Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4th of July-Part 3

Good morning everyone!  I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Ours was nice.  We went swimming at the Grand Sierra, which is a casino/hotel here in Reno.  You can use their pool even if you aren’t staying there…which is pretty awesome.  They have a huge pool, sand, cabanas, a pool bar, food, music, etc.  I tried to pretend I was whooping it up in Cabo or something…but my kids kept cramping my style;)  Actually, we all had a great time, especially the kids.  Paisley spent the majority of the time in the spa, and Addy practiced her swimming.  If you live in Reno, you should check it out!
So less than a week till the 4th of July!  I am assuming that everyone has their plans made by now?  Ours have been set for months.  I’m totally kidding.  We are still kind of up in the air about what we will do during the day.  Whatever….at least my menu is set;)
As promised….today I am going to finish up my 4th menu with dessert and a fun drink.  Let’s start with the drink, which is Cherry Limeade.  I will show you the kiddie version, and you can booze it up however you like.
I used a carton of limeade, a small jar of maraschino cherries, and a super small can of 7-up (8 ounces).
 The limeade is 64 ounces.  And yes, I know you can buy a pre-made Cherry Limeade, but this one is better;) 
The jar of cherries is 8 ounces.  I drained the cherries and reserved the juice.  I placed the cherries on a tray and popped them in the freezer overnight.  These will serve as “ice cubes” in the drink.  The cherry juice will sweeten the limeade, and give it a really pretty pink color.
Basically this drink is the whole carton of limeade, the reserved cherry juice and the small can of 7-up for fizz.  Do you see the cherries floating in there?  Too cute, and delicious!  And suuuuuper refreshing, which is great because the 4th of July is always like 1000 degrees.
I would add vodka for the grown-ups, but rum would be amazing too;)
We at the Barnes’ house love a good S’more.  Doesn’t everyone?  I thought a cute idea would be a S’more “bar”.  That way everyone can put together their own, and get creative!  Or, they can stick with the original.  There are so many things that are delicious in a S’more, the possibilities are endless.  I will show you what I used.
I set out a few types of chocolate…..milk, white and Nestle Crunch.  You can also see my graham crackers.  Can’t have a S’more without a graham cracker.  You could also set out dark chocolate, mint chocolate, orange chocolate, raspberry chocolate, etc.
I don’t know if you have paid attention in the marshmallow aisle lately, but there are a bazillion different kinds.  Seriously, tons of flavors.  I chose red, white and blue stars and flat white marshmallows.  The flat ones are supposed to work better in S’mores. 
I also set out sliced strawberries, sliced bananas and peanut butter.  Other ideas would be Nutella, sliced apples, berries, sliced almonds, fruit spreads, honey, etc.  Really, what wouldn’t be good in a S’more?
When we did our practice run, I took the easy way out and didn’t cook the marshmallows on a stick.  We wrapped up our little sandwiches in foil and placed them on the grill.
This method makes the marshmallows and chocolate all melty and gooey.  True, you don’t get the charred taste that cooking a marshmallow over an open flame gives you, but this method is safer, faster and less messy;)
See how melty the marshmallow is?  Yum!
My last 4th of July treat is Oreo Truffles on a stick.  I know that you have probably seen this recipe everywhere.  They are a popular treat.  I just saw a recipe for the truffles on the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Facebook page yesterday.  Mine are a bit different because I use peanut butter Oreos and some peanut butter.  I also put mine on a stick;)
Have you ever had an Oreo truffle?  They have a creamy, chocolatey center and a crunchy coating.  So, so good.
The filling for the truffles is super easy.  It is one pack of Peanut Butter Oreos, 8 ounces softened cream cheese and about ½ cup of peanut butter.  Could not be easier.
The whole pack of Oreos goes into a food processor.  I blended the cookies into crumbs.  Filling and all…..
This is what it will look like after you add the cream cheese and peanut butter….and blend.  Then, I popped the mixture into the fridge for a couple of hours, just to harden it a bit.
Once the mixture is chilled, it will be super easy to roll the mixture into balls.  You can make your balls any size you want.  And yes, every time I said “balls”, I giggled.  Chill your balls, roll your balls, dip your balls, etc.  Ha!
The coating for these balls (tee-hee), is melted chocolate or candy coating.  I used a bag of red candy melts.  I dipped each stick that I planned on using into the melted candy coating before I pushed it into a ball.  This is what will hold the ball on the stick.
Once each ball got a stick, I put the balls on sticks back in the fridge for about an hour.  I know, I know….this is a lot of steps….but it will be worth it.
Once the balls hardened on the sticks, I dipped them in the candy coating.  I am sure you are wondering what I have my sticks poked into.  I used green florist foam.  This will hold the sticks up so that the balls can harden.  You could also place them upside down on waxed paper to harden.  These will harden pretty quickly, but it is best to put them in the fridge….again.
I made mine pretty and patriotic by tying blue ribbons around each stick. 
Aren’t these cute?  They are seriously one of the best things that will ever go into your mouth too.  I think these are a really cute treat for the 4th of July!
If you don’t want to mess with sticks, serving them “truffle” style is cute too;)
I hope that this 4th of July menu inspires you!  Even if you are going to someone else’s house and just have to bring one thing….I hope you find that “one thing” here.  Take lots of pictures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

