Get Creative on the Grill!

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Cooking meat on the grill can be very time consuming and frankly, a little confusing. If you want to have a cookout but don’t want the hassle of guessing whether your burgers are well- or medium-well done, there’s an easier and more interesting alternative that is sweeping the nation this summer. Pizza!

Chefs everywhere are taking pizza out of the oven and onto the grill this season. The Culinary Institute of America shares this recipe:

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Grilled Pizza
From the Culinary Institute of America

Makes 8 servings

• 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 2 cups warm water
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup semolina flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
• 2 cups grated mozzarella
• 1/4 cup sautéed diced onions
• 2 tablespoons basil chiffonade

1. Combine the yeast and water in a bowl and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture sit until a thick foam forms.
2. Add the flours and the salt to the yeast and stir by hand, or mix on medium speed in an electric mixer using the dough hook attachment, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the dough to a second bowl that has been lightly oiled. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
4. Gently fold the dough over and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes.
5. Preheat a gas grill to high. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash. Spread the coals in an even bed. Clean the cooking grate.
6. Roll or stretch the dough into a 12-inch round. Lightly dust a 12-inch pizza pan with semolina flour and lay the dough round on top. Brush some of the olive oil over the entire dough round.
7. Lift the dough from the pan and place the pizza dough directly on the grill with the oiled side face down. Brush the dough with the remaining olive oil. Grill the pizza until the dough is marked and it puffs up slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the pizza over and spread the sauce evenly over the round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the outside edges. Evenly sprinkle the cheese over the sauce and top with the onions. Close the lid on the grill. Cook the pizza until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes more.
8. Remove the pizza from the grill and sprinkle the basil chiffonade on top. Cut the pizza into 8 slices and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information per serving–Calories: 350, Protein: 15 g, Carbohydrates: 44 g, Fiber: 3 g, Total Fat: 13 g, Saturated Fat: 4 g, Sodium: 880 mg.

Take a visual cue from Chef Howie Velie by watching this video:

Watch a CIA vet make pizza on the grill!

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While the prep time is more time consuming than your everyday hamburger, the cooking time is not. This gives you more time at your cookout to socialize instead of constantly standing over the grill for the duration of your party.  It also gives you a chance to let your guests choose the toppings they want. Just like traditional pizza, it’s easy and crowd-pleasing, the only difference is you get to cook it outside!

Cupid’s cheesecake

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The month of January is quickly melting away. Time to turn-up the heat on your Valentine’s Day plans and get your Cupid on. Being a chef and a hopeless romantic, I am inclined to conjure up a dream-boat dessert that will make her mouth water and her eyes bug out – it is that crazy-good. My No-Bake New York Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake is so glamourously over-the-top, as it should be, for sharing with your special guy or gal.

This cheesecake practically makes itself; since the cream cheese mixture is thickened with gelatin over the stove there is no need to turn on the oven. The toasted oat and hazelnut crust is a delightfuly crunchy counterpoint to the creamy filling made even more luscious with the addition of mascarpone. You can personalize the cake a bit more by using your sweetheart’s favorite candy bar. Great for all special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, wedding showers, etc.

Indulge and Enjoy!

Serves 10

NO-BAKE NEW YORK CHOCOLATE SWIRL CHEESECAKE

Foundation:

1/2 c. hazelnuts, chopped

5 tsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 oz. oats, toasted

Filling:

1 1/2 c. mascarpone or cream cheese

1/2 c. white sugar, sifted

1/2 c. plain yogurt

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

3 Tbsp. cold water

1 pkg. powdered gelatin

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 cup Snickers candy bar, chopped

Special equipment: 8-in. spring-form pan with removable bottom

1. Make the foundation. Place hazelnuts in sealable plastic bag. Crush nuts with a mallet or use the back of a saute pan and rock back and forth to crush evenly. Add the nuts to the toasted oats. Melt butter and chocolate together in bowl of a double boiler; stir in the nut-oat mixture until well-coated. Cut a circle of parchment to fit the size of the pan. Spray lightly with nonstick spray to make a smooth bottom for the cake. Use the bottom of a metal measuring cup to press the nut-chocolate mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the spring-form pan. Set aside.

2. Prepare the filling. Beat mascarpone and sugar together with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Beat in the yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form; fold into the cheese mixture.

3. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a heat-proof bowl. Wait several minutes until it becomes spongy. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir to dissolve completely. Blend into the cheese mixture.

4. Divide the mixture in half. Beat the semi-sweet chocolate into one half. Stir the Snicker’s candy bar pieces into the other half.

5. Alternate pouring the chocolate mixture and the Snicker’s mixture into the pan. Use a fork to swirl the two fillings together to create a marbled effect. Chill 2 hours until set.

Velveteen (Cake) Dreams

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Winter baking is all about creating those special moments with flavors, tastes, textures, and colors that transport us back to our childhood, Christmases, or holidays past. We may even be inspired to take up a new  tradition.

Like a cardinal in the snow, red velvet cake is stunning to behold on a table of holiday sweets. This Santa-suit red, multi-tier cake captures the imagination of the young and the not-so-young alike with Chantilly cream flocking all over and in between the crimson layers. Trimmed out with candied pecans or almonds, this is the stuff that sugarplum dreams are made of.

