Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 11 Recipes of 2011

I thought it'd be fun to go back through this year's posts and pull out our very favorites. In case you missed one of these meals from earlier in the year, I hope it'll make it on your menu soon! Thanks for reading my blog this year!

North African Meatballs Over Cousous

The complex sweet and salty combination of these meatballs is ridiculously delicious - and addictive. We couldn't get enough of this great African inspired dish!

Thai Basil Chicken

Though we actually made this with ground turkey, it was a winner of a dinner. The basil flavor, combined with traditional Thai seasonings, made it a top 11 worthy meal.

Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Caramelized Onions

My love for all things rice comes in to play in the first of two favorite risotto dishes. This risotto wasn't difficult at all and incorporated a great combination of flavors - including that of caramelized onions. Yum!

Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce & Jalepeno Crema

This recipe is truly worthy of being on a restaurant menu. In true Bobby Flay style, it has various layers of flavors and steps that, surprisingly, didn't take that long to throw together. Absolutely delicious!

Honey Lime Enchiladas

You can tell we're Texans - we have not one but two enchilada recipes on this list and I could have included several more as well! This was a nice twist on the enchilada. It was sticky, sweet, and tangy with just a hint of spice. And best of all? A piece of cake to throw together!

Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin

I know this pork recipe doesn't sound (or look!) like much but after making it for company - and it being raved about yet again - I realized others really need to know how amazing it is. It really is. And you should make it soon.

One-Pan Skillet Cookie

I said it before and I'll say it again - this recipe is life changing. You throw a bunch of stuff you always have in your pantry into your cast iron skillet and in less than 30 minutes, you're scooping out hot gooey chocolate chip cookie into your bowl and topping it with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Or maybe that's just us?

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

I made this dish fairly recently and it was so darn good, I keep craving it. My mom finished off the leftovers while dogsitting for us and declared it to be one of the best meals she's had in a long, long time. If my momma likes it, you know it's good. This is company worthy and gloriously delicious on a cold day.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

I really could have included every dish I've made from The Homesick Texan on this list but I tried to restrain myself. Instead, I reminded Jason what I've made of hers and asked which was his favorite. Without hesitation, these enchiladas made the cut. They were just like the ones at our favorite restaurant!

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles

These may or may not have made the list because I'm sitting here snacking on them... but nevertheless, they are fresh, bright, so darn easy to make, and cute. A cinch to throw together and a great addition to your New Years dessert spread!

Orange Chicken - Tastes Just Like Takeout!

Last but not least, a favorite recipe from early this year. This recipe - while not easy or quick - was more delicious than any restaurant Orange Chicken I've tasted and quite satisfying. We will probably only have it once a year but it'll be drool worthy when we do. Treat your family and blow them away with this delicious dish.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole

I don't know about you, but each Thanksgiving-Christmas (they run together!) I end up searching for side dishes to bring to various pot luck style gatherings. I think we attended 8 this year? This was a baked dish I made for one of them and it turned out wonderfully!

This is very quick to throw together and you can serve it straight from the oven. It's nutty, warm, and slightly sweet - delicious! This would be a great meatless meal on it's own or a nice accompaniment for a hearty meat dish.

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (I skipped)
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped sage
¾ pound dried whole wheat penne (I didn't use whole wheat)
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add squash, coconut milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in sage and simmer 1 minute more. (This part can be made ahead, up to 1 day in advance.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water, drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Transfer squash mixture to bowl with penne. Add walnuts, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake until just golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Recipe from Erin's Food Files

Monday, December 26, 2011

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles

I knew immediately that I had to try these truffles when I came across them on Kitchen Simplicity (via Pinterest). Jason is a huge lemon fan and I had all the ingredients already on hand. They were so easy to make! Took a few minutes to whip it all together, let is rest in the fridge a couple of hours, then scoop out and roll in sugar. These would also be great packaged together for an edible gift for someone you love.

They are creamy in texture and melt in your mouth with a burst of lemon flavor. Delish!

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles
1 cup white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chips)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter (if you use salted, omit the salt)
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
Pinch salt
1 tsp. lemon extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Melt chocolate, butter and cream over a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir until smooth.

Stir in salt and extract. Allow to cool slightly before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm enough to handle.

With a melon baller or small spoon scoop out mixture and form into 1 inch balls. Toss with powdered sugar to coat.

Store covered in the fridge for up to one week. Freeze for longer storage.

Makes: 24

* If you want to amp up the yellow color, stir in some yellow food coloring along with the extract and salt.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese

Just about everyone I know loves the party staple, spinach and artichoke dip. It's warm, cheesy, gooey, with just enough green stuff in it to make you feel like it's healthy. Now imagine that dip incorporated into noodles and called dinner. Yep, it's that good.

We both really loved this dish. While I'm sure many would be happy eating just this for a meal, Jason is a man and therefore doesn't think anything without meat is a meal so I served this alongside a smoked whole chicken. Delish!

We liked it so much, and it was so easy to throw together, that I whipped up a batch right before we headed out the door for Christmas with his parents.

If you're still looking for a side to bring to a Christmas gathering, consider this one!

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese
*12-16 ounces macaroni shaped pasta
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup onion, diced (I left out)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup frozen spinach, excess moisture removed and chopped
1/2 cup frozen artichokes, thawed and chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

*I used ditalini pasta but macaroni, penne, or even rigatoni would work. I eyeballed it and used a little less than a full 1 pound box. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, according to directions on box. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and butter, in a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, stir in the spinach and artichoke and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, then sprinkle in the flour and cook, while stirring, for another minute. Add the cream cheese and stir until mostly melted. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook until the milk starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes, keep on stirring. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese in several increments, waiting until each increment is melted before adding the next. Finally, add the pasta.

If you wanted it to be more reminiscent of the dip, you could top the pasta with extra cheese and bake until the top is bubbly.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego

Monday, December 12, 2011

Itty Bitty Cinnamon Rolls

You may not be able to tell based on the picture, but these rolls are made in a mini muffin tin (you'll also notice the pic is pre-icing!). I found them on Pinterest, originally shared on the blog Iowa Girl Eats, and they were so darn cute I had to make them. Especially since everything it called for were sitting in my kitchen waiting for me!