4th of July-Part Two

Hi everyone!  I’ve been having a hard time motivating to write this post today….I’m pooped!  I joined a gym last week, and I have been trying to go every day.  I am so out of shape that it takes me a good 3 to 4 hours to recover after a gym visit.  The fact that I joined is huge….anyone that knows me knows that I am not the world’s biggest fan of exercise.  I worked in the health club industry for 10 years, but I can still count the number of times I “worked out” on 2 hands.  But alas, age, gravity, and fatty foods are catching up with me.  So off to the gym I go.  But I won’t like it.
Anyhoo, I have recovered enough to type.  Today I am going to give you some more 4th of July recipes!  Remember Tuesday?  I showed you two easy appetizer ideas.  Today I am going to give you the recipe for Pimiento Cheese Stuffed Burgers and BBQ Bacon Corn.  I can pretty much promise you that this corn will be the best grilled corn you have ever eaten.  Bold statement, I know….but wait till you taste it.  The burgers are pretty amazing too;)  BTW-Macaroni Salad was also on my 4th menu, and we ate it last night….but guess what….I bought it;)
Let’s start with the corn….
What you are looking at above is the ingredients for a compound butter that will top the corn.  A “compound butter” is basically softened butter blended with something else, usually herbs, garlic, fruit, etc.  I used BBQ sauce.  Specifically, Gourmet Rooster Smokehouse Bacon BBQ Sauce.  I also used salt and pepper.
I put the softened butter into my Magic Bullet with a couple of tablespoons of BBQ sauce.  Then, I blended it until smooth.  The butter must be very soft for this to work.  I stirred in the salt and pepper too.
I realize how gross the above picture looks.  But it isn’t gross.  It is buttery, smoky goodness.  I poured the butter onto a piece of waxed paper.
Hard to see, but I rolled the waxed paper into a tube.  This butter needs a few hours in the fridge to harden.  So, yes, this needs to be done in advance.

The rest of the ingredients for the corn are corn on the cob, olive oil, cooked bacon, chives and Cotija cheese.  I used garlic olive oil, but you could use plain.  You could also sub in any crumbly cheese in place of Cotija, which is a Mexican crumbly cheese.  It is salty, like feta.
I put all of the corn into a shallow dish and drizzled it with olive oil.  I also salt and peppered it, which once again, I forgot to put into the ingredients picture. 
I grilled the corn on the BBQ for about 3 minutes each side.  It will get some good char marks, which is great flavor.  Don’t let it grill for too long…it will start to pop.  I grilled my corn over medium heat (indirect).  You could wrap it in foil, or keep it in the husk for grilling, but I really like the char marks on the corn.
Once the corn came off the grill, I put a slice of the BBQ butter on each piece.  I kind of rubbed it around the whole cob.  You want to make sure that the entire cob is coated in this delicious butter. 
I sprinkled the crumbled bacon, chives and cheese over the top before serving the corn.  OMG-this was phenomenal.  You might end up with leftover BBQ butter…..this butter would be great on a steak, over popcorn, on a baked potato, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  You will wonder why you haven’t combined BBQ sauce with butter before.
For the burgers…..

