Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Plunder & Dinners

I hope everyone had a great December and whatever holiday you choose to celebrate (unless it was that Nonsecular Human Light Existence of whatever... that is stupid. Just celebrate the damn solstice.)  I feel like my Christmas started a little early when the hubs shot a deer!  With all the deer running around Mid-TN you'd think they'd be easier to kill.  We don't have the meat back from the processor yet, but we got some fantastic things to help us use all the lovely, red, gamey meat.

My mom got us a deep fryer, which I have surprisingly never owned.  It is a nice one with a basket and digital temp read-out.  But more exciting than that... we got a meat grinder!!!  It has sausage filling attachments too.  To go with the grinder, seasoning blends, and various casings, we have what seems to be the charcuterie bible, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing!  This books has every type of curing you can possibly think of in it from tasso ham to jaegerwurst to pate en croute.

Christmas Eve night, we went to my parent's hose.  Seafood has always been kind of a tradition for Christmas in our house.  Thanksgiving is our big traditional American meal and Christmas is a little more subdued, especially if we were travelling to see family because that usually involved a huge dinner.  This year, my mom decided to do an Italian inspired feast of seven fishes meal (we have no Italian blood in us whatsoever.)

Christmas Eve Seafood Feast
Sauerkraut Balls (not seafood, but always delicious) 
Hot Crab Dip w/ Spinach & Artichokes
Seared Sea Scallop w/ Fennel & Orange Salad
Linguine w/ Clam Sauce
Cioppino w/ Mahi Mahi, Mussels, Shrimp, & Lobster (similar recipe here)

Christmas day was our combined families and a bit more of a traditional meal.  If both sets of parents will be in attendance at any given occasion, we are basically required to bring smoked salmon.  But we got my dad a smoker, so maybe we will be relieved of that duty on occasion.

Christmas Dinner
Smoked Salmon w/ Roasted Garlic & Caper Spread
Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Cornish Hens
Yellow Rice (w/ Wild Rice)
Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Fruit Salad w/ Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Apple Tart w/ Cinnamon Pear Balsamic

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arrington Vineyards 2012 Christmas Vintages

Oh no!  5 days until Christmas and you need another gift?!  I suggest you rush over Arrington Vineyards RIGHT NOW!  This year, AV introduced two seasonal vintages for the holidays, one red and one white.  But they only have 450 of each available for purchase, so you better hurry.... if they are not already gone.

Both are blends of several different grapes.  Neither is too dry or too sweet, which makes them perfect for just about any wine lover on your gift list.  I really wish the white blend was a year round selection, because it is so delicious!  I may even like it more than Stags White (gasp!)

The bonus, is that they are very affordable, $14.99 each.  Buy both and you will be set.  You better buy some for yourself too.  However, due to limited bottles, there is a very good chance they will be sold out.  (Sorry I didn't tell you about these sooner.)  The good news is, you can't go wrong with any of their wines.  Sign up for a free wine tasting to figure out your gifts or ideas to restock your wine rack.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almond Joy Cookies

I don't know about you, but I like to spread out my Holiday cookie making.  I think I've made at least one batch of cookies a week for the last month.  But, now that Christmas is literally just around the corner (if you think of weekends as corners), it is time to wrap things up.  No present pun intended.

My husband and I made up this recipe when we were had just started dating nearly six years ago (!!!).  Wow.  I can't believe I haven't shared it yet.  This is really just a basic cookie, so nothing difficult to confuse you at this hectic time of year.  This would be the perfect last minute addition to Santa's cookie plate.
The Almond Joys are the chocolate ones, the others are
Chocolate Chip & Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Almond Joy Cookies
2 sticks room temp butter (I generally use 1 unsalted, 1 salted)
3/4 C white sure
3/4 c loosely packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C chopped almond
5 oz unsweetened coconut
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

   Cream butter and sugar together.  Incorporate eggs.  Add vanilla.
   Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly mix into butter mixture.  I think three batches is good.   When the third addition of flour is almost fully incorporated, add coconut.  Mix.  Fold in chocolate chips and almonds.
   Spoon heaping tablespoons onto a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
   Back at 350 deg F for 10 minutes.
   Makes ~3 dozen.

**I also highly suggest you try Sandra Lee's New York Cheesecake Cookies.  They may be my new favorite cookie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Creamy Baked Spinach w/ Tomatoes

I love creamed spinach, and this little idea popped into my head a few days ago.  It was pretty awesome idea, if I do say so myself.  It is great side that is simple yet unexpected.  But a brunch spread would also benefit from the veggie dish.  I made it it for our hobbit meal last Thursday.

Creamy Baked Spinach w/ Tomatoes
16 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
3 oz room temp cream cheese
3 Tbsp cream (or 1/2&1/2 or milk...)
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
~1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 med tomato, sliced into 1/4-1/3 inch slices (pulp gently squeezed out if it is really wet)
1/3 C bread crumb mixture*
oil or melted butter

   Combine cheese, cream, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Mix in spinach.
   Spread into a lightly greased 9 inch pie plate (or other cooking vessel).  Arrange tomato slices over the top.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  Drizzle a little bit of oil or melted butter over breadcrumbs so they get golden brown.
   Bake at 375 deg F for 12-15 min.  Broil on HI until breadcrumbs are golden.
   Serves 4.

*Breadcrumb mixture:  1/2 seasoned breadcrumbs (I used a roasted garlic variety) and 1/2 grated parmesan (the kind from the can).  I made a huge batch of this stuff a year ago.  I keep it in my freezer to use for all sorts of stuff and it is still delicious!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bacon, Horseradish, & Cheddar Mashed 'Taters

I spent early this morning the best way I could possibly imagine:  a face-full of tears, excitement, and utter exhilaration!  The Hobbit was fantastic; it was everything I hoped it would be and more.  If you are not a midnight premier kind of person and are seeing it this weekend, maybe you should make these mashed potatoes before going.  They are delicious and hearty; you won't need to fill your stomach with grossly salty, stale, movie theater popcorn.

Bacon, Horseradish, & Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
4 med potatoes (skin on), cut into large chunks
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
1/4 lb good white cheddar, shredded (I used a really high quality Welsh cheddar)
2-3 Tbsp butter
1/3-1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (more or less for taste)
salt and pepper

   Render bacon until crisp, drain.  Pour bacon fat into pot you are cooking the potatoes.
   Cover potatoes with water in a large pot.  Add about 2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Drain off water, return potatoes to pot.
   Add butter and some milk.  Mash.
   Fold in cheddar and horseradish.  Add milk until the potatoes are your preferred consistency.
   Salt an pepper to taste.  Fold in bacon last (so it doesn't break up too much.)
   Serves 4.

Perfect pairing:  Bratwurst, English, or Irish sausages that have been cooked in a med-dark beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hobbit (mini)Feast

It is pretty fucking amazing that I have been able to even remotely keep my cool this week.

Because, you know, the first installment of The Hobbit comes out in less than 48 hours.

