Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Slutties

I've made these shortbread-chocolate-dulce de leche dessert square thingies for years now, and we never gave them a proper name.  We just started calling them slutty brownies... or slutty shortbread... because they are so unapologetically decadent and rich - almost to the point of vulgarity.   Then my husband just started calling them slutties.  It was this joke that ended up sticking.

I hadn't made them in awhile and am entertaining this week and in need of a dessert.  The other day I was at the pool with my kids and the concept of Sesame Caramel popped in my head.  Out of nowhere, it sort of spoke to me.  Then I was searching my pantry for dessert inspiration yesterday and came across some cans of sweetened condensed milk that needed to be used up, and was immediately reminded of my dirty little slutties.  But this time, I was gonna play around with those babies and make a whole new slutty.

Class her up a bit.

And here's what I came up with:

The shortbread became less sweet and turned into a Brown Sugar Rosemary Shortbread... I love the concept of adding a savory herb to a sweet dessert.  I love sweet and savory.  And rosemary goes so well with sweet flavors.

The dulce de leche layer got heavily salted and turned into Sesame Dulce de Leche... which I'm shortening here and cheating by calling them Salted Sesame Caramel because I've got enough words in these things as it is.  The toasted sesame seeds are freakin' incredible with the salted 'caramel'.  Like... I couldn't stop licking the spoon.

And the chocolate layer became mostly bittersweet chocolate cut with semi-sweet morsels, which really off-set the richness and sweetness of the caramel.

These are one of the most incredible desserts I've ever made, and have ever eaten.  Oh, they're rich.  So wrap your brain around that concept first, but so well balanced because of the savory components.

You better save this link for Christmas time.  Do that mess right now.

And guys.  I swear to you- This dessert right here will find you a lover.

Get on it.

...


d a r k   c h o c o l a t e  .  s a l t e d   s e s a m e   c a r a m e l  .  
b r o w n   s u g a r   r o s e m a r y   s h o r t b r e a d 
makes 24 squares


Get started on your dulce de leche first.  This could not be easier to make.  It just takes some stirring attention, but requires one ingredient- Canned Sweetened Condensed Milk.  You will need 2 (14 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk and it does not matter the brand.

Pour your cans into a medium sized pot and add in 1 tsp kosher salt.  Turn the burner on medium heat and wait until you start to hear some sizzle and see some bubbles around the edges.

Keep stirring off and on, while the mixture cooks (not boils) uncovered, for about 30 minutes.  You will most likely find yourself with a couple dark spots from where it stuck to the pan, that's fine.  It doesn't matter one bit.




After about 30 minutes (maybe longer, depending on your stove), you will have a much thicker and darker caramel colored mixture.




Stir in 3 TB of sesame seeds that you toasted to a golden brown in a dry skillet while your caramel cooked... this takes only a few moments to do.

Set aside.




While your caramel is cooking, you can begin on making the shortbread.

In a food processor, add the following:

2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
~1 TB + 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves stripped from the stem (this is one large branch)
2 sticks unsalted COLD butter, cut into chunks

Pulse this until it all comes together as a dough, and the rosemary is in tiny speck form.

Press into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish (I prefer glass) and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25- 30 minutes, or until it's a light golden brown around the edges.




Pour your caramel mixture carefully over the shortbread.  This is easier if you allow the shortbread to cool (and set) but I rarely do.  Just be sure you don't scrape up the shortbread with your spatula as you spread.




While your shortbread is baking/caramel is cooking, melt your chocolate...

In a double boiler (glass bowl situated over a pot with a small amount of water in the pot so the bottom of the bowl doesn't actually touch the water- heat on medium-high to boil water) add...

1 lb. of dark chocolate (the higher quality, the better)




And I prefer a mixture of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate...about 3:1 - bitter:semi and used a large bar of Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate I bought at the grocery store a few months ago mixed with some Nestle Semi Sweet Morsels that is my go-to chocolate item and always have in my pantry.




I started the chocolate bar first because the pieces were bigger, then added in the morsels once it was 90% melted.




Pour this melted chocolate over your caramel layer (again, cooling the caramel layer may help, but I rarely do... just be careful when you're spreading).




Once the chocolate is spread evenly, sprinkle with raw sesame seeds.




Allow to cool at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to set and cool completely overnight/all day.  It needs to harden completely.

Cut into 24 squares... carefully.  The chocolate will crack, so be ready for that, and the layers are hard to cut through, but do as best as you can.




