Short-Rib Ragu with Bacon and Spinach

Since you can find most recipes online anymore, I’ve discontinued all but one cooking magazine – Rachael Ray’s Everyday. There are tons of good (and a few strange) recipes in the magazine along with current trends and lots of tips. I’ve always had good luck with her recipes and the November issue has this Short-Rib Ragu that sounded wonderful. I made a special trip to the store to get some of the ingredients that weren’t already in the cabinet or fridge and decided to make it for dinner last night. Bret was doing some icky plumbing in the house, so I thought a nice dinner was in order to make his day a little better.

If you can find boneless short-ribs at your local store, lucky you. I went to two stores and only found short-ribs with the bone in. I got those and “de-boned” them (not fun) for the dish and also picked up spinach instead of the kale the recipe called for. Sorry, kale and I aren’t friends.

Here’s the wonderful ragu simmering in the pot before the addition of the gnocchi:


It was as good as it looks. With the addition of the red wine, it had an earthy flavor and hearty texture. The only thing I might change next time is to use a twisted pasta, like fusilli or rotini. The gnocchi was fine, but I think the pasta would gather more of that sauce onto it.

I always line up ingredients to a recipe on the cabinet to get ready for it, but I didn’t chop the carrot, bacon, and garlic ahead of time.  I found myself scrambling while the meat was browning and ended up dumping the beef stock all over the cabinet and floor (which our dog, Vickie, appreciated). You may want to prep everything, including opening the tomatoes, measuring out the beef stock, etc., for this one. It wasn’t difficult to make, but the steps were specific.

If you’re looking for a cool-weather warming and filling entree, this is the one to make. In the magazine it’s touted at $2.92 per person, but I upped the ribs to 2 lb. since I had to de-bone them, and mine added up to a little more than that.

Bret had a second serving and gave it the thumbs up and I really liked it as well, so this will go into the “make again” file!

Short-Rib Ragu with Bacon and Spinach
***1/2 Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Everyday magazine. Hearty, earthy flavors, and a nice warming entree. Serves 4-5.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless short ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes and excess fat trimmed
2 slices thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 C. dry red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 can diced Italian tomatoes
1 C. packed, stemmed baby spinach
12 oz. fresh or frozen gnocchi (or twisted pasta)
3 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepper (optional)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and brown in the oil, turning often, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add the bacon to the pot. Cook over medium and stir occasionally until browned. Stir in the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 4 minutes. Stir in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the browned ribs to the mixture, covering with the sauce. Cover and cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally until the meat is fork tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Using two forks, shred the meat in the pot. Stir in the spinach until wilted and season the ragu with salt and pepper to taste; stir in a couple of pinches of red pepper if desired. Remove from the heat and keep covered while making the gnocchi or pasta according to the instructions on the package. Drain well and stir into the ragu.

Divide among bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Tips and Stuff
Next time besides using twisted pasta, I would add either a tablespoon of ketchup or tomato paste. It would give it a little more of a bite.
I added the red pepper, as I like things a bit spicy. Not mandatory.
As usual, I didn’t use onion (substituted 1 tsp. onion powder), but I left it in the recipe, as I think it would be better with it.
Read the recipe through before starting, and have all ingredients prepared and ready to go!

Chocolate Buttercream Swiss Cake Roll – Daring Kitchen, kind of…

October’s challenge from The Daring Kitchen was presented by Korena of Korena in The Kitchen.  I’ve decided these bakers are wayyyyy above my level, but I’m gonna keep on plugging till I get there.

The challenge was actually supposed to be a decorated Swiss roll, which is all the rage on Japanese sites and are pretty amazing.  You create a design, freeze it on parchment paper, then bake the cake over it. Voila, it transfers to the cake. But, uh, here’s mine without the decoration:
Looks pretty good, huh? Well, this is actually how it looked at the beginning:
Funny thing…when you write letters on parchment paper to be transferred to the cake, they end up backwards after lifting out of the pan.  Duh!  Bret recommended I use the flip utility on the editing software and Bob’s-your-uncle.  One problem, though.  It ended up pretty ugly.  I had plenty of the luscious, buttery chocolate buttercream frosting and ended up covering the whole thing.  Kind of looks like one of those Christmas Yule Log cakes I’ve always wanted to make.  So, now I’ve made it.
The cake was soft and fluffy and the buttercream complemented it wonderfully.  You have to keep it in the refrigerator because it will almost immediately melt if it’s warm in the room.