I would love to have a huge blowout with apple tarts, mince pies, cheese, eggs, chicken, pickles, etc and 13 other people.  But it is just me and the hubs going to the midnight screening.  And I will absolutely be dressing up by myself for it.  I can think of no better way to celebrate turning 25.

What to eat for dinner was a very important decision.  I have thought about it since we bought our tickets nearly a month ago.  A couple days ago we settled on our menu... mostly.

Sausages Cooked in Beer
Mashed Potatoes w/ Horseradish, Cheddar, & Bacon
Creamed Spinach
Roasted Mushrooms
(dessert....?  Probably cookies)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spinach & Goat Cheese Pizza w/ Artichoke Sauce

I haven't shared a new pizza recipe in a while.  It is probably some vain, unconscious attempt to make you think we don't eat a lot of pizza.  Actually, we haven't had pizza in a few weeks and I really want some.  The sauce on this one keeps popping up in my mind.

Spinach & Goat Cheese Pizza w/ Artichoke Sauce
pizza dough, enough for a roughly 12" circle
3 C fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/4 C shredded parmesan
1 C finely chopped marinated artichokes, partially drained
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 lrg cloves of garlic, minced

   Combine sauce ingredients.
   Pre-bake crust at 425 deg F for about 5 minutes.
   Spread sauce over crust.  Evenly distribute spinach over pizza.  Top with cheese.
   Bake at 425 deg F for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

*-When I made the sauce, in place of the butter and garlic, I used one of those garlic butter cups you get from take-out.  Why I had it, I have no idea; but it worked perfectly for this.  So if you happen to have one of those lurking in your fridge, use that.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction

My entire life, I heard that brussel sprouts and spinach were the two most dreaded foods of children everywhere.  I could consume my body weight in broccoli as a child, so green things were not scary for me.  Early on, I learned that spinach, when handled properly, is absolutely delicious.

Now brussel sprouts.  To be honest, I never had them until fairly recently.  My mom dreaded the frozen tiny balls as a kid, so she never even attempted to feed them to us.  Maybe frozen, they are disgusting.  But I haven't had frozen, only fresh.  If these little cabbage beauties had been placed in front of me as a kid, I would have devoured them and asked for more.  They are mild and slightly sweet, with just the faintest hint of a cabbage funk.

I think I am going to make this stupidly easy side for Christmas and convert the rest of my family in sprout lovers.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
1 lb fresh brussel sprouts
~3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
~3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
~1/2 C balsamic vinegar

   Wash sprouts if needed and remove any discolored outer leaves.  Trim the very tip of the root end and cut in half.
   Toss with oil, salt, and pepper.
   Roast at 375 deg F for 20 minutes.
   Bring vinegar to a bubble over med-hi heat.  Reduce to med-low and reduce vinegar by half or a little more, until it is a thick, sweet syrup.
   Sprinkle sprouts with goat cheese and return to the oven for about 10 minutes.
   Drizzle with balsamic and serve.
   Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coconut Lobster Curry

A Thai curry seemed the only logical option for those monster lobster tails.  This a very slight variation of my regular coconut stir-fry sauce.  You can put whatever meat or vegetables in this as you want.  If not for the lobster, the sauce is the star.  It may seem like a lot of work when you start reading the instructions but it really isn't, and it is a stir-fry so it all comes together very fast.

Coconut Lobster Curry
2 lrg lobster tails (or 4 small ones)
8 oz trimmed green beans (I used high quality frozen)
1 bell pepper, sliced (whatever color you prefer)
 1 sm onion, cut into lrg chunks
~1 C sliced carrots
1 14 oz can lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce*
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp pasted garlic
2 tsp sriracha (or to taste)
zest of half a lime
juice of 1 lime (~1.5-2 Tbsp juice)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
chopped cilantro to finish

   Mix up all sauce ingredients, except cornstarch.
   To cook lobsters, place in a large pot with boiling water, enough for tails to be submerged.  For large tails (14-16 oz), cook for 6-7 minutes.  For small tails (5-7 oz), cook for about 4 minutes.  This is not enough to cook the tails all the way through, they will finish cooking in the curry.  When they are cool enough to handle, crack the shells and remove the meat.  Chop or slice into bite size pieces, it should be slightly translucent in the center.  Save whatever juice comes out of the tails.
   In a little bit of oil, over med-hi heat, saute onions, pepper, and carrots.  Cook about 5-6 minutes, until just tender.  Add sauce, green beans, and whatever lobster juice you have.  Turn up heat to high, bring to sauce to a bubble.
   Add about 2 tsp water to the cornstarch to make a slurry.  Add to bubbling sauce while stirring so it doesn't clump up.
  Add lobster.  When lobster is cooked and sauce is thick, the curry is done.
  Serve over rice or pasta.  Top with cilantro.
  Serves 4.

*To make the sauce vegetarian/vegan, use 3 1/2 Tbsp dark soy and omit the fish sauce.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lobster Debate

Sometimes my boss orders the wrong thing.  Like when he is supposed to order 5-6 oz lobster tails, but he orders 15-16 oz tails instead.  That is a 5qt pot with two tails for your reference.  They were bigger than my hand.  They are obscene when you get right down to it.  And at $32.99/lb not too many people are going to line up to buy them.  Which means we have to reduce the price so we can sell them.  At $9.99/lb, yeah, I'll take two.  That would be plenty to feed 4 people, but my husband and I devoured them.

They were Maine lobster tails.  Now, you may think I am crazy, but my opinion holds true, Maine lobster is not my favorite.  I have a few friends that are probably swooning with mental agony at this point.  Don't get me wrong, I won't say no to any lobster, but if I have my choice, I won't choose Maine.  I'll pick spiny every single time.

Spiny (or rock) lobster is the Caribbean species.  They don't have the claws like the cold water variety, but their tails are usually larger compared to body size.  The meat is a little firmer and less sweet.  That may seem like a draw back to you, but I love the flavor that is more similar to shrimp.  Unfortunately, spiny lobster tends to be much more expensive here.

My rock love could probably be contributed to my first trip to Roatan, Honduras.  As soon as we got in the cab at the airport, our driver told us that lobster season had just opened the previous week.  I ate lobster at every given opportunity.  It was this trip in--holy shit!--2006, that my mom and I discovered fried lobster bites at Bite On The Beach.  Perfect, tender chunks of fresh spiny lobster in a tempura batter with an incredible house-made remoulade... to say my mouth is watering right now would be an understatement.  They do not always appear on the menu, but in our experience you can always request them.

It has been two years since I last visited my beloved island that feels so much like home.  But we already have our plane tickets for next summer!  186 days.  To be honest, the mere thought of returning to familiar, smiling, (and incredibly tan) faces and heedlessly slipping beneath the clear, blue, warm water is all that gets me through some days.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Whirlwind

OMG.  Whirlwind of prepping and food.  I didn't take pictures of anything; I had NO time.  Between work, friends, and family, I had three Thanksgivings.  I feel like the only feasible thing to do is list everything I ate over the course of this past week.

