Monday, September 1, 2014

Rawtella "Cheesecake" Brownies

I love being a part of 37Cooks – even with my beyond busy schedule this year and turning a few submissions in late (sorry guys!), challenges like this help keep me on my toes and my creativity flowing. This challenge wasn't for a sponsor, but instead a fun little “Surprise Food Exchange” between the bloggers. We were asked to some something(s) from our state…I was chosen to send items from RI (or close by) to Donna of Cookistry. Sadly, however, her first box is M.I.A. so I sent her a second one which I hope was equally as good. I received some awesome gluten-free goodies from Linda…seriously these items were perfect and right up my alley. I received two bottles of Ginger People Hot Ginger Jalapeno Sauce and a jar of Rawtella.

Our challenge was to come up with a recipe using at least one of the products we received. At first I was pretty torn on which one to use. I had made a delicious burger with a bit of the Hot Ginger Jalapeno Sauce mixed into the meat, and topped with a Hot Ginger Jalapeno Aoli and avocado, and don’t get me wrong…it was delicious, however I forgot to actually get a good picture of it. Seeing as money is, lets say…tight right now, I couldn't actually recreate the recipe just yet, so I went through my pantry to see what I had on hand. Turns out I had everything to make some delicious brownies…using a box mix, of course. I have a great recipe for homemade brownies, but I had a box of the Stonewall Kitchen Gluten-Free Brownie Mix, which I LOVE. It has such a great flavor (which is thanks to the coffee that is in it!) I’m not a huge chocolate person…I like it a lot better when it is mixed with something else, like nuts. I knew that I was going to use the Rawtella (obviously!) in this recipe, but I was trying to think of something to break up all the chocolate. When walking through the grocery store this morning I saw some beautiful brownies with cream cheese swirls running through them and a light bulb went off, “I have that at home too!!”

I have to say, these are pretty easy and quick to make, especially if you are using a box mix. However, you do not have to…use whatever your favorite recipe is and even though the Rawtella is vegan, this recipe is not. I couldn't afford to buy the alternative ingredients to make it that way, so if you want to make it vegan, simply follow your favorite vegan brownie recipe, use the Rawtella and then use a vegan cream cheese. If anyone tries this…please let me know how it turns out.

Thank you Linda for the awesome, delicious ingredients to play around with. Hope you all enjoy the recipe!

Rawtella "Cheesecake" Brownies
by Jenny

1 package of gluten-free brownie mix or your favorite homemade gluten-free brownie recipe
4 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened 
1 large egg (separated)
1 1/2 Tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup Rawtella

Preheat oven according to directions on package or recipe. Prepare brownie mix according to package or recipe. Pour prepared brownie batter into an 8 × 8 inch baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper, or to make individual brownies use the Good Cook Dessert Bar Pan.

In a small bowl, add the softened 1/3 fat cream cheese and the yolk from the egg. Mix with a spoon until completely incorporated and there are no lumps. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix well. 

In a second small bowl combine the Rawtella and egg white, mix until evenly incorporated. 

Place 1-2 teaspoons each of the cream cheese mixture and the Rawtella mixture of top of each brownie (if using the dessert pan) or evenly distribute globs of each on top of the brownie mixture in the 8 × 8 inch pan. 
With either a toothpick or knife, swirl the cream cheese and Rawtella mixtures together. 

Bake according to package or recipe. 

Cool completely, remove from pan and serve with fresh strawberries.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spicy Polenta Basil Biscuits with Honey Butter and Strawberry Jam

The Surprise Food Exchange Challenge has been fun. Holly, my fellow 37 Cook from the great state of Colorado, choose the ingredients for me to work with. The first thing I saw in her box was instant polenta. I have never cooked with polenta. Down South and in Texas we use grits or ground yellow cornmeal. Polenta is very close to those favorites. I would say that it has been ground a little finer than the cornmeal I am accustomed to using. The next thing I pulled out of the box was pure honey from Colorado's western slope. Donna, who is also a 37 Cook from Colorado, said it was great because it's made from "mountain wildflowers"! Then there was homemade strawberry jam, one of my husband's favorites. Last, there was Modenacrem balsamic glaze. I have
used everything but the balsamic glaze in my recipe today and look forward to making something with it at a later time.

