Choose wisely grasshopper

In yet another example of the importance of proper punctuation, I took the words of Master Po from the 1970’s tv show, Kung Fu, and took out the comma as I am offering a choice of Grasshopper cocktails today.

Classic Grasshopper

1 oz (1 part) Crème de cacao
1 oz (1 part) Crème de menthe
1 oz (1 part) Heavy cream
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake briskly and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Serve straight up; without ice.

And then there is this one which is like drinking dessert and is sneaky strong!

Grasshopper Milkshake

1 cup mint chocolate chip ice cream
1 oz Crème de cacao
1 oz Crème de menthe
 
Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until well mixed. Serve in an insulated mug.

If you don’t have mint chocolate chip ice cream, use vanilla.

Advertisement

Pecan Pie Kahlúa Cheesecake

We decided not to make a traditional pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Instead, Michelle made her wonderful Greek yogurt cheesecake with some Kahlúa coffee liqueur. While that was absolutely delicious, we topped it with a pecan pie topping (that I’ve used before on brownies) which also had Kahlua in it.

We reduced the sugar (none in the crust and down in both the cheesecake and topping and eliminated the corn syrup) so I’m hoping my diabetic sister and pre-diabetic brother-in-law will have eaten enough protein to be able to have a generous slice. Otherwise, more for me!

Pretty and so very good!

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Crust:

10 tablespoons melted butter
3 cups graham cracker crumbs

Filling:

4 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur

Topping:

2 ¼ cups whole pecans
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or Kahlua Coffee Liqueur)

In a food processor, mix together butter and graham cracker crumbs for the crust. Press into a 10 inch springform pan, coming a little up the sides. Bake 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Lower oven temperature to 200 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and whip together until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the Greek yogurt, vanilla extract and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur .

Pour into pan and tap against the counter to bring up any bubbles.

Bake for 2 ½ hours. If it still jiggles, cook for 30 minutes more. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with door cracked open for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge, about an inch deep to loosen. Leave on the counter to cool for thirty minutes to an hour. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight before topping.

Make the pecan pie topping:

Coarsely chop about 1 cup of the toasted pecans. Leave the remaining ½ cup whole.

Place butter, brown sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is completely smooth and bubbling all over, about 10 minutes. Whisk in ½ cup heavy cream until completely combined and bubbling again.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped and whole pecans and vanilla extract (or liqueur, if using). Set aside to cool to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.

Unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan and pour over the pecan pie topping. Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

It was so beautiful and tasted so good plain, I had to post a picture of that, too.

Yummy!

Olive Bread

I was told by my friend, Jamie, that November 17 is National Homemade Bread Day. Therefore, I made a loaf of olive bread to honor the day. My usual recipe makes two loaves so I cut things down as it is just me at home.

The comforting aroma of fresh bread is enhanced with the rich scent of the olives. The loaf is delicious on its own and makes a great ham sandwich (think mild mannered muffuletta). It goes even better with a bowl of French Onion Soup. I went to la Madeleine for my soup and supplemented their cheese with some gouda.

Soft interior, chewy crust and a deep olive flavor. So good!

Olive Bread


2 teaspoons active dry yeast 
1 cup warm water (110°F)
½ cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
3-4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water; let the mixture stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the olives, 3 cups flour, olive oil, salt and yeast mixture. Knead on medium speed until the dough is soft and smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Add additional flour if dough is too sticky. Turn the dough out onto to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, rotating to completely cover in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour more. 

On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough out. Stretch the sides of the dough inward to the center, working all the way around the loaf to form a tight, round shape. Pinch the seam and turn over the dough and roll the bottom on the counter between your hands to smooth the seal. Set the dough on a baking stone. Dust the top with flour and cover with the overturned bowl and let rise 30 to 45 minutes. 

Preheat an oven to 400°F. 

Using a serrated knife, cut a large, shallow X on top of the loaf. Place baking stone with dough in the oven. Place a 9×13 roasting pan on the bottom rack and pour 2-3 cups of boiling water in the pan. Bake until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35-40 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf.

Southern Peanut Soup

The weather has changed for colder and I decided to make a soup I haven’t had since I left Georgia. No, I take that back. I had a bowl in Williamsburg, Virginia a while back. I got this recipe from a brochure we picked up at the Georgia welcome center many, many years ago.

