Monthly Archives: July 2009

My First Blogiversary and Surprise #7

crumble and surprise #7 020

Tasty Eats At Home turns 1 year old today! I cannot believe how much my blog has changed in the past year. When I decided to start this blog in 2008, it was a rather impulsive decision. I was rapidly becoming passionate about food and cooking at the time, reading anything and everything “food-related” that I could. I recently had become aware of Elise’s blog at Simply Recipes (the only food blog I was aware of at the time), and was impressed by her vast collection of recipes, mostly from her family. I thought to myself “What a great idea. I could share my recipes with my family and friends!” And with that, Tasty Eats At Home was born. Little did I know of the vast food blogging community that existed!

Since Tasty Eats At Home’s birth, I have created 84 posts (this will be #85). But more than mere numbers, these posts represent a lot of things to me. I debated a few weeks ago on whether or not to keep all of my posts. Some of the earliest recipes I am no longer terribly fond of, and some are without photos. Of those early posts that do have photos, they are not exceptional by any stretch. But after some consideration, (and some tweeting about it on Twitter!) I have decided to keep them all. Each post represents a moment in my life, and together, they represent the growth in my cooking abilities, my photography, and most of all, my writing. As frustrated as I can be at times when the photography just won’t work for me, or the right words just won’t come, I can look back and realize that Tasty Eats At Home is in a continual state of growth, and for that, I am proud.

Of course, Tasty Eats At Home would not be what it is, if it weren’t for the amazing support I have received. My husband constantly brags about Tasty Eats At Home to everyone he encounters, and that warms my heart. He is also my #1 critic of the dishes I prepare, helping me to grow and stay focused. My family is more than happy to help eat the dishes whenever they can as well, and critique accordingly! And to all of my fellow food bloggers – I can’t thank you enough for all the advice, recipes, and ideas we’ve shared!

But lest you all think I’ve gotten a big head, I wanted to share with you a recipe that in my mind and heart, brings everything back down to earth and close to home. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: Surprise #7.

What is Surprise #7?

From what I can recall, there was a time when I was a child when we didn’t have much. My parents had to figure out how to feed three kids on a very limited budget. In addition, there were times my Mom was unavailable to make dinner, so the responsibility fell to my Dad. Dad was trying out various creations, only to have several of them fail to impress the kids. Determined, he created yet another budget-friendly dish: a concoction of rice, beans, ground beef, tomatoes and spices. This dish unanimously passed the “kid approval” test. We pondered what to call it…and after settling on “Surprise #7″, it was written down, and appeared on the menu on a regular basis. (Why Surprise #7? I don’t really know. I don’t recall Surprises #1-6…maybe they were the bad ones?)

Last night, I re-created this dish for our family. It is a very adaptable recipe. My version added frozen corn, and I used tomato puree rather than Dad’s choice of chopped tomatoes (I have some picky eaters in my household that will not eat tomato chunks). I also substituted brown rice for Dad’s white rice. It’s a tasty, no-frills, comforting dish that is quite kid-friendly, and with a few pantry staples on hand, can be thrown together in very little time. Perfect for feeding a hungry family on a budget – no wonder Dad created it!

Sometimes, re-visiting a dish from your childhood can invoke a lot of thoughts and feelings. Surprise #7 caused me to really think about Tasty Eats At Home and what cooking and food means to me, and so many of us. Cooking is an art, an expression, if you will. We all need food to nourish our bodies, but cooking allows food to become more than just a requirement – it morphs into an enjoyable, pleasureable experience. So we share the joy of cooking with others, with our friends, with our families, and it becomes a form of togetherness, and a way of connecting with one another. Creating Tasty Eats At Home has given me a way to more deeply connect with the joy that cooking brings to me and my family.

 Surprise #7 (adapted from my Dad)

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb lean ground beef

14-oz can tomato puree (I used El Pato Tomato Sauce – it’s a tomato sauce with chiles, garlic and onion)

2 T chili powder

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained

1 c frozen corn

2 T pickle juice

3 c steamed brown rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add ground beef, breaking into small crumbles with your spoon or spatula, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add tomato sauce and chili powder, and stir. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, and add beans and corn. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes more or until everything is hot and your corn is cooked through. Add pickle juice and rice, and stir to incorporate. Salt and pepper to your liking. Optional: serve with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 5-6, or maybe only 4 if you have hungry teenage boys.

This post has been linked to The W.H.O.L.E. Gang’s “Hamburger Helper” recipes.

