Saturday, October 17, 2015

Peach Basil Pizza

At one point over the summer, everything was coming up peaches! They were everywhere. Even The Peach Truck came to Lexington to share their goods with the Bluegrass state and boy am I glad they did! After standing in line for an hour, my mom scored a bazillion pounds of this magical, summer fruit. I decided to freeze a majority of them so that I'll be able to enjoy them during the winter of my discontent.

Seriously, is anything prettier?  Look at this picture when it snows to remember that summer will happen again. 

I did the normal things like cobbler and crisps and then the perfect inspiration hit. Pizza! Pizza? Yes.... Stay with me here. I was really trying to get into the sweet and savory thing and now that I have, I may die. The important question was, what would go on this savory pizza other than peaches? I once heard someone say, "if it grows together, it goes together." Well if that isn't the most genius information I have ever heard.  Immediately basil came to mind. And then goat cheese. And honey. And then basil oil. Yasssss, people. I just knew that I was goin to love this. And you know what? I did. Even my taste testers (the parents) liked it and they're not real keen on new fangled ideas in the kitchen. 

Now, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. As much as I love making pizza crust, it takes some time. It's not hard but waiting for it to rise 45 times is just not in my schedule very often.  Luckily I found frozen pizza dough. Life changing. Fo real. It takes little time to thaw, slap it down on a pizza pan, top and bake. Cannot get much easier than that, can it? Here's another secret. Before you begin making your beautiful creation, poke some holes in the dough otherwise the middle of your pizza will look like it's hiding a bowling ball. How do I know this? Well, I learned it the hard way. I wish I would have taken a picture of that. 

I know that some of you are scratching your head, wondering why people keep messing with pizza. I wish I had an answer for you. I'm normally a pizza purist and I just like sauce and cheese. I'll shamefully admit though, that I am one of those people who will throw pineapples and banana peppers on my pie occasionally. Gasp! I know. Go ahead. Slap my hand. Frankly, I don't really think of this particular recipe "pizza", but I don't have a better name for it and since it's on pizza dough, I guess it technically is pizza. Feel free to rename it if you come up with a better idea.  Instead of a sauce base, I use a basil oil.  You can make this yourself.  It's a matter of infusing olive oil with basil. Easy peasy.  Then just add toppings as normal, bake and voila, pizza.

Peach Basil Pizza

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced, plus more for garnish 
3 peaches or 1 1/2 cups frozen or canned peaches, thawed and drained
1 quart water
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 frozen pizza dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

In a small sauce pan heat olive oil and basil over low heat.  Allow the oil to infuse for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using fresh peaches, bring water to a boil in a sauce pan.  With a knife, score the bottom of the peaches, making an x shape, barely breaking through the skin of the peaches.  Gently place peaches in boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes.  Peel and slice peaches, removing the pit.

Stretch out the thawed pizza dough and place on a baking sheet.  When desired thickness is reached, poke dough several times with a fork.

Using a pastry brush, spread infused oil onto the dough, covering all of the dough, end to end. Reserve some for spooning over cooked pizza.*

Spread sliced peaches on the dough along with the goat cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until dough has cooked through.

Remove from oven, drizzle with honey and more basil oil.

Eat all of it yourself.  Share with friends.  Enjoy!

*Cooks note:  You will have basil oil left over, most likely.  Put it in a jar with some balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper.  Shake well.  Now you have a delicious dressing for a salad.  Throw some peaches and goat cheese into a bowl of lettuce.  Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wilted Brussel Sprout Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Fall.... The leaves are changing, the air is brisk, the Windows are open and aaahhchoo-- allergies. My spring allergies are a cake walk compared to the fall. I love this time of year though. Honestly I do.  Pumpkins are everywhere, mums are being planted, and Halloween is right around the corner. 

