Sunday, June 30, 2013

This Post Brought to You By the Word "No!": Cheesy Bacon and Green Onion Bread

Cheesy Bacon and Green Onion Bread

I usually like to post a recipe no longer than every week.  I am running a couple of days late this week, but I really have a good excuse, and his name is Jack.  

I'm really doing my best not to get everyone mired down in sadness and grief, but to make a long story short, we recently lost our beloved little companion Scruffy.  He was a world class dog, and even though we knew he couldn't live forever, we weren't prepared for the impact that his passing would take on our family.  His absence has left a hole in our hearts big enough to drive a truck through.

Scruffy in happier times

Even though I swore over and over that once we lost Scruff, I was done.  NO MORE DOGS!  PERIOD!  I was going to make the best of a bad situation and enjoy the freedom of being able to come and go without concern for animal welfare.  No more vets, boarding fees, or rushing home to let the dog out.  

I thought I was committed to this, so I really don't understand what came over me.  I have to admit that I was the one that first started looking at shelter dogs online.  Why, I do not know, but I was like a moth to flame.  I couldn't stop myself, and we all know if you play with fire long enough you are going to get get burned.

It was last Saturday when I hit our local shelter's site and there he was.  That face, looking straight at me, begging me to come and see him.  Before I knew what hit me, we were at the shelter signing papers to take him home and I really, honestly don't know why. 

All the warning signs were there.  He's a terrier (that's reason enough to run right there), he completely ignored us during our visit, and he had been surrendered twice before (uh oh), but both Mr. H (who shares equally in this crazy decision) and I just couldn't leave him there.  We couldn't quit thinking about the fact that in his short 4 years, two families had given up on him.  The thought of a third family taking him and bringing him back just broke our hearts. Everyone and everything needs a forever home.

Jack breaking one of the house rules . . . again

On the plus side, this little guy fit some very important criteria.  He doesn't shed, he doesn't bark, he isn't too big to pick up and carry should he become ill (we recently found out how important this one is), he has a very gentle disposition, and the fact that he is just plain adorable made walking away impossible.

So, it has been six days since we brought home our new family member.  He is sweet, funny and energetic, and we love him.  It isn't all lollipops and rainbows by any means.  "No" and "no, no, no, no, no!" seem to be spoken frequently in our house these days.  He picked up some pretty bad habits in lock up and we are doing our best to correct them.  Besides a few little hiccups, we can't imagine why those other two families just didn't work out.  I guess whatever reason we are really lucky that they didn't because his journey brought him here to us.  He will never replace the awesome dog that we lost, but he is certainly making his own mark on our hearts . . .  and our carpeting.

Jack playing in the hose 

Between escorting him outside (he can't be left alone because he is a fence climber), hunting him down inside the house (to cut down on any unpleasant surprises) and just plain cuddling with him, I haven't gotten much of anything done.  The house is a wreck and everyone is hungry, except for Jack. 

Since I really need to show my humans some love, tonight's supper will be a simple salad and a hearty cheesy bread that revs up any dinner.  I thought I'd share it with you because not only is it pretty quick and easy, I also love taking it to parties or serving it as an appetizer with a handful of olives from the Whole Foods olive bar.  So if you need a little something to take to a 4th of July party, I've got you covered.

Cheesy Bacon and Green Onion Bread  

4 tablespoons butter, softened to the point it is almost melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
2 ounces shredded Italian blend cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 large green onions, finely sliced across
4 slices cooked and crumbled bacon (I used some precooked bacon which worked well)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 French style baguette, cut in half lengthwise

Stir butter and garlic together in a small bowl; set aside.

Place cheeses, bacon, mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper and the butter and garlic mixture in a medium size bowl' stir until it is completely combined.

Spread half of the cheese mixture evenly on the cut side of each half of the baguette.

Place under a preheated oven broiler and cook until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes or so before cutting into desired piece sizes and serving.

Makes approximately 24 - 2" slices

*Make this recipe vegetarian by just omitting the bacon, but if you do that you might want to spice things up by adding some roasted, peeled and chopped fresh green chiles. 

Looking for a loving companion?  Before searching pet stores or breeders, consider visiting your local shelter or breed rescue societies.  Shelters are full of loving mutts (like our sweet Scruffy) and pure bred dogs (like our adorable Jack), and cats who desperately need a loving home.  Some shelters even have guinea pigs, rats, turtles and lizards for adoption too.  So, be sure to visit your shelter first.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Different Kind of French Franc: Applegate Hot Dog Review and Giveaway

I feel pretty safe to say that the majority of Americans will be grilling this 4th of July.  While hamburgers, steaks, ribs and chicken will make a healthy showing, I'm willing to bet that many of us will also have some hot dogs sizzling on our grills too. 

