Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.

.

.
On 9:55 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments
Ground beef wellington is an easy weeknight entree that can quickly become a fancy date night or special occasion meal at home.


While the original version is essentially a high-priced, lightly seared hunk of beef wrapped in a flaky pastry shell, this budget-friendly version is simple yet decadent.


I'm not going to torture you with more photos of brown food


Plain ground beef alone is too greasy. I scored some USDA Prime ground beef on sale and used it here. The flavor and texture were both improved with the higher quality meat. I suggest an 80/20 mix but 90/10 is also acceptable. Just add an additional egg to the mix.

Add a beaten egg and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to help bind everything together. That beef mix alone would be delicious in a pot pie, but when rolled up with wine-braised mushrooms, a little mustard and sliced pancetta, this little baby really sets dinner off. Give yourself and your dinner some gourmet flavor hidden within a golden brown crackling crust.


Ground Beef Wellington
Yield: Serves 3-4, 2 pieces each

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 oz (1lb) crimini or white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only (optional)
1/2 cup sherry, brandy or Cognac
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Beef:

2/3 lb ground beef, cooked and cooled
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
6 thin slices uncured pancetta or prosciutto
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
2 Tablespoons heavy cream or water
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Preheat oven to manufacture's directions on the puff pastry.

2. Add olive oil to a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme (if using) and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add 1/2 cup sherry or Cognac and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

3. Roll out puff pastry on a sheet pan. Shingle the pancetta or prosciutto so it forms a long row and large rectangle. Use a rubber spatula to smear Dijon mustard lightly all over. Cover mustard and prosciutto with a layer of mushrooms. 





4. Season the surface of the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Crack an egg into the ground beef. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top mushrooms with the beef mixture.

5. Whisk together 1 egg and heavy cream or water in a small bowl to create an egg wash.

6. Fold the pastry over the filling to completely enclose. Press to seal the edges tightly with the tines of a fork.

7. Transfer to a large baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake until starting to turn golden brown, 20 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large serving platter. Slice and serve warm.



Dinner is served!


On 9:10 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments

Walking through the kitchen and digging in the refrigerator to come up with an excellent, memorable meal can takes no more time than it takes to make a shopping list for the grocery store. 

This week's menu has 5 of the easiest, most flavorful meal ideas I've come up with to-date. Effortless, really. 

Due to the current restrictions on travel and eating out at restaurants, I am happily ready to cook every meal at home and share everything with you.


Just add 1/2 cup pimiento cheese to this hushpuppy recipe 

Beef laarb: with iceberg lettuce, lemon wedges and sesame noodles


On 8:36 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , ,    No comments
With fresh blackberries, blackberry wine, blackberry liqueur, a little citrus and a whole lot of fun, The Blackberry Business is a great sangria to drink with friends, have as a cordial after dinner or with snacks, sip on while day drinking or to pregame before safely social distancing with friends.

This week's sangria isn't for Saturday. It's for TODAY.

Fresh blackberries

I was asked by organizers at local non-profit Venture Cafe Winston-Salem to help them celebrate their third anniversary by creating an exclusive sangria recipe. The flagship program of Venture Café is the Thursday Gathering, an informal weekly event where entrepreneurs to exchange ideas. 

THE GOAL: sharing the recipe and how to make it during a live video conference at Thursday Gathering.
THE RESULT: The Blackberry Business

Everything you need to start your business


It's a play on words. Blackberry is a seasonal fruit and the BlackBerry is a smartphone that was designed for the businessperson. And Venture Cafe is all about business, so why not put the two together?

The Blackberry Business in my home office
Here are some tips to make the sangria your own:

1. DO NOT rinse your berries until you are ready to use them. If you do, the berries will mold faster under refrigeration.

2. DO freeze your blackberries. Rinse them, lay them on parchment paper or plastic wrap on top of a sheet pan and place it in your freezer. 20-25 minutes later, the berries will be frozen solid and you can store them for future use. Use the frozen fruit to chill your sangria without using ice, which melts and can dilute your beverage.

3. DO substitute other brands of wine or liqueur. Don't have blackberry wine? Use a sweet red wine blend. Don't have Chambord? Use a ruby Port. No vodka? Leave it out.

4. DO NOT add the Sunshine beverage until you are ready to serve the sangria. It is a carbonated product and the effervescence will dissipate if you add it too early.






The Blackberry Business Sangria

1 (750 ml) blackberry wine or sweet red wine (preferred: Manischewitz)

1/2 cup Chambord or blackberry liqueur

1/4 cup vodka (preferred: Social House vodka)

6 oz fresh or frozen blackberries

1 lime, cut into thin slices

24 oz Ginger Berry or Blueberry Lemonade Sunshine Drink

Ice, cubed or crushed

In a pitcher add wine, spirits and the fruit. Allow to sit overnight in the fridge to fully infuse the fruit flavors into the punch. Add the Sunshine energy drink and ice just before serving.