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Exploring Texas BBQ

smoker
When you talk about Texas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is barbecue, specifically, barbecue beef. After all, Texas is the place of long cattle drives, of cowboys, of chuck wagon cooking on a campfire. But ask a native Texan to define barbecue, and you’ll receive as many answers as there are miles of wide open spaces in Texas. Folks from the east will tell you barbecue means pork shoulder and pork ribs, with a healthy helping of sauce. From the south and along the border? Barbacoa (head of the cow) is popular, served in corn tortillas. In Central Texas, at famed places such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart, pork was smoked simply, with post oak to flavor, never with sauce. German-style sausages were also smoked and enjoyed. And of course, beef brisket was king in West Texas, as it is all over the state. Obviously, Texas barbecue can mean many things, depending on the Texan.

As I just recently purchased a smoker, it seemed only natural, as a native Texas foodie, that I attempt to prepare a sampling of the various barbecued meats from the Lone Star State. In addition, I recently read through Robb Walsh’s “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook”, which excited me with the thoughts of beautifully smoked meats. However, once Foodbuzz contacted to me and let me know I was selected for this month’s 24, 24, 24, a slight panic set in. I had limited experience with the smoker…what had I gotten myself into? In an effort to gain confidence,I immediately re-read Robb Walsh’s book, researched the best ways to smoke the various cuts of meat, requested the advice of several friends, and made a game plan. I organized recipes, did some shopping, sent out invitations to family, and made a schedule, and of course, a menu.

The Menu:

West Texas Brisket

East Texas Pork Shoulder

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

Barbacoa (with tortillas, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime)

Mom’s Texas Potato Salad

Texas Coleslaw

Ancho Barbecue Sauce

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

 

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

The cooking started Friday evening, and continued almost nonstop until 5 PM Saturday. (Friday night was more passive cooking than anything. I say passive…the barbacoa was in the oven. I should have been able to sleep through the night. But instead, I woke up several times, thinking “Is the oven on? I don’t smell the barbacoa. Oh no, what if I woke up in the morning and it’s been sitting cold in the oven? I’m screwed! Must get up and check.” I’d walk into the kitchen, check on the oven…still on. Peek inside. Looks good. Go back to bed. Repeat several times until 7am.) I started the smoker at about 9am, so I’d have plenty of time to get a good fire going. I had decided to smoke with oak only. Getting the temperature to stay around 250 degrees was a bit tricky at first, but after a while, I learned to combine larger logs with smaller ones at varying times with success. During the day, while babysitting the smoker, I prepared the sauces and side dishes. (My Mom graciously prepared the potato salad and brought it to my house, saving me some considerable time and kitchen space. Her potato salad is a deliciously creamy, mustard and mayo combination that goes with any barbecue.) I was pleased when the meats were coming to temperature on schedule, and everything was just finishing as everyone started to arrive.

We were expecting about 24 people, so we had extra tables and folding chairs all over the house. (I have a lot of tables and chairs – Thanksgiving and Christmas are often celebrated at our house, so I’m prepared.) It was all pretty casual (the norm for our family), so everyone just found a spot to sit and chat until time to eat.

And eat we did! The brisket was flavorful, with a good 1/2 inch ring of smoke around the outside of the meat. The pork shoulder and ribs had a succulent smoke flavor, and the ribs fell away from the bone. The sausages were slightly smoky, but not so much that the smoke covered up the seasonings. Of course, the sauces were enjoyed on every kind of meat. But the barbacoa was the talk of the night. Most had never eaten barbacoa, and a few decided not to try it (I suppose the idea of eating cow head was a bit much for some!), but everyone had questions. “Were there eyeballs?” “Can I see a picture?” “How did you cook it?” And of course, we ate our fill of potato salad, coleslaw, blackeyed peas, and a “Sock It To Me” cake that my sister-in-law brought. My niece brought some strawberry cupcakes, complete with M&Ms on top, that the kids thoroughly enjoyed.  

All in all, I felt it was a successful party. I was glad that my family was so willing to act as guinea pigs in my first big barbecue with the smoker. (But then again, who will turn down free food?) I would have liked for the brisket and pork shoulder to be a bit more moist, so this will be my goal for the next barbecue. My idea to remedy that? More frequent use of a mop – one with a higher oil content. We also prepared way too much potato salad and blackeyed peas – next time, we’ll cut those recipes down by half. (I did share with you a recipe for the blackeyed peas for a smaller crowd.) But after everyone had their fill, I think the conclusion was clear. No matter what kind of Texas barbecue is being served, we love it all. Every last bite.

Barbecue Rub (adapted from Saveur magazine, June/July 2009) – I used this on the brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder.

3 T kosher salt

3 T dark brown sugar

2 T paprika

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 ½ T mustard powder

3 T black pepper

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

 Mix in a jar. Store for up to 6 months.

