"Food is essential to Life; therefore make it good."- S Truett Cathy

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Y is for Yoda

About a year ago we got a new puppy. His name is Yoda and he is a French Bulldog. I was not a small dog person but he has converted me. He has the most awesome playful personality. And cute as can be! We love him :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for XO Cafe

Tonight I needed a cocktail. Patron makes an excellent tequila based coffee concoction called XO Cafe. It is delicious. Brewed a cup of Mayan spicy coffee with my Keurig and added a shot of XO, a touch of vanilla sugar and a glug of cream.

W is for Waldorf Salad

My Grandmother on my Dad's side was a really good cook. There are a few dishes that always remind me of her and one is Waldorf salad. It's a pretty basic recipe which many people make but hers was always the best. I made it last night so my girls could enjoy it.

Waldorf Salad
1 head lettuce chopped
2 apples chopped
2-3 stalks celery chopped
1/2 c chopped walnuts
*add cherries (optional)
Mix all ingredients in large bowl and top with Dressing: mayo sweetened with just a tad of sugar. I don't have the exact measurements- we used about 1/2cup mayo & 2 tbsp sugar. You want enough to coat everything but not be drowning in it. Start with less than you think and add as you stir. Chill well. Enjoy:)

*when I asked my Aunt for Grandma's recipe she found written in the book: add cherries. None of us remember her ever actually doing this, perhaps next time cherries are in season I will.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Voluptuous

I adore cookbooks. This year for Christmas I received the latest New York Times Cookbook. I spent a good week just reading it and marking recipes that I wanted to try.  One of the first that caught my eye was called the most voluptuous cauliflower. Anyone who can make cauliflower voluptuous is hands down awesome. This recipe pretty much negates any nutritional value in cauliflower as it contains butter, cream and three kinds of cheese!  Mascarpone? Love.

It was luxuriously creamy and delicious. I might have to add maybe a dash of nutmeg or even a little cayenne to liven it up next time, but it's pretty darn good as is. Will make it again for maybe a holiday dinner or some other occasion for sure. Tonight I  served it with Salisbury steak (yes the 1.98 frozen kind) and some peas on the side.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for unmotivated

Today I was a bit under the weather so my grand plans to make some sort of Unleavened bread for my U post were thwarted as I was completely unmotivated. Instead we had throw it together sausage/corn/wild rice cassarole and carrots on the side. Uninspiring, I know.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tostadas

Today for lunch we decided to make nachos with homemade tostadas(tortilla chips). Making your own chips seems like a hassle but it's actually quite easy and the chips are so tasty!

I fried mine in lard on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet. Use corn oil or vegetable oil if you must but lard really makes them awesome. Use white or yellow corn tortillas & cut them in wedges.

As the chips came out of the pan we dusted them with sea salt and a sprinkling of corn seasoning from crate & barrel I had recieved as a gift- it was a great addition to the chips.

Once all the chips were fried we spread them on a bakung pan, topped with refried beans and shredded cheese and popped them into 350 oven til the cheese was melted and beans were bubbly. Serve with salsa & enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Second Time Around

We're generally not big leftover people. After 15 years I've finally got it down to where I cook enough for the four of us with little to no leftovers. Of course exceptions for chili & lasagna!

Tonight my hubby took the girls out for seafood. I'm not a big seafood fan & am nursing a headache so I stayed home.

A girl's gotta eat so I went on a fridge scavenger hunt. Considered a quesadilla and then spied the leftover quinoa pilaf from yesterday. In the microwave for a minute to take the chill off, add chopped avocado, dash of olive oil & a squeeze of lime. Done.

