31 January 2012

Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites


Football Food

The Super Bowl is Sunday and it's time to indulge in that whole fan experience; choosing sides, wearing the colors, planning the munchies. Which team are you rooting for?

I have to admit, I'm more excited about the food than the football. While we might not agree on which team we favor, Patriots or Giants, I bet we can agree on Super Bowl snack favorites. Mine tend to have a retro bent; Bourbon Sauced Cocktail Wieners, Ro-tel Queso Dip, burgers and hot wings, chips and don't forget the Oreos.

Are you an Oreo fan? Whether you first loved the sweet creamy frosting or the crisp chocolate cookie, whether you dunk them in milk or lift the lid and eat the inner frosting first, it seems that almost everyone has a fond light in their eyes at the thought of Oreo cookies.



Maybe that's why I was drawn to these limited edition football-shaped Oreos. Aren't they cute? When I saw them at the supermarket they were suddenly a must have for this year's Super Bowl spread.


Inside-Out

Not only are football shaped Oreo cookies a great addition to a Super Bowl extravaganza but Oreos also mix and match well, making them a welcome ingredient in other snacks and desserts. They go especially well with cream cheese and I have posted about a big ganache covered Oreo Cookies and Cream Cheesecake and tiny cupcake-sized Oreo Crusted Cheesecakes.

I finally tried these little Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites which are all over the Internet these days. They are even a smaller version of "cheesecake," and arguably simpler to make. You just mix together crushed Oreos and softened cream cheese, then dip bite sized portions in a white candy coating. Top with a halved mini-Oreo for more cute product drama. True fans are bound to love them! And if you aren't into football, they make a sweet confection for Valentine's Day as well.



Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites

1 package of Oreo cookies, crushed
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 package of white baking chips or almond bark
Several Tablespoons of powdered sugar
Mini-oreo cookies, for garnish, if desired

In a large bowl, mix together the crushed Oreo cookies and cream cheese until well blended.

Scoop the mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (I use a 1¼-inch batter scoop that holds about 2 teaspoons to make rounded balls approximately 1-inch in diameter.)

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the dough is firm.

Place several Tablespoons of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Take the cookie sheet from the freezer. Roll each portion of dough in your hands to form a smooth ball. Roll each ball in a dish of powdered sugar to coat. Place the balls back on the baking sheet and return to the freezer.

When firm prepare the white baking chips or almond bark for dipping or transfer the balls to a Ziploc freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to dip.

Dipping:

Melt the white baking chips or almond bark in the microwave or in a double boiler, according to package directions. When smooth and melted take the truffle balls from the freezer.

Using a round toothpick stuck into the frozen dough as a handle, dip the truffle into the melted candy coating, shaking gently to help the excess drip back into the pan before placing the finished truffle on a parchment lined baking sheet. Remove the toothpick and garnish by placing a mini-Oreo half over the toothpick mark.

Repeat with all remaining truffles. Allow to cool until the candy coating is firm.

Serve and enjoy!

23 January 2012

Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce


We are in the heart of champagne season. From New Year’s Eve through Valentine’s Day when the evenings are long and the conditions are perfect for romantic dinners for two there always seems to be an occasion close at hand for sharing a glass of sparkling wine.

Over twenty years ago I cut the menu for a Champagne Dinner for Two from the pages of Southern Living. It featured an elegant but simple meal of chicken breasts in a velvety mushroom sauce, a  flavorful pilaf of wild rice, bright steamed vegetables and pretty green salad with luscious amaretto-spiked chocolate mousse for dessert. Of course the dinner was complemented by a bottle of champagne, sipped with the meal and laced through the sauce.

I prepared the menu exactly as suggested for Valentine’s Day. As promised, preparation was not complicated, leaving time to set a pretty table and put some flowers in a vase. The meal came together seamlessly and the flavors blended in a perfect harmony. The dinner was a success in every way.

Since then I have served Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce on many occasions. It has long been one of my favorite "For Company" dishes. It is simple enough to serve on late notice and elegant enough to impress.

I have modified the recipe somewhat over the years to reliably balance the consistency of the sauce and lower the fat content. As with many recipes, nonfat Greek yogurt makes an excellent substitute for the commercial sour cream called for in the original recipe.



Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce
adapted from a recipe in an old issue of Southern Living

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup champagne
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Yield: 2 servings.

In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add chicken breast halves and brown on both sides.

Reserving the drippings in the skillet,remove chicken breast pieces to a 1-quart baking dish. Add mushroom slices to the skillet and sauté until mushrooms are browned. Remove the mushrooms to a small dish and set aside.

Stir champagne into drippings in the skillet. Simmer until heated through and reduced slightly, stirring occasionally to release browned bits from the skillet. Pour warmed champagne evenly over chicken pieces.

Cover chicken and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove chicken pieces to a platter, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add yogurt, salt and pepper to the reserved liquid, whisking until smooth. Pour sauce over chicken and top with browned mushrooms.

Note: If you are reluctant to open a bottle of champagne for this recipe, white wine or even chicken broth can be used instead with good result.

Enjoy!