For Valentine’s Day: As head-turning as red lipstick, red heels or virtually anything red on a woman, this attention-getting cake is pure eye-candy, an unexpected little indulgence to give or share with your sweetheart on the most romantic day of the year.

THREE-TIER RED VELVET CAKE WITH CHANTILLY CREAM 

 Cake:

2 ½ c. All purpose flour

1 ½ c. sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. fine salt

1 oz. unsweetened cocoa

1 ½ c. canola

1 c. buttermilk (room temperature)

2 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. red food coloring

 

Chantilly cream:

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 c. heavy cream (very cold)

2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. orange juice, liqueur or hazelnut oil

 Garnish: Candied pecans or almonds

Preheat oven 350F.

1. Grease the bottom and sides of three 8-inch spring form pans using a paper towel dampened with canola and lightly flour.

2. Make the cake batter: In large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa; sift again.

3. In another large mixing bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, canola, red food coloring, and vanilla with hand-held mixer on low speed. Add dry ingredients and beat until just moistened, scraping sides frequently. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide batter evenly between 3 pans. Bake 30 minutes on center rack in oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cakes are baking rotate the pans 180 degrees every 15 minutes so the cakes are red evenly all the way around. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Release from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

5. Make the Chantilly cream. Using a hand held mixer or wire whisk, beat cream cheese and sugar together in large mixing bowl until combined. Add heavy cream, vanilla and juice or other flavoring. Beat or whisk vigorously until light and fluffy. Chill until ready to use.

6. Assemble the cake. Use an off-set spatula to frost between layers or pipe-in cream using a pastry bag. Be sure to reserve enough cream to cover the top and sides. Sprinkle with candied nuts.

Fa La La La YUM!

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Time to deck the house, trim the tree, and string the lights for the holiday season. While doing so, bake off a batch of these warm apple cinnamon squares. Just the smell of these baking in your kitchen will bring on some amazingly cozy, holiday feelings! A dash of Frangelico (or favorite liqueur) adds a bit more joy for those with a more refined pallet. This dessert being a frozen puff-pastry makes it an easy anytime treat, which is perfect for those extra unexpected holiday guests. Serves 6.

3 Granny Smith apples ( 1 1/2 lb.), 3 Tbsp. apple juice, 1 Tbsp. Frangelico (or Grand Manier, French brandy), 3 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, pinch salt, 1 pkg. frozen puff pastry (thawed), 1 egg (beaten), 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Preheat oven 375F.

1. Peel, core and slice apples 1/4-inch thick. Toss with apple juice & liqueur. Add sugar, spices and salt. Set aside.

2. Flour baking surface. Gently roll each piece of puff pastry into 12×12″ square. Cut each square into four 6×6″ squares. Cover dough with parchment and keep chilled.

3. Brush edges of one square with egg wash. Fill center with small amount of apple. Place another pastry square on top and seal all edges with tines of a fork. Continue making until you have six pastries.

4. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Brush tops with egg wash. Make a few slits in the top of each to vent. Bake 18-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Allow to cool 1 minute. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Serve warm and enjoy.

Blissful Chocolate Brittle

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Sweet, salty and nutty flavors are blissful together already, but try adding chocolate and you’ll really be flying! This recipe for Sweet & Salty Chocolate Pecan Brittle with three kinds of chocolate is from my DownTime cookbook. Great for any sort of gathering: holidays, game nights, movie nights, you name it, you cook it! Attention to our co-ed readers: You can even make this in your dorm room microwave! Serves 15-20 chocoholics.

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, 7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped, and 6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped. 1 c. roasted pecans, coarsely chopped and 1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt.

1. Line sheet pan with parchment. 2. Place all chocolate in large glass micro-safe bowl. Heat on high power 20-30 seconds. Stir with heat-proof spatula until melted. Continue at 30-second intervals, stirring between each one until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour melted chocolate onto parchment and spread with your spatula to form a large rectangle. 3. Sprinkle the top evenly by holding your hand above your shoulder to lightly shower the surface. Distribute the pecans over the surface. Brittle will form in 1 1/2-2 hours. Break into shards or cut into squares.

OMG Pumpkin Souffle

 

Pumpkin Souffle

Calling all Pumpkin Pie fans! Think outside the crust this Thanksgiving (It’s the filling we’re all after anyway).  Try my fantastic tasting and creative twist on the traditional pie as part of your celebratory feast. No need to wait for dessert. It’s sure to get passed around the table for second helpings. Best of all, it’s crazy-simple to make. Blitz all of the ingredients in the blender, pour, and bake. For more texture throw some pecans on top. Easy and delicious! Serve warm from the oven or slightly chilled. Oh My Gourd! Yeah, it’s that good. Your tastebuds (and family) will thank you.

3 lb. pumpkin puree, 4 large eggs (beaten) 1/3 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. unsalted butter (melted), 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. orange zest, 1 Tbsp. orange juice, 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. salt. Preheat oven 350F. Oil a 2-qt. baking dish. Puree all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pour into your dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Add the nut topping the final 20 minutes.