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.

Saturday, November 10, 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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

HALLOWEEN - Monster Mash Candy Bark

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There are two kinds of people in the world.

1. Those who get sick of the same ol' candy
2. Those who want ALL OF THE CANDY ALL OF THE TIME.

This solves both of their problems. It's basically like making candy out of candy, and it is the perfect way to eat ALL OF THE CANDY ALL OF THE TIME.


Plus, the pretzel-bark bottom ensures a bit of salt to cut all that sweet.

The recipe is really more of a series of suggestions, since it can be adjusted for anything you have on hand--or anything you steal out of your child or younger sibling's treat bag (I won't tell). You can even share the result with them!

This is also a great way to use up any leftover Halloween treats after the holiday. And it looks pretty neat, too!


Monster Mash Halloween Bark
  • About 50 pretzel thins
  • 1 12oz bag of white chocolate chips
  • 12 Halloween Oreos, broken into fourths
  • 1/2 cup candy corn
  • 1/4 cup Halloween M&Ms (extra points: pumpkin spice!)
  • 1/4 cup Reese's Pieces
  • 1/8 cup peanuts
  • 1/8 cup Halloween sprinkles
-Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange the pretzel thins in a single layer so that they're touching.

-In a double boiler over low heat or in a microwave at half power, melt the chocolate chips until smooth.

-Pour half of the melted chocolate chips over the pretzel thins and use a spatula to smooth the surface.

-Drop the rest of the ingredients, minus the sprinkles, and press them lightly into the surface.

-Drizzle the rest of the melted chocolate over the top, and sprinkle the sprinkles over the top.

-Let set in the fridge for at least an hour, then break into chunks. Store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Savory Fall Dinner - Pumpkin Risotto with Roasted Garlic

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Risotto is one of those dishes that people think is too complicated to try. After all, countless food shows have showed chefs foiled when they were assigned, or attempted, a risotto.

In reality? It's so easy. Yes, it's technical. Yes, it's time consuming. But if you can pour broth into a pot and stir, you're going to be just fine.

Simply keep an eye on the texture and diligently add more broth or wine until the rice goes from singular granules to a flowing, creamy consistency. No cream required!--but I do dollop some sour cream on top. Just because.

It's also one of the most versatile dishes--add some veggies to liven it up. Add a protein and you have a full meal. Plate it fancy and be super impressive. It's up to you!


I went with some seasonal flavors and the result was just fantastic. Feel free to use the base recipe (onions, rice, broth) and jazz it up how you wish. Let me know how it goes!

Pumpkin Risotto with Roasted Garlic

  • 1 cup aroborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth (use vegetable for vegetarian)
  • 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, roasted (cut top off garlic, drizzle with olive oil, bake in tinfoil at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until insides are soft)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmsean cheese
  • 1/4 cup frozen spinach (or 1 cup fresh)
  • salt and pepper
  • drizzle of oil + 1 tbsp butter

-Warm the oil and butter over medium heat, until melted. Add the onion and cook until just soft. Then, add the rice and stir until it has absorbed all the liquid.

-Add the wine and stir until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Repeat with the broth, adding by the quarter cup until all liquid is absorbed.

-Stir in the pumpkin, roasted garlic, and spinach. Check the tenderness of the rice. If it is not done (should be soft, not hard or sticky, thick but does not hold shape) add more wine and broth in alternating batches, letting the liquid absorb each time.

-Add the cheese and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve.