Friday, December 20, 2013

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts from the Kitchen

Let's be honest - nobody likes it when you show up empty-handed at their door during the holidays. And sometimes, another bottle of wine isn't going to cut it (it will at my house, though!). Especially when I'll be staying the night at someone's house, it's nice to bring either a special or useful kitchen gift. I like to think the recipes below fit the bill on both counts :)

Christmas Granola 
The red and green colors say it all for this granola. The texture is amazing! Eat it on its own or use as a topping or mix-in. Adapted from The Kitchn.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
3/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds - you can buy an 8oz bag by the nuts in the grocery store)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil (or olive oil)
3/4 cup honey (preferably local honey. If you're in Austin, GoodFlow is great!)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried tart cherries

Preheat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, pistachios, pepitas, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla(Tip, measure the honey in a 1-cup measure.  Then, measure the coconut oil or olive oil, will make it easier to scrape out any honey that stuck). Pour the oil-honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until all the ingredients are evenly coated.

Transfer the granola to the lined baking sheet. Spread it out so it covers the baking sheet evenly. Bake until the granola is deeply golden and smells delicious, 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the granola every 15 minutes — do not stir more frequently. In the last 5 minutes, stir in the cranberries and cherries and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Once you remove the granola from the oven, do not stir again; it will crisp and solidify into clusters as it cools.

Once the granola has cooled completely, break it into clusters. Lift the edges of the parchment to help dislodge large pieces of granola and use your fingers to break it apart.

Place large pieces and little crumbles in baggies or mason jars and gift away!

Rosemary Pine Nut Biscotti
I usually opt for chocolate biscotti with my coffee, but this version is great with hot tea on a chilly afternoon! Adapted from Catch My Party.

3/4 cup pine nuts
1 3/4 cups all purpose or baking flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the preheating oven 6-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and place in a bowl to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In a standing mixer, beat the butter then add the sugar. Next add the eggs and olive oil and beat on high for about two minutes. Mix in the rosemary and lemon zest.

Pour in all the mixed dry ingredients and mix until just combined, then add the pine nuts and again mix until just combined.

Divide the dough in half in the bowl and place each half on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Form the dough into two logs, about 12 inches long, and 2 inches wide.

Bake for about 30 minutes until it just starts to brown. Take it out of the oven, turn it down to 275°F, and let it cool until you can handle it. Using a serrated knife to cut each log diagonally into about 1/2 slices.

Lay the pieces back on the baking sheet on their side, and put them back into the oven to cook for another 15 minutes per side. Let cool, then place 2-4 in a little baggie and share!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Cast Iron Pizza

It's fall (or at least, it was when I made this - hope you had a tasty Thanksgiving!). To me, fall means three things - Brussels sprouts, bacon, and PIZZA. Cooking with a Dutch oven or cast iron is 100% necessary. And if cheese is in the mix, I'm a happy girl.When I saw a recipe that combined all my favorite things, I was so excited to try it! Thanks to How Sweet It Is for this recipe! My tweaked version is below. Great for a casual Friday night pizza night.

Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Cast Iron Pizza

1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 pieces thick-sliced bacon (I recommend getting these from the butcher if you don't feel like investing in a whole package. $1 will get you two of the best pieces of bacon you'll ever have!)
3/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded

 In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil with a spoon and let sit about 10 minutes. Add in 1 cup flour and salt and mix with the dough hook until the dough comes together but it still sticky. Add the additional 1/2 cup flour and let it keep mixing a couple more minutes. Rub a large metal bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. 

Meanwhile, cook bacon in cast iron skillet until crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.With the cast iron on medium-high heat, add Brussels sprouts to the bacon drippings and cook until crisped, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes. Remove to a bowl and let it cool, then wipe clean.

After the dough has risen for the hour and a half, punch it down and place it back on the floured surface. With floured hands, press out dough to roughly fit your cast iron skillet. Now place an oven rack directly under your broiler and preheat your broiler to the highest setting. Additionally, heat your cast iron on high heat. The pan might begin to smoke - let it get as hot as you're comfortable with, for 10 minutes.  

