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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ham & Cheese Bites

Tomorrow is Super Sunday, so I thought it would be a good idea to post this appetizer recipe which has been one of my go-to recipes this football season.

Even though my favorite team was eliminated during the conference championship, I'm still planning on watching the game tomorrow and you can bet I'll be making these Ham & Cheese Bites!

Today's Playlist

  • "Hey Jealousy"...Gin Blossoms
  • "Push"...Matchbox Twenty
  • "Little Room"...The White Stripes
  • "Mrs. Robinson"...Simon & Garfunkel
  • "Kick Drum Heart"...The Avett Brothers
  • "Story Of My Life"...Social Distortion
  • "I Fought The Law"...The Clash
  • "Poprocks & Coke"...Green Day
  • "Island In The Sun"...Weezer
  • "The Kids Aren't Alright"...The Offspring
  • "Soul To Squeeze"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "Runaway Train"...Soul Asylum

Ham & Cheese Bites (Total time from prep to finish: 2 hrs. 15 mins.
                                                        Makes approximately 64)
Printable Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
  • 1 cup milk (110 to 120 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 12 slices rosemary ham (from the deli)
  • 12 slices cheese (I used mozzarella)
  • olive oil, for brushing the inside of the bowl that the dough will rise in
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda (to add to the boiling water)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (for brushing the top of the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt or flaked salt, for sprinkling

Gather your dough ingredients: flour, brown sugar, milk and yeast.

(You won't need the rest of the ingredients until the dough has risen.)

Heat your milk to 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Stir the brown sugar into the milk until dissolved.

 Stir in the yeast.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes until the top begins to foam.

While you're waiting for the yeast to proof, put the flour into the bowl of your mixer ( if you aren't going to use a mixer and prefer to stir by hand, put the flour into a large bowl).

After the milk has started to foam, mix it into the flour.

Stir until the dough holds together.

Generously flour a surface to knead the dough.

Knead a few times, until a smooth ball forms.

Lightly brush the inside of a large bowl with olive oil.

Place the dough, smooth side down, into the bowl.  Give the dough a twist to coat with oil.

Then flip it, so that the smooth, oiled side is face-up.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until it's doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Tip:  warm areas can be tough to find in the wintertime!  In that case, I turn my oven on, and as soon as it starts to heat up I turn it off.  Voila!  Warm space.

And here is my dough after 1 1/2 hours.

Place the dough back onto the floured surface and cut into 4 pieces.

I know, you're looking at that picture and shaking your head at the unevenness of my cutting into 4 pieces.  This is real life, my friends.  There is no reason to worry about perfectly proportioned dough when it doesn't matter in the end!

And now, back to our recipe.

Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the first section of dough very thin, until it is approximately 18" x 5".

And now you can assemble your ham & cheese bites!  I really like rosemary ham.  Use what you love.  And this time, I used mozzarella, but swiss also works well.  I would suggest a cheese that melts well and is somewhat mild so it doesn't compete with the ham.

Fold the ham in half lengthwise and place it on the lower half of your dough.

Top the ham with a single layer of half-slices of cheese.  Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough forward (away from you), keeping the ham and cheese as tight as possible.

Tuck the ends and pinch them under.  Don't stress too much, you will be cutting the ends off before you bake the bites.

Cut the roll in half and place the halves onto a sheet of parchment paper.

Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough!  Roll out the dough, fill with ham & cheese, roll tightly, pinch the ends under, cut in half, place onto parchment.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the butter.

Fill a 6-quart pot with about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil.  When the water boils, add the baking soda.  Reduce the heat to a high simmer.

Boil your dough one at a time, about 30 seconds on each side.  Use tongs to flip.

If you find that the dough is too long to fit into the pot, it's okay to bend it a little!

At this point, I feel the need to explain my thought process to you, because you may be wondering why I am boiling these and not just baking them.  I didn't want the finished product to be light and fluffy.  I thought if I boiled the dough first, like a bagel (or a pretzel), it would give a crunchy outer crust and stay sort of chewy and dense.

Remove the dough from the pot and slice it into 1-inch segments.  If you like, you can discard the ugly ends that you had pinched under.

Arrange the bites (approximately 1" apart), seam side down,  onto your parchment-lined baking sheets.  Brush the tops with the melted butter.

Lightly sprinkle the tops with salt.  I love the texture of maldon sea salt flakes, but any coarse salt will do.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until the dough is browned.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Valentine's Day Cooking Show!

We filmed an episode of the cooking show last week.

Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year!  Wouldn't it be fun to stay home and cook something special together?  Spend time bonding in the kitchen with your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend instead of going out?

My friends Amy & Kerry cooked with me, and we came up with a few things that are perfect for Valentine's Day!
We started off with a cocktail.  Whenever a certain one of my circles of friends gathers, we refer to this cocktail as "Karen's Drink," because Karen was the first one who served it.  There are 8 of us who regularly get together, and one of us will say, "I'll bring Karen's Drink!"

I googled the ingredients (Cran-Raspberry juice, Sprite and Stoli Razberi) to see if there is such a drink which already exists.  There were two that are close: Razberi Kicker, which uses similar ingredients in different proportions (regular cranberry juice instead of cran-raspberry and only a splash of sprite); and From Russia With Love, which I thought was a GREAT name for a Valentine's day cocktail!  However, the From Russia With Love cocktail uses opposite proportions (mostly 7-Up and only a splash of cranberry juice).

So Karen's Drink is going to become our Valentine's Day Cocktail.  Click on the title above to be taken to the printable recipe.

These were totally devoured.  When Dan the Awesome Camera Man arrived, he handed me a container and said, "I mentioned scalloped potatoes to my wife and she handed me THIS."

I'm so glad that I filled up Dan's container before we all sat down to eat!  There would have been nothing left for him to take home to his wife.

This requires minimal prep and about 5 minutes cooking time.  I think it took me longer to take this picture of the shrimp than it took to cook it.

And then it completely disappeared when we finished filming.   No leftovers.  It was thoroughly devoured.  

Next time, I'm making a double batch.

And finally, Raspberry Brambles, little fruity pockets of yumminess.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Herbed Scalloped Potatoes

In my mind, I call this recipe Christmas Potatoes.

I only make them once a year (care to guess when?), for many reasons, prep time and caloric content being at the top of that list.

When I made them last month (did you guess that I made them on Christmas?  Good guess, you're right!), I thought to myself that I needed to make this recipe on a day when I had time to take pictures and blog about it.

There's a good amount of hands-on prep time involved (about 25 minutes) and then there's at least an hour of cook time (more if you prep and refrigerate in advance).  I promise you, however, that if you serve these potatoes as a side dish for a special occasion, you won't regret putting the time in!

They are really good.

Today's Playlist

  • "Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine"...The White Stripes
  • "Reptilia"...The Strokes
  • "Mistress Mabel"...The Fratellis
  • "About A Girl"...Nirvana
  • "Interstate Love Song"...Stone Temple Pilots
  • "Sixteen Saltines"...Jack White
  • "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)...The Offspring
  • "Everlong"...Foo Fighters
  • "Badfish"...Sublime
  • "California Sun"...Ramones
  • "Warning"...Green Day
  • "Two Princes"...Spin Doctors

Herbed Scalloped Potatoes (8 servings)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds potatoes, sliced 1/8" thick ( I like yellow potatoes, but any type is fine!)
  • 1 large shallot, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
  • 3 tablespoons shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese

Gather your ingredients.

I like yellow potatoes best, but I happened to have russets on hand.  Red, yellow, russet, white...they're all fine!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Over medium heat, stir together the cream, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.    Stir occasionally, until it comes to a boil.  As soon as it starts to boil, remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice your potatoes and shallot to 1/8-inch thickness.

I used a mandolin slicer, but there have been times when I sliced them manually and imperfectly and they turn out just fine.

Start layering!  Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.  Put about 3 layers of potatoes into the dish, overlapping the edges of the potatoes.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the cream mixture onto the potatoes, and spread it around using a pastry brush.  Evenly scatter about half of the shallots on top of the potatoes, and sprinkle with about 3/4 cup of the shredded gruyere.

It was here that I finally realized that I had neglected to take step-by-step photos of the layering process!

Luckily, the whole layering process needs to be repeated, so I kept my focus and captured the individual steps during round two.

Place another 3 layers of the potatoes (with edges overlapping) into the dish.  Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the cream mixture over the potatoes.

Evenly spread the cream over the potatoes.

Sprinkle with the remaining shallots.

Evenly distribute another 3/4 cup of the gruyere.

Repeat one last time: layer the remaining potatoes, evenly pour all of the remaining cream mixture on top....

...and top with the remaining cup of shredded gruyere.  Sprinkle the top with the parmigiano cheese.

Cover with foil and bake in your preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes.  

After 40 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked and the cheese is bubbly, golden brown and crusty around the edges.