Monday, September 26, 2011

Tomato Gravy

In case you were wondering what you could smother all over your delicious drop biscuits, or perhaps on that savory pesto waffle you've been meaning to experiment with.

Serves 2-3
  • 1/4 c ground sausage
  • 3 T all purpose flour
  • 3 tomatoes, wedged/chopped/whatever
  • 2 c milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown the sausage in a skillet.
2. Combine flour and water in a mason jar. Put the top on and shake 'em up for a couple of minutes. It helps the mixture to thicken up appropriately and is quintessential to this process. Read also: it kept me out of my grandpa's hair while he was making breakfast.
3. Once sausage is browned, add tomato, milk and flour to the skillet. Stir together for a few minutes until it comes to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Slather onto something bread-y and thank me later!

Drop Biscuits

It turns out the Hatfields and McCoys were actually fighting about this age old question: Drop biscuits or Cut-out biscuits? My vote goes to these crusty golden delights. They're called "drop biscuits" because rather than rolling out the dough and cutting out a round disc (yielding "cut-out biscuits"), you take the ooey gooey make-sure-you-take-off-your-rings batter and drop it into a greasy cast iron for baking.

Serves 4
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs white sugar
  • 1/4 c cold butter, cubed
  • 3/4 c cold milk

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. This must be how the "blood, sweat, and tears" come to play...
2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter with butter knives (or a pastry dough smasher thing that mom's have then they have too much stuff in their kitchen). Add 2 T at a time mixing between additions. The consistency you're going for is kind of like... it will hold a dough ball shape if you pick up a hunk and drop it.
3. Drop the batter by small handfuls (or spoonfuls) into a cast iron skillet. Separate just slightly. Bake 12-14 minutes.

These biscuits are lent well to being stuffed full of delicious flavor combos like cheddar, garlic and chives. My favorite is adding a big blob of ricotta cheese for a subtle richness.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Mussels in White Wine Sauce

    I love ordering mussels when we're out to eat (I'm thinking 45 East!) so I thought I'd give them a try at home. There were some kind of stinky moments... but all in all we had a great meal!

    You'll want to buy the mussels fresh and put them in an ice bath with good drainage between the time you get home and plan on cooking them. Mussels don't like water, but they do want ice- so mix them with ice in a colainder and put it on top of a big pot until you're ready to get going!

    Serves 2
    • 2 lbs fresh mussels
    • 1 c dry white wine
    • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 4 Tbs butter, cubed


    1. Rinse and scrub mussels under cold water. With a pairing knife, cut the beards off of the hipster mussels (the strings that hang from them) and discard.

    2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic and salt. Simmer 5 minutes.

    3. Add mussels, cover and increase heat to high. Cook until mussels are all open, about 5 minutes.

    4. Stir in butter and remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth in two large bowls.
     Serve immediately.

    Voila! So tasty, quick and easy!!

    French Apple Tart

    I’m in a cooking club at work and our challenge this month was to make something French. I’ve always been intimated by French recipes, but I thought I could handle a (relatively) simple dessert.

    And voila! French apple tart made in about two and a half hours.

    I adapted this recipe. God bless Ina Garten.


    For the pastry:

    2 cups all-purpose flour

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    1 tablespoon sugar

    12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

    1/2 cup ice water

    For the apples:

    3-4 Granny Smith apples

    ¼ to 1/2 cup sugar

    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced

    1/2 cup apricot jelly or jam

    2 tablespoons rum or water

    Make the pastry first.

    1. Place flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, mix. If you have a large food processor, like Ina’s recipe says, follow her from here on out. If you don’t, follow me. :)

    2. Dice the butter as tiny as you can without it melting on you. Combine with dry mixture.

    3. Mush together and get the butter into as tiny pieces as possible. A fork is best, combined with your hands. Move quickly though, as you don’t want the butter to completely melt.

    4. Slowly add ice water. Do not over mix.

    5. Place on floured surface, meld into a ball.

    6. Place in plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for about an hour.

    An hour later …

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    2. On a floured surface, roll out the dough. Feel free to add more flour to the mixture if necessary to make the right shape.

    3. I made mine into a rectangle, but feel free to make it into a circle or whatever shape you want.

    4. Place on parchment-paper baking sheet. Quickly place in fridge.

    Apple time ….

    1. Peel the apples, cut them in half through the stem.

    2. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Be careful – this can get a bit dicey.