I’m definitely going to try this again and next time it’ll be right.  The transfer of design was fascinating – you just color some of the batter, draw your design on parchment paper in the pan you’ll cook the cake in, freeze the design for about 30 minutes, then pour the remaining batter over it and bake. Look at Korena’s and you’ll see how beautiful they can be.

Chocolate Buttercream Swiss Roll
****Tasted wonderful even if it wasn’t pretty! Cake recipe by Manali and frosting adapted from another source.

2 sticks (1 cup) softened, room temp butter
1 tbsp. cream or milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 C. unsweetened sifted cocoa powder
2 1/4 C. powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

Cream butter till fluffy. Add the cream and mix till fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla.  Pour the melted chocolate chips into the butter mixture and combine. Lightly stir the cocoa powder into the powdered sugar and add 1/3 of it at a time into the butter mixture.  Mix until light, fluffy and almost whipped in texture.  Stir in the salt.  Store in the refrigerator while putting the cake together.

5 large eggs, separated
3/4 C. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 C. water
3 tbsp. oil
1/2 C. plug 2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
confectioner’s sugar for dusting


Separate the eggs by yolks and whites into two bowls. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, water, and oil, and 1/4 C. plus 2 tbsp. of the sugar till the mixture turns pale. Will take 4-5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and once they start foaming, add the cream of tartar. When it starts foaming again (10 seconds or so), add the remaining 1/4 C. of sugar. Beat till the white are at medium peaks (fairly firm with a slight bend). With a spoon, fold the flour mixture slowly into the yolk mixture till you have a fairly smooth batter. Fold in the beaten egg whites, one-third at a time, to the batter with slow, gentle strokes. You will still see some egg whites after folded – that’s OK.


Place parchment paper in jelly roll pan (15×11-ish). Draw the design you want transferred onto the cake and flip the parchment paper over (or you can do it freehand later). Remove about 1 C. (or however much needed for your design) and put into a separate bowl (or bowls if different colors). Color as desired. Put the colored batter into a piping bag and create your design on the parchment paper. Remember, letters will come out backwards onto the cake! Important: freeze the design for about 30 minutes, till firm. At this point, you can preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake and Roll:

Pour the remaining batter onto the designed parchment paper, tap the pan on the counter top to get out bubbles and bake for 8-9 minutes (watch it carefully until just brown around the edges). Meanwhile, generously sift powdered sugar onto a clean tea towel. After the cake is done, flip it out onto the tea towel (run a knife around edges before flipping if needed). Immediately remove the parchment paper (awww, look at your pretty design) and flip the cake again onto parchment paper (this way, when you roll, the design will show up on the outside of the cake). Gently roll up the cake and let cool down for about 30 minutes. Unroll the cake, gently and slowly, and fill with the buttercream frosting (if it has firmed way up in the refrigerator, add a tbsp. of cream and beat till fluffy).  Gently roll up the cake again and chill for 2-3 hours before cutting into slices.  Keep leftovers refrigerated!

Tips and Tricks
About that design – trace one from an already existing design (leaves for fall, pumpkins for Halloween, etc.) or if you’re totally talented, draw it freehand.  You saw what mine looked like freehand, though.  Ouch.
Be very slow and patient when rolling and unrolling the cake so it won’t stick to the parchment paper.
This is one of the best buttercream recipes I’ve found!

Doughnut Muffins

You had me at doughnuts, but add muffins into the mix and I’m yours.  My sister, Glenda, kept telling me about this recipe that she and her granddaughter have made many times and how much they love it.  I finally got the recipe from her and I’m not sure if I’m glad or sad.  These light-textured, cinnamon-sugar wonder buns are very addictive and bumped a few long-time standards from my favorites list!

There’s nothing outlandish in the ingredients, but the muffin comes out light and fluffy and oh, so barely sweet.  Then, the good part – you roll the warm muffin in melted butter and roll it completely in a sugar-cinnamon mixture.  After doused in this concoction and while warm, they are the best things I’ve tasted in a long time!