Cajun Roasted Goose*
winter sangria*
The most amazing mashed potatoes ever
pumpkin and black bean soup
broccoli rice casserole
glazed carrots
roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts w/ goat cheese
shells & velveeta
salad w/ bacon maple vinaigrette*
sweet potato casserole
cranberry, spinach, feta rollups
chocolate pie
pecan pie
spiced peach cobbler
turkey and gravy
mac 'n' cheese
potato casserole
green bean casserole
meatballs w/ mushroom gravy
braised peppercorn pork tenderloin
spinach, caramalized onion, goat cheese rollups*
fudge pie
venison bourguignon*
smoked salmon w/ capered cream cheese*
brie en croute w/ blackberry jam
spinach and broccoli casserole
chicken and cornbread dressing*
cranberry glazed carrots
orange-cranberry sauce
apple pie

*-I made/helped my husband make

Whew.  I can't believe all of that went into my body; I am glad that is over.  I am also glad that I can honestly say I didn't eat anything that wasn't delicious!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Ohmehgerd!  The first pumpkin recipe of the year!  And it is pretty exciting.  I am eating right now.  This may be one of the best quick bread I have ever made.  Bonus, it is pretty healthy.  The chunks of apple give it such a nice texture.  I think a sweet apple with a firm texture is the best for this:  gala, fuji, breaburn.  Use whatever your favorite is though.  Stay away from softer apples like delicious, because they will turn very mushy while baking  I threw some chia seeds in the batter, basically because I just needed to use the damn things up.
smeared w/ Bruegger's Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Pumpkin Apple Bread
1 2/3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 C + 1 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey
1/4 C water
~1 C pumpkin puree (half of a 15 oz can)
1 med apple, chopped
1/2 C pecans, chopped
1/4 C chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp clove
1/4 tsp nutmeg

   Combine all ingredients except flour and baking soda.  Slowly work in flour and baking soda.
   Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 60-70 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
   1 loaf.  Serves about 10.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Butternut Squash & 1K Day Aged Gouda Gratin

I don't want to think about how my future as a young, educated, relatively poor woman is in total jeopardy today, and that this is the most important election of my short voting life so far.  So let's think about something happy.

Like cheese!

Delicious, salty, bubbly, melting cheese.

My local grocery store does not have the most amazing cheese selection.  But, they do try to have a decent variety for a non-specialty grocer, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's who probably have it on hand at all times.  While I would happily spend butt loads of money on fine cheese, my bank account is not (yet) fit for that, so I often troll the counter looking for specially marked down cheese.  That is how I came across this beauty of funk.  You may not think of Gouda as a generally offensive cheese with its mild, but distinct flavor and pleasantly firm texture with a creamy mouth-feel.  But, let it age for 1000 days before shipping it out to cheese purveyors and it transforms into something else!  It is denser and dryer that its young counterparts with a texture more similar to Asiago.  The flavor concentrates and matures to become delightfully pungent.

The second I tasted it I knew I wanted to pair with earthy, sweet butternut squash.  It was so rich and satisfying!  Bonus, I got to use my lovely new piece ceramic bake wear that I found on clearance at World Market.  I am absolutely making this for holiday get together this year.

Butternut Squash & 1K Day Gouda Gratin
1 med butternut squash, peeled and cubed into small chunks
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
3/4 C 2% milk (room temp)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sage
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 C shredded 1000 day aged gouda (reserve 1/4 C)
1/2 C panko
1 Tbsp shredded parmesan
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

   Melt butter into olive oil over med heat.  Whisk in flour to create a roux, stir for about 1 minute and make sure there are no lumps.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Add salt, pepper, sage, cayenne and nutmeg.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until thick.
  Add 1 1/4 C gouda.  Fold in butternut squash.  Pour into a lightly greased baking dish (8x8 is roughly the size you will need).  Cover.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 30 minutes.
   Mix 1/4 C gouda, parm, panko and extra virgin olive oil.
   Uncover.  Sprinkle panko topping evenly over the dish.
   Bake uncovered for 15 min at 350 deg F.
   Serves 4-6.  (6 is more likely because it is so rich.)

Order at Murray's Cheese or Di Bruno Bros.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Venison Bourguignon

I was lucky enough to be given a venison roast a few weeks ago.  A guy I work with was cleaning out his freezer in preparation of this year's regular deer hunting season which opes very soon here in Tennessee.  He said he usually gives the roasts away after making some jerky and keeping only a couple for himself.  I was excited to receive any sort of venison since my husband and father-in-law haven't shot a deer in a few years even though they say they will every year....  They better get one in the next couple of weeks because we are planning on making this for Thanksgiving.

Venison Bourguignon
2 lb venison roast, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped (4 regular)
1 lrg onion cut into wedges
3 lrg carrots cut into chunks
2 C + 1/2 C dry red wine (Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.)
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp butter, diced
~2 tsp flour
salt and pepper

   Liberally salt and pepper meat.  Dust with flour.  Sear in a little oil over med-high heat.
   Place seared meat, bacon, vegetables, herbs, garlic, and 2 C wine in slow cooker*.  Cook on low for 8 hours. (High for ~4 hr).
   Add butter, 1/2 C red wine, and ~1 tsp flour to slow cooker.  Stir to melt butter and break up lumps of flour.  Cook on low another 1 1/2-2 hours.  (High ~45 min-1 hr.)
   Serves 6.

*You can add potatoes at the beginning of cooking and mushrooms when you add the butter if you would like.  I served it over mashed cauliflower so I didn't feel the need to add any starch to the pot, and my husband doesn't like mushrooms. =(

Friday, October 12, 2012

Linzano Chicken Sandwiches

I was super excited who I found Linzano salsa at the little Mexican market near my house.  It is difficult to find in the States.  Linzano salsa is a vegetable based condiment that is really popular in Costa Rica.  It is wonderful over simple rice and beans, grilled fish, and I have even seen people put it on fries.  This chicken sandwich is really simple, but packed with tons of flavor.

Linzano Chicken Sandwich
2 chicken breast, filleted (4 cutlets)
1/2 C Linzano salsa
1 1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
3/4 tsp Tony Chachere's or seasoning salt
4 buns (I used ciabatta), lightly toasted
4 slices monterrey jack cheese
lettuce or baby spinach
thinly sliced red onion
chipotle honey mustard (I added some whole grain mustard to it)

   Combine Linzano, vinegar and Tony's.  Add chicken, marinate for at least 30 minutes.
   Cook chicken in a pan or on the gill over medium, about 4-5 minutes per side.  When chicken is almost done, top with cheese and allow it to melt.
   Assemble sandwiches.
   Serves 4.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roasted Chick Pea and Artichoke Salad

Roasted chick peas have become one of our favorite things.  Slow roasting them makes them a little crunchy and they become the perfect satisfying snack or side.  In what may have been a mini stroke of genius, I threw them on a top of a salad.  Such a great alternative to croutons!  I made these to go with our chicken shawarma, so they have a Middle Eastern/North African twist with ras el hanout.  I used Al'fez, which you can find at World Market.  It is earthy, smokey, a little spicy, with just a touch of sweetness.

