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IMG_1963The brussels sprout is the perennial childhood dinner table torture device, perhaps only second to the lima bean.  I have to admit they are not my favorite vegetable either.  I’ve been recipe testing brussels sprouts for 3 full years.  In fact, this vegetable almost completely took me out of recipe writing all together.  I probably should have moved on and just avoided them, but they are my sister’s and several friends’ favorite food.  They’re also healthy and very en vogue.  So I persevered and have made and tossed out more brussels sprouts than you can imagine.  I’ve served the results to multiple test subjects to great reviews – therefore I’ve determined in terms of brussels sprouts, I am not a impartial judge.  Most roasting recipes call for cooking brussels sprouts for 40 minutes or longer at high heat, but then they just taste like burned mush to me.  The first recipe is my roasted version which has fared very well in taste tests.  The following recipe is the way both Quentin and I prefer them.  They are very similar, but in the end it comes down to texture.  If you like a melt in your mouth flavor, go with the roasting method.  If you prefer a savory crunch, try the saute method.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

serves approx 4

1 lb. brussels sprouts

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

12 turns fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375.  Rinse the brussels sprouts.  Trim the ends, and half lengthwise.  Spread the brussels sprouts over a half sheet pan.  They should not be crowded and touching, but if you reduce the quantity, also reduce the size of your roasting pan/cookie sheet to prevent burning.  Combine the remaining ingredients and vigorously whisk to combine.  Pour sauce over sprouts and shake pan to coat.  Roast in oven for 25 minutes.  Use a spatula at 12 minutes to flip the sprouts.

Enjoy!

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts Recipe

serves approx 4 

1 lb. brussels sprouts

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp kosher salt

12 turns fresh ground pepper

Rinse the brussels sprouts.  Trim the ends, and half lengthwise.  Heat a skillet or a wok over medium high heat. Spread the brussels sprouts over skillet.  Combine the remaining ingredients and vigorously whisk to combine. Pour sauce over sprouts stir with wooden spatula to coat.  Saute until sauce has reduced and looks syrupy approx 10 minutes, stirring periodically.

Enjoy!

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Sugar Cookie Recipe

 

IMG_1955Sugar cookies are a universal childhood favorite.  I’ve yet to meet a little who can turn one down.  But these sugar cookies are a treat for the grownups, too.  My husband swears they go well with Bourbon.  My friend, Angela, and I were discussing cooking at lunch the other day.  She’s a trained chef, amongst many other hats, yet she was confessing that she doesn’t really enjoy baking.  Cooking on the other hand, she loves, because it allows for so much more flexibility and interpretation.  I admit fully to sharing similar opinions.  It’s a lot easier to taste a chicken entree and think – you know what this needs?  Mushrooms.  Mushrooms would make this a next level chicken dish. Baking, conversely, is more challenging.  When your recipe starts 2 and 1/4 c. flour, 1 and 1/3 c. sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder…… it’s a little tricky to just fly off the cuff and change that business up.  That said, here’s what I *Always* change when baking.  If the recipe called for vanilla extract, I double it – every time without question.  If it calls for fresh lemon juice, ditto.  The only other big adaptations, lie in temperature, cook time, and cool time.  So – boring, maybe.  You’re not invoking magical ingredients to change the entire flavor profile, but desperately important.

I’ve grown to love baking.  The science of it.  I love making adjustments and making it work.  Cooking dinner will always be my first love, but baking – I see you over there – and I will rise to meet your challenge.  Mostly, because I’m really excited about my new oven.  The old one was on it’s last leg, and it’s impossible to maintain oven temp when your door won’t close completely.  Which points out the other most critical rule in baking – Do you have an oven thermometer?  Cause I bet you need one.  I’ve cooked in kitchens all over town and all over this country and even the fanciest ovens often are off by at least 25 degrees.  (I’m looking at you Vikings everywhere.)  In cooking, no big deal.  When baking?  I’d argue that matters.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

(adapted from Martha Stewart )  makes approx 32 cookies

3 c. White Lily All-Purpose Flour (when baking always White Lily!)