These took maybe 10 minutes at most to make - including the icing. Then they bake about 8 minutes and cool quickly so this is a true instant gratification recipe - perfect for people like me!

They are delicious and much easier to eat than a giant roll. Plus, you might - just might - be content with only one or two which has to be loads better calorie wise than a regular roll! I shared one with one of my favorite two year olds and the size was perfect for his little hands; this would be a great treat for kids!

I actually used a can of the one sheet crescent roll dough, which made this recipe even easier!

Itty Bitty Cinnamon Rolls
1-8oz tube crescent roll dough
2 Tablespoons butter
Brown sugar

For the maple icing:
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven according to crescent roll dough package directions. Layout half the dough (4 triangles) and pinch all the seams together. Flip over and pinch the seams on the back side together too. Using a rolling pin, smooth the seams and roll the dough into a square about 1/4″ thick.

Brush with half the butter, and sprinkle with as much cinnamon and brown sugar as you want. Roll into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

Place mini cinnamon rolls into a non-stick sprayed mini muffin tin. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other half of the crescent roll dough. Bake according to package directions.

While it bakes, whisk together maple syrup and milk in a bowl. Add in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Crockpot Tequila Lime Turkey Chili

Chili is the perfect cold weather meal - it's hearty, warm, and typically easy to make. I've made variations of it over the years and this is probably one of our favorites. And it might possibly be the addition of the tequila...

It's actually a fairly basic crockpot chili recipe with the added bit of brightness from the lime and depth from the tequila. I actually ended up not doing it in the crockpot but instead threw it on the stove and let it simmer a couple of hours there instead. Of course, a crockpot is best if you're leaving the house.

Just a note: we tasted it near the end and ended up tossing in more spices and lime juice so like any recipe, you should taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking before serving.

I found this on  Pink Parsley.

Crockpot Tequila Lime Turkey Chili
1 slice sandwich bread, torn into pieces
2 Tbs milk
1 lb ground turkey
salt and pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds remove, minced
2 Tbs chili powder
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tequila, plus more as needed
2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp minced chipotle en adobo
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 Tbs fresh lime juice, plus more for serving
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

For serving (optional):
fresh cilantro
Pepperjack cheese
diced avocado
tortilla chips

Mash the bread and milk into a paste in a large bowl using a fork. Mix in the ground turkey, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. (this keeps the turkey moist during the long cooking time)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. add the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno, and cook until they are softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the turkey and cook, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.

To the slow cooker, add the diced tomatoes with their juices, beans, 3 tablespoons of the tequila, soy sauce, honey, and chipotles. Cover and cook on low until the turkey is tender, 4 to 6 hours.

Turn off the slow cooker and allow the chili to settle about 5 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Break up any remaining large pieces of turkey with a spoon. Stir in the remaining tequila, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, tequila, and lime juice as desired.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

Please, if you will, imagine a gooey, fudgy brownie and a creamy, coconuty Almond Joy. Imagine they had a baby.

This is what would happen. And it's delicious.

I saw this idea on Pinterest and it comes from the blog, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.

Please don't repeat my mistake, however. I evidently don't own mini muffin tins so I made mine in regular muffin tins. This is a bad idea. I'm a big chocoholic but that was way.too.much. to eat. Sometimes, bigger isn't always better. Who knew?

Almond Joy Brownie Bites
Brownie batter (homemade, from a boxed mix, whatever is your favorite.)
4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
About 4 dozen almonds
Chocolate candy melts or almond bark

Preheat your oven according to brownie recipe directions and generously spray two mini muffin pans with nonstick spray. Fill cups about 1/2 full with brownie batter and bake according to directions. When brownies are done, place pans on a cooling rack and remove brownies once cooled completely.

In a medium bowl, combine coconut and sweetened condensed milk. With clean hands, roll coconut mixture into balls and press onto tops of brownie bites. Press an almond into the top of each. Place brownies in the freezer to harden for about 15 minutes.

Melt almond bark or candy melts according to directions. Remove brownies from freezer and dip the tops in the chocolate. Place dipped brownies on a wax paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Depending on what brownie recipe you use, you should get about 36-48 brownie bites.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Jason doesn't usually consider soup to be substantial enough for a meal. It's okay if he has a salad or sandwich with it but on it's own, it's rarely "enough." However, I have found that if a soup is chunky enough, with enough meat in it, he'll happily enjoy it on its own. Thankfully, this recipe was the perfect "meal in a bowl" for us.

I've found that a lot of soups call for cream of X soup, which we don't eat, but this one did not! I came across the recipe on The Dainty Chef.

This recipe is very good, easy, and perfect as a warm meal at the end of a cold day. We both loved it! You do have to do a few steps prior to throwing it into the crockpot but it takes all of 10 minutes and then you're done for the day. Due to the Rotel and enchilada sauce, it does have some kick so keep that in mind.

I hope this dish finds it's place on your menu soon!

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounce) Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos
1 package (10 ounce) frozen corn
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup bell pepper, diced
1 can (10 ounce) Enchilada sauce
2 whole chicken breasts
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (for topping)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour; keep stirring until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and ½ cup milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil; cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. In a large bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture . Gradually whisk in remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.

In a crockpot, combine drained beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper. Place the chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in cooker. Cover; cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. When you are ready to serve, remove chicken and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken back into the soup, mix together.

Top with cheese and serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bonefish has a dish that everyone raves about called Bang Bang Shrimp. Looking online at their menu, it seems they serve it both as an appetizer and as filling for tacos. I've never eaten at Bonefish but figure anything with a cult following has to be delicious.

This knock off recipe was found through one of my new favorite blogs, Fake Ginger.

This dish is, indeed, delicious. It's a fairly basic battered and fried shrimp but the sauce is what is so addictive. My mayo hating husband had no idea it contained any form of mayonaise so don't let that turn you off! I made flour tortillas and we had these as soft tacos - delicious!