Ras el Hanout Roasted Chick Peas
2 cans organic (or no salt added) chick peas, drained and rinsed
1-1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp ras el hanout*
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (use a high quality Hungarian paprika if you want flavor and not just color)

   Toss chick peas with oil and spices.  Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet.
   375 deg F for 25-30 minutes, until they reach the desired texture.
   Serves 4.  6-8 if you are putting them on a salad.
*The blend I used had enough salt for the dish, but if your blend does not have much, adjust salt to taste.

Roasted Chick Pea and Artichoke Salad
(per salad)
2 C mixed greens (I used spinach and green leaf lettuce)
~1/3 C roasted chick peas
~1/3 C sliced marinated artichokes
a sprinkle of crumbled feta
tangy dressing (like Greek, a lemon vinaigrette, or my obvious old stand by.)
*Kalamata olives were supposed to go on the salad, but I didn't realize I was out of them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chicken Shawarma w/ Zahtar Flatbread & Tahini Sauce

So, The Avengers comes out on DVD today.  I know many of my friends will be picking it up after work (if they have not already done so) and indulging in a movie night.  In honor of this, I figure I would do a shawarma recipe.  (Also, the hubs has been wanting me to make Middle Eastern food like two weeks now.) This is a variation on a spice blend recipe my husband found on some unknown website.  I was surprised that I had everything to make a good Middle Eastern spice blend; it just goes to show what a well stocked spice cabinet can do!

Chicken Shawarma
~1 lb chicken breast (2 breasts), very thinly sliced or cubed
1 med onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion poweder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp ground clove
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice

   Combine all spices.  Add oil and lemon juice to create a paste.  Marinate chicken in spice blend for 30 min at room temp, or up to overnight in the fridge.
   Heat a little oil in a large skillet over med heat.  Saute onion and bell pepper for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften.  Add chicken and all the extra spice blend.  Cook until chicken is done, about 7-8 minutes.
   Serves 2.

Tahini Sauce
3/4 C plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C tahini
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 med garlic clove, pasted
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

   Combine all ingredients.
   Makes ~1 C sauce.
   Serves ~6.

Flat Bread w/ Zahtar
store bought flat bread (I used Kangaroo)
~1 tsp ghee for each flat bread
~1/2 tsp zahtar spice blend per flat bread

   Brush ghee on flat bread.  Sprinkle with spice blend.  Bake at 375 deg F for 5-7 min.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Barbacoa

Barbacoa is a roasting/braising technique used throughout the Caribbean.  Traditionally it referred to the use of a whole animal, often a goat.  However, somewhere along the line it came to be the term for Mexican pot roast.  So, as much as I would like to roast a whole goat in my back yard, this is recipe is for a Latin-style pot roast slow cooked until everything literally melts together.  It is the perfect thing for the cooler weather and approaching autumn.

Our Barbacoa
~2 lb beef shoulder roast, cap fat removed if still on
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 lrg cubanelle peppers, sliced  (or 1 lrg green bell pepper)
1 lrg clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1 chipotle in adobo, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

   Liberally salt and pepper beef.  I cut my roast in 3 pieces for faster cooking.  Place in Crock Pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients.
   Cook on HI for about 3 hours, until beef easily shreds apart.  (LO for 6-8 hours).
   Serve as you like.  Surprise, surprise, we made ours into tacos.
   Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lemon Tuna Cakes

Say what you will about canned tuna, but I love it.  It is cheap, tasty, healthy, and versatile.  Ok, yeah, there is canned tuna out there that is only a step up from cat food, but solid white chunk tuna is delicious.

Lemon Tuna Cakes
4 5oz cans solid white tuna in water, drained
1/3 C lowfat mayonnaise
1/3 C seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
zest 1/2 lemon
~1/4 tsp sea salt
~1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C all natural sour cream
2 lrg cloves roasted garlic, mashed into a paste
juice 1 lemon (~2 Tbsp)
pinch of salt

   Combine all ingredients for cakes except bread crumbs.  Gently mix in bread crumbs.  Form into 4 or 8 patties.
   Combine ingredients for sauce.
   Heat oil in a large non stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook patties 4-5 minutes per side for large size, ~3 minutes per side for small size.
  Serves 4 dinner portions, 8 appetizers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fresh Ravioli w/ Tomatoes & Raw Almond Pesto

Almost everything in this dish I bought at the farmers' market, and made it that night.  It was so fresh and satisfying.  Considering the fact that summer is winding down, I may be in a mad rush to make this just one more time before the glorious fall arrives!

Ravioli w/ Tomatoes &Raw  Almond Pesto
1 lb ravioli (I used Alfresco's, 1/2 lb Italian cheese, 1/2 lb roasted garlic and spinach)
1 C small tomatoes, halved or quartered (I used some gorgeous tiny orange ones)
Almond Pesto:
3/4 C fresh basil leaves
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C chopped raw almonds*
3 lrg cloves roasted garlic
1 med clove raw garlic
1 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

   Puree all ingredients for the pesto together.
   Quickly saute tomatoes until the soften just a little bit. 2-3 minutes.
   Cook pasta in boiling salted water about 30 sec shy of being totally done.
   Add pasta and pesto to tomatoes.  Cook about 90 sec.
   Serves 2-4. (2 main dish, 4 sides)

*If you can't find raw almonds, use unsalted roasted almonds.  If you find them in the bulk section or baking aisle, they are usually roasted for less time than the snack nuts and will give you a softer texture.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Quinoa & Zucchini Stuffed Bell Peppers

I absolutely adore stuffed bell peppers.  Something stuffed inside something else always feels so indulgent.  This dish is really, really healthy, though: loads of veggies, whole grain, and just a little bit of cheese.  You absolutely need to use a high quality cheese for this dish.  There isn't much cheese, so a variety with tons of flavor is a must.  I used Jarlsberg, a Swiss style cheese from Norway.  Gruyere or a nice aged gouda would be lovely as well.

Quinoa & Zucchini Stuffed Bell Peppers
2 lrg sweet bell peppers
3/4 C quinoa, cooked*
1 sm onion, diced
3 sm/med zucchini, diced
2 med cloves garlic, minced
5-6 lrg basil leaves, chiffonade
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp herbs de Provence
zest 1/2 lrg lemon
juice lemon (~1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
~1/2 C shredded Jarlsberg (or Gruyere, Gouda, Emmentaler...)
salt, pepper, oil

   In a little oil over medium heat, saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and garlic, saute for another 2 minutes.
   Mix into cooked quinoa with herbs and lemon zest.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Cut peppers in half from top to bottom.  Clean out ribs and seeds.  Fill with quinoa mixture.  Place in baking dish.
   Combine tomato sauce and lemon juice.  Pour over filled peppers.  Top with cheese.  Cover.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is slightly browned.
   Serves 2-4.  (2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)

*To cook quinoa:
   2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa, like rice.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add a little salt and quinoa.  Bring back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low.  Cook ~20 minutes, until you can clearly see the germ layer ring around each grain.
   If you can't find quinoa or just don't like it (I think you are crazy, but whatever...), you can substitute brown rice.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wild Flours

A few weeks ago, I was tempted to pause in the middle of human traffic jam by the promise of free bread.  I have passed by the Wild Flours (also check out their FB page) booth at the Saturday market every weekend of the summer so far, but never stopped to browse their goods.  Well, that was a mistake on my part because they offer some incredibly delicious things.  Now, I can't get enough.  It is a physical feat to restrain myself from buying everything they have on Saturday mornings.

This lovely group of ladies, and maybe some behind the scenes men, I have no idea, have been in operation for a little over a year now selling their delectable baked goods at several local Murfreesboro venues.  Soon, they will be getting their very own store front, which means that I will have easy access to muffins and cinnamon rolls... not the best thing for my future, but great for them!  

Oh, and did I mention these crazy bitches grind their own wheat and cornmeal?  Seriously.  I love food, but that is a labor of love.  Pun FULLY intended.  It makes a difference too.  The goods have a softness to them that I don't think I could recreate even sifting the highest quality of store bought flour.  Everything is organic and all their products are sweetened with honey, not sugar.  I absolutely adore that, because I love the unique florally sweetness honey adds to food.  And it is better for your body than processed white sugar blah blah blah whatever.

If you don't live withing driving distance of Murfreesboro, TN.  I suggest you email them and see if you can sweet talk them into a mail order.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Herbs de Provence & Wine Pickles

The season is winding down for cucumbers.  That means the next few weekends I'll be in a mad scramble to buy ALL the cucumbers!

My first pickling session, I used a lot more of my staple ingredients than expected.  I had to come up with some creative flavorings to I could just get all the cucumbers pickled.  A jar of Spice Islands herbs de Provence was lurking behind vanilla and hot paprika in my spice cabinet, and I thought, "Why not?"  They turned out to be some of my favorites!  They are really mild with a unique twist from the lavender.
Yes, I write my labels with crayon.
Herbs de Provence & White Wine Pickles
2 sterilized pint jars filled with Kirby cucumbers sliced 1/4 in thick (~3 lrg cucumbers)
2-3 cloves crushed garlic in each jar
1 heaping tsp herbs de Provence in each jar
3/4 C dry white wine
1/4 C each of white vinegar, cider vinegar, and tarragon vinegar
1/2 C water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1.5 Tbsp sugar

Assemble jars.
Combine wine, vinegars, water, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Divide liquid evenly between jars.  Seal jars as quickly as possible, while the liquid is still very hot.  The "button" will pop down as they cool.  Gently press it down if it doesn't pop on its own, it should stay down.
Makes 2 pints.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cajun Fried Okra

I could most likely eat my body weight in fried okra.  There are about 3 lbs of fresh okra in my refrigerator right now.  Growing up, I didn't care for the vegetable.  My grandma likes boiled okra, and that slimy bowl of vegetal bits adorning the dinner table was gag-inducing.  Because of that, I stayed away from okra in all forms.  I don't know when I started to eat fried okra, but it was a turning point for me.  When handled properly, there is almost no slime!

Cajun Fried Okra
1 lb okra
~1 C coarse ground cornmeal
vegetable oil
1 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning

   Slice okra into ~1/3 inch thick disks, discard the fibrous tops.  After it is cut, wash it.  (Doing things in this order cuts down on slime if you are concerned about that.)
   Put cornmeal in a plastic container or bag of some kind.  Add okra and shake to coat.
   In a cast iron skillet (important)*, pour vegetable oil about 1/4 inch deep and add bacon fat. Heat over medium/med-high to ~350 deg F.  (When a wooden toothpick is is dipped into the oil, bubbles should rise rapidly from it.)
   Place a single layer of okra in skillet.  Fry until golden brown.  Drain.  Liberally sprinkle with Tony Chachere's when still hot and a little wet with oil.  Continue in batches until it is all cooked (you may need to add more oil to maintain 1/4 in depth.)
   Serves 2-4.

*You can use a deep fryer if you have one, but nothing beats a well season cast iron skillet.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Alfresco's Crawfish & Andouille Ravioli

I love Alfresco's pasta.  Is there a word stronger than love?  Because, really, that is how I feel about these pasta artists.  I was first introduced to this company a few years ago at the Franklin's Farmers' Market.  Last year, when I started frequenting the Murfreesboro Saturday Market, I was so happy to see they had a little booth there as well.

The product list is larger than you may expect from an artisan company.  There are seasonal offerings, gluten free pasta (which I do not believe in, but whatever... I'll share my feeling on that subject at a later time), and they strive to use as-local-as-possible ingredients.  Quality is their focus and I have yet to eat anything less than spectacular from them.  I am not entirely sure if they ship, but the people I have met from the company are really nice and it never hurts to ask!
Alfresco's Crawfish & Andouille Ravioli w/ Cajun Cream Sauce and Shrimp 
1/2 lb crawfish and andouille ravioli*
1 tsp bacon fat (or olive oil)
1/2 C chopped andouille sausage
1/4 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, tossed in salt and pepper (I used a 56/60 count)
1 C diced tomatoes (canned or fresh, peeled if fresh)
1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1/2 C half and half
1/4 tsp dried thyme
dash of Tabasco

   In salted boiling water, cook ravioli for about 3 minutes.  (This is will not cook them all the way through.)  Drain.
   Heat bacon fat over medium heat in a non stick skillet.  Saute sausage until the edges start to brown.  Add tomatoes and garlic.  Cook for ~2 minutes, stirring constantly.
   Add thyme, Tabasco, and half and half.  Bring to a simmer and cook ~3 minutes.  Toss in shrimp and ravioli.  When shrimp are done, the ravioli should be done too.
   Serves 2.

*You may have noticed in the picture that there are only three ravioli on the plate and 1/2 lb doesn't seem like much.  Yes, I could eat an entire 1/2 lb by myself, but these babies are little pricey.  Also, they are huge (the size of my palm), so really, three is good...  I always hear you don't need to much of a good thing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Avocado and Basil Crema

What I am about to say to you may come as a shock:  last week I made tacos and we had no cheese.  We did have an avocado, though.  Now, I am not saying this lovely little sauce is a substitute for cheese.  But it does give you a certain creaminess that regular old sour cream doesn't.

