Sophie’s Caramel-Chocolate-Nut Truffle Bites

A dessert appetizer that’s so yummy, you’re guaranteed to be wanting more.  Enjoy.

1/4 Stick Butter or Margarine, Softened

1/4 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

2 Tbsp Honey

1/4 Cup Whole Milk or Half And Half or Heavy Cream

1/4 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk

a pinch Salt

1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Chocolate Sprinkles

Nuts Of Your Choice, Crushed

For the caramel:

1. In a saucepan, melt butter, add honey, and cook brown sugar on medium-low heat for five minutes.

2. Slowly stir in whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and salt, add vanilla, and whisk until it thickens further.

3. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly. It should become a deep golden brown color.

4. Turn off the heat.

For the finished truffles:

1. Pour caramel into a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool, and freeze until it is a firm and scoopable consistency.

2. Remove from freezer, uncover, and stir in chocolate sprinkles and crushed nuts. Scoop teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, roll each into a ball, and freeze again until cold.

3. Remove from freezer, place on a plate, and enjoy.

Yields: about 8 caramel chocolate nut truffle bites

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Sophie’s Roasted Root Vegetables

A deliciously healthy side dish, perfect by itself or in stews, soups, salads, and more.  Enjoy.

3 Carrots, Washed, Peeled And Diced

3 Parsnips, Washed, Peeled, And Diced

1 package Chunk Rutabagas Turnips, Diced

1 Celery Root, Washed, Peeled And Diced

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F on broil on convection.

2. Place the vegetables in three baking tins, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Bake for about 30 minutes.

4. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy.

Yields: 3 baking tins of roasted root vegetables

Sophie’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese

A classic sandwich with added ingredients for flavor and texture that bring it to the next level.  Enjoy.

2 slices Sourdough Bread

Olive Oil

Parmesan Cheese, Grated

1 Arla Gouda Snack Cheese Bar, Sliced Thin

Goat Cheese, Crumbled

Bacon, Cut Into Pieces

1/4 Onion, Peeled And Thinly Sliced

Roasted Red Pepper Strips, Diced

Mayonnaise

Dijon Mustard

Butter or Margarine, Softened

2 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Grated

Chips (store bought), Crushed (I like Cool Ranch Doritos, but you can use whatever you like)

For the bacon:

1. Oil a cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over low heat until it is nice and crisp, and drain on a paper towel.

For the caramelized onion:

1. Heat some more oil in the same skillet you cooked the bacon in, add thinly sliced onion, and let caramelize, stirring occasionally.

For the Dijon mayo:

1. In a small bowl, combine mayo and Dijon mustard.

For the garlic butter:

1. In a small bowl, combine butter and grated garlic.

For the finished grilled cheese:

1. Lay the bread slices next to each other, spread Dijon mayo on the top side of each, and sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese, caramelized onion, and cooked bacon on each. Top each with thin slices of Gouda cheese, roasted red pepper strips, and crumbled goat cheese, flip one slice of bread into the other, and press down to keep it together a little bit (it is okay if some stuff falls out).

2. Spread garlic butter on the top side of the sandwich, sprinkle on crushed potato chips, and press down to make sure they stick.

3. Heat more oil in the same skillet, and flip the sandwich in, so the side with the potato chips is faced down, and repeat the spreading on the garlic butter and the sprinkling of the crushed potato chips on the top slice of bread. Let the potato chips and bread on the bottom crisp up, and let the cheeses melt. Flip the sandwich over, and cook the other side, continuing to melt the cheeses.

4. Turn off the heat, and remove from skillet. Let cool, slice in half, and enjoy.

Yields: 1 sandwich

Sophie’s Paella-Style Vegetable Orzo Puttenesca With Chicken And Sausages

A new spin on pasta puttanesca with added vegetables, protein, and a crispy surprise reminiscent of a popular Spanish dish.  Enjoy.

