Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tangy Achiote-rubbed Grilled Chicken Tacos

Dr. Sweetpea and I love the chicken burritos from Chipotle. I've been searching for a marinade that I can make at home and taste similar to the chicken that we have at the fast food chain and I found it! It's from the Tacolicious Cookbook and since we live in Houston, it was super easy to find all the ingredients that I need to make this delicious chicken taco. It's definitely a keeper for us!

Tangy Achiote Rubbed Grilled Chicken Tacos
(Source: Tacolicious Cookbook)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 tablespoons arbol chile powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried mexican oregano
2 teaspoons agave nectar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 freshly squeezed orange juice

Put the chicken in a large, heavy duty zip top plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine the annatto seeds, allspice, tumeric, chile powder, salt, oregano, agave nectar, garlic, vinegar, and orange juice and mix well. Add the spice mixture to the chicken and seal the bag closed. Massage the contents of the bag to coat both sides of the chicken evenly with marinade. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Prepare a medium fire for direct heat cooking in a grill. Bring the chicken thighs to room temperature and remove them from the marinade. Place the chicken on the grill rack directly over the fire and cook, turning after about 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes on the other side. If the chicken is starting to burn or cook too quickly, move to a part of the grill with indirect heat and continue to cook. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Fresh French Fruit Tart

One of my favorite desserts is the French Fruit Tart. Whenever I go to Central Market here in Houston, I always buy one as a small treat for us. I was browsing recipes online a few days ago to see if I can make one at home and came across the recipe from Pierre Herme's, who is a world renowned French Pastry Chef. I knew I had to try his recipe and bought the ingredients to make the tart at home. The only change made was using the America's Test Kitchen filling recipe but I found on their website. The tart was absolutely amazing and it'll be our go to tart recipe. Dr. Sweetpea kept raving about how it tasted just like the tarts we buy from Central Market.

Pierre Herme's French Fresh Fruit Tart
(Source: Whipped The Blog)

Pierre Herme’s Vanilla Pastry Cream
Fills one 9 or 10 inch tart
2 cups whole milk
1 most, plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a small saucepan, bring milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and turn off heat and let rest to infuse vanilla for 10 minutes.

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Set aside smaller bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in the ice bath. Set aside fine mesh strainer with it.

Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Remove vanilla bean pod from hot milk. Slowly drizzle some milk into yolks, whisking continuously. Still whisking, pour in all the liquid in a steady stream. Place the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously without stopping, bring mixture to a boil. Keep at boil while whisking for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape pastry cream into the small bowl in put it in the ice bath.

Stir the pastry cream continuously as it cools to keep it smooth. When it is about 140 degrees (very warm to the touch but not extremely hot) stir in butter in 3 or 4 additions. Return to ice bath and leave until cooled. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

America's Test Kitchen Pastry Cream (this is the filling that I used but will try Pierre Herme's recipe next time) 

2              cups half-and-half
1/2           cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
5              large egg yolks
3              tablespoons cornstarch
4              tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2        teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

Pierre Herme’s Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 3 tarts

2 1/2 sticks (285g) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups (150g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed (100g / 3 ¼ oz) finely ground almond powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups (490g / 17¼ oz) all-purpose flour, sifted

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment and beat until creamy, scraping down the edges as needed. Add the sugar almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping sides as needed. (dough may look curdled, that is okay)
With the machine on low, add the flour in three parts and mix until the dough mixture starts to get together. Do not over mix – stop when the dough comes together in a soft ball, just a matter of seconds.
Remove the sweet pastry dough and divide into thirds, shape each third into a ball and flatten it slightly and then wrap in plastic wrap. If using the dough immediately, let it settle in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. To freeze, put the wrapped disks in freezer bag and use within a month. (When starting from the frozen pastry disks, thaw about 45 minutes before the dough is ready for rolling out.)