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 and 3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. light brown sugar

zest  from 1 lemon

2 sticks butter, softened (1 c.)

2 large eggs

juice from zested lemon (approx 3 tbsp)

2 tsp vanilla extract

sanding sugar (pics were made with sanding sugar, but I prefer the large crystal shimmer or sparkle sugar)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt.  In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, brown sugar, and lemon zest.  Mix on low speed, then add butter.  Increase speed halfway, and mix until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.  Reduce speed to low, then add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Cover a half sheet pan in parchment paper.  Use a dinner spoon, to scoop then use your hands to roll into one inch balls onto baking sheet in a 2-1-2-1-2 pattern.  Fill a bowl with very hot – nearly boiling water.  Dip spatula in hot water, then flatten the tops of the cookies as shown below.  If you skip the hot water, your spatula will stick.  Sprinkle with sanding/shimmer sugar.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes, let rest on baking sheet 2 minutes, then place on cooling racks.

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Enjoy!

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This shredded chicken recipe may be the easiest recipe I make.  It makes a great filling for a taco bar, topping for salads, nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas, or appetizers.  You can cook it as written below as dinner for your family or scale it to serve large parties.  The simplicity does not equal the resulting flavor.  It can easily be prepared a day in advance and reheated, just leave extra stock in when shredding or reheat with a small infusion of more stock if chicken seems a bit dry.

3 skinless boneless chicken breasts, approx 1.75 lbs

1.5 c. chicken stock (approx! see below)

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp granuated garlic (I prefer Morton & Basset for all my spices)

1 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp paprika

Place chicken breasts in a crock pot.  Add chicken stock to almost cover your chicken, but not quite.  The amount of stock required will depend on the quantity of chicken and the size of your crock pot.  Add seasonings, then stir to combine.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  The timing (as with most crock pot recipes) is very forgiving and flexible.  Yay for convenience!  After cook time, check the amount of liquid remaining in crock pot.  If you had a small amount of chicken and a large crock pot, you will still have a lot of liquid left.  Use a coffee cup to remove a cup if necessary, and reserve for later.  You can always add some back if chicken looks dry after shredding.  Shred chicken using 2 forks.  Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to your preference.

Serve shredded chicken with warm tortillas, queso fresco, guacamole, and salsa for a taco bar, or with lettuce leafs for low-carb wraps.  Enjoy!

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Spanish Rice Recipe

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Spanish rice is that loose term for any rice dish that is sort of red and is typically served alongside Mexican food.  My college friend, Marti, used to get giant casseroles of Spanish Rice from her childhood nanny which fed people for days.  Locha’s rice was legendary.  Or maybe we were just hungry and almost no one knew how to cook at that point in time.  Growing up in Peoria, Mexican food was scarce so Spanish Rice was never really on my radar.  Over time several people have told me their version of this recipe and strangely for years it was really tricky to master!  My rice was either bland or crunchy or wet or just boring.  This version is my go to and a compilation of many along the way.  I feel strongly about using jasmine rice and the importance of heating your stock before adding to the rice.

This recipe is party size – perfect for a large gathering, you can scale it down, dividing it by 4 and using a smaller pan (think cake pan size like 8×8).  If you use a glass pan, versus a disposable aluminum foil one, note that cook time may be a little bit longer.  Great as a side with chimichangas, enchiladas, crunchy tacos, or fish tacos.

