Sweet Corn and Shrimp Chowder

Sometimes I wish I was from Boston so I could get away with saying Chowda. But, alas, I’m Cali, born and raised. Saying Chowder, thankfully, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it just as much! And we’re finally (FINALLY) getting into Fall. Which to me means hearty stews and soups, corn bread. Anything that makes you feel warm and cozy. Ok, basically, comfort food. Fall = Comfort Food. This one definitely fits that category.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil (keep more on hand for drizzling)
1 16 oz pkg frozen sweet corn
3 small to medium Russet potatoes
4-6 slices of bacon, chopped (depends on your love of bacon, I used 8. Tells you a little something about me)
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs butter (I use unsalted)
1 whole onion, diced (to save time, I buy the already diced onion in the produce section. Use about 1 cup)
1 tsp smoked paprika (add more for your desired flavor)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground curry
3 cloves garlic, minced (to save time, I use the preminced garlic. 1 tsp = about 1 clove garlic)
1 cup white wine (always be sure to use a wine you personally enjoy as that is the flavor your dish will have. You can always sub chicken broth)
2 cups chicken stock (I used low sodium)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I didn’t have heavy cream, so I subbed 1/2 cup whole milk. To get the thickness, though, I added 1/2 cup of sour cream. It worked perfectly!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro (ick) or parsley for garnish, if desired

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper (makes for easier clean-up) add the corn and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, turn corn with wooden spoon, and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The corn should be getting golden brown and starting to char a little. Remove and set aside until ready to add to the soup.

While corn roasts, peel and dice potatoes. Add to a medium pot of lightly salted water, bringing to a boil and then let simmer until fork tender. Drain in colander.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven to medium. Add diced bacon and cook, rendering the fat. Once bacon is crisp, remove with slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. With the exception of about 2 tablespoons of fat, remove the rest. Add shrimp, stir to cook slightly. You want them a bit under cooked because you will be adding them to the hot chowder were they will continue to cook. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and add to the plate with bacon.

Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. When the butter begins to bubble, add the onions and slightly increase heat to medium-high. Cook onions until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add roasted corn. Stir in garlic, smoke paprika, and curry. When onions and corn are fully coated, add white wine to deglaze dutch oven. Scrape up any browned bits and simmer until liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed.

Slowly add chicken stock while stirring. Make sure the stock is completely incorporated with other ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add cream last. Adjust seasoning.

Finally, add shrimp, bacon, and cilantro or parsley. Serve with a warm crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Albariño
Chardonnay
Fume Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
Viognier

Serves: 4-6

Total time: 1 hour – 1:10 minutes

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French Toast Muffins

When I first looked at this recipe, I was hesitant.  I’m not a pup anymore.  Remember when you could eat a huge cinnamon roll donut as a kid and be just fine until lunch?  Ya, me, too.  Try that now and I feel heavy and sick to my stomach.  Don’t even get me started on the feeling like a nap is imminent.  These are the reasons I had to pause.  But, I was making this ahead for Tahoe, so coupled with some eggs, if just might work.  And I dare say, it did!

Ingredients:

For muffins:

1 loaf French bread cut into 1/2″ cubes (challah is a great option here)
2 cups milk
6 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (such as Spice Island)

For streusel topping:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Preparation:

Spray a 12-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Cut bread into cubes and completely fill each well with bread.  In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Carefully pour mixture evenly over each muffin well, compressing the bread cubes to allow more liquid to be absorbed. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 – 12 hours.  (I refrigerated 2-3 hours and they were still amazing!)

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare streusel topping.  In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and butter.  Use two forks or two knives to crumble mixture into coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle mixture evenly on muffins.

Bake muffins 20 – 25 minutes, or until tops are golden.  Let muffins cool about 5 minutes and serve warm.  These are great made ahead and then popped in the toaster oven.

Serves: 12 muffins
Total time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Serves-4.com

*Derived from The Pioneer Woman

Pesto Crisps

The family and I were heading over to our family friends’ house for the annual Holiday Eve party.  Exciting things were going to happen, and I’m not talking about the flooded downstairs bathroom!  We always enjoy their gatherings and are so fortunate to be considered part of their family.  But first, what was I going to bring for everyone to nosh on??  It had to be something quick and easy (see above about the flooded downstairs bathroom, I wasn’t kidding) because so much of my time had been used.  Hmmm, thinking, thinking . . .  And now, looking, looking through my Food Network Magazine.  Food goodness always comes from my Food Network Magazine.  Bingo!  These did not disappoint and were gobbled up ridiculously fast!

Ingredients:

1 pkg wonton or egg roll wrappers (I used egg roll and was able to get 2 cutouts per wrapper)
1 small container prepared pesto
Salt for seasoning

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 °.  Using holiday cookie cutters (for any holiday, or just round ones), punch out shapes from the wrappers.  Place on parchment lined backing sheet.  Brush lightly with prepared pesto and season with salt.  Bake until golden around the edges, about 8 minutes.  They can be enjoyed by themselves or with any variety of dips.

Total time: 20 minutes

Pesto Crisps

Pesto Crisps

*From Food Network Magazine

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Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla Bundt Cake

Now, this has quickly become my “go to” dessert.  And I’ve made it in a few forms, bundt, loaf pan, and mini bundt.  The mini bundt had disastrous results, by the way.  Oh, it tasted fine.  Quite good, actually.  Just like it should.  But not so pretty things happen when mini bundt pans are overfilled.  And I have a tendency to overfill things: cupcake pans, cake pans, baking pans in general, frying pans, wine glasses (though I don’t truly believe that last one counts because I simply don’t believe it’s possible.  Unless it is literally overflowing, and even then, if you can get to it quick enough, I think not).  So it really should not have surprised me when I peered into the oven and saw my mini bundts about to plop onto the electric coil at the bottom of the oven, especially since as I was filling them I thought to myself, “this is definitely too much.”  But there I was, wondering how I was going to get them out of the oven without making a complete mess and then later, how I was going to extract them from the mini bundt pan.  Which I was never able to do.  The whole family is now walking by and scooping out a bite on their way by.  You know what, though?  The loaf pan worked perfect!