To roll and bake the tart, butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan. Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin, then roll out the pastry disk, working it in each direction to ease the shape into a circular shape between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick. Carefully lay the rolled dough over the tart dish. With your fingers, gently ease the dough into the corners and up the sides. If the shell cracks, use scraps to patch. Use the rolling pin or knife to cut off excess edges. Prick the surface all over with a fork. Line the shell with parchment or foil and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until it is lightly colored. Remove the parchment or foil and beans and bake an additional 2-3 minutes to firm up the bottom. (I baked our crust for about 10 more minutes). Cook tart on a rack.


Pour the pastry cream into the cooked tart shell. Top with sliced fruit of your choice. If you want to glaze the fruit, combine 1/2 c. fruit juice (pineapple, peach, etc.), 1/4 c. sugar and 2 tbsp. cornstarch in saucepan, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. It should be clear. Remove from heat; cool until lukewarm. Spoon over fresh fruit on top of the tart. (*I used water instead of fruit juice to make the glaze)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chili Mac

One of my favorite meals when I lived in the dorms during college was chili mac. I remember it used to show up in the cafeteria once every two weeks in the fall/winter months and I'd always look at the menu that was posted online to see if it was being served. It seriously was my favorite comfort foods as a college kid. Anyway, it was unusually cold in Houston for the last few days and I started craving chili mac for dinner. I decided to try the America's Test Kitchen recipe and it was amazing! Totally hit the spot on a cold day. Dr. Sweetpea was also a fan of this meal so this is definitely going in our dinner rotation. 

Chili Mac
(Source: America's Test Kitchen)

1/2         pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked pasta)
3              tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2      pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
2              medium onions, chopped medium
1              red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
6              medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2              tablespoons chili powder
1              tablespoon ground cumin
1              (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1              (28-ounce) can tomato puree
1              tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
8              ounces Colby Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 2/3 cups)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni; cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and set aside.

Wipe the Dutch oven dry. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink and beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain the beef through a colander, discarding the drippings, and set it aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the Dutch oven and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree, brown sugar, the reserved pasta water, and the drained beef; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 15 minutes. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Potato Leek Soup

Dr. Sweetpea has been craving Potato Leek Soup for some time. So I started google recipes online and came across the Potato Leek Soup recipe by Once Upon a Chef. I've tried several of her recipes already and they all turned out amazing, so I knew this one would be a hit too. Dr. Sweetpea said this soup was the best Potato Leek Soup that he's ever had and so this recipe is also a keeper recipe in our household.

Potato Leek Soup
(Source: Once Upon a Chef) 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped (about 5 cups)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
7 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Chives, finely chopped, for serving

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so as not to brown.
Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft. Fish out the thyme sprig and bay leaves, then purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches; see note.) Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If soup is too thin, simmer until thickened. If it's too thick, add water or stock to thin it out. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

If you've been following my blog this whole time, then you'll know that Dr. Sweetpea loves loves LOVES Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. Whenever I say I'm in a mood to bake, he'll always request Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. This brings me to my next point, I hoard all sorts of OCC recipes just so I can try new ones out because Dr. Sweetpea loves them. I came across this recipe a few weeks ago and it was a massive hit. The cookies were soft, chewy, and absolutely addicting!

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon ,to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter ,melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips , your favorite kind
1/2 cup chopped walnuts , optional but recommended

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda & salt. In a separate bowl beat together the melted butter and sugars using an electric mixer. Add in the honey, vanilla and egg and continue beating until combined. Turn the mixer down to low and beat in the flour mixer until almost combined. Add in the oats and beat on medium speed until combined. Then turn off the mixer and stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the chopped walnuts. Form the dough into balls of about 1/4 cup . Flatten slightly, set on a plate and cover with clingfilm. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and place the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the tops of the cookies look almost set. Remove from the oven and dot the tops of the cookies with the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. Allow to cool on the cookie tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Soy Mustard Glazed Salmon

This is another fantastic salmon recipe for an easy weeknight meal. It's very similar to the Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed salmon recipe that I posted several posts ago but with a different glaze. Dr. Sweetpea loved this meal and it will remain in our regular dinner rotation.

Soy Mustard Glazed Salmon
(Source: America's Test Kitchen)

1              teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2         teaspoon kosher salt
1/4         teaspoon cornstarch
4              center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each (see note)
Ground black pepper
1              teaspoon vegetable oil

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine brown sugar, salt, and cornstarch in small bowl. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top of flesh side of salmon, rubbing to distribute.