And it was delish & healty & filling. Maybe I do like leftovers after all :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Q & R together: Quinoa pilaf & Roasted Garlic Chicken with Lemon

Tonight I decided to tackle Q & R both in our dinner as last night we were out on the town.
I had already decided that Q would be for Quinoa as I had some in the pantry and my other choice, Quince was $5. I am cheap sometimes :)
Both were throw it together recipes based on others I've read or previously made.
Roasted Chicken with Garlic & Lemon
3 bone in chicken breasts
2 lemons sliced thinly
15-20 cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil
Heat oven to 425
Place a roasting pan with a few tbsp of olive oil in the oven to get hot.
Once the pan is hot, place the chicken(seasoned with salt & pepper) in skin side down. Layer lemon slices on the chicken and surround with the garlic. Douse with more olive oil to coat the cloves & a bit on the chicken (maybe 1/4 cup total). Seal with foil and roast 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and continue to roast for 45 minutes to an hour.
Remove from oven & let rest 5-7 minutes. Slice & serve with a drizzle of the pan juices. Smear the garlic on bread- yummm. I saved the roasted garlic in the fridge to use later in the week.

Quinoa Pilaf
1/2 onion finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 small carrots, finely chopped
1 cup frozen corn kernals
2 cups cooked Quinoa
2 tbsp butter
Juice & zest of one lemon
Salt, pepper

Cook Quinoa according to package directions or in your rice cooker (1 c quinoa to 2 c water/broth)

Saute the veggies in melted butter until softened and starting to brown a bit. Season with salt/pepper, lemon zest & juice. Fold in quinoa, taste & adjust seasoning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Potato Pierogies

Tonight we had one of our favorite dinners, potato & cheese pierogies with kielbasa and sauteed apples & onions on the side, delish!

I use frozen pierogies and boil them first in salted water just until soft & hot @ 5 minutes. Then I saute them a bit in melted butter to finish.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Onions

Kid: ewww, I don't like onions
Mom: You can't even taste them
Kid: Then why are they there?
Mom: For flavor!!

Sound familiar? Many of us don't understand the awesomness of the onion until we start to cook. Now almost every meal includes onions in some way. I love simple carmalized onions, they can be used in so many ways and are so tasty.

I am partial to sweet onions, the Texas 1015 variety we get here is better even than the famed vidalia in my opinion. One of my favorite spring/summer dishes is a simple cucumber/raw onion salad with a dressing of mayo, vinegar & a little sugar & pepper. So crunchy and creamy and wonderful with a juicy burger & corn on the cob. It screams picnic!

Ode to the onion
Culinary wonder you
I cry tears of joy

5-7-5 is haiku right?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Marsala Mushrooms

My hubby has been out of town at a training class the last two weeks so I decided to make him a nice hunk of meat for his welcome home dinner. Broiled strip steaks with marsala mushroom sauce to be exact.

Marsala Mushrooms
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 cups beef stock
Few sprigs thyme
2 tbsp marsala wine reduction (adams reserve-found in the spice isle at my local grocery store)
2 tbsp butter
Add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet, when hot add onion and saute over med high heat for a few minutes til fragrant. Add mushrooms, cook until mushrooms have released their liquid and are starting to brown. Deglaze the pan with the stock and add the thyme. Cook over medium low until reduced to 1/3 or so of original volume. Stir in the reduction, coating the mushrooms well. Push all the mushrooms to one side of the pan and turn up the heat just a tad, tilt the pan so you have most of the sauce to one end. Add the butter and wisk til melted & combined with the beef reduction into a velvety sauce. Taste & add salt/pepper as needed. Serve the mushrooms & a good bit of sauce over a broiled steak cooked to your preference.
On the side we had steamed asparagus with butter & roasted garlic.
There I go, feeding the husband good again:)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lemonade......with a kick

Have you ever tried jalapeno lemonade? It is incredibly good, especially when mixed with Tito's Handmade Vodka which is made right here in Austin. It's pretty simple, make a standard lemonade base and add a sliced jalapeno to it. The longer you leave the jalapeno in the more intense the heat. I use this recipe from my power co-op magazine. Always use fresh lemons and remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno for less heat. I found I could leave it in an hour or two and got just enough heat without being overpowering. At first you won't taste the heat, wait for it.

