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Posts Tagged ‘foodie hints’

Cherry Clafoutis: So easy and delicious–a great way to showcase fresh cherries of summer!

Summer is the season of cherries! Fresh cherries are a delight that I only recently started to enjoy. They take a little work to pit, but the sweet, tart taste of a fresh cherry makes a wonderful summertime perfect bite. When you are tired of eating the fresh cherries plain, here is a recipe that is quick and easy and makes the perfect rustic dessert or even sweet breakfast.

This recipe uses fresh cherries in a traditional French dish: Cherry Clafoutis. The most traditional way to bake this egg-pastry is to leave the cherries un-pitted. I prefer to go ahead and pit the cherries  prior to baking, so that each bite is full of sweet, tart, creamy, and a little chewy deliciousness.

Cherry Clafoutis

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 2 cups fresh sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted (or leave un-pitted for a purist version–just warn every one of the pits prior to eating)
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Butter–for coating pan
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting/garnish

To make:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Coat a medium cast iron (or other oven-safe) pan with butter. Place cherries in pan in a single layer. Don’t get too attached to the design because they will shift as the Clafoutis cooks.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt until smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Add the flour and whisk until just combined. A few lumps are ok. Hint: the room temperature eggs and milk allow the ingredients to incorporate better than if used cold milk/eggs right from the fridge. The room temperature eggs/milk also help with giving the Clafoutis a better rise when baking.
  4. Pour batter over the cherries in the prepared pan.
  5. Bake approx. 30 minutes. The batter should be set, slightly puffed and light golden brown around the edges.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on a  wire rack  for about 10 minutes (the Clafoutis will deflate).
  7. Garnish with powdered sugar and serve warm. Enjoy!

Ready to slice and eat!

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I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of eggs, but somehow deviled eggs are in a category of their own. Being that Easter is just around the corner–I figured now is the time of the egg! Forget the bright-colored boiled eggs that are pretty to look at and fun to make, but lacking in any flavor whatsoever and not really safe to eat once they sit around at room temperature for very long. I have experimented with several herbs, spices, and add-ins for making deviled eggs and this is by far my best deviled egg recipe–the bacon adds an irresistible crunch and saltiness that keeps you coming back for more. I made this recipe using 5 eggs, but it can easily be doubled or even tripled to feed a crowd!

Deviled Easter Eggs

Ingredients

5 hard-boiled eggs (see note below)

1/4 cup crumbled bacon, plus a few larger pieces for garnish

1/2 Tbsp dry mustard powder

2 Tbsp sweet relish

dash of cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp paprika

ground black pepper to taste

4 Tbsp mayonnaise (more or less depending on the consistency you want)

To make:

Slice the boiled eggs in half and remove the yolk,being careful not to tear the whites. Place the yolks in a medium mixing bowl and set aside whites on separate dish for serving. Mix the crumbled bacon, dried mustard powder, black pepper, sweet relish, mayonnaise, cayenne and paprika into the yolks. Place a heaping spoonful back into each egg white half and garnish each egg with a small piece of the reserved crispy cooked bacon. Serve immediately–leftovers (if there are any) can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to enjoy the next day (or a late night snack) 🙂

Foodie Tip: The key is taste as you go–keep a small spoon on the side to taste the mixture an add any of the seasonings that will balance out the flavors to your liking–this is the key to making any dish have perfect bites, every bite! All of these seasonings are safe to try alone, so feel free to taste each ingredient and really understand the different flavors you are combining to make the yolk mixture.

Cooking Note:

Boiling eggs–place eggs in cold water (covering eggs about 1-2 inches), bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and cover. Let sit for about 12-20 minutes covered. Place eggs in a bowl of cool water–once they are cool enough to handle gently peel the eggs and, voila–hard boiled eggs!

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Roasted Chicken: A Classic Dish Everyone should Know How to Prepare

This is a slightly fancy version of a basic roasted chicken. A simple roasted chicken is an easy, cheap main course to serve any day or night of the week. A basic rub of salt, pepper, and splash of olive oil will do, but this recipe adds a few extra flavors to make a classic dish special.

