March 13, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Ginger Carrots

Piping hot out of the oven, or room temperature on a sizzling summer day, roasted veggies serve as a perfect side dish to just about anything.  The variety of flavors you can unearth from diverse spices and oils allow you to adapt your dish to go perfectly with a roast chicken, seared salmon, or simply grilled steak.

The irresistible crunchy, caramelized edges, warm tender center, and rustic quality remind me of Italy.  There’s a time and place for perfectly cut vegetables, but it’s not in my kitchen.  The more time I can spend enjoying the food and less time prepping the better, especially on a busy weeknight. No need to stress yourself over perfect knife cuts – I know chefs everywhere are cringing over that statement – but honestly, as long as they’re all about the same size they will cook evenly and that’s all you need.

The fresh, clean tang of ginger contrasted with the sweetness of the carrots help brighten their natural flavor.  Garlic slowly warmed in the oven with a coating of healthy olive oil; mixed with the deep, creamy earthiness of butternut squash is a blissful combination.  The two together were simply flawless, and set side by side with a grilled steak and you’ll feel like you’re in paradise (or an Italian vacation in the middle of Tuscany).

Garlicky Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. black truffle infused olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Wash and peel squash, and cut it into bite size squares.
  3. Place squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  4. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, ground black pepper and crushed red pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  6. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  7. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  8. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

Ginger Carrots

Ingredients

  • 8 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 tsp. course ground salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, course ground
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 chicken bullion cube

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Place all the squash in a glass baking dish and drizzle with extra light olive oil.  Extra light olive oil has a higher burning temperature so I find it better for roasting.  Due to valuable antioxidants and ability to help lower total cholesterol, I always use extra light olive oil as a substitute for butter, shortening and other vegetable oils.
  3. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and ground pepper and mix with a spoon until the squash is evenly coated with oil and seasoning.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins
  5. After 30 mins, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes
  6. Just before removing he dish from the oven, turn the broiler on high for a few minutes
  7. Watch the oven, as the broiler will be hot and will burn the squash if left unattended.  It goes quickly, all you’ll need is 2-3 mins.  Once the butternut squash gets a slight golden color to the edges remove from oven and let cool for 5 mins before serving.

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March 3, 2012

Chinese Meatballs with Udon Noodles

I didn’t grow up eating meatballs; they were very foreign to me.  I was raised on Italian Bolognese, shepherds pie, and bacon sandwiches.  Yes, bacon sandwiches are just as they sound, toasted bread, ketchup, and bacon.  I simple, peasant style dish originating in the UK, and often called the “hangover cure”.   But that isn’t on today’s menu.  Today we’ll be having a much healthier meal, but just as satisfying.    OK, back to the meatballs.

My idea of meatballs was a dense, dry rock of unseasoned meat, or if you want to get even classier, those artificially tasking Chef Boyardee meatballs swimming in a thin copper red sauce – a far cry from a basic tomato sauce.  I can’t remember where or when this happened, but I eventually got over my fear.  The variety of flavor combination you can get from one simple dish never leaves you bored.  Italian, Swedish, Irish, Spanish… each culture has their own take and I urge you to try them all, and make some of your own.  Now you don’t hear of a “Chinese meatball” very often, but why not?  I incorporated all the same flavors you get in a stir fry and toss it with some Japanese udon noodles and you have a perfect fusion of flavors and textures.

Once you pop these in the oven and the aroma will envelope your kitchen.  And on those stressful days where you want the comforting flavors on Chinese takeout, you can spare the menu and the cost and whip this up in under 30 mins and you can rest easy you fed yourself a well-balanced meal.   A Rachel Ray recipe I found a few years ago inspired this dish.  The original is delicious but I wanted to switch a few things up and make it easier to cook on a school night. The original recipe can be found at the following link.  Chinese Spaghetti and Meatballs by Rachel Ray

