I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Queso Fundido Soup

Queso Fundido SoupCinco de Mayo approaches and with it, thoughts of the completely Americanized restaurant specialty, queso, or cheese dip as we used to call it. I, and pretty much anyone from in Memphis, grew up on a thin, cold cheese dip created by the area’s first Mexican restaurant. It is still a favorite and available at local groceries in a plastic tub, and a true guilty pleasure for me. Next came Ro-tel dip, melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned tomato and green chile mix. No teenage party was complete without it. Then a restaurant opened in town serving the first incarnation of what was considered “authentic” Mexican food. It was the first place in town to serve fajitas. And with it came queso fundido (they title their version queso flameado). Spicy chorizo sausage covered in melty cheese, served in a hot skillet. The restaurant has been opened over 25 years, but that dip was a game changer at the time, adding such zip and interest to an old standby.

I was thinking about that dip, and other delicious versions of queso fundido I’ve sought out over the years, when I created this soup. It’s a flavorful and fun meal-in-a-bowl with lots of toppings and flavor addition possibilities. Start the meal with chips and salsa or guacamole and mix up a pitcher of margaritas and celebrate the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.

Queso Fundido Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 9 ounces Mexican pork chorizo sausage
  2. 1 cup finely diced onion
  3. 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  6. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 1 ½ cups whole milk
  9. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  10. 8 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated
  11. 2 small plum tomatoes
  12. fresh cilantro
  13. tortilla chips or strips
Instructions
  1. Sauté the chorizo in a Dutch oven, breaking the meat up with a spatula as you go. When the chorizo releases some of its fat, add the onion, green chiles and garlic and stir well. Cook until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions and chiles are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug and whisk in the flour until smooth and completely dissolved. Stir the milk mixture into the soup and cook at a low bubble – not a boil – until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low. Reserve about a half cup of the cheese to top the soup, then stir in the remaining cheese, ½ cup at a time, making sure each addition is melted and smooth before adding the next.
  3. Serve the soup in large bowl topped with chopped tomato, minced cilantro, a little grated cheese and some tortilla strips.
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Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and cream cheese is a classic pairing that always makes an appearance around Easter. But the combination is usually in sweet recipes. I love a moist carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing, or a carrot cookie with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. But I decided to turn that combo around, creating a savory interpretation perfect for an Easter brunch. And what Easter brunch would be complete without biscuits?

Cornmeal adds interest to the texture of these biscuits, and carrots contribute a hint of sweetness. Dill is such a perfect pairing with carrots I just had to add a dose to the recipe. The cream cheese butter is rich and flavorful and perfect with these biscuits, but they are also delicious with a smear of plain butter. Try these next to an Easter ham to make a very interesting sandwich combo.

Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1 ¼ cup soft wheat flour (I like White Lily)
  2. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3 teaaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  7. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  8. ½ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  9. ¾ cup whole milk
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl using a fork. Add the chopped dill and toss to distribute it evenly. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or your good clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until you have a fine, sandy texture with a few pea size pieces of butter visible. Add the grated carrots and use your hands to toss them into the flour mixture so there are no clumps of carrot and everything is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the milk and stir with a spatula just until combined. Knead with your hands in the bowl a few times just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry cloth and dump the biscuit dough on it. Pat the dough into a rectangle, fold it in half, turn it over and pat into a rectangle again. Do this three times, patting the dough into a ½-inch slab, then use a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits. Place the biscuits vey close together, almost touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Gently fold and pat the scraps of dough and cut more biscuits.
  4. Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until risen, puffed and lightly browned. If you like a burnished top to your biscuits, turn the broiler on for the last 1 – 2 minutes of baking.
  5. Makes at least 12 2-inch biscuits
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before serving. The cream cheese butter can be keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Makes about 1 cup
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Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
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Mardi Gras Potato Salad

Mardi Gras Potato Salad

I recently made a batch of Debris Po’ Boys to photograph and served them to family for dinner. I needed a nice side dish, and though my first thought was New Orleans made spicy potato chips, I happened to be in the produce department and came across bags of little purple and gold mixed potatoes. With Mardi Gras on my mind, I decided I just had to make a thematic potato salad. Okay, it’s a little silly, making a side dish in the purple, green and gold colors traditional in Mardi Gras celebrations, but it was a fun conversation piece as we served ourselves supper. And these roasted potatoes tossed with the trinity of Cajun cooking – onions, green peppers and celery – coated in a tangy creole mustard vinaigrette also happens to be very good.