Halloween... It's a conundrum this year. It's on a Saturday which normally I would be a big fan of, but this particular Saturday is going to be nuts in Lexington. Why, you ask? Well, Keeneland will be packed to the brim with the Breeders Cup during the day. Have you been to Keeneland? You really should make the trip. It's gorgeous. Especially in the fall.  Plus, that evening is the UK/Tennessee game. So, do I buy candy or nah? I cannot have a bunch of leftover Halloween candy laying around because I WILL eat it. All of it. I have a strict rule about letting anything go to waste. Yes, even things that are not good for me. 

Can we take a moment and discuss the fact that pumpkin flavor/scents are taking over the world? I don't really understand the obsession. I like a pumpkin scented candle or pumpkin flavored dessert as much as the next person but scented cat litter? Chewing gum? Really? Let's take it down a notch, America. I'm aware we're the land of excess, but let's restrain ourselves with the pumpkin-palooza that is ev-e-ry-where.  Let me know the strangest pumpkin/fall scented item you've ever seen.  I get great joy from this. 

What do I suggest we focus on? Obviously, brussel sprouts. They're only my favorite thing ever. Do not rolls your eyes at me. Or stick out your tongue. Or make fake gagging noises. Brussel sprouts are delicious. I will admit that they are an acquired taste and they aren't for everyone but just try them! Puhleeeaaase? If you're thinking about making them for the first time, I recommend this recipe. Bacon, brown sugar slowly caramelizing as it roasts--'nuff said.

I was thinking about salads the other day. Mostly I was thinking about how bored I am with them. Fall is a great time to shake things up. It takes a little creativity to make food interesting this time of year. Especially the closer you get to winter. The seasonal, colorful vegetables of the summer become extinct, making way for the muted, yet equally beautiful fall and winter staples.  Squash being the most popular. Guess what else is a good cooler weather crop? Yeah. You're right. 

Here are a few things I learned while making this mouth watering salad:  when trying to measure hot bacon grease, don't use plastic measuring spoons. You are welcome.  I recommend transferring all of it to a bowl. Also, make sure you wipe down the sides and bottom of the skillet really good. You're probably going to use this pan again when you quickly saute the sliced brussel sprouts and you probably don't want to be putting out a fire in the process.  Use a mandolin or food processor to slice the brussel sprouts. It will take you a while to slice these with a knife but if you're hand is starting to get lazy, go ahead and give it a workout.  Just BE CAREFUL.  That's really all I got. 

Wilted Brussel Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Serves 4 

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, grease reserved
1 pound brussel sprouts, sliced
1 gala Apple, julienned 
1/2 cups toasted walnuts, roughly chopped 

For the Dressing

3 tablespoons bacon grease
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Preheat a skillet over medium low heat. Feel free to use the same skillet that bacon was cooked in. Quickly saute brussel sprouts for about 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat and transfer to salad bowl. 

Add apples, walnuts and bacon bits. 

Combine the dressing ingredients into a jar. Shake to combine. Pour dressing over the brussel sprouts and toss.

Enjoy as a delicious side with any meal! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Classic Beef Stew

Per usual, it's gone straight from summer to winter here in the bluegrass state, so I figured there was no better time for beef stew.  Seriously, guys.  It was rainy, cloudy and in the 50's over the weekend.  Yes, I realize that's not actually winter weather but when it was in the 80's last week--well, it feels COLD. 

 What is it about beef stew that warms the soul?  It may be the quintessential winter meal.  Warm, meaty, comforting.  I just want to curl up with Dolce and some blankets while wearing sweats and watching Netflix after I eat this. See what I mean?

Beef stew wasn't something my mother ever really had in her dinner rotation.  Pot roast? Yes.  Roast chicken?  Check. Vegetable soup?  Obviously.  But never beef stew, which confuses me as to why I find it in my cool weather menu constantly.  My favorite thing about cool weather foods is how most of them always taste better the next day. Why is that? I'm sure there is some scientific answer that a genius has figured out and that I totally wouldn't understand if it was explained to me. I'll stop questioning it and just enjoy this beef stew for lunch tomorrow. And maybe the day after that. I heart leftovers.  For those you you who don't, this also freezes beautifully. 

