Saturday, January 29, 2011

Zesty Shrimp Tacos

No one to cook for but myself.
And 3 days from my monthly paycheck. In other words...broke.

So this is when the scavenging starts. Still had some shrimp leftover in the freezer. Had sour cream, too. One might not normally think of those two things together, but when you're on a budget, you work with what you got.

One quick $7 trip to the grocery store scored me shredded cabbage, 2 limes, and corn tacos.

My low budge invention is as follows:

Zesty Shrimp Tacos
(serves one)

For tacos:
8-10 medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 corn tacos
shredded cabbage
juice of one lime
salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp cumin
canola oil

For zesty sour cream:
1/4 cup sour cream
juice of one lime
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika

Marinate shrimp in lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 

While marinating, combine sour cream, lime juice, cumin and paprika. Mix well. Set aside.

Cook shrimp in frying pan until pink. Reduce heat to low simmer, cover with foil.

Coat the bottom of another frying pain with canola oil. Fry tortillas about 30 seconds on each side, until they puff up.

Arrange tortillas on a plate, top each with a handful of shredded cabbage, top with shrimp, and drizzle with sour cream.

End result: Delish.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My First Ever Cheesecake

Jon dared me. So I did it. And who thinks of making a cheesecake at 10 o' clock at night? But he dared me.

I'd never made a cheesecake before, but with being dared and all, and a three day weekend, and that 650 page behemoth of a desserts cookbook, why not?

First comes the graham cracker crust, which I mixed in my food processor with 5 tbsp cold butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and the crumbs of 9 graham crackers. 25 minutes at 325...voila...beautiful.

There were 5 packets of cream cheese and lots o' eggs involved in the filling. 4 eggs + 1 yolk to be exact. Cup and a half of sugar. Tablespoon of lemon juice. 1 1/2 tsp vanilla. All of that beat well in the KitchenAid.

To make my raspberry puree, I added the juice of one lemon, a pint of raspberries, and sugar to a sauce pan. The thing about raspberries is that once you heat them, the fall apart on their own. So no mashing or food processing was necessary.

I spooned my filling into my spring form pan, and swirled in my puree. An hour and fifteen minutes at 325 and my beautiful cheesecake was done!

It needed to chill overnight of course, but it felt oh-so-good to spend a lazy day in bed, and then to take a bite of something special that I made all by myself. :)

ps. Barbara Fairchild gets no credit for the raspberry puree. That's all me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gourmet BBQ

I swear - we've had this slab of ribs in our freezer for an eternity. Every time I go digging into the freezer, I am salivating over those ribs. Finally, there was a day when the boy had enough time to throw them on the smoker. YUMMY.

He used a Kansas City BBQ rub and some applewood chips that I had gotten him for his birthday. I believe that he cooked them for about 3 hours...but I can't take any credit for the ribs, because I was off snuggling baby Sawyer. ;)

Earlier in the day, I had boiled some fingerling potatoes and doused them with white wine vinegar. To make my dressing for my potato salad I used: 3/4 cup mayo, 3/4 cup sour cream, and a tablespoon of dijon mustard. I also added chopped celery, onions, and parsley and let that chill in the fridge all day.

If that's not enough fat for you...I had to fry some asparagus. Yes, you heard me correctly. Blanched asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and then dredged in an egg wash and flour...fried in canola oil. No fat at all, right?

I'm calling this gourmet BBQ because...come on, that potato salad is pretty yuppie. No? And most BBQ joints aren't equipped with prosciutto ham. Or asparagus. So this is a "dressed up" country dinner.

The potato salad was tangy due to the sour cream and the vinegar...and I really liked that difference in taste. The asparagus had a great crisp to them, although they made this meal very filling. The ribs were perfectly meaty and fell right off the bone (once again, I take no credit).

But we couldn't finish this massive meal.

Jon said he was so full afterward that he could have just fallen asleep. And then he proceeded to go straight to the cupboard and pull out of chocolate peanut butter brownie.

"What? Dessert goes to a different compartment in your stomach."

Touche, babe.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

"So...I noticed that there's no baked goods in the house"

This is how my boyfriend chooses to hint at the fact that its time for me to bake, seeing as it'd be a whole 4 days since I made those pecan chocolate chip cookies.

So, I busted out the ginormous bon appetit Desserts cookbook that Jon got me for Christmas. Emphasis on the ginormousness. It's an encyclopedia of pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, and candies.

The 631 page behemoth didn't just have one brownie recipe, of course. Chocolate Chip Brownies with Pecans and Raisins. Coconut Checkerboard Brownies. Chocolate-Espresso Brownies with Chocolate Glaze. Fudgy Toffee Brownies. Mint Chocolate Brownies. Old-Fashioned Brownies. Raspberry Brownies....just to name a few. But out of all of these fancy schmancy recipes, the one that stood out the most was the Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting.

