Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{ shredded beef tacos }

We're Texans and we enjoy Tex Mex food ... a whole lot. But up here in New England, the opportunity to just pop into any ol' restaurant for a decent fix of the good stuff is, so far, an impossibility. We basically have to make do with whatever we can whip up ourselves.
Tacos are an obvious (and predictable) member of the Tex Mex culinary family. But eventually, ground meat tacos begin to lose their appeal. So when I stumbled across a recipe for shredded beef tacos, I jumped on it.

For a weekday meal, it fits my number one criteria: ease in making. And a total added bonus is that, since it sits in the crockpot all day, it makes the whole house smell amazingly delicious.

It's such a nice taco change in the midst of a Tex Mex nowhere land (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Shredded Beef Tacos
(adapted from CookingClassy)


  • 1 (2 1/2 lb) chuck roast
  • 1 (14 oz) can beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
In a small bowl whisk together chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Place roast in a slow cooker, pour beef broth over roast then squeeze with fresh lime juice. Sprinkle roast with spice mixture. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low heat for approximately 8 hours, or until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork.
Remove roast from slow cooker and place on cutting board. Remove fat, and shred beef with a fork. Return shredded beef to slow cooker. Cover with lid and cook additional 30 minutes.
Remove beef from slow cooker with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.
Serve with tortillas and desired toppings.

Monday, January 30, 2012

{ asian-inspired flat iron steak }

Dinner menus can be a challenge in our home. I generally prefer something on the lighter side of things (and could eat pasta any night). Ty, on the other hand, would eat a huge hunk of red meat seven-days-a-week and be as happy as a pig in [gravy-soaked] slop. And that's not even throwing Aidan and Paige into the mix -- we'd be dining on weiners and mac and cheese at every meal if we based our decisions on their culinary preferences.
Which is why I was excited to try this recipe. It's red meat, so Ty was happy. And the cuts of beef weren't steak-house massive, which appealed to me (Aidan and Paige ate weiners). I loved the Asian flare, as well as how easy it was to prepare on the grill pan indoors.

Asian-Inspired Flat Iron Steak
(adapted from savorysweetlife.com)

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sherry (or cognac)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons (heaping) minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (3-5 cloves) minced garlic
  • teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 flat iron steaks
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds (garnish)
  • 2 green onions, slivered (garnish)
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sherry, honey, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes.

Place the steaks and marinade in a ziplock bag and chill in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours.

For medium-rare steaks, grill on high heat for 4 minutes per each side. Allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds and green onion slivers on top to garnish.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

{ fried chicken, mashed potatoes & cream gravy }

Yeah, I said it. Fried chicken. And I cooked it. And I ate it.

Every once in a while, a soul needs some fried chicken -- some real, 'honest-to-goodness, deep fried in oil and accompanied by country gravy' fried chicken.

If I were the sort of individual who places blame for my dietary transgressions on others, I could probably point my finger at the folks from Bon Appétit magazine. My February issue arrived this past week, and there's a big ol' golden and gorgeous fried chicken leg on the cover, accompanied by the words 'BEST FRIED CHICKEN EVER!' ... in all-caps and red ink. I mean, come on. What red-blooded American can resist such temptation?

So we made it (Ty actually fried the chicken) -- the Best Fried Chicken Ever, according to Bon Appétit magazine. We just used legs and thighs, and actually doubled the amount of the seasoning measurements, which, by the way, was my favorite part of the recipe. It had great kick and super flavor.

I added my favorite homemade country gravy recipe as a topper to a pot of fluffy mashed potatoes, and it was a super meal.

And now that I have it out of my system, I probably won't have to make it again for another year or two ... or until another magazine cover tempts me to do so. Because, really, it wasn't my fault to begin with.

Classic Cast Iron Skillet-Fried Chicken
(from Bon Appétit)

Special Equipment: a deep-fry thermometer and cast iron skillet

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons, plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 3-4 pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed (I just used 4 thighs and 8 legs, pre-cut and packaged)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • peanut oil (for frying)
Whisk 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight (I didn't ... just let it sit for a few hours in the fridge).

Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon pepper in a 9x13x2 baking dish.

Pour oil into a 10"-12" cast-iron skillet (or other heavy straight-sided skillet - not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4". Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Head over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1-2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300° to 325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.

Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.

Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Southern Style Country Gravy
(adapted from cbsop.com)

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk (skim won't work)
  • approximately 1 tablespoon coursely-ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste
In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and combine. Add about a teaspoon of coursely-ground pepper.

Stir butter mixture until the flour is about the color of creamy peanut butter and fragrant.

Add a cup of milk and increase heat to medium.

Allow gravy to come to a simmer, whisking constantly to avoid sticking. At this point, the gravy is likely to seize, so be ready with more milk.