 

Mop (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

8 oz brown sugar

16 oz canola oil

1 stick butter

8 oz white vinegar

5 oz Worcestershire sauce

Large dash celery salt

6-7 cloves garlic, smashed

3 onions, cut into large pieces

3 lemons, cut in half

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot, and add enough water to bring total about halfway up the pot. Bring to a simmer on the stove. Mop onto meat every 30 minutes to an hour with a basting brush or cotton mop.

 

 

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

West Texas Brisket

 1 8-10 lb untrimmed beef brisket, cut in half

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Rub brisket generously with rub. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke brisket, fat side up, mopping every 30 minutes, for 6-7 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 185 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice off the fat cap from top, and slice brisket thinly across the grain. Serve with ancho barbecue sauce.

Serves 8-10 people.

 

East Texas Pork Shoulder (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 bone-in pork shoulder roast, 4-5 lbs

6 T barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Season the pork roast with the rub, and wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke pork, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 4-5 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or pull pork from the bone, removing big chunks of fat as you go. Serve on sandwich rolls with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

 6-7 lbs pork spare ribs

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Sprinkle rub over ribs lightly. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke ribs, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 3 1/2 hours or until meat begins to fall off of bones. Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut ribs apart and serve with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 5-6 people.

 

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

4 lbs of your favorite fresh bratwurst sausage (I got mine at the meat counter at Sprouts)

Set up smoker for indirect heat with a water pan. Sear sausages over direct heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Move to indirect heat and smoke for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice on diagonal and serve.

 Serves 6-8 people.

 

 Barbacoa is traditionally cooked by wrapping in maguey leaves, banana leaves, foil or a canvas bag, and buried in an earthen pit with hot coals. However, as most of us don’t wish to dig a pit in our yard, (and in the restaurant business, the health department forbids it, save a few places that have been grandfathered), there are alternate ways of cooking the barbacoa. Most no longer use smoke at all. The oven makes a good alternate place to cook the barbacoa.

Barbacoa Tacos

Barbacoa Tacos

 

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 cow head, skinned and cleaned

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Chili powder to taste

2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters

 8 cups water

Sprinkle cow head all over with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Rub spices in. Wrap head in aluminum foil (you may need an extra hand for this), and place in large aluminum roaster pans. Place in oven at 250 degrees for 12-24 hours.

barbacoa after cooking

barbacoa after cooking

When barbacoa is done, pull cheek meat off, and remove the jaw bones. You’ll find another large piece of meat inside. Remove any other large chunks of meat you can find. Cut away excess fat and cartilage, but don’t clean the meat too thoroughly. (Some fat in the barbacoa is tasty!) Skin the tongue and break the tongue meat into small pieces as well. Wet the meat with some of the cooking liquid to keep moist. Serve with accompaniments as tacos.

Makes about 4-5 lbs of meat. 

 

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

 Accompaniments:

Corn tortillas

Lime quarters

Diced onion

Cilantro, chopped

Salsa pequin (recipe follows)

 

Salsa pequin (adapted from TasteofTx.com http://www.tasteoftx.com/recipes/salsa/pequin.html )

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

2 t garlic powder

1 t kosher salt

4 T dried crushed chile pequin

1 medium onion, quartered

 Add all ingredients together in food processor. Blend until desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. (I let it sit overnight.)

 

potato salad

Mom’s Potato Salad (adapted from, well…my Mom!)

30 medium potatoes

30 hard-boiled eggs, 26 diced, 4 sliced

2 c Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

1 c yellow mustard

1 large red onion, diced

2 c diced dill pickles

salt and pepper to taste

A few dashes of paprika

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain water and allow potatoes to cool. Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add potatoes, diced egg, Miracle Whip, mustard, onion, and pickles into a large bowl and gently mix. Salt and pepper to taste and mix. Lay slices of egg on top of potato salad as decoration. Sprinkle with paprika.

Serves about 30.

 coleslaw

Texas Coleslaw

½ c extra-virgin olive oil

½ c white vinegar

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

1 t celery seed

1 t sugar

1 t coarse ground mustard

¼ t cayenne pepper

1 medium head of green cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, shredded or julienned (I used my julienne peeler)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

Combine oil,vinegar, salt, pepper, celery seed, sugar, mustard and cayenne. Toss with the cabbage, carrots, apple and onion until well mixed. Allow to mellow in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Makes about 8 cups.

