Friday, December 18, 2009

Zesty Cheese Doodles

Here is the South, a tasty appetizer that is often served during the holidays is Cheese Straws. Well, I think that is true because 1) I've never actually tasted a cheese straw and 2) it's debatable if Texas is really part of the South. Anyway, I was looking at some recipe's in a holiday magazine and came across a cheese straw recipe. It's really quite simple; but, I decided to make it better. The original recipe included a bit of cayenne pepper. I decided to include some garlic powder. I also decided I would put a bit of blue cheese in the middle and roll them in sesame seeds

Warning: These are addictively good

  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  1. Mix all of the ingredients except for the sesame seeds and blue cheese. It would probably be easiest in a food processor; however, my son borrowed ours, so I just kneaded it by hand. It makes a pretty stiff dough and will give your hands a work out.
  2. Roll into 1-balls with a bit of blue cheese in the middle (maybe a 1/4 tsp or so, eyeball it).
  3. Roll balls in sesame seeds and place on cookie sheet
  4. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned on top - about 15 minutes (checking every minute or two after 10 minutes). Note that they will flatten and spread out, so be sure to leave room between them.
  5. Let set on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes after removing from the oven and then slide parchment paper onto a cooling rack
Other variations to try (I haven't actually tried any of these yet)
  • Substitute 1/2 tsp curry powder for the cayenne pepper and garlic powder
  • Roll in crush pecans instead of sesame seeds
  • Roll it around a slice of pickled jalapeƱo pepper instead of blue cheese
  • Roll it around a couples of slices of black olive instead of blue cheese
  • Roll it in panko bread crumbs instead of sesame seeds
  • I was impatient and didn't feel like waiting for the butter to soften; so, I just grated it with the cheese grater and mixed it in with the flour and cheese
  • You could freeze the balls before baking and then have them to bake whenever company comes over or you just feel like a tasty snack. Either let them thaw before baking or increase baking time

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

One fall I had butternut squash soup at corner bakery that was absolutely delicious. So, I set out on a internet search quest to recreate this wonderful culinary delight. With a few of my own twists, I think I've done it.

  • 3 pounds fresh butternut squash
  • 4 Tbl unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • Stock pot with steamer insert
  • Hand blender
  1. Remove any labels and wash squash under cold running water.
  2. Cut squash into quarters lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and stringy stuff and reserve. Place squash quarters into steamer insert skin side up.
  3. Dice shallot and red bell pepper into small pieces
  4. Melt butter on medium in bottom of stockpot and add diced shallot and red bell pepper, saute until shallot is translucent (about 2-3 minutes)
  5. Add reserved seeds and stringy stuff from squash. The idea is you want to lightly toast the seeds in the butter; but, first the liquid needs to be boiled out. This will take about 10-15 minutes stirring frequently.
  6. When squash seeds begin to take on a light brown color then add the 6 cups of water and bring to a boil
  7. Place steamer basket with squash into stock pot and cover. Steam the squash for about 30 minutes on medium high.
  8. When the squash is tender, turn off heat and lift steamer basket out of pot and let drain. Leave squash draining into liquid until both are cool enough to handle
  9. Strain steaming liquid and reserve, discard solids
  10. Scrape squash pulp into a clean pan and discard skin
  11. Using the hand blender, blend the squash pulp adding just enough of the reserved steaming liquid until smooth textured and of the desired consistency (you may or may not end up using all of the liquid)
  12. Stir in cream, brown sugar, and nutmeg and adjust seasoning
  13. Gently heat, being careful to stir often as it will scorch easily.
  14. Enjoy with some nice chewy french bread

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I had a hankering for baklava the other day; so, I bought some phyllo pastry sheets, did an internet search to get ideas, and came up with the following

  • 1-1/2 pounds of nuts (I used 8 oz blanched almond slivers, 6 oz raw pistachios, 4 oz pecans, and 6 oz walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound phyllo pastry sheets (18 sheets, 13" x 17")
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom honey
  • Peeling from 2 clementine oranges with white pulp scraped off and discarded (i.e. orange zest slices)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2" long
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 9 x 13 pan
  • Food processor
  • Candy thermometer
  1. If phyllo pastry is frozen, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator at least 1 hour ahead of time to let it come to room temperature
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Cut phyllo pastry sheets in half cross wise so that you have a pile of 36 sheets 13" x 8.5"
  4. Finely chop nuts in food processor, mix in brown sugar ground cinnamon and cloves, set aside
  5. Brush bottom and sides of 13"x9" baking pan with melted butter
  6. Place a sheet of phylly pastry into pan and brush with butter. Repeat until there are 14 sheets.
  7. Spread 1/2 of the nut mixture on top of the pastry sheets
  8. Repeat placing phyllo pastry sheets brushed with butter for another 8 sheets
  9. Spread remaining 1/2 of nut mixture on top of pastry sheets
  10. Repeat placing phyllo pastry sheets brushed with butter for the remaining 14 sheets
  11. Using a sharp knife, carefully through the sheets into diamond shapes, about 5 or 7 diagonal cuts each direction
  12. Place in middle of oven and bake for 40 minutes, after about 20 minutes check and lightly cover with foil if it is starting to brown on top so as to not overcook the top. Remove from oven when done baking
  13. While the phyllo/nut assembly is baking, mixed all incredients for syrup, bring to a boil and cook until the temperature reaches 230 degrees (just under the soft ball stage)
  14. Remove orange peel, cinnamon stick, and whole cloves from syrup and gently pour syrup over the phyllo/nut assembly. Let stand several hours (or overnight) to let the syrup soak in and cool
  15. Using a sharp knife, gently re-cut the baklava and enjoy