Even better…mini Doughnut Muffins!  I had quite a bit of leftover batter from the 12 regular-sized muffins, so I greased the mini muffin pan and used the rest of it up.  Rolled them in butter after they baked, then into the sugar mixture and popped a warm one in my mouth.  Heaven!  Next time I’ll probably make them all mini muffins.  Bret said ‘mmph, num, uh-huh, mmph yum’ when I asked him if he liked them; mainly, because he was stuffing the mini muffins down his gourd. He liked them.

Here are the cute little mini bundles of delight:
These are staying in my regular rotation of recipes, maybe even an every week thing!

Doughnut Muffins
****Outstanding. Best warmed up and eaten the first day or so.

3/4 C. butter, softened
2/3 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 C. 2% milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 C. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Coating: 1 C. sugar, 1 tbsp. cinnamon, 1/2 C. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars til light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking soda.  Add to creamed mixture and stir by hand til just moistened.

Fill greased muffin cups and bake 17-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes and remove to a wire rack. Combine the coating sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and, in a separate bowl, melt the butter.  Roll a warm muffin in the butter and then dip and roll into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Repeat with all muffins.

Best eaten when warm.

Tips and Stuff
Make sure the softened butter for the batter is room temperature.
After adding the flour mixture, be sure and stir by hand just until combined so the muffins won’t be tough.
The mini muffins are the best – next time I’ll make them all mini!

Hrapocusa (Almond Cake with Candied Walnuts)

Another month has gone by and Jason from DailyCandor provided the Daring Kitchen’s new challenge – this time it’s Hrapocusa!  Hrapocusa (Hra-po-choo-sa) was created in the town of Dol which is on the Dalmation Island of Bra (hint: off the southern coast of Croatia).  Along with the recipe, I got a little geography lesson, too.  Who knew Croatia has a coast?
This was challenging in that it used a couple of techniques I’m not used to.  The first was creating almond meal from roasted almonds and the second was creating the sweet walnut mixture that was the topping of the cake.  You may notice the cake uses no flour or fat.  Here’s a photo of the coarse almond meal used as the base of the cake:
I finally got to use my springform pan!  I’ve had two springform pans for years just knowing that special cheesecake recipe was around the corner.  The pan is perfect for this cake and it helped hold the sweet walnut topping on top until it was cooled and released.

You really have to watch while preparing the candied walnuts.  It’s easy for them to go from gooey goodness to rock-hard grainy lumps.  Next time I’ll take it off the stovetop a little earlier.

I loved the orangey taste in the textured almond cake and the candied walnuts brought a sweet crunchiness that completed the lovely cake. Despite having to sweep up walnuts off the floor (I’m not quite up to par with the food processor yet…), it was a fun challenge and I look forward to the next one!

Hrapocusa (Almond Cake with Candied Walnuts)
**Read the entire recipe thoroughly before beginning!)

1 3/4 C. whole almonds (roasted or raw)
3 1/2 C. walnuts (halves and pieces
3 C. granulated sugar
1/2 orange
1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
6 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

Preheat the oven to 480 degrees.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor to yield a meal (30-40 pulses).  Set aside.

Add the zest and juice from the 1/2 orange, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, the cherry juice and 1 C. of the sugar to a bowl and mix gently until well combined. Separate the 6 eggs, dividing the egg whites – 4 to a small bowl and 2 to another small bowl.  Add the yolks into the sugar mixture and blend until it yields a uniform batter – just combined, not thick and creamy.

Pour the 2 egg whites into a new, clean mixing bowl.  Beat until they are somewhat stiff peaks.  Add half of those beaten egg whites and half of the almond meal to the batter.  Fold in and stir gently to blend.  Add the remaining almond meal and egg whites, folding gently until just combined.

Place a circle of parchment paper at the bottom of the springform pan and pour in the cake batter. Gently shake the pan to get rid of any bubbles. Place the pan in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 390 degrees.  Bake for 5 minutes at 390 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then again lower the temperature to 320 degrees.  After five minutes of baking at 320, check the cake with a toothpick.  Remove the cake when the toothpick comes out clean (mine was done after about 10 minutes at 320 degrees). If the center of the cake is poofed up, gently press with the back of a wooden spoon to flatten the surface.

To make the candied walnuts, place the remaining 4 egg whites, 2 cups of sugar and the walnuts into a large pot.  Turn up the burner to medium-high heat and stir aggressively and constantly for approximately 10 minutes, making sure the bottom of the pot doesn’t scorch.  Stop when the liquid takes on a beige/caramel color (do not wait too long or it will become sugary hard clumps).