Southern peanut soup is different from the many West African varieties as there are no tomatoes in it and no additional veggies or greens added. Just onions, celery, milk, broth and peanut butter. It can be gussied up with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts on the top or a dash or two of hot sauce but I find it perfect just as it is.

The soup comes together quickly and is rich and creamy. So yummy and comforting!

Southern Peanut Soup

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion (about ½ cup) finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery (about ½ cup) finely chopped 
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ cup peanut butter (I’m a big fan of Skippy)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Lawry’s)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the celery and sauté until soft. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. There should be no darkening of the roux as all you’re doing is cooking the flour.

Slowly whisk in the milk and stir well to remove any lumps. When the soup thickens, after about 10 minutes, whisk in the peanut butter and broth. Reduce the heat to low and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

If you want a very smooth soup, pour through a strainer and discard the solids. I strain out the solids and put them in the blender to purée. Add back to the soup and stir to combine for a thicker, fuller bodied soup.

Bring soup back to a simmer and serve. This is one of those soups that is even better reheated so I’ve been known to make it around lunch time and put the entire pot in the fridge and then bring it out to reheat for dinner.

No Added Salt Party Mix

I have a friend coming to town who is on a salt free diet. There will be a Saints game while he is here and I wanted to make a party mix that he could enjoy.

I’m using a salt free blend from Penzey’s Spices called Arizona Dreaming. It is spicy and flavorful with ancho chili pepper, black pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro, lemon peel, chipotle pepper, red pepper, jalapeño and cocoa. It adds wonderful flavor but not a lot of heat.

In my go-to party mix (Circles and Squares), I use Worcestershire Sauce. Because that has a lot salt in it, I instead replaced the sauce with Liquid Smoke to add a depth of flavor without added salt.

It is quite delicious and a good replacement for salty snack mix. Unfortunately, the Saint’s game today (they lost 10-20 to the Steelers) was not as enjoyable as my mix!

No Salt Added Party Mix

1 box Crispex cereal (15 oz) about 12 cups
1 box Cheerios cereal (8.9 oz) about 6 cups
2 cups unsalted roasted cashew halves and pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (I used Figaro)
1 tablespoon Arizona Dreaming (or other salt free spice mix)

Mix cereals and nuts together in a large roasting pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the liquid smoke and salt-free mix. Pour over the cereal, stirring well to coat evenly. Bake 1 hour in a 250 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

I was over near the Uptown Crescent City Farmers Market today and stopped in to pick up a beautiful selection of mushrooms.

Feel free to use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe but aren’t these amazing?

Cascadia, king trumpet, and oyster mushrooms

I made a quick, small batch soup recipe that is the perfect amount for me to have seconds tonight and to have enough left over for another meal. Also, remember, barley will still absorb liquid off heat, so be prepared to add more liquid when reheating.

This is a comforting soup that has a lot going for it, with minerals and vitamins in the mushrooms and a good source of nutrients and fiber in the barley. Plus it is super tasty!

Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (about ½ cup), chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook 10 minutes, until soft and tender. Add butter and mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. Add in minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add water, chicken broth, barley, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30-45 minutes or until barley is tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

I was craving chocolate and went with my old stand-by brownies that I use a hand mixer and mix in the double boiler. Not a lot of mess and comes together very quickly so you can get to eating!

Darkly chocolatey and with a dense, fudgy texture.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

2 cups (12-oz. package) Bittersweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (I went with pecans I had lightly toasted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Melt 1 cup morsels and the stick of butter in large, heavy-duty saucepan or a double-boiler over low heat; stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking soda. Stir in remaining morsels and nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack before slicing and consuming.

North Carolina Food Road trip

Now that I’m back from my trip to North Carolina (that had us traveling through Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia), I’m going to post our food road trip. I hope y’all have been or will try some of the places we went and let me know what you think about them.

Bon voyage et bon appétit!

My mom and I arrived in Cherokee, North Carolina on August 23rd and had dinner at Paul’s Family Restaurant (1111 Tsali Blvd). We started with fried mushrooms – big and juicy with a nice, crunchy batter and followed that with a chili cheese covered frybread.