Just as a warning: I used 3 teaspoons of garlic chile sauce and my face almost melted off. I would go small, taste, and add it a little at a time. Also, I didn't deep fry mine but instead just lightly fried them.

Bang Bang Shrimp
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

For the sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4-5 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, such as Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

For the egg mixture:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk

For the breading mixture:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil

For frying:
8 to 12 cups vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl; cover and set aside.

Combine beaten egg with milk in shallow bowl; set aside.

Combine flour, panko, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and basil in another shallow bowl; set aside.

Bread the shrimp by first coating each with the breading mixture. Dip breaded shrimp into the egg and milk mixture, and then back into the breading. Arrange the coated shrimp on a plate and pop them into the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This step will help the breading to stick on the shrimp when they are frying.

Heat oil in deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Use amount of oil required by your fryer. (or, heat oil in a deep pan on the stove)

When oil is hot, fry shrimp 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on rack or paper towels.

When all shrimp has been fried, drop the shrimp into a large bowl. Spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce over shrimp and stir gently to coat.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


In Texas, we believe in good food - really good food. Especially when we are talking Tex Mex. I adore carnitas (pork that is slow roasted or braised - and found on most Tex Mex menus) but have never made it. It's often found cut into small chunks, or even pulled. As long as it's not fatty, I love it anyway it comes.

I feel like I keep singing the praises of the blogger Lisa Fain and her fabulous blog, The Homesick Texan but it's only because her recipes rock. If you're a cookbook lover, you should order hers. I don't own it but I've heard it's fabulous.

These carnitas are cooked so simply it's almost ridiculous. You take a relatively cheap, fatty piece of meat and let it simmer in water and OJ (no seasoning but salt!) until all the liquid cooks off. Then you let it cook even longer in just it's own fat. The fat renders out, the meat is tender and not grissly at all, and it's amazing. Truly, amazing. And your house smells so so good.

Don't trim your meat prior - this is a recipe where fat is good. I cut off anything that looks remotely like fat so this was hard for me but I promise it will all cook off and ensure your meat isn't dry.

We made burritos bowls with the meat - cilantro lime rice, black beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, cheese, etc. You could make enchiladas, soft tacos, or just eat them with a fork (which is what I did the next day...). Throw it on while you're home one afternoon and just let it do it's thing.

And when your mom walks in your house a few hours later after you've invited her over for dinner, she'll immediately say, "Oooh, what smells so good?" and you'll smile and know your dinner is going to rock.

3 pounds of pork butt, with plenty of fat
1 cup of orange juice
3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt

Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.

After two hours, turn heat up to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.

When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready (there will be liquid fat in the pan). Serve either cubed or shredded (pork will be tender enough that just touching it will cause it to fall apart).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gingerbread Pancakes

Mmmm, pancakes. I rarely eat breakfast (I know, I know) but I love having breakfast for dinner! Basic pancakes are always a standby meal for us; they're quick, cheap, versatile, and super easy to throw together at the last minute.

I'd never made gingerbread pancakes at home so I was excited to see this recipe posted on one of my favorite blogs, The Homesick Texan. These pancakes are from the Austin restaurant, Magnolia Cafe, and were originally shared with Texas Monthly magazine.

They are thick, cake like, and delicious! The first Sunday of Advent is tomorrow so it's officially time to start enjoying all things Christmas - including these gingerbread pancakes!

Gingerbread Pancakes
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brewed coffee
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Cream eggs and sugar together. Stir in buttermilk, water, and coffee and set aside. In a separate bowl sift together remaining dry ingredients.

Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, then mix in melted butter.

Add more water or buttermilk if necessary, but batter should be thick.

Cook until done on a lightly greased hot griddle or in a heavy skillet (turn once when bubbles appear on upper side and start to break).

Pancakes will be thick and cake-like in texture.

Makes 8 to 10 five-inch pancakes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chicken Saltimbocca

This quick Italian dish is traditionally made with veal but can also be made with chicken or even pork. I came across it on one of my favorite blogs, Elly Says Opa and it looked easy and tasty for a weeknight meal. We had this with the Greek Potatoes I posted a couple of days ago but it'd really work with any sides your family likes.

We both loved this - it's flavorful and inexpensive, plus it cooks super fast! With sage and prosciutto, how can it not be good?

Chicken Saltimbocca
6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 thin-cut chicken cutlets (about 4-5 oz. each) or chicken breast halves, pounded to about 1/4″ thickness.
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
4 whole sage leaves (optional)
4 thin slices of prosciutto, cut to match chicken chicken (about 2 oz.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 clove garlic, lightly smashed
~1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cold butter
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Combine flour with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt) in a shallow dish. Pat the cutlets dry with a paper towel and then dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Lay the cutlets flat and sprinkle each with the sage. Place a slice (or slices, depending how they are shaped) of prosciutto onto each cutlet and press lightly to adhere.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add sage leaves (if using) and garlic. Cook until sage leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, 15-20 seconds. Remove the sage and garlic with a slotted spoon.

Add the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto-side down, and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook on other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

If there is any excess fat in the skillet, pour it off. Stir in the vermouth, scraping up the browned bits, and simmer until it’s reduced to about 6-7 Tbsp. Stir in lemon juice.

Turn heat down to low, and whisk in the butter. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over cutlets before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

I was sitting at the nail salon last week and they had on the Rachael Ray Show. I typically never watch her show, because it's on the same time as Nate and I adore Nate, but I was glad to catch it this time as she made this recipe! I went home and pinned it immediately.

This is a traditional risotto in that there is time and stirring involved. However, it's worth the effort for that creamy texture and rich taste. I couldn't get enough of it!

This makes a lot and would be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table! Or, just a delicious meal at home.

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium-large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Honey, for drizzling
1 quart chicken stock
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1/4 pound slab bacon or pancetta, diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place squash on baking sheet and dress with EVOO, salt, pepper, nutmeg and a drizzle of honey. Toss to combine then arrange in a single layer and roast to tender, 20 minutes. Remove half the squash to food processor and puree with a little water or stock.