Heat oil in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place salmon, flesh side down, in skillet and cook until well browned, about 1 minute. Using tongs, carefully flip salmon and cook on skin side for 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat and spoon glaze evenly over salmon fillets. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until center of thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer fillets to platter or individual plates and serve.

Soy Mustard Glaze

3              tablespoons light brown sugar
2              tablespoons soy sauce
2              tablespoons mirin
1              tablespoon sherry vinegar
1              tablespoon whole grain mustard
1              tablespoon water
1              teaspoon cornstarch
1/8           teaspoon red pepper flakes

Whisk ingredients together in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Shish Tawook

Dr. Sweetpea and I LOVE Lebanese food. I was introduced to it when we were living in Chicago and there was this fabulous Lebanese restaurant that had amazing food. If I could eat without gaining any weight, I'd eat there every day. Anyway, I was browsing around Pinterest in bed one morning and came across this Shish Tawook recipe. It's similar to chicken kebabs but more garlicy, plus, it's meat on a stick. Who doesn't love meat on a stick?! Seriously! I bought the ingredients right away, let it marinade in the fridge for a few days, and grilled it after I got home from work for our dinner and it was fabulous! Dr. Sweetpea ate the chicken wrapped in pita bread and veggies and loved it. This is definitely a keeper recipe in our household.

Shish Tawook

2 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-1 ½ inch pieces
For the Marinade
1 lemon, juiced (roughly 1/4 cup)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients together. Place the cubed chicken into a flat, sealable container and pour the marinade over the chicken. Mix the chicken with the marinade to be sure all the pieces are well-coated. Cover the container and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. Preheat your grill to a medium heat, roughly 350F. Thread the chicken pieces onto the soaked skewers, pressing the pieces up against each other. Grill the chicken skewers for 8-10 minutes a side, until the chicken is firm and golden. Serve the shish tawook with pita bread and sliced tomatoes or with rice and grilled vegetables.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Slow Roasted Spiced Pork

Before heading home for Christmas, I watched an episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten made this delicious looking Slow Roasted Spiced Pork for dinner. I emailed the recipe to myself and made a mental note that I would make for us after the holidays. Dr. Sweetpea loved that I was making slow roasted pork but was skeptical about the spice mixture until he started to smell the pork roasting away in the oven. It took a long time to cook but it was totally worth the wait. Dr. Sweetpea RAVED about how good the pork turned out. In fact, after we ate most of the leftovers a few days later, I tried to toss the little bit of pork out but Dr. Sweetpea dove right into the garbage can and shoved the little piece of pork into his mouth. It's. That. Good. 

Slow Roasted Spiced Pork
(Source: Ina Garten)

1 (7- to 9-pound) bone-in pork butt with a layer of fat on top
6 garlic cloves
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs removed, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 (750 ml) bottle dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Lime wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Test your oven with an oven thermometer to be sure it's accurate!

Score the fat on the pork diagonally with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern. With a small paring knife, make a dozen 1/2-inch-deep cuts in the top and sides of the pork to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat.

Place the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and oregano in a food processor and process until the ingredients are finely chopped. Add the cumin, chile powder, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and process for 30 seconds to make a paste. Add the vinegar and olive oil and process to incorporate. Rub the mixture all over the pork, including the sides and the bottom, and place the pork in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Pour 2 cups of the wine into the pan and cover the whole roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 2 1/2 hours, remove the foil, and roast for another 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until the meat is very, very tender when tested with a carving fork. Every 2 hours, add another cup of wine to keep some liquid in the pan.

Remove the pan from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and allow the meat to rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Slice, sprinkle with salt, and serve with lime wedges on the side.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thai Massaman Curry

When we lived in Minneapolis, there was this fabulous Thai restaurant where I ordered Massaman Curry all. the. time. I was absolutely addicted to the peanut flavored curry and I'd literally eat every drop of the sauce. I haven't found a place that makes Massaman curry that well in Houston yet but I attempted to make it myself and home and it turned out AMAZING. Dr. Sweetpea had two servings in one sitting and all the left overs were gone the next day. This is definitely a keeper in our household!

