Peach Bars

Michelle has been talking about picking peaches, so I went through my freezer and found a pint bag from last year that I needed to use up. We slice them and put on a little sugar and put them up for a taste of summer anytime.

I decided to make cookie bars with them. These sandwich the peaches between two layers of sweet crust. I used sliced peaches but I recommend you put chopped in the recipe as the slices were a little big for the bites I cut the bars into.

If using frozen peaches, let them come to room temperature and drain off excess juice (I just drank it!).

Peach Bars

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cups sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cut into 24 pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peaches, chopped
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly butter an 8X8 baking pan.

In a food processor, pulse together flour, 3/4 cups sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Once mixed, cut in butter until crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk egg and vanilla until blended; add to flour mixture, pulsing until crumbly.

Press 2 cups of the crumb mixture onto bottom of a greased pan. Reserve the rest for the topping.

Toss peaches with lemon juice and zest. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and remaining 1/4  cup of sugar. Add sugar mix to peaches and toss to coat. Spread over crust and sprinkle with reserved topping. Press down lightly.

Bake until lightly browned and filling is bubbly, 40-45 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

 

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Ham Salad Spread

You know when you’ve gotten toward the end of the ham you’ve cooked and it is too little to slice anymore? Dicing the remains and making ham salad spread is a great way to use up the rest.

I was out of stalks of celery, so I used ground celery instead. I kind of liked the added flavor without the crunch.

Use as a spread with crackers or slather between slices of toasted bread. I also stirred some into a skillet with some diced, parboiled potatoes for a quick and tasty hash.

Ham Salad Spread

2 cups cooked ham, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, cut into pieces
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons ground dried celery

Place the ham in a food processor and pulse a couple times to chop it up. Add the eggs, cream cheese, mayo, relish, mustard and celery to the processor. Pulse until it is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Mississippi Style Potato Logs

One of the best things about getting off the highway is finding great food on the road less travelled. In fact, some of the tastiest boudin, barbecued brisket and fried chicken I’ve eaten has come from gas stations across the South.

One of things I’ve found in Mississippi gas stations (and some local fairs like the Okatoma Festival), are potato logs. These are large wedges of baked potato, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried. You basically get the creamy interior of a baked potato plus the crunchy skin and coating of the best French fry. All in all, they make a really awesome appetizer or side dish.

I tried several versions at home and found I like best Creole Seasoning in the flour (1 teaspoon seasoning per 1/4 cup flour – each large potato cut into 5 wedges used about 1/2 cup flour). I also found that you only need a double dip of flour (toss in flour, dredge in an egg beaten with some oil, and then dredge through the flour again). I found using breadcrumbs was unnecessary and actually a little heavy.

I used peanut oil as that is my go-to deep fry oil but you can use your choice. I fried them after I brought the oil to 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Fry for about 3 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. After removal from the heat, drain on a brown paper bag. Salt generously.

These are delicious as they are but, if you like them with a dipping sauce, I enjoyed them with ranch dressing with a little sriracha mixed in. They had a lovely kick.

Pan Yeast Rolls

Nestled together in a 9×13 pan, these light, buttery, yeasty rolls are delicious on their own but even better with a piece of ham and cheese.

I think I have my new favorite roll for the holidays, too!

Pan Yeast Rolls

2 1/4  teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (warm, but not scalding hot from the tap is fine)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup sugar
4-5 cups flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, whisked
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided for buttering bowl, pan and rolls.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve yeast and honey in the warm water. Add the now lukewarm milk and sugar along with 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add the cooled melted butter, whisked egg and salt to the mixture and beat well until combined. Add remaining flour and mix until it forms a soft ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before coating the inside of a large bowl with some of the melted butter.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Turn out the dough into the buttered bowl. Turn it over a few times to coat the dough with the butter. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise until the dough is doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Punch dough down to deflate. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle that is 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough in thirds onto itself, like a business letter, and gently pat together to seal. It should be a little less than 9 inches by 13 inches when done. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Butter bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan.

Using a pizza roller or a knife cut 10 equal size pieces of dough. Lightly turn the dough in your hands to create rolls. Place the rolls on the greased pan, there should be a little room between them. Cover the rolls with a clean, damp towel and set in a warm place until they double in size, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and place pan in the center of the oven.

Bake rolls uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the tops are rich, golden brown.
Remove from the oven and immediately brush the remainder of the melted butter over the top of the rolls.

Yummy!