Heat stock with saffron and 2 cups water in a saucepot. Keep warm over medium-low heat.

In a medium pot with rounded edges at bottom, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO over medium-high heat. Add bacon or pancetta and render to lightly crisp, 2-3 minutes. Add onions and garlic and stir to soften, 2-3 minutes more. Add rice and season with salt and pepper; toast 2 minutes, then stir in wine and let evaporate. Add a few ladles of stock at a time stirring rapidly with each addition to build starchy, creamy quality. Rice will take 18 minutes from first addition of liquid to cook to al dente.

Stir in squash puree and melt in butter. Add grated cheese and taste risotto for seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls garnished with reserved diced, roasted squash.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon

It seems like I easily find "main course" recipes I want to try but don't branch out enough with side dishes - especially potatoes. I came across these potatoes on the blog, Better Than Takeout, and they were, in fact, better than takeout.

These were very easy to make, inexpensive, and had great flavor. Just be sure and throw them in with plenty of time since they take awhile! I served them alongside chicken saltimbocca (which you can see in the pic). I'll post that recipe this week as well.

Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon
1 lb round potatoes (Yukon gold, Russet etc.)
6 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano (or more...)
Juice of one large lemon 
1 cup water (more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Put remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Toss the potatoes in the liquid mixture. Spread on baking sheet and bake until tender, about 90 minutes stirring often. Add water as needed - there should always be moisture in the pan

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Chile Hominy Casserole with Chorizo

Have I mentioned my deep love for cast iron skillets? Up until just a couple of years ago, I'd never used one except while camping. Jason decided we needed one in the kitchen so he bought one and I was soon in love. So much so, that I asked him to climb into the attic and pull our "camping skillets" out so I'd have 3 in the kitchen to use at a time. Now if a recipe can be made in a castiron skillet, I'm immediately drawn to it.

When I originally checked out The Homesick Texan, I didn't even click on this recipe. But, a friend made it and highly recommended we try it so when I saw it took hominy (love!) and a cast iron skillet, I was in.

There is good reason for why it was highly recommended. It's highly delicious.

You could make this into a one pot meal and call it a day. Or, you could serve it as a side dish with some basic grilled meat. It's quite versatile.

If you've never really cared for hominy before, you should try it in this dish before writing it completely off. It soaks up the flavors in the dish and adds a great texture. If you're not a fan of chorizo, you could sub in another kind of sausage - or leave it out all together.

I highly suggest you make this sometime. Soon.

Green Chile Hominy Casserole with Chorizo
2 poblano chiles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from casing and crumbled
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeds and stems removed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans of hominy, drained
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste

Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chile steam for 20 minutes. Take the chile out of the bag and rub off the skin. Remove stem and seeds and dice.

Preheat the oven to 350.

On medium-low heat, heat the vegetable oil and then cook the crumbled chorizo while occasionally stirring in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet until brown, about 8-10 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove the chorizo and drain any excess grease from the skillet, leaving 1 teaspoon. Add to the skillet the diced onions and jalapeños while occasionally stirring, cook on medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the diced poblano chile, chorizo, hominy, sour cream, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, lime juice and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined, taste and add salt and black pepper and adjust seasonings. Top with remaining the cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skillet Peach Cobbler

This is one of those recipes that has been on my "to make" list for a couple of months now. It's from the August issue of Bon Appetit magazine and I put it aside to make one night when my dad came over for dinner (peach cobbler is one of his fave desserts). For various reasons, I didn't get it made until this weekend when dad came over for dinner.

There are different kind of cobblers - some have more dense breading and others are more cake like. This is very cakey and very delicious. Dad polished off a large bowl and then took home the leftovers so it was a hit in this house!

This took about 5 minutes to throw together and then you just sit back and let it bake.

I do have to confess that I did not use fresh peaches... I subbed in canned. No one at my house seemed to notice or if they did, they didn't dare mention it :)

Instead of making the whipped cream, we just scooped Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream over top of the hot-from-the-oven cobbler. Heaven in a bowl!

Skillet Peach Cobbler
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche, divided
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds peeled, pitted peaches, each cut into 1/2" wedges (about 2 cups)
1 cup peach preserves
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, 1/2 cup crème fraîche, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth. Melt butter in a 12" castiron skillet over medium heat. Swirl pan to coat with butter. Remove from heat.

Add batter to pan. Scatter fresh peaches over, then spoon dollops of preserves evenly over batter. Bake until a tester inserted into center of cobbler comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, whip cream in a medium bowl to form soft peaks. Fold in sugar and remaining 1 cup crème fraîche. Cut cobbler into wedges and serve with whipped cream mixture.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Crockpot Refried Beans

When we go our for mexican food, Jason always orders double beans, no rice. He has a great love for refried beans. At home, I have to admit I usually just open a can of refried beans and throw it in the microwave before we have anything mexican - tacos, burritos, fajitas, etc. Not the tastiest but worked okay.

Then I came across this recipe on Stick a Fork In It and was excited to give it a go. Especially since dried beans are SO cheap!

I cooked these all day while we were at work and the house smelled delicious when we got home. They were super easy, too, and tasted much better than the canned variety!

Crockpot Refried Beans
3 cups of dry pinto beans (rinsed)
1 onion, diced
9 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Put all the ingredients in a crockpot and cook on high for about 8 hours. (I put mine on low - my crockpot runs hot)

When they are done cooking, drain all of the liquid and set aside. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency. Or, run them through your food processor. (Using a slotted spoon, I just transferred the beans from the crockpot right into my food processor in batches - took less than 5 minutes to do the entire pot) Add the reserved liquid until you reach your desired consistency.

Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. I ended up putting quite a bit more cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in ours.

This is also freezer friendly - which is great since it makes a large batch!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cheese Enchiladas - Tex Mex Style with Chili Gravy

Cheese enchiladas are a staple of Tex Mex cuisine - and for good reason! The gooey cheese and brown gravy create a perfect combination of feel good food. They also traditionally include chopped onions but I don't care for the bitter crunch it adds to my otherwise plate of goodness so I always leave them out.

