Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Promise to Try

I know that I've previously made excuses for why posting slacked off on this here lil' blog of mine. This past lapse has been quite the break, and for those few of you who actually do check up on this, I apologize. I can do no more than promise to try. I can say that my personal life has settled into what I think will be a better groove. It's hard to blog when you're barely cooking in the evening! So many meals consisted of grilling some meat, throwing some veggies on the grill and cooking up some polenta. That's not much to blog about!

I'm looking forward to many things in the coming months (none of them being cold weather): the start of basketball season, the continuation of hockey season, being cozied up in the kitchen, and cooking some fabulous, hearty meals. I am getting back into reading other blogs and finding meals that appeal to me. When I find these meals and they turn out to be as delicious as I hope, all I can do is promise to try to share them. But hey, with so much time spent sitting on the couch in front of a game right now, it can't be that hard, right?!

The first recipe I will share was a direct request from my bro-in-law. I've made this dip a few times and it is a huge hit everytime. I haven't shared it previously because the finished version pulled out of the oven is not much to photograph and it's always gone by the time I remember to break out the camera after we dig in! So I will post what I have for a photo and those who are interested in the recipe won't really care.

Seriously, with football still on tv and many weekend get-togethers in the works, make this ASAP!

Jalapeno Popper Dip
from Annie's Eats by way of The Lushers

2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayonnaise
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
3 tbsp. diced jalapenos (plus the liquid)
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozarella
1 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, chiles, jalapenos, cheddar, and mozarella. Stir until well-combined. Scrape the mixture into a small-medium (about 8 x 8) baking dish. You can mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese on a separate plate or in a bowl, but I usually sprinkle them together on top of the mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips or pita wedges (my preference!) while warm.

Make sure to scrape the dish clean!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Goat Cheese Toasts

One of the most fun things about cooking is eating something delicious at a restaurant and attempting to recreate it at home. The inspiration for this recipe came from a delicious French restaurant near my dad's place in DC, Bistro du Coin. While all of the food was delicious, including the pasta dish my sister ordered and the steak that I chowed down, not everything is worth my attempt at recreating. Sometimes a great memory makes it impossible to recreate something to the taste I remember.

One thing my sister and I knew we could tackle, however, was the toast with goat cheese that came with the salad she ate. It took some trial and error to achieve the correct melti-ness of the cheese withoutmaking the bread too crispy, but when we did attain the correct taste it was amazingly delicious! I have made this a number of times since. I could probably eat it as a meal on its own, but it is perfect as a side for just about anything.

Goat Cheese Toasts

4 medium slices of baguette
2 oz. plain goat cheese, or try a flavored version
2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (I prefer rosemary and thyme)

Preheat the oven to 425.

Slice the baguette into medium rounds. Pop them in the toaster and toast briefly to achieve a slight crisp. I set my toaster on level 2. Top the baguette slices with crumbles of goat cheese and then with the chopped herbs, evenly divided amongst all the slices. Pop in the oven and bake until the cheese is slightly melted and just golden brown. This takes about 8 - 10 minutes.

Enjoy the tang and crunch, I know you will!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spring & Summer Hash

Have you ever run across a recipe that totally saved you from a major food rut that you were unknowingly about to swerve into? That's what happened to me with this awesome recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I've been obsessed with lighter dinners that are still filling. Lighter doesn't have to be less flavorful. As soon as I saw this recipe I knew it would hit the spot, and you know what - mission accomplished.

Most of the time in the dishes I make I feel that the pancetta/prosciutto/bacon can be left out without much detriment to the overall flavor, but I'm not sure that's the case here. The proscuitto that we used really added another depth of flavor. The hubs and I both shoveled this down and I can't wait to make it again!

Asparagus and Proscuitto Hash
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 lb. proscuitto (original recipe calls for pancetta), diced
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 small onion, sliced
1/2 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
salt & pepper, to taste

In a cast iron skillet, over medium heat, fry the proscuitto until browned and crispy. With the drippings from the proscuitto or with a little added olive oil, add the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let them brown on one side without without moving them. Then flip the potatoes and do the same. When the potatoes are about 3/4 of the way to being cooked, add the onions.

