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Monday, December 30, 2013

We Miss You, Max

It doesn't seem possible that you've been gone from our family for one full year now.  I am still sick over what happened to you and I'll never understand how someone could take a fat, little dog out of a trap and just lay you on the ground to leave you for dead; it breaks my heart to think of it.  If only we had found you sooner! I am certain you would have "scrapped" your way back to us - that was always your style. 
Yes, Max, you were sometimes a total pain in the rear, but we still laugh when we think about all the times you'd bark at nothing out in the pasture just to get Red going, and the time that you buried yourself in the base of that big tree down by the creek as you dug your way inside to get to those coons that had made it their home. I miss you the most when I go walking - it's just not the same without you behind me, herding me along, all the way to the corner and back. 

Our Maxie-Girl, AKA One-Eyed Sally
Each of us has a story and I always thought that your story was one of the best.  You came to us missing an eye and since you were in such a sad condition when the boys found you, we assumed you'd been injured. But once we got you to the vet, we learned that you were actually born with just one eye, a common birth defect with the Sheltie breed and also, most likely, why some heartless idiot dumped you out. 

I wasn't there when the boys found you in that cornfield, but they told me later how you ran straight to Miles and LEAPED into his arms.  Big Daddy Patty still says they brought you home with the intention of taking you to the pound, but I never believed that for a minute.  Once we got all those stick-tights out of your coat and gave you a bath, it was amazing how much you looked just like the dog from The Grinch; and though we often called you One-Eyed Sally, Max was the perfect name for you. 

We miss you, Max, but we're thankful for the time you were here with us - you will ALWAYS be a part of our family.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

As seen on Chef Alli's Farm Fresh Kitchen, Thursday, December 26, 2013, WIBW 13 News This Morning Segment, sponsored by Kansas Farm Bureau.  

1 pork tenderloin, approx. 1 lb.

1 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Quinoa Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa, any color
2 cups vegetable or beef broth
2 cups spinach, loosely packed, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (or substitute 1/4 cup dried cranberries)
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 oz. crumbled feta

Sear tenderloin off on all sides and place onto a foil-lined baking sheet; place tenderloin into a preheated 425 degree F. oven and roast until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.  Remove from oven and cover pork with foil to rest.  Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine sauce ingredients and simmer over low heat until sauce is reduced by about half and slightly thickened.  In a large sauce pan, cook quinoa in broth until tender; let cool slightly, then stir in spinach, pomegranate seeds and pecans.

Slice tenderloin into medallions; place prepared quinoa salad onto serving platter, placing pork medallions around salad.  Brush medallions with warm sauce; top quinoa salad with crumbled feta.  Serve at once.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Frosty Eggnog Punch

Made with thick, rich Hildebrand Farms Dairy eggnog, this holiday punch makes gatherings even more festive and fun.  The adults in the group may appreciate the addition of a little brandy or bourbon! 

3 - 4 quarts Hildebrand Farms Dairy eggnog, chilled very well
1 gal premium vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 quart half and half
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract or substitute your favorite brandy or bourbon
1 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
cinnamon for garnish
2 cups whipped cream

Pour eggnog into punch bowl; the amount needed will vary on the size of the punch bowl.  Pour in half and half, a small amount at a time, taking care not to add too much, making eggnog too thin in consistency.  Using a small ice cream scoop or cookie dough scoop, scoop out balls of ice cream and place into eggnog mixture.  Add vanilla, brandy or bourbon, to taste. To finish, add dollops of whipped cream on top, then sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. Serve at once!

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Annarose Hart, From the Land of Kansas, Joins Chef Alli's Farm Fresh Kitchen on WIBW 13 News This Morning

Homemade Steak Seasoning

Giving the gift of some good home-grown Kansas beef this Christmas?  Add a jar of some homemade seasoning to the mix - It's much less expensive than store-bought and tastes sooo good.  I use it quite often to season my pot roasts before searing, as well.

4 Tbs. kosher salt
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. dehydrated onion flakes
1/2 Tbs. granulated garlic
1 - 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbs. dried thyme
1/2 Tbs. dried rosemary
1/2 Tbs. ground coriander

Combine and store in a well-sealed container.  Stir before pressing into meats as a rub.  \

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Skillet Rib Eye Steaks with Zucchini Gnocchi Toss

As seen on Chef Alli's Farm Fresh Kitchen,  WIBW 13 News This Morning, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, sponsored by Kansas Farm Bureau.

