Comfort Foods and Indulgences

White Clam Pizza

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by Michael Tucker

Frank Pepe Clam Pizza-471x240Pizza is local. A guy from Cincinnati traveling in Italy will thumb his nose at the pizza because it’s not what he used to eat in Ohio when he was going through puberty. Italians are no different. I know Romans who make rude gestures when they talk about the pizza from Naples.

“The crust is too thick — and then it falls apart in the middle. It is without structure.”

I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in Naples; I’ve downed an obscene number of pies at Baffetto in Rome; I’ve had Sicilian pizza in Sicily, Pugliese pizza in Puglia and Ligurian pizza in Liguria (excellent, by the way) and pizza, at its best, is totally local, which means to say it reflects the personality and the groceries of its neighborhood.

Obviously I’m not referring here to pizza chains, which produce cookie-cutter pies of no interest. Nor am I referring to take-out pizza, which is an abomination. Take-out pizza absorbs the taste and smell of the cardboard it travels in. By the time it arrives you may as well just eat the box. No, I’m talking about real pizza.

James Farmer’s Pimento Cheese

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by James Farmer III

pimentocheeseIt hit me hard. A craving for pimento cheese just came out of nowhere and wham! I had to have some.

The mother of one of my good buddies from my childhood in Hawkinsville made the best pimento cheese… and that’s the recipe I wanted to try. I couldn’t remember exactly how she made it, so I tried to recreate hers. Low and behold, I came out with a version I’m quite proud of. Like any dish, simple but good ingredients make the difference, and with pecans falling, a fall spin on this Southern classic was born.

Toasted pecans make just about anything better...tomato soup, any dessert, salads, and now pimento cheese. That essence, that flavor of goodness from a toasted pecan makes my taste buds sing.A slight salting doesn’t hurt either. A few of these from the farm goodies tucked into my pimento cheese sandwich were quite good my friends, quite good. 

Now on to my next pimento cheese condiment…Wickle’s Pickles. Those of us who attended Auburn or are from that neck of the woods know what I’m talking about. These Dadeville, Alabama exports are pickles with a kick and are super right out of jar or on a sandwich or burger. (Try my pimento cheese and these pickles on a burger…wow!) Many of the major grocers are now carrying this brand so go get some as soon as you can! Be sure to try them with my pimento cheese and toasted pecans too...yum!

Mashed Potato Cheese Soup

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by Cathy Pollak

Mashed-Potato-Cheese-Soup-with-Bacon-on-topI have made four turkey dinners this month, needless to say I have had a lot of leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge! They are never really the same when reheated, so it was time to turn them into something totally different.

Since the mashed potatoes are already seasoned, they are the easiest thing to turn into soup. In fact, regardless of what you have added to them flavor wise, it's most likely going to work. Potatoes are versatile that way.

Anyway, I had this simmering on the stove and my oldest son insisted on having it as an after school snack, he loved it. It's delicious and naturally thick. It takes only minutes to make since the potatoes are already cooked and you're really just heating them through.

This will be a great way to use up holiday leftover mashed potatoes or you just might find yourself making extras just so you have leftovers. Either way, enjoy this dish.

10 Tips for Baking, Storing, and Freezing Cookies

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by Susan Russo

bakingtips2It's cookie season! Oh, sure, cookies are eaten 365 a year, but is there a better time to celebrate cookies than during the Christmas season? Even the most baking-averse among us can't help but bake cookies in December (though they may just be sugar cookies cut out from a can).

Anyone can make cookies and everyone loves to eat cookies. They're the ideal thoughtful holiday gift, they're perfect for children's little hands, and they're a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends creating memories that will last a lifetime. (I don't remember many Christmas gifts I received when I was a kid, but I do remember marathon Christmas cookie baking sessions with my mom every year.)

So during this Christmas cookie season, I'm sharing 10 tips for baking, storing, and freezing cookies.

1. Before you begin baking, make sure you have all requisite ingredients as well as baking utensils, pans and parchment paper (lots of parchment paper). Baking requires precision, so it's a good idea to use the exact ingredients specified in a recipe rather than make substitutions that can adversely affect both texture and flavor.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cupcakes with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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by James Moore

pumpkincupcakesWhen I asked what I could bring for dessert to a recent gathering, my friend told me that her husband loves “anything pumpkin” - particularly healthy recipes - but also a little decadent.