Purple and yellow potatoes are pretty easy to find in groceries this day, particularly gourmet or natural food markets. If you don’t find the little golf ball sized miniature version, just cut whole potatoes into bite-sized chunks.

Mardi Gras Potato Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ½ pound small purple potatoes
  2. ½ pound small yellow potatoes
  3. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 3 Tablespoons Creole mustard
  6. 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  7. ½ teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  8. 4 green onions, white and some green parts, finely chopped
  9. ½ cup olive oil
  10. 1 stalks celery
  11. 1 green bell pepper
  12. chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces (quarters or eighths, depending on size). Spread the potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and some black pepper. Roast the potatoes until a knife inserted in the center of a piece meets no resistance, about 25 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, mix the mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and green onions in a mason jar and shake to combine. Add the olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper and shake until fully combined. As soon as you put the hot potatoes in the bowl, pour over the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Leave to cool to room temperature, stirring a few times to distribute the dressing.
  4. Chop the celery into a small dice, then seed and chop the pepper into a small dice. When the potatoes are cool, add the celery and pepper to the bowl and stir to distribute evenly. Waiting until the potatoes have cooled keeps the celery and pepper crisp. Taste and add salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  5. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to serve. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and serve.
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Debris Po’ Boys

Debris Po BoyMardi Gras is almost upon us, so it’s time to talk Po’ Boys. Traditionally, the story goes, the Debris po’ boy (pronounced DAY-bree in this case) was made from the leftover bits and pieces left behind from carving a roast, soaked in the gravy and meat juices. But I don’t generally have enough leftover roast beef to serve a crowd, and besides, debris is just too good to wait for leftovers. So I make this version in the slow cooker, to get the slow roasted flavor and lots of juices to turn into gravy. It is a very fun celebratory meal, letting everyone assemble their own po boy.

The bread for a po’ boy is obviously a key part of the overall experience. In New Orleans, po’ boy bread is a thing unto itself – made by local bakeries it is soft in the center with a crust that is not overly hard or chewy. Outside Louisiana, it’s a little hard to find real po’ boy bread, so you have to do you’re best. I find typical French bread too chewy so I tend to go for a hoagie roll or Mexican bollilo rolls. If you have a bakery in the area that supplies rolls for a Vietnamese bahn mi place or a Vietnamese grocery, that version of French bread is pretty close. Split the rolls or loaves and lightly toast.