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 scallions finely chopped
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp for the meatballs and 1 for the noodles, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (you’ll have plenty of salt from the soy sauce)
  • 1 pound udon noodles, you can find them on the Asian foods aisle or substitute with spaghetti
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, available on the Asian foods aisle of market
  • 1 zucchini, julienned
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, julienned
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced for garnish
  • 3 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place a large pot of water with bullion cubes on to boil for the noodles. The bullion helps flavor the noodles without overpowering your palate with soy sauce.  When it comes to a boil.  Lower it to a simmer until you put the meatballs in the oven, then it’s time to bring it back up to a boil and cook your udon noodles, don’t worry, I’ll let you know when to come back to these.
  3. Place the pork in a mixing bowl along with an egg, five-spice powder, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, salt, pepper, and panko breadcrumbs.
  4. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.  If you use a spoon you will likely over mix the meat and you’ll end up with tough, dry meatballs.
  5. Form 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Brush the meatball with extra light olive oil and roast for 15 mins.
  7. Now that the meatballs are in, bring your water back up to a boil.
  8. Follow the directions on the noodle package.
  9. While the noodles and meatballs cook, julienne the squash and zucchini and set aside for garnish.  Roughly chop a good handful of cilantro and thinly slice 2 scallions for your garnish.
  10. When your noodles are ready, drain and return to pan.
  11. Toss noodles in 2 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. sesame seed oil.
  12. When the meatballs are ready, remove from oven and assemble your dinner.
  13. Begin by placing noodles at the bottom of your bowl.  Add meatballs and slices of zucchini.
  14. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro.
  15. Enjoy!

February 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Nutmeg Cookies (and extra crispy coffee chocolate chip for crunch lovers)

Soft or crispy?  It’s the never-ending debate for all cookie enthusiasts.  I personally go for a soft center with slightly crisp edges, but let’s tell the truth here… any cookie is hard to resist.  Cookies bring you back to your childhood, can turn around a stressful afternoon, and usually come along with friends, family and laughter.  I wouldn’t encourage eating a whole batch, but share them with your friends after a BBQ or a day at the beach and you’ll be guaranteed a good end to your meal.

I wanted to make a twist o the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  I know, why change such a perfect thing, but I always like to try something new.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.  (I tried adding lemon zest into a back to oatmeal cookies to give it a zesty flavor and they came out tasting like a cookie coated in pledge.  Fail.  This one however received much better feedback.)  As a spun my spice rack I noticed my nutmeg grinder looking sadly neglected after the eggnog-filled holiday months so I decided to break it out for the occasion.  The nutty, warm scent of nutmeg mixed with the almond extract gives this ordinary cookie a flavor that makes your willing cookie takers say, “mmm, what’s in these??”.  I made these especially for a coworker’s birthday and they were a big hit.  By 10am that morning all of them were gone.

And of course they cookies always seem taste better when they’re right out of the oven.  If you miss that freshly baked taste, pop a few in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (unsifted)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Method

  1. Pre heat oven to 375°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, white sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color.  I recommend mixing it roughly with a fork so the sugar doesn’t go flying around the kitchen when you turn on the blender.  Start slow and gradually bring up to medium until it’s a fluffy, creamy consistency.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  4. And vanilla and almond extract and mix on low-speed until incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Gradually blend in the dry mixture into creamed mixture.
  7. Stir in chocolate chips.
  8. Drop tablespoon sized balls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute.
  11. Carefully remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks for 2 minutes before digging in.
  12. Return for seconds, and then pack up the rest for later.

If you prefer crisper cookies, here’s a tip to making them more your style.  It’s about the eggs, skipping them results in a flatter cookie with a great crunch.  Super crispy, crunchy, chocolate chip goodness coming right up!