This recipe came to me by way of my friend, Karen Hanson, who presented it at the 2013 Kansas Farm Bureau Summit, as an original BEEF - It's What For Dinner Recipe (Beef Ranch Zucchini Gnocchi).  I fell in love with this dish - it's not only tasty, but has such pretty presentation! Since my family is always starving, I've tweaked the recipe just a bit to speed up the cooking process.

2 Rib Eye steaks, rested at room temperature for 30 minutes, seasoned with salt and pepper

1-2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
16 oz. shelf-stable gnocchi (potato dumplings)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup beef or vegetable broth
2 small zucchini, skin removed, peeled into ribbons
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. basil pesto
2-3 Tbs. feta cheese crumbles
1 Tbs. toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a nicely preheated large cast iron skillet, over medium high heat, sear steaks in a bit of olive oil on both sides; place skillet into oven and cook steaks to desired temperature - I prefer 140-145 degrees at the center for medium rare.  Remove steaks to a platter and cover with foil; keep warm.  

In the same skillet over medium high heat, add a bit more olive oil, then add gnocchi and onion slices; cook 4-5 minutes, tossing often until gnocchi begin to brown.  Deglaze the pan by adding the broth,  then add zucchini ribbons, red pepper flakes, and pesto; cook an additional 1-2 minutes, just until all ingredients are hot throughout and vegetables are crisp-tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Place prepared vegetable gnocchi onto platter along side warm steaks; garnish with feta cheese and pine nuts.  Serve at once!

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cherry Coffeecake

1 box yellow cake mix, divided use
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour combined with 2 pkgs. (5 tsp.) instant dry yeast
21 oz. can cherry pie filling
4Tbs. butter, melted
2 Tbs. sliced toasted almonds

Combine 1 ½ cups cake mix with eggs, water, yeast, and flour; beat on low speed for 1 minute.  Spread mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 greased baking dish; top with pie filling.  In a small bowl, combine remaining cake mix with melted butter and almonds to create a crumbly mixture; drop in bundles on top of cherry pie filling.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  (If using a glass 9 x 13, bake at 325 degrees F).  Drizzle warm cake with glaze (recipe below) and serve. 

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. corn syrup
1/8 tsp. almond extract
Pinch of kosher salt 

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese-Stuffed Dates and Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

As Seen on WIBW 13 News This Morning, Dec. 13, 2012
Chef Alli's PORKTASTIC Holiday Giveaway Sweepstakes Segment

Prep Time: 15 minutes prep, Cook Time: 45 minutes cook

3 oz (about 1/3 cup) rindless goat cheese, at room temperature
16 pitted dates, split lengthwise (but not cut in half)
2 1-pound pork tenderloin, rinsed and patted dry, silverskin and fat trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons mesquite seasoning

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
3/4 cup tawny port
1 cup raspberry chipotle sauce

Cooking Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Place goat cheese in a sandwich bag, press into the corner and snip off the end to make a piping bag. Pipe cheese into the dates. Cut each tenderloin lengthwise, almost, but not quite through. Stuff each tenderloin with filled dates and secure with crosswise loops of butcher’s twine. Brush tenderloins with the oil and season evenly with sweet mesquite seasoning.

Bake 15 minutes. Flip tenderloins and continue baking until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145 degree F, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

While the tenderloins are roasting, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add port and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid is syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add raspberry chipotle sauce and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To Serve:
Remove butcher’s twine and carve each tenderloin crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon equal amounts of the sauce onto 6 dinner plates, divide pork evenly, and serve.

Serves 6

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mom Knows Best: 20 Steps to Success

I doubt that my Mom remembers giving me this list; I keep it taped to the inside of my cupboard door so I often see it when I'm searching for ingredients in the kitchen.  

#4 on this list definitely describes my Mom, Jeaneane;
I'm thankful she's my cheer leader. 
1.  Marry the right person.  This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.   

2.  Work at something you enjoy that is worthy of your time and talent.

3.  Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

4.  Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

5.  Be forgiving of yourself and others.

6.  Be generous.

7.  Have a grateful heart.

8.  Persistence, Persistence, Persistence!

9.  Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.

10.  Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.

11.  Commit yourself to constant improvement.

12.  Commit yourself to quality.

13.  Understand that happiness is not based on possessions. power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.

14.  Be loyal.

15.  Be a self-starter.

16.  Be decisive even if it means you will sometimes be wrong.

17.  Stop blaming others.  Take responsibility for every are of your life.

18.  Be bold and courageous.  When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things that you didn't do more than the one you did.