I used 2 pounds of ground beef, a batch of my pimiento cheese (recipe to follow), salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  I don’t junk up my burgers with too much extra stuff. 
I use ground beef with a little fat in it for burgers.  Don’t use the leanest beef, it won’t work as well.  Fat=flavor.
I put the ground beef into a big bowl and added about a tablespoon each of garlic powder and onion powder.  I did about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  I mixed the spices into the meat lightly with my hands.  You don’t want to overwork your meat.  Am I right, fellas?
To form the patties, I made a thin bottom patty and topped that with about 1 tablespoon of pimiento cheese.  I covered that with another thin patty, sealing the edges.  It is super important to seal the edges so the cheese doesn’t leak out.  This will make about 6 burgers.
I grilled my burgers for about 5 minutes per side.  I like mine medium, you may have to adjust your time depending on your preference.
Now that’s a fire!
And look at the burger in the back.  Apparently I got lazy with sealing edges….he is coming apart.  It will still taste great, though.
The pimiento cheese gets all gooey and melty in the middle.  Remember, my pimiento cheese has cream cheese, mayo, and ranch dressing mix in it.  This will give your burger amazing flavor!  The only downside is that everyone gets a cheeseburger….whether they want it or not.  But who wouldn’t want a burger with a surprise pocket of goodness in the middle?
I bought the cute little plastic baskets with liners at the Walmartz.  Such a cute serving idea for burgers!  And make sure you remember your flags if you are making these for the 4th!
I can’t wait to share the desserts with you on Tuesday!  I promise…this menu gets even better!
BBQ Bacon Corn
Corn on the cob-about 6 to 10 ears
1 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons BBQ Sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup garlic olive oil
5 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup chives, minced
Blend softened butter with BBQ sauce and ½ teaspoon each salt & pepper.  Reserve the remaining salt and pepper for sprinkling over the corn before grilling.  Form into log and wrap in wax paper.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Clean and shuck corn.  Drizzle cobs with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.  Grill corn on BBQ for about 3 minutes per side or until slightly charred all over.
Once corn in done, remove from grill and place in shallow dish.  Place about 1 tablespoon BBQ butter on each cob.  Coat corn completely with butter.
Sprinkle corn with bacon, cheese, and chives to serve.
Pimiento Cheese Stuffed Burgers
2 pounds ground beef, not less than 16% fat
½ batch Court’s Pimiento Cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Buns, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, etc.
Place beef in a large bowl and add seasonings.  Mix lightly with your hands.  Form a thin patty and place 1 tablespoon of pimiento cheese in the middle.  Top with another thin patty and seal edges.  Repeat as needed.
Grill burgers about 5 minutes per side.  Serve with all the burger fixins’.
Court’s Pimiento Cheese
6 ounces softened cream cheese
2/3 Cup mayonnaise
4 ounces diced pimientos, drained
1/3 Cup diced green onions
½ pack dry ranch dressing mix
3 cups grated cheese
Dash black pepper

-Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

4th of July-Part One

Good afternoon everyone!  Today is the first day of summer!  And coming up really soon is one of my favorite days of the year…..the 4th of July!  I pretty much love any holiday, but I especially love the 4th.  When I was a kid it was pretty much the best day ever.  I love being outside the whole day, barbecuing, watching fireworks, etc.  This year, I have my bestie coming to stay with us with her family for the 4th.  I, of course, have already planned the menu…..
There it is….my menu, I mean.  Do you love the bulletin board?  I was feeling especially crafty and, patriotic apparently, last night so I made that.  Burlap and fabric covering a cork board.  Super easy.  I didn’t even use scissors.  I tore the fabric to give it rough edges…more rustic that way.
Here is a close-up of the menu…can you read it?  Isn’t the little girl adorbs?  I downloaded it from Freeprettythingsforyou.com.  That lady has great stuff;)  Anyhoo, back to the menu….I am going to split this post up into 3 different posts.  Today we will cover the apps, Thursday the burgers, corn and salad, and next Tuesday will be the desserts and drinks.
Of course, you don’t have to make the entire menu.  You can take from it what you want, especially if you are going to someone else’s house and just have to bring one thing.  I hope you get some inspiration from this!
So the name “Southern Hummus” might have you thinking…”what the heck is that?”  There is a good reason you have never hear of it….I made it up.  And no, I didn’t clear it with any southerners.  I just thought it was a cute name.  If you are southern, and it makes you mad…..sorry.  Call me a Yankee or maybe throw me a “Bless your heart” and get over it;)  Know that I do the things I do because I only wish I was southern.
Here is what I used…..(and what it is)
I used a can of baked beans, Gourmet Rooster BBQ Sauce, cheese and a baguette.  Not pictured, but also used is olive oil and salt & pepper.  So are you getting it yet?  As you know, hummus is garbanzo beans pureed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini.  My “Southern Hummus” is pureed baked beans with some BBQ sauce.  I know it sounds a bit weird, but you have to give it a chance.  It is delicious.
I pureed the beans in the food processor.  I used a 22 ounce can of Bourbon and brown sugar baked beans.  You can really use your favorite flavor, and if you have looked in the grocery store lately at the beans….you know there are a bazillion different kinds.  I also added about 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce.  Now here is where you can get creative…you can add onion, hot sauce, green chilies, a jalapeno (or as Peepers calls it a “hoppapeno"), etc.  You also get to decide if you want to serve it warm or room temperature.  I chose room temperature.
I served mine with sliced baguette that had been crisped up in the oven.
I brushed the slices with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt & pepper.  I put them in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes.
When they came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with cheddar cheese.  I popped them back in the oven for about 2 more minutes.
This really is the perfect appetizer for a BBQ.  What goes better with grilled meats then beans? 
The cheese toasts make an amazing dipper.  Tortilla chips would be great too!
I also drizzled extra BBQ sauce on the top of my dip.  I used Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple BBQ Sauce.  You can use your favorite….which better be Gourmet Rooster! ;)
This really is essentially just a bean dip, but the flavors of brown sugar, bacon, bourbon, etc. bring it to a whole ‘nother level. 
The fam loved it;)
My next appetizer isn’t a recipe at all, more of an idea.  Everyone loves veggies and ranch dip, but it is so hard not to double dip!  Especially if you are like me and the veggies are just a vehicle for your ranch dip.  I serve mine individually.  Everyone gets their own in a cup….with the dip at the bottom.  What is special about mine is the way I decorated the cups to make them fancy for the 4th!

