Thursday, September 27, 2018

Brie Mummy

In case you were looking for a fun, easy Halloween appetizer to bring to your next Halloween party, you have come to the right place. It doesn't get much easier than our brie mummy. 
You only need 3 ingredients, well 4 if you include the olive eyes, and about half an hour to whip him up. We love to serve our mummy with grapes (oh my gosh grapes and warm brie, don't even get  me started!) and baguette bread. 
Be sure to check out more of our Halloween creations by clicking the "Holiday" bar at the top of the page and scrolling to Halloween. All the links to our bazillion other Halloween recipes are there!

Brie Mummy

1 sheet of puff pastry
3 Tbsp spicy, red pepper jelly
1 round of brie
olive slices (for eyes)

Also needed
egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray an oven safe dish with cooking spray, set aside. 
Place puff pastry sheet on a work surface and roll out to about a 12 X 12 square. Trim down to a 10 X 10 square, keeping the strips of dough you cut off aside. 
Place the pepper jelly in the center of the puff pastry. Spread out to approximately the same size as the round of brie. 

Place brie on top of the pepper jelly. 

Fold the corners of the dough up and around the brie. Pat firmly around the brie to make sure it is in a round shape and the dough is sealed. 

Place the dough, seam side down, in the prepared pan. Take the strips of dough you have reserved and cut them into thinner strips. Place the 2 olive slices on your mummy and then lay the strips of dough over the mummy, criss-crossing them across the face but being careful not to cover the eyes. Make sure the dough folds underneath the mummy so they don't pop off during baking.
Using a pastry or basting brush, brush egg on top of your mummy. 

Place in preheated oven and bake until pastry is golden brown, about 25 - 35 minutes. 
Remove from heat and serve warm.

The red pepper jelly is supposed to look like blood but, as you can see in the photo below....

It doesn't really show until you start digging in there. Feel free to add more red pepper jelly for a more dramatic effect. 
So much cheesy spookiness. We've made him a few times for our parties because he is so simple  AND almost everyone loves cheese so he is a popular addition to the table!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Instant Pot Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

This July Sue got me an Instant Pot for my birthday. I'd wanted one for some time but, as I get scolded for always buying the latest kitchen doo-dads, I did not get one. 
An Instant Pot, for those of you who are not aware, is a pressure cooker. Okay... not only is it a pressure cooker... it works as a slow cooker, rice cooker, cake cooker, egg cooker, food warmer, steamer, aaaand you can saute in it. 
No... this is not an ad for the Instant Pot. I just like kitchen gadgets that have multiple uses. Do I get sucked in to the latest fads in kitchen gear? Why yes, yes I do. Thanks for asking.
I have to say though pressure cookers have been around for a looooong time so it's not like it's a new thing. They are much safer to use now, which is a big plus.
If we are being totally honest here.... I'm still super nervous to use my Instant Pot. I saw all those picture on the Internet of what can go wrong with a pressure cooker. When I have to release the the pressure valve I hold my breath and still jump when it hisses. 
Totally worth the 10 seconds of anxiety though. Meals like this meatloaf and mashed potato go from start to finish in less than an hour and only dirty one pot. I'd call that a win.

Instant Pot Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs potatoes, peeled & quartered
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup herbed cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
salt & pepper

1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp ketchup

Place the potato chunks in the bottom of the Instant pot. Add in the chicken broth. Place the wire rack that comes with the Instant Pot on top of the potatoes.

Prepare meatloaf - in a mixing bowl, mix together the meatloaf ingredients - except for the ketchup. 
Take a piece of tinfoil and form it into a "bowl" shape that will fit inside the Instant Pot. 
Form your meatloaf into a large loaf/ball shape that will fit in the tinfoil. Place inside the Instant Pot, on top of the wire rack on the potatoes. Brush the top of the meatloaf with the ketchup. 

Place the lid on the Instant pot. Use the manual setting on high. Set for 20 minutes. 
It takes about 15 minutes to come up to pressure so the total time in the pot will be about 35 or so minutes. When done, do a quick release.
Carefully remove the meatloaf from the pot. (If desired, you can brush the meatloaf with a bit more ketchup and place under the broiler of your oven to brown the top. I don't ever do this, but it is an option!)

Drain off any excess liquid from the potatoes. 
Add in the herbed cream cheese, milk, and salt & pepper. Mash directly in the Instant Pot until creamy.
Serve with gravy, if desired.