Spanish Rice Recipe

serves 20

2 tbsp olive oil

large white onion, diced

3 c. jasmine rice (I prefer the texture on this rice over any other)

2 cans diced tomatoes

4.5 c. chicken stock

3 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400.  Heat a stainless steel skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil, heat until fragrant.  Add diced onion, saute 4 minutes.  Add rice, stir with a wooden spatula to combine, then saute another 5 minutes.  Pour rice mixture into bottom of a large disposable aluminum foil pan, either a deep half-size steam table pan or a deep, large lasagna pan will work.  The size on these pans will be something along the lines of 12 x 10 x 3 or 13 x 9 x 2 3/4. Drain tomatoes and pour over rice.  Heat chicken stock until steaming – either in glass in the microwave or in a sauce pan on the stove. Pour hot stock over the rice mixture, stir, and sprinkle kosher salt evenly over the surface.  Cover pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and place in preheated oven. Bake for an hour.  Stir and serve.

Enjoy!

 

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IMG_0043Who’s ready to watch some Cowboys action this weekend?  Sunday’s game may have inched my blood pressure a few more unfortunate steps up, but I’m delighted to have more football left to play in the season.  After being chronically disappointed by my Longhorns the last couple of years, I’m still a little in shock that we left the evening with a “W”.  Seriously, I’m contemplating burning all my orange in an actual fire, because I’m extremely superstitious and none of it brought the Longhorns a W when it counted.  Like a phoenix, the Longhorns must rise from the ashes.

I think the answer to Sunday’s shocking comeback win lies in this Caramelized Onion Dip.  It has long been my most requested appetizer and when paired with my Homemade Oven Chips – a game changer is born.  I think the Cowboys lived to see another day solely so we could enjoy this dip once again.  You may have heard that unscrupulous refereeing was the tipping point. But I know the truth, caramelized onion dip and homemade potato chips ensured the real win.  The Ice Bowl starts at noon, Sunday, and I expect you to be ready. In light of this, since Soup Swap starts at 6pm, you better prepare your soup on Saturday.  If you don’t have time to make your own onion dip, let me know.  I’ll make it for you.  In the words of young Hiatt, “Giddy up, Cowboys!”

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

(adapted from adashofsass.com)

makes about 2.5 cups, serves 6ish – feel free to double, I almost always do

2 large yellow onions (note **** not sweet onions, maui or 1015, just regular yellow)

2 large shallots

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp kosher salt

16 turns fresh ground pepper

6 oz cream cheese, room temperature

2/3 c. sour cream

2/3 c. mayonnaise

Slice and peel onions, slice rings into 4 quarters.  Slice and peel shallots, slice rings in half.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat until hot, then add butter and olive oil.  Stir to melt butter, then add onions and shallots.  Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine, then cook over the medium heat about 10 minutes.  IMG_0013

Reduce heat to 25% above your lowest setting.  Stir and cook until soft and browned.  This takes forever.  Onions are easy to burn and that is not the flavor you want, so don’t be tempted to put your heat on high to shave off time.  Sometimes I cook them for an entire hour!  Low and slow, or be prepared to watch like a hawk to prevent over browning.  You want the end result to look like this. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  IMG_0023

In a stand mixer with your paddle attachment, mix cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise.  Mix until combined and smooth.  If your cream cheese is still cold, it will look lumpy for awhile.  Walk away and let it continue mixing, eventually it will become smooth as silk.  When it looks like silk, add in your onion mixture and stir, just to combine. Dip a chip and season to taste, if required.  Get ready to sit back and bask in the glory, because everybody loves this dip.

 

 

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Baby Bok Choy Recipe

IMG_1560 (2)Baby Bok Choy is my favorite new vegetable.  They are so adorably cute, delicious, fast, and easy!  I think the flavor is a little like softened celery – very, very mild.  Baby Bok Choy is very low calorie, and packed in Vitamins A, C, and K.  Nutrient dense and prepared completely in 10 minutes.

Baby Bok Choy Recipe

serves 4

2 baby bok choy

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c. chicken broth

Trim the base off of the baby bok choy and separate the leaves.  Wash thoroughly, then chop into 1 inch segments. Separate into three groups of base segments, middle pieces, and green leaves.

