Serendipity Grilled Cheese Sandwich

March 29, 2011

I’m sure you’ve whipped up some of the fabulous Caramelized Pear and Rosemary Conserve from my previous posting by now, that is if you’re not still waiting for your pears to ripen. I had mentioned that we had used it as a spread in sandwiches. Well, this is an example of one of them, the Serendipity Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The recipe for Caramelized Pear and Rosemary Conserve came from The Serendipity Diary and this sandwich is one of their creations as well. They modestly call it the “Pear & Grilled Cheese Sandwich”, but I have re-christened it. This sandwich is very easy to prepare and is such a treat to eat. I used Jarlsberg Cheese, but a Smoky Gouda or Gruyere Cheese would also work well. This sandwich is a great vegetarian option, but if you’re feeling a bit more carnivorish, try it with a slice of salty Virginia Ham thrown on as well. The salty and sweet combo is to die for!

Serendipity Grilled Cheese Sandwich

recipe from The Serendipity Diary

Ingredients:

Two slices of whole wheat bread

Caramelized Pear and Rosemary Conserve

Spinach

Jarlsberg Cheese

Butter or Olive oil (if you wish to pan-fry the sandwich)

Directions:

You just grab two slices of whatever bread you prefer, we love whole wheaty types of bread. Spread  a thin layer of the Caramelized Pear and Rosemary Conserve on each slice. Top one slice with spinach leaves and slices of whatever cheese you prefer. Place the other slice of bread on top to form a sandwich. Either place it in a Panini Maker and grill it until the cheese melts, or you can melt some butter in a frying pan and grill each side until the cheese melts and the bread is golden brown. Enjoy!


Snowy Morning Steel Cut Oats

March 27, 2011

It’s the end of March. Flowers are bloomin, birds are singing, we’re wearing short sleeves and light jackets, it’s our long-awaited Spring right? Well turns out Spring has not quite sprung. Winter is still holding on. We woke up this morning to find snow on the ground. Are you kiddin me?!! All of the tender new blooms are covered with snow.

Thankfully it wasn’t much more than a dusting. The one good thing I can say about the snowy morning is that it put us in the mood for slow-cooked, steel-cut oatmeal. I like oatmeal year round, but find it absolutely perfect on a cold, snowy morning. While I will do instant oatmeal in a pinch, I prefer the good old-fashioned kind, John McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal to be specific. This oatmeal has a wonderful nutty flavour and is a bit chewier than the rolled oat variety.

How are “steel-cut” oatmeal different from “old-fashioned rolled oats”? Both are from the same whole raw oat, they are just cut differently. The steel-cut oatmeal is the whole raw oat cut into chunks. It takes longer to cook than the rolled oats, which are the whole raw oat which is steamed and then rolled flat. This process results in a quicker cooking time for the rolled oat oatmeal.

Steel-Cut Oats & Rolled Oats

The nutritional value is essentially the same for both types. And speaking of nutritional value, oatmeal is packed full of health benefits. It is low in saturated fat, sodium free and cholesterol free. It is high in soluble fiber which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol as well as slow digestion which aids in weight control. It also helps to stabilize blood glucose level which lowers the risk of type II diabetes. What are you waiting for? You should definitely get started, because it does take some time, about 30 minutes or so, to cook steel-cut oatmeal. You can reduce cooking time a bit by letting the oats soak in water for an hour before or up to the night before you are planning to prepare them. I usually plan to make it on the weekends when I have more time. I make a big pot so that I will have extra little cup size servings of oatmeal that I can simply reheat it in the microwave during the week.

Breakfast for the week

To make steel-cut oats, you sprinkle 1 cup of the oats over four cups of briskly boiling water. Stir well. Once the oatmeal is smooth and beginning to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point I add a pinch of salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Once its done, you can top it with whatever you like. We generally go for bananas, apples, and fresh strawberries, a little butter, and chopped pecans or walnuts. We would have put some of our scrumptious Pear & Rosemary Conserve on it, from my previous post, but we had eaten it all! I know lots of folks like to add a splash of cream, chocolate chips or maple syrup. Really that’s what so fun about it, you can customize it however you want. It’s both yummy and good for you. Get some today!


Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve

March 24, 2011

Both my husband and I love pears. They’re great anytime of the year really. So when I saw this recipe for a Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve on The Serendipity Diary blog I just couldn’t resist! This recipe is fantastic for so many reasons. First and foremost is that it is very easy to make and tastes amazing! Furthermore, it really enhances whatever food you choose to pair it with. We have put it on toast, oatmeal, scones, served it with a cheese tray and used it as a spread on various sandwiches. Yum, yum, yum!