 

Ancho Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 T olive oil

2 c chopped onion

7 cloves garlic, chopped

1 c ketchup

½ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c brown sugar

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c lemon juice

1 ½ T coarse ground mustard

Salt to taste

 Soak the anchos in water for 30 minutes or until soft. Reserve water. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until wilted. Add ketchup and anchos and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients plus about ½ cup of ancho soaking water, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Before serving, add up to 1 cup of meat drippings and reheat. (do not store sauce with meat drippings)

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

2 c pineapple juice

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c wheat-free soy sauce

½ t salt

1 ¼ c ketchup

1 T coarse ground mustard

1 c chopped onion

½ t Chinese five-spice powder

1 ½ T Tabasco sauce

3 T molasses

1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded

 Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until onion and lemon are soft. Remove lemon, and remove sauce from heat. Allow to cool. Puree sauce in food processor. Reheat before serving.

 Makes about 4 cups.

 

East Texas Blackeyed Peas

4 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 lb fresh or frozen blackeyed peas

2 c chicken broth

water to cover

Heat large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes or until bacon starts to render fat and crisp a little. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and bacon is cooked through. Add blackeyed peas, chicken broth, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Serves 6-8.

Chocolate Chip Meringues

meringues

My husband and I took the week off last week so we could hang out with the kids. Nothing too exciting (a staycation, if you will), we basically just took them swimming, bowling, shopping, and did a lot of hanging around the house. Not to say that we weren’t busy – one of the projects we tackled was the making of ice cream throughout the week.

Each kid got a chance to prepare ice cream, whatever flavor they desired. As I presented this opportunity to them, I imagined we would be preparing all sorts of creative, never-seen-before ice cream concoctions. Nope. Chocolate, Vanilla with chocolate, and chocolate with chocolate swirl. I suppose I had forgotten that sometimes, the simplest answer is the best, at least when it comes to our kids and food. (This also means that most of my culinary experiments are lost on them…oh well.)

So after making batch after batch of ice cream, I wondered what to do with all of the leftover egg whites. I threw some into breakfast tacos (along with a whole egg or two – I’m not a fan of “egg white only” scrambled eggs). But I still had leftovers. Hmmm…what gluten-free baked goods could I make with egg whites (without a trip to the store)? The signs all pointed to one solution – meringues.

Meringues are one of the easier desserts to make, as they only use a handful of ingredients. At their most basic, they only contain egg whites and sugar. This recipe is adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Forgotten Kisses. My only change was that I eliminated nuts from his recipe, and used miniature chocolate chips, as they were on hand. They came together pretty quickly, and since the oven is turned off after preheating to bake them, I felt comfortable diverting my attention elsewhere for the remainder of the afternoon. Of course, after several hours had passed, I returned to remove them from the oven, and “taste test” one of the meringues. These treats are sweet and light, and delightfully melt in your mouth. The kids enjoyed them as well. Brittany exclaimed more than once while eating them “Wow, these are really good!”

 

Meringues, aka Forgotten Kisses, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 t cream of tartar

2/3 c granulated sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1 c miniature chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not dry. Add the sugar gradually. When half of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding sugar in batches, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very glossy and tight. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of one teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets. Space meringues 1 inch apart. Place baking sheets in oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies in the oven for at least 2 hours, or until cookies are crisp and dry. (don’t disturb or open the oven for 2 hours.)

Makes about 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

Kids in the Kitchen: Shrimp Scampi

P1010011Yesterday, Brittany began the second round of “Kids in the Kitchen”. This past week, she did not know what she wanted to prepare for her night in the kitchen. In an effort to help her generate ideas, I provided a few cookbooks. I was busy, so I wasn’t going through them with her at first. After a few minutes, she informed me she wanted to make soup…and showed me a berry soup recipe. Wonderful and tasty, I’m sure, but I had to explain to her that berry soup doesn’t really work as a dinner. (of course, I have a feeling that she and I would be happy with that for a light dinner, but we’re talking about feeding some hungry teenage boys here as well!) So she instead found herself in the seafood section, and found a shrimp scampi recipe. It’d be her second shrimp dish, but you’ll hear no complaints from me! She originally only wanted to serve bread with it. Knowing that again, certain boys in the house would be able to put away a pound of shrimp a piece (if I let them), causing this to become a high-priced meal, I encouraged her to come up with another side dish or two to round out the meal. (Besides, still working with the gluten-free diet, I would have otherwise ended up with only shrimp for dinner. Hmm.) We ended up with steamed corn on the cob. I suggested a bit of brown rice as well. So there wasn’t really a vegetable in this meal…we’ll work on that more in future rounds.