Then eat.

And think of me.




She's a dirty, dirty, girl...

XOXO

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pig Candy

Bacon.  It's a pretty powerful thing, isn't it?  It's salty, sometimes crispy, sometimes chewy, and always delicious.  I'm a purist when it comes to my bacon though.  I don't want it in anything.  Just on the side with my eggs, grits and biscuit.  Don't wrap it around my steak, don't put it on my burger, and please, for the love of pig, do NOT put it in my beer.  I can appreciate a good cobb salad sometimes, and these BACON WRAPPED-ASIAGO STUFFED DATES will make you spank your mama, but that's about the end of my bacon mixin'.

I find that the flavor of bacon simply overpowers everything it's mixed with, so I'm not tasting that steak...I'm tasting bacon steak.  I'm not tasting that burger...I'm tasting bacon burger.  Many people like that.  I don't. I want my steak to taste like steak, my burger to taste like burger and my bacon to taste like bacon.

Buuuuuut.  This right here is a different story.  This right here takes bacon- that salty, delicious, sexy bacon, and makes it sing a new tune.  This right here is Candied Bacon.  It is unbelievable.  It's great for parties (just stack the cooled slices in a short vase), or for a twist on the traditional cobb salad and BLT, and it's great as part of a comfort food dinner party like I served it here.


It takes that incredible concept of sweet and savory and just sets it over the edge.  The super saltiness of that bacon, with the syrupy sweetness of the maple syrup and brown sugar are unbelievable together, and with the added dijon mustard, giving it a slight tang, you've got a completely palate satisfying dish.  It's sheer perfection.

And it's as easy to make as bacon is to cook.


M A P L E  .  D I J O N  .  B R O W N   S U G A R   C A N D I E D   B A C O N 




Take 1 lb. of your favorite brand of thick cut or slab bacon (it is my duty to tell you to buy local and artisan bacon, but you can buy whichever you can get your hands on for whatever price you're willing to spend) and lay the slices out on a (cooling) rack situated over a foil-lined baking sheet (you will most likely need two baking sheets).

In a small bowl combine equal parts dijon mustard, light brown sugar and (real) maple syrup.  For 1 lb. of bacon, this is 1 TB of each. (*optional ingredient- a pinch of cayenne pepper... I didn't do it this time because one of my guests was a baby, but it's killer!)

Mix well.



Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture evenly over all of your bacon slices.




You can do this ahead of time, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake if needed.




Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and once it's up to temp, cook your bacon for 15-20 minutes, or until desired doneness.  I, for one, do not like extra crispy bacon, but you cook yours however you like it.  If you're using two baking sheets, it's a good idea to switch them and rotate them halfway through the cooking time and maybe add a few more minutes onto the time to compensate for the oven losing heat as you opened it.

Allow the bacon to cool and harden before serving.

Eat.

Repeat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Plum Pie. 2 Ways

So... I had these plums, you see...

That's how it all began.  I bought a ton of local plums early on in the week because I wanted to bake a pie.  Or a cobbler.  Probably a pie.  But then Sunday came and I realized not only had I not made my pie, but also hadn't planned our dinner for that night.  Pizza.  Pizza sounded good to the hubs and I.  We hadn't had family pizza night in awhile.... And, per usual, we wanted something different and fun and... then came the plums.

There are a lot of flatbreads and pizzas with similar ingredients that I'm using here.... you see them on a lot of menus these days.  Prosciutto, some sort of sweet fruit, and arugula.  It isn't very unique anymore.  But what I don't like about most of those pizzas is that they're all just so sweet.  The fruit part of it is generally just a super sweet jam.  Nothing interesting, no dimension, just...sweet.  And that can be a little much for me.  So what I wanted was to take the plums and make a sauce out of them, without adding sugar, but all the while still making sure they tasted like plums.

So I made a thick sauce out of sautéed plums and onions flavored with rosemary and balsamic vinegar, spread that over my homemade whole wheat pizza dough, sprinkled it with buttery manchego cheese, baked it, then topped it with crispy prosciutto and arugula leaves.

It was stellar.  You tasted the plums- they held onto their integrity for sure, but it was by no means a pizza topped with sweet jam and cheese.  It was far more interesting than that.

And the pie?

Ugh.  The pie was too good.  I've made a Plum-Peach Pie before that was amazing... It has dried ginger that really adds a lovely and subtle flavor to the pie, but this time I wanted to play around with an all plum pie adding candied ginger.  And I'm so glad I did.  Plums and ginger really are a delicious match!