Debris Po Boys
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 4 stalks celery
  2. 3 carrots
  3. 2 onions
  4. 1 green bell pepper
  5. 10 cloves garlic
  6. 3 bay leaves
  7. 3 sprigs thyme
  8. 5 pounds bottom round beef roast (in two pieces is fine)
  9. Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
  10. 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (I use Abita Turbo Dog)
  11. 1 cup beef broth
  12. 1 teaspoon corn starch
  13. Creole Spread
  14. ¾ cup mayonnaise
  15. ¼ cup Creole mustard (I like Zatarain’s)
  16. 2 teaspoons honey
  17. 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  18. 6 French bread rolls or hoagie rolls
  19. provolone cheese
  20. shredded lettuce
Instructions
  1. Place the celery, carrots and onions in the bottom of an 8-quart slow cooker. Stem and seed the bell pepper and add it to the crock with the garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Generously coat both sides of the beef roast with creole seasoning, rubbing it into the meat. Place the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour in the beer and beef broth, cover and cook over low heat for eight hours. Remove the meat from the slow cooker to a deep rimmed platter or bowl. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker through a strainer into a large saucepan. Discard the solids. Let the juices settle, then skim off the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, until it is slightly reduced.
  3. While the liquid is boiling, shred the beef. Cut away any fat or gristle, then use two forks to pull the meat into shreds.
  4. Put the cornstarch onto a small bow and whisk in a few tablespoons of cooking liquid and whisk until completely smooth. Whisk the cornstarch mixture back into the juices and continue cooking for 2 -3 more minutes.
  5. Rinse out the slow cooker crock and return the meat to it. Pour over the juices and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Creole Spread
  1. Whisk together the mayo, mustard, honey and hot sauce. This can be done up to a day ahead, covered and kept in the fridge.
  2. To serve, split the rolls and lightly toast on a cookie sheet in the oven. Spread on side of the bread with the creole spread. Use tongs to pile the beef onto the bread, then top the hot meat with a slice of cheese, then layer with shredded lettuce.
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Gumbo Z’Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z’Herbes, or green gumbo, is a very traditional Creole dish that you do not find all that often. The magnificent Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is famous for hers, and she serves it primarily the traditional way – on Holy Thursday (before Good Friday). Gumbo Z’herbes is said to bring luck and strengthen the body, and that for each type of green you put in the pot, you will make one new friend in the coming year. The traditional number seems to be nine, with eleven greens being a real bonus, and odd numbers are said to bring even more luck.

I have only had professionally made Gumbo Z’Herbes once in new Orleans, but it is a tradition and a dish that has always intrigued me, so I set out to do some research. I read recipes I found in some old Louisiana cookbooks and online. And the variations are endless. So I took all that information onboard and created this recipe. I generally don’t use as many as nine greens, because I can’t usually track that many down. And some of the recipes used very regional ingredients like pickled pork that I just don’t have access to. Some versions take all day to prepare and cook, some take shortcuts. Some have up to seven different kinds of meat, from pork shoulder to boudin while some insist this should be a vegetarian dish for lent. I am not claiming this is the definitive version of Gumbo Z’Herbes, but it’s mine.

Though traditionally a dish for Lent, I think it is perfect for New Years Day, when eating greens is said to bring prosperity and eating pork is said to be a symbol of progress in the New Year. I say the more greens and pork the better!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of mixed greens: Mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, flat leaf parsley, watercress, chard, dandelion (see note)
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 2 cups finely diced yellow onion (about 1 onion)
  5. 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
  6. 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  7. 1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  8. 1 ham hock
  9. 10 cups hot water
  10. 1 pound Andouille sausage
Instructions
  1. Strip any thick stalks from the greens (particularly collards, mustard, turnip and kale) and place all the greens in a sink or large bowl full of water. Swish them around a couple of times and let them soak about 5 minutes. Lift the greens out of the water into a large colander. Dirt and silt from the greens will settle at the bottom of the sink, so gently lift them out to prevent the dirt getting back on the greens. Shake the greens to drain. Chop piles of the greens into bite size pieces and return them to the colander.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 7 quart) heavy pan (I like cast iron or enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the creole seasoning. Now slowly pour in the hot water (hottest from the tap is fine, or bring some to a simmer in a pot), stirring constantly. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Add the ham hock, then all the greens, a handful at a time, stirring them down to fit in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer the gumbo for 1 ½ hours.
  3. Scoop about a third of the greens into a food processor or blender with a nice dose of potlikker, at least a cup, and puree until smooth. Return the pureed greens to the pot. Remove the ham hock and carefully pull the meat of the bones. If needed, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the gumbo. Slice the andouille into thin half moons about 1/8 inch thick and add to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Serve in big bowls. The gumbo on its own is a little soupy. Serve it over rice to soak up some of that potlikker if you’d like, or with nice hunks of French bread or cornbread to sop it up.
Notes
  1. Head to a good Southern market, farmers market or an Asian grocery to track down all the greens. Many recipes use carrot tops as one of the greens, so if you can find those. Same goes for beet tops and radish tops. Green chard, cabbage, arugula and romaine will also work. Just weigh out 3 pounds.
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Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans

Spiced and seasoned roasted nuts are a great pleasure. The problem I’ve always encountered was baking them in the oven without burning them, or at least some of the nuts on the baking sheet. Nuts contain flavorful oils that can scorch easily. I’ve come across several recipes for cooking nuts in the slow cooker and the idea made total sense to me. Large quantities without the fear of burning. So I adapted a favorite seasoning mixture to the slow cooker method and it has become a favorite. Stirring the nuts into a seasoned butter right in the crock is simple, and the even heat brings out the flavor of the pecans and prevents burning. While this is not a totally hands-off slow cooker recipe, it is easy to have these going while you attend to other tasks. Set a timer for 30 minutes and give them a stir.