Rosemary Root Beer Ham

I bought a large ham recently for making sandwiches. Starting with good ham is a great way to get better results. I went for a local favorite Chisesi New Orleans ham.

I was out of root beer so I used some Zatarains root beer concentrate for the glaze. I used 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of water to make a cup of root beer.

For the ground rosemary, I took 2 tablespoons of whole, dried rosemary leaves and gave them a long whirr in my spice grinder. I used two teaspoons in the recipe and put the extra in an airtight jar for another use

The ham had a delicious crust and smokey interior. I can’t wait for more sandwiches!

Rosemary Root Beer Ham

1 ham (I used a 9 lb Chisesi New Orleans Smoked Ham )
1 cup root beer
1/2 cup cane syrup (I prefer Steen’s Cane Syrup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
2 teaspoons ground rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk together the syrup, root beer, brown sugar, and mustard. Sprinkle in the rosemary, cloves and cinnamon and stir to combine.

Lay the ham in a baking dish and cut a lines in the skin all around the ham. Pour the syrup mixture over the ham.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours. Remove foil and begin basting for at least another hour or until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F.

Great with the rolls (recipe here), too!

Black Forest Birthday Cake

Michelle requested a black forest cake for her birthday as she loves both cherries and chocolate. I’m not a kirschwasser fan, so instead of the liquor, I made my own simple syrup with some frozen cherries to make a paint for the cake layers. You can use any good chocolate cake recipe as the base. I used my favorite sour cream chocolate cake. The cake is moist and decadently rich and goes beautifully with the cherries. Be sure the coffee is hot when adding as it jump starts the cooking process.

If you want more layers, add another cup of whipping cream when making the frosting (for 3 cups total) and increase the simple syrup to 1 cup each of sugar and water when making the cherry syrup. Cut each cake in half and just repeat the assembly directions until cake is covered with cherry syrup and smothered in whipped cream.

If you like kirsch, use it to replace the vanilla in the cake and whipped cream.

Black Forest Birthday Cake

Chocolate Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and returned to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup full fat sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong coffee, hot

For the Cherry Syrup:
1 lb frozen pitted cherries, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

For the Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For Decorating:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
reserved cherries

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Butter two round 9 inch cake pans and, instead of flour, use cocoa to coat the pans to ease removal. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the oil, butter, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix. Add the hot coffee and whisk or beat it all until the batter is completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once during mixing.

Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Baking times may vary and the cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool 45 minutes in the pan before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

For the syrup:

Set aside one cup frozen cherries. In a small saucepan, add sugar, water and the rest of the bag of cherries. Heat on medium-low, stirring constantly, for approximately 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Boil another 5 to 10 minutes to thicken syrup. Set aside to cool completely. For the frosting: Whip the heavy cream, slowly adding the sugar, and then the vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form.

Assembly:

Generously brush cherry syrup over the top of the first layer of the chocolate cake. Add a whipped cream on top and spread out into an even layer. Scatter some of the simple sugar cherries over before putting dollops of whipped cream on top, to enfold the cherries in cream. Place the next chocolate cake layer on top. Paint the top and sides with the remaining syrup.

Once all layers are in place and coated, spread a generous layer of whipped cream all over the top and sides of the cake. Drizzle with some of the cherry simple syrup. Place the reserved cherries on top. Scatter the grated chocolate over the top and sides.

Happy birthday, Michelle!

Blackberry Mojito

The other night, I pulled out the mortar and pestle and most of Michelle’s bar supplies in order to play mad scientist with a batch of blackberries and limes. After a few experiments, I came up with a delicious blackberry mojito using more of the blackberries Michell had picked and a generous helping of Cajun Spice Old New Orleans Rum. The drink was so delicious and refreshing. It went really well with the pulled pork sandwiches that Michelle and I had with our friend, Lydia.

Mojitos usually include mint but none of our pots of mint had survived the most recent dry spell, and I didn’t really want to use the dried mint in a cocktail so we skipped that step. While our drinks were excellent without it, next time, I will add some to the muddling.

Optional – top with a splash of club soda. I didn’t have any, so we just enjoyed the drink in all its intensity.

Blackberry Mojito

Blackberry simple syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen

Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir regularly until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the blackberries and let sit for 30 minutes, mashing the berries. Pour the simple syrup through a sieve to remove the seeds. Put in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Per drink:
1 lime, quartered
handful of blackberries
1/4 cup rum
2 tablespoons blackberry simple syrup

Muddle together the quartered lime and blackberries in a shaker. Add the rum and simple syrup and shake well with some crushed ice. Strain as you pour over ice.