Search This Blog

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Inspiration (Part 2)

I'll just say it, the street I live on is awesome!!  Any end-of-the-day with nice enough weather, the families on my street come out into the yards and road and play and hang out until dark.  There are several kids nearby, so my kids are in heaven!  I'm so thankful to have formed meaningful relationships with the parents too.  Tonight, we decided to turn it into a pre-Halloween celebration.

Kids from the Avenue!

I wanted to cook some treats for my neighbor friends.  So I decided on Caramel Pears, Conecuh Sausage, and Moroccan Beef Dumplings.  

Caramel Pears
a bag of beautiful pears
1 bag of Caramel Cubes
2 tablespoons water
a bit of butter
1. Wash and dry the pears.
2. In a saucepan, slowly melt the caramels into the water and butter over medium-low heat.  Stir constantly until melted.
3.  Dip the pears into the melted caramel and swirl around until it is pretty.
4.  Just before serving to friends, cut into fourths and have a lot of paper towels handy.  These are tasty, but sticky!

Moroccan Beef Dumplings
Yes, the pears keep trying to hog the spotlight.  However, these dumplings were a hit!
2 thawed pie crusts (the kind that come rolled up in a box, not in the pie tin)-thawed
a little over a lb. Ground Beef
1/2 Red Onion (chopped)
1 Clove Garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 can Tomato Paste
a splash of water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1 Egg
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2.  While you are thawing the pie crusts, cook the beef (that is salt and peppered), onion and garlic until beef is browned.  Drain the grease off the meat and return to the pan.
3. Add the tomato paste, splash of water, ginger, cumin and cinnamon.  Cook and stir until mixed well.
4.  Stir in the raisins and set mixture to the side.
5.  Lay out the pie crust dough and flatten further with a rolling pin.
6. Find something with a large round edge to cut out the dumpling dough.
7.  Once you've cut round pieces of dough, add the beef mixture to the center and fold over.  Press edges together and make fork marks.

8. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush over the dough for browning.
9. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
10. Serve warm.
*Note: You will have meat mixture left over.  Just freeze it and make these again soon.

Neighbors and kids hanging out in the street. Love it!

Classic and Yoga Jack-o-Lanterns. 

What feelings does this holiday bring to you?  Is there a classic movie you watch (The Great Pumpkin)?  Is Candy Corn your guilty pleasure? S'mores are mine! How about that feeling in the Fall breeze?  For me, so much joy is rustled up along with the brown leaves on the ground. Whatever it is, I hope I've inspired you to try something new for your Halloween party.  Happy Halloween, lovely ghouls!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cool Weather, Italian Wedding Soup and 90s R&B

Hallelujah for cool, windy weather today!  This is the type of weather I love!...Especially in October....the month that I enjoy being eerie-fied and creeped out.  Really, I've been seeking out books and movies that give me a "mysterious/something's just around the corner/things are not quite what they seem" feel.  The gusty wind and cloudy weather of today gave me that feeling I've been looking for.  It was a great day for soup!  I had been anxiously anticipating the first eve of soup-making and here it was!

This is a recipe that I've done numerous times.  It is so delicious!!  I'm going to share it with you straight out of this Southern Living cookbook I have.  The reason I have this book is because of my friend, Ashley.  She had it first and I fell in love with it!

The only thing I did differently was use different pasta.  The recipe calls for Rotini.  I used Armoniche, which is beautiful, and I found it at Aldi!

Recently, I watched Pitch Perfect 2.  I love love love the first Pitch Perfect!  It is hilarious and the music is awesome!  I always feel that sequels don't quite measure up to originals.  My feelings about this one are still mixed.  It was entertaining, but some parts didn't quite hit the mark, I felt.  However, I enjoyed the Riff Off.  In the midst of it, the theme was 90s Hip Hop.  One of the groups opened it up with a song I've always loved..."This is How We Do It".  Since watching the movie, I've had that song on my mind.  My kids have even starting singing it...accurately (yes, it's that bad).  Tonight, as I was making this soup, the kids and I danced around the kitchen to this song.  We listened to it multiple times.  Here it is for your listening pleasure!  I hope you make this soup to the tune of this classic 90s beat and get it stuck in your mind like me!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Eggs Benicio

Imagine this:  weather that feels tropical, streets and sidewalks that are uneven and cobbled, a sense of energy in the air everywhere, ornate homes positioned shoulder to shoulder so it seems the shingles can't even breathe...this is New Orleans.  Sadly, this city can be stereotyped in a bad way and some only see it in a negative light.  Those people are missing out!  New Orleans is a place of culture, soul and an artistic heart that beats inspiration.