Let the onions cook for about 5 minutes and then add the asparagus. Cover the skillet and let cook until the potatoes are cooked through and the asparagus is cooked but slight crispy, about another 5 minutes. If desired, serve with a fried egg on top for a slightly more filling dinner.

Try to stop yourself from licking the plate clean!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Favorite Summer Pizza

I've been a bad little blogger. It's been far too long since I last posted. I'm not going to grovel or make excuses. What I am going to do is a share a recipe so good it's bound to make you forgive me. Trust me, one bite of this pizza and you'll be thinking of nothing other than how soon you can convince your husband to eat it again make it again.

I know that asparagus season is kinda over, so I apologize for not getting this out at exactly the right time. If you can make it happen though, you totally should. I thought I would like this pizza but I had no idea how much I would LOVE it. I crave it every night I don't eat it, ha! We have made so many pizzas on the grill this summer, and I am so surprised that this has become my favorite!

Raw asparagus sounds funny, but definitely taste a piece before you put it on the pizza, it's delicious! I was able to use a standard vegetable peerler to shave the asparagus. I found it easiest to hold onto the woody end of the asparagus and shave it away from me. Don't worry about making all the pieces equal, the texture of different sizes makes it even better. This pizza takes to the grill perfectly, so grill it according to this method, if you can!

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

½ lb. asparagus
¼ c. Parmesan (grated)
½ c. mozzarella (grated)
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt & black pepper, to taste
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 pizza dough

Thinly shave the asparagus using a vegetable peeler. Hold onto the woody end of the stem and slide the vegetable peeler toward the tip. It’s ok if the shavings are of varied thickness. Discard the woody stems. Toss the asparagus shavings with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Top the pizza with the Parmesan, mozzarella, and asparagus. Bake or grill the pizza according to your usual method or the directions for your crust. Remove the pizza and top with thinly sliced scallions. Let cool and then slice and enjoy.

Consider yourself surprised at how amazing this is!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

Vegetables in general and I have never really been the best of friends. Overtime I learned that steamed vegetables have a really interesting cousin. Roasted veggies. Roasted veggies are more my style... a little crunch, a little extra flavor... and the seasoning possibilities are endless! I threw this together as a side one night and it ended up being too good not to share - or at least not to type out so that I wouldn't forget it!

(Excuse the poor photo, I will try to update when I remake this, which I will!)

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/4 - 1/3 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. ground cumin
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or use a grill, as we did. Mix the crushed red pepper flakes (which can grind into smaller pieces, if desired), cumin, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Let the mixture set for about 5 minutes. Mix well with the chopped cauliflower. Spread the cauliflower out in an even layer on a baking sheet or foil. Roast for 5 - 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is just beginning to brown.

Think about how much more you like roasted veggies than any other preparation!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ready for Summer

I think we are officially ready for summer - today we had a new storm door installed, hubby stained and sealed the deck, we had pasta salad for dinner and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Anyone who knows me know that I love tuna. Tuna pasta salad? Count me in! Actually, I've had this bookmarked since December! I don't know why it took me so long to make it. It will not take me so long to make it again!
The original recipe called for spinach as well, but I accidentally forgot it. I'm not even sure I would add it next time. Although spinach is delicious, this pasta dish really wasn't missing anything. I loved the crunch of the radishes, peas, and pickles. The sauce is tangy and delicious. All in all, this salad is a perfect combination of ingredients and I already can't wait to have it for lunch tomorrow!

Tuna Pasta Salad with Radishes and Snap Peas
adapted from Joy the Baker

1/3 c. mayonnaise
1 – 2 tsp. grain mustard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ c. radishes, sliced
1 c. sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/3 c. pickles, chopped
1/3 c. green onions, sliced
1 can tuna, drained and crumbled
Parmesan, sliced or grated

Whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Immediately drain and rinse under cool water. Mix together the pasta with the radishes, peas, pickles, onions, and tuna. Add about half the mayonnaise mixture and blend well, then add the other half and mix until well combined. Sprinkle parmesan on top.

Prepare yourself for a fabulous summer!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pizza, updated

One of the things that I have been ejoying regularly since the weather got warmer and I have started to crave simpler, lighter meals is grilled pizza. OH, how did I live for so long without this wonder?! Perhaps it was my own fear of the pizza dough slipping through the grates of the grill not cooking correctly, but I am so happy we took the plunge!