Remove from heat and add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and the remaining 1/2 tsp. of vanilla – stir to combine.  Quickly spoon the walnuts over the cake and smooth evenly.

Place the cake back in the oven (still at 320 degrees) and bake for about 10 minutes, until the top takes on a light golden color.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a rack for about 90 minutes.  Gently remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper and present!

Cake can be stored at room temperature for 5-6 days.  If you want to freeze it, cool the cake completely, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 months.  Let thaw before slicing.

Tips and Tricks
This calls for a 8″ springform, but I used 10″ successfully.
When making the candied walnuts, be sure and stir constantly.  After every two minutes or so, I slid the pan off the burner while still stirring so that it definitely wouldn’t burn.  Important: remove from the heat while the mixture is still creamy or you’ll have rock-hard walnuts.
To make the circle of parchment paper for the pan, set the pan on top of a piece of parchment and trace the pan.  Then cut out with scissors and slide into the pan.
Read the entire recipe before beginning. Then read it again.

Caramel Swirl Pavlova

I haven’t been able to participate in The Daring Kitchen’s challenge for the last couple of months, but the challenge for August is something I’ve always wanted to try. The Pavlova (essentially a giant meringue) was named in honor of the famous ballerina after a tour stop in New Zealand and Australia. Apparently there’s still controversy between New Zealand and Australia about who really came up with it, but if that’s all they have to disagree about then they’re in pretty good shape.

Usually a Pavlova is 9-10 inches around and topped with lemon curd (or some other flavor), whipped cream and fruit scattered on top.  Since I knew we wouldn’t eat a whole one and didn’t want to store it, I decided to make smaller individual 3″ Pavlovas. Looking ahead next time I’ll probably make them even smaller – 1 1/2 to 2 inches round. The 3-inch delicacy was just a little too rich and sweet for one sitting. Don’t get me wrong – it was decadent and delicious, but a lot of sweet all at once!
Caramel Swirl Pavlova1
You begin by making a caramel sauce and I chose one by Ina Garten, mainly because it didn’t call for butter and I wanted to see how caramel sauce without butter would be.  It was wonderful – sweet, rich, dark brown goodness and perfect over the Pavlova.

While the caramel is cooling you make the Pavlova batter.  After portioning them onto the baking sheet, swirl the homemade caramel sauce lightly into them, being careful not to mash down too hard.  Here’s the “before” photo:
Caramel Swirl Pavlova2
If you’ve made meringue cookies, then you’ll be comfortable making these.  I was surprised at how easy it was, but patience is needed for making the caramel as well as the meringue.  It took quite awhile to get those stiff peaks from the batter.

After you pull the Pavlova out of the oven and they’re cooled, you end up with a crunchy meringue outside, sweet caramel inside along with a chewy center.  I loved these and couldn’t believe the wonderful textures.  You can drizzle a little extra caramel sauce on top and that makes it even more enjoyable!
Caramel Swirl Pavlova3
Thank you to Marcellina from The Daring Kitchen for this wonderful and tasty learning experience!

Creamy Caramel Sauce
****slightly adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network. Wonderful, creamy and delicious. And no butter!

1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. water
1 1/4 C. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Pour the granulated sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir in the water and pinch of salt until combined.  Cook over low heat for 7-10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.  Do not stir.  Increase the heat to medium and boil briskly uncovered until the sugar turns a medium, chestnut brown, about 7-8 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture.  The mixture is extremely hot, so be aware!  Watch the mixture carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to a burnt mess very quickly.  Remove from the heat.  Very carefully pour the cream and vanilla into the caramel, standing as far back as possible.  It will bubble up quite a bit and the caramel will solidify.

Put back onto the burner and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth.  If you still have some crystals after most of the sauce is smooth, pour through a sieve and into a cooling pan to remove them.  Allow to cool to room temperature before applying to the Pavlova.