Almost overflowing the plate, it was loaded with beans and cheese. The fry bread was slightly sweet but good with the chili.

We spent the night at the Newfound Lodge with riverside views from the balconies.

Even better, there was a gaggle of geese and a huge elk who came to the river to feed the next morning. That’s mom on our second floor balcony, checking her phone.

Geese!
Elk!

We took our time getting to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway (it ends in Cherokee, just under 2 miles from our hotel and we get off at Craven Gap, mile marker 377). We stopped at lots of overlooks to just breathe, take pictures and admire the majesty of Great Smokey Mountains.

Milepost 431

After getting groceries the next day we went to Papa’s and Beer (17 Tunnel Road, Asheville). I had one each of their tacos – beef, chicken and avocado. Enjoyed the variety of choices available at their salsa bar and the house margarita, too. The place filled up fast at lunch time so go early if you can for delicious Mexican food.

We took it easy for a few days after we arrived before heading up to see the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) and Mount Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, the mountain is the highest point east of the Mississippi River with gorgeous views and a couple of easy hikes to even better ones. We had planned to have lunch there but the restaurant was closed for repairs.

Some family friends came in town from Canton, North Carolina and we went out for pizza at Barley’s Taproom (42 Biltmore Avenue). We got the All-American with pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions and bell pepper. It was a New York style pizza – came out quickly, piping hot with a crispy & chewy crust, well seasoned sauce and lots of gooey cheese. My mom was pleased with the variety of beers and I enjoyed a blackberry cider.

We drove down to Hendersonville for the North Carolina Apple Festival. We enjoyed a frozen apple cider and picked up several local apples – Carolina Crisp, Empire, Cortland and one gold – a Mutsu.

Mom by the mountain lion statue

We ran errands one day (mainly to renew Mom’s Buncombe County Library Card!) and stopped at Luella’s Bar-B-Que (501 Merrimon Avenue) for lunch. We had passed it several times on previous visits but it took a recommendation from my friend, Ayame Dinkler, for us to stop and I’m so glad we did!

Mom had the Hot Mama Wings. She really liked being able to order the number of wings she wanted (3) and to pick her sauce level.

I had the chopped pork sandwich. I liked that the sauce was in a cup for me to add as I judge barbecue on how it tastes by itself. The meat was great – smokey, tender and juicy. The sandwich was delicious without the vinegar based sauce I chose and even better with it.

We both really enjoyed the space (plus lots of places to eat outside), the friendly staff and will definitely be coming back soon.

We went to Sunday breakfast at Cornerstone Restaurant (102 Tunnel Road) – just down the mountain from Mom’s condo. The portion sizes were huge and the food very flavorful. I just wish we could have eaten more!

Mom had the blackberries and cream stuffed French toast:

I had their Breakfast bowl – a hearty (read humongous) serving of homestyle potatoes, eggs, cheese and sausage gravy

Very friendly service – especially for that early on a Sunday morning. We got there after they opened at 7:30am!

A highlight was a visit to Chai Pani (22 Battery Park Ave) with a friend of Mom’s that she’s known since kindergarten. There is a lot of construction happening on restoration of the Flatiron Building, so be prepared for noise but the food was outstanding.

Namaste, y’all!

We started with matchstick okra fries – well seasoned and, honestly, the best preparation of okra I’ve ever had. Then we had Sev Potato Dahi Puri – crispy puris that were cool and refreshing. Finally, we had Sloppy Jai sliders – very flavorful lamb hash sliders. Plus lavender lemonade as a palate cleanser.

All quite delicious! I see why they won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in June. I highly recommend.

We went to Chocolate Fetish (39 Haywood Street) and spent way too much money on incredibly decadent chocolate. Just look at these salted caramels:

We also stopped at Ben and Jerry’s (19 Haywood Street) for ice cream.

I got a large scoop of Mint Chocolate Chunk – super yum!

We picked up corned beef on rye sandwiches from Zella’s Deli (45 College Street). Lots of tasty meat on toasted bread with a large, whole sour dill pickle.