Avocado and Basil Crema
1 avocado
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime (~2 tsp)
1 tsp minced fresh basil
1/2 tsp sea salt

   Mash avocado so it is almost smooth.  Mix in all other ingredients.
   Makes ~1 C (but it depends on the size of your avocado).  Put it over anything.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bacon S'mores

Yeah, you read that right.  Bacon.  S'mores.  Warm gooey marshmallows, creamy chocolate, and salty, crispy bacon.... they are magical.  I am a little worried that I will never make anything this delicious ever again.

Bacon S'mores
Graham crackers
bacon (regular thickness) cooked until crispy
milk chocolate
jumbo marshmallows
camp fire (this is key)

Toast marshmallows over fire until golden brown, I like mine just a teeny bit charred.  I use two per s'more.
Assemble s'more with 1 slice of bacon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Redirect

If you are looking for a really tasty, really simple, and just a little out of the ordinary vegetable dish, you should click here for Roasted Baby Vegetables w/ Olives and Feta!  It makes a great vegetarian main dish or  side dish for grilled chicken... maybe with this rub.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese

Cheese.  Bacon.  I am pretty sure they were made to be together.

This beautiful pan of food was made for our pig out meal a couple weeks ago.  When we ate leftovers, we just mixed the BBQ pork in with the mac and cheese... oh! Fat Kid Heaven.  No, neither of us are fat, but we would be if we ate this all the time.  

Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese
1 lb pasta, cooked 2 min shy of being done
5 slices bacon, chopped
3 Tbsp flour
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar
4 oz shredded Monterey jack
1 1/2 C buttermilk (room temp)
3/4 C water, room temp (or broth of some kind)
1/4 tsp Pirate's Bite or cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg

   Cook bacon in a 3 qt sauce pot until crispy.  Remove bacon and drain, but leave fat in pot.  You need 3 Tbsp of fat, so remove some if needed or add oil to make 3 Tbsp.
   Add 3 Tbsp flour to pot and stir so there are no lumps.  Cook for about 2 minutes over med heat, stirring constantly.
   Slowly add buttermilk and water, stirring constantly. Simmer until thick.
   Add nutmeg and Pirate's bite.  Slowly melt in cheese. (Reserve about 1/4 C)
   Add pasta and bacon to pot.  Pour into a 13x9 dish.  Sprinkle reserved cheese over the top
   Bake at 375 deg F for 20 min.
   Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coconut Almond Ice Cream Sandwiches

Sometimes the only thing that can make a cookie better is ice cream and another cookie.

Coconut Almond Ice Cream Sandwiches
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 C white sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 Tbsp Nutiva Coconut Mana (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C white chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped, roasted almonds
5 oz sweetened shaved coconut
ice cream*

   Cream butter, coconut mana, and sugars together.  Incorporate eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla
   Add 1 C flour, baking soda and salt.  Gently work into butter mixture.
   Add second C of flour.  When it is about halfway incorporated, add coconut, white chocolate, and almonds.  Mix until flour is fully worked into mixture.
   Make a heaping Tbsp into a 1 1/2 in disk.  Place about 3 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 8-10 minutes.
   Cool.  Makes about 2 dozen.  (If I am not making them into sandwiches, I only do about 2 tsp per cookie; this will make about 3 dozen.)
   Take ice cream that has been slightly softened (leave out about 15 min.) and place 3 oz scoop on a cookie.  Put another cookie on top.  Wrap in plastic, freeze for at least 30 minutes.
   Makes ~12 ice cream sandwiches.

*I used a high quality vanilla, but use whatever flavor you like.  Dulce de leche, white chocolate, even coffee would be delicious;  just stay away from ice cream with stuff in it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Creamy Dijon Vermouth Sauce

I've been trying to make more sauces lately.  We love eating fresh vegetables and fish in the summer, but I generally don't want to do too much to them.  Sauces are the prefect thing to jazz up a plain meal.  There are a lot of good bottled sauces in stores.  However, I don't normally buy bottled sauces or marinades so I forget  to to browse through that section.  This sauce is tangy, smooth, and creamy, yet light, and is made with ingredients I usually have on hand.
over salmon and roasted asparagus w/ zucchini quinoa

Creamy Dijon Vermouth Sauce
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp dry vermouth
2 Tbsp all natural sour cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 med clove garlic, finely minced or pasted
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

   Combine all ingredients.  Warm over medium low heat.
   Serves 2-4 (Two if you pour it over everything, like I did in the picture)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Super Thick Tarragon & Dill Pickles

I love pickles.  LOVE them!  Eating them, making them, giving them as gifts.  I feel like a mad pickle scientist when I set out to cure a bunch of cucumbers.  This is the cleaned up version of what my kitchen looks like on a pickle making day.
Super Thick Tarragon & Dill Pickles
1 sterilized pint mason jar w/ new canning lid
~3 med Kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/3 inch thick
1 tsp dried dill (1 Tbsp fresh)
1/2 C water
1/4 C white vinegar
1/4 C tarragon vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
3 med cloves garlic, crushed
~10 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake (optional)

   Fill jar with cucumber slices.  Add dill to jar.
   Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stir occasionally to make sure sugar and salt dissolve.
   Pour boiling liquid over pickles in jar (you may need a funnel.)  Fill as much as possible, make sure all the spices are in the jar.  Immediately close lid tightly.  As it cools, the "button" will pop down properly sealing it.  If it doesn't pop on its own, press it after several minutes and it should stay down.
   Let pickles cure for at least a week.  Shake them every once in a while to distribute spices throughout the jar.
   Refrigerate after opening.
   Makes 1 pint.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

7 Ingredient BBQ Sauce

A seven ingredient BBQ sauce?  Yup, not kidding.  I think if you have a really flavorful meat, you don't need an overly complicated sauce.  We wanted something tangy to cut through the richness of the smoked pork with the all purpose smoking rub, but for some reason I didn't want to go for a straight up mustard, vinegar sauce, so this came about.  The seven ingredients are cheap things that I always have in the house, I can whip this up in no time for chicken or pork.
w/ Super Thick Cut Homemade Dill Pickles

7 Ingredient BBQ Sauce
1 C tomato sauce (=1 small can)
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/4 C yellow mustard
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lrg chipotle, finely minced (optional)
1 lrg clove garlic, finely minced (~1 1/2 tsp)

   Combine all ingredients.  Bring to a bubble over medium heat, cook until thick, about 20 minutes.
   Makes a little less than 1 1/2 C of sauce.
BBQ Sandwiches:
   When sauce comes to a bubble, add whatever meat you are using.  Heat meat in sauce until sauce is thick. Depending on your sauciness preferences, this is enough for up to 5 C of finely chopped or shredded meat.
   Serves 4-6

Monday, July 16, 2012

All Purpose Smoking Rub

I told you about the rub I like to use for smoking, Dillo Dust.  Well, it seemed unfair to use a rub in a recipe that you can only get if you order from LaRue Tactical.  Last week I set out to make my own version of the rub for when I run out of Dillo Dust.  This version tastes almost exactly the same!  I cut down on the sugar a little then added a bit of spice because of my personal preferences.

