Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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It's cold outside. And I live in Austin--a place I moved to in an attempt to get AWAY from the cold. On the upside, I have already overloaded myself with cold weather recipes--starting with this amaaaaze-balls soup!


I threw this together one night because I seem to hoard red peppers whenever they're on sale, and my recipe-to-red-pepper ratio seems to be off, meaning my fridge is always full of them. Not that I'm complaining...


Roasted Red Pepper Soup
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable if you'd like to go vegetarian)
  • 1 tbs sherry vinegar
  • 2+ tbs olive oil
  • crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper

-Prick holes in peppers and rub with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Cut off the top of the garlic so that tops of cloves are exposed but still hold together. Drizzle garlic with olive oil and cover with tin foil and place on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in an oven heated to 400 degrees F and bake for about 20 minutes, turning peppers halfway, or until peppers begin to blister.

-Meanwhile, over medium heat, heat 2 tbs olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and crushed red pepper. Cook until onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and vinegar.

-When peppers are fully cooked, let cool until safe to touch and peel off skin and discard seeds. Add to the pot, along with the garlic (which you can get out simply by squeezing it). Add the chicken broth and let simmer for about five minutes.

-Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a standing blender. Cook a few more minutes over medium heat, then serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Post-Holiday Things - Balsamic Cherry Pork

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Does anyone else feel like they need a week off to recuperate from the holidays? After two weeks of back and forth travel and the stress of the holiday season, piled on with other various stressors, I am beat.

It's been unseasonably cold in Austin and I've been a grumpy stress ball for most of it. But, with the new year begins new things, and the warmer air is already setting in again, so hopefully things will settle back to some sort of normal soon.


Cooking, for the past few years, has always been my "me time"--a time to relax and experiment with flavors and make something amazing while letting my brain just chill. Lately, it's been a chore I've needed to push around my schedule for, and I've succumbed to short cuts and quick fixes. Instead of using it as my own personal therapy, I've avoided that. I need to get back.


Travel means lots of meals on the road. While I'm not complaining, I do miss my kitchen. This week I am committing to three home-cooked meals. So, I'm pulling out this recipe--formerly published on my last blog--because you can't get much more unique than cocoa balsamic vinegar. The savory and sweet combination is just perfect. Reduced with some wine you have a delicious topping for any sort of pork.




Grilled Pork Sirloin with Cherry Cocoa Balsamic Compote

  • 2 pork sirloin steaks
  • 1 cup golden cherries, pitted and halved
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 cup Boyajian Cocoa Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup moscato wine
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2+ tbs Boyajian garlic oil, optional

-To begin, I rubbed the pork sirloin steaks with the garlic oil and salt and pepper and let them sit while my grill pan heated. Season pork steaks as you'd like, and grill until cooked through.

-While pork is cooking, combine all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and cook over high heat, until cherries burst and release their juices. Reduce heat and let simmer until reduced by half. Taste, and add more or less liquid if desired.

-Serve compote over pork.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hot Holiday Cocktails with Torani #sponsored #AToraniHoliday

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Disclaimer: I received complimentary product and compensation for this post.

Do you live in an area of the globe that's chilly during the holidays? Isn't it great to sip a cocktail that warms you from the inside out when there's a chill in the air?

So, I don't live in a place like that anymore. These cocktails still hit the spot. When the AC is on and I'm snuggled up in my PJs, I sip on one of these cocktails and close my eyes and can almost picture snow on the ground.


If you're like me, your liquor cabinet isn't as robust as you might like. However, with Torani syrups, you can amp up your cocktail game in a big way. For the following recipes I used White Chocolate, Blood Orange, Belgian Cookie, and Caramel syrups. I definitely suggest getting a few pumps for easy access. You could even make a cool cocktail station for a party with various flavors lined up.


I portioned these out for single servings, but I imagine they'd be wonderful in three separate crock pots, decorated with holiday flair on your party table! To make a big batch, it's easy enough to adjust. However, be careful with flavorings and spices. Err on the side of not a total 1:1 ratio for larger portions. Add slowly, tasting between additions. For example, if you're making 10 times as much of the Hot White Chocolate, add 2 pumps at a time of White Chocolate Syrup and taste to make sure the flavor isn't too concentrated.