Texas Lemonade
6oz jalapeno lemonade
2 oz Tito's
serve over ice. Delish :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kolaches

Living in central Texas, we've come to love the czech pastry known here as kolaches. They come in many varieties, both sweet & savory. I love the sausage & jalapeno and sausage with cheese. Fruit filled varieties are also great with coffee. The dough is the key, light & fluffy, yeasty & on the sweet side. It's really hard to understand their glory until you taste one.

With so many great outlets to get them locally I had never yet tried to make them at home until tonight. As I pondered a K post it was the first thing that came to mind so I started looking around the web for recipes.

I found several but this one from the homesick texan sounded the most promising, plus I found a new blog to add to my reader!

The only changes I made was starting with 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the first step as I was out of all purpose. While it was rising I ran to the store for more flour :) I also had to bake for more like 20- 22 minutes to get them browned.

Also instead of the fruit filling in the recipe I made a pumpkin/cream cheese filling because I had cans of pumpkin on hand. I made a combo of half pumpkin and half sausage. For the sausage ones we used little smokies because the kids love them :)

Pumpkin filling for 8-10 kolaches

1/2 pkg cream cheese softened
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 can pumpkin

Cream together cr. cheese & sugar, add remaining ingredients & mix well.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jell-Oooooh

My Mom always says "Jell-O is NOT food!" because she spent a few weeks in the hospital two years ago and that was all she could have. (she's fine now).
But as for me and my girls, we like it. Especially the green kind. Tonight I made a batch of sparkling jell-o jigglers! Sub in soda or carbonated water for half the liquid- I used creme soda & I have to say it's pretty tasty. It's not quite fully set yet bu I had to have a bite before bed.
Very soon I want to try this awesome sounding broken glass jell-o:)
What's your favorite Jell-O flavor?

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for Homemade Dressing

Not much time today but I did make a lovely salad for lunch. Salad greens, sliced radishes, carrots, celery and chopped Jalapeno stuffed olives:)

I made my go to quick dressing:

Squeeze a lemon into a bowl, add about a tbsp dijon mustard, wisk to combine and then stream in EVOO til the dressing gets emulsified, @ 1/3 cup maybe. I never measure it. Salt & pepper to taste and done.

G is for Green Smoothies

The first time I read about putting greens into a smoothie it was in a Saving Dinner newsletter. Yuck! I thought to myself. Then when I joined my CSA I found myself with an abundance of greens and no idea how to cook or eat them. I grew up in the midwest and we used to joke that my Mom's four food groups were canned, frozen, take out and leftovers:) Our veggie  repertoire was pretty much green beans, potatoes, corn, broccoli and the occasional pea. We definitely never ate greens outside of salad which was iceberg lettuce and sometimes raw baby spinach. 

I quickly learned that I do enjoy greens when sauteed in olive oil with garlic and I love a bok choy recipe that I found in one of my cookbooks that gives it the asian flavors of ginger and soy with an apricot kick. But you can only cook greens so many ways before you start to get bored. For Christmas my husband bought me a Ninja blender. It is so cool, it has three blades instead of one! So I started making smoothies much more often. 

The first time I tried a green smoothie was this recipe. So delicious!!

Today I wanted to make a green smoothie but was out of the ingredients from last time so decided to experiment. Turned out pretty tasty! And it really does give you an energy boost.

