Monday, June 7, 2010

Tuna at Sea!

For Memorial Day weekend, Adam and I packed up and spent the weekend in Austin with my Mom and her husband Bill. I decided it would be fun to prepare my next recipe down there for the Holiday weekend AND because the only grill they have is on their amazing boat! So not only was it for the perfect occasion, but I had the experience of grilling on a boat for the first time.

There were a lot of ingredients involved in this recipe, but luckily I had most of them already in my pantry. So I packed up everything I could take with me to Austin, that way I could avoid having to spend money on ingredients I already had. We had decided we would do the burgers on Sunday, so Saturday night my Mom and I hit up the HEB. FYI, I wish we had a HEB here for me to shop at, because it is like Central Market and the neighborhood grocery store had a baby and created this awesome shopping place! We were able to find everything we needed, except the fresh tuna steaks, because the meat shop had already closed down for the night. In fact, the whole store was closing down, but my Mom and I were able to sneak in and power shop! We just decided we would wake up early and go back to get the tuna steaks in the morning. It turned out that early for us was actually 10am in the morning. We all accidentally slept in, but it was ok because that is what vacation is all about. Once we were up and at 'em, off we went, back to HEB. We walked up to the meat counter and all I saw were ahi tuna steaks, which are SUPER expensive ($18/lb expensive). So we asked the nice "meat lady" where we could find tuna steaks and she pointed us to the freezer section and told us they were actually on sale that week! PERFECT! So instead of $18 per lb for ahi tuna, we were able to get 4 tuna steaks, about a lb a peice, for $18 total! It was definitely a sigh of relief for me to not spend almost $70 on tuna!

Once we got back to the house, I decided to do most of my prep work there, before going on the boat. That way, all I had to do on the boat was grill my poblano peppers and tuna burgers. Plus with this recipe, the prep work takes longer than the actually cooking portion does. Since we all wanted to get to the boat as soon as possible, I had my lovely sous chef step in and help (aka Mom). Side note: Apparently Adam and my Mom don't really LIKE to be my sous chef because they say I'm bossy (inside joke)! I say, have you ever seen Gordon Ramsey? I'm not even close to being as bossy as him!! Anyway, she started chopping away at the onions, dill pickles & cilantro for the green chile-pickle relish, while I started on the Pineapple-mustard glaze. The glaze was super easy, you just throw the pineapple juice, vinegar, chopped (fresh) ginger, soy sauce and brown sugar into a sauce pan and turn the stove on high to bring it all to a boil. One thing I have learned is NEVER try and watch something boil. It knows you are watching and will take forever! Simply walk away and start prep on another item. Once I walked away and showed my sous chef how to properly chop everything, my glaze came to a boil. I then reduced the heat to low, where is was just simmering and left it.

By this time, my tuna had completely thawed out and it was time to start on the burgers. I wanted to go ahead and get them formed and ready for the boat. I have to admit I wasn't sure if I was suppose to cube the tuna or chop it like ground beef, or what? In cases like this, I refer to the Internet and find the show in which the recipe was made. I watched as Bobby cut the tuna and realized you should cube it into medium sized pieced, rather than beat it to a pulp where it looks like ground beef. You want the tuna to retain its texture and be somewhat durable. Away I chopped and I chopped, and chopped some more until I finally had all the tuna cubed up and in a bowl. After I had it all the bowl, I added in the dijon mustard, chipotle puree (which was just the sauce from the chipotle in adobo can), honey, oil, green onions, and a dash of salt and pepper. I gently combined everything together and started forming my patties. I also referred to the internet and the show to see exactly how to form a tuna patty. It was actually a lot easier than I thought. Although, since my hands are smaller, the burgers turned out to be smaller! You simply grab a chunk in your hand and form it into a ball and toss it back and forth between your two hands to get the cubes of tuna to form together into one single patty. You want to make sure the patty is super tight, so it doesn't fall apart when cooking it. The burgers were formed and then placed directly in the freezer to keep them super cold. Another REALLY important thing when making tuna burgers!

Once the patties were made, my sauce was just about done so I whisked in my dijon mustard and removed it from the heat. Then I added my fresh lime juice and white pepper and placed that in our cooler to go to the lake. It needs time to cool, so it can thicken up further. In all honesty I would have liked it a little bit thicker, but all in all it came out perfect. The only thing left to finish at this point was the green chile-pickle relish. My sous chef had everything chopped and in tupperware, so we simply added in lime juice, honey, olive oil and salt & pepper. We all worked together to make sure everything was packed on ice and on we went to the lake!

Of course when we got to the lake we HAD to hang out and swim and goof off for a little while before we ate! But after all the fun, we set up the grill on the back of the boat and I started grilling my poblano peppers. All the other boats were SUPER jealous that we had a grill, it was a good feeling! My poblano peppers grilled up perfectly on the "boat grill". They were de-gutted once they were done grilling, which is basically skinning them and taking out all of the seeds from their insides. Then it was just a matter of getting them diced up and put into the pot with all the other yummy ingredients for the green chile-pickle relish. The time had come for my tuna burgers and just as everything was going perfect, I noticed the grill wasn't hot anymore. We knew we were low on propane, so Adam grabbed another bottle and went to put it on and BAM...the bottle dropped off the valve. Over and over he tried to put it on and it just wouldn't stay. After he investigated, we learned that the valve was stripped and tried EVERYTHING to make the propane stay on. After about 20 minutes and a whole role of tape later, we came to the conclusion the grill was no longer an option. I must say I was a little sad because I wanted to do everything "by the book" and grill my burgers, but I had to go with the flow and it turned out to be GREAT!!