Why am I talking about it?  Because I've had the pleasure of spending several weekends there with a friend who lived there for a while.  If you know the history of this blog, you will know I'm talking about my dear friend, Erica, who was the original co-"Cooking chick."  I wasn't always 1 Cooking Chick.   I might add, she lived across from Sandra Bullock's house...and John Goodman' celeb!!  There is a beautiful brunch place in the Garden District, nearby, called Coulis that we went to several times:   Go there!  and when you do, order Eggs Benicio... a melt-in-your-mouth blend of flavors you might not have thought of before.  I recreated the dish tonight.

Eggs Benicio is a lovely layering of Jalapeño Cornbread, Pulled Pork, a Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce.  It should have been topped with Green Onions, but I decided to surprise my husband with it last minute (thinking I had all the ingredients because I had made a ridiculous amount of pork in the crock pot the day before), and didn't realize I didn't have any.  

This is how I did it...
I cooked a huge Boston Butt in the crock pot for 8 hours the day before... (in soy sauce, honey, garlic and vegetable oil) served with cooked carrots and cheesy rice.  There was a lot of left over meat!

I made the cornbread by this recipe: Jalapeño Cornbread

The Hollandaise Sauce is here: Hollandaise Sauce
On the plate, you will place a slice of cornbread, cut in half through the middle.  Top with meat, sauce, poached egg, more sauce, and a dusting of Cayenne Pepper.

It is really an easy meal.  If you have the leftover meat, you just warm it up.  The only work that is required is making the cornbread and sauce.  It's not that involved, but appears very fancy.  I turned on a movie for my kids (Tangled) and my husband and I enjoyed this delicious meal alone on the sun porch, by candlelight.  It is an easy-made-fancy breakfast for dinner...and I recommend that you incorporate it into your week's menu.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Inspiration (Part 1)

Leaves are falling, there's a chill in the air, pumpkins are on doorsteps and in our case, spiders and webs are in trees.  It's one of the most wonderful times of the year...Fall!  The magnificent sights and smells of this season are inspiring me in the kitchen!  Here are a couple recipes I've worked up, to make your thoughts orange and brown and of crisp, lovely air...

Cheese and Herb Ravioli with Pumpkin Sauce
and Garlic Brussels Sprouts
Wonton Wrappers
1 cup Aged White Cheddar Cheese (grated)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese (and extra for topping)
1 cup Cream or Ricotta Cheese
1 tablespoon each chopped Fresh Herbs (I used Rosemary and Thyme)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 package fresh Brussels Sprouts (sliced)
1 clove minced Garlic
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Butter
1 jar Tuscan Pumpkin Pasta Sauce (from Target)
1. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil on high heat.  While this is happening, blend the cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
2.  Spread out a sheet of parchment paper and grab a tiny bowl of water.
3.  Dip your fingers into the water and rub down the edges of a wonton wrapper. Place a small ball of the cheese blend in the center of the wrapper and cover with another wrapper.  Press the sides together until all sides are sealed and no air bubbles remain.
4.  Heat the Olive Oil and Butter over medium heat.  Throw in the minced Garlic and sliced Brussels Sprouts.  Cook until slightly tender and browned and set aside.
5.  Into the pan you cooked the Brussels Sprouts in (to save on dirtying dishes), pour the pasta sauce from the jar.  Allow it to heat up to a slight simmer over medium low heat.  Be careful not to burn it!
6.  While the sauce is heating, add the raviolis into the boiling water (about 6 at a time).  Cook for 5 minutes and remove carefully with a slotted spoon.  Note: As you remove the raviolis and transfer to a plate, make sure to drizzle with a bit of olive oil so they don't stick to each other.
 To serve:  Place 3-4 Raviolis on each plate.  Drizzle the warm Pumpkin Sauce over the top.  Add the seared Brussels Sprouts and top with a bit of Parmesan Cheese.  Enjoy...the food and the season!