I never was sure exactly what made that delicious brown sauce over top - it certainly couldn't be found in the canned enchilada sauces - so I was thrilled to find that The Homesick Texan knew. And shared it with the world.

If you're a Texan, or a fan of Tex Mex food, you'll want to make this - soon. Your family will love you. If you've never tried the Texas version of cheese enchiladas, you should. Your family will love you.

I'm a card carrying member of the I Love Processed Cheese Society so I went all high class and used good ol' Velveeta for the ultimate in cheesy goodness. If you're not a fan, feel free to use cheddar.

Oh - the gravy ended up being pretty salty so I would cut way back on the salt. You can always add it later to taste.

**you can make this vegetarian very easily

Chili Gravy
1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt - I would cut way back, to maybe 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili power
2 cups beef broth, chicken broth or water (I used beef broth)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add the black pepper, salt, powdered garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano and chili powder and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients. Add broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

Cheese Enchiladas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (can make it with Velveeta for extra melting oomph and good ol' Tex-Mex authenticity)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chili gravy (recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 450 and grease a large baking dish.

Pour the oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated. (I just wrap mine in a cloth towel and microwave to soften them)

Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in a baking pan.

Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.

Continue with remaining tortillas.

Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lobster Ravioli with Lobster Cream Sauce

I'm going to do something I've not done before - post a recipe without a picture. The picture came out so badly and, quite frankly, unappealing but the dish was so good that 1) I want a record of it so I can make it again and 2) you need to try it.

Awhile back, I bought a 2 pound package of lobster meat. Fully cooked, in small pieces. I used a large portion for the paella and still had a lot left. One of my favorite dishes is lobster ravioli, but I'd never made it before. I figured now was the time!

I based the sauce and ravioli filling off this recipe from Food Network. I did not make my own pasta but instead used wonton wrappers - feel free to make your own if you're braver than me. The link to the original has one.

To say this was delicious is a huge understatement. The sauce is SO GOOD. If you want to buy frozen ravioli and skip those steps all together, make the sauce for it! Jason just stood over the pan dipping bread into it after he ate.

Lobster Ravioli with Lobster Cream Sauce
Lobster Ravioli Filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
16 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into small pieces
2 ounces ricotta

Lobster Cream Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
4 ounces lobster meat (or crabmeat), cut into small pieces
5 ounces tomato sauce
10 ounces heavy cream

For the Lobster Ravioli: In a large saute pan, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until golden brown. Add lobster and saute 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine lobster mixture and ricotta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

If working with wonton wrappers, put about a tablepoon of the lobster cheese mixture in center of wrapper. Wet edges and press closed with a second wrapper. Repeat until all mixture is used. Gently place ravioli in boiling water and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until al dente.

For the sauce: Using a 12-inch saute pan at medium heat, add butter and shallots and saute until shallots are translucent. Add the lobster meat and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, cream, and salt and cook until it reduces half way and becomes creamy. Add the cooked ravioli to the sauce and let cook together for about 1 minute before serving.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spinach, Mushroom, and Pesto Lasagna

This is one of those meals that you wish you had doubled or tripled, just so you have some to freeze for later. It's. so. good. The dish isn't any more complicated than a traditional lasagna, really, but I thought it had loads more flavor thanks to the pesto. I did not miss the meat at all - and neither did Jason, the family carnivore. Your house will smell amazing, too, so you get a bonus!

I made my own pesto because the grocery store wanted a pretty penny for storebought. If you pick up just enough pine nuts at the bulk section of your store, it's much more economical to make it yourself. I'll include the pesto recipe, too, just in case you don't have a favorite.

I found this meal through Pinterest (anyone surprised?) and it comes from this fabulous blog, The Other Side of Fifty.

Spinach, Mushroom and Pesto Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles (I used no-boil to save a step)
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
2 cups diced onion
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (I skipped)
dash of crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces of button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups Half & Half
3/4 cup plus 2 TBSP basil pesto
12 oz mozzarella cheese (I used slices)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a separate baking dish place lasagna noodles and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes while making the sauce. (skip if using no bake noodles)

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta cheese, garlic powder and egg. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and bell pepper, season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until onions are translucent, 6-7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until mushrooms lose their moisture, another 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to combine. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for two minutes. Add the milk and half & half, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes until sauce has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup pesto. Taste to see if salt and pepper are needed.

Drain lasagna noodles.

Spoon 2 TBSP of the pesto on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay three noodles on top of the pesto. Top with 1/3 of the basil cream sauce (about 1 1/2 cups) and spread to cover noodles. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on top of the sauce, then top the ricotta with 1/3 of the cheese slices. Repeat layers two more times. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place dish in oven. Bake for 25 minutes, uncover, then bake for another 25 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let dish sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Easy Basil Pesto (from Food
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One-Pan Skillet Cookie

This will change your life. Okay, perhaps a bit dramatic but seriously. This recipe will improve your quality of life, er, eating.

Who doesn't love a cookie, hot out of the oven? Especially when it's gooey inside and finished off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream?

I adore cookies but I don't adore the measuring cups, mixing bowls, cookie sheets, scooping, wire racks, etc. that making a batch requires.

This recipe eliminates it all. You get a warm, gooey cookie with NO EXTRA PANS. Just a measuring cup or two.

I found this recipe linked on Pinterest (to this blog) and wasted no time in trying it. It takes basic ingredients I always have on hand and it's so dang easy! This was a great treat to console ourselves with last night while watching the extremely stressful Rangers game.

Mine took longer than 15 minutes - closer to 20. Just keep an eye on it.

Make it tonight!

One-Pan Skillet Cookie
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in an 8 inch cast iron skillet set over medium-low heat. Stir in sugars and vanilla and remove from heat. Let rest until pan is warm, but no longer very hot, about 5 minutes.