14 January 2012

Sweet and Sassy Cinnamon Roll Waffles


A Clever Idea

Once the year end holiday rush subsides and the new year begins to find its rhythm, my thoughts turn to those little kitchen treasures that might warm the heart for Valentine’s Day. I begin to sample ideas that are simple and sweet especially when they include flavor notes of chocolate or cinnamon. Elements of surprise and thoughtfulness trump elegance and complex preparation, especially for this weekday holiday that remains a matter of personal observation and is not recognized by the government or employers as a legitimate reason to skip work.

With these criteria in mind I realized I had already made my first Valentine discovery before the dawn of the New Year. A waffle maker made its way under the family Christmas tree on Christmas morning and within hours we had discovered a clever post from A Hen’s Nest on Pinterest. It combined the ease of canned cinnamon rolls with the quick application of a waffle maker to produce tasty Waffled Cinnamon Rolls in two and half minutes or less!


Quick Cinnamon Sweetness

Personally I think it is a stroke of genius! My children have always liked canned cinnamon rolls as a weekend treat they can cook and enjoy warm whenever they decide it is time to get out of bed. Having discovered that the cinnaom rolls can be “baked” in the waffle iron in just a couple of minutes makes that ready-when-you-are quality even more appealing. What’s more my boys associated the process with one of their favorite episodes from “The Office” adding a sense of quirky humor to breakfast.

For my part I thought these waffles were fun and relatively tasty. There is nothing particularly wholesome about them but they are warm and cinnamon-y and show a spark of adventure…not a bad combination for a special Tuesday-morning-Valentine’s-Day-breakfast-treat, or anytime you crave a quick bite of cinnamon sweetness.



Cinnamon Roll Waffles
from A Hen’s Nest

1 can (8 count) refrigerated cinnamon rolls (I used Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, regular size, not Grands)
powdered sugar or maple syrup, if desired

Preheat the waffle maker according to manufacturer’s directions. (I used a Cooks Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker set to a medium heat setting)

Meanwhile open the can of cinnamon rolls, separate them and arrange them on a plate so they are ready to go.

When the waffle maker is hot place four of the cinnamon rolls on the cooking plate with one roll centered in each quadrant.

Close the waffle maker and lock.

Cook the cinnamon roll waffles for approximately 2 minutes or until they are golden brown.


Carefully remove waffles from the waffle maker. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, drizzle with maple syrup or place the icing that came in the cinnamon roll package in a small side dish for dipping.

Makes 8 small waffles.

Note: Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated in a toaster when desired.

Enjoy!

05 January 2012

Another Cake for Twelfth Night - Galette des Rois


Twelfth Night

It’s the 5th of January, the last day of the Christmas season. It has been Twelve Days since Christmas Eve when we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus. Now we celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem to give gifts to the Newborn King, as told in Matthew 2.

Over the years my family has celebrated Twelfth Night and Epiphany (January 6) in a variety of ways. Our celebration has adapted to the size and age of our family, the day of the week the holiday falls on and the parts of the tradition that seem most meaningful to us that year.

When my children were small the focus seemed to be on the gifts of the season. They set out special bags on Twelfth Night where they would find small gifts in the morning from the three kings, left as they passed on their journey. We also sang seasonal songs about gifts; “We Three Kings…” and "The Twelve Days of Christmas", as we gathered the kings and their camels from around the house, where they had been wandering since we put out our nativity set during Advent, and placed them near the manger where the baby Jesus lay.



Changing Focus

In time our focus on Twelfth Night seemed to shift from gifting to celebrating. We set a pretty table with Christmas Crackers (those pretty tube shaped favors with a “snap” and a surprise inside) at each place and shared a favorite family dinner with a King Cake for dessert. The King Cake always has a “baby” inside, often represented by a whole nut or piece of chocolate. I have posted several recipes for King Cake over the years.

There are many types of Twelfth Night Cakes served in different parts of the world. Most often my family has enjoyed a New Orleans style King Cake, made like a filled coffee cake of braided yeast bread drizzled with icing and sprinkled with colored sugar. One year I made a Twelfth Night Cake from a recipe for Eggnog Pound Cake in a elegant bundt pan. When rushed we simply bake a Cinnamon Coffee Cake, a quick family specialty with one whole pecan stirred in. Whoever is served the slice containing the “baby” wins a small gift, often a star shaped ornament or other trinket.



King Cake, French Style

This year I wanted to try another King Cake I have read about, a Galette des Rois, a French version of the cake. It is fairly simple to prepare using frozen puff pastry and an almond filling with a single whole almond in the cream for the “baby”. Traditionally these cakes are topped with a paper crown but since I couldn’t find one I topped mine with a circlet of wide gold ribbon left from the holiday wrapping. I cut points in the top and stapled the ends together for a simple shiny crown.

The Galette des Rois was pretty and delicious. It was rich and buttery but the filling was only lightly sweet, a good thing in my opinion. That sweetness is easily adjusted by the amount of powdered sugar sprinkled on top or, if you prefer, by adding up to an additional ¼ cup of sugar to the filling.