Not only does the boat have a grill, but it also has a kitchen! So I put the burgers in the saute pan and started "grilling" them up and glazing them with my pineapple-mustard glaze. While we were cooking, my sous chef and I realized that we were kind of glad the grill didn't work out. The burgers cooked up great and the glaze adheared a lot better than it would have on the grill. It turned out to be a PERFECT storm!! No, not the movie where the boat sinks...this was a good thing to come out of an unexpected situation. Some of Mom and Bill's friends, Jan & Gordon were able to join us. Without going into a whole other story about the awesomeness of it, let me just say that Gordon makes the most amazing tuna dip I have ever had in my entire life!! He was kind enough to make us some, which went along amazing with the burgers. We all put our burgers together, first the way the recipe calls for with just the green chile-pickle relish (I was adament about no one using mustard or ketchup on their first burger), then we all put our own spin on our burgers and added tuna dip or another amazing artichoke/jalapeno dip that Jan brought! Bill and Adam were the champion tuna burger eaters...I think between the both of them they ate 7 1/2 tuna burgers in ONE sitting! It was truly amazing to watch them eat that much. Of course they waited 30 minutes before swimming again, once we were all done.

It was an amazing experience to be able to grill on the boat! I wish I could do that every weekend, but it was nice to have a "special treat" for my recipe! We had a blast and by far it was the best Memorial Day weekend ever. I was elated that everyone liked my tuna burgers so much! I will definitely keep this recipe in the back of my mind for future grilling parties! Last, but not least, I must say a HUGE thank you to all the men and women who have lost their lives in battle, have served and came home or are currently serving. Their courage is beyond anything I could ever imagine and they will never be forgotten. Thank you for allowing us to be able to go to bed at night peacefully without bombs exploding overhead and for giving us the right to live and speak freely!

Recipe Rating: Medium, there are a lot of steps involved
Good Leftover: Mom & Bill ate the tuna burgers the next day and said they were just as good, if not better than the first day!
Tip: Always be flexible when cooking. The unexpected might happen...role with it, you never know when you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Stay tuned in 2 weeks- Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos with Queso Fresco

You can find the Tuna Burgers with Pineapple-Mustard Glaze and Green Chile-Pickle Relish recipe here:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bubba Gump Shrimp...ok not really!

This weeks recipe was by far the easiest I have done so far, so unfortunately I don't have any funny stories or interesting ingredients I used. I decided to keep this recipe low key and incorporate it into one of our dinner nights during the week, instead of having people over and making it on my usual Sunday recipe nights. It worked out great, because we had just enough for myself, my mom and Adam to enjoy!

I was able to easily find all the ingredients I needed at Kroger. I had to get a little help on this recipe, which is usually a NO NO when I'm doing this. By that I mean, I don't LET anyone help me because I take joy in doing it all by myself. Unfortunately, since we did the recipe during the week, I had just finished a P90X workout, and it was getting late, I needed extra hands on deck! So myself, Adam and my Mom all jumped in to peel the shrimp. They were already deveined, luckily! Then we all chipped in and started chopping everything that needed to be chopped. We just did a rough chop because the food processor took care of the rest. We had to chop the: serrano chiles, garlic & ginger (peel and chop). Once those were all done, I threw it into the food processor along with the: mint leaves, sugar, white wine vinegar & fish sauce! FYI, fish sauce smells so disgusting, but REALLY adds flavor to the sauce and is super yummy. Once it comes out of the food processor, you can use your own judgement to add salt to taste.

After the serrano mint sauce was done it was on to cooking the shrimp. Adam of course heated up the grill for me while I was giving my shrimp a quick toss in some canola oil. Following that, I added a little bit of salt and pepper and gave them a quick toss again. Then it was off to the grill. This was the trickiest part of the whole meal. You have to be super careful not to let the shrimp fall in between the grates on the grill! I used tongs to help me do this. Unfortunately though, it was super windy and my temperature dropped quickly with me having the grill open so long. I was able to get all the shrimp on the grill successfully and closed the lid. You only want to cook shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Since my grill had lost it's heat, I left mine on for about 3 minutes on each side. Just watch them closely, because if you overcook shrimp they tend to be super tough and rubbery. So depending on the weather and your grill, cooking time might change a little. The end result you want is for them to be pretty pink and white (no clear).

While my shrimp were grilling away, I went inside and started prepping my curly leaf lettuce. Basically, all I did was rinse it and peel off sections of leaves about as big as a corn tortilla. I then placed them really pretty like on a big plate (I recently lost my big pretty crystal platter *sad face*). Instead of making all of them individually and the shrimp getting cold, I figured I could just put the shrimp in the middle and everyone could just grab a lettuce leaf and fill their own to their liking! I would definitely recommend doing it this way! It saves time and makes eating this dish more fun!

By the time I was done with the lettuce, my shrimp were perfectly grilled and ready to eat. I went and took them off the grill and placed them directly on the lettuce leaves, in the center. Then, I had a little dish with the serrano mint sauce on the side, so everyone could add as little or much as they wanted. Good thing I did this because, WOW, that was some spicy sauce!! I absolutely loved it, but it was even borderline too hot for me. I had to get some milk to wash it all down! I knew it was going to be spicy, though, because the serrano chiles I bought were super wrinkly and had tons of seeds (sure sign you have a spicy pepper). Adam and my mom could only manage one shrimp taco with the serrano mint sauce, so if you prefer less heat I would suggest removing the seeds or just using 1 serrano chile for your sauce.

This dish was a perfect, healthy, reasonably priced dinner! I would definitely suggest having this for your next party or even as a fun meal that you can eat hands on with your family! Overall it was a huge success and ranked #1 in my Mom's book and #2/3 (he was torn with the Moo-less Choc. Pie or this as #2) in Adam's book from the recipes I have done so far. I would have to rank it as #1 so far because I am a sucker for heat and seafood!!