***Makes 6, 3 to 4″ individual Pavlova. I recommend making 12, 1 1/2 to 2″ cookies from them instead.

2 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 C. sugar
Homemade Caramel Sauce (recipe above) or store bought sauce

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Refrigerate the bowl that you are going to use for the egg mixture, for at least 5 minutes.  Remove bowl from refrigerator and beat the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Very slowly and gradually, drizzle in 1/4 C. of sugar into the egg mixture.  Repeat for remaining sugar, 1/4 C. at a time, beating between each addition. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks form (be patient).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon 3″ wide mounds of the mixture on the sheet.  They will expand a little, so give them room. Drizzle a little caramel sauce on top of each mound, then gently swirl with a blunt-edged knife.  Leave a white edge around the cookie for that nice meringue crunch.  Bake the Pavlova for 22-25 minutes.  Turn off the oven and allow Pavlovas to sit in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool.  Drizzle with additional caramel or top with very slightly sweetened homemade whipped cream and serve.

Tips and Stuff
Really be very careful with the hot caramel sauce.  Make sure the saucepan is deep enough for when it bubbles up.
I use a nonstick saucepan and it works perfectly.  The caramel will be about done at 350 degrees on a candy thermometer if you have one.
Be patient waiting for the stiff peaks to form on the egg mixture.  Mine took 15-20 minutes on high.
You can use store-bought caramel sauce (coward), but the recipe above is soooo much better.
Next time I’ll make the meringues smaller and probably use 1/4 cup less sugar.  With the caramel, they’re very sweet!
Store in a very air-tight container or serve immediately.  The caramel makes the cookie a little more moist after stored overnight.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

I previously posted a wonderful Fudgy Peanut Butter Pie that is like a thick peanut-buttery mousse pie with chocolate drizzles (mmmm).  I love that pie, but I do believe this Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie is my favorite between the two.  Depends on what you’re in the mood for!

This peanut butter pie has Butterfinger-like crumbles on the bottom of the chocolate pudding pie and also sprinkled on top.  It’s hard to tell from this photo, but after the top sets up it turns a buttery caramel color and tastes just like the candy bar.  I’m generous with the crumble because I really like it, especially on the bottom part.
Chocolate Peanut Butter PieL
It was really tough to get a good picture of the pie – mainly because we kept taking fork-fulls during the photo session.  The pie kept getting smaller and smaller and finally I just snapped the shot below real quick before it disappeared. We love that smooth chocolate middle along with those sweet peanut-buttery crumbles!  The combination is perfect.
chocolate peanut butter pie2
This is fairly easy to throw together.  Just be sure you give it enough time to set up in the refrigerator so it won’t be even more messy than this pic! Messy, but oh so good….

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
****One of my favorite peanut butter pies. I could eat that crumble alone for a snack!  Makes 6-8 servings.

1 deep-dish frozen pie shell (or make your own)
3/4 C. powdered sugar
6 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 small box of instant chocolate pudding pie mix
1 3/4 C. Milk
1 tub (8 oz.) extra-creamy Cool Whip

Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork and bake it for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown as indicated on the pie package. Cool for 10-15 minutes.

Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and add the peanut butter – stir with a fork until crumbly. In another small bowl, mix the pudding pie mix with the milk.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle one-half of the peanut butter mixture evenly over the baked pie shell.  Pour the pudding on top and then spread with the Cool Whip.  Sprinkle the top with the rest of the peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours until fairly set.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Tips and Stuff
Next time I’ll probably put a tablespoon or so less milk just so it will be firmer.
Be generous with the bottom crumbles. The more the better after the pie sets up!

Brisket and Bacon Hash

We made a brisket a week or so ago and even with freezing half of it, we had to be very imaginative in creating dishes to use it up.  To cook it, we get the untrimmed brisket, turn the oven to about 250 degrees, plop it in a roasting pan and let it cook overnight – 8-10 hours, until a big fork slides in and out easily.  No salt, no seasoning – nothing – and it comes out perfect every time!

This time I was determined to do something a little different with the leftover brisket and remembered my Mom occasionally making a hash with diced potatoes and leftover roast beef.  She never showed me how to make it (I was just a kid interested in Barbie dolls and, later, boys), so I set out to figure it out.
Brisket and Hash2
I also had some leftover bacon, so what better to cook the potatoes in than a little bacon fat?  No worry, I drained most of it out.

I like the potatoes and brisket chopped pretty small.  They not only cook better, but have a better texture when finished.  Added a little beef broth to keep the mixture moist, threw in that chopped up bacon and we ended up with a filling, delicious hash!  Comfort food at it’s best.
Brisket and Bacon Hash
Bret put a little ketchup on his and it was actually not bad that way.  I didn’t want to cover up the bacon flavor, though, so just put a little salt and pepper and enjoyed.  If you are looking for a quick and flavorful dinner, try this.  I think you’ll like it!