The shrimp scampi recipe is based on a recipe from Cooking Light. Personally, I have prepared shrimp scampi sans recipe many, many times, but we opted to rely on this recipe as a guideline, for purposes of instruction and ease. My only modification was to add butter (which makes it less “light”, I realize that…) It turned out quite well, and was super-speedy to prepare. (Shrimp is a fast-cooking option for dinner, which happens to make it great for weeknights as well.) Even though we doubled the recipe, Brittany had minimal prep work to do, as the only knife work needed was chopping a bit of garlic and parsley. (I peeled and deveined the shrimp while she was attending a birthday party…is that cheating?) Within a matter of minutes, dinner was ready to eat. And eat we did! I found pretty sizeable shrimp on sale, so these babies were plump, buttery, with just the right amount of garlic and that little burst of lemon. One of my favorite ways to enjoy shrimp. Brittany and I agreed we even liked this dish better than kabobs.

P1010005

Shrimp Scampi, adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

1 1/2 lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 c dry white wine

1/2 t kosher salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 T fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and butter, swirling butter until it melts. Add shrimp in a single layer, saute for about a minute. Add garlic, and flip shrimp, saute for another minute. Stir in wine, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook for 30 seconds. Add parsley and lemon juice, and toss well to coat. Cook 1 minute or until shrimp are cooked through.

Serves 4.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pecan and Cashew Chewy Cookies

chicken curry 171A few weeks back, I was visiting over at SippitySup and admiring some wonderful culinary creations, when I came across a truly wonderful bit of bliss. See, I believe that Greg and I are kin when it comes to cookie cravings. While I have never experienced the Harris Ranch Pecan Drop, I could only imagine the sheer magnificence of this cookie. I thank Greg for using his persuasive efforts in obtaining this recipe, and then sharing it with the world. Because, as you can see, this cookie contains no grains, and no dairy products, making it naturally gluten and dairy-free. I was just about leaping for joy.

This cookie, which I modified only to include cashews (I found out too late that I only had a pound of pecans, so I supplemented), is so deliciously chewy, sweet with a hint of salt, and in fact does remind you of pecan pie. It tastes so decadent, but contains no butter. You could almost call it healthy, if it weren’t for all that sugar. (I’ll let you consider it healthy – it’s a high-protein cookie, and that’s healthy, right?) These are incredibly addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Pecan and Cashew Chewy Cookies, as adapted from SippitySup, who borrowed it from Harris Ranch

2 1/2 c brown sugar

3/4 t salt

3/4 t vanilla extract

1 lb pecan pieces, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb cashew pieces, coarsely chopped

1/2 c egg whites (about 3-4 large egg whites)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and nuts. Beat on low speed to incorporate ingredients. Drizzle in egg whites. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat for 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough will be thick and sticky.

Drop your dough in rounded tablespoons onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press each ball of dough with your fingers to form a cookie about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, about 1/8 inch thick.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and immediately move cookies to a cooling rack. (These cookies are soft straight from the oven, so you will have to be careful to “peel” them from the parchment paper. They’ll firm up as they cool.) The next day, if you can wait that long, these cookies will have developed a chewier texture, making them even more addictive.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Gorditas with Shredded Beef (Gorditas con Carne Deshebrada)

gordita2

Have I told you before that I love Mexican food? Well, in case you didn’t hear…I love Mexican food. I could eat it every day. Around here, of course, the most abundant “Mexican” food is Tex-Mex. Gooey, cheesy enchiladas, crunchy tacos, chile con queso and lots of flour tortillas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that cuisine, but sometimes I want real Mexican food. When this craving hits, I often turn to my Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless cookbooks.

This recipe was the result of one such craving. Didn’t know what I wanted, but I started thumbing through Rick Bayless’s Mexico One Plate At A Time, and stopped at this gorditas recipe. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to experience true gorditas (once or twice at a hole-in-the-wall place – of which I cannot remember the name - in Oak Cliff), but I knew I just had to make these. Crispy corn masa pockets, stuffed with a saucy shredded beef? What could be more wonderful than that?

Of course, this is not a quick recipe. Not for the weeknights when you want something on the table in a flash. (You could, however, make the beef ahead of time, and even go so far as pan-bake the gorditas and refrigerate until you were ready to fry up the gorditas.) However, if you have the time, I highly recommend making these…they are so worth it. The meat is saucy, with just a hint of heat, very savory. I substituted Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix for the flour, and the gorditas came out with a great, slightly chewy and crisp texture. As for the filling, feel free to experiment a bit. If you have leftover shredded pork or chicken, use that. (with a tomatillo salsa, perhaps?) I contemplated a grilled shrimp and cheese concoction, I might have to make that soon. Or you could go vegetarian, with some mushrooms, or a mix of sauteed poblanos and cheese…the possibilities are endless. If you do come up with a good idea (or two), tell me! I’d love to hear about it.