Recipe Rating: Super Easy, anyone can do this recipe!
Good Leftover: You COULD have it the next day, but the shrimp after re-heat will be a little tough.
Tip: Use latex free gloves when chopping any hot pepper. This saves you from having that hot oil from the pepper on your hand and accidentally touching your eye!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Tuna Burgers with Pineapple-Mustard Glaze and Green Chile-Pickle Relish

You can find the Grilled Shrimp in Lettuce Leaves with Serrano-Mint Sauce recipe here:

Monday, March 15, 2010


This week my recipe was Grilled Oysters with Mango Pico de Gallo and Red Chile Horseradish (how's THAT for a name?). I was terrified to make this recipe only because I knew I would have to eat it. The only encounter I have ever had with oysters was at Red Lobster with my Mom (who happens to LOVE oysters) and we ordered them on a half shell, raw! I'm always open to trying new things, so I added a little hot sauce and took a saltine and put it in my mouth thinking this can't be THAT bad right? WRONG!! It was the most horrible thing ever...(if you have a weak stomach, skip the next few sentences) It was like I had hawked a loogie and then added a few spices to it and then tried to swallow it again (I still gag just thinking about it). My eyes were watering and my Mom was telling me to just swallow it, which was easier said than done. I finally got it down after "gag tears" rolled down my face and I'm sure I turned green and horrified our waiter. So, needless to say I was wanting to skip right over this recipe and never look back...BUT I made a committment to this book, so I was determined to push through it and make the best of it!

So Sunday rolled around and it was time to make the oysters. Luckily we had some friends over who like oysters (and some that didn't) so it was a good mix to try and polish off the 20 oysters that this recipe called for! I had decided before even making this recipe that I was going to purchase my oysters from Central Market, since their food is brought in daily and I knew I was purchasing something fresh! It was hard for me to go there, but ya know, we just HAD to. That was so sarcastic by the way! I absolutely LOVE Central Market and could spend days there-Adam actually calls it "my Home Depot" because he gets the same giddy feeling when he goes into a Home Depot. Unfortunately when we got to Central Market to gather all the ingredients (that we didn't get at Kroger), the "seafood man" wasn't as helpful as I was hoping he would be. They had 3 kinds of oysters-Gulf, Blue Point & Malpeque. I told him I was grilling them and asked which would be the best oyster to purchase for this and he proceeded to tell me that either the Gulf, Blue Point or Malpeque would be good. I'm thinking to myself, Really?! I know one of those 3 would be good, considering those are the only ones you have here! He said the Gulf were the saltiest and the Blue Point were the least salty, so I decided to just go right in the middle and get the Malpeque. Apparently after looking up some fun facts on this oyster, it is very popular in Europe and has won several awards for its flavor and texture. So I'm glad I chose that one!

We got home safely with the oysters and the first thing I did was take them out of the bag, scrub/clean them well, get them on ice and in the fridge until my grill was ready. You do not want to seal the bag they come in, because they need to have good air circulation. It is important that the oysters are alive right up until consumption (whether raw or cooked). If you buy them and one is already open then throw it away because it is not safe to eat and could cause you to be very sick! Anyway, I got the oysters put up and it was time to start on my mango pico de gallo and red chile horseradish. I started with my Red Chile Horseradish and measured out 1/2 cup of horseradish and then strained it to get all the juice out. Then I just placed that in a bowl, added a little salt and my acho chile powder and blended it well. Easy as pie! Then it was on to the chopping for the mango pico de gallo (get your neck & back braces ready)! I started with the mango and cut off a little piece from the top and bottom, so that it had a flat surface for me to stand it on to peel the skin off with my knife. The I layed it on it's side and cut off slices around the pit of the mango. After that I julienned each strip and then cut those pieces into itty bitty cubes. I repeated these steps with my onion and jalapeno. This took about 45 minutes alone because I am not the fastest chopper and wanted everything to be uniformed and pretty! It was well worth the neck and back pain because I got many compliments on the presentation. The recipe calls for Recao (Puerto Rico), also known as culantro (Latin America) or long corriander (Asia). Since I couldn't find this as Central Market, it says the substitute is Cilantro. I chopped my cilantro super fine and added it into the bowl with my other ingredients. Then I drizzled in my olive oil and honey, squeezed my lime juice and added in a little sea salt and pepper. I decided to use the sea salt since this pico was going on top of my oysters, but you can use any kind of salt for this...the recipe doesn't specify. Then you just set the bowl aside and let all the yummy flavors of the pico marry together!

Finally it was time to grill the oysters, so my handsome assistant, Adam, once again lit the grill for me and set it to high. After waiting a few minutes I went out to put my oysters on the grill and all I saw were flames and smoke, YIKES! They weren't huge flames and the grill lid was closed but I could definitely tell that it wasn't right! Luckily I had a bowl of water in hand and Adam came and put out the fire. The grill had gotten up to 750 degrees, oops! So note to self for next time you grill, be sure to watch it so you don't catch your house on fire! Luckily nothing was damaged and everything was under control. I let the grill heat up again to about 450 degrees and carefully dipped each one of my oysters into a bowl of water and placed them directly on the grill and closed the lid. The reason for dipping them in the water before placing them on the grill is to help the oysters steam and open inside the grill. It says to let them grill for about 4 minutes until they slightly open, but after 4 minutes none of mine were open, so I left them on for another 4 minutes (total of 8 minutes) and they were perfect! If you decide to make this recipe, just be sure to watch and gauge your time, depending on your grill.