Heat a wok over medium high heat.  Add olive oil , heat until fragrant and hot.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add thicker base segments first, saute for 1 minute, then add middle pieces.  Stir and saute 1 more minute, then add the green leaves.  Stir with a wooden spatula, then add chicken broth. Cover and steam for 1 minute, then serve.

Enjoy!

 

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Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

IMG_1550You simply can’t beat freshly made basil pesto.  Store bought doesn’t hold a candle.  The key to this recipe, in my opinion, is that the Fresh Basil comes directly from a living plant – and a pretty living plant.  Look for one with no dark spots on the leaves.  In Dallas, I find live basil in most stores, but Trader Joe’s has the best – both price and longevity.

These basil plants can be found at Tom Thumb and often at Central Market.  They are still in soil, but kind of floating in water in that plastic bag, so only will live about a day.  The plants from Trader Joe’s are larger and in a full pot so could last quite awhile as long as you water them!

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Fresh Pesto is great for lots of recipes!  You can use it as a vegetable dip, top sauteed Portabellas, make paninis, make chicken pesto pasta, or top crostini.  Fresh Basil Pesto can stay in your fridge for 1 week.  After that there is a botulism risk from the garlic and oil.  You could freeze some by adding a little oil to the coat the surface, but I’d suggest just finding more ways to enjoy your basil that first week.  : )

Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

makes 1 cup of pesto 

2 c. firmly packed Fresh Basil Leaves, torn from a live plant (3 of these or 2 of the larger plants from Trader Joe’s)

1/4 c. pine nuts

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 c. firmly packed and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tsp Murray River salt

16 turns fresh ground pepper

1/2 c. olive oil

Place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor.  Pulse several times, then turn to on setting.  Drizzle the olive oil in slowly from the top while food processor is spinning.

Enjoy!

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My kids love Chicken Clagiving night.  That’s what they named our version of not Thanksgiving – with Roasted Chicken, Gravy, Homemade Stuffing, and Mashed Potatoes.  The key to stuffing (or croutons if you’re making those), is to have your bread thoroughly dried out.  This is almost never a problem for me since I’m inclined to buy bread, but then forget about it and leave it on the counter.  If you had to grocery same day, don’t fret – just cube bread and bake dry in the oven.  Stuffing, aka dressing, is very forgiving and you can you can adjust your liquids and vegetables. My mother likes to add chopped Hard Boiled Egg, and I saw a Louisiana recipe the other day that included green olives and almonds.  Just don’t forget the Gravy.

1 loaf old ciabatta

1 pan white cornbread

6 tbsp butter

2 white onions, diced

7 stalks celery, diced

2.5 c. chicken stock

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried parsley

1 /2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp kosher salt

16 turns fresh ground pepper

4 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.  Cube ciabatta and cornbread to approx 1 inch cubes.  You want these to be dried out, so if either is too soft, spread on a cookie sheet and dry bake at 300 for 6-8 minutes.  Butter a glass 9 x 13 inch pan.  Spread bread cubes evenly in buttered casserole dish.

In a heavy bottomed saute pan, melt butter.  Saute celery and onions for 6 minutes.  Pour this buttered vegetable mixture over bread cubes.  Pour chicken stock over then sprinkle seasonings evenly across the top.  Stir with a wooden spatula to combine.  Pour melted butter over the top of stuffing.  Bake stuffing for 35 minutes.

Enjoy!

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IMG_1863 (3) This is the Chocolate Bottom Crusted Chocolate Pie I made for Julia, a friend of my daughter, when her grandfather passed away.  Hers had meringue on top, but I’m a big fan of real whipped cream over meringue, any day.  For years, every time I saw Julia, we talked about this pie.  It was the first and only chocolate pie, I’d ever made, and it took me several years to remember anything other than making meringue in cold, wet weather is a whip, and one I’d rather not experience again.  I decided we should bring back this much discussed chocolate pie recipe, so I served it at Christmas.  It was gobbled up so quickly, I failed to photograph a slice.  As a result, I was forced to make another for our Bowl Game ; ).  Good thing the pie was there to dry our tears.  Let’s here it for a better year of Texas Football in 2015.