Thai Massaman Curry
(Source: Life Made Simple 

2 tbsp. olive oil, coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices
2 cans (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. red curry paste
1 (4 oz) can massaman curry
1 lb. chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts

In a large skillet or dutch oven set over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, saute the onion until tender. Add the carrots and potatoes, cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken broth, bring mixture to a simmer. Add peanut butter, brown sugar, lime juice, fish sauce and curry pastes, mix to combine. Let the potatoes and carrots simmer for 10 minutes, then add the sliced chicken. Continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is fully cooked. Remove from the heat, serve over freshly cooked white or brown rice. Garnish with additional peanuts, sliced lime and thai basil, if desired.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pork with Mushroom Sauce

Back in December, I watched Ina Garten on make her Filet Mignon with Mustard and Mushrooms and immediately made a mental note that I'd have to make that for Dr. Sweetpea after the holidays when we're back in Houston. Since Filet Mignon tends to be pricey, I substituted bone-in pork chops and they still turned out amazing. I think the sauce is really what makes this meal over the top but it's super easy, tasty, and perfect to serve when you have guests over. Dr. Sweetpea kept raving about how good his meal is. 

Pork with Mushroom Sauce
(Source: Ina Garten) 

2 (2-inch-thick) filets mignons, tied (10 to 12 ounces each)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Be sure your stove is well ventilated!

Heat a large (10-inch) cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Pat the filets dry with paper towels and brush all over with the canola oil. Combine the fleur de sel and cracked pepper on a small plate and roll the filets on the top, bottom and sides in the seasoning, pressing lightly to coat. When the skillet is very hot, add the filets and sear evenly all over (top, bottom and sides) for about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer the steaks from the skillet to a sheet pan (set the skillet aside) and place in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, until the steaks register 120 degrees F on a meat thermometer for medium rare. Remove from the oven, cover the sheet pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium (8-inch) saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until they release their juices. Stir in the sherry and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and set aside.

At the same time, add the olive oil to the cast-iron skillet (don’t wipe it out), add the shallots and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Add the Cognac, stirring to deglaze the skillet, and cook for 2 minutes, until the Cognac evaporates and the shallots are tender. Stir in the cream and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the two mustards and taste for seasonings.

Remove the strings from the filets and place on a platter. Spoon the mustard sauce around the filets. Spoon the mushrooms on top of the filets and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Want an easy salmon dinner midweek that comes together in minutes?! This is it! I absolutely love making salmon for weeknight dinners because it's so easy and quick. Thanksfully, Dr. Sweetpea loves salmon for dinner regularly. I saw the recipe for the Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed Salmon on America's Test Kitchen and knew it would be a hit. It's sweet, tart, and thick so it doesn't drip off the salmon. Dr. Sweetpea raved about how good salmon was and ate two servings for dinner! 

Pomegranate Balsamic Glazed Salmon
(Source: America's Test Kitchen) 

1              teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2         teaspoon kosher salt
1/4         teaspoon cornstarch
4              center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each (see note)
Ground black pepper
1              teaspoon vegetable oil

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine brown sugar, salt, and cornstarch in small bowl. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over top of flesh side of salmon, rubbing to distribute. Heat oil in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place salmon, flesh side down, in skillet and cook until well browned, about 1 minute. Using tongs, carefully flip salmon and cook on skin side for 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and spoon glaze evenly over salmon fillets. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until center of thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer fillets to platter or individual plates and serve.

3              tablespoons light brown sugar
3              tablespoons pomegranate juice
2              tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1              tablespoon whole grain mustard
1              teaspoon cornstarch
pinch cayenne pepper

Whisk ingredients together in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Cookies 2017

It's December, so that means it's Christmas cookie baking season!!! I made a plethora of cookies to be mailed out this year again and they are all DELICIOUS!! Dr. Sweetpea brought some of the cookies to work to share with his colleagues and everyone asked for my recipes because cookies were addicting. So without further a do, below are the recipes for the cookies that I baked this year:

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti
(Source: Ina Garten) 

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature, one separated (I used regular large eggs)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
11/3 cups almond meal or almond flour, such as Bob?s Red Mill
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup whole dried cherries
Turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the 2 whole eggs, the egg yolk (reserve the egg white), and vanilla and mix until combined, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula.