The first evening I experienced this amazing pizza was when my mom was visiting. The hubs was working, so mom and I decided to go out on a limb and experiment. We figured at least if we failed, there wouldn't be anyone to make fun of us. Lucky for us it was perfect, and lucky for the hubs, he's had to eat it at least half a dozen times since.

Aside from grilling the pizza, I have slightly changed the recipe. I took inspiration from a Smitten Kitchen post, and started using a little wine and honey. I personally didn't think pizza dough could get any better, but it sure did. A slight sweetness from the honey and just a very slight taste of the wine takes this crust from great to true fabulosity! I did try the SK pizza crust recipe, but I had significant trouble working with the dough. It got too thin and holey. Now, I will say, rolling out pizza dough is certainly not my forte, but I preferred the texture and density of the usual recipe anyway. I'm posting the new version below, for simplicity.

Pizza Dough, updated

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

2 tbsp. white wine + warm tap water to equal 1 c.
1 tbsp. honey
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, Add the sugar and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes. This will result in a little film or foam. Add 1 cup of flour and beat well. Sift together the remaining 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp. of salt and add it to the bowl. Beat until smooth and if you find your dough too sticky, add some more flour. The dough should be fairly stuff by the time you're done. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and let it sit for 3 - 5 minutes. Knead the dough for 2 - 5 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and let it stand in a warm place, free from drafts until slightly risen, about 30 minutes. Divide the dough in half and knead each piece slightly. Wrap each piece loosely in plastic wrap. Be sure to wrap it loosely so the dough can continue to rise. Refrigerate until ready to use, at least 2 hours.

Heat the grill to about 400 - 450 degrees. Slight oil the racks. You can use cornmeal on your pizza pan to help with sliding. When the grill is hot, slide the untopped pizza dough onto the grill. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, depending on your grill, until the underside is light golden brown. Remove the pizza dough and top the grilled side of the dough with your desired toppings. Slide the dough back onto the grill and grill for about another 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Try to remember what your life was like before grilled pizza!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Welcome Back with Stir Fry

Well helllooooo blog world! I can't believe I was gone for so long. Often life gets in the way of blogging. It can be a problem: illness, a family issue, or a work issue. Sometimes it can be fun: vacation, moving, or entertaining family and friends. Sometimes the real cause of the problem is simple: sports. I love sports. I love the atmosphere, people together cheering for a common outcome. But there are only two sports that I follow obsessively a normal amount. College basketball and hockey are my true loves.

This only becomes difficult for the months of March and April, as the NCAA tournament starts and the hockey season winds down toward the play-offs. As the basketball tournament is over and my beloved Carolina Hurricanes didn't quite make the play-off push this year, I can now begin to focus back on other things, such as the neglected Racey kitchen.

Now that's not to say I didn't cook anything during this sports season. I surely did make some excellent food, but what failed me was my picture taking. It happened too often that something was ready to be eaten at the moment the game was about to start and I couldn't spare a second. Tonight was much more reasonable. Here I sit watching another hockey game, but dinner was ready thirty minutes into the game. I took a few photos and sat down to enjoy myself without having that heart-clenching feeling I get when watching my own team in the post-season!

This was a fabulous dinner to welcome myself back. I thought I was so over stir fry, but it turns out, I'm not! This is a delicious combination of beef, sauce, and snow peas. Served over rice it makes a perfectly easy yet substantial dinner. I can't wait to start using my Kung Pao Chicken and this beef stir fry in our usual dinner rotation!

I didn't really change the recipe, it's fabulous as is. I would say no salt is necessary if you use regular soy sauce. Also, I'm not sure how a veggie version of this would turn out, but be sure to let me know if you decide to give it a go!

Beef with Snow Peas
not really adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
1/2 c. soy sauce
3 tbsp. sherry
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. grated (or minced) fresh ginger
1/2 lb. snow peas, trimmed
5 - 6 scallions, sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
crushed red pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
rice, cooked according to package directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Add the sliced flank steak and let marinate for at least 10 minutes. Heat a wok or other large pan (I used a cast iron pan) with 1 - 2 tbsp. olive oil. Cook the snow peas for about a minute. They will be crispy but not overcooked. Remove the peas and set aside on a plate.