Ingredients:

1 (15.25 oz) white cake mix
1 (5.1 oz) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 tablet Mexican chocolate, ground (I used Ibarra Authentic Mexican Chocolate)
1 ½ cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease 10″ bundt pan or several loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat cake and pudding mixes, water, oil and eggs.  Pour half the mixture into the bundt pan.

The Mexican chocolate disk is very hard, I double wrapped it in zip lock bags and beat it with a meat mallet.  Add Mexican chocolate to remaining batter.  Stir to combine and pour over white batter.

Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for 20 minutes and then invert over a cooling rack to cool completely.  This final step is very important to wait as close to the 20 minutes as possible.  In my excitement, I attempted to invert it too early and a big portion of the inside cracked.

Total time: 60 minutes

Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla Loaf

Mexican Chocolate and Vanilla Loaf

*Derived from Spoonful

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Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

It seems this Thanksgiving I was all about the puff pastry for the appetizers.  Isn’t it weird how we get stuck on a certain ingredient or type of cooking?  This Thanksgiving my focus seemed to be on puff pastry and bacon.  More to come regarding the bacon 🙂

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour
1 pkg (5.2 oz) garlic & herb spreadable cheese, softened (I used the little wedges by The Laughing Cow
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
18 fresh jumbo shrimp (peeled & deveined)
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.

Stir cheese, parsley, and bacon in a medium bowl and set aside.

Unfold puff pastry sheet on lightly floured work surface.  Cut puff pastry sheet crosswise into 18, ½” wide strips.  Spoon at 2 teaspoons cheese mixture onto each strip. Wind 1 pastry shrimp around 1 shrimp, slightly overlapping the pastry.  Repeat with remaining pastry strips and shrimp.

Bake 15 minutes or until pastries are golden brown.

Serves 18 (pieces)
Total time: 50 minutes

Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

Puff Pastry-Wrapped Shrimp

*Derived from Pepperidge Farm

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Tomato Pesto Tart

I don’t know about everyone else, but I seem to be getting into the Holiday spirit in fits and stops.  One minute I’m super excited and totally on top of things, and the next I’m yawning into my glass of wine and wishing someone could just wake me up when it’s all over.  For this I blame all of the stores that completely by-passed my favorite holiday of the year (#Thanksgiving) and started decorating for Christmas on November 1st.  It has left me feeling not quite bah humbug about the whole thing, but certainly ho-hum.  So, to show my support for Thanksgiving, I’m going to be posting more of my recipes from that holiday.  And the fact that they haven’t been posted before has absolutely nothing to do with laziness . . .

Ingredients:

All-purpose flour
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed
¼ cup pesto sauce (I used store-bought from the produce section)
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs thinly sliced basil leaves

Preparation:

Heat oven to 400°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle flour on work surface.  Unfold pastry sheet on floured work surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 12″ square.  Place the pastry sheet onto the baking sheet and prick thoroughly with a fork.

Spread pesto sauce on pastry to within ½” of pastry edge.  Arrange tomato slices on pesto and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

Serves 6 as appetizers
Prep: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes

Tomato Pesto Tart

*Courtesy Pepperidge Farm

Bacon and Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  It’s all about the food, family, and friends!  You don’t have to worry about anyone’s favorite color, what size of jeans they wear, or if you have picked the right handbag.  Nope, just come hang out and eat and drink!  What is NOT to love about Thanksgiving.  I know a lot of people are not thrilled with the amount of cooking.  But if you love cooking, you ARE thrilled with the amount of cooking.  I always have to force myself to not plan the menu before November 1st, and that is such a struggle.  This year, however, I didn’t make it.  I was in a slump while planning my daughter’s 5th birthday, which is on Halloween.  We did a fairy theme.  And the food I wanted to make seemed to grown-up to me.  I didn’t want something total kid, either.  I was really stuck.  So, to get me unstuck, I planned the entire Thanksgiving menu over a glass (or two, ok maybe three) of wine.  This was probably mid-October.  One problem with that, by the time Thanksgiving actually rolled around, I felt so out of touch with it.  It was an odd feeling for me, like I had lost my groove.  I have promised myself that next year, I’ll be sure to sit on my hands the month of October!

Ingredients:

1 pkg (17.3 oz) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1 cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup prepared ranch salad dressing (I used Bolthouse Farms, it’s made with Greek yogurt, making it a little healthier)
2 Tbs chopped fresh chives

Preparation:

Heat oven to 470°.

Unfold 1 pastry sheet on lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 12/2″ square.  Cut into 36 (2″) squares.  Prick pastry with a fork.  Repeat with the remaining pastry sheet, making a total of 72 squares.  Place the squares on a baking sheet

Bake for 8 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Using the back of a small spoon, press down the centers of the hot pastries to make an indentation.

Spoon about 1/2 tsp each of cheese and bacon onto each indentation.  Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.  Remove the pastries from baking sheet and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Top with dressing and chives.

Serves 72 pieces
Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time: 30  minutes

Bacon & Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

Bacon & Cheddar Puff Pastry Crisps

*From Pepperidge Farm