1/2 box Orzo Pasta

3 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Olive Oil

2 Sweet Italian Sausages, Cooked And Sliced On The Bias

2 Chicken Sausages, Cooked And Sliced On The Bias

1/4 Onion, Washed And Diced

2 Zucchini, Washed And Diced

1 Yellow Squash, Washed And Diced

Baby Spinach, Washed

Chicken Broth

White Cooking Wine, to taste

2 Tbsp Capers

Black Olives

Anchovy Fillets In Olive Oil

12 Roasted Garlic Cloves

Sliced Sundried Tomatoes

Tomato Paste

2 Roasted Red Pepper Strips

Olive Oil

Lemon Juice

Water

For the chicken:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and place in an oiled cast iron skillet, skin-side down. Sear them on both sides, and finish them off in the oven, skin-side up, making sure the insides cook. Then, increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F to let the tops brown slightly.

3. Remove from oven, and let cool. Remove from skillet, and set aside.

For the pasta:

1. Cook pasta according to package directly until slightly undercooked, drain, and set aside.

2. Heat the same skillet that you cooked the chicken in, pour in cooked pasta, and press down to flatten it into one layer. Let sit like that, stirring occasionally, until toasted (it should resemble socorrat from paella).

3. Remove from skillet, and set aside.

For the vegetables:

1. Add zucchini and yellow squash to the same skillet, and sauté until almost cooked.

2. Remove from skillet, and set aside.

For the sausages:

1. Oil the same skillet again, and add sweet Italian sausages and chicken sausages to warm them up, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove from pan, and set aside.

For the sauce:

1. In a food processor, grind together capers, black olives, anchovy fillets, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, roasted red pepper strips, olive oil, and lemon juice until it becomes a smooth sauce, and pulse in water if necessary to thin it out a little bit.

2. Let the same skillet cool (otherwise, it will burn the sauce), add the puttanesca sauce, and let cook.

3. Add chicken broth and white cooking wine, and let bubble, and reduce.

4. Add baby spinach, and let wilt slightly, stirring occasionally.

For the finished puttanesca:

1. Add cooked vegetables and sausages and cooked pasta back into the skillet, and stir to coat evenly in the sauce.

2. Place cooked chicken thighs on top, skin-side up, and enjoy.

Yields: about 8 servings

Crazy For Cream Puffs And Or Macaron Madness

When it comes to French pastry, we all know how I feel about it if you’ve read my past posts.  Now, I’ve decided that I’m still going to go through with making that croquembouche over the holidays that I told you about, but I’m not going to make macarons just yet on my own.  Here’s why:

1. Pâte à choux can be used to make more than just cream puffs, eclairs, and profiteroles.  It can also be used to make churros, Persian gnocchi, and so much more, so once I master it, I can make multiple things.

2. The piping is easier.  With cream puffs, you can pipe simply using a star tip or something to create that shape, or you can do the swirly frosting-a-cupcake design kind of thing.  I like the cupcake one because I’ve tried it before, and it just looks more decorative to me.  With macarons, you have to keep your piping bag straight up, and come off of it in a certain way and stuff or else you won’t get “feet”, and piping that is harder for me to control, I guess I could say.

3. With pâte à choux, you can make everything right away.  While you have to watch the consistency when you add the eggs, as long as you have the right amounts of each ingredient and the right baking temperature and time, you’re good to go.  With macarons, you have to wait for the meringue to be done whipping, you have to fold the batter a certain way, so it doesn’t deflate, you have to pipe a certain way, you have to let the macarons air dry before you bake them, it’s just a lot of baking labor in my opinion, as opposed to pâte à choux where you kind of get more freedom as to everything, except for the technique.

If I do it right, both would be impressive, and I love the taste of both, but I think just the fact that I’m going to attempt cream puffs, and try to turn it into a croquembouche is really cool.  And, it seems a little easier to me than macarons just because of the issues that I have with them that I mentioned above.  So, when the time comes to do it, I’ll be posting it, and hopefully, it’ll turn out exactly how I imagine.  If Katie Lee, the southern comfort food chef and co-host on The Kitchen on Food Network can do it, then I think I can, too.  Wish me luck!!!!!

Sophie’s Mextalian Bruschettas

A crunchy and flavorful Italian appetizer with a bit of a Mexican twist.  Enjoy.

1 loaf Crusty Italian Bread, Sliced Into Toasts On The Bias

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Sazón, to taste

2 cans Petite Diced Tomatoes With The Juice, Drained

1 Red Onion, Peeled And Diced

Green Peppers, Washed, Seeded, And Diced

Fresh Cilantro Leaves, Washed And Chopped

Lime Juice

Granulated Sugar, to taste

Fresh Basil Leaves, Washed

For the toasts:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F on broil on convection.