On 1:33 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    No comments
Macaroni salad is a staple at picnics, potlucks and cookouts all over the south. It's a culinary barometer, right alongside potato salad: it is a measure of culinary prowess and know-how. If the salad is good, everything else should be safe and delicious too.

But not everyone is welcome to the party.


There are tons of versions of this mayonnaise-based side dish that include a variety of ingredients like: carrots (alright), onions, pickle relish (maybe), bell peppers, shredded cheese (no), raisins (absolutely not), diced celery (ok) and tomatoes (nu uh).


Macaroni salad deserves a bit of fanfare with the slight crunch of diced cruciferous vegetables, tang from vinegar and mustard with a soft and creamy finish of mayonnaise. Too much mayo and it becomes gloppy and moves from Southern American territory and is more akin to Hawaiian BBQ plate lunch. Too little and you might as well start over.


The pasta should be short-tube like macaroni or ditalini (which look like craft beads) and prepared just past al dente.

This salad tastes best when it’s had some time in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld and the mayo sauce to permeate the noodles. Allow for at least an hour before serving, or make it the night before for the best, flavorful taste. And always remember to taste again before serving to decide if more salt and pepper seasoning needs to be added.



Southern Macaroni Salad
Yield: Serves 6 to 8



16 oz elbow macaroni 
1 cup mayonnaise or ranch dressing 
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard 
1 Tablespoon white or cider vinegar 
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 rib of celery, chopped finely
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt 
1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste 
2 Tablespoons pickle relish  
Green onion for garnish (optional)

1. Place in a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Follow box directions  
3. In a separate bowl, make salad dressing by mixing together mayonnaise, sugar, mustard, vinegar, seasonings, celery and pickle relish.
4. Drain the pasta, rinse under cold water and pour into the mixing bowl with the dressing.
5. Toss until all the pasta is coated. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
6. Sprinkle top lightly with green onions, if desired.
6. Chill for 3 hours or overnight for the flavors to meld and soak into the pasta.
On 6:02 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , ,    No comments
Sheet Pan Nachos is a layered dish best served hot out of the oven, right on the table. Not just a dish eaten at a bar as an appetizer while watching sports, it's a quick weeknight meal that can be the main attraction, snack or appetizer for the whole family. 


I miss eating out at restaurants like nobody's business... Except dining out IS my business and that part of my job has essentially ground to a halt.

I'm still able to order takeout and delivery, but the social and cultural aspects of eating out are gone. Goodbye to customer service; Ciao to getting up close and personal with servers and waitstaff. See ya to ambience and mood.

In attempt tip recreate the social construct that dining out brings to the table, I made sheet pan nachos.


Everything is chopped and prepped before popping the entire pan in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese and heat up the tortilla chips.

Fresh, chilled vegetable garnishes are sprinkled on top and then you can dig in, right from the pan. No need to bring out plates unless you're adding wings and onion rings to the feast.


Nobody likes soggy, cold nachos. Be sure to layer the chips and toppings so every chip has a fighting chance to be a part of the dining conversation.

The key is the tortilla chips. They can't be too thick or too salty. Restaurant-style chips are my favorite because they are thin, not heavily seasoned and a variety of brands make them. On The Border is my preferred brand.

Sheet Pan Nachos
Yield: 4-6 servings

INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon oil

1/2 pound ground meat or 8 oz. rehydrated TVP (textured vegetable protein)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (1.25-ounce) package taco seasoning

11-15 oz bag tortilla chips, restaurant style

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup corn kernels, fresh or canned, drained

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup mild white cheddar cheese, shredded (jack, mozzarella, provolone, etc)

1 Roma tomato, diced

1/4 cup white onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 cup fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Linel a baking sheet with parchment, aluminum foil or coat with nonstick spray.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground meat and garlic. Cook by using blunt end of spatula to breal up and crumble the beef has started to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle in taco seasoning, follow package directions. Drain excess fat.

3. Place half of the tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the ground beef mixture, black beans, corn and cheeses.
Repeat another layer of chips, the rest of the meat mixture, beans, corn and cheeses.

4. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheeses have melted, about 7-8 minutes.

5. Garnish nachos with diced tomato, onion, jalapeno slices, dollops of sour cream and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

On 9:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , ,    No comments

Walking through the kitchen and digging in the refrigerator to come up with tasty meals takes no more time than it takes to make a shopping list for the grocery store. Due to the current restrictions of travel and eating out at restaurants, I am happily ready to cook every meal at home and share the fruits of my labor with you.