Chocolate Bottom Crusted Chocolate Pie Recipe

Crust:

40 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

5 tbsp butter, melted

1/4 c. sugar

Pie Filling:

2/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

4 lg egg yolks

2 1/4 c. 1 % milk

3/4 c. heavy whipping cream

5 oz bittersweet chocolate

2 oz unsweetened chocolate

2 tbsp butter, softened

2 tsp vanilla

Whipped Topping:

3/4 c. heavy cream

1 tbsp powder sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  In a food processor, crush cookies to crumbs.  Pour into a glass pie pan.  Top with melted butter and sugar, then use a spatula to mix.  When combined, use your fingers to evenly cover bottom and sides of pie pan.  Bake for 15 minutes, then set aside.

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks with a wire whisk.  Turn heat to medium high, and add milk and cream mixture slowly while whisking being sure to scrape all the bottom and sides.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Mixture will be very thick.  Remove from heat, pour through a thin mesh strainer into a clean bowl.

Melt chocolate in the microwave, one minute and 30 seconds at 50% power in a glass bowl.  Stir then repeat process if chocolate needs additional melt time.  Add melted chocolate and softened butter to pie filling, whisk to combine.  Add vanilla, whisk again.  Butter wax paper, then cover surface of filling.  Set aside to cool 1-2 hours depending on how wide your bowl is for cooling.

When completely cool, spread into prepared pie crust and refrigerate – can be prepared a day ahead!  Whip cream in a stand mixer to fluffy, then add powdered sugar.  Top pie with whipped cream.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Creamy White Bean Soup Recipe with Crumble ToppingWinter is here, and with it comes my favorite, soup season.  Second only to cooking with cognac season.  The best soups start with bones, so as  you bake those holiday hams, chickens, and turkeys – be planning your best soups yet!  Beans are another food group I didn’t consume until at least 25, so in a way, I’m still easing my way into legumes.  I use navy beans because they are small and extremely mild.  If you want a more robust white bean flavor, you can try Great Northern or Cannellini.  The bacon crumble topping is a game changer in terms of texture and flavor.  You could also top with fresh chives, scallions, queso fresco, or crostini.

Creamy White Bean Soup Recipe with Bacon Crumble Topping

makes about 5 qts

Meaty Ham Shank Bone

6 strips of bacon

1 large white onion, chopped

16 baby carrots, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

Cayenne pepper

6 cans Navy beans, rinsed thoroughly and drained

Cover your ham bone completely with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to the lowest setting.  Cook as long as you possibly can.  This round I did for probably six hours.  Every 2 hours check to see if you need to add any water to combat evaporation.  In a pinch, an hour and a half will still create a really nice soup base, the flavor just grows exponentially with time.  Use a slotted spoon to remove large bones, then strain soup base through a strainer and set aside.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium high heat.  Using kitchen shears, snip bacon into small pieces about 3/4 to an inch in width.  Stir with a wooden spatula to brown.  Watch heat and lower as needed to prevent over browning.  Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon crumbles to a paper towel.

Drain most of the bacon grease from your sauce pan.  Add onion and carrots, saute over medium high heat for 5 minutes.  Add garlic, saute another 2 minutes.  Pour 6 cups of soup base into pan.  Add tomato paste, and whisk until dissolved.  Add three shakes of cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 45 minutes.  Using a ladle, remove 5 large ladles of bean mixture, and reserve.  Use an immersion blender, or work in small batches in a food processor or blender, to cream your soup.  Add back the reserved whole bean mixture.  Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  The amount of salt required will depend on the saltiness of your ham bone.  It may could require none at all, just start slowly and cautiously when adjusting seasonings.

Serve topped with bacon pieces and with crusty bread.

Enjoy!

 

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