Yes - Chocolate and peanut butter. Peas and carrots. Bread and butter. Perfect pairs. You'd think out of such a plethora of choices it'd be a tough decision, but when I stumbled upon wasn't.
Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
5 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Grease 13x9x2 baking dish. 
Combine chocolates with melted butter in saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Cool to lukewarm.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar eggs, and vanilla at high speed until mixture is thick and pale yellow (about 5 minutes). Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour and salt, then chocolate. Transfer to prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Cool on rack.
For frosting, combine peanut butter and butter in a medium bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. 

Spread over brownies and refrigerate 1 hour. Cut into squares. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lighten up! (plus a bonus recipe)

It was brought to my attention at my annual physical last week that since last year's physical...I've gained 11 pounds. ELEVEN. That probably doesn't sound like a whole lot, what with the holidays and all this food blogging I do, but for a pint-sized 5 foot 2 inch chica...11 lbs doesn't have a whole lot of places to go. Not wanting to start 2011 with an extra 11 pounds, I've been going to zumba and this crazy class at 24 Hour Fitness called Body Pump. I'm tell you - if you do the combination of those two, you won't even be able to sit down to pee. And after that hard work, you don't really want to scarf down the baked mac n cheese that's leftover in the fridge (fine, you'll get that recipe too).

Ergot, I came home from zumba tonight and made a salad. But not a boring Romaine lettuce, cucumber, and carrot salad. A walnut, pear, and goat cheese salad. I already had some arugula, which I had eaten for lunch over the weekend with some of the salmon that Marc's mom had sent him home with. I already had goat cheese and walnuts, and when I had heard that Sunflower Market was having a 10 for $10 sale on various items I decided that I should clear out their produce section. Hence the pears.

Walnut, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
(serves 1)

enough arugula to cover the bottom of your plate 
1 Bartlett pear, cubed
handful crumbled goat cheese
handful chopped walnuts

for balsamic vinaigrette:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil 
salt & pepper

Toss all salad ingredients together.
Whisk together oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Fine. You've put up with my salad creation. I'll give you what you really want.

Jon's Baked Mac 'n Cheese
2 lbs elbow macaroni
variety of block cheeses (always use cheddar, but feel free to vary what cheese you add. Last night we used cheddar, havarti, pepperjack, gouda, and mozzarella)
shredded cheddar to top
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
1/2 cup milk
2 sticks butter
6 eggs 

1. Boil macaroni in a large stock pot. Meanwhile, chop up your cheeses into cubes.
2. Drain macaroni through a colander and return to pot. 
3. Over low heat: add milk, butter, and beaten eggs.
4. Add cheddar cheese in batches and stir until all the cheese is melted and noodles are coated.
5. Cover the bottom of a greased baking dish with a layer of noodles. Add a mixture of the other cheeses (like you are layering a lasagna). Continue to layer like this until you are out of noodles.
6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
7. Uncover, add cracker crumbs, and shredded cheddar. Bake until cheese on top melts.

*you can obviously use less noodles. I just have an amazingly large ceramic baking dish and live with two boys with bottomless stomachs*

Thanks to Jon for showing me how to make this his way. The first time I did it on my own, I melted all of the cheese in the pot with the noodles. First of all, you get a sticky gooey mess when you do that. Secondly, when you layer the cheese and the noodles, the cheeses melt in the over and the noodles stick together like a casserole.

enjoy :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

We got a good 5-6 inches of snow today. So I ditched zumba and decided to fill the house with the wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies.

My mom sent me Louisiana pecans, which are so much better than the really expensive ones you can get at the grocery store. And Jon had given me 2 HUGE bars of great quality Belgian white chocolate in my stocking this year, so this recipe was perfect.

Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chopped pecans
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 oz milk chocolate chips
4 oz white chocolate chips (or in my case, coarsely chopped amazing Belgian white chocolate)

1. Mix together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
2. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars.
3. Add salt, vanilla, and egg while continuing to blend.
4. Blend in flour and baking soda mixture.
5. Fold in chocolates and pecans.
6. Roll into balls and place on flour dusted cookie sheets.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crock Pot French Onion Soup

Yes, I cheat. I use a crock pot. Like I said in my post about the corned beef, it is the greatest kitchen appliance you can own. Honestly, no one in their right mind has the time or energy to make prosciutto wrapped scallops with lemon beurre blanc after an 9 hour work day and Zumba. (you're right. I'm nuts.)

This is a hodge podge of a few different recipes - which is something I do often.  I'll look through cookbooks, or do some Google searches and just combine several recipes that I find. Jon had seen the recipe for French Onion Soup over the weekend, while I was flipping through Bon Appetit, Y'all, and decided that he really, really wanted some. My first thought about this was: I don't care what her recipe says, I'm using my crock pot.

