery, spicy...I will eat them! I went to a brunch shower my friend last weekend and I was supposed to bring hashbrown casserole or some type of grits. The decision of what to fix was not hard...grits, of course!

I have my own recipe for how I like to make grits if I'm putting some kind of meat on top. However, I needed to make a lot of grits with no meat on top. I've tried Paula Dean's recipe for Baked Garlic Cheese Grits and they weren't exactly what I wanted. Honestly, they had too many eggs in them which made them more like an egg, grits casserole. I'm not at all saying I'm a better cook than Paula Deen, however, I'm not always as impressed by her recipes as I am everyone else. I think there are a lot better recipes out there!

So, all that to say, I decided to wing it and create my own Baked Cheese Grits recipe. I really hope you enjoy it! And, if you attended the shower and these taste different at all, it's because I'm kind of guessing on the amounts since I didn't follow a recipe ; ).

Baked Four Cheese Grits

2 cups stone ground yellow grits (I use Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits or their Course Ground Cornmeal. Please don't use cheap white grits!)
3 cups chicken broth (I use 3 cups water and 3 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon. I think it has a much better flavor than canned or boxed broth. You can also buy boxed chicken stock because it has great flavor but you'll get a ton more uses out of the Better Than Bouillon jar.)
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves (peeled and cut into halves...needs to be easy to scoop out of the liquid)
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoons or more of Cajun seasoning (optional...I just had some I got while we were in Denver so decided to throw it in.)
8oz. Cabot extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
4oz. Smoked Gouda, shredded (Lowe's Foods has small 4oz blocks that are $2-$4.)
2 oz. cream cheese or mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoons real unsalted butter (not margarine)
1/4-1/2 cup heavy creamy for consistency
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sharp yellow or white cheddar, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, add the milk, chicken stock, 1 cup heavy cream, garlic cloves, and salt. Bring it to a boil stirring often to make sure the milk is not burning on the bottom of the pan (Tip: rinse your saucepan in cold water before using it and dump out all of the water but do not wipe it out. This will prevent the milk from sticking). Once it is boiling, quickly remove the garlic cloves and discard. Then, slowly add the grits. Using a whisk, mix it into the liquid. Once all of the grits are well mixed into the liquid, decrease the heat to low and cover with a lid. You must remove the lid and stir frequently (every 2-3 minutes) to keep the grits from sticking to the saucepan. Continue with this process for 8-15 minutes until it is creamy. Remove from the heat.

Season the grits with the cajun seasoning and pepper. Stir in the white Cheddar and Gouda until melted. Then, add the cream cheese or mascarpone and butter. At this time, taste to make sure the amount of salt and pepper are good for your taste. Whisk in the egg. Be sure to whisk quickly as you add the egg so it doesn't cook. If you want to add a little more creaminess, add 1/4-1/2 cup more heavy cream. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and top with the yellow or white cheddar. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Best Spinach Artichoke Dip!

I LOVE spinach artichoke dip. When I say love, I mean I could probably eat a whole dish in one sitting. I've probably tried more than 10 recipes and this one is the best. I got this from someone at our church who made it for our friend's baby shower. I HAD to have the recipe and now I'm passing it on to you. Yes, you should feel special ; ). Trust me, it is so good. I mean, how could it not be when it has a whole thing of cream cheese in it? I hope you enjoy!

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 box frozen spinach (thawed and drained...I put mine in a colander and run hot water over it for a quick, easy thaw and then squeeze out the liquid in my hands)
1/2 c mayo (the good stuff)
1/2 c sour cream
1 c parmesan cheese
8oz. pkg cream cheese
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
salt/pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste

Mix  all ingredients together, top with a little of the parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Tomato Basil Soup

This is definitely a go-to cheap, easy dinner for our family. I normally just do grilled cheese using cheap bread with white american cheese to go with the soup. However, tonight...we are going a little fancy. My friend, Marissa, made "grown-up" grilled cheese for a church event a few weeks ago. She gave me a few tips...good bread, two kinds of cheese, and some other fun ingredient (bacon, ham, fried egg, etc.). Tonight, I'm doing a three cheese Semolina bread (from HT), crispy bacon, good white American cheese and a sharp white cheddar. The other tip Marissa gave is not only to spread butter on the outside of the bread but to also sprinkle it with Parmesan. I'm super excited about trying that! I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tomato Basil Soup

2 28oz cans of Furmano's chunky crushed tomatoes (with basil, garlic, and not substitute this for any other crushed tomatoes!)
1 14oz can chicken broth or stock
1 cup whipping cream (or light cream to be healthier)
1/2 cup butter

In a saucepan bring the tomatoes and broth to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in butter and cream. Cook until butter is melted.