Brisket and Bacon Hash
**** Fairly easy to throw together and creates a filling and delicious dinner.  Makes about 4 servings.

3 slices bacon
2 medium potatoes, chopped
2-3 tbsp. chopped onion
1 1/2 cup chopped leftover brisket or roast
salt, pepper, garlic salt
3/4 C. beef broth

In a large skillet, fry the bacon until fairly crisp.  Set aside to drain.  Pour out all but about 2 tbsp. of the bacon grease and turn skillet on medium-high.  Toss in the potatoes and cook until lightly browned and fairly soft – this will take a few minutes.  Add the onion and stir until transparent.  Add the chopped brisket, and salt, pepper, and garlic salt (or powder) to taste.  Pour in the beef broth and let simmer until the broth is pretty much cooked off.  Chop up the bacon and stir into the potato/brisket mixture.  Serve warm.

Tips and Stuff
I didn’t use the onion because Mr. Bret doesn’t care for it, but I recommend using it to complete the recipe.
Adjust the seasoning to your taste.  If your bacon is salty, ease up on the salt and use garlic powder instead of garlic salt.
I served it with a side of cantaloupe and the combination of sweet and salty was perfect.
You could leave the meat out and it would make a great side dish.

Homemade Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

Lately Blue Bell has been on sale and we’ve been stocking up because there’s nothing better for dessert than ice cream during the summer days in Texas.  I’ve dabbled in making ice creams (like the wonderful Peach Ice Cream and Peach and Honey Sorbet), but this Milk Chocolate Ice Cream has to be the best of the lot and will be booting Blue Bell out of the freezer!
Homemade Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
I watched Alton Brown’s ice cream episode (Churn Baby Churn II – he’s a hoot) and he had such good tips that I had to see if they were for real.  I’d been searching for that creamy, creamy ice cream – almost gelato in texture.  He said to make sure and cool the ice cream mixture completely and then refrigerate it for 6 to 8 hours before even making the ice cream. I had the time and decided to try it and to make it chocolate.
Homemade Milk Chocolate Ice Cream2
I revised his recipe somewhat mainly because I didn’t want to use 9 (!) egg yolks.  I also substituted part of the half-and-half with 2% milk because I only had 2 cups of half-and-half.  Nothing like changing a recipe and then expecting it to come out right, huh?

I patiently waited overnight for the custard mixture to cool (the cooler the mixture, the smaller the ice crystals and the smoother the ice cream).  Then I churned the ice cream for about 25 minutes in my trusty electric ice cream maker, after which the ice cream went into the freezer for about 4 hours.  It was supposed to be more than 4 hours, but by that time I couldn’t wait.  The result, even with the changes, was phenomenal.  I’ve never had such creamy homemade ice cream in my life!  (Sorry Mom.)  It was smooth and chocolaty and I could have eaten the whole batch if I hadn’t needed photos.

Thanks to Alton Brown’s tips, I’ve learned the art of ice cream making.  I’ll be trying a vanilla ice cream next and then want to add bananas to the chocolate ice cream to make a Chocolate-Covered Banana ice cream.  I’ll miss Blue Bell, but not as much if we have this wonderful Milk Chocolate Ice Cream in the freezer!

Homemade Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
*****Perfect Ice Cream.  Just try to stop eating it.

1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 C. Half-and-Half
1 C. milk (I used 2%)
1 C. heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1 C. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the cocoa powder and 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine.  Add the remaining half-and-half, the milk, and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment (or by hand) whisk the egg yolks for about a minute.  Add the salt and then gradually add the sugar.  Whisk until combined.  Temper the hot cream into the eggs by slowly drizzling 1/2 cup at a time (with mixer on low) until most of the cream mixture has been added.  Pour in the remaining cream and then return the mixture to the saucepan.  Turn heat to low.

Continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 175 degrees.  Pour the mixture into a container and leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Cover the mixture tightly and put in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours, or even better overnight.  After refrigeration, pour into an ice cream maker and process for 25-30 minutes until thick.  Pour into a container, tightly lidded, and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

Tips and Stuff
You can use more or less cocoa powder according to your tastes.
When tempering the hot cream mixture into the eggs, pour the half cups down the inside of the mixing bowl – it’ll cool a little on the way down to the eggs.
Be sure and stir frequently when the mixture is back on the burner or it will stick to the bottom of the pan and make clumps.  If it does, you can strain the mixture before cooling it down.
For best results, after scooping ice cream in a bowl let it sit for 1-2 minutes to soften a bit.
You will love this ice cream!