After I removed the oysters from the grill, I let them cool slighty before opening them, since the shells get super hot! Once they were cooled, I took a butter knife and inserted it into the opening of each shell, twisted to pop it open and removed the top part (that the oyster is not in) and threw it away. If you have any oysters that do not open and there is no seam, throw those away as those are bad, just like if you buy one that is already opened. I luckily only had one that did this,thank goodness, because oysters are not cheap and I didn't want to waste a single one! Next I took a teaspoon measure and dipped out a pretty little dollop of my mango pico on each shell right above the oyster. Then I used my fingers to place a tiny bit of the horseradish on top of that. I tried using the measuring spoon for this too, but it just wasn't working for me! When in doubt, get your hands dirty!

We also made garlic-pesto chicken breasts (pre-marinated from Central Market, of course) and asparagus to go along with the oysters. Those of us who weren't too fond of the oysters all toasted and ate them together, or so I thought! After we toasted our shells I put mine down the hatch and started chewing and looked around to discover everyone else was still staring at their oyster! I think they were waiting to see if I spewed before trying it for themselves. To all of our surprise they were actually good! The pico was a great compliment and helped with the texture of the oyster. Since I grilled them they weren't as slimey if they would have just been raw and luckily they were super fresh and had no gritty texture whatsoever! I only managed to get 5 down, but I was super proud of myself for even eating one! Overall, my hesitancy to make this recipe was for nothing and everything turned out perfect! We had great company and great food which made for an overall great night!!!

Recipe Rating: Easy, except opening some of the oysters (if you don't have strong hands)
Good Leftover: Absolutely not, I would not recommend this!
Tip: Always make sure that you are buying your oysters from a trustworthy source that gets it in fresh, daily.
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Grilled Shrimp in Lettuce Leaves with Serrano-Mint Sauce

You can find the Grilled Oysters with Mango Pico de Gallo & Red Chile Horseradish recipe here:

Monday, February 22, 2010

You say Potato, I say Potato!

This weeks recipe just to happened to fall on Valentine's Day and what better way than to celebrate with your loved one and good friends! Since we hadn't seen them in a while, we decided to get together with Valerie and Ryan for Valentine's Day and just hang out and watch movies. We definitely didn't want to go out and face the crowds since Valentine's fell on the weekend this year! So instead, we decided that Val and Ryan would bring the meat (pork chops, YUM) and I would make my next recipe in line from my book which was Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

Since I am the worlds biggest procrastinator (ok maybe not THAT bad), I waited until the day of to go out and get all the ingredients for this recipe, which at the time seemed pretty simple. We had a lot of the stuff already at the house, so all I needed were: red potatoes, shallot, green onion, blue cheese, watercress & aged sherry wine vinegar. That's nothing like chipotles in adobo sauce or anything, right (refer to pressure cooker chili for that story)?! So Adam and I head off to Kroger to get everything, that afternoon, and our first headache was finding the aged sherry wine vinegar! We say sherry cooking wine and aged vinegar, but no combination of the two! So after standing and talking for what seemed like forever...since all the last minute, disgruntled husbands were all frantically taking over the store trying to find cards, balloons, dinner ingredients, flowers, etc...we decided that we would buy both and just mix it together to make our own aged sherry wine vinegar. So we continue along, trying to get in and out as quickly as possible, because neither of us do well in crowds of people, and hit another road block-watercress was no where to be found. After looking up pictures from google on Adam's phone thinking that maybe I was mistaken and it isn't a leafy green veggie, I decided to ask the produce stocker if they carried it. He proceeded to say, "hmmm, let me check" and I followed him over to where I had just come from and he pointed and said, "No, we just have water chestnuts" (apparently everything was in alphabetical order)! SERIOUSLY Mr. Produce stocker guy...I mean I know you were stocking the oranges, but watercress and water chestnuts are two TOTALLY different foods. Not to mention I sincerely loath water chestnuts and just hearing him say that word made me gag! I tell him, ya that's not quite it...watercress is a leafy green veggie and he said "OH YA, you are like the 4th person to ask about that, so I'll let my Manager know and maybe we can get it in stock for you". I politely said thank you and found my way back over to Adam who was gathering the green onions (which side note: 2 green onions means 2 stems of green onions, not 2 bunches, haha LOVE YOU HUN)! Since waiting a week for them to get watercress in stock wasn't really an option, we decided we would give Tom Thumb a try, since they seem to be an upper class Kroger and are right around the corner. ALSO I need to mention that we put both the sherry wine and aged wine vinegar back, thinking that maybe Tom Thumb would carry the aged sherry wine vinegar we needed as well!

We enter Tom Thumb and quickly discover that they do not carry watercress, but decide to ask Customer Service, just in case they had it hidden in the cereal isle or something (we were desperate)! While Adam dealt with Customer Service, I went off to look for my aged sherry wine vinegar, only to discover that they carry the exact same sherry wine and aged wine vinegar as Kroger it is just about $3 more expensive!!! Feeling more than frustrated, I return to where Adam is and of course the watercress wasn't hidden on the cereal isle, they don't carry it either. I told Adam that I no longer think that Tom Thumb is an upper class is just the same store, same stuff, more expensive! We decided we would give Whole Foods and/or Central Market a try. Instead of driving to both and getting the same result as we had with Kroger and Tom Thumb, we called to check first and found out both of the stores carried watercress and they had it in stock. Of course I'm thinking we will just go to Whole Foods, since it is closer than Ft. Worth, but Adam quickly reminds me that the All-Star game is in town and Whole Foods is located right by the stadium and he was not going anywhere near that area of town. I was in complete agreement, and it doesn't hurt that I absolutely love Central Market, so we decide to go there instead! So LONG story short, we find watercress at Central Market, but still no aged sherry wine vinegar. I decide to just get sherry cooking wine and mix it with some white vinegar and use that, because if Central Market doesn't have it then it must be a New York thing and I didn't have the time nor money to make that trip to find it!