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing only until combined. Scrape down the bowl and beater and make sure all the ingredients are combined. Stir in the pistachios and cherries.

Roll the dough into a ball on a well-floured board and cut in half. With floured hands, roll each piece into a cylinder about 11 inches long by 2 inches in diameter and place them 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pan.

Place the reserved egg white in a bowl and beat with a whisk for 15 seconds. Brush the logs with the egg white (save the rest!) and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of turbinado sugar. Bake for 45 minutes, until lightly browned (the logs will be soft). Cool for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 275 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. With a serrated knife, slice the biscotti 1/2 inch thick at a full 45-degree angle. Place the slices cut-side up on the prepared sheet pans. Brush them with the egg white and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar (I didn’t do this part). Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning each slice once, until browned and fully baked. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
(Source: Fine Cooking)

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese (I use Philadelphia brand), softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
11 1/4 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Colored sugars or other decorations for sprinkling (optional)

Heat the oven to 375°F. With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat again until blended. Add the flour and mix on low speed until blended. Fit a cookie press with a die plate. Scoop up about a quarter of the dough and, using a small amount of flour if needed, shape the dough into a log just narrower than the barrel of the cookie press. Slide the log into the cookie press and spritz the cookies directly onto ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar if using. Repeat with the remaining dough. Bake until the cookies are just golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes (it’s best to bake one sheet at a time). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Be sure the baking sheet is cool before spritzing more cookies. Store at room temperature or freeze in an airtight container, separating the cookie layers with waxed paper.

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies
(Source: Cooks Country) 

2 1/3      cups all-purpose flour
1/2         teaspoon baking powder
1/2         teaspoon table salt
16          tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
1            cup packed light brown sugar
1            large egg
1            teaspoon vanilla extract
1            cup Heath Toffee Bits (without chocolate)
1 1/2      cups semisweet chocolate chips
1            tablespoon vegetable oil
2/3         cup pecans, toasted and chopped fine

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together. With electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in two batches, and mix until incorporated. Stir in toffee bits. Divide dough in half and roll each piece into log about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Flatten logs until 2 1/2 inches wide. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 1/2 hours. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using chef’s knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch slices; transfer to baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until just browned around edges, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating rack position and direction of baking sheets halfway through baking time. Cool cookies completely on baking sheets. Use remaining dough to make second batch of cookies. Transfer baked cookies to wire rack set in baking sheet. Melt chocolate and mix with oil in bowl until smooth. Dip part of each cookie into melted chocolate or drizzle chocolate over cookies with spoon. Sprinkle pecans over cookies. Don’t touch until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.

Linzer Cookies
(Source: NY Times)

3  cups/435 grams all-purpose flour
1  cup/156 grams raw, skin-on almonds (or 3/4 cup/75 grams almond flour)
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon (I omitted)
1  teaspoon baking powder
1  teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2  cups/341 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4  cups/250 grams granulated sugar
2  large eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla extract
1  cup/290 grams raspberry jam
 Powdered sugar, for dusting

Pulse together flour and almonds in a food processor until the almonds are very finely ground. Add cinnamon, baking powder and salt, and pulse to blend. (Alternatively, whisk together flour, ground almonds or almond flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.)

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together on medium-high until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract, and beat until everything is well combined, again stopping to scrape down bowl as necessary.

Add in dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed, just until incorporated.

Divide dough in 2 equal pieces, and wrap each piece in cling film, patting into a 1-inch-thick disk. Chill at least 2 hours, up to 5 days ahead.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper so it's about 1/8 inch thick. (Because of the almonds, the dough may crack in places while you’re rolling it out. This is O.K., just patch it up with scraps.)