(Adapted From Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate At A Time)

For the beef:

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces

3 small white onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 T vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2 inch for frying

1 28-0z can of good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (I pureed them)

3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 t chipotle chili powder

Salt to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions and 1/2 the garlic. Simmer until meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or two forks.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set over medium heat, and add the 1 tablespoon oil. When hot, add 1/2 of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, chiles, and chipotle powder and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the meat and simmer for a few more minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed. Keep warm.

For the gorditas:

1 3/4 c powdered masa harina mixed with 1 c plus 2 T warm water

1/3 c Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 c grated Mexican queso anejo (can substitute grated Romano or Parmesan)

1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a heavy cast-iron or other heavy nonstick griddle over medium. Knead the masa to make it pliable, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a soft-cookie-dough consistency. Knead in the Pamela’s baking mix, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out.

Line a tortilla press with two pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (a food storage bag works well for this). Gently press a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/4 inch thick). Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the fingers of one hand and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. In one flowing movement, roll the gordita off your hand and onto the heated skillet. Bake for 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove and set on a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining gorditas.

In the cast-iron or other deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium to medium-high until the oil is at about 350 degrees. One by one, fry the gorditas, turning them over after they have been in the oil about 15 seconds, and cooking them for a total of about 45 second, or until crisp but not hard. Most will have puffed up a little. Drain on paper towels.

Once the are all fried, use a knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around its circumference, opening a pocket. Fill each gordita with about 1/4 cup shredded meat, a little onion, grated cheese, and cilantro.

Serves 10 as a snack, or 4-5 as a meal.

Korean Short Ribs Tacos

korean BBQ tacos

One day, I was minding my own business, sifting through Serious Eats, when I came across an article about Kogi BBQ trucks. (see the article here: http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/02/a-typical-day-on-the-kogi-bbq-taco-truck-inside-look-ride-along.html) You see, Kogi BBQ is a taco truck company in Los Angeles. First of all, I am jealous of these taco trucks in general…Dallas isn’t much for the taco truck scene, and honestly, I think they’re seriously missing out on that one. I would kill to have a taco truck near my office, so I could just sneak out, every so often, and grab a mess of street food deliciousness for lunch. I’d be in heaven. (I might also be the size of a house…but let’s not talk about that.)

Anyway, back to Kogi. Kogi BBQ has quickly acquired something of a cult following, with people waiting in obscenely long lines just to get a taste of what they have to offer. What do they offer, exactly? Chef Roy Choi has created a menu of Korean-Mexican dishes to sell off of the trucks. Most popular items are the tacos, with fillings such as spicy pork, barbequed chicken, tofu, or their “signature” taco – the Korean Short Ribs Taco. A description of this taco, directly from Kogi BBQ’s site:

This is our signature taco. We get the best trimmings of short ribs we can find, let it swim in our own special marinade, and chop it nice and small so the flavors just dance on your taste buds. Once on the grill, the fat melts away to create that soft and tender texture everyone loves and the sugars just caramelize to give the meat that deep and savory flavor. This is the Kogi crowd favorite.

All our tacos are topped with:

  • sesame-chili salsa roja
  • julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette
  • cilantro-green onion-lime relish
  • crushed sesame seeds
  • sea salt
  • garnished with lime wedge, orange wedge and red radish wedge

 

I’ll pause for a moment and let the utter magnificence of this creation sink into your brain.

If you’re like I was, now you can’t possibly think of anything else but this enticing, tempting taco. You see, it haunted me. I too wanted to experience the greatness of Kogi BBQ. But I’m in Dallas, with no plans to visit L.A. in the near future. What was I to do?

Make it myself, of course.

Well, not exactly, as you  and I both know that Roy Choi would not hand over his secret recipes to little ol’ me. But I figured, with a little ingenuity, I could create what I imagine the flavors would be like. And so, I began planning.

First off, I wanted to make the short ribs. I found a marinade recipe for Kalbi on Wandering Chopsticks that sounded perfect. A blend of sweet, salty, and savory, this would be a great base for my delicious tacos. As for the condiments, I took a cue from Kogi BBQ’s description, and made my version of a cilantro-onion relish, a salsa roja, and a vinaigrette for lettuce. Along with the other condiments, we were in business!

Preparing these was a breeze. There are a lot of little components, but each is relatively simple, and they come together pretty quickly. A good thing, because I couldn’t wait to get a taste of these babies!

And how did it taste? Well, I can’t tell you if it was close to the original, because I wouldn’t know, but if they were anywhere close, then I am in awe of Roy Choi’s creativity. The description Kogi BBQ gave, saying that the flavors dance on your tastebuds? Yeah. They do. But it’s not a delicate ballet. This is samba-meets-breakdancing, in-your-face dancing. The beef is tender and sweet-savory, but is brightened by the zap of the lime and orange juices. Salsa roja heats your mouth, but is cooled by the crunch of the lettuce and cilantro-onion relish. Crunchy and tender, salty, sweet, and savory, spicy and cool…my husband and I couldn’t get enough.