This is super easy and SO good! You could also double it and freeze a batch for a fast dinner.

Adapted from Allrecipes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Easy Peasy Sweet and Savory

Last night, we had our first meeting for our trip to Nicaragua. I'm leading a trip with our church to Managua in July to go and serve at One by One ministries. Check out what they are doing down there here I'm so pumped about what God is doing through this ministry and can't wait to see it first hand in just a short couple of months. My sister and her family are the instate contacts for this ministry as well. Check them out here Let me give you some incentive to click on that link. They have 7 sweet kids! Thats! And, they are extremely cute!

Ok, let's get on with what you came here for...the food. My good friend, Mary, made soup and I was in charge of bread and dessert. I really wanted something easy since I had been at church all day and this last week was one of the busiest weeks I've had in a long time. I stumbled upon this bread recipe as I was searching for something cheesy and easy. It will definitely be going in my permanent stash of yummy things to make last minute. The sweet recipe was given to me by someone at church. I tweaked it some because I wanted a few different things in it. You will see. Here we go...

Parmesan Cheddar Quick Bread
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I used sharp white cheddar by Cabot) with a little extra for the top - the original recipe called for 1/2 cup but next time I would definitely do a full cup
1/2 cup parmesan shredded cheese
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Things I added...
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Italian seasoning

For the top...
1/2 stick of butter melted and mixed with about a tsp. of garlic powder and a tsp. of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, italian seasoning, and cheese. 
In another large bowl, beat together egg, milk and oil. 
Stir the flour/cheese mixture into the egg mixture, stirring until just moistened (don't over stir)
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle extra cheese on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

Once it comes out pour the melted butter mixture over the top and spread it around. Slice and serve with extra melted butted mixture if you want to be extra crazy!

Magic Bars (or seven layer bars)

Here are the original ingredients and then I will give you my recipe below that. You can really do any fun candies that you want. Get creative!
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 Graham cracker crumbs (I bought the expensive store bought to make it super easy...sometimes that is worth it.)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

My changes...
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), crushed
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup toffee bits
½ cup butterscotch chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

- Preheat to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the pan with two overlapping pieces of foil or parchment paper, leaving overhang to act as handles for lifting the bars out of the pan. Spray with a lot of non-stick spray.
- Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake until the flakes are a golden brown about 4-7 minutes. (Keep a close eye on it – coconut can go from slightly browned to burnt in a matter of seconds.) Set aside.
- Melt the butter and combine with graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Toss with your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.
- In order, sprinkle the pecans, chocolate chips, toffee chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut over the graham crumbs. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the entire dish.
- Bake until the top is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
- Remove the bars from the pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars or squares.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dark chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache and caramel buttercream

Here are the recipes/ingredients I used for Chris' 30th birthday cake...

For the cake part, I used this recipe. I used cake flour instead of all purpose and since it was a special cake I bought nice cocoa from Whole Foods.

For the caramel buttercream...

1.5 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce
2-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
3-4 tbsp. heavy cream
Whip the butter in a stand mixer for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the caramel and whip to combine. Begin adding powdered sugar until it is the consistency you like. Then, add the vanilla. Add some cream to help the texture to be silky and smooth : ).

For the chocolate ganache layer in the cake and on the very top of the cake as well as the frosting, I used this recipe.
I used just straight ganache for the middle layer in the cake and to pour over the top of the completed frosted cake. For the frosting, I whipped it in the mixer. However, I didn't love the consistency. So, I added about 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and 4 tbsp of cream before using it to frost the cake.

To assemble I did...
Cake layer
Caramel buttercream layer
Drizzle of the leftover caramel sauce
Cake layer
Chocolate ganache
Cake layer
Caramel buttercream
Drizzle of the leftover caramel sauce
Cake layer

Then I cover the cake with the frosting and the ganache. To top with the ganache, spoon it onto the center of the cake and begin to push it towards all the sides so that it starts dripping down. I also finished the cake off with some of the drizzled caramel, a caramelized candy round, and 3 truffles made from the leftover ganache.

For the caramelized decor, heat the caramel on the stove till boiling and let it boil for a couple of minutes until extremely hot. Then, working quickly, drizzle with a spoon onto wax paper in circular motions.

I can't figure out to upload a picture onto this post from my iPad. So, as soon as my hubby gets home with his computer, I will post some pics.
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