Using a round cookie cutter 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out as many circles as possible. Take half of these circles and cut out a 1-inch circle from the interior of the larger circles, creating a doughnut shape that will become the top of the cookie. If at any point the dough becomes too soft to cut and cleanly remove from parchment paper, slide it onto a cookie sheet and chill for a few minutes in the freezer or refrigerator. Gather any scraps of dough, combine them and roll them out, chilling as necessary. Transfer dough circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet spaced 1 inch apart and bake until the edges are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

To assemble the linzer cookies, spread about a teaspoon of raspberry jam onto the flat sides of the larger circles. Dust the tops of the cutout circles with powdered sugar and place on top of raspberry jam.

Chocolate Blossoms
(Source: America's Test Kitchen)

1 cup (5 ounces) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (4 2/3 ounces) sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24-26 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, unwrapped

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heave oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Microwave butter and chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring often, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes;  let cool slightly. Add sugar, egg and white, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Using rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Let dough sit until thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls; space balls 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Bake until puffed and just set, 10 - 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Working quickly, remove sheets from oven and place 1 candy in center of each cookie, pressing down lightly. Return sheets to oven and bake 2 minutes longer. Let cookies cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Homemade Marshmallows

If I knew making marshmallows at home would be so easy, I would have made them from scratch YEARS ago! They are SO much better than the stuff that you buy at the grocery store. Dr. Sweetpea kept raving about how tasty the homemade marshmallows are and kept grabbing one or two whenever he was in the kitchen. I'm planning on dipping these in chocolate next year and giving them away in the cookie tins. Definitely a keeper! 

Homemade Marshmallows
(Source: Ina Garten) 

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly. With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners' sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out. Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Oven Fried Chicken

Dr. Sweetpea loves loves LOVES oven fried chicken. He has mentioned over and over again how his mom made the best oven fried chicken while he was growing up. I've made a few different varieties over the last several months, but I think I finally found the recipe that is really better than what he ate as a child. It's super easy to make and the chicken is perfectly crispy, juicy, and flavorful after it's baked. Dr. Sweetpea kept commenting on how this is the best oven fried chicken he's ever had. This will be something I make regularly for us.

Oven Fried Chicken
(Source: Melba's American Comfort Cookbook)

6 chicken thighs (I removed the skin) 
6 chicken drumsticks (I removed the skin)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I used ground poultry seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I increased the cayenne pepper to 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
3/4 cup dried panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. 

Put the chicken in a bowl and season with poultry seasoning, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. in a second bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt, and pepper to taste. Combine the milk and mayonnaise in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken pieces in the milk mixture and then in the bread crumbs. 

Lay the breaded chicken in the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. Then turn it over and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until it is done. When done, it should register 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer and when pierced with a fork, the juices run clear. Transfer to paper towels to drain before serving. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Beef Stroganoff

While I was flipping through the latest Cooks Country magazine, I realized they had a beef stroganoff recipe using ground beef. This immediately brought me back to my days in college where I made the Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff in my apartment regularly since it was filling, easy, and cheap. Needless to say, I wasn't a very healthy eater when I was in college since I hate a TON of processed food. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2009 so it's been several years since I stopped eating eating processed foods and making everything from scratch at home.  Anyway, when I started making this recipe, not only did it smell amazing but it came together incredibly fast. Another perk? It's absolutely delicious with no preservative laden ingredients!!! It's definitely a keeper for easy week night meals for us.

Beef Stroganoff 
(Source: Cooks Country)

2              tablespoons vegetable oil
8              ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1              onion, chopped fine
2              garlic cloves, minced
1              pound 85 percent lean ground beef
3              tablespoons all-purpose flour
4              cups chicken broth
1/4           cup dry white wine
8              ounces (4 cups) egg noodles
1/2           cup sour cream, plus extra for serving
2              tablespoons minced fresh chives

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to bowl.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty pot and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add beef, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat with spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add flour and stir until beef is well coated; cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth and wine and bring to simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in noodles, reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until noodles are tender, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Off heat, stir in sour cream and mushrooms until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to shallow platter and sprinkle with chives. Serve, passing extra sour cream separately.