Friday, December 20, 2013

Roasted pork with savory apple gravy

This is my family's new favorite dinner! I have made it twice for company now and it is always a huge hit.  The apple gravy alone is to die for!

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Savory Apple Gravy Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 with leftovers.
The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.


  • 4-5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1 Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle. Put the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2 Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).
3 Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges. Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl and toss to mix.
4 Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
5 Toss the apples and onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.
6 Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.
7 Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and purée. Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mom's Dutch Apple Pie

This is a Thanksgiving must have!
(updated recipe with Mom's changes added)

Pie crust

4 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 cups shortening
2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup cold or ice water

Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or  two knives until it is in small crumbles.  Beat up the egg, and water and vinegar and sprinkle over flour mixture with a fork so nothing gets too wet.  Don't over mix!  Roll out between two sheets of wax paper then transfer to pie pan.  Makes 2 double crusts.

Apple pie

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
10 medium sliced and peeled apples
juice of half a lemon

1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Combine first six ingredients in a bowl.  Pour into pie shell. The apples will be a heaping mound but they will shrink during cooking. Then mix topping ingredients together until crumbly and spread over apple mixture.  Cover the edges of the pie with tin foil.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for 1 hr and 45 more minutes. The apple mixture should be bubbling out the sides and the top should look like a smaller mound.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cheese and Apple Soup

I made this for a party this weekend and it reminded me how amazing it is. Enjoy!

Cheese and Apple Soup

Melt 1/3 cup butter in saucepan. 
Whisk in 1/3 cup flour and 1/2 tsp salt. 
Stir until golden, then whisk in 2 1/2 cups milk.
Cook until thickened.
Then whisk in 3 cups shredded Gouda cheese (I also used a little bit of cheddar).
Whisk until smooth.
Stir in 2 cups of apple cider and warm through. 
Garnish with chives and apples sliced very thin. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tomato Basil Tart

This is one of my all time favorite appetizer recipes!  It is from my friend Erin.  You can make a full sized tart for a small luncheon or you can make them into mini appetizers.  These always get rave reviews!

Tomato Basil Tart
Erin Slack

½ of a 15 oz folded refrigerated pie crust*
1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
5 roma tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
¼ cup grated parmesan
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

Unfold pie crust according to directions.  Place in a 9 inch quiche dish or glass pie plate**.  Flute edge; press with fork.  Pre-bake according to package directions.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella cheese.  Cool.

Cut tomatoes into wedges; drain on paper towels.  Arrange wedges on top of melted cheese in the pie shell.  In a food processor bowl combine basil and garlic, cover and process until coarsely chopped.  Sprinkle over tomatoes.  In a medium bowl combine remaining mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, parmesan and pepper.  Spoon cheese mixture over basil mix.  Spread to cover.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden.  Serve warm.

Makes 8 appetizers or 4 main dish

*I make my own pie crust
Pie crust

2 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼- ½ cup ice water

Put flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  All ingredients should be cold.  Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles course meal.

Add ice water through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a flat circle with your fist and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least and hour.  Makes two crusts.

** To make individual appetizers cut out shapes with a small cookie cutter, poke with a fork and pre-bake for 7 minutes.  Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.  Finely chop tomatoes.  Sprinkle tomatoes followed by basil and garlic mixture on top of cooked pie crusts. Put cheese and mayo mixture in a small Ziploc bag, snip one corner of the bag making a small hole.  Pipe enough of  the mixture on top of tomatoes and basil to cover.  Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Butternut squash, Pumpkin and Bacon Baked Penne

I found this recipe on pinterest and adapted it a bit.  My family loved it!  It is perfect fall comfort food.

Adapted from: Roasted Butternut Baked Penne

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small shallots, chopped
1 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 box whole wheat penne
1/4 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
sage leaves or 2 tsp dried sage
crumbed bacon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and chop squash, then lay on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Roast for 20 minutes, flip once, then roast for 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and add squash to a bowl, then mash with a potato masher or fork.
Prepare water for pasta and cook according to directions.
Place 8 strips of bacon on a jelly roll pan.  Cook until crispy in a 400 degree oven.  When done, drain on a paper towel and crumble.  Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add butter and shallots. Whisk continuously until the butter browns and small brown bits appear in the pan. Immediately whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk, mascarpone, pumpkin, and mashed squash, then mix all until combined. Thin with more milk if desired.   At this point, taste and see if you’d like any additional salt or spices.
Add pasta to an oval or round baking dish. Pour sauce over top, then use a spoon to fold the sauce into the penne, coating it completely. Top with shredded cheeses and fresh sage leaves. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Garnish with crumbled bacon.

Garrett's cinnamon sugar soft pretzels

These are Garrett's "famous pretzels" in our house.  They are delicious and completely addicting.  They taste just like Auntie Anne pretzels.  We always double the recipe and they still disappear at an alarming rate.  Enjoy!

Adapted from:
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

8 pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups (we almost always do half whole wheat flour so we feel better about the massive quantities of bread we are consuming)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

5 Tbsp white sugar 
2 Tbsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp melted butter


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 9 to 12 minutes. 

Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl or plate.  Stir to combine and add more sugar or cinnamon until the ratio is right.  Right after the pretzels come out of the oven, brush them with the melted butter on both sides.  Then roll them in the cinnamon and sugar.  Eat immediately!

Coconut and chocolate bread pudding

These recipes are from my friend Erin.  She made both for us one Sunday for dessert and they are both completely amazing!

Coconut Cream Bread Pudding
Southern Living
Erin Slack

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
4 large eggs
2 ½ cups milk, at room temp and divided
1 (15 oz) can cream of coconut, divided
8 Tbsp butter, melted and divided
1 (8 oz) French bread loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
vegetable cooking spray
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup shopped pecans

preheat oven to 350.

Beat cream cheese at low speed with and electric mixer until creamy and smooth.  Add 1 cup sugar and eggs, and beat at medium speed 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Stir in 2 cups milk, 1 cup cream or coconut, and 3 Tbsp melted butter.  Stir in bread cubes.  Let stand 5 minutes. 

Coat a 13 x 9- inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour bread mixture into dish.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until set.

Stir together flaked coconut, pecans, and 3 Tbsp. melted butter.  Sprinkle coconut mixture over baked pudding, and bake 5-8 more minutes or until browned.

Stir together remaining ½ cup milk and ½ cup cream of coconut.

Cook remaining ½ cup sugar in a medium-size heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until sugar is caramelized and mixture becomes a light brown syrup.* Stir in milk mixture, and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until sauce is thickened slightly and sugar is dissolved.  Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp melted butter.

*sugar will likely crystallize, when you add the milk mixture and cook it will eventually dissolve.

Cut bread pudding into 8-10 servings, and serve with caramelized sugar sauce.

Jim’s Chocolate Bread Pudding

1 bag of sliced bread 
1 cup brown sugar
12onz. semi sweet chocolate chips
4onz. butter
2 cups of milk
6 to 8 eggs
2-3 tbls vainilla extract
2-3 tbls almond extract
1 dash of salt

Let bread dry and cut it in pieces
mix together eggs, milk, salt, vainilla and almond
in a bowl melt chocolate, sugar and butter (on a sauce pan with hot water?) 
put together bread and the "eggs and milk" mix
then add the chocolate mix.
bake at 350º for 60min.

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

I make this all the time for my family.  We love it and it is really fast and vegetarian which is a bonus.  I have always used wheat pasta and I have used penne, rotini, even shells. Any kind of pasta will work but I wouldn't recommend noodles because you want pasta with cracks or holes to catch the sauce. I also use basil instead of mint.  I like both, but the mint can be a little strong for me.

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, whole
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red

pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish. Place in the oven on the rack below the vegetables. Roast until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor. Add the torn mint leaves and extra-virgin olive oil. Puree the vegetables.

Transfer the pureed vegetables to the bowl with the pasta and add the Parmesan. Stir to combine, adding the pasta cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time until the pasta is saucy. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and serve.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chocolate Mousse layer cake with Ganache

I made this for Nathan's birthday party this year and it was a big hit. I want to keep experimenting--raspberries? Hazelnuts? The possibilities are endless, but if you like a moist, dense, dark chocolate cake, this is for you! By the way, the Irish Cream liqueur is from Trader Joes and I promise it is worth getting. Once you boil out the alcohol, it becomes a sweet, caramely concoction that infuses the cake with fabulous flavor. 

Chocolate Layer-Mousse Cake with Ganache

makes 1 large cake – serves 12
active time: 2 hours
For the cakes
.           1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
.           1 cup Dutch process cocoa – sifted
.           2 teaspoons baking powder
.           2 pinches sea salt
.           8 large eggs – at room temperature
.           1 1/2 cups organic sugar
.           4 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted and slightly cooled
.           1 Irish Cream liqueur, boiled to remove alcohol
.           2 – 9” round non-stick cake molds – lightly buttered and floured
For the milk chocolate mousse
.           9 oz (255gr) milk chocolate – coarsely chopped
.           1 1/2 cups heavy cream
.           1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur
.           1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the ganache
.           12 oz (340gr semi-sweet chocolate – coarsely chopped
  1/4 cups heavy cream
.           2 oz (57gr) white chocolate curls, as garnish

.           Preheat oven to 375°F (190ºC).
.           Step 1: Place the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk until well blended. Set aside.
.           Step 2: Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk at high speed until very pale, thick and ribbony (about 2 minutes). Slowly add the sugar and continue whisking at high speed until soft peaks form, another minute.
.           Step 3: Add half the flour/cocoa mixture to the whipped eggs. Fold in carefully. Add the melted butter and fold in carefully. Fold in the remaining flour/cocoa mixture, taking care not to overmix.
.           Step 4: Divide the batter equally into the prepared molds. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before un-molding.
.           Cook’s note: The cakes can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead. Cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembling the cake.
.           Step 5: To make the chocolate mousse: Place the chocolate pieces in a double boiler. Melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool until just warm to the touch.
.           Step 6: Place the heavy cream, 1 Tbs Irish Cream liqueur and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip at medium speed until thick, taking care not to overbeat or it will turn to butter. Pour the melted milk chocolate into the whipped cream and fold until well blended. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
.           Step 7: To make the ganache: Place the cream in a sauce pan. Heat it until it simmers. Add the chocolate, turn off the heat, and stir until melted and smooth.
.           Step 8: To assemble the cake: Un-mold the chocolate cakes and cut in 4 even layers, about 1″ thick (I use a cake leveler, it makes the job infinitely easier!). Place one layer of cake in the center of a serving platter. Line the rim of the platter with plastic wrap (this will keep the rim clean as you apply the frosting). Using a pastry brush, soak the cake with one quarter of the Irish Cream. Top with a third of the chocolate mousse and spread it evenly over the whole surface of the cake. Top with another layer of the chocolate cake. Repeat soaking with the Irish Cream, and spreading the milk chocolate mousse 2 more times until you have 3 layers. Top with the last layer of chocolate cake and soak with the remaining Irish Cream. Finish by applying the ganache, first on the top, then dripped down the sides. Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.
.           Step 10: When ready to serve, shave the white chocolate using a vegetable hand peeler over the cake and around the rim of the platter.