Crack an egg onto the butter and sugar mixture, and use a fork to whisk it well into the mixture. Place flour, baking soda, and salt on top, and very carefully stir into the mixture until smooth and well-mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until starting to turn golden on the top and around the edges, but soft in the center. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice

One of my favorite places to eat while in seminary was a local Thai restaurant not far from campus. While I've come to adore most Thai dishes, just about everyone I ate there with (including myself!) ordered the pineapple fried rice. Not too long ago, while visiting a friend still living in that town, we had lunch at that Thai restaurant and we both ordered - of course - pineapple fried rice.

Imagine my excitement when a friend recommended a great blog, Rasa Malaysia, who had this recipe in her archives!

Mine is quite colorless but let's face it, yellow/beige food is always the tastiest anyways... And super fast! Start to finish, 10 minutes maybe?

Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice
8 oz. leftover rice
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 oz. pineapple (cut into small pieces)
4 oz. shrimp (shelled and deveined, leave whole or cut into small pieces)
2 tablespoons cashew nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (if you can't find it, use extra fish sauce)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon pineapple juice
1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce (for coloring)
1 fresh red chili (seeded and cut into small pieces) - I skipped
2 tablespoons oil

Heat up a wok and add cooking oil. Stir-fry garlic, red chili, and shrimp paste until aromatic. Add shrimp and stir-fry until half-cooked. Add rice, pineapple pieces, pineapple juice, and do a few quick stirs. Add fish sauce and dark soy sauce to blend well with rice. Stir-fry for another minute or so, dish out and serve immediately.

If you have cashew nuts, add them towards the end of the cooking process.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Huli Huli Chicken (crockpot)

Wow, it has been way too long since I've blogged - not that anyone is waiting on a blog entry from me, but because it means I haven't cooked at home in that same length of time! When work gets busy for me, the first thing to go is cooking. As much as cooking can be a source of therapy at times, it can also be a source of stress - especially when grocery shopping is involved. I also seem to still be dealing with the remnants of the pneumonia I had awhile back and find myself simply exhausted by day end.

Thankfully, I finally got tired of takeout and hit the store on my way home from work yesterday. Even thought I had to endure the 5pm grocery shoppers, it felt so nice to have a plan for meals the rest of the week.

I found this recipe through a blog I follow, What's Cooking Chicago? Such a simple, easy, crockpot meal sounded perfect for a weeknight! This dish was tasty; now, I won't lie and say it was the best meal ever - that spot is usually held for my beloved ethnic foods - but it was inexpensive, easy, filling, and crowd pleasing.

Joelen added sliced bell peppers for color and texture; I went with just chicken. I'll include her instructions for including the peppers as well.

Huli Huli Chicken
2/3 cups crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (I used less - about 2 pounds)
1 1/2 cup chopped mixed bell peppers (optional)

Simmer crushed pineapple, brown sugar, ketchup, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in medium saucepan until thickened and measures 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

Coat slow cooker with cooking spray. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to slow cooker, reserve remaining. Season chicken with salt & pepper, add to slow cooker and coat evenly with remaining sauce. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.

About 30 minutes before the chicken is done, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and when hot, add bell peppers. Sauté peppers until slightly softened and then transfer to the crockpot. Stir to combine and allow to finish cooking with the chicken.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp and grits are one of those dishes that I think everyone should love - and if they don't, I wonder what's wrong with them. It's pure Southern joy wrapped up in a dish. This particular recipe is from the September issue of Bon Appetit, which featured some of the best restaurant breakfast dishes around. This dish is from Peels in New York City.

I did tweak it a bit, and my changes are below. Check out the original if you're interested. This was a quick weeknight meal and totally hit the spot. Tasty and easy!

Shrimp & Grits
1 cup quick cooking grits
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon butter
1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

4 slices bacon, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Turn heat to low; gently simmer until grits begin to thicken (about 5 minutes). Stir in cheese, butter, and jalapeño, then cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon pieces and cook until crispy. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Add shrimp. When garlic begins to brown, add beer and chicken stock. Simmer until shrimp is cooked through and the sauce cooks down a bit, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.

Divide grits among bowls, forming a well in center. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of grits. Sprinkle tarragon over.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dr Pepper Ribs

The photo of these ribs are no indication of the taste, I promise! Now that the sun is going down earlier, I struggle with getting good pictures in artificial light.

These ribs are from the blog, The Homesick Texan, and use the Texas favorite Dr Pepper as it's base. I adjusted the spice a little so ours were very tame. They are sweet, sticky, and delicious!

I used baby back ribs and ours fell off the bone - I ate mine with a fork! We both loved this recipe. It was simple to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon and the only item I had to buy at the store were the ribs and Dr Pepper - everything else are pantry staples for us. Love recipes like that!

Dr Pepper Ribs
For the rub:
1/4 cup of salt
1/4 cup of black pepper
1/4 cup of brown sugar
4 teaspoons of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
2 teaspoons of chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon of allspice

For the glaze:
2 cups of Dr Pepper (not diet!)
1 cup of ketchup
1/2 cup of mustard
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of molasses
2-4 teaspoons of chipotle powder

Two racks of St Louis ribs (we used Baby Back)
1/4 cup of Dr Pepper

Coat the ribs with the rub, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees and bring the ribs to room temperature.

In a foil-lined large baking or roasting pan, arrange the ribs with the meat side up, pour in 1/4 cup of Dr Pepper, cover pan tightly with foil and place in the oven.

Meanwhile, place all the glaze ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until thick and syrupy.

After an hour and a half, take the ribs out of the oven and spread some of the glaze on each side of the racks. Place back in the oven, meat side up and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, take out the ribs and spread more glaze over them and cook for 30 more minutes or until ribs are desired tenderness.

At this point, take the ribs out of the oven, spread more glaze on them and then cook each side under the broiler for four minutes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My new favorite chocolate chip cookies

There are a million and one chocolate chip cookies out there and I've tried a handful of them along the way. Erin of Erin's Food Files shared this recipe from Williams Sonoma not too long ago and I decided to give them a try based on her recommendation. Since many great cookie recipes call for letting the dough rest (typically overnight), she added that step to the original recipe. I followed her guidelines and have to say, these are my favorite CCCs to date.