Is it too late to make this cake for Twelfth Night? Don’t despair. It is perfectly appropriate to enjoy a King Cake throughout the month of January and all the way through Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. That gives you plenty of time to taste and share this appealing recipe.



Galette des Rois

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup ground almonds (I used almond meal from TJ's)
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
1 whole shelled almond (or other “baby”)

In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add the ground almonds and sugar, mixing until well combined. Reserve about 1 Tablespoon of the beaten eggs in a small cup. Add the rest to the almond mixture and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Thaw the frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator, according to package directions. When ready, unfold one sheet of puff pastry and cut an 8” – 9” circle from the center using a round plate, bowl or pan as a template. (I used a 9–inch tart pan for my template. It worked just like a big cookie cutter and even had a decorative fluted edge.) Place this circle of dough on a baking stone or greased cookie sheet.


Take the almond mixture from the refrigerator and spread it evenly in the center of the puff pastry circle to within about 1-inch of the edge.

Place the almond or “baby” somewhere near the edge of the almond cream.

Using the reserved beaten egg, lightly brush the top edge of the pastry with the egg, being careful not to go over the edge.


Cut another circle from the second sheet of puff pastry using the same method. Place this circle over the top of the almond filling gently, matching the edges. Smooth the pastry lightly from the center to the edges and press the edges together firmly using a fork to seal the edges tightly. (For an idea of what happens when you don't, read on.)

Using a knife, gently score a design into the top of the pastry, being very careful not to cut all of the way through. (I used a simple diamond criss-cross design. Had a looked at some of the links above first, I might have tried for a more intricate effect.)

Brush the remaining egg over the top of the puff pastry, avoiding the edge with the fork marks.

At this point the galette can be placed in the refrigerator until ready to bake. (I opted to go ahead and bake mine.)

When ready, place the Galette des Rois in the center of the oven, preheated to 375F.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.


This is what happens when, despite best efforts, the edge is not sealed tightly enough. When this happens, simply scrape away the spilled portion and continue as directed.


Cool on a wire rack.

Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired.

Oh, and don't forget to place a gold crown on top (paper, ribbon or whatever kind you come up with!)

Share with friends and family.

Enjoy!

03 January 2012

2011 Highlights in My Own Sweet Thyme


Highlights of 2011

It's been another tasty year at My Own Sweet Thyme. Though 2011 wasn't my most prolific year for posting there have been some recipes that are worth repeating. Though I've never done a highlights post before I decided to try one as I reviewed where 2011 took me. Half way through the process I got preoccupied with preparation for the New Year. Then....well let's just say I'm late posting my Highlights from 2011. What can I say? My header doesn't read "In My Own Sweet Thyme" for nothing.


January

This hearty winter dish was a delicious discovery. The aroma is almost as satisfying as savoring these flavorful braised lamb shanks themselves.



February

Inspired by Maya Angelou and Jamie Oliver, I experimented with Chocolate Alchemy and the Language of Love for Valentine's Day. The results culminated in what might be my favorite post of the year.



March

A late snow storm last March inspired some research into recipes for a thick and rich cup of Hot Chocolate. This Spanish Hot Chocolate can be dressed up as an elegant after dinner dessert beverage or dressed down for dunking graham crackers and savoring chocolate S'more Style after a romp in the snow.



April

Spiced Nuts are an easy and delicious snack with drinks or coffee. These spicy sweet nuts add an extra splash of complexity with a hint of bourbon, perfect for Derby season and beyond.



May

With spring in the air I posted an easy transitional salad that is as pretty as a first course at a dinner party as it is perfect for a spring luncheon.



June

This salad is just right for summer salad buffets, picnics or potlucks. Its bright mixture of crisp confetti-colored vegetables, nutty grains of wild rice and tender orzo provide a colorful contrast as a side dish that is also uniquely flavorful. The gingery dressing is fresh and goes with most everything.



July

This year summer was slow to take hold and the late ripening fruit made July a good month for strawberry specialties. These Pan-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries are simple and delicious just like summer should always be.



August

This delicious breakfast cake is based on a favorite taste from childhood. Graham Crackers make a wonderfully crumbly streusel topping. Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cake and take a trip down Memory Lane.



September

In September I tried a new recipe that promised a delicious medley of fresh green beans and tofu brightened with lime and sweetened slightly with brown sugar. It turned out to be mouth watering and memorable.



October

When the weather begins to cool in the fall I feel the tug of my oven and I long for the scent of chicken roasting, warming the house and offering to fill my family with good savory things to eat. Roasted Chicken with Olives and Thyme is perfect for those occasions.



November

the best recipes come from friends, not cookbooks. this is a recipe I first tasted when a good friend brought me dinner at least twenty years ago. I asked for the recipe and have used it often since.



December

Scrumptious Soft Peanut Brittle is great for gifts or for adding a delicious bite of sweet crunchiness to the holiday dessert tray. This Peanut Brittle recipe, discovered at Wives with Knives, offers the taste and texture of Butterfinger candy bars. Need I say more?



Here's to a prosperous and blessed 2012 for each of my wonderful readers!