CRISPY COFFEE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. cold strong coffee (save a small amount from your morning brew)
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. anise extract

Method for Supreme Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Line two large baking sheets with foil with the dull side up.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, combine butter, white and brown sugar, coffee, corn syrup, milk, vanilla and anise. Mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed.
  8. The dough will be very soft.
  9. Divide the dough in half.
  10. Divide one half of the dough into 10 equal pieces, each about 1/4 cup
  11. Place 5 pieces of dough least 3 inches apart on each lined baking sheet. Use your fingers covered with a piece of plastic wrap to flatten each scoop until it is 3 inches in diameter. Remember, the cookies will spread even more as they bake so leave room!
  12. Bake the two sheets for 8 minutes.
  13. Rotate the sheets from the top rack to the bottom and from front to back.
  14. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, watching closely, until the cookies are evenly dark golden brown all over. Pale cookies will not be crispy.
  15. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes.
  16. Slide the foil with cookies onto racks.
  17. When the baking sheets are cool, repeat with the remaining dough.
  18. Cool cookies completely before snacking, stacking or storing.
February 12, 2012

Flip’s Spiced Chicken Sausage Soup

I came back from a business trip with a box of tissues, cough drops, and a sore throat that wouldn’t pass.  By day 4 I developed a hacking cough so I eventually gave in and went to the doctor.  Well, there I was, 2 ear infections and bronchitis and my other half had just left for New Zealand for 2 weeks.  I was miserable.  After a hot shower and a little dusting off, I decided to end my pity party and headed to the store for some key ingredients.

With all my congestion I wasn’t able to taste anything.  I know, my worst nightmare.  So, the traditional chicken noodle soup was going to need a little kick.  I made a twist on the original with a little heat and some Italian sausage.  It’s as if gumbo and chicken noodle soup had a child.  On day 1 I wasn’t really able to taste it, but it did have a great combination of textures from soft vegetables and tender meatballs swimming in a warm, silky broth.  I figured I’d let it stew overnight before adjusting the spice, in hopes my taste buds would make a quick recovery.  Thanks to some antibiotics, prescription strength cough syrup and decongestants, I woke the next morning to the fragrant bouquet of rosemary and Italian sausage seeping through the house.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I had it for breakfast.  I just couldn’t resist!!  The hint of spice and cumin, mixed with the expected aroma of thyme, rosemary and soft tender chicken was a welcome home.  By the end of day 2 I feel like a new person.  It has everything I needed in one bowl to fight back, who can ask for more than that?

I packed up my weeks worth of lunches, and as long as I stop sneaking into the refrigerator for another bowl it should last me until Tuesday.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 4lb. raw chicken
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 1 gallon cold water (enough to cover the chicken and all the contents)

Soup

  • Homemade stock (above)
  • Chicken from stock, shredded
  • 2 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 handfuls baby potatoes, quartered
  • 5 Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 1 bullion cube
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Method

  1. Wash raw chicken with cold water and remove giblets
  2. Place in large stockpot and add onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, thyme, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, and bullion cube.  Don’t worry about chopping anything nicely, this is just to flavor the stock and it will all be strained out when the stock is ready.
  3. Fill pot with water until chicken and all contents are fully covered
  4. Place on stove on high and bring to a boil
  5. Once boiling, bring heat to low and simmer for 2-2½  hours.  The longer to simmer the better the flavor.  You can always make the stock the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge.  Then you can strain it in the morning and you’re ready to make your soup.
  6. Remove chicken and strain stock
  7. Place stock back on stove and turn off heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then skim some of the extra oil off the top.  No need to go crazy, just skim some of the extra.
  8. Let the chicken cool about 15 minutes. Carefully remove and discard skin and bones and shred chicken with a fork.
  9. Sprinkle shredded chicken with cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Mix spices into chicken and return to stockpot.
  10. In a  sauté pan, cook onions and garlic in a tbsp. of olive oil.  Sauté on medium~high until slightly golden (about 7 mins).
  11. Add onions and garlic to stock along with celery, carrots, and potatoes.
  12. Use the same sauté pan for the sausage.  Remove sausage from casing and drop small bite size balls into pan and cook until slightly golden.
  13. Remove sausage from heat and add directly into stock.
  14. Add bullion cube and tomato paste, stir and let simmer.
  15. Let soup simmer on medium~low for 1 hour, taste and add salt/pepper if necessary.
  16. Serve and sprinkle with cilantro and Parmesan cheese.