Super easy, am I right?
You can pretty much use any meatloaf recipe you like, stuff it with cheese, go nuts! I like to use chicken broth in the potatoes for extra flavor but you can certainly just use water if you like. And when you mash the potatoes you can use sour cream in place of cream cheese if you prefer. 
You can also NOT mash the potatoes if you prefer. Throw in some carrot chunks with the potato and then serve the potatoes and carrots with your meatloaf as chunks, not mashed. 
I'm starting to get braver with the Instant Pot so will try to come up with some more recipes to share. 
What are your favorite Instant Pot recipes? 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Apple Fritters

Apple fritters are a popular choice around our house. I mean, what's not to like?
Apples, sweet dough, gooey glaze, deep frying.... Pretty much the best things ever. 
I am always nervous when it comes to deep frying. All that hot oil scares the bejeebers out of me. That being said - deep frying makes everything better. So... so... much better. 
I use a giant pot and only fill it a little way with oil so I feel much safer about cooking things this way. If you have a deep fryer, then by all means use that! 
FYI - You want to use fairly tart apples for this so you get that bit of appley-ness in the donut. 

Apple Fritters

1 Tbsp yeast (not quick yeast)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup hot water
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla

Apple mixture
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
3/4 Tbsp flour
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water

1 cup icing sugar
2 - 3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Also need:
oil for deep frying

Prepare dough - in a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, 2 tsp sugar, and hot water. Set aside for 5 minutes for yeast to bloom.
While you are waiting, whisk together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
After the 5 minutes your yeast should be foamy. Add in butter, egg, and vanilla beating to combine well. Slowly add in the flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, until stiff dough forms. Knead about 2 minutes. Place in an oil bowel, cover, and let rise for an hour in a warm spot.

While dough is rising, prepare the apple mixture.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, lemon juice, and water until thick and apples are starting to get tender - about 5 minutes.

Set aside mixture to cool - I like to place it in the fridge to speed up the process.
After an hour your dough should be doubled in size:

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper lightly with cooking spray, set aside. 
Punch the dough down and move it to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough roughly a 12 X 10 rectangle. Spread the cooled apple mixture over the dough. 

Roll up jelly roll style and then slice into 12 equal slices.

Now... here is where you are going to get messy. 
Give each slice a good twist and then flatten between the palms of your hands into a "patty" shape. Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. 

Cover and let rise for another 35 - 45 minutes, until they have doubled in size again.

In a large, deep pan, heat oil for frying to 360 degrees. 
While oil is heating, prepare glaze by whisking together icing sugar, milk, and vanilla. It should be the consistency of glue. Too thin? Add more icing sugar. Too thick? Add a little more milk. 
Carefully place 2 or 3 fritters into the hot oil and fry for one minute on each side - until golden brown.
Remove from oil and transfer to a wire rack.  
Drizzle each fritter with a generous spoonful of the glaze. Repeat until all your fritters are cooked.

Keep an eye on the color of your fritters! If they are going too dark (like the ones near the center of the above photo) then your oil is too hot. Turn down your heat. (I find it helps to very carefully remove the pot of oil from the burner for a minute to cool down faster. BE VERY CAREFUL when dealing with hot oil!!) You want to stay around 360 degrees. 

I love the crispy exterior and soft and fluffy interior. The addition of the nutmeg makes these just  a little different than a normal apple fritter. 
Recipe above makes 12 apple fritters but can easily be doubled. 
There are several different methods for making apple fritters and find that rolling them like a cinnamon roll, then twisting and flattening them is the least messy. I'd love to hear what method you use!

Be sure to pop over to Carole's Chatter for some fun foody links!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cheesy Soft Pretzels

A little while ago a gentleman in our little town was injured and the community pulled together to raise some money. I wanted to do my part to help so I decided to do some baking. I made cinnamon buns and these cheesy soft pretzels. Everyone looooves bread so I knew they would sell well.
I ended up making 18 dozen cinnamon buns and 8 dozen pretzels. So... I know this recipe works well as I made it quite a few times. 
As written below, it makes 8 pretzels but it can easily be doubled! I added some extra aged cheddar to make them just a little different than a regular pretzel. You can leave the cheese out if you want or use another cheese - just make sure it is something strong!

Cheesy Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp) 
3 - 4 cups flour
2 Tbsp oil
2 cups aged cheddar, shredded

Also needed
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl, stir together hot water, salt, and sugar. Add in yeast and let sit for 5 minutes for yeast to bloom. Add in 3 cups of flour, 2 Tbsp of oil, and the cheese. Mix until dough forms - you may have to add a bit more flour if it is too sticky. Knead dough for 2 minutes. 
Place into an oil bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

When dough has doubled....

Preheat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal size balls. (Note: I doubled the recipe that is why the picture below has 16.) Cover the balls with a tea towel and let rest 5 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of water with 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
Take one ball and roll it into a rope about 12 - 16 inches long. Fold the rope over on itself to form a pretzel shape. Press your finger firmly into the pretzel where the dough crosses itself. This is so the pretzel will stick together when you drop it in the water. (You can see the little indents below where I pressed the dough together.)

Drop the pretzels, 1 or 2 at a time, into the simmering water. Cook 1 minute and then gently flip over and cook another minute on the other side.