Peach Cobbler Cookies

We’re coming to the bottom of our summer peach box and I wanted to make something different with the remaining peaches.  Bret’s still looking for the Double-Crusted Peach Pie that we make every year, but that’ll have to wait for now.

I tried making peach muffins, but they didn’t come out very well, so I started developing a soft peach cookie.  These almost have a muffin texture, but they’re definitely a cookie.  Besides dealing with the oven full blast while it’s 102 degrees outside, I was very pleased with the end result. They’re slightly spicy from the cinnamon and nutmeg and then you get a chunk of fresh peach and the crunch of a pecan.  It really does taste like peach cobbler to me!
Peach Cobbler Cookies2
I was worried the peaches might be too juicy and make the dough loose, but after draining them a little it came out perfectly.  A little visit to the refrigerator to firm up the batter and it worked like a champ.  Here’s that wonderful pre-baked mixture – you can see the fresh peaches and sprinkles of cinnamon.  And yes, I tasted the batter and didn’t die of salmonella.
Peach Cobbler Cookies
I really loved these cookies.  I made half with pecans and half without because Bret doesn’t prefer them, but I think they’re better with the pecans.  It’s up to you, though; either way, they’re really good!

Peach Cobbler Cookies
****I loved these – they’re delicious! Makes about 3 dozen.

1 C. butter
3/4 C. sugar (plus 1/2 tsp. for peach mixture)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon (plus 1/4 tsp. for peach mixture)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. chopped peaches (3-4 peaches)
1/2 C. chopped pecans (optional, but recommended)

Put the chopped peaches, 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl and stir until combined.  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

In another bowl, stir flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt until combined.  Add the flour mixture into the butter/egg mixture, a little at a time.  After blended, stir in the peaches  and pecans.

Chill dough for about 1 hour and then stir to combine again. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drop dough by scant tablespoons onto parchment covered cookie sheet.  Flatten the cookies slightly with your fingertips, then bake for 14-15 minutes, turning the pans once half way through baking.

Transfer to a rack to cool, then enjoy!

Tips and Stuff
If your peaches are really juicy, drain them a little before adding to the batter.
Dough will be slightly sticky, but will firm up some after chilled.

Fruit and Yogurt Pops

Since Bret doesn’t eat strawberries (or berries in general – poor fella’), I always seem to have strawberries that need to be frozen or will go bad.  I have bags of those frozen strawberries (and some bananas and peaches) and usually blend them up for a breakfast smoothie.  I decided this time to make something different – Fruit and Yogurt Pops!
Fruit and Yogurt Pops
You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find popsicle molds that weren’t tricky to put together.  I just wanted one you stuff the mixture into and freeze.  They come in metal and plastic, with sticks and without sticks, and some are just plain complicated.  Finally I found these online and really liked them because it’s a small set with just four pops – just the right size for our freezer.

I essentially made a smoothie and spooned it into the molds, then popped them in the freezer overnight for maximum freeze.  They came out perfectly.  I can’t believe I’ve been paying five to six bucks for fruit pops from the grocery store!
Fruit and Yogurt Pops2
These pops were creamy, fruity and refreshing.  (The smoothie mixture before they were frozen was also great…) I’ll be making these often this summer with our leftover frozen fruits.  You can mix and match the fruits and yogurt flavors and still come out with delicious pops!

Fruit and Yogurt Pops
****Refreshing, yummy and fairly healthy summer treats! This made 4 pops, but you could double if needed.

1 C. frozen strawberries
1/2 banana
1 container blueberry Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. evaporated milk or milk
1-2 tbsp. heavy or whipping cream

Dump all of the ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the milk/cream to a spoonable consistency and spoon into the molds. Freeze for at least 4 hours – but better overnight.

Tips and Tricks
Use whatever fruit or flavored yogurt you have or like.  Even vanilla Greek yogurt would work.
The banana I used wasn’t frozen.
If you don’t have cream, just use all evaporated milk or regular milk.  Cream does make it smoother, though.
Take a taste before you put them in the molds – add a little Truvia or sugar if the fruit and yogurt don’t make them sweet enough.