I have seen so many variations on beef stew--served over buttered noodles, on top of mashed potatoes (uh, yum), but for me, I prefer my beef stew sitting on top of biscuits. What? You haven't tried that before? I suggest you get to the kitchen right now to make these biscuits. Once you've made them a few times you'll be able to make them in your sleep. I recently made 120 for my cousins wedding rehearsal. To say I have the recipe memorized is an understatement. They're soft and chewy with a little crispyness to the bottom layer. Delish! I wonder what it would be like on top of cheese grits? Note to self: try this. Soon. 

No matter how you serve up this stew, just make sure you make it. It basically says I love you. In one pot. Not having a thousand dishes to wash also says I love you. That's the best kind of love. 

What's your favorite stew and what's your favorite way to serve it? Comment and let me know! 

Classic Beef Stew

Total time: 3 hours

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds stew beef
1 cup yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 heaping tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
32 ounces beef broth
2 cups water
1 1/2- 2 cups carrots, roughly chopped 
1 1/2- 2 cups potatoes, roughly chopped 
1-2 cups frozen peas

Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add half of the beef and cook for about 5 minutes or until all sides of beef have browned. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the other half of beef.  

Return beef to pan with onion and continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and thyme. 

Add the worchestershire sauce, tomato paste and flour.  Mix well, scraping up the goodness from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes. 

Pour in beef broth slowly.  Add water. Mix well. 

Reduce heat and simmer for at least 90 minutes. (The longer it simmers, the better it is)

Add carrots and potatoes.  Turn heat back up to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat back to simmer and continue cooking for at least an hour. 

Check seasonings and adjust as needed.

Add peas about 10 minutes before serving.  

Ladle into a bowl of biscuits, mashed potatoes or simply nothing at all. Enjoy your warm soup belly. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fudgalicious Brownies

You guys. How is it the end of September already? Where did my summer go? For that matter, where did my year go? An entire year, and just like that, it's almost over! I'll write a post about my hiatus from blogging (and life in general) within the next few weeks to let you know what I've been up to. 

We're entering the all pumpkin everything season but all I can think about are these brownies. Goo-ey, fudgy, chocolate-y goodness. I can't even deal with keeping these in my house. I will eat them all. An entire 9x13 baking dish. Fo shizzle. So I bake them and force others to eat them. Friends, co-workers, parents--it doesn't matter who eats them as long as they don't sit around my house, tempting me with their fudgey deliciousness. I hear them calling my name. Constantly. 

I'm very particular about my brownies. I like them with more of a fudge texture. Anything else, as far as I'm concerned, is cake. And if I wanted cake I would bake a cake. Therefore, this recipe makes my perfect brownie. It's my family's go-to recipe and originated with my great-grandmother, Anna Katherine Pepper, or Memaw as we called her. 

Memaw was a character. She was very strong-willed and opinionated. She tried to give away my parents' cat when I was born (allegedly). There are many stories of the matriarch of our family that end in laughter but she was also an extremely generous woman. She would give you the clothes off her back or a bed to sleep in if you didn't have one.  Her thumb was very green. She grew such beautiful flowers. Most of my memories are set in an assisted living facility having wheelchair races in the hallway, but I do have some memories of her house in town where my cousins and I would spend hours on the front porch swing with her while she scared the living day lights out of us with her dentures. I told you most of the stories ended in laughter. So, in honor of the time of year when all of my grandparents would make a mass exodus to Florida in order to avoid any winter-like conditions, make these brownies. I promise you won't be sorry. 

What are some memories of your grandparents? I would love to hear them!

Fudge-a-licious Brownies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

In another bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add vanilla and oil, slowly and mix well. Stir in cocoa powder. 

Mix the dry ingredients into the oil mixture. 

Pour into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. *

Let cool before cutting. 

*cooks note: there are times it has taken longer than 45 minutes for these brownies to bake. I tend to leave them a little gooey in the center.