Place back on cookie sheet. When all pretzels have been done, using a pastry or basting brush, brush each pretzel with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with a little of the coarse salt. 
Place in preheated 450 oven and cook until golden brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Serve warm with honey mustard or hot mustard dipping sauce. I've also made a melty cheese dip to go with them. My niece-in-law dipped hers in a horseradish sauce that she had and it sounded like a genius idea. You can eat just as is too! There is no wrong way to enjoy a pretzel!

The baking soda bath is what gives them that signature pretzel chewiness. Word of advise - don't add the baking soda to a boiling pot of water. It will go *poof* and you will have baking soda water boiling up and over everything. Add it before the water boils... just sayin'.
These freeze quite well, the only thing is the salt sprinkled on top can disappear when the pretzel thaws. They still have the same great taste but just look a little different. 
If you are craving something salty and chewy and delicious.... you definitely want to give these a try!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Picnic at Cinnamon Creek

For the last year Sue and I have been wanting to do a lovely little picnic with friends to say "Thanks you for being in our lives". Of course, as it always does, life got in the way and the months slipped by. Finally, this month, Sue and I decided we really had to just do it or it would never be done. 
We invited a few friends to join us at a little campground called Cinnamon Creek, about 15 minutes from Lillooet, out the Duffey Lake Road. If you ever get a chance to visit British Columbia you MUST drive the Duffey Lake Road and visit Lillooet. You will not regret it! It is one of the most beautiful drives on the planet. Not even exaggerating a little bit. 

This was our picnic spot. Pretty sweet, am I right?
There isn't an awful view to be found. We really are spoiled with nature's beauty up here in BC.

For our lunch we decided to do a few little charcuterie boards with a gorgeous chicken cobb salad Sue made. (Check back for the link to that recipe!)

I could frame that as art and hang it on my wall. 

We also had a rustic apple galette and some lemon cheesecake parfaits for dessert.

We had some homemade buns that we decorated with a little parchment paper and string.

There certainly wasn't a shortage of choices. Fresh grapes from our friend, Holly's, garden. Sue made some dried plums and apricots.... 

A couple of bottles of wine and sparkling (non-alcoholic) juices to go along...

A quick close up of Sue's salad. She made a lovely herb and garlic dressing that was amazing!

We had so much fun making everything and visiting with our friends.
Funniest part of our visit? Me, crawling up on the table to get some overhead shots. Let's just say I am not exactly graceful. 

I got the shots though so.... it all worked out in the end!

It doesn't have to be terribly complicated to put together a beautiful lunch for a picnic. 
Some meat and cheese, fruits and nuts, a little chocolate and treats, and *voila*

Check out our post on Charcuterie Boards (Click HERE) for a more detailed list of some ideas for boards!

Now that we know how easy and fun it is put together a picnic for our friends we are definitely going to do it again! The weather was perfect and the company even more so. 
Check out Cinnamon Creek camping area on the Duffey Lake Road for a delightful lunch spot - actually, anywhere along the Duffy Lake is delightful.... you really can't go wrong!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cottage Cheese Cookies

I've found the newest addition to our Christmas cookie list. These bad boys are super simple to whip up, make a lot (which is perfect for a cookie exchange), are fairly inexpensive, and look soooo cute. 
I initially decided to try a cookie with cottage cheese because we accidentally bought way too much of it. Turns out, this was a very happy accident. 
The dough for these cookies is kind of like a pie dough, giving these cookies a "turnover" feel. With only 3 ingredients I'm thinking this dough would be excellent for tons more uses - maybe even some savory ones!

Cottage Cheese Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tbsp cottage cheese

1/2 cup or more of jam

1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
~1 Tbsp milk

Prepare dough - In a blender or food processor, process the flour and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

Add in the cottage cheese and process until dough starts to form and pull away from sides. Cover the dough and chill for about an hour.
After chilling, preheat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out with a circle cookie cutter (I believe mine was 3 inch). You can re-roll the scraps and cut out more circles. 
Place 1/4 tsp of jam in the center of each circle.

Tightly pinch the edges together (if you find they are not sticking then dampen the edges with a dab of water).  Repeat until all the circles are done. Place them on the prepared cookie sheet. 
Poke each one with a fork so they can vent. 

Bake at 400 for about 15 - 20 minutes - until cookies are lightly browned. 

If they aren't sealed tightly then they will pop open a bit. Which I love because then you can see some of the colorful filling inside. If you don't want that to happen though, be sure to seal them very firmly. 
Prepare drizzle - Once cookies are completely cooled: in a small bowl, whisk together the icing sugar, vanilla, and milk until mixture is the consistency of glue and will run off the end of a spoon so you can drizzle it over the cookies. You made need to add a pinch more milk, or a pinch more icing sugar to get the right consistency. 

FYI - I believe I got 40-ish cookies from one recipe. 
They are just so cute. They look like pierogies when you are making them! Red jam is perfect for Christmas but you could use any jam you like. If you want a little different twist - use about 1/8 of a tsp of almond extract in the glaze instead of the vanilla.