White Hot Chocolate

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 pump (~1 tbsp) Torani White Chocolate syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka

-Heat milk and cream to desired (hot!) temp and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon.


Mulled Wine

  • 1 cup sweet red wine
  • 1 tsp mulling spices
  • 1 pump Torani Blood Orange syrup
  • 1/2 oz blackberry brandy

-Mix together the wine and mulling spices. Heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot. Let the wine heat, then let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors blend. Re-heat if needed, and stir in the remaining ingredients.


Caffeinated Cookie

  • 1 cup coffee, brewed
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 half pump Torani Belgian Cookie syrup
  • 1 half pump Torani Caramel syrup
  • 1 oz whiskey

-Mix all ingredients in a mug and serve while the coffee is still hot.


Giftable Holiday Treats - Non-Corn Syrup Peanut Brittle

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If you're like me and wait until the last second to do EVERYTHING... then thank goodness for make-at-home gifts. Like peanut brittle. Or any kind of nut brittle! It's classy, tasty, and just about everyone loves it. Plus, despite it being a bit temperamental, it really is a quick and easy treat to put together.

I didn't have any corn syrup on hand, but I found an awesome recipe for peanut brittle without corn syrup, and I didn't even need to dig out my candy thermometer! Score.


Dipped in bittersweet chocolate or put in a Christmas tin, it makes a good last minute gift for just about anyone.

Peanut Brittle, Sans Corn Syrup
(Recipe from Average Betty)
  • 3 cups peanuts (or any nut you'd like!)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
First, prepare your cookie sheet. I used a cookie sheet covered in tin foil, sprayed liberally with no-stick cooking oil. A silpat would also work.

In a large pot over high heat, melt the sugar into the water, stirring constantly. Once sugar is dissolved, let alone for ten minutes. Stirring occasionally, watch the liquid like a friggin HAWK and as soon as it turns a light amber color, REMOVE FROM HEAT.

Immediately stir in salt, butter, vanilla, and baking soda. Step back! It WILL foam violently. Quickly fold in nuts and turn out onto your cookie sheet with a silicone spatula. Spread evenly and press down with spatula.

Let dry, about 20 minutes, and break apart with mallet or hands. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday "baking" - Candy Cane Oreo Treats

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What do you do when you...
1. Love Christmas
2. Love getting gifts for friends and family
but
3. Are two thousand miles away from family and therefore need travel-friendly options
and
4. Are pretty broke at the moment?

Our first Austin Christmas back in 2013

Answer: Melt lots of chocolate in the microwave and try to be as careful as possible.

I am a messy, accident-prone cook. I discovered this while living at home with my parents: I can go over the kitchen five times with every cleaner I can think of and I will STILL miss a glaringly huge area that I somehow just didn't see. I decided that I would try to keep my mess as contained as possible and create stovetop-only goodies since I've had more than enough kitchen foibles already, using as little kitchen space as possible for this endeavor.

Enter: white chocolate covered Oreos.


Chocolate dipped Oreos are one of my favorite candy-counter goodies, despite the fact that they are SO easy to make at home. Simply melt chocolate, dip Oreos, top with candy. BOOM. Done.

I amped up the Christmasy-factor here by using HEB* brand Christmas Sandwich Cookies--Oreo-knockoffs with a peppermint flavored, red center--and dipping them in Almond Bark white chocolate AND topping them with crushed candy canes. The result is something that tastes amazing, feels fancy, and costs about $5 total for four packs of five cookies.

*HEB is a grocery store out here that I am in LOVE with. The organic and gluten free selection is vast AND affordable, and if you roam around midday on a weekday you can make yourself a lunch out of the free samples. Plus the in-store coupons are incredible. Definitely my favorite supermarket of all time, maybe only second to my favorite local shop back in MA.

December in Austin: 70 degrees and sunny!