Always up for a challenge, I consulted my well-worn copy of Whole Grain Baking from King Arthur. They have a wonderful recipe for Pumpkin Layer cake which uses both whole wheat and whole barley flour. It’s a quick and easy cake recipe and the barley and pumpkin keep it nice and moist.

I opted for cupcakes which are easier to transport and decided to frost them with a Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For a finishing touch, I made some candied pecans with pumpkin seeds and crystallized ginger.

The result was an over-the-top cupcake with a very “healthy” vibe.

Caramel Toffee Fruit Dip

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by Cathy Pollak

carameldipMove over...there's a new "crack" in town. And this dip is definitely it. Don't make it unless you plan on over-indulging or you have many friends around to help you eat it. I promise you, there won't be any left.

It's so delicious, especially when served with tart Granny Smith apples. The sweet and sour balance each other out and make for this wonderful food-dipping experience.

This is perfect for your upcoming Halloween party (serve in a hollowed out pumpkin). It will also be great for Thanksgiving, Christmas....okay, pretty much any holiday or gathering.

It will take you five minutes to make. Everyone will love you.

Slow-Cooker Roast Pork with Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce

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by Cathy Pollak

cranberryporkWhat a meal.  Busy life = slow-cooking meat = happy family. 

Again, I am embracing the slow-cooker.  It's saving me! However, have you ever been home all day while the slow-cooker is going?  Or worse asleep at night while it's cooking? I feel like I snack more while those amazing smells are wafting from the kitchen.  Then the kids come home from school and whine until dinner because they smell the food too.  And want it.  Oh well, a small price to pay for an awesome meal.

This pork, is melt in your mouth delicious.  And you can literally throw it together in 5 minutes and be on your merry way.  When you get home you will have a fabulous, slightly sweet and savory meal that goes QUITE well with mashed potatoes.  And there is so much juice to pour over the meat, leaving it moist and yummy. Ah, bliss.

We will be doing this one again and again this winter.

Chile Cheddar Bacon Waffle

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by Amy Sherman

baconwaffleDining out is one of the best favorite forms of culinary inspiration. Last weekend I went out for brunch at Eats on Clement Street and ordered the Waffle Bacon which was described as bacon pressed in a waffle, cheddar, Hungarian peppers and a sunny up egg. It was a wonderful combination of gooey, chewy and crisp and had many classic flavors associated with breakfast. It was definitely the sauteed peppers that tied the bacon, egg, cheese and waffle together and took the dish to the next level. I knew this was something I had to order again or better yet, try to duplicate at home.

Instead of using Hungarian peppers I took the easy route and used diced green chiles from a can. The result? Oh my. It was delicious! The truth is, a bacon waffle topped with chiles and cheese is actually quite good without the egg as well, though you can imagine how the yolk forms a lovely sauce for the bacon waffle. Sometimes more is better, and it's the excess of this recipe that makes it so satisfying. Who doesn't love bacon, cheddar or green chiles? They are my go to ingredients for making everything from eggs to soups or stews taste better.

Hot Dog Bar ~ Hot Dogs Five Ways

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by Cathy Pollak

hotdogpartyA "hot dog bar" is the perfect solution to not feeling guilty about serving "hot dogs" at your next gathering.  Let's face it, we all love outdoor grilling (especially for a crowd), however, if Ribeye Steaks for 20 are not in your budget, this is a great, creative alternative. Have your guests contribute the side dishes and you will have a great interactive, food-friendly party. Of course, you can also scale it up or down by the quality and types of hot dogs and buns you serve.

There will obviously be some pre-prep work, but that's better than slaving over a stove during the party. I would set a large table with cute bowls for the ingredients of each hot dog combination. Then I would print instructions on how to assemble each one.  Your job will be to have lots of buns and hot dogs coming off the grill.

There is something here for everyone's taste and the kids can still have their plain ketchup and mustard dog...no need to make something different.

Easy Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

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by Cathy Pollak

grapefocacchiaIt would be great if I had the time to make "real" focaccia bread, unfortunately my life is just too crammed with a million other activities at the moment. However, this simplistic version of the classic Italian peasant bread comes together in an instant.

This is wonderful finger food and a great party appetizer. In the oven, the grapes become lightly roasted, soft and juicy. The contrast of the salt and sweet really make this a winner.

Because you are using already prepared pizza dough, it takes no time at all to get this on the serving table. Every Mom's dream!

Your friends and family will thank you! 

 

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