19.  Take care of your family and say I LOVE YOU.

20.  Don't do anything your mother wouldn't be proud of!

Thanks, Mom!

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Enchilada Casserole

This recipe came to me by way of one of my favorite personal chef clients, Betty McHenry.  For some reason, I tucked it away and never made it until recently; my family loved it and I enjoyed the flavor combination of the eggs and olives with the ground beef - so tasty!

10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
1/3 cup broth
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
4 oz. can sliced black olives
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Combine sauces with broth and set aside.  In a skillet over medium high heat, cook ground beef with onion and garlic; drain fats.  Stir in egg and olives; add 1/2 cup sauce.  Season mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.  In a casserole dish, layer tortillas (dipped in sauce) with meat mixture. Pour remaining sauce over all; top with cheese.  Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350 degree F. oven for 25-30 minutes.  

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roasting a Simple, Delicious Thanksgiving Turkey

This is an altered version of an Alton Brown recipe. Feel free to substitute any brine recipe you'd prefer.  

Yield: 8-10 servings, with leftovers for later.

1-1/2 cups Kosher salt
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 gallon water, divided use
10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbs. peppercorns
5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary, rolled with a rolling pin to release essence/oils
12-14 lb. turkey
Canola oil, for rubbing over turkey

Turkey Aromatics
1 yellow onion, halved
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 head garlic, halved
2 bundles fresh thyme, divided use
2 bundles fresh sage, divided use

Vegetable or canola oil, for basting

Brining the Turkey:
  • Dissolve the salt and sugar in 1 quart of boiling water; add the smashed garlic, peppercorns, and fresh rosemary.  Cool the brine solution with 3 quarts of cold water. 
  • Remove the giblets (and any other foreign matter) from the turkey interior and rinse well; place turkey in a nice, clean cooler. Pour in the cooled brine mixture to cover. If the turkey is not completely submerged in the brine, add more liquid (chicken broth is great, but can add water if needed) to cover the turkey.    
  • Cover with ice, close the lid, and brine the turkey for 10-12 hours. (Exact soak times will vary. Start with 10 hours and make changes per your taste to subsequent bird.)

Roasting the Turkey:
  •         Move the oven rack to the lowest level and preheat the oven to 500˚F. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse to remove any of the fresh herbs that may have stuck to the skin; pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine and thoroughly wash the cooler.
  •       Rub the turkey liberally with canola oil, taking care to get all the nooks and crannies around the wings and legs – everywhere!
  •       If pop-up thermometer is still inserted in turkey, promptly pull out and discard. 
  •      Remove wire that hold holds turkey legs together so that the cavity of the turkey is open and exposed.  Push onion, lemon, orange and garlic halves into turkey cavity.  Lastly, insert 1 bundle each of thyme and sage, letting them protrude from turkey cavity, as necessary.
  •     Set the prepared turkey on a greased roasting rack in a roasting pan and place into the preheated oven. Roast at 500˚F for 1/2 hour or until nicely browned.
  •     Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Cover the turkey with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Roast turkey for an additional 2 – 2½ hours or until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thigh. 
  •    Remove the turkey from the oven, keeping the bird covered with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving to allow turkey to re-absorb it's juices. Once turkey has had it's rest, it's time to carve and eat.  

·     Now You’re Cookin’,

Chef Alli 

Yes, You Need to BRINE Your Turkey!

Brining is a wonderfully easy technique that adds moisture and flavor, not to mention MOISTURE to Tom Turkey.  And, no, it won't make your bird too salty! Below is the brine recipe that I'm trying this season, along with the easy how-to steps. Once you try it, you'll be brining your turkey every holiday and you'll never look back. 

6 cups apple cider
1 oz. fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Tbs. allspice berries
1 Tbs. peppercorns
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
2 oranges, each cut in half
1 1/2 cups kosher salt

To prepare brine:  Place all ingredients into a large saucepan or stock pot and bring to a boil; whisk until sugar and salt is completely dissolved, then remove from heat and cool in the fridge.

Place thawed, rinsed turkey (I usually get a 15-18 lb. bird) into a large, upright container that will fit into your spare refrigerator or down into a cooler (cooler lid must close) and pour in brine, completely submerging turkey.  (If you don't have an upright cooler that's large enough, you can place bird directly into a sterile cooler, then pour brine into cooler to submerge the turkey.  Sometimes, depending on the size of the cooler, this takes a bit more brine.)  

Let turkey rest in the brine for 12-16 hours, keeping it cool at all times, either in the fridge or with ice added to the cooler.  If your bird is really big, say 22-28 lbs., let it brine even up to 24 hours.