Moving right along to the fun stuff...the cooking part!! First you have to take the potatoes and par boil them. This is basically placing your whole potatoes in a pot of cold water, bringing it to a boil and as soon as it starts to boil, removing it from the heat, draining and letting the potatoes cool for a bit. After I was done with letting the potatoes cool, I got to bust out my super cool julienner that Adam got me for Christmas! I have to admit I was standing there about to try and measure and cut my potatoes by hand 1/4 inch thick and Adam reminded me that I now had super cool kitchen gadgets that can do that for me! Thank goodness for him, otherwise I would have been there for hours measuring and cutting potatoes, ugh! With the julienner it was a cinch and the potatoes were done in no time. Although, I must warn you, they are SUPER sticky at this point. After they were all cut and put into a bowl, I tossed them with some olive oil (just enough to coat them all) and salt and pepper (again, just eye ball it) and it was off to the grill. Adam went ahead and lit the grill again for me and placed it against the house so that the horrid wind wouldn't blow my flame out. Not the safest thing to do and I don't recommend it at home, but it was my only option. I think my next invenstment will be an in-door grill like the Neely's use on Food Netword! I carefully and meticulously placed all my potatoes on the grill and waited about 10 minutes before flipping them over and cooking again for another 10 minutes. Note: Since there are different "hot spots" on the grill, you may have to re-arrange some of the potatoes so they all get evenly browned.

While my potatoes were finishing up on the grill I went ahead and combined my sherry wine with my white vinegar to make my aged sherry wine vinegar. I then added my chopped shallot, dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of olive oil to the bowl. While that sat, I chopped my watercress and green onions and set them aside for later. Since I was knee deep in doing all of this, I lost track of time, but luckily Adam had my back and was able to remove my potatoes from the grill for me and bring them inside! Once you have your potatoes grilled you just simply toss it in your vinaigrette mixture of olive oil, shallot, vinegar and mustard and remove them with some tongs and set them aside in a bowl or platter of your choice. Then you take your watercress and green onion and add it to the remaining vinaigrette.After you have everything tossed in your vinaigrette, it's time to crumble your blue cheese. The recipe called for Cabrales blue cheese or Roquefort blue cheese. Kroger didn't carry Cabrales, but luckily had Roquefort on hand. The piece I got was about the size of the palm of my hand and cost $8! So this isn't just any blue cheese we are talking about. The "cheese lady", for lack of a better term, at Kroger informed me that a little bit of this blue cheese goes a long way! I am not really a huge blue cheese fan, so this was the only part of the recipe I was hesitant about. The thought of aged, moldy cheese just doesn't excite me! Luckily the recipe only called for 1/2 of the blue cheese! I crumbled it up and placed it on top of my potatoes (washed my hands, because this stuff was pungent) and then poured my remaining vinaigrette over my potatoes and blue cheese and tossed it all together!

We had these delicious, thick, juicy pork chops that Valerie and Ryan brought over to pair with the potatoe salad and a side green spinach salad, and I must say it was quite the feast! It all not only looked pretty together, but complimented each other quite well in taste. I wasn't a huge fan of this recipe, just because of the blue cheese, but everyone else said they really enjoyed it and even went back for seconds AND thirds! They all promised they weren't just doing it to make me feel good and they genuinely liked it, so I will take their word for it! For dessert (since you HAVE to have dessert on Valentine's) Valerie and Ryan brought over and assortment of candy and m&m cookies...DELICIOUS! So we all just sat around and nibbled on chocolates and watched a movie after dinner! It was the perfect Valentine's Day surrounded by lots of love and laughter!

Recipe Rating: Medium, only because not everyone has a julienner to save time
Good Leftover: My Mom was the only one who tried it left over and said it was good (note: she also ate it cold)
Tip: Never trust Tom Thumb to carry what Kroger doesn't and call ahead to other grocery stores before going on a wild goose chase!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Grilled Oysters with Mango Pico de Gallo and Red Chili Horseradish

You can find the Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions & Blue Cheese Vinaigrette recipe here (FYI: The quail wasn't in my recipe book):

Monday, February 15, 2010

Holy Guacamole!!

This week was my first recipe with Bobby Flay!!! I was SUPER excited to start on this chapter because Bobby is one of my favorite chefs on Food Network. Even though he is from New York, he still has a Southwest flair to his cooking and usually packs a punch when it comes to his recipes. This is my favorite part, because if you know me, you can not make it TOO hot...that just doesn't exist in my book!

I was looking for an excuse to make this Charred Corn Guacamole recipe, because it isn't a main course and I wanted to be able to make it to take some where for an appetizer instead of having people over like we normally do. So it was perfect when our good friend Lori and Nathan invited us over for a game night at their house! It fell on the weekend I was suppose to make this recipe and there would be about 10-15 people there!! Since I wasn't sure how much the recipe would make, considering portion size in Texas is usually double everywhere else, I went ahead and doubled the recipe to be safe. Better to have too much than too little, right?