What I love about the summertime is the amount of beautifully fresh and delicious produce we can get- So many fruits and vegetables just waiting to be played with.  And each year I try to play around with all of it to come up with fun and unique recipes (like this one!).  This meal was so incredible because we got to taste the same exact fruit in two totally different ways.

It's so important to not look at something and think you know it... Judge it as we see it on the surface, or because of what we've seen it do in the past... That's not fair, now is it?  To anything.  Or anyone.  Everything and everyone deserves the chance to be anything it can and wants to be. That plum?  Sure, he's sweet.  Yes, he will be stellar in a pie or a cake or in a salad, but maybe that plum has more potential.

And maybe so do you.

So don't you ever stop playing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

now onto the yummyness....




S A U T E E D   P L U M  &  M A N C H E G O   P I Z Z A 
W/  A R U G U L A  &  C R I S P Y   P R O S C I U T T O


You can buy your dough, or make it.  I prefer a whole wheat dough if possible, but that's just me.  And I won't be pompous to say that mine is the best (it is) but if you wanted to make your own and try my recipe, check it out HERE.  It may or may not be awesome.

(You can make this plum sauce ahead of time and store it covered in the fridge for a couple days.)

-Plum Pizza Sauce-
In a saucepan, on medium-high heat with a little light olive or canola oil, add...
1 medium (yellow) onion, thinly sliced
4 plums, sliced (I used dragon plums because I like their tangy sweetness)
1 fresh, whole rosemary sprig
several fat pinches kosher salt
lots of fresh cracked black pepper




The salt will begin to draw out the juice from the fruit fairly quickly, and that's what you want.

Add in 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and let it all begin to bubble and reduce...




And after about 30 minutes, (stirring occasionally) you will have what you see below..

It should be thick and saucy.  (Now, listen... Taste it.  Always taste your food as you work.  If you taste it and think you need some sugar, then season it how you like.  I won't mind!  I also won't know...  But it's important to remember that when you're cooking, you're cooking for you.  And what you like may be quite different than what I like.  I encourage you to try it this way because you never know what you'll like until you do, but make it however you like it.  I just happen to like the natural sweetness and tartness that the reduced plums and balsamic give.)

Allow to cool a bit.  Remove rosemary sprig.  Set aside.




This part can also be done a bit ahead of time...

Take 4 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto and slice it across into wide strips.  Add to a hot pan with a little canola/light olive oil and let it crisp up.  It won't take long.  Set aside.




Then alls you gotta do now is assemble your pizza... spread out your dough onto a well greased baking sheet, spread evenly with your cooled plum/onion 'sauce', top with 2 1/2 cups shredded machego cheese (this is a 1/2 lb. wedge before trimming the wax), and bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes, or until desired doneness.

Top with your crispy prosciutto and raw arugula leaves.

. . .

AND NOW... PIE


D R A G O N   P L U M  P I E  
W/  C A N D I E D   G I N G E R 


I won't be pompous to say that my pastry dough is the best (it is), so feel free to buy yours (only the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust is acceptable in the mainstream marketplace) or you can make mine.  (Make mine.)  I have an all butter pie crust recipe, a quick and easy pie crust recipe, and even a gluten free pie crust recipe.  Take your pick.

Roll out your dough and press into a pie plate and wait for your filling...

In a large bowl, add...
5 cups of sliced, ripe (dragon) plums (this is roughly 3 pounds whole fruit)
1/4 cup candied ginger, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 splashes almond extract
1 splash vanilla extract
1/2 cup light brown sugar (This is very light, sugar-wise, which is how I prefer it.  I enjoy that tart- sweetness but if you're a big Sugar Plum and need it sweeter, you do what you need to do.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
good pinch kosher salt

Stir well and fully dissolve the sugar and cornstarch.  Pour into your raw pie shell.  Spread evenly.

Dot with 3 TB unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Top with your other rolled out pastry and seal the edges.  Crimp if desired.




Slice into the top a couple of times to vent.




Brush with a little cream (I always have half&half for my coffee so I use that) and sprinkle liberally with sugar (I prefer raw sugar because of the larger crystals).

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 30 more (do not open the oven when you reduce the heat).  Trust me on the foil lined part...




Then allow to cool until ready to serve.  Serve warm or room temperature.

I've said it before, I'll say it again.  Pie is a beautiful thing.