When I was a kid hot dogs were a staple in our house.  My mom always made sure to leave an open package in the fridge so that we could have an instant cold lunch.  I liked them better hot, but what's an 8 year old girl to do when she's starving and Dark Shadows is coming on?

Then one day my mom read somewhere that hot dogs were made from pigs' hair, lips and rear ends, and the fun came to a screeching halt.  She replaced our beloved hot dogs with celery sticks and apple slices, which while very good, just don't cut the muster when you are looking for a quick protein fix.  Oh sure we still had them on occasion, but the fun had been taken right out of eating them.

Years later when my own children were young, I would buy hot dogs every now and again, only after pouring over the labels trying to figure out which one might be the better out of the available options.  After exhaustive research, I would finally just throw a package of the most expensive brand in my cart and pray that just a couple wouldn't kill them.

This summer I won't have to face that old dilemma thanks to Applegate.  They offer a full line of  all natural and organic hot dog products that even my mom would feel good about serving.  Their "cleaner wieners" do not contain hormones or antibiotics and are free from any artificial ingredients, fillers, added nitrites and nitrates.  Their products are produced from animals that are humanely raised, and all of their organic products are made from animals that are fed a completely vegetarian diet.

Applegate provided me with a generous selection of their hot dog products for sampling.  It was a hard decision, but I couldn't wait to try the Applegate all-natural, uncured Big Apple Hot Dogs that are a combination of pork and beef in natural lamb casings.  They are everything I hoped they would be, with a just right smoky, savory flavor and a delicate little "snap" when you bite into them. Mmmmm, deeeelicious.  I can't wait to try the rest of them starting with maybe the organic chicken or turkey dogs. Either way my guests are getting lucky this 4th of July.

For more information about Applegate's products, their Wienervention campaign, and how you can get a $2.00 off coupon, please visit their site by clicking here.

Since these are pretty special hot dogs I wanted to prepare them in a special way, so  I called up a favorite food memory from many years ago.  It was while on a trip to Paris with my family that I bought a hot dog from a vendor at the Eiffel Tower.  The hot dog itself was pretty darned good, but it was the simple presentation that was so memorable to me. 

The vendor cut a crusty, super fresh baguette in half, turned the cut end over a large wooden dowel and pushed it down over the dowel a couple of times to form a channel within the bread.  He then squeezed a generous amount of mustard into the bread before then filling it with a steaming hot wiener.  Had the unexpected heat of the French mustard not blown the top of my head off, it would have been the perfect dog.

Since then I have prepared my own version of this Parisian treat with a mellower mustard sauce poured inside on several occasions.  Sometimes I also like to doll them up even further with a little dressed arugula, Boursin cheese and a sprinkling of grated Gruyere.  These two hot dogs prove that an easy meal can also be a sophisticated treat.

Since I didn't have a large dowel like that vendor at the Eiffel Tower, I used my well washed and dried knife sharpener from my knife set to form a channel in my bread.  Be sure to stop short of the end of the bread, leaving it closed to hold in all of the sauce and goodness.  You can also repeat this process with uncut bakery hot dog buns or hoagie rolls if you can't find a baguette or French stick with a small diameter.  To get just the right size, I baked my own bread using my favorite Artisan Bread in Five recipe.

Slightly Spicy French Inspired Hot Dog Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon hot prepared horseradish (or more or less according to your taste)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Transfer to a squeeze bottle if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Once ready to use, squeeze in to the channel of a prepared half baguette then top with a hot dog.

This sauce does get a bit stronger as it sits.  If you are preparing it in advance and like a much milder sauce, I recommend reducing the horseradish by 1/3 to 1/2. 

Frank-o-phile Hot Dogs

About 2 cups baby arugula
French vinaigrette (approximately 1/4 cup or to taste)
Boursin cheese (or any other soft spreadable cheese with herbs)
Butter, softened to room temperature (optional)
1 - 2 French baguettes (depending on the size of the bread)
6 grilled, boiled or steamed Applegate hot dogs
1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Super thinly sliced red onion, cut into quarters (optional)

Toss arugula in vinaigrette, set aside.

Spread Boursin and butter on opposite sides of the inside of the bread.  Place hot dogs inside of the bread.  Top with equal amounts of the dressed arugula and grated cheese.  Enjoy!