Jarlsberg and Smoked Gouda Cheese Tray with Pear Conserve

The hardest thing about this recipe is the pears themselves. Let me clarify that, catching the pears at the exact millisecond that they are ripe. You know what I mean. You buy some lovely pears at the market and can’t wait to eat them, but they are hard as little rocks. So you put them in your fruit bowl and remind yourself that patience is a virtue. You check them diligently for days, or even hours if you’ve dealt with these little devils before. Nevertheless, they seem to go from little rock, to ripe, to pile of mush in mere seconds! Makes you feel like you just can’t take your eyes off of them!

Me vs. Pear in staring contest

I’ve tried the trick where you put them in a closed brown paper bag to accelerate ripening, with mixed results.

It's a mystery!

I tell you it is maddening! But if you can catch them at just the right moment they can be absolutely dreamy! Once you have your ripe pears, you just throw them into the pot with some sugar, molasses, lemon juice, rosemary, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Ingredients ready to go!

Then you simply let them all cook down until you have this delicious concoction. So set out to make this conserve today. Or if you’d love to try some, but are not feeling particularly motivated, buy yourself a jar from Serendipity Jams, which they sell in their etsy store.

Caramelized Pear & Rosemary Conserve

recipe from  The Serendipity Diary

Ingredients:

1 1/5 lbs. ripe buttery Pears-like Bartlett or Warren’s

1/3 Cup sugar

1/8 Cup lemon juice

1 tsp. molasses

1 sprig of fresh Rosemary (approx. 4 inches in length)

Dash each of ground cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg

1-2 Cups of water on hand to use during cooking

Directions:

Wash, core, de-stem and cut the pears into about 2″ pieces.

In a small to medium stock pot over medium heat combine pears, lemon juice, spices, and sugar and molasses. Give the mixture a good stir and let the pears begin to soften and caramelize. (Approx. 10-15 minutes)

Add about 1/2 Cup water and the rosemary to the pot, bring the pears to a gentle boil and continue stirring.

Continue adding water to the pears when most of the moisture has evaporated, continuing until the pears have broken down and are soft and spreadable.

Once the desired consistency is reached, remove and discard the rosemary.

Ladle conserve into clean, sterilized jars. Let the jars cool and then keep them in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.


Post Patrick’s Day

March 22, 2011

Whew! I’m still not quite recovered from our St. Patrick’s Day party and the cooking blitz that lead up to it! Don’t get me wrong, it was great fun. I got to see a lot of our friends who I had not seen in a while and all of our usual characters were here as well!  The food actually cooperated, no cooking disasters, and was quite tasty! My friends have kindly given me wonderful reviews on my efforts. I asked everyone what their favourite dish was and it was a tie between the Beef and Guinness Pies and the Pork Tart. The Curry Sauce I made to go along with the Chips was a big hit as well.

St. Patrick’s Day Party Menu

Mini Cheese and Onion pies (I wish I had gotten a picture of them, but folks gobbled them down too quick!)

Mini Boxty, stuffed with corned beef and cheddar

Mini Beef and Guinness pies

Celtic Pork Tart

Shepherd’s Pie

Brown Bread and Irish Butter

Home-made Chips served with choice of ketchup, malt vinegar or curry sauce

Drunken Irish Brownies

Car bomb Cupcakes

Chocolate Cups of Chruachan

Chocolate Cups of Chruachan

Mini Beef & Guinness Pie and Mini Boxty stuffed with corned beef and cheddar

Car Bombs and Drunken Brownies Galore!

In order to have all of that done, I started cooking Tuesday and evening and continued cooking right up to Thursday at party time. I have to really thank my husband Jay. He stood at the deep-fryer and fried a mountain of chips as well as a somewhat smaller hill of mini Cheese and Onion pies.

Mountain of Hand-Cut, Home-Made Chips

He was literally there for over an hour. Also, a big shout out to my friend John who was sous-chef extraordinaire, helping with last-minute finishes, plating and serving the food. I wish I had gotten more pictures, but it was getting dark when the party was starting and the food was ready, no light-and you know what flash can do to food pics! Not to mention, once the guests started arriving, taking pictures of the food was not a priority.