I ran out of Parmesan so decided to try it with a little French feta crumbled on top.  Let me say, it’s worth trying!  The salty bite was perfectly balanced with the warm spice of the soup.

February 2, 2012

Huevos Con Chorizo (Eggs with Mexican Chorizo)

Breakfast for dinner!  We all love it.  Pancakes, eggs, waffles.  Whatever it is, it always seems to taste better at night.  One of my long time favorites, scrambled eggs.  It was recently improved upon with the addition of a truly heavenly ingredient… c-h-o-r-i-z-o.  Delicious!  Soft, fluffy, gentle pillows of eggs mixed with salty, spicy chorizo.  The two balance one another our perfectly.  The Mexican spices turn this from an ordinary morning meal to a delectable dinner ready for any night of the week.

I love making this on a stressful, long day (one of those when you think it’s Thursday and it’s only Tuesday).  It helps me relax and settle down after stressful meetings, non-stop emails, long calls and conversations that seem to go round and round in circles.  It warms me to the core, and yet doesn’t leave me feeling overly full.  It’s a little but healthy and a little not (all in moderation right?)

It honestly takes 10 mins to make, from removing the eggs from the fridge to sitting down and digging in.  So save this for a busy night and end your day with ease and happiness with huevos con chorizo.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs (3 per person)
  • 10 oz. Mexican pork chorizo
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk if you want a lighter version)
  • 1 tsp. salt (remember, the chorizo also has a lot of salt)
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread (or whatever is your favorite)
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Thinly slice a jalapeño and then set aside for garnish
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, cream, salt, and pepper.
  3. Heat 2 medium skillets on the stove on medium heat.
  4. In one pan place the Chorizo (no oil or butter needed, just the meat).
  5. In a separate pan, melt the butter and olive oil on medium heat.
  6. When the butter melts, add eggs and lower heat to medium low.  Continue to mix with a wooden spoon before the eggs begin to set.  This will give you creamy, British style eggs, not traditional American scrambled eggs.  British style eggs are moist, fluffy and delicate.  In other words… perfect!
  7. While the eggs cook, gently stir the chorizo until cooked through.  Watch out, it might spatter so I recommend wearing an apron (I know, but after I ended up with dots of red grease all over my grey cashmere sweater I decided an Apron was much-needed).
  8. Stir the eggs continuously for about 5 minutes; it’s a similar method to making risotto.  You don’t want to let the eggs set like they do when you make American style eggs.  (If you turn the burner up too high the eggs will cook faster, but you will end up with very watery, soggy tasting eggs. So be sure to keep the temperature at medium-low).
  9. Remove the pan from the heat when you think they’re almost ready.  If you wait until they’re done you’ll be left with dry eggs.  Remove from heat when about 1 min from being ready.
  10. Add chorizo and stir gently.
  11. Toast a slice of your favorite bread.
  12. Place eggs and chorizo mixture over toast, top with a few slices of jalapeño and enjoy!

Some people like really soft scrambled eggs, other people like really dry scrambled eggs. Just keep gently stirring the eggs until they look like what you think the perfect consistency is.  But I STRONGLY urge you to try them this way; I promise you won’t go back.

January 27, 2012

Asian Barbecue Chicken Wings

This may sound crazy, but it wasn’t until about 3 months ago that I had my very first chicken wing.  How I went almost 30 years of my life never having enjoyed these marvelous, spicy, tender chicken tenders we call Buffalo wings is beyond me.  I blame it on my British heritage.  I guess you could say growing up eating Shepard’s Pie and beans on toast had its drawbacks, but English mince pies make up for all that.  But I’ll get into those at a later date.