This recipe makes a big batch of nuts, so there are plenty to wrap up and give away and still have lots to snack on. These will also keep for several weeks in an airtight container, which makes them particularly handy for holiday gifts or drop-in guests.

Slow Cooker Spiced Pecans
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. ½ cup granulated sugar
  3. ½ cup light brown sugar
  4. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  5. 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  7. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  8. a few dashes cayenne pepper to taste
  9. 2 pounds pecan halves
Instructions
  1. Spray the crock of slow cooker with cooking spray and turn the cooker to high. Cut the butter into pieces and place it in the slow cooker and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until the butter is melted. Stir in the sugars and spices until combined, then stir in the pecans until they are all well coated. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 2 hours, stirring well every 30 minutes, then uncover the cooker and cook for a further hour, stirring frequently.
  2. Spread the pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Taste one and if you think it needs more salt, sprinkle some over. As the nuts cool, separate any clusters with a fork.
  3. Once cool, these will keep in an airtight container for up to a month.
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Peppermint Cookie Bars

Peppermint Cookie Bars

A good, thickly frosted sugar cookie bar has all the old-fashioned comfort we look for during the holidays. I like to take that recipe and zuzz it up for Christmas, with some rich white chocolate and bracing peppermint. The shower of crushed peppermint candy adds a festive touch and couldn’t be easier to do. These are simple to make, but look gorgeous on a festive platter and will really stand out on a display of other sweets. I took them to a party last year and another woman picked one up then asked what they were. I told her they were peppermint and saw her hesitate – but clearly wasn’t going to put it back on the plate – so she politely took a bite. Her face lit up and she declared “I don’t really like peppermint but these are yummy. My son would love these!” She promptly asked for the recipe.

You could tint the icing pink if you are so inclined and I have been known to add some edible white glitter to the peppermint candies to add an extra sparkle. The soft peppermint puffs work best, rather than the classic starlight style mint, because they crush more easily and are not as hard to eat.

Peppermint Cookie Bars
Yields 26
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For the Base
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  2. ½ cup sugar
  3. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  4. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  9. ½ cup white chocolate chips
For the Topping
  1. ½ cup butter, softened
  2. 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  3. ¼ cup milk
  4. ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  5. 10 soft peppermint candies (such as Bob’s Sweet Stripe)
For the Base
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8 inch square pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, sour cream and vanilla and beat until well combined ans smooth. Gradually beat in the flour, baking powder and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until you have a smooth, thick dough. Beat in the white chocolate chips.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan in an even layer. Smooth the top with your fingers to make a flat surface. Bake the base for 20 – 15 minutes until lightly golden at the edges, firm, and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bars completely.
For the Topping
  1. Clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer, then beat the butter until light. Gradually add the confectioners sugar alternately with the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until you have a luscious, spreadable frosting. Beat in the peppermint extract.
  2. Spread the frosting in an even layer over the top of the cookie base. I like to use an offset spatula. Smooth the top.
  3. Unwrap the candies and place them in a sturdy zip top bag. Use a rolling pin or other heavy object to smash the candies to rubble and dust. Evenly sprinkle the candies over the frosting and use your clean hands to press the candy into the frosting so it doesn’t just fall off when served.
  4. Cut into small squares.
Notes
  1. For the batch in the photo, I found white chocolate chips with a red swirl which make a pretty addition. They were not peppermint flavored, but if you find those, I am sure it would be lovely.
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Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole

Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole

Baked fruit casseroles are a favorite food memory for me. They always appeared at holiday buffets, usually when a ham was the centerpiece. Recipes for baked fruit are ubiquitous in community cookbooks, and I was particularly fond of a curried fruit casserole recipe that has always been a favorite around here. But my Mom made a version that involved amaretti cookies, which became a family favorite, though the cookies were not always easy to find in shops. When I became the principal cook for family gatherings, I still asked my Mom to make that casserole, especially for Christmas brunch, and she always obliges.