Sheet Pan Nachos: diced tomato, melted cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeños, ground beef, salsa, onion, cilantro and more


If you need help figuring out what groceries to buy, here is a comprehensive well-stocked pantry list. It includes non-perishables, refrigerated and frozen food columns. THIS WEEK, I made a shopping and ingredient list so you can cook along at home. Follow me on Instagram to see daily updates.


SHOPPING LIST 
5-6 lbs snow crab legs
ground beef
bacon
sliced ham/turkey
16 oz elbow macaroni
mayonnaise
mustard
apple cider vinegar
bell peppers (red, green, yellow)
green peas
black beans
creamed corn
tomato salsa
tomato sauce
sliced black olives
russet or yukon gold potatoes
cilantro/parsley
fresh jalapeños
fresh corn-on-the-cob
salad greens
lettuce
white onion
tortilla chips
self-rising flour
taco seasoning
baking powder
refrigerated puff pastry
mushrooms
shredded cheese
ricotta (whole milk)
butter
milk
sour cream
On 12:40 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , ,    No comments
IT'S STRAWBERRY SEASON! I searched high and low for the perfect strawberry cake recipe AND HERE IT IS.


I wanted the cake to be pink, but not from artificial food coloring; Have a strong, natural strawberry flavor from use of fresh strawberries, not dried flakes or a jam; And most of all, I wanted it to be moist and fluffy. And this is it. Why? Because this is my birthday cake! Celebrating a birthday under quarantine isn't the most ideal of situations, especially for someone who treats the day like a national holiday.

There's ALWAYS a meal out at a restaurant shared with friends, a family gathering at home with cards, quality time spent together with special treats and usually a week-long trip.
2020: My Outdoor Porch
2019: Washington, D.C.
2018: Emerald Isle, NC
2017: Paris, France
2016: I don't remember...
2015: Jury Duty (okay, that one sucked)


None of that this year, unless you count being at home for 7 weeks a luxurious vacation. This year, my plan was decadence at home: crab legs, steamed corn, buttery potatoes, champagne and this cake.

And then I fell ill and could only eat crackers. So my birthday dinner was crusty bread and salad with no dressing.



Oh, well. Eating my birthday feelings was delayed but making this cake after I felt better was more like redemption than celebration. BUT HERE WE ARE AND LOOK AT IT!


I didn't include a recipe for the frosting because I'm positive you have one in your repertoire and if you don't, you can find one elsewhere on the internet. Room-temperature butter, powdered sugar and a splash of milk aren't hard to stir together (wink). I did put Cool Whip in between the layers because I bought a tub for banana pudding and ended up not using it. I felt guilt for having no use for it... until it was time to assemble the layers.

I started with a pound of fresh strawberries, some sugar and some brandy. I cooked it down to a thick paste. It made a little over 1 cup of puree once I blitzed it in the food processor. I reserved a scant 1/4 cup for the frosting, added pink sprinkles to the batter to beautify the appearance of the cake because no matter how ripe your strawberries are, your batter will NOT be the pink you desire.


The part that makes this cake so fluffy, yet stable is the egg whites. The crumb of the cake is perfect and I have to admit: this is the BEST-TASTING CAKE I HAVE EVER HAD. The strawberry flavor is so powerful, the salt comes through and is tamped back down by the sugar and then the strawberry comes back through and levels everything out. I love it. So if you're a strawberry lover, you're in for a treat.


Homemade Strawberry Cake
YIELD: one 3-layer cake

Ingredients
Butter and sugar, for the baking pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 cup strawberry puree (recipe to follow is below)
4 oz pink or red sprinkles
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and sugar the bottom and sides of three 8 or 9-inch cake pans with the softened butter, tipping out the excess sugar.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

3. In a clean mixer bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form firm, glossy peaks. Do not overbeat until they are stiff and dry. Set aside.

4. Cream together the butter, olive oil and sugar until it is light, creamy, and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the egg yolks one at a time, until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, starting with the flour mixture, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the strawberry puree and heavy cream, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add and beat in the sprinkles and vanilla. Fold the whites into the batter.

6. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it equally among them. Knock the pans lightly on the countertop to level the batter and smooth out any air pockets. Bake in the center of a preheated 325°F oven for 35 minutes, or until each cake springs back when touched in the center.

7. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then loosen the layers by running a knife around the edges of the pan. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.


Strawberry Puree
Yield: 1 cup
16 oz. strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brandy

In a small saucepan, bring strawberries, sugar and brandy to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until mixture is reduced and thickened to a paste-like consistency. Remove from heat and let cool. Blend to puree. Refrigerate before use.