Garlic Compound Butter

Another fun part of this recipe is making the garlic herb compound butter.Compound butter is basically flavored butter–you allow the butter to come to room temperature,add your favorite herbs and spices (in this case 2 cloves minced garlic), and stir to combine thoroughly. You can use the flavored butter immediately or store in an airtight container for future use. A common use for such flavored butters is to top a warm steak to add an extra layer of richness. In this case, I smear the butter underneath the skin of the chicken before roasting to give the chicken rich flavor of garlic in the meat as well as help the skin to turn out brown, crispy, and full of flavor.

Ingredients:

1 whole roasting chicken

1/4 cup garlic compound butter (see note above)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 whole lemons (1 quartered, 1 left whole)

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and rinse the chicken; let drain for about 2 minutes. Pat chicken dry. Rub the compound butter underneath the skin (this is kind of a gross process–but it is worth it) all over the main meat areas of the chicken (breasts, thighs, drumsticks–but these are hard to get too without tearing the skin too much) and inside the cavity. Pour lemon juice on outside of chicken and inside cavity–coating fully. Rub salt and pepper along outside of chicken and inside cavity as well (to your taste preference). Lastly, stuff the lemon quarters inside the chicken cavity; rub the whole lemon on a solid surface to loosen up the juices and puncture skin with a fork–stuff the whole lemon on the outside of the cavity (if it is sticking out a bit that is ok). Tie the chicken legs together with twine and tuck the wings under the chicken to promote even cooking. Lay the chicken breast side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and cook for 15 minutes, uncovered. After this initial 15 minutes lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken and flip so that it is breast side up. Continue to roast the chicken until done (meat thermometer reaches 165 in the dark meat (thigh)). This is usually about 20 minutes per pound. Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Save the chicken pan drippings to drizzle over the sliced chicken–this will rev up the delicious garlic, lemon flavor to the roasted chicken.

Use leftover cooked chicken to top salads, make sandwiches, or chicken pie!

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Spring has finally sprung!  The need for those thick, bone warming soups is slowly slipping away. I had some extra carrots, onion, and potato that were just screaming to be used before the warm weather really kicks in this season. So what better way to use up those ingredients than to make a light carrot and potato soup! There is no cream in this soup, the potatoes serve double duty in this soup adding just the right amount of thickness and creaminess.

Carrot & Potato Soup

The trick to making these sorts of veggie soups is to layer the seasonings as you cook. Sauteing the carrots, onions, and potatoes for a few minutes with the seasonings revs up the flavor and makes a wonderful base upon which to add the broth. Otherwise if you add the seasonings at the end, they will just float around in the broth and not really mesh well with the vegetables–resulting in  a bland and unevenly seasoned soup.

Leftover soup can be frozen so it can be a  ‘go-to’ on those chilly spring days. But it is light and delicious enough to be a perfect bite any time of the year…

Carrot and Potato Soup

5 potatoes (washed, peeled, cubed)

3 large carrots (washed, peeled, sliced)

1 medium onion, cubed

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

dash of cayenne

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried thyme

32 oz. chicken broth; reserve 1/2 cup (you can use veggie broth to make it a vegetarian meal)

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottom pot on medium-med/high heat. Add the onions and carrots, cook 1-2 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, salt, oregano, thyme, pepper, cayenne, cook 3-5 minutes stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits that may begin to stick to the bottom of the pan–add some broth to help with this process. Slowly add the rest of the broth (not the reserved portion). Bring the broth and veggies up to a boil. On a low boil, continue to cook until the carrots and potatoes are fork tender, stirring occasionally. Take the soup off of the heat. At this point you have  few options: 1) use an immersion blender to blend the soup to a smooth, silky texture–add the reserved broth if needed to thin out the soup to your preference ; 2) remove half of the soup mixture and blend in a blender or food processor, return soup back to the pot and add reserved broth–this will result in a more rustic, chunkier style soup.  I used option # 1 because I prefer smooth, creamy-like soups…but either way the result will be tasty!