Luckily all the ingredients were recognizable and super easy to find at Kroger. Even the avacadoes were good and ripe, for being out of season (FYI-avacado season is in the spring). The first thing I did was get all of my ingredients prepped and prepared when I got home. I started first with finely chopping up my serrano chile. If you aren't familiar with serrano chiles, just think of it this way...compared to a jalapeno, a serrano chile (if it were a man) could lift a VW van and a jalapeno can lift a vespa! So, needless to say you are going to have more heat with a serrano than a jalapeno! Serrano peppers are like a slender jalapeno and as it ages it turns from green to red to yellow. You might have seen these variations at your grocery store! Anyway, I used the green (young) serrano's and it was perfect for a large crowd. It isn't "Brittany" hot, but it still packs a punch and gives the dish some flavor! If you are sensitive to heat and still want the flavor then remove the seeds and that will eliminate some of the heat of the pepper. After chopping and setting aside my serrano chile, I went ahead and finely diced my red onion and cilantro leaves and also set those aside in my bowl.

Next it was on to juicing my lime. Unfortunately, the limes weren't as impressive as the rest of the produce. For some reason, I just HAD to get the hard as a rock lime with no juice!! BUT since I am a Food Network freak, I learned a little trick that some may or may not know about! If you come across a hard lime, just pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds, roll it on the counter and then cut, WAHLAH...a practically dried up lime becomes this fresh and revived juicy fruit (not the gum)! Also, it helps to have one of those fancy juicer dishes for those of us who don't have a strong grip! Or you can always rely on the strong hands of your husband (or Dad, Brother, someone with man hands that's around) like I do most of the time! Once everything was chopped, squeezed and placed in my bowl it was time to move on to the main star of this dish, the CORN!! First, I must tell everyone I have only grilled one other time in my life and Adam was by my side the entire time. Not sure what it is, but I have always been intimidated by the grill. I guess I just always viewed it as a man's cooking tool and never really wanted to interfere with that. Plus there are many times when I see men missing hair on their face, hands, etc...and there is always a funny grill story to go along with it! I tend to like my eyebrows and didn't want to have to start drawing them on, so I usually leave the grilling to Adam!

Moving along...I had to start by removing just the outer husks from the corn. The husks are the "leafy" parts of the corn and tear away fairly easy. Once the outer husks were removed from my ears of corn, I loosened up the silks without removing them completely (the silks are the stringy, silky looking parts attached to the kernels). I have to admit that I still had Adam light the grill because we are in desperate need of a new grill (it's on the list, don't worry) and he had to do it by hand. As stated above, I wanted to keep my eyebrows so I let him take care of that part! Other than that, he left me to do everything else all by myself (after a quick lesson on all the parts of the grill). I dunked my corn in a bowl of water and placed them all directly on the grill. The recipe calls to leave the corn on the grill about 15min, rotating occasionally. It was a bit windy and cold the day I was making this that I left mine on about 30min, since everytime I would open the grill to rotate the corn all my heat would go out. So don't always go by time on a recipe...go according to your cooking instruments and pay attention to the elements! If it would have been summer time with a small breeze, 15min would have done just fine! Once you see the kernels showing through the husk and you have a nice char on your corn, they are done!!

I brought my corn inside and let it cool a little before I handled it. It isn't pleasant to try and cut corn while it is still hot unless you have no nerves in your hand! Once it was cooled, I carefully removed the remaining husks and silk from the cobs and cut the kernels off using a sharp knife. Make sure you have a sharp knife, otherwise your kernels will look butchered and you'll make a HUGE mess! Once the corn was added in with the rest of my ingredients in my bowl, I went ahead and started on my avacadoes. I didn't cut my avacadoes up with the rest of my ingredients at the beginning because I didn't want them turning brown. Avacadoes are super sensitive and if you cut and mess with them too much they can turn brown and look unappealing really quickly! So, I saved these for last, for a reason! I cut my avacadoes into chunks by first slicing each one in half and CAREFULLY removing the pit. I say carefully since there have been many occasions where I have seen many people, myself included, severely cut themselves while trying to remove those stubborn pits. Once you get the pit removed, take a tablespoon and slide it around the edges and remove the avacado from its skin. Place it flat side down on a cutting board. Then slice it length wise (or hot dog style as I say) and then width wise (or hamburger style) to form the perfect size chunks.

Once everything was in the bowl, I added the final touches of vegetable oil and salt and pepper (to taste). Then I tossed it gently, cleaned up my edges around the bowl and we were off to game night!! Adam and I agreed that it was more like a pico de gallo guacamole instead of the traditional mashed guacamole, we Texans are used to. All-in-all I think my guacamole was a success and everyone enjoyed it (or at least I hope they weren't lying)! A huge thanks to Nathan and Lori for having us over for game night, it was a ton of fun (especially since we won the Newlywed Game, YEA!!).

Recipe Rating: Easy, just chop, grill and pour everything into a big bowl!
Good Leftover: Yes and No, if you scrape off the top to get rid of the brown avacadoes you can probably eat it the next day!
Tip: Instead of eating this like a dip, you can also use it as a fun topper for fajitas, tacos, burritos, chicken, etc...
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress, Green Onions and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

You can find the Charred Corn Guacamole recipe here:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, We all scream for...Yogurt?

This weeks recipe was bitter-sweet. Bitter because it was my last recipe from Alton Brown! Sweet because my next set of recipes are Bobby Flay!! I love Bobby Flay and am excited to start grilling, which is something I always leave Adam to do. So it will be fun to do new recipes while learning to grill at the same time!

First, before even starting the recipe, I had to find an ice cream maker. I read the recipe before hand (tip learned from previous recipes, ie English Muffins) and realized I needed an ice cream maker and instead of buying one that I would never use, it was my mission to find someone that would let me borrow theirs. My mission was short lived, being that my Mom had one and conveniently she is staying with Adam and I right now! Once I had the basics down, it was off to Kroger to get my ingredients. Luckily, Adam was off work the week of Christmas and was able to go to the store while I was at work and round up everything I needed! My plan was to have the lemon-ginger yogurt on Christmas Day! A break from the normal Holiday treats...something different.