Eventually, I decided that as it is such a big food memory for me, I ought to share it. But as a professional recipe developer, I knew I wanted to put my own spin on it. Enter spicy Biscoff cookies, once a special treat only procured in Europe or on airlines, but now available widely. I’m generally not a fan of canned fruit, but in this classic recipe, I make an exception, because this dish holds such a place in my memory. A nice dose of spice gives this version a special holiday kick.

Spiced Baked Fruit Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 (15.25 ounce) cans pineapple chunks
  2. 1 (15.25 ounce) can sliced peaches
  3. 1 (15.25 ounce) can sliced pears
  4. 1 (15.25 ounce) can apricot halves
  5. 1 (15.25 ounce) can dark sweet cherries
  6. 1 cup speculoos cookie crumbs (such as Biscoff), from about ½ a package
  7. 1 teaspoon corn starch
  8. ½ cup light brown sugar
  9. ¼ cup butter
  10. ½ teaspoon allspice
  11. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Drain the pineapple, peaches pears and apricots. Spread the fruit in a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Drain and rinse the cherries (do not drain the with the other fruit, the juice will stain). Lightly toss the fruit with the cornstarch and the cookie crumbs. I find my good clean hands to be the best tool for this. Arrange the cherries amongst the fruit.
  2. Melt the brown sugar, butter and spices together in a saucepan, just until the sugar and butter are melted and combined. Pour over the fruit. Gently stir the fruit, being careful not to break it up. Don’t worry about coating it fully with the brown sugar mixture. Make sure the cherries are distributed throughout the dish; they tend to congregate.
  3. You can bake it immediately at 350° for 30 minutes until bubbly and heated through, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the dish from the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking to get the chill off.
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Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

Leftovers are as much a part of Thanksgiving as the feast itself. I have been known to make extra of some favorite dishes (I’m looking at you dressing) and stash them away just to be sure I have some for the weekend. But I know that after cooking the big meal, getting back in the kitchen to cook again is not always an appealing thought. That’s why soup is such a great way to use the leftovers – it’s pretty easy to throw things in the pot and still end up with a delicious, warming meal to share.

Make sure you buy an extra sweet potato and set aside. The same goes for the other ingredients – it’s a shame to be craving some leftover soup and not have what you need. That being said, I take no issue with using bought, pre-diced onions or bell pepper. You could also whip up some dressing croutons to go with this soup. And a little cranberry sauce dollop on top is a festive touch.

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon
  2. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and finely diced
  4. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided
  7. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
  8. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 6 cups turkey broth or chicken broth
  10. 1 cup water
  11. 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  12. 3 cups diced cooked turkey
  13. 1 ½ cups milk
Instructions
  1. Chop the bacon into small pieces and place in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until the bacon pieces are crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Carefully drain off the drippings and let cool for a few minutes. Return 3 Tablespoons of drippings back to the pot, then add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they are beginning to soften. Add the diced sweet potatoes, the bell pepper, 1 Tablespoon of the sage and the marjoram and stir to coat in the grease. Cook until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Pour in the turkey stock and the water, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Add the corn and the turkey, reduce the heat to a medium low, cover and simmer for ten minutes.
  2. Stir in the milk, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sage and about ¾ of the bacon (reserving some to top the bowls of chowder. Cook until warmed through.
  3. The soup will keep covered in the fridge for 2 days. Reheat gently before serving.
Notes
  1. I like to dice the sweet potato into pretty small cubes so it is easy to eat with a spoon.
  2. Seek out a light colored turkey or chicken broth. Dark stacks give the soup a muddy hue.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/