Let the pan get back up to a fairly high heat. Add a little more oil if needed. Add the steak, if it will all fit in one layer on the bottom, while leaving most of the sauce in the bowl. Otherwise, just add half. Add half or all of the scallions. Cook for one minute and flip the steak to cook on the other side. Cook for an additional minute. When cooked through add the snow peas and leftover sauce. Heat this for another minute. Add salt if needed, although if you are using regular soy sauce you will probably not need it.

Serve the beef over rice. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, if desired, for a little heat.

Remember that stir fry can be oh so good!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Awesome Pasta-ome

This pasta was so good, it might be a rival for my very favorite pasta. Seriously. THAT good. Even the hubs is super excited about having the leftovers for dinner tonight. And, yes, I'm excited about it. There are so many flavors combining for a dish that seriously makes your tastebuds tingle. Is that possible? Because I didn't think so before eating this dish. Looking at the list of ingredients I knew it would be good because there wasn't anything I didn't like in it. I just had no idea it would come together quite this well.

The lemon juice is key to keeping the whole dish really bright. The tang and saltiness from the artichokes and capers is perfect. The chicken adds a nice, solid bite to the pasta, but I don't see that it's necessary. I think this could be enjoyed just as much by a vegetarian without the chicken. The original recipe called for bacon, which I eliminated in an attempt to make it healthier. I figured it would still be good, but I would be able to tell that the bacon is missing. Honestly, I don't think I would ever add it. The artichokes are salty enough without needing the bacon.

I added pine nuts and garnished with parmesan. Pine nuts because... well, if pine nuts are wrong I don't want to be right! Parmesan because... that's how we roll in this family. Unfortunately, I'm going to cut this post short because I have to go eat another two to three helpings!

Creamy Lemon, Artichoke, and Chicken Pasta
adapted from So Tasty So Yummy via Confections of a Foodie Bride

pasta (as much as you want, I hate giving a measurement)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
salt & pepper
1- 2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 - 1 c. mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts, drained & quartered
2 tsp. capers, drained
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 - 3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
2 - 3 tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
parsely, chopped for garnish
parmesan, for serving

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide pan. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper together. Cut the chicken into strips and dredge in the flour mixture. Cook the chicken in the pan until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken and place on a paper towel to drain. Add the mushrooms, artichokes, and capers into the pan. Cook until the mushrooms have released their juice and the artichokes and softened and heated through.

Without removing the veggies, add the wine to the pan and deglaze. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and chicken broth and cook for another two minutes. Add the butter and cream and stir until the butter is melted. Add the pine nuts and chicken back into the pan over low heat. Add the pasta and stir to combine. Serve with fresh chopped parsley and parmesan.

Savor every tingly bite!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Tale of One Side Dish

I just realized that I'm pretty sure I don't have any actual side dishes on this blog. Biscuits, sure, but we need to eat our veggies, too. I was surprised at the interesting and bright flavors in this dish. There is a little bit of bitterness in the dish. Neither hubs nor I minded it, but you could probably boil the chard a bit first to reduce that. I say try it this way first and see what you think!

(look how pretty! love!)

Don't be scared of the dark greens! They will treat you well!

Rainbow Chard
Adapted from no one! (Go me!)

1 bunch of rainbow chard, stemmed and roughly chopped (or torn)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 - 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
salt and pepper, to taste

Thoroughly wash the chard. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chard and cook until just wilted. Splash with the vinegar and mix in the pine nuts. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Easy day!

Be surprised that "greens" taste so good!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Italian Sausage Soup

As it continues to be cold, I will continue to post soup recipes! I love this soup so much I once completely ignored my mom telling me that it had just come off the stove and slurped up a big spoonful. I did sort of regret that bite, but I haven't regretted another one since then!

This soup is probably borderline healthy. Obviously, the sausage contributes some fat. However, there are also a number of veggies and other healthy additions, so I don't necessarily put this on the "bad" list. Plus, if you are vegetarian and sub in some veggie sausage, the health factor goes way up without losing any deliciousness. This is not a particularly difficult recipe, and you can easily sub in anything you have a craving for or just what you have on hand.