St. Patrick's Day Character #1

Character #2-Showing off his "Lucky Charms"

All in all, it was a great shindig! Good food, good music, great company. We are hoping to make it an annual event. Next year St. Patrick’s Day is on a Saturday so folks will really be able to let their hair down. Shenanigan levels should be high! However, I must say, cooking for 20 people was quite an undertaking! I’m a bit “cooked-out” at this point. I really haven’t even entered the kitchen since March 17th! But don’t despair, I haven’t forgotten about you. I will be back with another great recipe later this week. Think “pears”…..


Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

March 17, 2011

Lá Féile Pádraig Shona Daiobh! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day! )Today is the last St. Patrick’s Day recipe that I will be posting this year. But this one is a goodie! As if my blog hasn’t been boozy enough recently, I thought you might like to make some cupcakes which feature three fantastic Irish adult style beverages, namely Guinness Stout, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream. The ingredients here are reminiscent of the beer cocktail which I’m sure many St. Patrick’s Day revelers will be drinking today….The Car Bomb. What in the world is a Car Bomb that you drink? Well, you take a shot glass. Fill it most of the way with Baileys Irish Cream. Float some Jameson Whiskey on top of it and then drop the shot glass into a pint of Guinness Stout. There is a somewhat explosive foaming reaction from the Guinness and the drinkers goal is to chug the whole thing down before it curdles. Wow huh? The drink was not invented in Ireland, but seems to have come from Norwich, Connecticut. This insane cocktail apparently inspired Deb at Smitten Kitchen to come up with the recipe for her Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes, which I used here. Thank goodness she did! These cupcakes are almost unbelievable, the word phenomenal even comes to mind. And, even better, pretty easy to make. You just bake the chocolatey, Guinnessey, wonderful cupcakes.

 

Cupcakes coolin off

Once they’ve cooled you use an apple corer to cut out the centers so that you can fill them with a sinful Irish Whiskey Chocolate Ganache.

Filling the Cupcake

Chocolate Irish Whiskey Ganache filling

Then you frost them with a dreamy Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting. Are you drooling yet? I made them for a get together back in January and folks went wild! These really are a must for your St. Patrick’s Day party. We’re actually having a St. Patrick’s Day celebration later this evening. I will be serving most of the dishes that I posted leading up to today, though most in a more appetizer-like form. Wish me luck, there is a lot to do before 7 pm this evening!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

The Cupcakes:

1 Cup Guinness Stout

1 Cup unsalted butter

3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Cups all-purpose flour

2 Cups Sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 Cup sour cream

Whiskey Ganache Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2/3 Cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature

1-2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Baileys Frosting

3-4 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3-4 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Directions:

The Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 24 cupcakes cups with parchment paper or liners. Bring 1 cup Guinness stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric or stand mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liner, filling them 2/3 of the way. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Whiskey Ganache:

Chop the chocolate and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

Using your 1″ round cookie cutter or apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, cutting down 2/3 of the way through the cakes. Fill a piping bag with the Whiskey Ganache. Pipe the ganache into the holes, filling each cupcake to the top.

Baileys Buttercream Frosting:

Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes until it is very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. If you add the sugar too quickly you will not only have grainy icing, but you will need to add a lot more sugar to get the icing to reach the correct consistency.

Once the frosting appears to be the correct consistency to ice the cupcakes, drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes. For St. Patrick’s Day I used green sprinkles.


Chranachan (Toasted Almond Pudding) & Irish Butter Shortbread

March 16, 2011

You actually get two recipes in one posting today, but they go together so well, I couldn’t resist. Chranachan is a unique dessert more commonly found in the North of Ireland, where there is a strong Scottish influence. This recipe does feature Irish whiskey, so I’m satisfied it is Irish enough to be included in my St. Patrick’s Day recipes. An interesting aside about the spelling of “whiskey”- I’m sure you’ve probably seen it spelled both “whisky” and “whiskey” in various places. “Whisky” without the “e” indicates that it is a product from Scotland, Wales, Canada or Japan. Whiskey, spelled with an “e” indicates that it is a product of Ireland or the United States. However, just having said that, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms decreed in 1968 that “whisky” would be spelled without an “e” in America. Many distilleries had been producing their whiskey for quite a while at that point and chose to keep spelling it with the “e”.  So you’ll actually find both spellings in the US. While we are on the subject of whiskey, the word “whiskey”  was borrowed by the English from the Irish Gaelic uisce beatha, which is pronounced like ish-ge bah-hah. It  means “water of life”.

 

Jameson Irish Whiskey...of course!