Add the remainder of the milk, by quarter cups, until gravy has thickened considerably. Continue to add milk, as needed. Gravy will continue to thicken some, even after removed from heat.

Add remainder of pepper, as desired, and a pinch of salt, to taste.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

{ shrimp & mushroom rotini in garlic lemon cream sauce}

Comfort food, lightened up. Yes, there's cream, but it's the light version. Yes, there's butter, but it splits its usual full-time duty with some olive oil. Choose a "smart" pasta like Barilla Plus or Ronzoni Smart Taste, and you'll really curb the guilt factor (just don't skip on the glass of wine).

It's delicious. Give it a shot.

Shrimp & Mushroom Rotini in Garlic Lemon Cream Sauce
(adapted from cooks.com)


  • 1 lb pasta (I used rotini, but pick your favorite)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 pound cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp (frozen, dethawed under cold water works great)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coursely ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I use Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • lemon slices, fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

Boil water and add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta according to directions. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat heat, melt butter, add olve oil and cook the garlic for about one minute; add and lemon zest until very fragrant.

Add mushrooms and shrimp to garlic and lemon; if shrimp is raw, cook until pink.

Add cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook to heat through. Reduce heat.

Add the Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings, as needed.

Spoon pasta into serving bowl and top with shrimp sauce. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and garnish with lemon slices.

Monday, January 16, 2012

{ baked apple bourbon french toast }

The perfect breakfast for a cold morning (or a balmy summer afternoon, for that matter!).

Baked Apple Bourbon French Toast
(adapted from tastykitchen.com)


  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon
  • large baking apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • loaf of French bread, cut in about 1/2" thick-slices
  • eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg

*Note: Ideally, this kish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. If assembling entire casserole in the morning, dip bread slices in egg mixture before arranging them on apples.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a small pan melt butter and sugar together. Whisk to combine and cook until slightly thickened. Add bourbon and whisk again. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.

Pour butter mixture into a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Arrange sliced apples on top of butter. Arrange bread slices on top of apples.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over bread.
Place casserole dish in the oven and bake for 45-minutes to 1 hour, or until apple slices have softened and bread is golden brown.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

{ bleeding margarita }

I literally have hundreds (thousands?) of "one day I'm going to make this" recipes pinned on my Pinterest boards, and I've actually tried many of them. As I've said before, Pinterest has become my first, and pretty much my only, go-to stop whenever I decide to cook something new, or make a grocery list, or search for some needed culinary inspiration.

Every once in a while I stumble across a recipe that simply can't wait for "some day" ... something so tempting and delectible that its status is immediately elevated to, "I have to make this tonight."

The blood orange margarita picture I found this morning was one such cocktail.

Let me say, unequivicoally, that it didn't disappoint. In fact, I can absolutely see myself obsessively buying blood oranges each time I go to the grocery store, just to ensure that I always have a stash of the gem-colored produce on hand for this drink -- it's that good.

Blood Orange Margarita
(inspired by how sweet it is)

makes one serving

1 1/2 ounces tequila (I used Cuervo Gold)
1 ounce orange liqueur (I used Grand Mariner)
1 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 1/2 ounces blood orange juice (about 1-2 oranges)
salt for the rim
lime/orange wedges for garnish

Rim the ridge of your glass with a lime wedge and dip in margarita salt.

Fill glass with crushed ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine tequila, orange liqueur, simple syrup, blood orange juice and lime juice. Gve it a good shake.

Pour over ice and squeeze a bit of fresh lime juice on top. Garnish with lime and/or a blood orange slice.


Friday, January 13, 2012

{ shamefully indulgent breakfast }

This delectable dish was on our Christmas morning breakfast menu a few weeks ago. 

It was so, so very, very good (yes, this statement requires its own paragraph).

And that's really all I have to say about it, as mere words don't seem like a fair fight when describing something so yummy.

Except for the fact that I still think about it ... late at night ... when I have the munchies. Oh, and during the daylight hours too ... so, yeah, pretty much whenever.

Scrumptious, chewy, sweet goodness.

You. Must. Make. This.

Sticky Buns Breakfast Ring
(adapted from All Things Delicious)

2 tubes refrigerator buttermilk biscuits (don't use Grands -- they're too big and mess up the cooking time)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat the inside of a bundt cake pan with non-stick spray. Combine the melted butter and syrup in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Pour about half of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle half of the brown sugar mixture on top.

Arrange the biscuits on a slant/diagonal around the bottom of the pan, overlapping edges to form a ring.

Top biscuit ring with remaining syrup and sugar mixtures.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown (mine took about a half hour, so just keep a close eye on it).

Cool for 1 minute in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter.

Make yourself a second mimosa and thank me. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

{ pad thai at home }

After being sick for several days and unable to consume much more than ginger ale, I found myself with an insane craving for pad thai noodles this afternoon.

There's a terrific Thai place right around the corner from our house, and in my opinion, their pad thai is second to none; however, this evening I felt like something a little more homecooked ... plus, I wanted leftovers. ;)

I wouldn't say that my first effort at cooking my own homemade pad thai was flawless (I nearly burned the garlic, and was probably a little heavy on the vinegar) -- I blame my stomach virus-muddled brain and my lack of a wok (I used a regular ol' saute pan). But all in all, it was a decent first attempt. The recipe is definitely one on which to build all future pad thai efforts.

And, as is usually the case with my new recipe endeavors, it was relatively simple.

Pad Thai
(adapted from kokocooks)
8 oz dried rice noodles
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3/4 lb shrimp, pork, or chicken (or protein of choice)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (sriracha)
2 eggs
6-8 green onions, thinly sliced
10 oz fresh bean sprouts
3/4 cup ground unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Soak noodles in hot water according to the package directions. Drain.

Peel and devein shrimp (or thaw out frozen shrimp under cold water, like I did!); slice chicken (I was lazy and used rotesserie) or pork into bite-sized cubes.
Mix fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, and hoisin sauce in a bowl; stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat a wok or saute pan over high heat. Add oil, garlic, and chili. Stir a few times (Careful! The garlic burns quickly!). Add meat (not shrimp), and stir fry about 2 minutes. Add noodles and toss lightly to coat with oil. Push noodles to one side, and add more oil if necessary. Add eggs and scramble, then break up into pieces and toss with noodles. Add shrimp, most of the bean sprouts, green onions, and about 1/2 a cup of peanuts. Stir fry until shrimp just turns pink - 1-2 minutes. Add sauce and toss to coat.

Spoon onto a serving platter and top with cilantro and remaining peanuts. Garnish with bean sprouts and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

{ super-simple english toffee }

It's the beginning of January, and I should be writing about resolutions and goals or fitness and such.

Instead, I'm sharing a yummy recipe for the easiest (yet uber-delicious) English toffee ever. I made it for a New Year's Eve party at my personal trainer/friend's house (HA! How's that for ballsy?!), and not a crumb remained by 8:00 pm. -- it's the perfect sweet accompaniment for champagne-sipping!

Make this. Really. Do it. You'll impress your friends at your next get-together, or you'll know that you have something scrumptious waiting for you when you get home from work -- either way, a total win. And the second best part is that it doesn't get much easier (the best part is the taste).

Easy English Toffee
(adapted from the idea room)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds, for bottom layer
1 cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoon water
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds, for top layer


Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and sprinkle 1/2 cup of toasted almonds in the pan on the foil.

In heavy saucepan melt butter. Add sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat to boiling.

Cook and stir over medium heat to 290 degrees using a candy thermometer (soft-crack stage). Watch carefully and stir, as it easily burns above 280 degrees.

Remove from heat and immediately pour mixture over the nuts in the pan. It won't completely fill the pan to the edges and ends up looking uneven on the edges -- this is perfect! Let stand 3-5 minutes, or until firm but still hot. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let the stand for 1 to 2 minutes. Once chocolate softens, spread over mixture.

Sprinkle the chocolate with nuts. Chill till firm. Break into pieces. Store tightly covered. Makes approximately 1 1/2 pounds.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

{ vittles for luck & prosperity }

Happy 2012!

About.com gives a great explanation for the traditional southern New Year's Day fare of blackeyed peas cabbage.

"If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in the Southeast, it is most likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form, either just after midnight or on New Year's Day. From grand gala gourmet dinners to small casual gatherings with friends and family, these flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.

The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.

Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme .... Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens."

So here's this year's version of blackeyed peas and cabbage. Take note: the sliced garlic in the cabbage is especially ahhhh-mazing -- so flippin' good.

Texas-style Black-Eyed Peas with Jalapenos and Bacon
(adapted from Homesick Texan)

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
4 cups water
6 slices of bacon, coursely chopped
1/4 cup bacon drippings
1 large onion, chopped
14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 jalapenos (pickled or fresh), chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced jalapenos to garnish

Wash and pick over peas.

In a large pot, add peas and water; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add all other ingredients and simmer, covered, 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until peas are tender.

Serve hot and garnished with sliced jalapeno.

Sauteed Cabbage with Bacon and Garlic
(adapted from KitchenDaily)

1 large cabbage
6 slices of bacon, coursely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, sliced medium-thin
1/2 cup of water
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of coursely-ground pepper
juice from 1 large lemon

Quarter cabbage, then core and cut into large pieces.

Cook bacon in heavy skillet over medium heat until it begins to sizzle, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned, about 3 minutes.

Add cabbage and remaining ingredients to pan; cook and stir until cabbage is reduced enough to cover with lid; continue to cook covered, stirring occasionally, until cabbage softens, about 8 minutes.

Season to taste and transfer to serving dish.