So I hope that one day I can experience a real Kogi BBQ taco. Or two, or three. But until then, this will become a regular on our menu.

For the marinade (adapted from Wandering Chopsticks):

1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce

1 T sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 T brown sugar

2 T rice wine

1 t black pepper

2 t salt

1 pear, peeled and roughly chopped

2 lbs boneless beef short ribs

Place everything but the beef in a food processor and puree. Pour marinade over meat and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a grill over high heat. Grill beef for about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked medium. Remove from grill, and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Taste and salt if necessary.

For the cilantro-onion relish:

½ red onion, minced

1 t rice wine vinegar

1 T cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch or two of salt

Add onions and rice wine vinegar in a bowl. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Add rest of ingredients to onion and stir to mix.

 

For the sesame-chili salsa roja:

½ c sambal oelek (Asian garlic-chili sauce)

¼ t minced ginger

1 t sesame oil

Stir together thoroughly.

 

For the chili-soy-sesame vinaigrette – to dress the lettuce:

1 T gluten-free soy sauce

juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 t sambal oelek (Asian garlic-chili sauce)

2 T sesame oil

pinch of salt

1 head romaine lettuce, cut into thin strips

Stir together soy sauce, lime juice, and sambal oelek. Whisk in sesame oil and salt. Toss lettuce with a light coat of dressing.

 

To make the tacos:

Corn tortillas

Grilled beef short ribs

Cilantro-onion relish

Sesame-chili salsa roja

Toasted sesame seeds

Romaine lettuce, dressed with chili-soy-sesame vinaigrette

Lime wedges

Orange wedges

Radish slices

Heat corn tortillas individually on a comal or cast iron pan until warm. Assemble tacos by placing some beef in each tortilla, and top with cilantro-onion relish, sesame-chili salsa roja, sesame seeds, dressed lettuce, and a lime wedge, orange wedge, and radishes.

Serves 4.

Chicken Curry

chicken curry 030

In the middle of the day last Thursday, I realized that the dinner I had planned to make was not going to work without a trip to the store. I had already used some of the key ingredients to make it earlier in the week. (I hate when this happens. I write down ”cilantro” on the grocery list, not remembering that I need to purchase enough for two dishes, and then I come home with just a single bunch, screwing myself out of the second dish. I only had a smidgen left. So much for planning meals out for the week.) I did not have the desire to go to the store, and I didn’t have the time or the creativity to consider creating something out of the available pantry ingredients at home. I was headed down the road towards a) frozen gluten-free pizza, or b) take-out. Neither of which sounded like a winner.

And then I receive an email. Actually, two emails, from my wonderful grandmother. (Yes, that grandmother.) She was looking through a magazine and found two recipes she thought I would like to try. One was a flourless almond torte, (which I will have to make soon!) and the other? A chicken curry. I looked through the recipe, and realized I had all of the ingredients on hand. It looked as though it was a quick dish to throw together too…an added bonus on a weeknight.

This recipe just goes to show you that you don’t always have to spend hours in the kitchen, or have a long list of ingredients and complicated steps to make a delicious dish. This curry was bright, with a good amount of heat to it (but not too much!). The flavors of the masala made this dish feel as though it was a comfort dish I’d turn to time and time again, without the heavy, calorie-laden sauces that accompany most “comfort dishes.”

A big thanks to Grandma, as she saved the day!

Adapted from Guideposts:

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t masala (recipe follows)

1 t fresh ginger, grated

2 t fresh garlic, grated

1 small onion, diced

4 T olive oil

salt, to taste

1 small tomato, chopped

1 c frozen peas

A few sprigs of cilantro leaves

Combine chicken, masala, ginger, garlic, and onion in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add salt. Mix well, making sure chicken is fully coated. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Over medium heat, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the marinated chicken and cover skillet. After about 10 minutes, stir chicken, and add tomato and peas. Allow ingredients to simmer over medium heat until fully cooked, 5-10 minutes more (depends on the size of your chicken pieces).

Serve over steamed Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serves 4.

For the masala:

1 1/2 t cayenne pepper

1 T paprika

1/4 t cumin

1/4 t ground coriander

1/4 fennel seed, crushed or ground

1/4 t garam masala

1/4 t turmeric

Combine all spices thoroughly. Store in a jar for up to three months.