Banana Coconut Green Smoothie
2 ripe bananas - frozen will make a thicker smoothie
1 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes
2 large handfulls Kale leaves (washed and stripped from the stems)
16 oz water
1 Tbsp fiber supplement (I use PaleoFiber) - this is optional but we all could use a bit more fiber :)
1 Tbsp Honey (also optional but I like mine a little sweet) 

Method- I learned the hard way to get my liquid going first and then add the other ingredients, tends to help the machine not get bogged down. I added my water, coconut and fiber first, ran it on high about 30 seconds to get the coconut pulverized. Then I added the bananas and blended them in. With the machine running I drop in the frozen peaches a few a time and then stopped the machin, scraped down the sides and added the kale leaves. Then I blend it for another minute or so on high until the kale is thoroughly mixed in.  I added a bit of honey at the very end just to up the sweetness.  This made two smoothies. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Foodie Faves

I  have a cookbook obsession. I tend to read them like normal people read real books. Like cover to cover in some cases. I also love food blogs, food & cooking magazines and Food Network. I have at least 10 food apps for my iPhone. To start my collection, my grandmother gave me cookbooks that I think she might have bought at a yard sale for my wedding. I still occasionally look at them but I've moved beyond the canned soup cookery:)

Right now my go to book is the Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything. I have the book and the app. Second would be Rachael Ray's 365 book. What I love about them both is they have a lot of base "technique" recipes and then variations on that base. It really gets you thinking about different combinations and for me at least inspires a bit of creativity.

So here are my top 10 favorite food related content sources (in no particular order)

How to Cook Everything (the App has EVERYTHING in the book and more for 4.99!)
Rachael Ray Everyday
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
The Kitchn
Nourishing Traditions (this book brought me back to whole milk and full fat cheese)
365:No Repeats
Cooks Illustrated
Allrecipes Check out the ingredient search great for pantry clean-out days
The Bitten Word

What are your favorite foodie inspiration sources?

Here is my grandmother's wisdom about marriage, I've been married now for 17 years so I must be feeding him good :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Eating Local

A few years ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it made a lasting impact on my thoughts about the importance of supporting local agriculture and buying local whenever possible. Lucky for me I live in central Texas where we have farmers markets year round thanks to not having that pesky thing the rest of you call Winter :) Last year I started subscribing to a CSA and I love it. For those who don't know a CSA is where local farms have people "subscribe" and pay in advance for a weekly share of the farm's produce. There are many variations; some you have to pay for a whole season, some are weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Some even partner with local livestock farms to provide grass fed beef, poultry, eggs, and other items. 

It is a little more expensive than produce at the local grocery store but I've found it's actually cheaper than if I were to buy the same quantity in all organic produce at a place like Whole Foods. And it's worth it. The produce is fresher, it's organic (mine is- most are) and it's in season. And the money goes to my local farmer, not to some huge agribusiness company. Plus for me it's like a fun adventure, each week I get a box and I don't know what is going to be in it. My farm does post a blog each week telling what is likely to be in it but you don't know for sure until you pick it up. 

I have another blog where last year I was documenting what I got each week and then how I planned to use it all up. I've gotten lazy and did take a short break from the CSA over Christmas due to budget shortages :) Hopefully I'll get back to it as well, now that my blogging excitement has returned. Plus I eat better and don't let as much go to waste when I plan out how to use it all up. Take a look and let me know if any of you would like to see it resumed. 

A great source to find a CSA near you is LocalHarvest.org

Look at this bounty! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dinner out!

Tonight we decided to go out and meet a friend for dinner. We're working on planning a charity fundraising event for a mutual friend who's experiencing some serious financial distress due to medical issues. We got to the place we really wanted to go, Chuy's and there was a 30 minute wait. The kids were famished so we headed across the road to another favorite Rudy's BBQ. We have so many fantastic restaurants in Austin you could eat out several times a week and never have to repeat. I forgot to snap pics:(
I love cooking at home but it sure is nice to not have to clean up. I try to order things out that I wouldn't take the time to make myself at home and I like to try new things but at each of our regular joints I of course have my regular favorites. When it's Rudy's I have to have extra moist brisket and creamed corn! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