Carefully flip the pizza dough onto the hot cast iron and let cook 2 minutes. Quickly cover with the cheddar then the Brussels and bacon and put in the oven under the broiler. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and dough is getting browned on the crust. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes, then use a large spatula to place on a cutting board. Cut and demolish :)
 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A veggie burger that can't be "beet"

My fall garden is in full swing, and I love all the fun colors, flavors and textures that come with harvest time. While burgers are one of my top 5 favorite foods, veggie burgers are in my top 10 and something I love to make at home. I don't see them as a meat replacement, but rather as a delicious treat all on their own! The best thing about these burgers? The bright pink/purple color! Enjoy :)

Veggie Beet Burger

1/3 cup rolled oats
3 medium beets, roasted, peeled and quartered (I roast mine 1-2 days early to let them cool before peeling)
1 cup cooked black rice (or any other rice you have on hand)
1 15-oz can chickpeas (black beans would be nice here too)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 red onion (about 1/2 cup chopped)
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns (scoop out some of the insides to help contain the burger while eating if you like)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Prepared pesto (I made some a couple days earlier with basil from the garden)
Goat cheese
Greens like spinach, kale or whatever else you might have in your fall garden!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place oats in a food processor and pulse until fine like flour. Remove. Place beets in the food processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped. Add in rice, chickpeas, garlic and onion and pulse until well combined and chopped. Add egg, spices and oat flour and pulse a few times to combine.

Using plastic gloves (unless you're not worried about dying your hands purple!) shape 6 patties out of the beet mixture and place on baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool 5 minutes.

Lightly oil the insides of the burger puns and sear in a hot skillet until toasted. Smear in some pesto and goat cheese, then add a layer of greens. Add beet patties and enjoy!

Note, these patties are even tastier (and hold together a bit better) the next day. I reheat mine in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recipes I've been digging (into!) lately

Well, Halloween is tomorrow and I nearly made it through the month of October with just ONE post. Embarrassing! So, in the interest of sharing what we've been loving lately (even though there are no exciting new recipes to post) here are some faves:

Cooking Light's Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie - I made this twice in a week. Both times we demolished it. Do add red pepper to taste - a little goes a long way and before you know it, the back of your throat is burning, and the only solution is more whipped cream!

I REALLY wanted some baked pumpkin oatmeal a few weeks ago after seeing this post on Kath Eats. I didn't want bites though, I wanted a nice, big vat of it, and this recipe I found by Lynn's Kitchen Adventures (new to me blog) hit the spot! Made it twice, once about 2/3 of a recipe, and the second time a full recipe. Do be mindful of the dimensions of your pan though - I used a 4 x 9 (ish) dish making the oatmeal deeper and thus took another 15 minutes to cook. Great to bake the night before, then let it warm up while you take your dog on a walk or do your hair. Great topped with nut butter, maple syrup and coconut flakes!

Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup with Shrimp from WFM was a surprising hit! I love bsquash soup and make it a few times a year - always mixing up the seasonings to keep things interesting. I was unsure how I'd like it with the addition of shrimp -but adding even less than a pound made the soup feel substantial.

The ultimate make-ahead dinner award goes to... Char Siu Pork Roast from Cooking Light! Reasons why this dinner rocked:
  • No dicing of the meat required beforehand
  • No searing required
  • Marinate overnight for easy flavor (and no veggie chopping!)
  • If you have a programmable rice cooker like me, you also have rice ready when you get home
  • Bonus points if you trim Brussels sprouts the night before and then roast them as an easy side while you cook down the sauce
What's cooking in your kitchen lately?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Menu October 13, 2013

Happy October! I've been too busy enjoying cool weather, rainy weekends, baby showers (my sister's!) and trips to New Orleans. But trust me, there have been plenty of tasty meals in between. Take this weekend, for instance. Something about a rainy weekend in Austin is so unique and magical (except for maybe those who were at ACL this weekend - sorry about that!), it's like snow. When that happens, it pretty much cries for a day in the kitchen. So, I roasted a chicken and prepped food for the week. Delightful! I hope your week is too:

And now for the delightful part - it's our two year anniversary on Monday! We're kicking off festivities with lots of tasty eats and fun this weekend.

Butternut squash, lentil and goat cheese salad

2 cups butternut squash cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup green lentils
1 clove garlic
4 ounces greens (I used a mix of spinach, kale, chard and mustards)
2 ounces Pure Luck chevre (or your favorite goat cheese), crumbled
2 tablespoons pickled mustard seed maple syrup (recipe on Ladies' Home Journal)

Preheat oven to 374. Toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast 35 minutes. Meanwhile, place lentils in 6 cups of cold water with garlic clove and salt and peppper. Bring to a boil, lower temperature and cover, cook for 15-20 minutes. Strain and remove garlic clove.