Italian Sausage Soup

1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage (can mix mild and hot)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, chopped
1 large can (1 lb. 12 oz.) Italian-style tomatoes
3 cans beef broth (or veggie)
1 1/2 c. dry red wine (or water)
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4-inch slices
5 oz. farfalle (or other pasta)
grated Parmesan cheese

Remove and discard sausage casings. Cut sausages into 1/2-inch lengths. Cook in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until lightly browned. Spoon off and discard all but 2 tbsp. of the drippings. Add the garlic and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their liquid (break up the tomatoes with a spoon). Add broth, wine, and basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add parsley, pepper, zucchini, and noodles. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until noodles are al dente. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Slurp away!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Julia Child's quiche

If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you've probably seen mention of the fact that I haven't liked eggs for very long. But it turns out that eggs are actually a good source of protein and something I don't mind eating. While my sister was visiting a little while back she suggested making a quiche. This wasn't something I had necessarily considered because my idea of quiche was something sad-looking and greasy-tasting. Upon further consideration, we decided we could do it "right" and consulted Julia Child.

This was absolutely UNbelievable. The crust was so amazing that I can't wait to use it in more applications. And you know what? It was not difficult to bring together at all. The only time-consuming aspect of this dough is that it does need to be refrigerated. It does not take that long, however, and it is a perfect time to start cooking the vegetables and preparing the rest of the ingredients. We made this on a weeknight and didn't even eat dinner at a ridiculous time.

I cannot say enough good things about this recipe. Put your own spin on it! Use what ingredients you have on hand and make it delicious for yourself. Just use this base - trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Pate Brisee (I don't remember how to put in accents!)
Not really adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz.) butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4 tbsp. (1 oz.) shortening
scant 1/2 c. iced water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar (optional, for color)

Measure the flour, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Use your hands or a pastry cutter to blend the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the water and use your hands to incorporate it until the mixture forms a mass. The dough should be well-formed but not sticky. Press the dough firmly into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, use the heel of your hand to knead the dough in pieces until the fat is well-blended into the flour. You do not want to overdo this step as it is important that the dough does not become too warm. Incorporate it back into a mass and chill. You can do so in the freezer for about one hour or in the refrigerator for two hours, or overnight.

When ready to use, roll out the dough as quickly as possible so it does not warm up. When the dough is rolled out to the appropriate size, place it in a springform pan. There are probably many great dough rolling and manuevering tutorials than what I can tell you. As I continue to practice and improve I will try to add that.

Spinach and Leek Quiche
Not really adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

3 leeks, washed and sliced up to the green part
3 good handfuls of spinach, washed
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. olive oil

3 eggs
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. grated cheese, Swiss or Gruyere (spring for Gruyere!)
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For parbaking the crust, either use pie weights or dry beans on top of a buttered piece of foil, pressed on top of the dough. Bake the dough for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove the foil and prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Continue to bake for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the dough is just starting to color. Do not remove the springform pan until you have finished baking the entire quiche.

Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium to large skillet. Add the garlic and saute for one to two minutes. Add the leeks and cook until soft, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for just a minute or two, until wilted.

Beat the eggs, cream, seasonings, and 3/4 c. cheese in a mixing bowl. When the leeks and spinach mixture is cool, add it to the eggs and stir until well-combined. Pour into the pastry shell. Top with the remaining cheese and the small pieces of butter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and browned.*

* It took us the full time plus a couple minutes. The quiche did go from not set at all to set very quickly. Look for a minimal amount of wiggling in the center of the pan.

Savor every. single. bite!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We're back!

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging! Well, "regularly scheduled" may be used a bit loosely here. Still, onward and upward! The finger is nearly healed, to the point that the only reminder will be my strange fingerprint. I guess if I had any hopes of a life of crime, they're over now. I think my prints will be pretty identifiable. I'm already attempting to turn the winter blues into some great time in the kitchen. I have a ton of recipes backed up that I can't wait to share!

I thought I would start with this amazing, Southern classic of a meal I made quite successfully for the hubs and I. I realized some time ago that shrimp and grits would be a great dish for the two of us to enjoy. I don't believe that I had ever eaten grits in any form before this. But adding it up... shrimp + ground corn + cheese + bacon... didn't seem like anything I could possibly dislike.