It's Monday. I've been a bit under the weather the last few weeks and so was thinking that today's post was going to be C for Chicken Soup. Today at work I had one of those days that I wanted to just come home and do nothing, I really didn't want to cook. I wanted chocolate. When I got home and looked around the kitchen I found a bag of Robin's Eggs and remembered that I rushed out to get them this weekend because of a post written on one of my very favorite food blogs, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. If you've never read her blog- go there now! If you are a fan you'll understand why I adore her. So tonight I decided to make my C post in her honor and whip up a batch of Robin's Eggs blondies she featured not long ago. They are in the oven as I write this. I love her blog not only for the recipes (I've bookmarked so many I'd have to bake every week for a year to try them all) but more for her sense of humor and pulling no punches writing. I like to think that if I knew her we would be friends. Peabody- if you read this and ever find yourself in Austin, the beers are on me :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Buttery Bacon Brittle

More to come when I can get to the computer!

Was racking my brain all day on what to do for B day. Butter was my first thought. Then I thought Brussels Sprouts and quickly forgot that one. Bacon. Butter. Hmmm what to do. I remembered seeing a few different bacon candy items so I did a little searching and found this from CHOW. Sounds good but - no butter! Mine HAS to have butter. Another search brought me to this basic buttery cashew brittle. Better. Tweaked it up a bit by adding in bacon and pan roasting the cashews in butter the Mark Bittman way. Also exchanged Lyle's golden syrup for the corn syrup it called for because it's just better!

Yum. These will be on the Christmas candy menu I think from now on. Took them to poker night and they were a hit.

Buttery Bacon Cashew Brittle
1 pkg bacon 
2- 3 tbsp brown sugar
3 cups cashews
3 tbsp butter
1 cup Lyle's golden syrup (or light karo if you can't get lyle's)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp baking soda 

Heat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay out the bacon. Sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon. Roast in oven until well done. Will be glazed and sticky from the sugar. 15-20 minutes. 

In the meantime melt 3 tbsp of butter in a large skillet. Add the cashews and stirring frequently over med low heat cook until golden brown. This will also take about 15 minutes. Spread out the nuts onto a backing sheet to cool.

In a large deep saucepan combine the syrup, sugar, water and butter. Stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Attach candy thermometer and cook, stirring often over med-high heat til it reaches 275, soft crack stage.  While it is heating chop the nuts and bacon into small pieces. When it reaches 275 add the nuts and bacon pieces. Continue to heat, stirring frequently until it reaches 295, hard crack. It will get foamy looking and rise up in the pan so make sure your pan is deep. Remove from heat at 295, quickly stir in the baking soda and combine well. This will cause it to foam up even more so be ready. Pour onto cookie sheets that have been well buttered. Once it's started to set up a bit after about 20 minutes or so score with a knife or pizza cutter into squares or diamonds to make for easier breaking and more uniform pieces later. 

Allow to cool completely. Enjoy! If any is left store it in an airtight container. Made two cookie sheets worth for me. 

Pics will be added later when I can get a decent internet connection. Too slow right now, the perils of living in the boonies.  Above is a montage made with one of my favorite apps, Diptic!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Action

Ok so I've been neglecting this blog. Today I listened to a podcast about being inspired from Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin. Then I saw a blog post in my Google reader from Cindy and it was my inspiration to take up the A- Z in April Challenge to try to get back to regular posts. The idea is simple, post every day in April except Sundays which will be 26 days. One for each letter of the alphabet. Not sure yet what mine will be, most of them will more likely than not include something food related. There will be pics as in the past few months I've become addicted to Instagram and photo editing apps on my iPhone.

A major part of that podcast is the idea that just thinking in your head about all the things you want to do is not going to get them done. You have to actually take Action!. One of my favorite quotes is from an unknown source, but a woman I used to work with would always say "Be A Verb". I try to live up to this in my work life and am working on it more in my personal life as well. Nike has been telling us for years to "Just Do It". Alright, Alright!! Thank you Cosmos for the wakeup call.

So here's to 26 days of fun filled alphabet inspired posts! Here is a pic of another A word:Animal!
Taken at a recent trip to the famous Chicago Shedd Aquarium using Hipstamatic.