I used disposable plastic cups, ribbon, little flags and my trusty hot glue gun.  I decorated the cups ahead of time…..
I put a couple of tablespoons of dip into the bottom each cup.  Double dip until you are blue in the face.
My kids loved having their own cup.  I think this is a great way to make veggies and dip a little bit different.  You should try this!  The cups were easy to decorate, and you can even buy the veggies pre-cut….could not be simpler.
Ok, apps done.  I can’t wait to show you my recipes for pimiento cheese stuffed burgers and corn on the cob.  You’ll have to come back on Thursday for that;)
Remember that Gourmet Rooster products are now in Truckee and Chico, CA!  If you are vacationing in Truckee and lucky enough to be in Chico, stop by and get some.  We are at The Cooking Gallery in Truckee which is right in the cute little downtown area, and at The Galley which is off Park Ave. in Chico.  Go, go, go!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Hi everyone!  We are back at home, safe and sound.  I had to bid adieu to California Wednesday afternoon.  (Yep, I speak German.)  I had work to do at home, and we missed Chris.  I think he missed us too until we came home and immediately thrashed the house.  He is a pretty neat and clean guy, so I am sure he loved having us gone all week.  We wreck a house pretty quickly.
As you may know, I did a sampling/tasting last weekend at Draeger’s in Blackhawk.  I sample my BBQ sauces with pretzels. Just regular mini pretzels…. Since I buy them in bulk, I run the risk of having a whole lotta pretzels left over.  This time, I ended up with more pretzels then anyone could ever eat.  Ever.  After handing them out to the neighbors like some sort of weird Halloween treat, I still have too much.  I decided to try to mix some pretzels into some easy recipes that I was already planning on making.
My first recipe is for cookies.  Chocolate Toffee Pretzel cookies to be exact.  I really like the combination of sweet and salty, so I pretty much figured these would be a winner.  Oh man, was I right.
The cookies started like a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I creamed together (with a hand mixer) softened butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  I beat that mixture until it was creamy and smooth.
Then I tossed in some eggs and beat the heck out of that.
In a separate bowl, I whisked together flour, dark cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  It is important to mix the dry ingredients separately.  This will ensure that you won’t have any lumps of powdery stuff in your cookies. 
I slowly beat the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.  Seriously slowly….otherwise your kitchen will be covered in flour, cocoa, etc.
Once the dough is mixed, I added crushed pretzels and toffee bits. Toffee bits are available right by the chocolate chips in your grocery store.   I stirred these in with a spatula.  I had crushed the pretzels in a plastic bag with a rolling pin.  I wanted crumbs, but not pretzel dust.  I ended up with some big chunks and some small ones…..
I dropped the dough onto a greased cookie sheet with a mini ice cream scoop.  This will ensure equal sized cookies, which means they will all bake for the same amount of time.
Good lord, these cookies were amazing.  They are sweet, salty, chocolaty, crunchy, etc.  They are everything you would want in a cookie.  I gave them out to the kids that were over playing at my house, and they loved them.  You have to make these cookies.  Even if it requires buying pretzels especially for this recipe….you have to try them.
My second idea/recipe was to try making chicken nuggets coated in crushed pretzels.  My kids, like all kids, are obsessed with nuggets.  They could eat chicken nuggets morning, noon and night.  Me?  I like them too, but not quite as often. 
To make these nuggs, I used chicken breasts, pretzels, eggs, panko bread crumbs, flour and pepper.  I didn’t need additional salt, obviously….
Before I started cutting the chicken, or crushing the pretzels, I heated up a shallow pan with about 1 inch of vegetable oil in it.  This will be a shallow fry, not a deep fry.
I crushed my pretzels in my food processor.  I wanted smaller crumbs for the nuggets then what I used for the cookies.  You could still use a plastic bag and a rolling pin….you will just have to work harder.  But hey, it is a good way to work out some aggression.
I cut my chicken into small “nugget” sized pieces.  One package of chicken goes surprisingly far.
I set up a standard breading station…..flour, egg, and then pretzel crumbs mixed with bread crumbs.  That is the order you will coat your chicken in….first flour, then egg, then press the crumbs in.  I breaded all my chicken first and let it sit on a wire rack.
FYI-I put pepper into the flour for additional flavor.
Since I didn’t have my trusty photographer with me, I couldn’t take pictures of me breading my chicken.  My hands were too messy.  Breading is a messy business.
I fried the nuggs in batches.  Too many in the pan at once will bring the temperature of the oil down.  Plus, crowded chicken will steam, not fry.
I cooked the chicken about 4 to 5 minutes per side, until the chicken was browned on both sides and cooked through.  You can see in the picture above that I had already flipped the top right nugget.  It is nice and brown.
I figured this chicken was going to be good, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be freakin’ amazing.  So crunchy, salty and delicious.  I dipped mine in a spicy mustard.  The kiddos stuck with ketchup.  These were a real crowd pleaser, and super easy to make.  You have to try this recipe. The pretzels give the chicken so much more crunch and flavor then plain bread crumbs, or even a beer batter.   Go ahead, buy a bag of pretzels! 
Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Cookies
2 & ¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup dark cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
¾ cup toffee bits
¾ cup crushed pretzels
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat with a hand mixer until smooth.  Beat in eggs one at a time.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  Slowly beat dry ingredients into wet.  Once dough is well blended, stir in toffee and pretzels with a spatula.
Drop onto a greased baking sheet with a mini ice cream scoop.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Pretzel Coated Chicken Nuggets
1 pack chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 4 (cut into nugget size)
2 cups pretzel crumbs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon pepper
Oil for frying
Set up breading assembly line….in a shallow dish, stir together flour and pepper.  In another shallow bowl, beat eggs.  In third bowl, stir together pretzel crumbs and bread crumbs
Pre-heat oil over medium high heat (about 1 inch deep) in a shallow frying pan. 
Bread chicken by dipping first in flour, then in egg, and finally in crumb mixture.  Fry, about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.  Keep warm in a low oven.