I fashioned this recipe after I my boyfriend went grocery shopping… something he rarely does unattended – as he usually comes home with extra bags of Cheetos puffs, tortilla chips and ice cream.  This time he came home with a bag of frozen wings – I’m not sure how he wandered into this section, by guess was he was looking for corn dogs.   I never buy frozen meat, but decided I’d give this a try since he was so excited over his discovery.   I think he was more excited by how cheap they were than anything else… you can’t really beat $6 for a 4lb. bag of chicken.  We started by looking up recipes online, but inevitably all of them consisted of at lest 3 things we didn’t have.  So, we made it up.  I have to admit I was happily surprised and since then we’ve already made then 4 more times.

You’re probably thinking chicken wings aren’t in your diet, since they’re traditionally fried and then glazed in a thick sauce.  The great this about these is they’re baked!  They come out just as crispy and juicy with less than half the calories.  You also have complete control over the type of sauce and how much you add.  I like this BBQ based sauce, it keep them healthy and they have a great tangy, Asian flair.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. frozen chicken wings
  • 1 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I use Stubbs spicy BBQ sauce but feel free to use your favorite.)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. dried onion
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. Habanero pepper sauce (I recommend using a hot sauce that’s not vinegar based, but one that lists chili as the first ingredient.  Depending on level of heat, add more or less)
  • Fresh carrots (side)
  • Fresh celery (side)
  • Ranch dressing (dip)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Lay frozen chicken wings on a shallow baking pan in a single layer.  The pan I use has a rim around the edge to catch the juices.
  3. Place in oven to bake for 50-60 mins.  Check the wings every 20 mins and drain the extra fat from the pan.  Turn wings over 40 mins into cooking.  I’ll increase the heat 10° to 385°F for the last 5-10 minutes to get a little extra crisp.
  4. While the chicken bakes, it’s time to make the sauce
  5. In a small bowl mix all ingredients: BBQ sauce, soy sauce, honey, dried onion, garlic powder, sesame seeds and Habanero pepper sauce.
  6. Mix with a fork and taste.  You’ll likely want to adjust some of the levels of hot sauce and honey to suit your own taste.  The combination above is my favorite, but you can pay around and make your own combinations too.
  7. When the chicken in cooked through with a nice golden crust, remove from oven.
  8. Place in a large bowl and pour half the sauce on the wings.
  9. Shake bowl lightly until the sauce covers all the pieces, add more sauce as needed.
  10. When the wings ready, I like to sprinkle on some extra sesame seeds.  It looks fancy and I love the taste!!
  11. Serve with fresh carrots, celery and ranch dressing.  Any extra sauce can also be serves as a dipping sauce.

I hope you enjoy these healthy wings.  They’re a great alternative to spending lots of money at a local restaurant, and baking the wings helps keep you in shape for spring, or hopefully a fun vacation!  After making these at home I doubt I’ll ever have wings out again.  Half the price and all the flavor!

January 23, 2012

Home Style Cornbread

There’s one thing that goes perfectly with BBQ ribs, chili or stew… golden, buttery, right-out-of-the-oven cornbread.  And there’s one thing that will take your ordinary cornbread from delicious to spectacular.  A cast iron skillet.  The traditional southern technique ensures you’ll enjoy melt in your mouth, deliciously crisp edges and pillowy centers of sweet goodness.

I like a slightly sweet, buttery cornbread with a moist center.  I also like to add a can of corn which result in chewy kernels dotted throughout the bread.  The biggest secret to good cornbread is don’t over mix.  It’s our natural impulse to mix things til their silky smooth.  This is exactly what you want when you’re making Hollandaise sauce, whipped cream, or icing sugar; but bread batter is delicate.  Save those arm muscles for when you’ll really need it, and for this recipe mix just enough to moisten the batter.  I always serve this with my homemade chili as a perfect vehicle to mop up all the extra juices, and I usually don’t have much to save for the next day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup medium ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (with a small tab on reserve)
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together wet ingredients: can of corn, eggs, milk, butter and olive oil.  Reserve a small tab of butter to heat in skillet and create a nice crust on the bottom.
  4. Slowly add in the wet ingredients to the larger bowl and mix gently.  Do not over mix the batter, just mix enough to combine ingredients.  Don’t worry about a few lumps, if you over mix your cornbread will come out dense.  You want fluffy cornbread!
  5. Heat a heavy bottom iron skillet on high and add a tsp of oil and a tab of butter.
  6. When the skillet is hot, pour in the batter.  It should sizzle in the pan, which will ensure crispy edges and utter happiness.
  7. Let it cook for a minute, then put it in the oven to bake
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Cut into wedges, squares or sticks and serve with chili or softened butter.