I think what took me so long to make this recipe was that there are a million different versions that can have quite a long list of ingredients. I wanted to enjoy the recipe in a basic form the first time so that I could determine what other vegetables or flavors would add something positive. Enter Pat Conroy. One of my favorite authors, who wrote a cookbook that I received (and gave!) as a present from (and to!) my mom this year. You know what the funny thing is? This recipe is so good I'm pretty sure that next time I won't even add anything.

The only changes I made were to add cheese to the grits and scallions as a garnish - because everything is better with those two ingredients. Sorry for the fact that I only took one photo, these came together too quickly!

Shrimp and Grits
adapted from Pat Conroy's Recipes of My Life

1 c. coarse white grits (I used yellow; it was what I could find)
1 - 1 1/2 c. white cheddar cheese, grated
2 slices bacon, cut into matchsticks
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. lemon juice
kosher salt, to taste
2 - 3 drops of hot sauce
3 - 4 scallions, sliced

Slow-cook the grits according to package directions. When cooked add the grated cheese and stir until blended. Keep warm, but set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan, but leave the drippings. Set the bacon aside. Next, add the shallot and cook until softened but not brown. Add the butter, and when it's melted, add the shrimp. Make sure you do not cook the shrimp until the grits are ready. When the shrimp is pink, about 3 minutes, add a pinch of salt and the lemon juice.

Serve about 1/2 c. of grits on each plate and top with shrimp. Add the reserved bacon back to the pan along with the hot sauce and swirl to create a thin sauce. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and grits and top with the scallions.

Bask in the praise of your adoring spouse/friend/family member!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I was doing so well!

Without setting a real goal of how much I wanted to increase my blogging in the new year, I knew I wanted to do a little better. So far, I thought I was doing really well. Then the finger incident happened. I pushed through, making homemade pizza dough, muffins, and a few other delicious dinners.

But then! The one thing not conducive to blogging... computer problems. I have to replace the fan in my laptop. The noises it makes are so awful that I'm really afraid it's going to explode.

So bear with me while that gets updated. This weekend will be full of yummy tailgating food to share as we attend the NHL All Star game and cheer on some of our favorite players! So here's to a great sports weekend, a fixed computer, and a healed finger!

Stick around, it will be worth it!
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thanks to the Hubs

Well, Hubby gets credit for this post. With only nine fingers in use I am out of commission, at least for things like mixing ingredients into ground meat. Also, I've been placed on restriction from using sharp objects until further notice. But we plowed ahead and the hubs helped me get  got dinner under control.

Meatloaf is something it took me a long time to try. It always carried a sort of negative connotation. Ewww, meatloaf! (Ok, that's hard to convey in type.) Then when I got around to trying it, what I had was really good. I had one barbecue beef meatloaf and then I had a turkey meatloaf. In our effort to eat (somewhat) healthier, we attacked the turkey meatloaf first. So thanks to my wifey Jen for sending the estimated measurements on this my way!

Jen and Cory's Meatloaf

1 lb. ground turkey meat
1 small onion, chopped
1 small (or one half) red bell pepper, chopped
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 1 1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
black pepper, to taste
ketchup, on top
4 - 5 slices bacon (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. This is quite the easy one... mix all ingredients together except for the ketchup and bacon. This is easiest to just do with your hands. When all ingredients are well-mixed, form into a loaf shape. Place on a lightly greased or non-stick baking sheet. Drizzle a few strips of ketchup across the top. Lay a few slices of bacon across the top cross-wise. You can leave the bacon off or opt for turkey bacon for healthier options. Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half.

Although I love recipe that can be converted into vegetarian versions, I think this one has to stay all meat. Sorry about that! However, if you are an omnivore, enjoy this classic and comforting dish!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Epic Fail and Salmon

Sigh. I don't even know where to begin. Remember me talking about not having had a major kitchen failure in a while? I think I jinxed myself. Only this was worse than having to order pizza or throwing everything out. I had a glorious dinner planned last night. Sweet and spicy salmon. Balsamic-glazed broccoli. And the kicker... blue cheese potato cakes, which I've wanted to make for years.

So what happened? Well, I needed to mash the potatoes and get them really fine, so I pulled out the immersion blender (probably still not the right tool). Let me just tell you that I know who wins in immersion blender vs. finger. It's not finger. Ten stitches (and I'll spare you the bloody pictures) later, dinner was scrapped. It will be at least a couple weeks before I have another go of the potatoes.