In a large bowl, add greens, goat cheese and dressing. Top with squash and lentils and toss. Enjoy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coconut Chicken and a confession

I have a confession to make. From ages 21-24, about 50% of what I made was a Rachael Ray dish (or my own twist on her dishes). I had her cookbooks, knife and large skillet, and pretty much every dish I made started with boneless, skinless chicken breast that I cut into 1-inch pieces and cooked with red onion and garlic. I've come a long way since then, but I still appreciate the confidence her recipes gave me in the kitchen, even though I haven't cracked one of her cookbooks in years.

Making this chicken dish gave me a flashback to my early twenties, when I was living with my three roommates who were finishing college. I'd come home, crack open a bottle of New Age wine, turn on my playlist (a lot of James Morrison in those days), and get cooking. They loved having a homemade meal everyday, and I loved having people to cook for! Now we're all spread out over the country (Michigan, DC, Houston, and of course, Austin), but it felt like they were there last night!


Coconut Chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large red onion (or one small onion), thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional if you don't like things a little spicy)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 15-oz can coconut milk (not low fat)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, dark green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime, quartered

In a large pot (I used my 2 qt Dutch oven), warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute two minutes. Toss in garlic and ginger and saute another 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook another 3 minutes. Add turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine, then push vegetable mixture out to the edges of the pot to make space in the middle.

Place chicken int he middle of the pot, careful to get it in one single layer. Let it cook 2-3 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper while you wait, then flip and let it cook another 2 minutes. Stir the chicken into the veggies, then pour coconut milk into the pot. Add water to the cococnut can and pour it in, then stir to combine. Bring it up to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cherry tomatoes.

Serve over Basmati rice and top with green onion and cilantro, then squeeze a lime wedge over the top. Pair with a rose and Enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Restaurant Review - The Granary 'Cue & Brew

Hey Austinites - has it been a while since you've made the hour and a half drive down to San Antonio? Here's a tasty reason - visit the newish The Granary 'Cue & Brew in the hip reinvented Pearl District in downtown San Antonio! Luke and I headed there this weekend to visit his parents, and they said we HAD to go to The Granary - the brother owners are actually friends of Luke's from his school days!

Imagine that Lamberts and its fancy barbeque is magically transferred to San Antonio, but along the way they added the tasty beer of a microbrewery and the nice dichotomy of a traditional barbecue lunch and more upscale, adventurous options for dinner. That's what you'll find at The Granary! Their menu changes often, so this is just a taste of what you might find there.

To drink
The microbrewery aspect was a huge draw for Luke, and he wasn't disappointed with the beers they had to offer. I went with the beer cocktail route and ordered the shandy - made with their housemade rhubarb soda (they have seasonal soda offerings) and beer. So refreshing on a hot September day - I had two! They also make their own root beer, which is super flavorful! They can make  you a root beer float, if you're daring enough (we wanted to save room for the main event - the meat!).

 
To snack
They had a strong appetizer menu, but with our eye on the prize, we just ordered a couple small things to taste while we waited. The heirloom tomato salad had a nice mix of large, juicy heirloom tomatoes and some smaller cherry tomatoes. And, interestingly enough, avocado ice cream on the side! That was a first for me (ice cream for an app, not avocado ice cream - I already know I love that!). We also enjoyed the grilled figs which weren't on the menu, paired with a cocoa "dirt" and apricot gel.

To eat
The entree menu was tough to select from - we spent a solid 5 minutes debating what to get. Luke's dad insisted on the Barbecue Board (like what you would get there for lunch) which featured brisket, pulled pork, and stellar sides of potato salad and beans. The nice thing about this was the portion - generous but definitely not too much!


For me, the highlight was the beef clod (a shoulder cut). This was a GENEROUS portion of beef and had a super flavorful crust made of quinoa and coffee, and it had a maltiness (from the tomato caramel I think, which was addictive) that Luke said reminded him of beer! This is a must-get.

A close second was the BBQ Beef ramen. I asked the server if this was more BBQ-y or ramen-y, and he said it was somewhere in the middle - dead on! Love that the noodles were cooked in their beer, and the shallots were so flavorful. Of course the BBQ was amazing, and my only complaint was that the egg was difficult to eat.

Not too sweet
The fun continues to dessert, though there were definitely some options that were stronger than others (we had all 4 items!). Notably missing (or maybe not, since we didn't realize it until we were leaving) was chocolate, but I survived :)


The buttermilk pie was divine (and Luke's family are hard core buttermilk pie fans/critics!), but the most innovative and delicious dessert was the Beer and Pretzel ice cream with mustard caramel - we loved the complex flavor and the sweetness tempered by a bit of bitterness.