Remove turkey from the brine and rinse well, both inside and out.  Roast turkey using your preferred method.  

**Note:  If you are using the drippings from a brined bird for making gravy, be sure you taste the gravy before adding any seasonings - the drippings tend to be pretty salty.  

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tasty Cranberry Chutney

1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely minced
1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger
12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add minced onions and ginger; cook until softened, approx. 6-8 minutes.  Add cranberries, sugar, vinegar, salt, allspice, and red pepper flakes to onion mixture along with 1 cup water; bring mixture to a low boil and reduce heat.  Let cranberry mixture simmer, stirring often, until most of the cranberries have burst and chutney has thickened, approx. 15-20 minutes.  Let cool completely, then refrigerate. Chutney is best served at room temperature.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cranberry Apple Chicken Served Over Quinoa

Original recipe from Amber Groeling, Hy-Vee Topeka Dietitian, adapted slightly. 

1 Tbs. olive oil
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry, pounded into cutlets
Cranberry Apple Chutney, recipe below
3 cups cooked quinoa, directions below

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil; when oil is hot, add chicken  and cook just until browned on each side.  Place cutlets into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is cooked throughout.

Cranberry Apple Chutney
½ yellow onion, diced
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
4 honey crisp apples
1 cup fresh cranberries
¼ cup granulated sugar (may substitute splenda)
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. lemon zest
1 ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. pure maple syrup

Using the same skillet that chicken breasts were cooked in, add onion to drippings in pan and cook over medium heat until softened, adding a bit of broth if needed to keep onions moist. When onions are softened, add vinegar, apples, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, and salt; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook chutney for 15-20 minutes or until apples are tender and chutney is slightly thickened.  Stir in lemon zest, juice and maple syrup.  (Chutney will thicken more as it cools.)

1 cup water
½ cup orange juice
1 cup uncooked quinoa

Bring water and orange juice to a boil in a 2-3 quart saucepan.  Add quinoa, bring back to a boil, cover and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all the water.  Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork; cover and let stand for 15 minutes. 

Serve chicken breasts on a bed of cooked quinoa, topped with warm chutney.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli


Luscious Pumpkin Torte

This autumn dessert is not only impressive, it’s totally decadent!  No one will ever guess it’s low fat, so don’t tell ‘em unless you have to! This recipe originated from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine and was then re-vamped by my pal, Amber Groeling, Topeka Hy-Vee Dietitian.  I tweaked the recipe once more to add the assorted toppings. 

Serves 12

1 pkg. spice cake mix
15 oz. canned pumpkin puree
1 container French vanilla cool-whip, defrosted
12 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 small pkg. instant cheesecake pudding mix, regular sugar-free
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 Tbs. chopped, toasted pecans
1/3 cup toasted coconut
2 Tbs. chopped dried cranberries

Cakes made in celebration of WIBW's 60th Anniversary, November 15, 2013.  Cake on left is a white cake with whipped cream frosting and chocolate crumble topping.  Pumpking torte (recipe here) is pictured on the right.  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl using a spatula, gently combine cake mix and pumpkin puree until blended; mixture will be very thick. Divide prepared mixture between the cake pans and smooth with a spatula. Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes until set and lightly browned: cool completely. (Cake will be dense, and will not rise much during baking.) Meanwhile, combine cool-whip, yogurt, pudding and spice mix until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble, place the first layer on a cake plate and top with ½ of the cool-whip mixture; sprinkle with half of  coconut.  Top with next cake layer and remaining cool-whip mixture.  Garnish with remaining coconut, pecans and cranberries.  Chill before serving. 

Tip:  To ensure that your layer cakes always pop right out of the pans once cooled, cut a parchment sheet into rounds that you can place into the bottom of your cake pans; spray parchment and pan with nonstick spray, then fill pans with cake mix and bake as usual. 

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Building Beautiful Charcuterie and Cheese Boards for Your Holiday Guests

Charcuterie comes from the French, meaning 'cooked meat'. Creating a simple charcuterie board of meats and cheeses requires just a few basic guidelines and it provides a wonderful "noshing" station for your gathering. 