They are soft but not mushy, and the outside still has bite to it. I also thought they had a slight salty undertone which I love in a CCC. They bake up nice and thick!

I should have made more to freeze!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (I used pecans)

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, cream the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue beating until the mixture smooth and sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on low speed until blended, occasionally stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon just until blended. Add the chocolate chunks and walnuts, if using, mixing or stirring until blended. Press plastic wrap onto the dough, and refrigerate 24 hours.

Once 24 hours have passed, preheat the oven to 350. Using a cookie scoop, or dampened hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies until golden brown around the edges, about 12 minutes (or 8-9 minutes if using a smaller scoop). Let the cookies cool briefly on the pans on wire racks before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bacon Burgers with Bacon Onion Balsamic Jam

I used to not like onions at all ~ I think because all I really had been exposed to were raw onions. Then I discovered the joy that is caramelized onions - which taste nothing like raw onions. Awhile back, I made these fig glazed burgers with red onion jam and my favorite part of the meal was the jam. So, it was only natural to add this meal to our menu as soon as I saw it. I mean, not only was it onion jam but it was BACON onion jam. With a BACON burger. Be still my heart.

It was delicious - truly, a delicious burger. The (raw) bacon mixed into the ground beef kept it juicy and added loads of flavor. The jam on it's own was tasty and it was the perfect topping for a burger straight off the grill.

You should make these.

This recipe is from Annie's Eats (originally from Fine Cooking) - I included my changes below

Bacon Burgers with Bacon Onion Balsamic Jam
For the topping:
4 thick slices bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup water

For the burgers:
2 thick slices bacon
1½ lbs. ground beef (85% lean)
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
4 slices thinly sliced smoked gouda cheese
4 hamburger buns, split

To make the topping, place a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chopped bacon until lightly browned but not yet crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Drain all but 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and cook for two minutes. Uncover the pan, add a splash of water and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, mustard, and water. Return the bacon to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the mixture has thickened and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 2-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate if making in advance.

To make the burgers, finely mince the bacon. Add to a bowl with the ground beef, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Divide into four equal portions and form into patties about ¾-1 inch thick.

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill to desired doneness, about 4-5 minutes per side depending on preference and grill temperature. When the burgers are almost finished cooking, top with the cheese. Lightly butter each bun and toast on the grill. Assemble the burgers on the toasted buns and topped with the onion jam.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Homemade Potato Chips

If a restaurant offers house made potato chips, I'm all over it. I love a good potato chip - who doesn't? I've made fried potatoes many times (similar technique, but a bit thicker and not as crispy) but never tried making good ol' potato chips on my own.

Tonight we had bacon cheeseburgers with bacon balsamic onion jam (amazing - will post tomorrow!) so I served these with them. We both loved them!

To get these thin enough, you'll want to use a mandoline. Or have mad knife skills.

This recipe is from the latest Bon Appetit magazine.

Homemade Potato Chips
5 Yukon Gold potatoes
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Kosher salt

Using a mandoline, thinly slice potatoes (just under 1/8" thick). Let soak in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes. Drain. Pat potatoes until very dry.

Meanwhile, pour oil into a large pot to a depth of 1 1/2". Attach a deep-fry thermometer to side of pot; heat oil over medium heat to 320°. (I don't have a thermometer; I just wing it)

Working in batches of about 20 slices and returning oil to 320° after each batch, fry potatoes, stirring gently, until they are golden brown and oil stops sizzling, 3–4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chips to paper towels to drain. Season each batch generously with salt.

*Make these into salt and vinegar chips by also sprinkling the chips with vinegar powder (1/4 tsp per batch of 20).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

I've found that I get the itch to bake late at night - usually around midnight. I'm a total night person anyways and I get my most energy (both physical and creative) while others are heading to bed. This was yet another Pinterest find (originally from Whisk Kid) that seemed so ridiculously easy I just had to try them late last night.

They were super easy - and I appreciated that they called for basic pantry ingredients. I doubled the recipe and threw in batches while I cleaned house. Jason wandered out around 1:30 a.m. and asked why the house smelled like peanut butter :) All three dogs got a small one last night and judging by how fast they were consumed, I think they were a hit! I also had an audience while photographing them today - they seem to always know when something is for them, doesn't they?

When you have some time, make a batch of these for your favorite canine. If you're feeling fancy, you could melt down some carob chips to drizzle/dip them in. I'll probably use this basic recipe to make large batches for Christmas gifts for all the dogs in my life and dress them up some. For now, my pampered pooches are quite happy with the way they are.

Peanut Butter Dog Treats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, oil, and water until smooth (a whisk worked best). Add the flours and work them in with a spatula or your hands until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray them down with Pam. Roll out the chilled dough to about 1/4" thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out as many shapes as you can. Bake the cutouts until firm and set (mine took about 12 minutes), then cool on wire rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 23, 2011


The only time I've had paella was at restaurants and I've always loved it. Course, I'm a huge fan of anything rice based. On our last night in Manhattan, we actually dined at a Spanish restaurant at the Chelsea Hotel (El Quijote) and I had the most amazing paella stocked full of seafood. Since saffron is a main component of paella, I priced it out just for grins - as most know, it's ridiculously expensive so I passed on buying it.

However, our local Albertsons is closing and all their spices are clearancing out. I completely lucked out and found saffron for $4 a bottle! I bought a couple of bottles and immediately started marking saffron based meals to try. Paella being the first.

I can't account for how authentic this really is, though it tasted the same as I remembered it in NYC. I found the original recipe on All Recipes but made a few changes along the way just to suit our taste. If you have the saffron, it's actually an easy, quick meal that makes a large portion. Delicious!