Also, I feel like I need my own catchy name for this... so if you have any suggestions, please share.
7.6 lb Boston butt (cut into a few pieces)

All Purpose Smoking Rub
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp celery salt
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp chipotle powder (optional)

   Combine everything.
   Makes enough for about 7.5 lbs of meat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fast Food From Home

A couple weeks ago the hubs and I went white water rafting on the Ocoee with my parents.  It is about a three hour drive and my dad volunteered to do the driving if we handled breakfast and dinner that day.  I generally avoid fast food with my exception being long (6+ hours) car trips.  I decided to make food reminiscent of a drive-thru because it is portable, and let's face it, breakfast sandwiches are delicious.  Yes, it cost more than ordering from the $1 Menu, but I felt so much better about eating it and I could make huge portions that would properly fuel us up for the day.

Sausage and Egg English Muffin
12 oz breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Light variety)
1/3 tsp crushed red pepper flake (optional)
6 med eggs*
salt and pepper
4 slices cheese (I used havarti)
4 whole wheat English muffins, split and toasted

   Mix sausage and red pepper flake together.  Form into 4 patties that are slightly larger than the English muffins.  Cook over med/med-low heat until cooked through.
   Scramble eggs with a little salt and pepper. Cook in sausage fat over med-low heat.  Try not to break the eggs up too much, attempt to keep the eggs in a large single unit so you can easily cut them and put them on the sandwiches.
   Place cooked patty, egg, and cheese on muffin, wrap in foil, and warm in 300 deg F oven (if necessary).
   Makes 4.
*I used fresh eggs from my mother-in-law's chickens.  They tend to be a bit smaller than what you get in the store.  6 =4 lrg eggs

Tater Tots (because a fast food breakfast requires potatoes)
As many frozen tater tots as you want
~2 tsp low salt blacken seasoning
(salt if your frozen tots do not have salt)
4 sheets computer paper

   Cook tots according to package directions.  A few minutes before being done, toss with blacken seasoning, finish cook time.
   While they are cooking, make these paper holders:
1.  Fold almost in half (top left square)
2.  Fold sides over once, about 1 cm
3.  Flip paper over and fold edges over twice, about 1 cm each and tape.
(3.5  Maybe draw some pictures.)
4.  Fill and enjoy!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake w/ Fresh Peaches

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors.  And I know I do quite a few cakes with buttermilk... but it is sooo good!  Can you blame me?  I was going to make a complex blueberry peach compote to go over this cake.  Then I was like, peaches are in season... I don't need to mess them up.  Make sure all the peach juice goes over the cake, you don't want to waste any of that goodness.  (Bonus:  You can feel a little bit healthy eating this dessert because of the fresh fruit.)

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake w/ Fresh Peaches
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C white sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp lemon zest (~2 lemons)
1 Tbsp lemon juice (1 lrg lemon)
1 tsp vanilla
3 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C buttermilk
fresh peaches, peeled and sliced

   Cream butter and sugar together.  Incorporate eggs one at a time.  Add lemon zest, juice, and vanilla.
   Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
   Alternate adding flour and buttermilk to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  (flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour)
   Divide evenly into two greased 8x5 loaf pans.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 45 min-1 hour, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
   Allow to cool.
   Slice and serve with fresh peaches.
   Makes 2 loaves, each will serve about 6-8 people.  (Pound cake freezes great, just so you know.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Garlic Pepper Burger w/ Chipotle Honey Mustard

Way back in June, for Father's Day, we made these burgers.  There is nothing too fussy about anything in this burger.  It is all about letting a few ingredients stand out.  (Entire menu at bottom of page.)

Garlic Pepper Burgers
2 lbs ground beef (I used an all natural 90/10)
slices of fresh tomato
cooked bacon (I used a locally made bacon)
6 slices white cheddar
6 buns, split and lightly toasted
   garlic pepper seasoning:
   2 tsp garlic chips, that are slightly crushed
   1 1/2 tsp sea salt
   3/4 tsp tri-color peppercorns
   1/4 tsp smoked black peppercorns
   1 tsp chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried)
   1/2 small onion, minced
   2 Tbsp worcestershire

   In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, combine garlic, salt, and peppercorns.  Work into a powder that has some larger chunks.  Add that and the rest of the seasoning ingredients into the beef.  Use your hands to mix it together.
   Form into 6 patties that are slightly larger than the buns you plan to use.  Cook over medium heat using your desired method.  (Our original plan was to grill, but it poured down rain, so we did them in a skillet.)  Just before they reach your desired doneness, top with cheese to melt.
   Assemble burgers.
   Makes 6.

Chipotle Honey Mustard
1/4 C deli style mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp minced chiptole in adobo
1/2 tsp chipotle powder

Combine all ingredients.  Males enough for 6+ burgers.

Father's Day Dinner Menu

Crispy Smoked Chicken Rolls w/ Black Bean Hummus
Garlic Pepper Burgers w/ Chipotle Honey Mustard
"Black" Roasted White and Sweet Potatoes and Salad
Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake w/ Fresh Peaches

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Black Bean Hummus (two versions)

Oops!  I totally skipped over the black bean hummus I promised you to go with the crispy smoked chicken rolls!  Sorry.  It almost seems unfair that I call this a recipe because it requires no effort, few ingredients, and it took me less than three minutes to make.  But, god, it is delicious!  I am going to give you two variations:  one is more the consistency of dip and the second is more like a traditional hummus.

Black Bean Hummus (v1)
1 can organic black beans, drained
2 lrg garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1 Tbsp
1/2 tsp sea salt

   Puree all ingredients together until smooth.  I use my high powered immersion blender.  Season to taste.
   Makes about 1 3/4 C.  (This is the thinner version, pictured above.)

Black Bean Hummus (v2)
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can organic chick peas, drained
4 lrg garlic cloves, roughly chopped
~1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon, ~2 Tbsp
1 tsp sea salt

   Puree it all together until smooth.  Season to taste.
   Makes about 4 C.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby Kale Salad w/ Roasted Tomatoes

A few weeks ago at our local farmers' market, The Murfreesboro Saturday Market, we found baby kale.  It is fresh, tender, and surprisingly sweet.  There is almost no trace of bitterness that you would expect from a dark green.  I couldn't bear to cook it.  Salad seemed like the logical answer.

Baby Kale Salad w/ Roasted Tomatoes
1 bunch baby kale, torn into pieces (about 2 C)
2 C mixed baby field greens
~1/4 C shards of Swiss cheese
1 med tomato cut into thin wedges
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
your favorite dressing (big surprise, we used Roasted Garlic & Mustard Vinaigrette)

   Toss tomatoes in oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 deg F for about 15 minutes until soft and a little charred.
   Combine lettuces.  Assemble salad.
   Makes 2 large side salads.  (Some crunchy, homemade croutons would be really delicious on this, we just didn't have any bread appropriate for making croutons at the time.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crispy Smoked Chicken Rolls

The inspiration for these tasty little appetizers was Boscos' Smoked Duck Spring Rolls.  Our Father's Day dinner was Southwestern themed so I changed the flavors, but the basic idea of smoked bird in a crispy shell was there.