Annarose Hart,  with her From the Land of Kansas gift basket and products, joined me on WIBW 13 News This Morning,  Nov. 14, 2013, as my special guest for Chef Alli's Farm Fresh Kitchen. 
Here are the secrets to success:

1.  Gathering
  • Select a variety of flavors and textures that will offer an appetizing selection, but not an overwhelming abundance. (Remember - More is not better, better is better!)  Keep in mind the preferences of the guests you've invited, making sure to include elements they will be comfortable approaching and eating:
  • Cured and smoked meats, such as salami and prosciutto
  • An assortment of stone-ground or Dijon mustard
  • Slices of toasted baguette (you can never have too many!)
  • Assorted interesting crackers and breadsticks 
  • Fruits, such as sliced apples and pears, fresh figs, dried apricots, etc
  • Nuts, such as smoked almonds, pistachios, glazed pecans
  • Olives, peppadews, pickles, chutneys, fruit spreads and jams, marinated artichokes, pestos, tapenades, capers 
  • 3-5 Cheeses of varying types, including aged, hard, veined, and/or soft
2. Presentation 
  • Choose an assortment of pretty marble or slate slabs, or use wooden cutting board(s) and arrange your elements to create a pleasing layout - this is the part that I enjoy the most.  I like to place my meats more in the center of my boards, surrounding them with small bowls of the other chosen ingredients that will make interesting flavor combinations. 
3. Portion Planning
  • In my experience, guests will eat as much as you place out on your boards. As an appetizer, plan on at least 2-3 oz. of total meat per person and about 2 oz. of cheese per person.  Planning for these portions will still allow room for later courses at dinner.  (If your charcuterie and cheese boards are the main course, double the amounts stated per person.)
4.  Serving
  • Cheeses and cured meats are at their optimum flavor when served at room temperature so arrange them on your boards about 30 minutes before your guests arrive. 
  • If possible, label the elements included on your boards so guests know what their eating. 
  • To avoid mixing the cheeses and spreads, provide knives and serving utensils for each element. 

5. Safety
  • It is best not to let your charcuterie and cheese boards stand at room temperature for more than two hours. Using smaller boards will allow you switch to a fresh one as needed after your event gets under way.  
Let the party begin!

Now You're Cookin,
Chef Alli

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Apple Phyllo Crisp with Salted Caramel Drizzle

Crisp recipe from Martha Stewart’s blog, October 2010, and salted caramel sauce recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod blog, both adapted slightly by Chef Alli.

½ cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup plain fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp. cinnamon
8 sheets frozen phyllo dough (11 ½ by 15 inches, each), thawed
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp. fresh orange zest
5 Granny Smith Apples, peeled

Thank goodness it TASTES better than it LOOKS in this photo! 
To prepare the crisp, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. with rack in top position.  Combine pecans, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and top with 2 phyllo sheets; brush top sheet with butter and sprinkle one quarter of the pecan mixture evenly over the top; repeat twice more.  Top with remaining 2 phyllo sheets; slice apples 1/8 inch thick, discarding seeds, arranging apple slices in a single layer on top of phyllo, leaving space between fruit and a ¼-inch border around the edges.  Add orange zest to remaining melted butter and brush mixture over the apples; sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.  Bake, uncovered, rotating sheet halfway through, until phyllo is golden brown and fruit is soft, approx. 20-25 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Cut into 8 pieces and serve drizzled with salted caramel sauce, recipe below. 

To-Die-For Salted Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 Tbs. fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt flakes (or substitute kosher salt, if needed, it works fine)

Begin by having all ingredients measured out and ready to go – once you start the caramel sauce, you must pay close, close attention so that you don’t scorch it!  In a heavy-bottomed 2-3 quart saucepan over high heat, heat sugar whisking constantly.  When sugar begins to melt and clump, keep whisking until sugar is completely melted.  (Once sugar is completely melted, swirl the pan to move the sugar around.) Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color, watching very closely – this is where it’s likely to burn.  Cook until caramel reaches 350 degrees F., then add the butter, stirring until butter is completely melted. Remove saucepan from heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream, stirring until the cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth.  Whisk in the fleur de sel or sea salt flakes.  Let caramel sauce cool for about 10 minutes in the saucepan.  Pour the caramel into a large jar and cool to room temperature.  Store caramel sauce in the fridge for up to one month.  

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tex Mex Corn Chowder

½ lb. pork sausage or turkey sausage
½ yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups milk
10 ¾ oz. can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies, with juice
2 Tbs. freshly chopped cilantro
¼ - ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup shredded low-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Looks like queso in this photo! 
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook sausage with onions and garlic until sausage is no longer pink and onions are softened, but not browned; drain fats from pan.  Stir in milk, soup, corn, tomatoes and green chilies, cilantro and red pepper flakes.  Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often.  To serve, garnish soup with cheese and additional cilantro, if desired.      Makes 4 servings.