Adjust the amount of sugar depending on your taste.  I like it more on the sweeter side but most of my family likes it a little more savory.  I usually win, as I’m the one making it!  ENJOY and happy cooking!

January 22, 2012

Texas Chili

When I started dating my boyfriend, born and raised in El Paso Texas, there was one point in our relationship when it was almost over.  It was a chilly California evening, and I was preparing dinner while he opened the latest Netflix (which we have cancelled due to their price increase – bastards!).  Beer in hand, I started to serve up my warm chili, excited as ever to dig in.  This is when the evening turned… I had made the ultimate Texas blunder.  A mistake that could not be rectified… I had put BEANS, yes, I said it, BEANS in the chili!  WHAT?!?  I was then lectured on the fine making of chili and the short list of ingredients that qualify to be a part of this dish (beans was not one of them).  Needless to say, he ate it.

I learned my lesson, and have over the years perfected my bean-less chili with just the right amount of heat and spice.  I’ve experimented with many combinations of chiles, most of which were new to me after moving to Houston, and have been delighted by the variety of flavors I can unearth.  This chili develops a hidden smoky flavor, not like barbecue, but a delicate heat with warmth and spice from Anaheim chilies, cayenne and a touch of jalapeño.  The subtle sweet tomato and flavorful tender meat warms you from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  • I yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño, finely diced with seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, finely diced with seeds removed
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile and garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Grated cheddar cheese (topping)
  • Sour cream (topping)
  • Onions (topping)

Method

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan on the stove on medium with a tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the pan it hot, add in diced onion and cook on medium for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic, jalapeño and Anaheim chilies and cook additional 5 mins until onions are translucent
  4. Add in ground beef and brown meat, use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces and turn occasionally until brown on all sides.  The meat will continue to break up as you cook it but this helps it along.
  5. Brown meat, then add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, jalapeño powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to coat the meat evenly
  6. Add cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water and stir
  7. Bring the chili to a low boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Add sugar and flour and stir.  Cover again and simmer for another 30-40 minutes
  9. Taste and see if you need to add more salt/pepper.  Be light-handed, you can always add more, you can never take it out. (TIP: you happen to add too much salt, the one thing that might help save your dish is to add some sugar.  It helps to mellow it out and remove some of the acidic flavor)
  10. Top with cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream and serve in a large warm bowl

 

December 6, 2011

Thyme Couscous

Like pasta, couscous doesn’t have much of a flavor itself.  But that’s one of the best things about it; you can add a variety of flavors, textures and spices to make it fit any mood.  When I’m already busy putting together a main dish, couscous is the perfect addition when you have your hands full.  It only takes 5 minutes to create fluffy, delicate pillows of joy.

Since couscous is so delicate, you need to be careful with the spice level and what you use.  It will add a great deal of flavor; so if you add something spicy like cayenne that’s all you’ll be able to taste.  I also want to steer you away from using dried herbs, fresh ones are in a completely different category.  It’s like comparing a fresh, crisp Fuji apple to those chewy dried fruit slices better known to me as foamy rubber nothingness.  Couscous cooks in 5 minutes, so the dried herbs don’t have a chance to reconstitute and end up getting stuck in your teeth apart from anything else.  So have fun with fresh herbs, and enjoy these combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Line baking sheet with foil and distribute pine nuts evenly
  3. Toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Remove when they’re slightly golden around the edges and set aside to cool
  4. In medium saucepan, add couscous, water, butter, salt, fresh thyme and garlic powder. Stir with fork to distribute thyme.  I pinch the thyme with my fingers before adding it in as it helps release the oils and favor.
  5. Bring to a light boil, quickly stir with fork, remove from heat and cover
  6. Let stand 4-5 minutes
  7. Fluff with fork
  8. Add cooled, toasted pint nuts

Here are some of my other favorites!