The crust, the texture, the gooey sweet fruit...




It's one of my all-time favorite things to eat and to make.

After we finished our pizza, we had our pie with ice cream (vanilla. duh.) and champagne.

Cause we fancy on Sundays.




And it was superb.




Thanks for readin', yall.  Much love to ya.  XOXO

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bulls Eye

I don't think it should come as a shock when I say I love Target.  Doesn't everybody love Target?  And I get a lot of my clothes from there, as do my kids.  I've been a Target clothes shopper for as long as I can remember, actually. And a large amount of it comes from the clearance rack.  I very rarely shop through the main area and instead head straight to the clearance section.  It's just a habit, I guess.  But I've had some seriously good luck by doing that.  And my favorite piece of this outfit was found there.

This sleeveless tuxedo jacket was plucked from the clearance rack for $8.  And it's one of my favorite closet pieces.  In the fall I wear it with a white tank and black leather leggings but I wanted to find a way to wear it in the warmer months, so this is what I did...




The black and white shorts are also from Target.  They're silky and flowy and elastic waisted and super comfy.  I also paid full price for them (shocking, I know)- $20.  I got them when I was shopping with my mom, which explains why I was in the full price section in the first place.  But I'm so happy I got them!  I've worn them a couple of times and have found they're really fun and easy to pair things with.





When it came to what top to pair with the vest and the shorts, I immediately thought to add a pop of color.  I thought bright yellow would be nice... but when I tried it all on together, I decided I'd rather go completely black and white from head to toe.  So I instead added this simple cotton black and white striped tank that (again) came from Target- $7.  I liked the idea of mixing patterns with this outfit if I was gonna stay in the black and white zone.  It just made it more interesting to me than a simple white tank.




The shoes are from my girlfriend as a hand-me-down and she has no idea where she got them.  No clue.  We even looked at the faded label and still couldn't figure it out.  So I'm sorry I can't help you out there, but I thought they were a perfect match for this outfit.  They're fun, a little sexy, but simple enough that they don't make too much of a bold statement on their own.

And since I stayed black and white from head to toe... I decided I earned a bright orange clutch.  This one comes from FiFi's Fine Resale and has no label so again, can't tell you where to find another.  It's vinyl, with magnet closures and I've used it a ton.  It folds over to close so it actually has a lot more room than it appears to have.





Accessory-wise I went gold.  I love gold with black and white.  It pops more than silver.  And the black sunglasses are by Dazed n Confused, but I didn't buy 'em.  I found 'em.  And when no one claimed 'em, they became mine.  They're just simple black plastic glasses that I find myself wearing a lot.  And they paired perfectly with the outfit.




I pulled my hair back in a simple, messy pony to keep it casual...




The gold earrings and necklace come from Forever 21.  Each were around $5.  The black ring comes from Charming Charlie... in their mark-down basket at the register- $5.  The gold metal cuff comes from a vacation boutique- $7, and the elastic gold bands come as a hand-me-down from a friend.




I took this outfit from day to evening.  I went to see a documentary, then out for drinks and dinner.  I love finding outfits that can easily transition like that.  I would even wear this to a cocktail party, daytime shopping with girlfriends... it's pretty versatile.

And fun.

This is just a fun outfit.  And maybe this same thing exists in a catalog or in a fashion magazine, and that's awesome if it does.  But I just happen to like the fact that I put this whole thing together with hardly any money at all, and it sat in a red shopping cart along with my cotton balls and paper towels.  I got a ton of compliments on it when I wore it out, and when I told them it all came from Target, the shock on people's faces kinda made my day.  It just goes to show you that, again, you don't need a lot of money or fancy labels to look pulled together.

All you need is a little creativity, humility and the hungry desire to dance to your own tune.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Duck Fat Mashbrowns

Warning.  What I am about to share with you is #1- Awesome and #2- Not at all my idea.

Nope.

I wish it was, but it came from an online friend of mine.  All I can take credit for was cooking what you are about to see below and naming it.  But the idea of turning leftover mashed potatoes into hasbrowns is not at all mine.

God I wish it was.

Think about it, we generally have leftover mashed potatoes and they're always dried out a bit... and they can be reconstituted by adding more milk/fat, etc, or made into croquettes, etc. but this is a perfect (and super easy) way to take a dried potato product and make it sing.  

My friend, Dan at www.somelikeityum.com shared it on his Instagram page a couple days ago and I was immediately drawn to it.

Then, named it.