A few days later, we joined friends at Village Wayside Bar and Grille (30 Lodge Street, Biltmore Village). Had a pretty good burger and the CBR fries. (Cheddar cheese, bacon ranch fries).

We did have to send the first batch of onion rings back. When they brought the new ones out, they admitted someone left the buttermilk out of the batter. The next batch was so much better with that crucial ingredient back in!

One of mom’s friends introduced us to the White Duck Taco Shop (on the banks of the French Broad River at 388 Riverside Drive). We enjoyed beer, margaritas, red wine and chips with queso dip when we would stop there to just chill out with John and watch the river flow by.

There were the obligatory stops at Cheddar’s and Waffle House during the visit but I’ve posted about them before. I will reiterate that the honey butter croissants are mighty delicious

and that the Waffle House Scale Index is a real thing. The jump teams they send into disaster areas to get the restaurants back open and serving hot food to survivors and first responders are real heroes in my book. There is nothing like a hot meal when you’ve been cold and wet and nobody does comforting starch and protein packed meals like them.

We started the drive back home on September 27 and stopped at Native Brew Tap and Grill (1897 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC) for a late lunch. Mom really enjoyed their Smokey Mountain Golden Ale and I was wowed by a pretzel bigger than her head! Great mustard and cheese dipping sauce and the loaded nachos were very good, too.

We enjoyed another night at Newfound Lodge and then drove along the Nantahala River into Georgia and then followed the interstate home.

Such a great trip!

Trout Almondine

My roofer had taken advantage of the full moon high tide to head down to Grande Isle for some fishing. As an apology for then coming to my house late and without all the necessary tools to do the job, he reached into his cooler and handed me a fresh caught trout.

My go-to preparation for trout is simple but elegant – fish, lemon, butter and almonds. As I only had the one fish (ie two filets), I cut the below recipe in half. That gave me lots of lovely sauce.

Don’t be like me and take a phone call after tossing the almonds in, as then your butter might go a bit past ‘browned’ but it was still mighty tasty!

Trout Almondine

4-6 trout filets
1 cup milk
Salt, pepper, flour
1 stick unsalted butter, divided in half
½ teaspoon pepper (white, if possible)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup slivered almonds
juice of 1 lemon

Soak filets in milk for 1 hour.

Remove from milk and sprinkle with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour. Sauté the filets in half a stick of butter for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden. Transfer to an oven proof dish and keep warm in a very low oven (170 degrees F).

Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter over medium heat until it begins to brown and smell toasty. Lower heat. Add in almonds and toss well. Stir in lemon juice.

Arrange filets on the plate. Pour over sauce.

And, he swears he will come back on Sunday to finish the job!

Triple Chocolate Pudding Cupcakes

Its that time of the month when all my thoughts turn toward chocolate and I had a cupcake recipe I wanted to try. The last time I made it, I used instant chocolate pudding mix. I find that the instant (vs cook and serve) pudding doesn’t have as much flavor and, since Michelle makes an awesome Cook and Serve Chocolate Pudding Mix, I used a half cup of that instead.

The resulting cupcakes are a little denser than those made with the instant but the chocolate flavor was amazing.

I did a mint chocolate frosting to use the bag of Bailey’s Irish Cream Baking Chips I had gotten at Easter and never used. As the frosting only called for half a bag, I put the other half in the cupcakes along with ½ cup of bittersweet chocolate chips.

Super delicious with just a hint of hint. The mint and bittersweet baking chips give an extra umph of chocolate, making these incredibly satisfying.

Cupcakes
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 package chocolate pudding mix (½ cup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

Mint Chocolate Frosting

½ cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons peppermint schnapps (I used Leroux)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup Bailey’s mint baking chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pudding mix.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for 1-2 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.

Add half of the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture and combine. Pour in milk and mix until incorporated. Add the other half of the cocoa mixture and beat until combined and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate chips to the batter and mix in by hand.

Fill each cup about 2/3 full with batter. I used a ¼ cup measuring cup to portion out the batter.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully remove cupcakes from the oven. Let cool in the muffin tin for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are cooling, beat butter, schnapps, vanilla and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat cocoa and, once that is combined, stir in mint baking chips.

If frosting stiffens up too much before using, add in another teaspoon of milk and stir to loosen it back up.