Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookes and Weird Trends

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Apparently, bacon-as-dessert is the new cupcake. Weird, right? Yeah, I was highly skeptical too. My one taste of bacon-plus-confection was a bite of a maple bacon ice cream cone at the local county fair one summer. It was... okay... but I found myself wishing the bacon was crispier and less chewy, or preferably not even there at all. It was kind of a weird sensation to have chunks of chewy meat in your ice cream. Still, I had to try to make Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies...


The former vegetarian in me was squeamish at the thought of Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies. But if it was trending so hard in the blogosphere, there had to be something to it, right? I looked back on all the times I scoffed at a fashion trend or two then ended up falling for them in the end. I remember my mom buying Ugg boots and how I laughed at how "ugly" they were... then one day when I had to shovel they were the closest boots to the door and I threw them on to trudge through the snow. Then I borrowed them for the day. Then the week. Then my mom was asking me where her Ugg boots went. Eventually I accepted that this toasty-warm, yet bulbous and somewhat cumbersome footwear was just ideal for the harsh New England winters. Soon I had my own pair.


Similar things have happened with jeggings, hair feathers, and neon accent pieces. All trends I was uneasy about, then found ways to incorporate them into my own style in a less jarring way. So, how are bacon chocolate chip cookies any different? I decided to take the plunge.


And, you know what? I'm glad I did. While these aren't necessarily the FIRST thing I'd opt for when having a chocolate chip cookie craving, they certainly hold their own in a bizarre way. I made sure the bacon was thoroughly crisped and crumbled before adding to the batter, and that the chip-to-bacon-bit ratio was at LEAST 2:1 and the added grease from the bacon ensured a perfectly chewy cookie.  What resulted was a delicious chocolate chip cookie with a hint of saltiness. This is the same reason why I devour chocolate dipped pretzels--salty and sweet were just made to be together.


When I brought these bad boys to work I assumed the "bacon" component would deter people from trying them. Nope, word soon spread from the office that I had some crazy awesome cookies at my desk, and people were coming over from across the building to try one. Even my parents, who at first seemed almost scared of the chocolate-meat-cookies ended up sampling a few and gushing over them. I think I'll call this a win.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Based on the NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® recipe on the back of the bag. Feel free to use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and just throw in the bacon with the chips)
(Again, I threw away the bag so I Googled the recipe and copied from here)

  •  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Milk Chocolate Morsels
  • 7 pieces bacon, cooked to desired crispiness and crumbled (I baked mine at 400 degrees F until crispy, then drained on a paper towel while I prepared the cookie dough)


-Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and bacon. Form balls into desired size and place on ungreased baking sheet.


-Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes then remove to wire racks or plate to cool completely.

-If desired, top with melted chocolate and a piece of cooked bacon for garnish.



Monday, January 7, 2019

New Year Resolutions and More Veggies - Zucchini Leek Soup

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I've begun doing my own culinary #TBT (or I guess in this case, Throwback Monday?) by re-doing old recipes with new photos. Today I have a lovely Zucchini Leek Soup:



Look at the difference! Before: Using flash inside (FOR SHAME!), on my parents' kitchen table, and a simple sprinkling of parsley is my only attempt at "styling." And the new pictures: at least an attempt at styling, with a bit better lighting--though not PERFECT since I was taking these as the sun was setting and I was running out of light--and a bit more garnish.



 This is the perfect recipe to kickstart a gentle new year resolution of adding more veggies to your diet--like I am doing right now, hah. The days may be getting longer, but the warm comforting soup is great as the nights are still a bit cold... though in Texas they're still pretty warm! Plus, bacon.


If there's any life lesson you can learn from me it's this: You can never go wrong with bacon.

Zucchini Leek Soup with Bacon

  • 1 package thick-sliced bacon 
  • 2 lbs zucchini, thinly sliced (about 2 large)
  • 
1 lb red potatoes (about 3 large)
  • 
2 medium leeks, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 cup celery, diced small

  • 2 tbs garlic, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 cups half & half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil or truffle oil, for drizzling on top
-Cook bacon in a soup pot until done to your liking (I prefer a little chewy). Remove from pot and set aside on paper towels to dry a bit. Do not clean out pot.

-Add the zucchini, potatoes, leeks, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are translucent.

-Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender

-Add the cream and parsley to soup. In batches, puree soup with immersion blender or in batches on a tabletop blender. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of bacon and oil of choice or chill and serve cold.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Happy Holiday Season! - Pimento Cheese Spread

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So, here's the recipe I wanted to get up here before the holidays, because it makes an excellent side dish or appetizer, and it's super easy to put together! Aside from the pimentos, I typically have all these things in the house, too.