Be creative with the soup toppings: your favorite cheese, crumbled bacon, fresh parsley, etc.

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Homemade (mostly) tacos are an easy, quick, cheap option for a weekday meal that are so versatile you could have a different kind almost every day of the week. The basic recipe is tortilla, stuff with your favorite ingredients, roll and eat. This recipe is one that makes a pretty hearty filling that could be used in tacos, quesadillas, or burritos–it just depends on how you want to wrap it 🙂

I haven’t braved the world of making my own tortillas yet, so I turn to white corn tortillas for soft tacos. I like the corn tortilla texture better than the flour personally but the real star of this post is the filling. I have not bought “taco seasoning” in..I cannot remember when. With a few basic ingredients, most of which I bet you already have in your pantry, you can make your own personalized taco seasoning. I like mine smokey and spicy, so the key ingredient for me is smoked Spanish paprika. It is not too hard to find in grocery stores these days, especially in the international food section. This particular brand can be found at Whole Foods.

Another trick you may notice is that (chicken advocates please skip this part) I used canned white meat chicken. Sounds gross and I had to get over the disgust myself–but I find the meat shreds easily and is already cooked so it makes for a (cheap) quick saute and absorbs all of the other flavors perfectly. The meat is not the star of my taco stuffing, so if you are looking for a meat heavy filling–go for “real” chicken, beef, or pork. Alternatively, leave the meat out completely and use black beans, rice, or mushrooms and peppers.

Weeknight Tacos

Ingredients

For the taco filling:

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken (or other meat/veggie option: see note above)

1 cup frozen corn (thawed)

1/2 large white onion, chopped

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1 can diced tomatoes with peppers (mild, medium, or hot–your preference); drained but reserve the juice

For the Taco Seasoning: 

1 Tbsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp dried cilantro

ground black pepper to taste

Note: If you do not want to use fresh onion and garlic in the taco filling, add 1 1/2  tsp each of garlic powder and onion powder into the taco seasoning

corn or flour tortillas (smaller size for tacos; larger flour tortillas to use as a burrito or quesadilla)

Toppings (really anything you like, but here are my favorites):

shredded cheese

sour cream

guacamole

salsa

To make:

Start with adding the onions to a large non-stick skillet (on medium high heat) with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook until tender and beginning to brown then add the garlic and stir. Add the corn, meat, and tomatoes. Stir all ingredients together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, now for the fun part…the seasonings!

My favorite....smokey paprika!

Add the spices: paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, oregano and cilantro. Fresh oregano and cilantro can be used instead, just increase the amount to 1 Tbsp (chopped) of each. If you are using the dry (like I did) gently rub the dried herbs in your hand before adding to help release the flavorful oils from the herbs.

Last but not least....cilantro!

Next step....stir!

After all of the spices are added, gently stir to incorporate well. As you can see I should have used a larger pan 🙂  Lower the head to medium and let the taco filling cook for about 3-5 additional minutes.

Almost done!

You will smell a nice aroma of the spices heating and blending together. If the mixture becomes too dry, add the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes.

Now you’re ready to assemble. To warm the tortillas either heat them in an oven (at 400 degrees) for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Another, more dangerous, option is using the burners on a gas oven. This is my preferred technique. First you must overcome your fear of fire (meanwhile take necessary kitchen safety precautions: fire extinguisher handy, large lid/towel to stifle the potential fire, etc.). Turn a burner on medium low heat, just place the tortilla on the burner for about 20 seconds on each side. This will depend on how high you have the flame, so really just watch it and turn it when you feel like it. Turning multiple times really doesn’t do anything except increase your chances of tearing the tortilla. Once it is done on one side you will notice the tortilla puffing up a bit. At that time use tongs (or your hands if you are feeling brave) and flip the tortilla to the other side–again looking for the puffing.