1-1/4 cups uncooked white rice
3 cups chicken stock, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
3 saffron threads
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed into small pieces
1 pound peeled and deveined small shrimp
3 small lobster tails, or 1/2 pound lobster meat
8 ounce fresh mushrooms, sliced
*you can always add clams and mussels

Rinse the rice with cold water; drain; set aside. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover, and keep warm. Work the garlic, parsley, curry powder, saffron threads, salt, black pepper, and 1/4 cup of the hot chicken stock together with a mortar and pestle until a smooth liquid forms; set the seasoning liquid aside.

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion until lightly browned. Stir in the chicken, shrimp, and lobster; cook and stir until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes. Pour in the seasoning liquid.

Stir in the rice, pour in the hot chicken stock, and simmer until the rice is nearly tender, about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms; stir two times, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand until rice is soft and flaky, about 7 minutes.

My changes: my lobster meat was already cooked so I added it with the mushrooms. I also browned some Italian sausage I had in the fridge along with the onion. I don't have a paella pan so I used a regular pan. My stove cooks hotter than most so just keep an eye on your rice; it might finish sooner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce Over Dirty Rice

This recipe was shared on one of my favorite food blogs, Annie's Eats and I immediately pinned it to be made later. I'm married to one of those strange people that doesn't like nuts in their food (not even brownies!) and he especially dislikes pecans (even pecan pie!). But, I refused to let that stop me from enjoying this meal; I simply left the pecans large so they were easy to work around when spooning sauce on his dish.

Let me tell you, he totally missed out. I'm sure it was tasty without the pecans but the pecans took this dish to a whole other level. The sweet and spicy, along with the crunch, work great together. I'm fairly sensitive to spice and didn't find this hot at all - you could always up the heat easily if that's your thing. I'm not even normally a sausage eater and it was delicious in this dish.

The original recipe calls for halibut but it was ridiculously expensive so I went for the basic, ever versatile, and cheap tilapia. Worked great! This meal actually comes together in less than 30 minutes. While the rice cooks, you can easily whip up the praline sauce and grill the fish. Great for a weeknight, but nice enough for a dinner guest.

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce Over Dirty Rice
For the dirty rice:
1 link Italian sausage, casing removed (I used more than that)
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup long grain white rice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken or veggie broth
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped scallions

For the praline sauce:
½ cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of coarse salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. whiskey (or apple juice) (I used bourbon, actually, all I had!)

For the fish:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4-6 tilapia fillets (1-1.5 pound)

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

To make the dirty rice, crumble the sausage into a skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until starting to brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Stir in the scallions. Fluff with a fork and serve.

While the rice is cooking, make the praline sauce. Toast the pecans in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium heat. Combine the sugar and water, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the toasted pecans and salt, and cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey until smooth. The sauce may thicken upon standing, but can be rewarmed over low heat.

To prepare the fish, combine the oil, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to blend. Pat the mixture over both sides of the fish.

Oil the grates of the grill. Grill until the fish is cooked through and the fillets release easily, about 3 minutes per side. Serve over the dirty rice and topped with the warm praline sauce.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

I didn't realize (until recently) just how regional even Tex Mex food is. Since I was raised mostly in North Texas, I've been dining on sour cream chicken enchiladas my whole life. I knew I liked them, but Jason absolutely LOVES them. It's typically the only thing he orders at a Tex Mex restaurant. Enchiladas are a fairly easy meal to make but I'd yet to find a "spot on" sour cream sauce recipe. Until I discovered Lisa Fain at The Homesick Texan.

Lisa, in a quest to replicate the North Texas standard enchilada recipe from her home in Manhattan, totally nailed it.

To make this as written does take awhile. Since I was craving some kitchen time, I quite enjoyed the multi steps but there are ways to cut down on time without sacrificing the taste. For one, use shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken instead of making your own will shave a lot of time off (even better if you have leftover chicken you can throw in!). This is also another recipe in which I was thankful for my immersion blender. I get more use out of that than my blender - so easy and quick! I also didn't easily find fresh tomatillos so I used canned - that also cuts down on time and effort!

After finishing the sauce, I took a taste and grinned. Jason came through the kitchen and I asked him to taste it. I got a "that's good" in return (which is a rare comment coming from him!). Judging by the silence in the house as we ate, I call this one a winner. Give it a try!

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
For the filling:
Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium-sized onion, diced (I skipped - don't care for raw onions in my enchiladas)

For the sour cream sauce:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Serrano chiles, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of sour cream
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
8 fresh tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half or one 10 oz. can of tomatillos
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

For the enchiladas
12 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon of canola oil
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts on each side with the salt and black pepper. In a large cast-iron set on medium heat, and cook the chicken breasts on each side for three minutes. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. When the chicken is done, take the chicken out of the oven and let cool. Then shred with two forks. Keep the oven on as you’ll be using it again.

While the chicken is baking, in a pot melt the butter. Throw in the diced Serrano chiles and cook until soft, about three or four minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the flour and cook for one more minute. Pour the chicken broth into the pot, and whisking constantly cook until chicken broth has thickened. Stir in the sour cream, cumin, cayenne and cilantro. Remove from heat.

If using fresh tomatillos, place them under the broiler on a foil-lined sheet and cook on each side until blackened, about four minutes per side. Place in a blender along with the sour cream sauce and puree into smooth. If using canned tomatillos, skip the broiler step and just place them in the blender with the sour cream sauce and proceed. (if you have an immersion blender, just add the tomatillos to your sour cream sauce and blend it that way)

Heat the canola oil in a skillet and cook the corn tortillas on each side a couple of minutes until soft. Wrap in a cloth to keep warm as you continue to cook all 12.

To assemble the enchiladas, pour one cup of the sour cream sauce in the bottom of a casserole pan. Take each corn tortilla and place in the middle about 1/3 cup of shredded chicken, 1 teaspoon of diced onions and 1 tablespoon of cheese.

Roll the tortillas around the filling and place the rolled tortillas seam side down in the casserole dish (I just reused my cast iron skillet to save dishes). Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce and cheese and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.

Serve topped with chopped cilantro. Makes 12 enchiladas.

See Aimee Cook

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