03/14/14

Happy Pi Day. Mushroom & Blue Cheese Mini Pies Are My Gift.

Ain’t no holiday like a nerd holiday.

For number nerds around the world, today is Pi Day. Well, actually not so much the whole world.

Most of the world puts the day before the month when they say a date. For North Americans, today is 3/14. Which, is taken as representative of 3.14, the approximate value of pi. Europe and most other places, however, see today as 14/3.  So, really today is an American nerd holiday.

Semantics aside, today is the day math geeks give us all an excuse to eat pie. Who is going to complain that? I mean, other than maybe Jillian Michaels and, frankly, I am happy for her pie hole to remain shut.

Doing my part for this glorious baked good celebration of knowledge, I am bringing you my recipe for mushroom and blue cheese mini pies.

Similar to the grilled cheese I shared last week, this is another recipe that I created as part of a contest where the participants had to create an original recipe out of a list of specific ingredients.  I’m going to admit that I was rather proud of this recipe.

Baking is not my thing. I fit more comfortably with the artistry of cooking rather than the scientific nature of baking.  Every now and then though, I manage a bit of baking that isn’t completely disastrous.  This was one of those times.

Mushrooms and blue cheese are two flavors I enjoy together but a little bit of that combination can go a long way. To cut through all that richness, I used red onions, sugar and balsamic vinegar to make a sort of sticky red onion marmalade for the bottom of the pies. The sweet and tangy of the mixture worked well against the richness of the other ingredients.

Mushroom & Blue Cheese Mini Pies

blue cheese and mushroom mini pies

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
12 1/2 ounces refrigerated pie dough, pre-rolled variety
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream, reduced fat is fine
1 pinch salt
1 pinch fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 1/2 ounces blue cheese, a nice squidgy variety

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put a pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.

Once the butter starts to froth, put the thinly sliced red onions in and turn the heat down to low.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions have become translucent. This will take about 10 minutes but keep an eye on them.

Add the sugar and the balsamic vinegar to the onions and cook on low, stirring often for about 10 minutes until the onion mixture is sticky and the liquid thickened up.  Set the onions aside to cool.

Melt the remaining butter in another pan and cook the mushrooms for a few minutes until they have just started to change color.  Set the mushrooms aside to cool.

Whilst the onions and mushrooms are cooling, layout your pie dough. You want the dough to be about as thick as a pinkie. If your pre-rolled dough is thicker roll it out to the desired thickness.

Using a round cookie cutter or a glass, cut out 12 rounds of the dough.  Press each round of dough into a hole of a 12 yield muffin pan. If your pan usually sticks, spray each hole with cooking spray before hand.

Next, put the egg and sour cream into a bowl with the salt and pepper and beat together.  Stir through the dried parsley and crumbled blue cheese. Set aside.

Spoon a bit of the balsamic onions into the base of each pie. Top the onions with the mushrooms, trying to cover as much of the surface as possible.

Spoon the blue cheese mixture over the top of each pie.

Put tarts in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry has gone golden and the cheese mixture has set.

Take out of the oven and allow to cool before serving so the cheese mixture can firm up a little bit.

03/6/14

Super Snazzy Grilled Cheese

Sometimes, putting together a sandwich is all the energy I can muster after work. At least it is still sort of cooking, right?  If I am going to settle for a sandwich for dinner it is going to have to be a bit more than just slapping a few slices of wafer thing meat between bread. Despite my lactose intolerance, I often end up with some sort of grilled cheese on my plate.

This grilled cheese recipe is one I put together for a cooking event I participated in years back.  A list of ingredients was provided and the participants had to think of a way to put them together in a recipe.  At that time, I was in a Foreman Grill stage and saw everything as a hot sandwich potential. As a result, the ingredients screamed ‘grilled cheese’ to me.

Since it was for a recipe site, I broke the ingredients down to exact amounts but don’t be silly and think you need to follow them as more than just guidelines.

Super Snazzy Grilled Cheese

super snazzy grilled cheese

1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mushroom, roughly chopped
2 slices uncured bacon, chopped into pieces
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped in half
4 baby spinach leaves
2 slices bread

Directions:

Saute shallots, mushrooms and bacon in the olive oil until the bacon is cooked through but not crispy and the shallots are softened.

Put the shredded cheese in a small bowl and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Toss until all of the cheese is coated by the cayenne pepper.

Put half of the cheese mixture on one of the slices of bread.

Top cheese with the shallot, mushroom and bacon mixture and spread out so that it fully covers the bread and cheese.
Arrange the tomatoes on the bread so that they form two parallel lines down the middle of the bread.

Put one spinach leaf on each corner.

Put the second half of the cheese mixture on top of the spinach and top with the second slice of bread.

Spray each side of the sandwich with butter flavored cooking spray and put onto a hot Foreman type grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the outside is golden (about 5 minutes) OR fry in a buttered pan as you would a traditional grill cheese sandwich.