Crispy Smoked Chicken Rolls
2 C smoked, shredded chicken*
1 lrg carrot, cut in a very fine julienne
1/2 lrg red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
4 lrg green onions, thinly sliced
1 pkg filo dough**
6 Tbsp salted butter, melted

   Take one sheet of filo, lightly brush with melted butter on one side.  Fold in half width-wise.  Add about 1 Tbsp of chicken, a few pieces of carrots and red bell pepper, and sprinkle with green onions.  Roll up like a burrito.  Use butter to seal the dough and brush the top with a little butter.
   This will make about 18 rolls.
   Bake at 375 deg F for about 15 minutes, until rolls are golden brown and crispy.
   Serves 6.  Serve with fresh salsa or black bean hummus (recipe tomorrow!)

*Season 4-5 chicken thighs very will with salt and pepper.  I used Dillo Dust. (Which you cannot purchase, sorry.  If you really want some you need to place an order with LaRue Tactical.)  It is basically salt, sugar, paprika, pepper, garlic and onion.  Smoke for 1.25 hours according to your smoker's directions.  You can purchase smoked chicken from many BBQ restaurants or you can use roast chicken.
**Make sure to to cover filo sheets with damp paper towels while working so they don't dry out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bacon, Spinach, & Gorgonzola Pizza

My favorite bacon is Wright's Steakhouse Bacon.  Yes, I have a favorite bacon. (Though, to be honest, I'm not that picky when it comes to bacon.)  So what?  It is thick cut, premium bacon marinated in garlic, herbs, and spices.  Seems pretty obvious to me that bacon doesn't get more delicious than that.  Unless you add blue cheese to it... hence, this fantastic pizza.

Bacon, Spinach, & Gorgonzola Pizza
12-14 oz pizza dough
4 slices Wright's Steakhouse bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp
12 oz frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
5 oz grape tomatoes, quartered
4 oz crumbled gorgonzola
2 Tbsp parmesan
1 lrg clove garlic, minced

   Spread dough into a roughly 10x12 inch rectangle or 11 inch circle.  Pre-bake crust at 425 deg F for 5-7 minutes on bottom rack.
   Evenly distribute ingredients over the top of the crust.  Bake at 425 deg F for about 10 minutes on middle rack until cheese is melted.
   Serves 4.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Portuguese Kale and Sausage Soup

I told you that kale is my new go-to vegetable.  It only makes sense that I give you a kale recipe.  There are a lot of recipes for this soup which is no surprise because it is delicious, easy, cheap, and great year-round.  Browsing through about 15 different recipes, I found some had too few ingredients which I didn't think would lend to a full, rich flavor and others seemed to have an overabundance of... stuff.  I like to think my version has a good balance of flavor without too many ingredients.  Oh, and this is absolutely a one pot meal; keep that in mind when planning your weekly menu.

Portuguese Kale and Sausage Soup
1 lrg onion, diced
3 med carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 lrg cloves garlic, minced (~1 Tbsp)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can organic red kidney beans, drained*
2 lrg potatoes, cut into roughly 3/4 in cubes (~4 C)
~14 oz spicy sausage, sliced**
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
4-5 C water
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
juice of 1 med lemon
oil, salt and pepper

   In a large pot, heat about 1 tbsp oil over med heat.  Saute onions, carrots, and celery until tender, 7-10 minutes.  Add garlic, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, sausage, water, thyme, cayenne, about 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper.  Simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes.  (If at any time you think it needs more water, add some.)
   Add kale.  This will probably need to be added in batches.  When all the kale is wilted into the soup add lemon juice and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the kale and potatoes are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Serves 4-6.

*I specifically say organic kidney beans because most of the regular canned kidney beans have sugar added.  You do not want sweet beans for this.
**Traditionally this soup is made with Portuguese chourico or linguica.  They are delicious, highly spiced, cooked pork sausages; they are also hard to find in a lot of regular grocery stores.  Andouille, a spicy Cajun sausage, would be a great substitute.  I used Hillshire Farm's Hot Smoked Sausage, which was very good and little more budget friendly than other sausages.

Also, I am aware that this is not a Spanish dish, if you are looked at my tags all confused. It is simply the best fit of my current tag listings.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sweet Potato Pancakes w/ Sage Goat Cheese

Breakfast for dinner... who isn't a fan of that?  Obviously you can make these pancakes for regular breakfast or brunch.  We tend to go a little more simple for real breakfast, and I can't remember the last time we got to have a lazy brunch.  So dinner it is!

Sweet Potato Pancakes w/ Sage Goat Cheese
2 small-med sweet potatoes, baked (about 1 1/4-1/2 C flesh)
~1 1/3 C pancake mix (I use Bisquick Heart Smart)
1 med clove garlic, pasted
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp onion powder
1 egg
3/4 C buttermilk

   Combine ingredients.  Add buttermilk or pancake mix until it is a thick, goopey paste.  It should be thicker then regular pancake batter because of the potatoes.
   Make them whatever size you want.  I make 4 ~5inch pancakes.  Cook over medium heat in melted butter or oil until bubbles form on the surface and do not pop.  Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side.  Keep warm on a baking rack in a 200 deg F oven if need be.
   Sage Goat Cheese:
2 oz softened goat cheese
1 Tbsp softened butter
~3/4 tsp ground sage (more if you are using fresh)
   Combine.  Wrap in plastic.  Pop into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  Cut into 4 slices for serving.
   Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Current Must-Have Kitchen Staples

I find myself constantly going back time and time again to the same ingredients.  I thought I would give you my current ingredient crushes.

5.  Buttermilk-- Browsing through my recipes you may realize that I use this dairy a lot... to an unhealthy point almost.  It is rich, creamy, tangy, and low fat.  Yes, most buttermilk is made from low fat milk.  Just make sure you are buying real buttermilk (especially for baking) and not the stuff that is thickened with starches and has added stabilizers.

4.  Chipotles-- This is crush that has been going on for years.  So I guess it is love?  I can't get enough of the spicy smokiness.  I add them to soups, mac and cheese, marinades, sauces... I don't think there is much I haven't added chipotles to.

3.  Zucchini-- I am a year-round fan of zucchini but they are reaching their summer prime right about now.  You can get small baskets for about $2 at farmer's markets this time of the year.  Simple grilled zucchini is one of my all time favorite summer side-dishes

2.  Coconut Manna-- I've only had it on a spoon and bites of it in the hub's oatmeal, but this pure coconut product is amazing and the ideas are churning in my head.  More on this to come in the next couple weeks....

1.  Kale-- Yeah, I know this is kinda of a crunchy-hippie veg.  It is abso-freakin-lutely delicious!  I have recently become hopelessly obsessed with this cheap green.  Be prepared for lots of kale recipes this summer.