Peppermint Bark Oreos

  • 1 Pack Christmas-themed or Peppermint flavored Oreos
  • 2 16oz bags white chocolate chips OR 2 packages white chocolate almond bark
  • 2 candy canes
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional)

-Pulverize candy canes in a food processor or use a hammer and a ziplock bag

-Melt white chocolate according to directions (I typically do a minute half power, stir, then 30 second half power increments but this will depend on the brand) gently fold in peppermint extract.

-Dip Oreos and turn until well coated. Place on wax paper in a cookie sheet. Continue for entire pack.

-Before chocolate has set, sprinkle candy cane dust on top of cookies. Place cookie sheet in fridge and let harden for ten minutes.

PS. I also made nut brittle, pistachio bark, puppy chow, and fudge for gifts. Which would you like me to post recipes for?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Happy Holiday Season! - Peppermint Bark Cookie Puppy Chow

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It's officially HOLIDAY SEASON, guys! And if you're anything like me--ie, a broke Millennial--you might be wracking your brain trying to figure out what thoughtful gift you can make instead of buy.

Food gifts are pretty great, because honestly, who REALLY needs more STUFF? I made this delicious candy cane puppy chow a few years ago, put it in cute little bags, and it was a hit.

 Side note: is "puppy chow" a regional word? I always just called this stuff "muddy buddy" or "sweet chex mix" haha. The first time I saw a blogger post a "puppy chow" recipe I seriously thought they were making their own dog food. Then I saw chocolate as an ingredient and was SUPER confused.



The candy canes are seasonal of course but I'm sure you could make this all year round by using peppermints. Or just making cookies and cream puppy chow! I gave this as gifts to friends in mason jars--I've decided Mason Jars are The Most Useful Thing in the Universe. Forget it, towels, you've been usurped. I know Mason Jars can be a polarizing topic, but you can't deny that they make lovely gifting vehicles.

Peppermint Bark Cookie Puppy Chow

  • 5 cups Chex cereal
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
  • 6 Oreos, crushed (I used HEB brand peppermint cookie sandwiches, basically peppermint Oreos)
  • 3 candy canes, crushed
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, combine Chex and chocolate. Fold the chocolate in gently, using a little more or less melted chocolate until the cereal is well coated and sticky.

Fold in the Oreos and candy canes. Slowly pour in the sugar, mixing constantly, until cereal is well coated and no longer sticky. You may need more or less sugar.

Turn out onto a lined cookie sheet (with a silpat or wax paper) and let dry, 30 minutes. Break apart any large pieces and store in an airtight bag.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes - Perfect Potluck Contribution

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Thanksgiving may be over, but thankfully pumpkin season is still hanging on. And if you're an insane person like me, you waaay over-stocked yourself on canned organic pumpkin.


Fun fact: a lot of canned "pumpkin" on the market is actually squash. There isn't a hard and fast rule on what you can call pumpkin. I'm not 100% sure "Organic" is a safe bet, but it's what I try to use.



One of my go-to recipes for potlucks is my famous Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. However, I've noticed over the years that a full-on cheesecake can be difficult for potlucks. Finger food is way more portable. Plus, there's less chance of the top cracking--for us cheesecake perfectionists.

Check out this recipe and let me know what you think! Try to keep those fall flavors coming all year round :)

Mini Pumpkin Spice Cheesecakes
1 package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (bourbon vanilla preferred!)
1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 cups pulverized ginger snaps
1/4 cup butter
Caramel, for topping

-Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

-Prepare a muffin tin by either liberally spraying each well with non-stick spray, or lining with wrappers and lightly spraying inside each one.

-Melt the butter and mix with the cracker crumbs. They should be slightly sticky and able to be pressed together and lightly hold shape. Press a heaping tablespoon of the mixture evenly into each liner.

-Cream together the cream cheese, pumpkin, and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well, until the mixture is pourable. Pour into each liner (over the crumbs) to 3/4ths full.

-Bake for 20 minutes or until the middle of each cheesecake is set. Chill for 2 hours, then top with caramel, if desired.


Protip: I used the pumpkin spice sauce from Torani, that I got in a complimentary pack from the company for my cold brew coffee post. It was diviiiiine.