I woke up Christmas morning and first things first, I had to open up all of my gifts from Adam!! I was so excited because I already knew I was getting a Food Processor, something I have wanted for a while! Yes, I'm bad and guess my gifts before the actual day, and Adam is bad and tells me if I'm right or wrong! So after opening all my wonderful kitchen gadgets (garlic chopper-you put the garlic inside this little car looking thing with wheels and roll it on your counter and it chops the garlic for you, cheese grater-one of those big bell looking graters with different grating sections, food processor-self explanatory, julienner-SUPER sharp slicer that makes all sort of fun shapes and MUCH MORE) it was off to start making Christmas lunch/dinner and my frozen yogurt.

First, you must separate the curds from the whey in your yogurt. Basically the curds are the solid particles (the ones you want to keep) and the whey is the liquid that you see when you first open the yogurt, before stirring it. You don't want your whey, because this would hinder your yogurt from becoming a solid and turning into and ice cream-like frozen treat. So you have to use a colander (or splatter screens, which is what I used) lined with cheese cloth, set over a large bowl, so that the whey has something to drip into. After reading the recipe many times, I knew I would have to go through this process, but completely over-looked the fact that this would take 12hrs and it was now 10am!! There was no way I could get this done and have the Frozen Yogurt on Christmas! It seemed as if my plans had been ruined, until I decided to pull out the laptop and watch the actual show Alton Brown did on the recipe to see if JUST MAYBE there was a short-cut. Low and behold, there was! The 12hr time frame is for gravity to naturally pull out the whey from the curds. Well to speed up this process you simply FORCE gravity. I'll explain: You take your cheese cloth-lined colander set over a bowl, spoon the yogurt onto the cheese cloth and fold the cheese cloth over the yogurt to keep it clean and then take a tupperware lid or any kind of flat lid that you have and place it on top. Then you take a soup can or anything that is heavy (but not TOO heavy) on top of the lid and PRESTO you force gravity and instead of waiting 12hrs you cut your time to 4hrs! This was definitely do-able, we would just have yogurt as a late night, after dinner snack!

SIDE NOTE: Make sure you buy yogurt that CONTAINS live and active cultures, not yogurt MADE with live and active cultures. Made with means that they were once live, but are now dead.

So after crossing my first hurdle, it was a waiting game. I just had to let the yogurt sit in the fridge and drain for 4 hrs. I started with a soup can on top of the lid at first and then moved to a ketchup bottle and then to a bag of flour! You could say that I'm not the most patient person in the world!! It worked out great though, because during this 4 hours I was able to spend Christmas with my family, play a few games of farkle and let all the food we had eaten throughout the day settle! Once the whey has separated from your curds your yogurt should be a cream cheese-like texture. You could actually use this as a spread for crackers or add ingredients to make it a cheese ball and it is much healthier than actual cream cheese (just a little extra tid-bit for you people with the New Years resolution to lose weight). I discarded the whey and emptied my yogurt into a medium bowl and threw away my cheese cloth. It was time to start using 1 of my new gadgets...the cheese grater!! Except I used it to grate my lemon zest and ginger instead! If you have never worked with ginger root before, do not be afraid! It was my first time as well and for some reason I heard it was hard to work with, but in fact it was really easy! I just used my vegetable peeler (sorry Angela, I went back to being lazy and didn't use your nifty techniques you showed me with the knife) and peeled away the outer "skin" and then grated 1 tablespoon to add with my yogurt. On top of that I grated 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice! It smelled so good already, that I wanted to just stop and devour it then, but knew other people would probably want to enjoy some too. Then you just throw in your corn syrup and sugar and it is prepped and ready for the ice cream maker!

I had never used an ice cream maker, so I enlisted the assistance of my Mom. We put the yogurt in the mixing bowl part and then filled it up with ice-salt-ice-salt...and plugged it in and...NOTHING! It didn't budge an inch, so we fidgeted with it again and plugged it in and....NOTHING! It still wasn't moving, so we fidgeted again and again and this goes on for about 15 minutes until we finally decide that either 1. the yogurt is too thick so the ice cream maker thinks it is done and won't churn or 2. the ice cream maker is broken (which it was bought in 2006, but had only been used once, so we assumed 1. was the safest bet). We came to the conclusion that we were just going to have to churn it by hand. Sounds easy right? NO! It only had about a 1 inch knob on top that you would have to spin for 25minutes (probably longer, since we were doing it by hand and were slower). So feeling defeated, I call Adam into the kitchen and ask him to trade off with my Mom and I on spinning the ice cream maker for about 30 minutes. Adam, determined that he wasn't going to spin a 1in knob for any amount of time says, "WAIT A DAMN MINUTE"!?!?! If you know Adam you can hear him saying this and you are probably laughing right now! He runs off, leaving my Mom and I bewildered as to what is going on and quickly returns with a hammer drill. Thinking, in my head, that he is going to beat the crap out of the machine until it works, he corrects me and shows me that we will use the drill instead of our hands to churn the mixer. I assured him this was exactly why I loved him so much and that he is a genius!! We are still singing his praises for saving us from hand churning the yogurt!!

With the drill in hand, we churned away for 20 minutes and at the end it looked fantastic! It still isn't ready to eat at this point though. I chopped up my crystallized ginger (which is super yummy and SUPER expensive for such a little bottle) and gently folded it into the mixture. I placed it in an air tight container and put it in the freezer for about 2hrs. It was well worth the wait once the 2hrs was up and we were able to try it. By this time it was about 9:00 at night and we were all stuffed from all the food we had eaten that day, but managed to each have a couple scoops of yogurt!