Back to the pudding-it really is quite yummy. You might want to keep it away from the young kids, the Irish Whiskey is pretty prominent! You can serve it in a cosmo glass, like I did, or I think it would look lovely in a tall glass as well. I drizzled a little Baileys over the top of the pudding (cause there just wasn’t enough alcohol in it!) and served it with some Irish Butter Shortbread. I painted a little Celtic design on the shortbread in white chocolate which I dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!

Chranachan

2/3 Cup uncooked rolled oats

1/3 Cup slivered almonds

1 1/4 Cups heavy whipping cream

4 Tablespoons Honey

5 Tablespoons Irish Whiskey

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Baileys Irish Cream-to drizzle on top

Strawberries or raspberries to garnish

Directions:

On a baking sheet, toast the oatmeal and almonds at 300° F for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Whip the cream.

Stir in the honey and whisky. Gently fold in almonds and oatmeal. Stir in the lemon juice. Divide into individual glasses. Drizzle some Baileys over the top. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Garnish with berries and serve with Irish Shortbread.

Recipe from Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala

Irish Butter Shortbread

Ingredients:

1 Cup Irish unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar

2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour. Continue mixing until dough comes together to form a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface; roll out dough to about 1/4 ” thickness, dusting rolling-pin with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Using a 2″ cutter, cut out dough. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1″ apart. Gather up any scraps, gently re-roll, and repeat cutting process. Take care not to over work dough.

Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake until shortbread just begins to turn golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Shortbread may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Rachel Gaffney


Beef & Guinness Pie

March 15, 2011

Beef and Guinness…need I say more. My idea of comfort food. This pie is not only so simple to make but also so incredibly delicious. The filling for this pie is cooked slowly for 1 1/2 hours to allow the flavour of the Guinness to thoroughly permeate it.You won’t believe the fantastic, mouth-watering aroma that will fill your house while you’re preparing it. You can even prepare the filling a day in advance should you desire. Make it on St. Patrick’s Day and watch your guests melt at the first bite! This is another Chef Gordon Ramsay recipe and it will not disappoint! The Chef recommended baking the Beef & Guinness in an 8″ pie dish. I have done this and it is not only very easy, but presents very well. However, I was feeling creative the other night and thought I’d try some variations, so I baked a couple servings in French soup bowls and covered them with a shortcrust pastry.

Beef & Guinness Pie in soup bowls

Not to be stopped there, I made smaller individual pies by lining the wells of a large popover pan with pastry dough, filling it with the Beef and Guinness and then cutting a bit more of the pastry for a lid.

Stand-alone Beef & Guinness Pie

Yummy Guinnessy Goodness inside!

Adorable huh? No matter how you package it, you just can’t go wrong with this recipe!

Beef & Guinness Pie

Recipe by Chef Gordon Ramsay

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb. (750g) lean braising steak, eg. skirt of beef, beef chuck

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Freshly ground salt and pepper

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon tomato purée

16 oz. (500ml) Guinness

3/4 lb. (350g) shallots, peeled and chopped

a few sprigs of thyme

2 Bay leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

Pastry Dough-either shortcrust or puff pastry-enough for 8″ pie dish minimum

Directions:

Dice the beef into  1″ (2.5 cm) cubes. Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Roll the beef in the flour to coat.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the beef until golden brown in colour. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute, stirring well. Then pour in the Guinness and add the shallot, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves.

Preheat oven to 390° F (200°C/Gas 6)

Transfer the meat to a 8″ (20 cm) pie dish-2″ (5-7 cm) deep

Roll out the pastry and cover the pie. Scrunch the pastry to the edge of the dish and trim around the edge, leaving 1-2 cm overhanging. Brush the top with the egg. *for the baking dish variations shown above, read below*

Transfer to a baking tray and place in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

*For French Soup Bowls or Individual Ramekins:

Place Beef & Guinness filling in baking dish of choice. Roll out pastry. Cut pastry lid 1-2″ larger than dish. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Fit to top of dish and scrunch the pastry to the edge. Brush the top of the pastry dough with the egg wash.

*For Popover Stand-alone Pies:

Lightly grease the individual wells of a large popover pan. Line each well with pastry dough making sure there are no holes in the pastry lining and that it is snug against the walls of the well. Work the pastry so that it comes up just over the edge of the well so that you can easily attach a lid. Cut your lids out to be slightly larger than the diameter of the popover well. Poke a couple of holes is the lid so that steam can escape during baking. Fill the pastry lined wells with the Beef & Guinness mixture. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Place lid on the top of the individual pie and crimp around the edges. Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let pies cool in pan for 5 minutes. Gently slide them out of the pan. Do not grab the top and pull or risk the top of the pie breaking off.


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