If you reside in the US and would like to be entered for a chance to win a gift pack identical to the one I received, please leave me a statement saying so in the comment section below.  For additional entries, sign up to receive my posts by email by signing up in the field in the upper right hand corner of this page.   "Like" Savoury Table and/or Applegate on Facebook.  Follow Savoury Table and/or Applegate on Twitter.  Follow Savoury Table on Pinterest. 

Leave a separate comment for each method of entry.  Please make sure I have a valid e-mail address to contact you in the event you are my winner.  You will have 48 hours to contact me after I announce my winner on Wednesday, June 26th (12 noon mountain time) or a new one will be chosen.  Good luck!

*Applegate provided me with a gift pack free of charge, containing a generous assortment of their hot dogs, a butcher block, and a reusable tote for my review.  They have also provided me with one to give away to one of my readers. I was not paid in any way for my review of their products. As usual, all opinions and statements that I have made here are my own.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Somethng Really Special For Father's Day: Butter Pecan Ice Cream

It goes without saying that I believe all the recipes I put on my blog are really delicious, but sometimes one comes along that stands out above all the rest.   My mother has been telling me for years that this Southern Living butter pecan ice cream recipe is da bomb, but for some reason I never followed through and made it.  My loss, but I have now seen the light and today I hope to enlighten you too. This is some wonderful stuff.

With Father's Day coming up in a couple of days, I, like many of you out there, am looking for some really great recipes to treat that special dad in our lives.  We will be barbequing lots of good stuff for ours and I can't imagine any better way to follow that up than with this outstanding decadent dessert.

As you will notice there are eight, count 'em, EIGHT egg yolks, one stick of butter and almost two cups of cream for a little over a quart of ice cream.  How can it not be good?  At risk of you thinking I'm going all Paula Deen on you, I promise to only make this on special occasions like the Father's Day, the 4th of July or a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream (from Southern Living Magazine)

I've never made or eaten homemade ice cream that is this silky, smooth and delicious.  I followed the ingredients and directions closely with only one small diversion,  I prepared my custard the night before, transferred it to a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerated it over night so I could put it in my little electric ice cream freezer and freeze it the next morning.  I then transferred it to another container and froze it in my home freezer for an additional 4 hours or so before serving, so it was nice and firm.  If you do this, the days of impatient diners eating soupy homemade ice cream are long gone.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (next time I will probably decrease this to 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Simmer about 4 minutes or until butter turns light brown and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan release brown specks.  Set aside; let stand until just warm.
Combine milk, cream, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed 1 minute. Slowly add brown butter with specks into yolks, and beat 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and fluffy.

Slowly pour one-quarter of hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, stirring until incorporated. Pour this mixture back into the medium saucepan; add remaining hot cream mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula until mixture reaches 170° and lightly coats the back of spatula. (Be careful not to let the custard boil or the egg yolks will curdle.) Strain custard into a bowl through a medium-mesh sieve. Refrigerate custard 1 hour or until chilled; stir in the extracts.

Pour mixture into a 1 1/2-quart freezer container of an electric ice cream freezer. Stir in chopped pecans, and freeze mixture according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze 4 to 6 hours before serving.

For more great recipes like this, beautiful design ideas and expert gardening tips, visit Southern Living Magazine's site

Monday, June 10, 2013

Something From Nothing #13: Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Boy do I ever have a case of spring fever.  All I want to do in the evening is sit on the front porch, have a cool drink and watch the world go by.  I just can't seem to get in the kitchen and get cooking for anything.  It has been chicken spaghetti salad and leftovers around here for the past week.  It is times like these that are perfect for a something from nothing recipe.

Since I haven't posted a dessert in awhile, I set my sights on coming up with something sweet, simple and easy.  It didn't take me long to land on meringues.  Light and versatile, these little crispy clouds are really pretty easy to make, they just take a little time.  You can flavor them, dip them, add food dye to color them or just enjoy them as they are.  A couple of my favorite ways to eat them is by mixing raspberries or strawberries in syrup and lots of whipped cream with them for a delicious Eton Mess or crushing them over ice cream.  Another way is just throwing some cocoa in with the sugar and eating them like cookies, which is what I've done here. 

While the ingredient list is short, there is one thing you need a lot of, and that is time.  These are perfect when you have no plans for the day, because under the best of circumstances they take about 3 hours start to finish (the more humidity in the air, the longer they take).  I think they are just perfect for when you want something spectacular with just a little bit of effort.  Now, back to the front porch for me.