And so I did this my way. I combined that recipe with a few others I found online and came up with this:

Crock Pot French Onion Soup

2 large onions, thinly sliced (by the way, the first recipe I saw called for 6 onions...SIX! seriously??? 
1 leek (the pale green and white parts), thinly sliced into half moons
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1 cup sherry, divided in half
5-6 cups beef stock 
salt and pepper to taste
3 sprigs thyme, divided
1/2 tbs rosemary
1 small baguette, cubed (for croutons)
olive oil
Sliced swiss cheese to serve

1. Night before: Add chopped onions, butter, leeks, garlic, brown sugar, and 1/2 of the sherry to the crock pot. Let cook overnight. (~8 hrs).
2. In the morning: your onions will have caramelized, and greatly reduced (but seriously, I couldn't have fit 6 onions in my crock pot). 
3. Add beef stock, salt, pepper, 2 sprigs thyme, and the other 1/2 of the sherry.
4. If, when you add your beef stock, your crock pot doesn't fill to the brim, add water so that it does. (The liquid will evaporate while it cooks and you will come home to crusty onions instead of soup.) Cook on low 8-10 hours.
5.  Jon did the croutons for me: mix rosemary, thyme, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Coat bread and bake in 350 degree oven until crispy.
6. To serve: place croutons in the bottom of an ovenproof bowl, ladle soup over croutons, and top with cheese. Bake at 350 until cheese melts.

Dinner is served...and how easy was that!?

Tomorrow night is date night, so I get to eat at my favorite Chinese restaurant and you get nothin' ;)

(and if you haven't noticed, those soup crocks are a Christmas gift from Jon. Love them, love him!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with Lemon Beurre Blanc

Special thanks to Marc's (our roommate) mom for sending him home from California with scallops, dungeness crab, salmon, prawns, and king crab legs. I was like a kid in a candy store trying to decide what to do with all that seafood.

I don't know where I thought of wrapping the scallops in prosciutto, but probably because it's almost bacon (and if you don't like bacon, please...stop reading my blog) - and it just wraps around things so well and doesn't really fall apart. After telling Jon of my idea he reminds me that his friend, Foley (whose first name is actually Chris, but we don't call him that) is a cook at NoRTH in Cherry Creek and a graduate of JWU's culinary school AND apparently knew how to make some great lemony butter sauce.

"Something...blanc? Does that sound right?" Yep, beurre blanc - which in French literally means white butter. Add some lemon and it is absolutely perfect for fish. The ingredients: white wine, lemon, heavy cream, BUTTER, shallots, and garlic.

Here's the thing: beurre blanc sounds pretty fancy. I don't do fancy. I'm a cook. I'm not a culinary trained chef. But like I said...we knew someone who was. Enter: Foley. He came over after work, unbeknownst to him that I'd make him do more work. Sorry, dude. But he did give me a good cooking lesson.

Lemon Beurre Blanc
2 lemons
1 orange
white wine
heavy cream
2 stick butter
1 bay leaf

First he reduced the citrus and the wine with the bay leaf, to almost nothing. Then he added the cream and stirred until it thickened and added the butter in small chunks. You aren't supposed to add the butter all at once, because the sauce will break. But honestly, this isn't culinary school and if the sauce breaks it tastes the same - so who gives a @#!$?

In the end, you get this beautiful, yellow creamy sauce that almost looks like a hollandaise. And I'd imagine that it would taste fabulous on any type of fish.

So while he was doing his thing with the sauce (sorry for cheating, guys) - I seared my scallops (which again, I was apparently doing wrong - when I tried to throw my scallops in my sizzling oil - I was told it wasn't hot enough. It has to smoke first.) And the potatoes roasted in the oven with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Please don't make fun of my dinky 2 scallops. The thing is, they were so darn good that I ate them all and forgot to take a picture. Since Jon is a skinny little thing (jealous) and not as much of a glutton as I am, he had two left. Well, actually he had 3. I ate one of them.

Did I mention I have to go to Zumba tomorrow?

But before that, I'll be polishing off the rest of this vin blanc.



Saturday, January 1, 2011

Twenty Eleven

Happy 2011!

On New Year's Day, my family eats corned beef and cabbage, and black eyed peas. Since I've never made this myself, I decided it would be nice to carry on the tradition.

Now - for those of you who don't know - a black eyed pea is not a pea.  Rather, it's a legume - or for the sake of keeping it simple: it's a bean. As you can see from this picture, it gets it name from its prominent black spot. So, why do we eat this on New Year's? It's a very common Southern tradition. But where did it originate?

Eating black eyed peas on New Year's is thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the year ahead. The tradition actually dates back to Babylonian times, when those of the Jewish faith ate the so-called "lucky beans"  or rubiya on Rosh Hashanah, accompanied by beets, dates, leeks, and spinach. All of these together were thought to be symbols of good luck. 

The practice of eating black-eyed peas in the South was adopted when the first Jews came to the US in the 1730s and settled in Georgia. The meal was then adapted to include greens (collards, turnip, mustard) and ham or some sort of pork dish. The greens symbolized money, and the pig symbolized moving forward, since pigs always move forward when they forage for food (learn something new everyday right?).

Well, I'm not sure why the corned beef got thrown in there. Or the cabbage. Other than the fact that cabbage is green (money) and that corned beef is a pretty cheap cut of meat. Cabbage is about $1 a head, too. The way I've always heard it: cabbage for money, black eyed peas for luck, and corned beef for health. All great things to eat while kicking off a brand new year, right?

That's all for today's history lesson. Now, here's how you make the stuff.

I wasn't sure what to do with the corned beef brisket. Cook in on the stove or in the oven? What about the crock pot? I swear by my slow cooker. It's the most wonderful electronic appliance you can have in your kitchen, especially if you're a busy person. Just throw it all in there, come back 8 hours later and dinner is served! So crock pot it is.

I was up until about 2am on NYE and decided that if I just soaked that brisket in it's seasoning and water and put my crock pot on "warm", that by morning I'd have a pretty tender piece of meat. (my "low" setting cooks a lot faster than you might think". It was mostly cooked when I woke up on NYD, but I wanted it to be tender so I cranked the heat to high and cooked it for about 5 more hours. 

Meanwhile, I boiled a ham hock.  What? You don't know what a ham hock is? Only the most wonderful, fatty piece of pork ever. It's pretty safe to say that it's the pig's "ankle". (see diagram)

Southern cooks use ham hocks a lot to flavor stews and soups. I love to use them in red beans & rice, and I swear that it just does not taste the same without them. Problem is, they are tough to find, so whenever I see them at the store I buy about 4 of them.

Once the water and my hock came to a boil, I added the black eyed peas which I'd had soaking in water the night before so they could rehydrate. (I used Bayou Magic's brand that comes with a seasoning pack: click here to order some, along with some gumbo or jambalaya mix!) I added in the seasoning pack and a chopped onion and just let them simmer for about an hour. Towards the end, I cut the meat off the ham hock and put it back into the pot. (I think whoever gets tons of fatty meat in their bowl is EXTRA lucky - just because it's so delish)

Remember, that brisket is still slow cookin' in the crock pot. So I got going on my cornbread. Because what kind of hearty, Southern meal doesn't have cornbread?
 I used a recipe from my new cookbook, Bon Appetit Y'all, by Virginia Willis. And I am happy to share...

Buttermilk Cornbread
2 cups white or yellow corn meal
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbs butter, or bacon grease

Preheat oven to 450 and add butter  to baking dish. Let melt in oven 10-15 min.

Mix all of the above together (and if you want to make it even more special, add a can of corn!) and bake  for 25 minutes. I also brushed some honey over the top of the bread when it was done. The butter  (or bacon grease, if you have it) gives the bread a beautiful golden brown color around the edges and on top.


Now, for the cabbage. Don't hate on the cabbage. I know you're thinking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his poor old grandparents sitting in that one bed together and eating cabbage soup. Stop it. Cabbage is good.

I took some of the liquid out of the crock pot and put it in a pot on the stove.  I added chopped onions (large pieces, not finely chopped), half a head of cabbage, quartered red potatoes, and baby carrots. I added some more of the liquid on top and let that simmer until all of the veggies were tender. 

We put the brisket into a frying pan to give it a good crust on both sides, and then Jon sliced it up. It was so tender and pretty! 

Another family tradition for New Year's = Chinese New Year Candy. I realize that it's not the CHINESE New Year. But it's still the new year. And it's not really chinese except for one ingredient. Lots of people call these haystacks because of their appearance, but I will always call them Chinese New Year Candy. Here's the recipe.

Chinese New Year Candy
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 8oz can of salted peanuts
1 can of Chinese chow mein noodles

1. Melt chocolate and butterscotch in a double boiler or in the microwave. 
2. Once throughly melted, pour over noodles and peanuts. Mix until coated with chocolate/butterscotch.
3. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with wax paper and drop spoonfuls of the mixture, just like you're making drop cookies. 
4. Feel free to lay another sheet of waxed paper over the first layer, and just layer your candies in your baking dish.
I think the salty/sweet combo of these is great!

I'm not so sure what this New Year has in store for me, but I prepare to keep on cookin'. Marc's mom sent him home with dungeness crab, king crab legs, salmon, prawns, and scallops for Jon and me to eat. So prepare to see some seafood creations soon!

Until then....Happy 2011!