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

KC Pumpkin Patch Strudelines

These strudelines are plump, little packets that make a delightful low-fat dessert for the holidays.  Once you master the phyllo dough technique for the rolling up the strudelines, you will find they are fun and quick to assemble.  The strudelines also freeze well; once you’ve rolled them up, place onto a baking sheet and freeze solid.  To bake, place frozen studelines into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. 

15 oz. can pumpkin
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. kosher salt
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Vegetable or canola oil non-stick cooking spray
2-3 Tbs. melted butter
1 cup granulated sugar, combined with 1 Tbs. cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 12 equal pieces  (I use one-third less fat cream cheese)
Whipped cream, for garnishing
Pumpkin pie spice, for garnishing whipped cream

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin with brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, flour, and salt; set aside.
  • Place 2 sheets phyllo dough on top of one another on a clean work space or a sheet of parchment paper; spray the top side and then flip (keep sheets together) over and spray the other side.  (Be sure to keep remaining phyllo dough covered with plastic wrap and a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.)
  • Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top of the phyllo sheet stack, then cut the stack in half lengthwise to create 2 longs strips.
  • Place a dollop (1/12) of the prepared pumpkin mixture about 2 inches from the end of one phyllo strip, then top with a piece of cream cheese and a sprinkling of pecans.

  • To shape strudelines, fold the bottom 2” edge of phyllo up over filling, then fold in the long sides to encase filling; roll up strudeline, using the complete length of the phyllo sheets, then place seam-side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Brush strudeline with a bit of melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining ingredients to create 12 strudelines.  Bake, uncovered, for approx 15-20 minutes or until golden brown; cool completely.
  • Serve strudelines at room temperature, topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. 
Now You're Cookin'!
Chef Alli

Chef Alli’s Inc.
PO Box 750664
Topeka, KS  66675        785.272.1055         

Monday, October 21, 2013

Central Valley Harvest Bake

This side dish took first place in the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge, a school lunch competition created by the USDA and the First Lady. With a spicy kick of jalapeno and red peppers and the sweetness of butternut squash, plus a striking contrast of color, flavor, and texture from black beans, red quinoa and granola, this dish is absolutely delicious! I have adapted the original recipe so that it can be easily be created at home.  

1 1/2 Tbs. red quinoa, cooked according to package directions
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. Butternut squash, cubed
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1/4 cup applesauce (I use sweetened)
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup granola, low fat

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place squash onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment; toss squash with a bit of olive oil and spread squash out in to a single layer across the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet onto the center rack of preheated oven; roast squash for 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to squash; toss together adding a bit more oil if needed.  Return pan to oven and continue to roast vegetables to another 15-20 minutes or until squash is nicely fork-tender; remove from oven.  

While vegetables are roasting, prepare quinoa on stove top.  In a large mixing bowl, combine applesauce, black beans, cooked quinoa, and oregano; season to taste with salt and pepper.  When vegetables are done, remove from oven and let cool just slightly; lightly toss vegetable mixture with bean mixture in bowl.  Place mixture into an 8 x 8 greased baking dish and spread out evenly, pressing the top of the mixture down to compact slightly.  Sprinkle granola evenly over the top of the vegetable mixture.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes, or until granola is golden brown.  

Now You're Cookin',
Chef Alli 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alma Creamery Tortilla Pie

15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz. pkg. frozen sweet corn, thawed
1 cup tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa, if you prefer
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 ½ cups freshly grated Alma Creamery Pepper Jack cheese
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
¾ tsp. cumin
4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 Tbs. olive oil
Sour cream, cilantro, salsa, for garnish

  • ·   Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine beans, corn, salsa, tomato sauce, 1 cup of cheese, cilantro, scallions and cumin. 
  • ·   Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over high heat, just until smoking.  Brush both sides of tortillas a bit of oil and add to skillet, one at a time, to fry till golden brown on each side, approx. 1 minute total for each. 
  • ·  To bake, place one fried tortilla into a greased, shallow baking dish; spread with one third of filling. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining tortilla, gently pressing down to help layers adhere.  Top with remaining ½ cup of cheese.
  •   Bake, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes, or until pie is hot throughout.  Transfer pie to a cutting board or platter, then cut into wedges with a pizza cutter or serrated knife.  Enjoy at once, garnished with sour cream, cilantro and salsa, if desired.  
   Now You're Cookin',
   Chef Alli