2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

3. Place toasts on a baking sheet, lightly brush on some of the balsamic oil, and season with salt and pepper and sazón.

4. Bake until the top sides are crispy and golden.

5. Remove from oven, flip each one over, and repeat the process of brushing, seasoning, and baking for the other sides.

6. Remove from oven, let cool, and set aside.

For the pico de gallo:

1. Squeeze moisture out of diced tomatoes, and place in a medium bowl with diced red onion, green peppers, chopped fresh cilantro leaves, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and sugar, and set aside.

For the finished brushettas:

1. Spoon some of the pico de gallo on each toast, garnish each with a fresh basil leaf, and enjoy.

Yields: about 18 Mextalian bruschettas

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 5: Two-Day Celebration Cakes & Ice Cream

Today, we finished decorating our cakes.  We made espresso buttercream (and Cara made chocolate ganache) for our chocolate (celebration) cakes (we cut them into 6 squares, and we each stacked up 2 squares for our two-layer cakes), and we made raspberry mousse and honey buttercream for our (golden) chiffon cakes (each group made one two-layer cake to cut, and share).  Then, we frosted and piped and cut, and it was all delicious!!!!!  This was a really fun class and a great way to finish my summer off right, and I’m excited to see what cooking (and baking) class opportunities come up for me next summer!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 4: Two-Day Celebration Cakes & Ice Cream

Today, we made our cakes for decorating tomorrow.  We measured the ingredients out ourselves this time, and we made a chocolate sheet cake and a golden chiffon cake (we poured it into two mini round pans: one small and one medium).  Cara told us that we’re not going to have time to make and churn our ice cream base ourselves tomorrow, so she made the peach ice cream base (it’s eggless), and we watched her demo it for us.  We had some extra time, so we made some pumpkin bread for the store.  One of the assistants made some brushettas for us to eat, and they were amazing!!!!!  I’m definitely going to recreate my own version at home (Mextalian), and I can’t wait for the last day tomorrow!!!!!

Teens Baking: Sweet Adventures: Day 3: French Pâtisserie

Today, we made French macarons.  Cara demoed how to make the French toast ones, and then, we made the (vanilla) birthday cake ones.  We whipped, sifted, folded, and piped, and while the piping part was a little bit harder for me because of my issues, Cara was able to help me, and I did as best as I could, and that’s all that matters.  After they came out of the oven and cooled, we decorated them with different frostings and other confections.  The French toast ones got the maple American buttercream and sifted Confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon, and the birthday cake ones got the vanilla American buttercream and all kinds of sprinkles that we got to choose from.  They tasted amazing, and I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!!!

Sophie’s Smorgasburg-Style Ramen Burgers

A Smorgasburg favorite with some extra Asian flair.  Enjoy.

4 packages Ramen Noodle Soup Imitation Chicken Flavor, Chicken Flavor Seasoning Packets Discarded

5 Whole Eggs, Divided Use

Salt, to taste

Olive Oil

1 lb Ground Beef

Teriyaki Sauce

2 Scallions, Washed And Thinly Sliced, Divided Use

Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Ketchup

For the original burgers:

1. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, 1 egg, teriyaki sauce, 1 thinly sliced scallion, and ground black pepper with your hands, and form into patties.

2. Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet, cook the burgers, bottom-sides down, until those sides are brown, and flip. Repeat with the other sides down, and cover when and if necessary to cook the insides. Uncover, remove from skillet, and set aside.

For the ramen buns:

1. Place noodles in a bowl, pour over enough hot water to submerge them completely, and let sit for a few minutes to soak, stirring occasionally to break up the noodles. Once cooked, drain, and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat remaining eggs and salt, stir in cooked ramen noodles, and divide between 8 cups in a muffin tin. Place another muffin tin over it, and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

3. Remove from refrigerator, and heat some more oil in the same skillet you cooked the burgers in. Pan-fry ramen buns until crispy and golden on both sides, and set aside.

For the finished burgers:

1. For each burger, place a patty in between two ramen buns, and top each patty with ketchup and some of the remaining thinly sliced scallion before closing. Garnish with some more of the remaining thinly sliced scallion, and enjoy.

Yields: 4 Smorgasburg-style ramen burgers