Kids in the Kitchen: Spaghetti and (Gluten-Free) Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsTonight was Matt’s night in the kitchen. Matt has somewhat picky tastes, but he’ll eat just about anything if it involves pasta or wrapped in a tortilla. So it was no surprise to any of us that spaghetti and meatballs was his first choice. He could eat spaghetti every day, if allowed. So spaghetti it was.

Of course, with my recent decision to go gluten-free, I knew that I would have to make some modifications. Gluten-free spaghetti is easy – Glutino sells some brown rice pasta. (Of course, brown rice works just as well in a pinch.) However, my usual meatball recipe calls for bread crumbs. I could omit them, but I was afraid the meatballs would be soggy and dense. I had some Glutino Flax Seed Bread, (which makes really good toast!) so I figured, why not make bread crumbs from this? Blitzed 4 slices in the food processor, and ta-da, gluten-free bread crumbs! We were in business.

Matt was a fast learner in the kitchen. Good thing, because his dish called for more ingredients than the dishes his siblings prepared. His favorite part, obviously, was making the meatballs. (He kept rolling HUGE meatballs, and telling his brother that they were his “dream” meatballs.) With the laughing and joking around, the preparation went by rather quickly. We had those meatballs in the oven in what seemed like a matter of minutes.

Matt mixing the meat for meatballs

Matt mixing the meat for meatballs

Speaking of a matter of minutes, this tomato sauce recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Who needs 15-plus ingredients and a long simmer time to make a great tomato sauce? As I’ve found out recently, not I! This sauce is so tasty and bright, with a good kick from the red pepper, and only uses 7 ingredients (if you count salt as an ingredient).

All in all, this turned out to be a satisfying meal. After tonight, the first round of “Kids in the Kitchen” is complete. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think we’re beginning something that will continue to be a source of fun and education for a long while to come.

 

Gluten-Free Meatballs (adapted from Cuisine At Home)

1 1/2 c gluten-free breadcrumbs

3/4 c parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/2 c milk

1/2 c vegetable broth

1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

2 T dried oregano

1 T garlic, minced

1 1/2 t salt

1 T ground black pepper

2 t dried basil

1 t crushed red pepper flakes

pinch nutmeg

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 c vegetable or chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stir together first 13 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large mixing bowl. Add ground beef and mix together thoroughly. (We used our hands – clean, of course.) Take a portion of meat (about 1 1/2 oz each, or nearly 2 inches in diameter) and roll into a ball with your palms. (Alternatively, you can use a portioning scoop or two spoons.) Place the meatballs on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, evenly spaced.

chicken curry 042

Cover the bottom of the pan wiht the remaining 1 cup of broth. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are just cooked through.

While the meatballs are baking, you can prepare the pasta according to package directions, and start the sauce.

Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce

3 T olive oil

2 t crushed red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 28-0z cans crushed tomatoes

salt to taste

2 T basil leaves, julienned

1 t oregano leaves, chopped

Combine olive oil, red pepper and garlic in cold saucepan. Heat to medium, stirring while heating. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir to heat. Add salt to taste, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in basil and oregano, and add meatballs (once baked).

Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired. Serves 6.

Fourth of July Recipes

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of plans for the 4th this year. It’s more of a “go-with-the-flow” kind of weekend for us. Not that I mind that. Sometimes, one’s mind gets stressed from planning every moment of the day. The key here for me is to take advantage of the lack of plans, and relax…an activity of which I don’t do enough.

However, I won’t leave you in a lurch regarding those Fourth of July recipes. We’re friends, and I wouldn’t do that to you! I happen to have a few (okay, more than a few) I’ve gathered to graciously share with you, some of which I’ve tried, (some are posted on Tasty Eats At Home, after all) and some of which just look so darned delicious, I have them on my “must try” list. This way, you won’t have to resort to bringing the same ol’ coleslaw or potato salad to the party you are attending.

Simple Fruit Salad from Elana’s Pantry

Snappy Crunchy Coleslaw from Karina’s Kitchen

Southwestern Coleslaw from Tasty Eats At Home

Aunt Jan’s Salad from Tasty Eats At Home

Mediterranean Pepper Salad from Smitten Kitchen

Grilled Potato Salad from 101 Cookbooks

Guacamole from Tasty Eats At Home

Grilled Goat Kebabs from Blue Kitchen

Lettuce-Wrapped Vietnamese Pork Burgers from SippitySup

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt from Closet Cooking

Chocolate Sherbet from David Lebovitz

Butterscotch Ice Cream from Tasty Eats At Home

One more thing. You may see some changes to the way the blog looks in the next few days. No worries, it’s just me, slowly (I am not too technology-savvy, so these things take time) changing things up a bit, hopefully for the better. Feedback is always is appreciated though.

Happy Fourth of July!