    3. Slice the apples crosswise in about 1/4-inch thick slices.

    4. Take your pastry out of the fridge and lay the apples on top. I started in one corner, went diagonal to the other corner and made a cross. But do whatever you think looks pretty.

    5. Sprinkle with sugar.

    6. Dice your remaining butter and sprinkle across the tart.

    7. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. You want it to the browned. Ina recommends rotating the pan once during cooking. She also says … “If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!” How reassuring. :)

    8. Once your tart is done, heat the apricot jelly together with the rum or water and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the mixture. Lightly loosen the tart with a spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper.

    9. Allow to cool. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Avocado Shrimp Pizza

    This will be a quick post, I've already posted the recipe for the pizza crust. It's a really simple no-yeast recipe. I do pizza quite often, it's just such a great way to use up ingredients that I have in my fridge. It also gives you a chance to get creative with what you have. Fred and I had a lot of fun putting this one together and it turned out delicious!

    Preheat the oven to 375.

    For the sauce, Fred made an avocado cream cheese with one whole avocado and about 1/2 cup of chive cream cheese.


    1 cup (cooked, tail on) shrimp, diced
    1/2 cup red onions, chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/4 cup jalapeno peppers, diced
    1 tsp mexican chili powder
    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp cumin

    I sauteed all of the toppings together over medium heat until the spices were well blended and the vegetables softened. Arrange toppings over crust and avocado cream cheese spread. We sprinkled with shredded pepper jack cheese, approximately 1 cup or more. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and dough cooked thoroughly.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Steak Dinner For Two

    All of the beef at Kroger this weekend including steaks were half of the price per pound than usual. I got them and decided at the store what to serve them with, which of course was super easy, potatoes and something creamy! I ended up serving them with Smashed Red Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce.

    For the steaks I only seasoned them with salt and pepper before grilling them.

    Smashed Red Potatoes

    Serves 2

    6 red potatoes
    Olive oil
    Salt and Pepper
    1 tsp garlic salt


    Boil a large pot of water on the stove. Once boiling place the potatoes in the pot. Cook them unil soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. Place them evenly on foil. Take a pint glass and using tongs to told them in place slightly smash them by pressing down on the glass. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Place the foil with potatoes on the grill and grill for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Do not disturb the potatoes or they will fall apart. The bottom will be more cooked but will get nice and crispy.

    Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce

    Serves 2

    1 head broccoli
    1 cup water
    4 oz Velveta cheese
    1/4 cup milk


    Steam the broccoli in the water on the stove until cooked, about 15 minutes, and drain. Heat the Velveta and milk in the microwave for 1 minutes. Take out and vigorously stir with a fork until creamy. Serve the broccoli with the cheese sauce.

    Fajita Lettuce Wraps with Fried Rice Balls

    I came up with this twist on Chicken Fajitas to have something lighter to serve with the Fried Rice Balls. They have ground chicken in them instead of sliced chicken breast and are served in bibb lettuce instead of tortillas. I served the lettuce wraps with Tomatillo salsa (see recipe in this blog), sour cream, and Queso Fresco a mexican cheese found in the International section of the grocery store.

    Fajita Lettuce Wraps

    Serves 4

    1lb ground chicken
    1 red bell pepper diced
    1 yellow onion diced
    1 packet fajita seasoning
    2 Tbs water
    1 head bibb lettuce
    Sour cream
    Queso fresco


    Heat a pan over medium and when hot add the ground chicken. Cook and break up with the back of a spoon to crumble until cooked through about 5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and onion and cook until semi soft, about 5 more minutes. Add the water and fajita seasoning and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes until evenly coated with sauce.

    Serve with the bibb lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and queso fresco.

    Fried Rice Balls

    Serves 4

    1 package prepared Rice a Roni Chicken Fajita Rice Mix
    4 eggs divided
    1 cup water, divided
    1 package (12 count) yellow corn taco shells
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
    2 cups vegetable oil


    Prepare the rice mix according to the package directions. Place in the fridge when complete to cool, about 25 minutes.

    Beat 2 eggs with 1/2 cup water and place in a shallow dish.

    Place the taco shells in a food processor and pulse until evenly ground. Combine with breadcrumbs and place in a second shallow dish.