My plan worked out and we were all able to enjoy frozen yogurt on Christmas Day! I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday season and a Happy New Year! Here is to a New Year filled with new recipes!!!

PS: We tested the ice cream maker with water to see if our theory of the yogurt being too thick was right and we were wrong. The poor ice cream maker had sadly just given out from lack of being used! RIP ice cream maker 2006-2009 :(

Recipe Rating: Medium if you have a faulty ice cream maker or want a quick recipe!
Good Leftover: YES! Just like ice cream it will last for a while!
Tip: Think outside of the box when you run into a problem, there is almost always an easier solution than your first thought!!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks-Charred Corn Guacamole with Chips

You can find the Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt recipe here:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pineapple Up-side Down Cornmeal Cake!!

This recipe was SUPER special, since I was able to make it for Thanksgiving and ALSO that Thanksgiving was spent in Italy this year. Well technically we were in Poland for Thanksgiving, but we improvised and had Thanksgiving dinner 2 days early at my Sister and Brother-in-laws house in Aviano, Italy. We were on vacation for 2 weeks and were able to spend time with family and travel Europe and taste ALL kinds of delicious food! More about that later, though.

My recipe for this week was Pineapple Up-side down cornmeal cake, BREATH, whew that is a long name! I love pineapple and love cake even more, so I knew right away that I would love this recipe! I had to multi-task while making this recipe because at the same time I was helping Angela with our Thanksgiving feast! So I'll leave out all the parts where I stopped to make greenbean casserole and Angela giving me a crash course on how to peel vegetables with a knife instead of a peeler (I'm spoiled)!

First thing to do was to place the milk in a microwave-proof dish and bring it to a boil. Let me just say that European microwaves are weird! You have to turn them off, otherwise when you open the door they keep going! Anyway, once your milk starts boiling you add in the cornmeal and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This was helpful since, as said above, I was helping with other dishes for our feast that evening. Once I was done with my other duties, though, I took the butter and melted it in a cast iron skillet over the stove. Once the butter was melted I added in my brown sugar. NOW here is the part that tripped me up! The recipe says wait for the sugar to dissolve (about 5 minutes). Well I waited and was expecting the sugar to completely dissolve and become a syrup...which didn't happen! So I thought I would leave it a little longer and maybe it would dissolve. NO, it didn't happen...all the sudden Angela and I start smelling this awful burning smell and yes you guessed it, I burned the sugar! Who burns sugar?? That's almost like burning water!! Anyway, I burned the sugar and it was hell trying to get it off the cast iron skillet, but it worked and luckily I had the PERFECT amount of brown sugar left to start over. Funny enough, when I was done with the first batch I almost threw the brown sugar away because there wasn't much left. Thank goodness I didn't because I needed every little granule that was left!

Round 2, I was much luckier and realized that brown sugar doesn't dissolve like white sugar. It will be a little bit thicker consistancy. Just be sure to look out for this if you attempt this recipe! After you perfect your sugar mixture, just remove the cast iron skillet from the heat and now the decorative part comes in! I placed 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan and then around that placed the other 5 slices to make a pretty flower pattern. Then in each of the pineapple circles, I put a maraschino cherry perfectly in the middle. OF COURSE I had to taste test the pineapple and cherries just to make sure they were edible for everyone else! This is HIGHLY recommended when making this recipe. After you make your pretty "flower", you take 1/3 of a cup of chopped pecans and sprinkle it like fairy dust on top of the pineapple, sugar, cherry-yummy goodness! Then if that wasn't good enough, you take 3 T of your pineapple juice and drizzle it all over to top it off.

I let my pretty flower pattern sit while I sifted, in a separate bowl, my flour, baking powder, and salt. If you don't have a sifter handy, just whisk through it really good to combine everything and get any lumps out. In another bowl (yes there are a LOT of bowls in the recipe which bro-in-law Jason can attest too. He did the dishes that night...Sorry Jason) I whisked my eggs together. Before I continue, make sure your egg bowl is a big one because this is the bowl that you use to combine all your other bowls together in. Continuing along, to the eggs I added the sugar and incorporated that in fully, then it was time for the canola oil to join the party! After that the cornmeal and milk mixture (the FIRST bowl I made in the microwave and let sit) gets into the mix of things. By this time your arm MIGHT be tired, but you aren't quite done whisking yet! Add all of the "party" bowl to your flour bowl and whisk away!!! It's ok if there are lumps, you just want to make sure to combine everything.

Once everyone had joined the party in 1 bowl, I poured the mixture into the skillet on top of my pretty flower pattern and into the oven it went. You bake it at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Once I removed it from the oven, it was really hard, but I had to let it sit for 30 minutes before trying to flip it over (hence the name pineapple upside-down cornmeal cake). At the end of 30 minutes though, I have to admit, I was a little nervous to try and flip the cake. I am not the most coordinated person in the world, so Adam was there to save the day! He flipped the cake flawlessly onto the platter and all the yummy buttery sugar ooey-gooey stuff ran over the top of the cake and it looked beautiful!

It was the perfect ending, along with pumpkin pie, to the most perfect Thanksgiving I have ever had! Angela made the best turkey I have ever eaten and we had every side you could ever think of! We were all stuffed and happy at the end of the night!

*As a special treat I will post pictures of some of the food we experienced while in Europe!! Buon Appetito!!

Recipe Rating: Easy
Good Leftover: Yes, just be sure to cover with saran wrap, so it doesn't dry out
Tip: Beware of hot cast iron skillet! It can be super dangerous, so have oven mits handy at all times!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks- Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

You can find the Pineapple upside-down cornmeal cake recipe here: