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green bean salad

September 19, 2014

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This is a bittersweet time of year for me. Not to sound too dramatic or anything…

I hate being hot and so I really hate the summer (especially in Houston) but I love the produce we get in the summer more than any of the other seasons.  So I’m trying to hang on to the last few weeks of summer’s bounty right now by making as many tomato, pepper, and berry recipes as possible.

This green bean salad is IDEAL.  It is perfect for a light lunch or a great side dish with grilled chicken.

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Green Bean Salad

1 lb. green beans, preferably haricot verts
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
4-5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 red onion, diced
Balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and pepper

Snap off the ends of the green beans.  Blanch them by cooking them in a pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then removing them and setting them in an ice bath for 4-5 minutes.   Drain toss with the diced onion, halved cherry tomatoes, and crumbled bacon.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss with balsamic vinaigrette.

spinach and egg roll-ups

September 12, 2014

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Whitney wasn’t feeling well earlier this week and he wanted comfort food for lunch one day.

Generally that would be a reasonable request… except that Whitney considers Whataburger comfort food!  I was pretty sure he would have another kind of sickness in addition to his respiratory infection if he had a #4 plain and dry, Whata-sized.

So instead, he got the next best thing — spinach and egg roll-ups.  These are loaded with iron and vitamins from the spinach and protein from the eggs.  A couple of these and he was feeling like a new person!

Spinach and Egg Roll-ups

1/4 c. yellow onion, diced
2 c. fresh baby spinach
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
3 eggs
1 tbsp. skim milk
1/2 c. Monterey Jack, shredded
4 flour tortillas
Butter
Salsa for serving, if desired

Sauté the onions with a sliver of butter in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they are slightly browned. Add 1/4 tsp. salt, another sliver of butter, and the spinach to the pan and cook until it is wilted. Remove the spinach and onions from the pan and place on a cutting board. Roughly chop the spinach-onion mixture and then sprinkle with the cumin. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs and milk and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Wipe out the skillet you used for the spinach, and soft scramble the eggs over low heat. Remove to a plate. Wipe out the pan again.

Heat the pan over medium heat. Down the middle of each flour tortilla, add eggs, spinach, and cheese. Roll up the tortillas tightly and place each in the pan, seam side down. Let cook for 2 minutes, until browned and sealed. Flip and cook on the other side for another minute or two. Serve alone or with salsa.

spiced pumpkin cupcakes

September 5, 2014

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This time of year marks the annual craziness that is also known as Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks.  I’m personally a pretty strong adherent to my double grande nonfat latte, but I have to admit that the PSL has an undeniable appeal.

And what could be even better than PSL?  PSC!  As in, Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.  Enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 c. light-brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the brown sugar, granulated sugar and melted butter.  Whisk until just combined.  Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice and whisk until smooth.  Then mix in the pumpkin puree.

Fill each well in the cupcake pan about 3/4 full and bake until the tops spring back when touched, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Garnish with a cinnamon sprinkle, if desired.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
8 oz. cream cheese
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

Place the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the cinnamon, vanilla and salt.  Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until just combined.

heavy cream biscuits

March 26, 2014

cream biscuits

 

I’ve expounded before on what a great cook my mom is.  There’s pretty much nothing in the kitchen that she can’t do.  But there is one area* of cooking of which my dad is the master — Saturday morning breakfast.

His breakfasts are the stuff dreams are made of: cheesy stone-ground grits, bacon fat-fried eggs, cardamom pancakes, soft-scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, and fluffy biscuits.

I never quite caught on to making Dad’s version of biscuits because they required that you cut the butter into the flour mixture, not a task for a lazy cook such as myself. But recently I was craving homemade biscuits and came across a recipe for heavy cream biscuits that couldn’t have been simpler.  It takes less than half an hour from time you start mixing the ingredients until you take your first bite.

*You might have originally assumed I meant grilling, as that is the domain of most men.  And while he does generally man the grill, my mom keeps a watchful eye over that activity ever since the Three-Alarm Flaming Lamb Incident of 2007.