    Combine cooled rice (about 4 cups) with the remaining 2 eggs and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese in a large bowl, mix well. Form into 1 inch balls. It is important you keep the balls small or else they will fall apart when fried. Roll the balls in the egg mixture. Transfer to the crumb mixture and roll to coat evenly.

    Heat the oil to 375 degree in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Place the balls carefully into the hot oil. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown, turning to cook evenly. Remove with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels.

    Serve rice balls with salsa. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese.
    Serve with salsa.

    Tomatillo and Roasted Pepper Salsa

    Travis's Aunt also let me raid her garden and I used some Hungarian Wax Peppers to make this salsa. This salsa was great by itself with tortilla chips but I also served it with Chicken Fajita Lettuce Wraps and Chorizo Breakfast Burritos.


    Makes 2 cups

    1 pound Tomatillo
    1 whole Jalapeno Chile (green)
    4 whole Hungarian Wax Peppers (green or yellow)
    1 whole Onion quartered
    1 whole Tomatoes quartered
    2 cloves Garlic
    1 whole Lemon juiced
    1 whole Limes juiced
    1/3 cup Cilantro (fresh)


    Peel the husks off of the tomatillos and rinse under cold water. Boil the tomatillos in salted water until soft and tender, about 5 minutes.

    While the tomatillos are cooking, preheat over to 400°F. Place the peppers and onions on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until slightly charred. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes. As they are done, place them in a bowl with a lid until slightly cooled. Once you can handle them, peel, seed and slice them.

    When the tomatillos are done, strain them and put them into a blender. Add the peppers, onions, tomato, garlic, lemon, lime and cilantro. Blend to desired consistency. Adjust seasoning and add cayenne if you want to heat it up more.

    Pear Cobbler

    Travis's Aunt Becky gave us a whole bunch of ripe, juicy pears and I think this was a great use of them! This cobbler was not only super easy to make but was also delicious and I had the rest of the ingredients in my pantry. You could easily substitute apples instead of pears.


    2 to 2 1/2 cups sliced fresh pears
    2 cups sugar, divided
    4 ounces butter
    3/4 cup flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup milk
    1 egg


    Mix pears with 1 cup sugar and let stand. Put butter in 2-quart casserole and place in 325° oven until melted. Combine all dry ingredients, including the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Mix well. Whisk together the milk and egg; slowly combine with dry ingredients to make a batter. Pour over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon pears over the batter. Do not stir. Bake at 325° for 50 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned and pears are tender.

    Serve hot or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.

    Chipotle-Chicken Meatball Tacos with Rice

    I got this recipe from Rachel Ray's magazine and it was awesome! I love using ground chicken. I served the tacos with Rice a Roni Mexican Rice. The tacos were topped with Queso Fresco a mexican cheese found in the International section of the grocery store. As a note, leftover chipotle chilies will last for months in the refrigerator. Use them to season mac ’n’ cheese, scrambled eggs, baked potatoes or salsa.


    1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs

    4 slices bacon, chopped

    1/2 cup finely chopped onion

    3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1 tsp. finely chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

    1 lb. ground chicken

    1/2 cup chopped cilantro

    Salt and pepper

    1 package (16 oz.) frozen corn, thawed

    8 oz. cabbage, thinly shredded

    8 flour tortillas (7-inch), warmed


    1. Preheat the broiler. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with 1/3 cup water. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat. Transfer to a plate; pour all but 2 tsp. fat into a bowl. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in three-quarters of the garlic, the chilies and 2 tbsp. water, scraping up any browned bits; add to the breadcrumbs and let cool slightly.

    2. Add the chicken, bacon and 1/4 cup cilantro to the breadcrumb mixture; season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 32 meatballs. Broil the meatballs, turning once, until just cooked through, about 12 minutes.

    3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook undisturbed until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until the cabbage just begins to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Serve the meatballs in the tortillas with the cabbage slaw.

    Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara

    One of Travis' favorite pasta dishes is pasta carbonara. This one has its own little twist by using bacon instead of prosciutto. It also included green beans, which added a little sweetness to the dish.


    Serves 4

    1 lb. spaghetti

    3/4 lb. green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
    1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    2 eggs
    1 cup grated parmesan cheese
    Salt and pepper


    Cook pasta according to package directions, adding beans halfway through cooking time; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Brown bacon in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and soft en; deglaze with reserved cooking water. Whisk eggs with cheese. Off heat, add pasta, beans, eggs and cheese to skillet and toss; season with salt and pepper.