M A S H B R O W N S
  
(I mean...you have to admit the name is pretty clever, no?)

Then cooked it my way.

In duck fat with onions.

Then ate it.

All of it.

Almost all of it, but a lot of it.

And smiled the whole time.


D U C K   F A T   M A S H B R O W N S 

makes...however much you want! (depends on leftover amount :)


Start with leftover mashed potatoes...


I had about 2 1/2-3 cups worth, so adjust the duck fat to accommodate as needed.


Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add 3 TB of duck fat.  (Note- I always save my rendered fat whenever I cook duck, and keep it in a sealed jar in the fridge.  It keeps forever. But they sell it at Williams Sonoma and similar places as well.  I highly recommend having some and using it, but if you don't have any and still want to make this, just use butter.)

While your fat is getting hot, begin to saute 1/2 yellow onion, diced.  The onions don't have to get cooked all the way through or begin to brown yet, they will cook with the potatoes...

Once the fat is very hot, add in your mashed potatoes and spread them out across the pan.




And don't touch them for minutes.  Several minutes.  You want them to begin to brown.  And the only way to properly brown something is to leave it the hell alone.

Walk away.

Fold laundry.

Do a little dance, make a little love...

Just leave 'em be.

Then, after five or so minutes, come back and peek underneath.  If it looks like this below, begin to flip them around in the pan to brown the other sides.




I found a flipper spatula worked best at this point, as it was starting to stick a bit from the browning.

Keep letting it sit and brown and flip, sit and brown and flip, until you have perfectly browned and amazing as hell MASHBROWNS.




Serve with runny eggs and bacon or sausage...the whole nine.  These deserve a grand slam breakfast.

Please make these.  PLEASE.  They're too easy and delicious not to.  I may even start planning on it whenever we're having mashers!  The whole family loved them too, so it was a total win-win.

Thank you, my sweet friend, for being just so dern smart!!!

(Please go check out his page- www.somelikeityum.com.  His food photography is wicked.)

XOXO

Sunday, July 12, 2015

All About Dem Shoes

Look at these shoes.  LOOK AT THEM!


They're crazy.  Love em or hate em (mom), you have to admit they make a statement... which I love to do.

And I love 'em.

They're by Shoe Dazzle and I found them at FiFi's Fine Resale for $12...  Turquoise and grey with gold studs.

Wut.

Crazy.

I had never seen anything like them before so naturally I had to own them.  But here's the thing about wearing loud shoes- you have to downplay everything else in the outfit.  Because, for one- you want them to shine... they're an accessory.  So the focus needs to be on THEM.  And for two- you can very easily end up looking like a hooker clown if everything on you is loud.

My apologies to all the hooker clowns out there, I mean no offense.

But you still have to make sure the outfit rises to the occasion...frames the shoes well...does a good job as supporting cast.

So I went with some ripped skinny jeans, a sheer ivory top that's a little more interesting in shape and style than a plain white T, gold accessories, neutral glasses and a messy top bun.




The jeans are by Indigo Rein and came as a hand-me-down from a good friend.  They're really comfy and stretchy, they're not too tight around the ankles and I love the rips.  




The top is by Cynthia Rowley and I got it from FiFi's for $12.  It's gauzy, flowy and comfy, but fitted where it needs to be so it looks pulled together.  And I love wearing it on those days when I really just wanna wear a t-shirt but need something a little more than just a t-shirt...

The gold clutch is something I've had for several years and it came from... 

wait for it...

the Dollar Spot at Target.  Yep.  That area where you go and buy junk for your kids?  That one.  And I got one in silver, black, red and ivory lace.  $1




This whole outfit to me is equally casual and nice.  I would feel comfortable wearing it day or night.  It feels polished but screams casual-chic.




As for accessories... The earrings are thin gold maple leaves and I found them at Habitat for Humanity a couple years ago for $5.  They're some of my favorite earrings I've ever owned.

The 'gold' ring is from Forever 21 last year. $5.  The elastic golden wristbands are hand-me-downs from a friend, the wrap-around gold bracelet is from FiFi's- $6 and the wide brass cuff is from Goodwill- $3. The necklace comes from H&M- $12 and the glasses are from a vacation boutique- $7.




It's fun, right?  These shoes are just plain fun.  And because of them, everything else I'm wearing- no matter how simple- is fun by default.

Fashion, like most things in life, is all about balance.  Sometimes the right balance can be hard to find, but once you get there it feels pretty sweet.



XOXO