Basil and Sun-dried Tomato Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (add it after the couscous has cooled or the leaves will turn dark brown)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. black olives (optional)

Curry and Raisin Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp. fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. toasted ground peanuts

Cranberry & Feta Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup crumbles fresh feta
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
December 2, 2011

Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Onion Relish

The secret ingredient in this recipe comes from my mom.  Growing up she would make this for “family dinner” night and inevitably it would result in no leftovers and everyone asking for more.  Pork tenderloin was always one of my favorite dishes until I left home and had it in several restaurants and prepared by others not known as my mom.  Dry, bland, tough and disappointing.  It was never the same.

So, there was only one thing to do… I replicated my mom’s method and added a few of my own touches, and it’s now become a staple in my home.  Every time I make it the smells and flavors bring me back home to Sunday night dinners with my family.  It was our one night a week we would have a “proper” dinner, which my mom defined as, one, being in the “nice room”, two, using cloth napkins, and three, using double the plates (half of which didn’t go in the dishwasher).  I know because I was the designated plate dryer as my dad dunked them in scalding hot water and pass them to me with bright red fingers.  I dedicate this post to my family, and hope that it becomes a tradition in your home too.

Ingredients

  • Pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp. extra light olive oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Topping

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. extra light olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot ground mustard (Colman’s British hot mustard powder)
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of water or stock (if needed)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. fig jam

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on stove on medium/high.  Add mustard seeds and fennel and tilt the pan so the oil lightly covers the bottom of the pan and all the spices
  3. While the oil heats up, sprinkle the pork tenderloin with salt, pepper and rosemary. Rub the spices into the meat so they don’t fall off when you drop it in the pan, it really helps flavor the tenderloin. This is your only time to season it, so if you don’t add it now it will be too late.
  4. Place tenderloin in hot pan and sear on all sides.  The mustard seeds and fennel will stick to the sides of the pork as it sears.
  5. Sear the pork, approximately 3 minutes per  side, and remove from pan.  Set in a roasting pan on a wire rack.
  6. Let it cool for a few minutes, and then spread a thick layer of Dijon mustard over the entire tenderloin.  You might need more than 3 tbsp. Just keep spreading it on so you cover the top.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes
  8. While the meat cooks it’s time to make the topping!
  9. In the same skillet used to brown the meat, add sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium/low until soft and translucent.  You may need to add a little more oil to avoid burning. 
  10. Add ground mustard, mustard seed, Worcestershire and a splash of water and continue to cook down for 10 minutes on low heat.
  11. You want to caramelize the onions, which is a slow and delicate process so be patient and let them cook down at a low heat.
  12. Add jam and butter and stir well.  Once it’s ready, cover leave on low heat.
  13. Check the pork with a meat thermometer.  Pork should reach 145°F
  14. If it’s under put it back in for 10-15 minutes and check again.  It depends on the thickness of the tenderloin, so it will vary every time.
  15. Once the meat has reached the right temperature remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing so the meat juices have time to redistribute.  If you cut it right away all the juice will run out of the meat and give you a very dry piece of tenderloin.
  16. Slice pork and top with sweet onion sauce

This pork is flavorful enough to eat on it’s own, or add a topping, or just a simple spoonful of applesauce.  The spicy mustard keeps the pork moist and adds the perfect amount of heat to the delicate tenderloin.

Below is an alternate topping my loving boyfriend made for the following evening.  The dates disintegrated in the warm sauce resulting in a sweet jam like marmalade.

Alternate Topping

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, diced
  • 6 dates, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sprinkle of salt (to taste)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. butter

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