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 - 1/2 cups powdered (icing) sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt (normally I use kosher, but for this I like plain old table salt because the grain is finer)
4 tablespoons cocoa (optional, for white meringues just omit this)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Place egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer (I wipe everything down with a little vinegar).  With the whisk attachment in place, beat whites until they are foamy.  Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat for approximately 15 minutes or until whites are stiff and glossy.

While the whites are being beaten, whisk together the powdered sugar, salt and cocoa.  Add the sugar mixture to the beaten whites a heaping tablespoon or two at a time, mixing well between each addition.

At this point you can transfer the mixture into a pastry bag that has been fitted with a large decorating tip and pipe them into little swirly mounds, but since this is something from nothing, I spooned mine onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet or one that has been covered with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Be sure and pile it high and top with a little swirl if you can.

Place cookie sheet into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 2 - 1/2 to 3 hours.  Some recipes call for you to close the door onto a wooded spoon so it remains cracked to keep the oven from getting too hot and to allow any steam to escape.  I usually just cook mine with the door closed and that seems to work fine for me.  Perfectly cooked, they will peel easily from the surface they are baked on.  It is important to remember that you are not cooking the meringues as much as you are drying them out.

Turn off the oven, crack the door and let them cool in the oven.  Serve or store in an airtight container.

Makes 24 meringues.

*Don't worry if your meringues are a little underdone on the inside I still love them.  Just say that they are truffle filled.  This works every time with Americans. . . Europeans not so much.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Something to Soothe a Summer Cold: Tom Yum Soup

I think I may have made mention of my beautiful, charming and hip niece Kheili before.  What a sweet, darling girl.  She is just so very dear to me.  Without her I might never have discovered the important things in life like Groupon or Living Social.  There is just no telling where I'd be.   I would most certainly be paying too much for sushi and car washes at the very least.  She does her very best to keep me up to date on things, so I have learned to listen when she tells me about a new discovery or old favorite of hers.

I happened to mention to her the other day that Mr. H and I were suffering with stuffy noses and sore throats.  She relayed to me that one of her favorite cold remedies is a spicy, aromatic soup that is rumored to have medicinal powers called Tom Yum.  Being a believer in Jewish penicillin myself, I was skeptical that this Thai concoction could measure up, but in the interest of science I started searching around for recipes.

Tom Yum is a clear, spicy soup that is widely served in Laos and Thailand, but is also very popular in the neighboring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.  "Tom" comes from the Thai word for boiling, and "Yum" is derived from the word "yam" which is a Laotian and Thai spicy and sour salad.  This soup is most often made with prawns, but there are many variations which use tofu, noodles, rice, pig knuckles, chicken, and coconut milk instead of, and in addition to, the prawns.

I have to say that Kheili was right again, as this is just what the doctor ordered.  This soup is hot, sour and aromatic, which is just what we both needed to soothe our symptoms.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a meal just for when you are sick.  This is a delicious soup for any meal, any time of year, even when you are feeling great.  I know for a fact that my daughter is going to love this when she needs a warm up from the chill of the air conditioning this summer.  Thanks for the suggestion Kheili!  You've come through for me yet again.

Tom Yum(ish) Soup

I headed over to my well stocked Korean market for many of my ingredients, but there are easy substitutions for many of the harder to find ingredients in this recipe.

6 cups broth (I used chicken but feel free to use vegetable or fish if you prefer)
4 kaffir lime leaves (the zest of 1 lime will work nicely as a substitute for this)
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 1" lengths
1 - 2" piece galangal root, sliced into 1/8" thick pieces (omit this if you can't find it and add just a little more ginger root)
1 - 2" piece ginger root, sliced into 1/8" thick pieces
1 - 2 birdseye peppers, sliced in quarters diagonally (thinly sliced Serrano peppers are a nice substitute)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 handful mushrooms (straw, sliced button, enoki, etc.)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon Tom Yum Paste or Thai chili paste (I didn't add this to mine and it was still delicious)
Juice of two limes (add juice a half at a time to suit your taste)
1/2 pound medium size shrimp
1/2 cup small diced firm tofu (optional)
1 small bunch cilantro leaves
2 green onions, chopped

Pour the broth in a large saucepan.  Add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, peppers and garlic.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the cover and stir in the mushrooms, sugar, fish sauce, Tom Yum Sauce and lime juice.  Simmer for 5 minutes longer then add the shrimp and tofu.  Cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes or until the shrimp starts to turn opaque.  Remove from the heat at this point to avoid overcooking the shrimp.  Add salt to taste.  Ladle into bowls and top with cilantro and green onion.  Serve piping hot.

Serves 3 - 4