Holly was very generous and she gave me a product (polenta) that I had never worked with. My research began! I wanted to do something different and ran across Chef Ripert's cornmeal biscuits recipe on the Kitchen Joy Blog, that I could easily transform to polenta biscuits. It was even more perfect when I saw that he paired them with honey butter! I decided to add fresh basil and red chili pepper flakes to mine. It is summer and I have an abundance of fresh basil in my herb garden. The spicy red pepper flakes would give them a nice, spicy kick that would pair well with the sweet honey butter and strawberry jam. I can definitely see myself making these again and again. I hope you enjoy them and thank you, Holly, for the wonderful surprises!

Spicy Polenta Basil Biscuits with Honey Butter and Strawberry Jam
by Linda
Inspired by Cornmeal Biscuits with Honey Butter by Eric Ripert and Kitchen Joy Blog

For the biscuits:
3/4 cups instant polenta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 Tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, sliced into small cubes
1/2 Tablespoon red chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1) Preheat oven to 425°F.

2) Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3) Place polenta in large mixing bowl.

4) Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl with polenta.

5) Using a pastry cutter or two forks, combine cold, cubed butter to dry ingredients. Make sure all the dry ingredients are evenly combined with butter. You will have some small crumbs of butter throughout that look like little pebbles. That is okay, don't try and smooth it out.

6) Add red chili pepper flakes and basil to mixture.

7) Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring gently until the dough comes together.

8) Roll dough out on a well-floured surface. I use a pastry mat.

9) Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inches thick.

10) Take a floured rolling pin and gently smooth the top out. Don't press down.

11) Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut your biscuits out. You should be able to get 12 biscuits. Do not twist the cutter or press the dough down.

12) Place cut biscuits on cookie sheet. Place them close together (almost touching) for a nice soft biscuit.

13) Brush the top of the biscuits with melted butter.

14) Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown.

For the honey butter:
2 sticks soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Make the honey butter while your biscuits are in the oven, so it will spread easily.

2. Place butter, honey and sea salt into a small food processor.

3. Pulse until well mixed.

Serve the honey butter and your favorite strawberry jam with the biscuits, when they come right out of oven. Enjoy!

Notes from a novice biscuit maker:

1) Make sure your polenta, flour and baking powder is fresh! I don't bake a lot, so I wasn't surprised to find that my flour and baking powder were past their expiration dates.

2) When making the biscuits, keep the butter and buttermilk in the refrigerator until you are ready to add them to dry ingredients! My friends who are bakers have drilled this into me.

3) Use real butter, no margarine, no diet. You have to have the real stuff.

4) Decide what changes you might want to make to the original recipe. Chef Ripert and Kitchen Joy rolled their dough out to 1/2 inch thick and used a 3-inch biscuit cutter. My preference was to have a little thicker and smaller biscuit. I did some research on the internet to see how this would affect my finished product and the one important note I found was that my cooking time would vary, depending on the size and thickness.

5) Be organized! Take your time and practice. I tested one batch, tweaked them and then made a second batch before writing my recipe up. I had to ask my friends why my biscuits weren't browning on the tops and what could I do about it. They helped me and the consensus was to brush the tops lightly with butter, to assist in the browning.

6) Last, but not least, enjoy the experience AND, of course, the biscuits!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Antipasto Pasta Salad

I joked that one of my recipes for this challenge was going to be the eggplant, peppers, and mushrooms that Sarah sent me along with a fork. I could eat them all as-is, they’re so good!

However, I had to try to be a LITTLE creative, so instead I made a version of antipasto pasta salad. I added pasta, salami, provolone, and a garlicky dressing to the veggies, and the result was amazing. I could eat this stuff every day! Thanks again, Sarah!

Antipasto pasta salad
by Jennifer
Adapted from KCET Weekend Recipe: Antipasto Pasta Salad

8 ounces rotini pasta
8 ounces salami, sliced into matchsticks
8 ounces provolone cheese, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 jar Cosmo’s marinated mushrooms, drained
1/2 jar Cosmo’s marinated eggplant, drained
1/2 jar Cosmo’s Italian-style antipasto peppers, drained
5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling over pasta
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Cook rotini to your liking, then drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil then stir in salami, cheese, mushrooms, eggplant, and peppers. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar, 4 Tablespoons olive oil, mayonnaise, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and refrigerate, stirring a few times to coat evenly with dressing until ready to serve. Gently mix in herbs right before serving.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream

I was inspired to make a second recipe from the box of goodies I got from Jenny, who blogs at Creative Cooking Gluten Free, as part of a 37 Cooks challenge. One of the items she sent me was a jar of Run Dog Farm Pure & Raw Honey.