Heavy Cream Biscuits
(adapted from The Kitchn)
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 stick butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425°F

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Pour in the cream and stir with a spatula until combined.  Add up to 2 tablespoons more heavy cream if needed to bind the mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a ball.  Roll it out to 3/4″ thickness and use a biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds.

Dip each biscuit into the melted butter, then lay on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve immediately, preferably with mayhaw jelly.

carmel-by-the-sea food tour

March 20, 2014

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I’ve never really been a lay-on-the-beach-and-relax type of vacationer.  My version of a great trip includes visiting a new city and going, going, going non-stop.  Whether it is typical tourist activities like visiting museums and historic sites, or poking around in off-the-beaten-path areas, I fill our days to the max with plans.

But weirdly, we have one vacation that we take every year in which I do nothing other than play a little golf, read a lot, take aimless walks, and eat well.   It helps that Carmel is my favorite city on earth.  Hands down.  Bar none.

Its 60 degrees year round (perfect golf weather!), super laid-back, and so charming.  And even though I have been going there my whole life, I am sure I will never tire of it.

BUT!  The downside to being so familiar with it is that I thought there was nothing left to discover.  Then a couple of years ago, Whit and I signed up for the Carmel Food Tour and found that there were still so many great spots that we didn’t know about.  (As you may recall, we love food tours!)  We actually had so much fun that we did the tour again last year, and I think we’ll make it an annual tradition.  

The guide/owner, Staci Giovino, isn’t a native to the Peninsula but you wouldn’t know that if she didn’t tell you.  She’s super familiar with the history of Carmel as well as all of the restaurants and their owners.

The tour starts in Carmel Plaza at The Cheese Shop, which is always one of our first stops when we get to Carmel.  The staff is incredibly knowledgable about the various cheeses (and they do carry quite a variety — its one of the only places I have ever been able to consistently find Abbaye de Belloc) and they are really fond of samples.  I tend to think that no trip to Carmel is complete without a picnic at Point Lobos, and no picnic is complete without cheese from The Cheese Shop.

Cheese Shop

After the cheese tasting, we moved on to another wonderfully cheesy dish — spinach gnocchi with Parmesan sauce at Casanova.  Since the gnocchi is made from a pâte à choux instead of potatoes, it is fluffy but still sinfully rich.

Casanova

One of my favorite discoveries came at La Bicyclette, which is my go-to breakfast spot.  It was fun to experience a different type of meal there. We had the wild mushroom and truffle pizza, which was fantastic.  But the star was definitely the lamb, fava bean, and mint pizza.  La Bicyclette’s pizzas have a thin, crispy crust and are oozing with cheese.  Plus, I think it is one of the most charming restaurants in Carmel.

Bicyclette

Luca Salumeria is the only place in Carmel where you can find buratta cheese, which is a must-have with the region’s perfect heirloom tomatoes in the summer.  But I’d never tried any of their house-cured meats.  They set out 8 different kinds of charcuterie, including spicy Coppa, Milano Salame, Soppressata, Prosciutto di Parma, and Calabrese Salame.  This is totally my wheelhouse– there’s little that I like more than than artisan cured meats.

Luca

Before we left Luca, Staci grabbed a container of creamy gelato to go for our trip across the street to Trio, which carries more than 60 olive oils and vinegars.  We drizzled flavored vinegars over the gelato and took shots of different olive oils.  Trio had a fun cheat sheet of flavor combinations, so we tried things like lemon olive oil with wild blackberry vinegar and rosemary olive oil with strawberry vinegar.

Trio

I’m a sucker for sparkling wine, so discovering Caraccioli Cellars was a treat.  They make two brut wines – cuvee and rose – and I drank both mine and Whitney’s share of them!  In the spirit of love and fairness, I let him have my glass of Pinot Noir.  The Caraccioli Cellars tasting room was cozy and I could have sat in there and hung out for a lot longer than we did.

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The tour ended with dessert at Lula’s Chocolates.  I loved the sea salt and caramel chocolate, but Whit was really partial to the Cabernet Sauvignon dark chocolate truffles.  The only solution was to buy a box of each for further taste testing back at the house!

Lulas

On the walks between each food stop, Staci shared info about Carmel’s history, architecture, and culture with our group.  It was informative and I learned things that I’d never picked up on any of my previous trips.  The tour has definitely become one of my favorite ways to spend three hours in Carmel!

eggs in hell

March 17, 2014

eggs in hell

I am in mourning this week.

My sister has abandoned me for endless parades, Sazeracs, jazz, beignets, French architecture, and good living.  I guess it was only a matter of time before the allure of NOLA drew her back to the great state of Louisiana.

I had two brief crying spells on Saturday after she left Houston and thought it was behind me.  But then, I opened the fridge yesterday morning and started bawling all over again when I saw the half-empty jar of chunky marinara and the tube of breakfast sausage that she’d bought last week.

I needed comfort food stat, and Eggs in Hell is one of the easiest breakfasts to throw together.  Everything happens in one pan and the dish comes together in less than 10 minutes, even though it tastes like you spent a lot longer on it.

If you want to tone down the spice, you can easily make Eggs in Purgatory by cutting back on the cayenne (or omitting it completely).

Eggs in Hell
4 eggs
3/4 c marinara sauce
2 oz. breakfast sausage
1/2-1 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste

Brown sausage in a skillet over medium high heat, breaking it up with a spatula into small pieces.  Cook until it is almost crispy.  Stir the cayenne into the marinara sauce and then pour in the spiced sauce into the skillet and stir to combine with the sausage. Let cook 1 minute, until it is starting to bubble.  Using a spoon, make a little well in the sauce and crack an egg into that space.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs.  Cover skillet for 3-4 minutes, until whites are cooked through but yolks remain runny.  Serve with toast to soak up the extra sauce.

chia seed pudding

February 24, 2014

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I know am late jumping on the bandwagon, but OMG chia seed pudding is my newest obsession.  It is my jam, y’all.  I cannot get enough.

We’ve been putting chia seeds in our green smoothies* for a year or so now because they are super-packed with nutrients — tons of fiber and protein (to keep us full throughout the morning), antioxidants (that help prevent cancer, fight aging and protect against free radicals), Omega-3 fatty acids (which reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol), and calcium, manganese and phosphorus (to keep our bones strong).  They have been around forever and ever and were a staple in the diets of the Mayan and Aztec warriors, who used the seeds as their main source of fuel during conquests.  What I am trying to say is that chia seeds are a major, major superfood.

So, yeah.  I’ll wait while you run to Whole Foods to grab a bag….

Back?  Okay, here’s the other thing about chia seeds.  They absorb the heck out of liquids (more than 12x their weight) and turn into little gel-like beads, which is perfect for pudding-making.  Let’s be real for a second.  Personally, I was hooked after one bite.  But it’s a texture unlike anything else you’ve probably eaten, so it might take some getting used to.

Now, lets talk toppings!   Toasted coconut flakes, pomegranate seeds, shaved chocolate, raspberries, sliced mango, toasted almonds slices, blackberries, orange zest, bananas, granola, dried cherries, pepitas, peaches.  ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES, friends.

And a bonus for all of you super-health nuts — this chia seed pudding is dairy-free, gluten-free, and paleo.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. maple syrup

In a jar or tupperware with a lid, combine the coconut milk, chia seeds, salt, and vanilla.  Place the cap or lid on the container and shake to combine.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator for one hour, shaking well again after 30 minutes.  Stir in the maple syrup, honey or agave nectar before serving.  Serve as is or add toppings.

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So what could be better** than vanilla chia seed pudding??

CHOCOLATE.  Duh.

This is seriously the perfect afternoon snack.

Since cocoa powder can be a bit bitter, you will need more sweetener in this version.  Thus, the addition of brown sugar.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. maple syrup, honey or agave nectar

In a jar or tupperware with a lid, combine the coconut milk, chia seeds, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder and brown sugar.  Place the cap or lid on the container and shake to combine.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator for one hour, shaking well again after 30 minutes.  Stir in the maple syrup, honey or agave nectar before serving.  Serve as is or add toppings.

*I totally need to blog about these soon.  LIFE-CHANGING mornings.

**except I actually think I like the vanilla better, if only because it allows me to add more random toppings!

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