Anyways. Pimento cheese was something totally new to me, as a New Englander. When I first tested this recipe, I simply threw in the ingredients I found on the Wikipedia page (yes, pimento spread has it's own Wikipedia page) and hoped for the best. It was tasty... but did it pass the test? I brought in the results to my coworkers and my desk-mate, a true Texan, said it was the best Pimento cheese he's ever had!


So I guess I did it right the first time ;)

As I said, this is the perfect appetizer for any gathering. Add a bit more mayo and cream cheese to make a dip, or a bit more cheese to make a cheeseball, or leave as-is for a spreadable cracker snack. The possibilities are truly endless!

Pimento Cheese Spread
(Adapted loosely from Wikipedia)
  • 1 8oz bag sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 8oz bag colby jack cheese
  • 1 oz brick cream cheese (I used neufchantel)
  • 2/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 4oz jar pimento peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced small
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
*keep a bit extra cheddar cheese on hand in case cheese mixture gets too soft*

-In a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, combine all ingredients. Stir until well combined, adding more cheese or mayo to desired consistency (I like mine with a bit more cheese). Taste, adding more seasonings as desired

Monday, December 3, 2018

Cranberry Texan Mule - Perfect Cocktail for Holiday Partying

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Does anyone else LOVE playing hostess? It's seriously my favorite thing. If I could be paid to just throw parties, I'd be a happy lady.

For your Holiday party--A good rule of thumb is to offer one signature cocktail at your party, and leave a few basics out for those who just want to do a rum and coke. I typically make a big batch of sangria, but if you want a more personal, holiday-themed cocktail to make for guests, I'd go with this. I call it my Cranberry "Texan" Mule, a take on a Moscow Mule. Spicy ginger beer and tangy cranberries combine with vodka for a lovely holiday drink!



Cranberry Texan Mule
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz cranberry simple syrup (see below)
  • 1/2 cup ginger beer
  • ice
  • lime wedge, for garnish

For the Cranberry Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
-Prepare the simple syrup: Over medium heat, mix together the water and sugar until sugar has just dissolved. Add cranberries and zest, and stir lightly. Bring heat down to low, and leave on heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a jar (berries and all!) and refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

-Fill a glass with ice (if you have a copper cup, go for it!) and pour vodka, lime juice, and simple syrup over the top. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently. Serve with lime wedge, and extra cranberries for garnish.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Low Carb, Gluten-Free Pho - Tasty Chicken Pho for Fall

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My new foodie obsession: Pho. It's one of those tastes that's just impossible to explain. Before I tried it, I had heard people sing the praises of Pho, but I didn't get it. How could mere chicken soup be SO GOOD? Then, upon moving to Austin, my friend took me to her favorite Pho spot.

I was hooked. Something about it--the veggies, the tender meat, the delicate noodles, or the flavor-packed broth--just works. It's one of those stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that's hard to beat.


So, days into the first bits of fall, a cold hit my nostrils. All I wanted was this sweet, spicy soup to kick the cold out of my nose. Some adjustments had to be made to make it tummy-friendly, like omitting the noodles, but overall this is pretty perfect. The spicy zing helped drain my sinuses while the hearty broth gave the protein and nutrients I needed to kick the cold.

And playing the part of the noodles in this sickness busting recipe? Zucchini strands!


Simply use a julienne peeler and peel the zucchini down to the seeds on all sides. Viola! Instant, paleo-approved, gluten-free noodles!

Paleo Pho
  • 5 cups chicken broth (I made mine homemade: 1 whole chicken + 2 carrots + 4 celery stalks + 1 onion + 1 tsp peppercorns + 1 tsp salt + 2 bay leaves + enough water to cover it all, simmered until chicken was cooked through, strained and fat scooped off the top after chilling overnight)
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1.5 cups cooked, chopped chicken (used chicken I pulled off the bird used in the broth)
  • 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup kale, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, julienned
  • 1 lime, wedged
-Start by simmering the broth for 30 minutes with the star anise, ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns, until the broth is fragrant and flavors have intensified.

-Strain the broth, getting all the spices out, then return to medium heat.

-Add the mushrooms, kale, onion, jalapeno, and chicken. Cook for about ten minutes, letting veggies soften and flavors meld.

-Prepare serving bowls (4-6) by placing equal amounts of julienned zucchini in each bowl. Ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro and lime.
 

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Best Turkey You'll Ever Eat - How to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

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This is the first Thanksgiving Turkey I ever cooked, a few years back. It's a long process, but easy enough that anyone can truly do it!