I sort of forgot about it when I was thinking about what recipe I could make, but then the lightbulb lit. Why not make honey ice cream?

Yeah, that's what I said.

It was pretty simple, really. I used honey instead of sugar - and not as much honey since it tastes sweeter than sugar - and the rest was a pretty basic recipe.

You can really taste the honey in this, and the vanilla adds a nice richness. As I was mixing it up, I was trying to think of a third flower-related flavor to add, but then I decided I didn't want to muddle the honey and vanilla, and I let it be.

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
by Donna

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

Mix the honey into the cream until it dissolves. If it doesn't want to dissolve, you can heat the cream gently to encourage the honey to melt. You won't need to get it more than lukewarm, so don't get carried away

Add the salt, vanilla, and whole milk and stir until it's all combined.

If your ice cream maker has its own compressor, you can start churning right away. Otherwise, refrigerate the mixture until it's fully chilled before churning.

Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

I wouldn't tell anyone if you decided to drizzle a little extra honey on top when you serve.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You've Never Had a Crouton Made with These!

Jennifer sent me some fresh grits from Georgia. She bought them at her local Farmer’s Market. I thought this salad would be a nice way to showcase those amazing grits. Make this for a potluck or serve as a main course. It goes a long way.

Southern Caesar Salad with Fried Grit Croutons
by Tracy
Adapted from Texas Caesar Salad on

2 1/2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon hot sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1 cup grits
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Nonstick cooking spray
Vegetable oil for frying

Bring, milk, hot sauce, garlic, cayenne, salt and butter to a boil over medium high heat. Whisk in the grits and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Do no stir. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Spray an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the grits in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cool the grits and then chill them in the refrigerator until ready to use. When ready, cut the grits into 1/2-inch cubes. Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan until it reaches about 1/2 inch high. Heat oil to 350°F. Fry the croutons in batches until they are golden. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Spicy Pecans:
1 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Toss pecan halves with melted butter, cayenne, hot sauce and salt. Sprinkle on the chili powder and toss to coat again. Lay out pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Stir the pecans every 10 minutes to prevent burning. Remove from oven and let cool. Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tablespoons anchovy paste
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 jalapeno, seeds and veins removed
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Salt to taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
3 heads romaine lettuce, cored and torn into pieces
2 cups frozen white corn, thawed
1 jar (8.5 ounce) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil., drained and sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
6 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled.
Parmesan cheese for serving

When ready to serve, fry up the croutons. Toss the salad ingredients and spicy pecans with about 1/2 of the dressing. Portion onto individual plates and top with the croutons. Sprinkle more Parmesan and serve.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chile Nachos

This was such a fun challenge for me. I was paired with my fellow 37 cook Gary Gee and he sent such a fabulous Texas selection for me to try. To be honest, I almost ate everything, I couldn't stop sampling! One of my favorite things in the world is nachos and when I saw my surprise, I just had to make them.

Chile Nachos
by Christine

Oil for frying
4 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups cheddar jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 4 ounce can Hatch chiles, chopped, save juice
2 Tablespoons cilantro 
Hot sauce
2 limes, cut into quarters
Black bean dip
Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a frying pan. Place a tortilla in the oil for about 20 seconds to lightly brown. Flip tortilla and using a pair of tongs, start to bend sides up to make a bowl shape.

Fry until golden brown and crisp, about a minute. Drain on paper towels while the remaining tortillas are being made. Place fried tortillas on a baking sheet and divide the cheddar jack, Parmesan and chiles between each tortilla. Bake until cheese is melted to your liking. Sprinkle with the cilantro, 4 or 5 shakes of hot sauce, a drizzle of the reserved chile juice and a squirt of lime. Serve with a lime slice, guacamole and black bean dip on the side.