Note: I have only done this with the corn tortillas, but I imagine flour is somewhat similar.

You can keep leftover tortillas in a fancy tortilla warmer or on a baking sheet in the oven at 200 degrees (they will stiffen up a bit if you do this). Or you can just cook to order. I like to have all of my toppings set out before warming the tortillas so that I can just go straight from the burner to a warm plate and start assembling.  Tortilla–>filling–>toppings = Tacos!!

Weeknight Tacos with Homemade Seasoning

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Smothered Okra

Okra is a Southern staple that has a bad reputation. If cooked improperly (or to some true okra lover’s preference) there will be a significant amount of “goo” that goes with the dish. One way to reduce the “goo” is to saute or pan fry the okra before using it. This is a simple trick  I learned in my Cajun/Creole themed cooking class I took this weekend. I don’t really mind the “goo,” but most people I cook for these days have yet to acquire the distinctive okra loving palate!

Aside from lightly breading fresh okra and frying it up, my next favorite way to cook the mysterious green veggie is to combine it with tomatoes and serve over rice. This recipe for smothered okra is one that I found scourging through some family recipes—the exact origin is unknown. I took the liberty to spice it up a bit so feel free to do the same. The basic mix of okra, tomatoes, onions, and garlic is an easy go-to for using frozen okra when fresh is out of season or hard to find.

Smothered Okra

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups smoked cooked sausage, sliced on a bias (I used kielbasa, but you can use any smoked link sausage you like–even turkey)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 lb frozen cut okra

1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Saute the okra in 2 tbsp vegetable oil 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally for even cooking (cook longer to remove more of the “goo” if desired). Drain and pat excess oil with a paper towel, set aside. Saute the onions and garlic in a scant amount of olive oil in large skillet, just until soft. Add smoked sausage and cooked okra. Stir to combine. Add can of diced tomatoes with juices. Stir gently over medium heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover, add salt, cayenne and ground pepper–cook another 10 minutes (covered or uncovered depending on how thick you want the mixture to be; left uncovered most of the liquid will evaporate), stir occasionally.

Not "goo" but "good"

Serve warm over cooked rice (white, brown, or any kind you like!)

Hopefully this recipe will make okra lovers out of you all!  Enjoy!

Vegetarian option:  Leave out the sausage and add an additional pound of frozen okra and 1 more can of tomatoes.

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Cornbread is a touchy topic for many people–Southern and Northern alike.  The debates revolve around issues such as sweet vs. savory; baked vs. fried; craklin’s vs. peppers; muffin vs. loaf; just to name a few. I defer these debates to the wonderful wikipedia, which has done a nice job of describing “cornbread” from a variety of perspectives. I personally love them all but have provided a recipe here that falls into the more traditional Southern cornbread category. This cornbread has a salty flavor and is best cooked in a cast iron skillet. This cornbread is a perfect accompaniment with the Spicy Beef & Bean Chili recipe.

  • This basic cornbread can easily be adapted to add your favorite flavors (cheese and peppers for a Mexican cornbread; cracklin’s for a true Southern delight;  add onion and fry the batter for hushpuppies).

“Mama’s” Southern Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup corn meal

1 cup self rising flour*

1 1/2 tsp baking powder (check the date, if expired–the bread won’t rise very much)

1 egg

2 1/2 Tbsp vegetable (or canola) oil

milk or buttermilk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and oil together slightly. Begin to add the milk slowly while stirring–add milk until the batter is thick so that it barely pours. Pour into a (well-seasoned) cast iron skillet (or 8×8 baking dish or loaf pan). Cook until lightly brown (will often crack a bit on the top) or when the bread bounces back if you press lightly on top.  Run a knife around the edges when you remove from the oven to help prevent sticking. Serve warm.

Serving options: butter and honey; or along with chili, soup or stew.

*Helpful Hint:  If you don’t have self rising flour here is a conversion for using all-purpose flour (1 cup self rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt).

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