Broccoli Basil Flatbread with Pumpkin Sauce
I had a good bit of Pumpkin Sauce left over from the ravioli dish.  I also had some broccoli and naan that I wanted to use.  So, you know me...I'm going to think of a flatbread recipe!
We have had somewhat of a Basil saga at our house.  Basil welfare is a really touchy subject around here. Ha!  We've killed several plants.  Lately though, a few sprouts have beaten the odds and held fast to survival.  So I killed them by adding them to my flatbread! 
Ingredients: (for 1 flatbread)
Leftover Tuscan Pumpkin Sauce
handful of chopped Broccoli
tablespoon of chopped fresh Basil
large handful of Mozzarella Cheese
large handful of Aged White Cheddar (grated)
Naan or Pita Bread
(my favorite naan from Aldi)
Instructions:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Top the bread with the ingredients and cook until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  Enjoy!

The ravioli recipe did take a little time to prepare...handmaking raviolis is never the quickest task.  But it would be a fun date-night or kid participation recipe.  The flatbread was super fast and easy!  You could tweak either recipe to better suit your fancy.  I just went with the first thing that popped into my head.  Let me know what flavors you think of!  As always, I'm hoping to inspire and be inspired!  Happy Fall, friends!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Taco Bar for Friends!

Today I want to show you how to put together a taco bar that does not consist of the same old know, Seasoned Ground Beef, Cheddar, Lettuce, Tomato, etc.  Not that anything is wrong with that!  Sometimes a good ole plain taco is just what you want!  It's also fun and interesting to get a little creative!  Much like the Gyro Bar for Friends!, a Taco Bar for friends is a great way to serve multiple guests.

The top is a Pork Pineapple Taco with Slaw, Red Onion and extra Cilantro.  
The bottom is a Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts Taco with Queso Fresco and julienned Green Onions.
Both Tacos have Garlic Aioli and we had Friend Plantains on the side.

Our Taco Bar
Mexican Slaw: Recipe Here
A bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts (recipe below)
Fried Plantains
Warmed Corn Tortillas
A plate of toppings: Garlic Aioli, Red Onion, extra Cilantro, julienned Green Onion, Queso Fresco, Chopped Pineapple, and shredded Cheddar
(not pictured: Slow-cooked Pork)

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
1/2 a Butternut Squash (chopped)
1 bag fresh Brussels Sprouts (cut into fourths)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Chilli Powder
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Chipotle Chilli Powder
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees as you chop everything.  Throw the veggies in a big mixing bowl and toss in the oil and seasonings. Spread evenly onto a roasting pan and bake until starting to brown and the Squash is tender.  Transfer to a lovely bowl to arrange on your Taco Bar.

Slow-cooked Pork
I just bought some type of boneless Pork Tenderloin at Aldi.  You could probably use Pork Chops.  I used all the same seasonings that I put on the roasted vegetables.  Those things, along with some Olive Oil, a splash of Red Wine Vinegar and about 1/2 cup of water went into the crock pot on Low for about 4-5 hours.  I chopped it into small pieces to serve on the taco.

Garlic Aioli
1 cup Mayo
(a healthier version-1/2 cup Mayo, 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt)
2 cloves minced Garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Instructions:  Just mix ingredients and allow the sauce to sit for about 30 minutes, so all the flavors can blend.

Our house was a chaotic place on Taco night!  Lots of kids were running around.  There was one rare moment that I happened to capture, when they were all interested in a movie.
Can you believe it??
Did I mention that an interesting taco night is great for serving friends with kids?  There's an option for everyone!  

You totally don't have to do your taco bar like mine!  Make it your own.  Cook and serve the foods you like the most!  Just get creative with it...that's all I ask!  As always, I hope I've inspired you to do something crazy in the kitchen!