I'd never in my life cooked a turkey before, and I was very excited to take on the process of making THE. PERFECT. TURKEY. I consulted the expert, Alton Brown, and some family know-how, and the results (as you can see) are pretty dang perfect!


Juicy, flavorful, and a good blend of new and old techniques. Crispy skin is KEY. I even made homemade gravy to smother it with. All in all, my first turkey was a success!


Tips: Don't stuff the turkey with stuffing! Cook stuffing separately to ensure a juicy bird. Save the giblets to make THE BEST GRAVY EVER (trust me!) Save the bones (and any veggie trimmings you have leftover) to make stock.


Fool-Proof  Turkey with Giblet Gravy
  • 1 Turkey, about 12 lbs
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 gallon chicken broth
  • 1/2 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 ginger knob, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 gallon of water

Aromatics
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 apple, sliced in half
  • 1 lemon, sliced in half
  • 1 orange, cut in quarters
  • 1 cup water

Herbed Butter
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons herbs de provance
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1 tsp fleur de sel

For the gravy
  • Neck and Giblets from the turkey
  • Drippings from the cooked turkey
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Brine
-At least 24 hours before you plan on cooking your turkey, combine all of the brine ingredients in a large stock pot (big enough to hold your turkey!) stir well until salt is dissolved (it helps if the broth is a bit warm), and place the turkey in the pot.


Cooking
-Mix together the ingredients for the butter. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry.

-Use a sharp paring knife to make small cuts in the turkey skin. Use your finger to make space under the skin, and stuff the butter under the skin. Gently pat the turkey all over to evenly distribute the butter as much as possible.



-In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the aromatics and microwave on high for one minute. Drain off the water, and stuff the turkey cavity with the fruit.

-Set oven to 500, and roast the turkey for a half hour. Remove from the oven, and place tinfoil over the breast ONLY (spray the tinfoil with cooking spray). Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and roast for another two and a half hours, or until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the bird reads at least 160 degrees F.

Gravy
-Cover the neck and giblets with an inch of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for one hour.

-Drain the drippings into a pan, removing any burnt pieces, and set the heat to low. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk into a roux.

-Once the giblets are cooked through, tear the meat off the neck and chop up with the giblets. Save at least a cup of the water. Add the meat to the roux and stir in the wine and broth.

-Add some of the reserved water and whisk until desired thickness is reached.

Bourbon Peach Cupcakes

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I never was one to enjoy hard liquor or beers, back in my early days of being a social drinker. If it didn't taste like fruit and ten different kinds of sugar, I was not interested. Bring on the Pina Coladas and Kamikaze shots! And bring me ALL YOUR SMIRNOFF ICES, STAT.

College. Amirite?

Not surprisingly, this led to many a hangover and a rainbow of different colors of vomit. (Sorry, that probably doesn't get you excited for food, does it?) Thankfully, these days not only is my regular intake of liquor at least half what it used to be, but my palate has evolved.

Recently, I've been kind of into bourbon. Nothing too fancy, just what I can afford on sale at Specs, the best liquor superstore I've ever encountered THANK YOU TEXAS, but still. I drink it on the rocks with a bit of ice and sip it on my porch while facing the Texas heat at the end of a long day.


However, sugar tooths die hard. And that's why I decided bourbon cupcakes would be pretty dang amazing. And peach, because Texas peaches are some of the best.

Vanilla Bourbon Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream
(cupcake recipe adapted from Wonky Wonderful)
For the Cupcakes

  • 11/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (vanilla bourbon if you have it!)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
For the Glaze
  • 1/2 cup each flavored bourbon (OR 1/4 cup bourbon + 1/4 cup peach nectar)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
For the Frosting
(note: there will be a LOT, reserve the extra to put on fruit)
  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1/2 ripe peach
  • 2 tsp peach vodka
  • 2-4 cups confectioner's sugar

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

-In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients for cupcakes. Set aside.

I-n the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Once light and fluffy, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

-Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together until there are no lumps. Fill cupcake wells (lined with liners or greased) 2/3 full.

-Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack.

-While cupcakes are baking, prepare glaze: mix together all glaze ingredients and simmer over high heat until reduced by half and syrupy.

-Use a fork to prick holes in the top of each cupcake. Pour glaze over warm cupcakes, about a tablespoon each. Let cool before frosting.

-While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting. In a stand mixer on high, mix the peach until it is pureed. Add butter and vodka, then slowly add the confectioner's sugar until desired consistency is reached.

Note: I ran out of sugar before the frosting was stiff enough to pipe, but the drippy frosting ended up looking fun and rustic and worked just fine.