We did manage to save the salmon and cook it tonight. And in spite of it all (because of it all?), the fish was delicious! In a way, it's sort of a no-brainer of a recipe. It's also just not a combination I had thought about before. I will eat Old Bay on nearly anything. Old Bay plus brown sugar? Salty/spicy plus sweet? Yes, please! This is a winner of a salmon dish that we will be enjoying again, hopefully with less drama.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon
slightly adapted from Taste of the South magazine

1 salmon filet (about 1 lb.) or 4 filets of 4 oz. each
1 tbsp. Old Bay
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 - 2 tbsp. olive oil

Mix the Old Bay and brown sugar. Brush olive oil on the top and sides of filet(s). Rub the oil-coated fish with the spice mixture. Let the fish rest for approximately 10 minutes, or longer in the fridge. Grill the fish until cooked through. The time of this varies, depending on thickness. You'll know it's done when the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Savour this, it's easy to do so!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reason One of Two Why I Never Order Enchiladas

I love Mexican food. I love homemade, wholesome Mexican food. I love greasy restaurant Mexican food. Also, I love everything in between. Most of my friends and family members are in agreement, so I often have the opportunity to indulge. At Mexican restaurants, it's always a tough decision about what to order. Tacos, chimichangas, quesadillas: I could go on and on. One thing I almost never order is an enchilada. I do, however, have great reasons for this... two of them.

The first I will be sharing with you is a little more classic of an enchilada. Cheese and onion are combined in corn tortillas and covered with a red sauce. This often ends up being a little bit more like enchilada casserole, but is delicious, all the same. The flavors are bright and warm. This is a fantastic dish to enjoy all year long, but I believe it's perfect at this time of year, when all I want to do is come home to a nice, hot dinner that will leave me feeling cozy all night long.

Cheese and Onion Enchiladas
adapted from some international cookbook of my mom's

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 - 3 tbsp. chili powder
4 c. tomato juice
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 clove of garlic, minced

12 6-inch corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheese (I use monterey jack and colby jack)
1 medium onion, chopped
scallions, chopped
sliced jalapenos

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Over medium heat (not too hot!) add the flour. Cook for one minute, until this is well-blended. Add the chili powder. Stir in the tomato juice, tomato puree, oregano, cumin, and garlic. Simmer this mixture for about 15 minutes. It will bubble and splatter, so don't turn the heat up too high.

Let the tomato mixture cool until you are able to touch it. Reserve 1 cup of the cheese. Using tongs, place the tortilla in the salsa until it becomes pliable (this only happens so much). Place some of the remaining cheese down the middle of the tortilla. Add some of the chopped onion as well. Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in a medium to large baking dish (I use a 9 x 13 glass dish). Continue with the remaining tortillas until you run out of tortillas, sauce, cheese, or onion! Or space in the dish, for that matter. At the end, pour any remaining sauce over the top. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Garnish with green onions and jalapenos, if desired. Understand that you may need multiple utensils (including spoons!) to serve, but that it will be well worth it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Well, I suppose by January 12 the holidays are officially over and I can get back to this. I'm not going to make any real resolutions this year. Actually, I did make one - remember to freeze my leftover veggie parts so I can make my own veggie stock. Awesome, huh? But seriously, I've been pretty pleased with my kitchen escapades over the last year. I think I'd just like to keep up more of the same. I will try to do a little better posting regularly, I think I'm finally getting a rhythym.

But ok, I think have a problem. I haven't truly failed in the kitchen in a while. Sure, there have been accidents. And often when I taste something I make a mental note (oft forgotten) to add something or change something the next time I make it. There seems to be something I just can't conquer, and I figured now was as good a time as any to finally figure it out.

I can't make a good roast in the crock pot! I know, right?! We made an amazing pulled pork and I can do a pretty good chili. Why can't I throw a hunk of meat in there and make it tender? I Swear everytime I cook it the roast is not tender at all and the flavor is... well... bland. I've had two phenomenal roasts recently made by friends (Michelle and Meg - help?), but I can't seem to figure this out on my own.

So, any suggestions? Thought? Tips? I will take any and all help I can get! So thanks in advance - from me and the hubs!