Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sauteed Squash, Leeks and Artichokes

My first memory of having squash was when we lived at the "lake".  This is what we called our small community of Woffard Heights in the mountains of California.  The "lake" was actually named Lake Isabella and we spent every summer fishing, swimming, rock climbing and bridge jumping.

When we were not at the lake we were riding horses, hiking, playing with our cousins or working.  Our grandparents had a rock bed for a yard and we spent several summers making these huge rock walls.

This was a lot of work!  It was also my introduction to physical labor.  My grandfather, who we called, "pop" was a military man.  He was a caring man but very stern and felt that the only way for anyone to learn discipline was to rise early, work through out the day and then work some more.  LOL

I gained a lot from these hours spent with him.  I admired him.  I wanted his approval.  I would often spend extra time loading and unloading boulders so that he would think I was a hard worker.  I wanted his approval.  I was a girl and felt as though I had a lot to prove.  (Those were the days)

He passed away while I was a teenager and I do believe he felt I was a hard worker.  I wasn't mature enough at the time to have "that" conversation with him and really share my feelings of how much I admired and looked up to his example of work.

I wish that I could go back for one day and really have a good chat.

So what does squash have to do with this? My grandfather was from Texas.  I grew up on chicken fried steak,  gravy, meat and potatoes and a lot of fried food.

My grandmother would make summer squash for us a lot.  It was the "alien ship" squash.  That is what we called it, because they looked like little UFO's.

She would dredge it in flour, salt and pepper and milk.  Fry them in a pan and serve them with ranch.

Oh it was so good!

This was the start of my love affair with squash and zucchini. I try not to eat my squash fried anymore and that is how this dish came about.  I threw this dish together the first few times with leeks, yellow squash and artichokes.  The second time I made it with zucchini, red onion and artichokes.

It is one of the best side dishes I have made in a long, long time.  The flavors just explode in your mouth.  Adding the red tomatoes at the end add that bit of sweet flavor that only a good tomato can do.

Recipe:  Sauteed Squash, Leeks and Artichokes

Olive oil, add to pan as needed
3 yellow squash (or zucchini), sliced
1 cup of leeks, sliced in rings.  Use the white part.  You can use red onion too.
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 cup of un-marinated artichokes, halved
handful of fresh herbs:  cilantro, Oregano and Basil (do not use dried herbs, it's not the same in this dish)
7 Campari tomatoes, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, add enough olive oil to saute your first batch of ingredients.  I sauteed the leeks, garlic and artichokes together first.  5 minutes or until the leeks are clear and cooked.

Remove this mixture to a large bowl.  You can steam your squash in the microwave by adding a small amount of water to a microwave safe bowl along with the sliced squash and cook until just tender.  I prefer to cook the squash in my pan so that I get the added flavor of the olive oil and the flavor of sauteing them this way.  It took me 3 batches.

When each batch is finished add it to the large bowl with your artichoke and leeks.  Chop your herbs and toss them into the last batch of squash.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Throw in the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

 Add the contents of the large bowl back into your saute pan and combine.  Season with salt and pepper.

 This is an excellent main dish, side or left over.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

158. Tamales-Pork

Traveling around the United States has allowed me to meet new people, learn new traditions, see and explore new territory and try so many new foods.

I feel that these experiences have shaped who I am and how I cook.  I have friends from all over the world that are first or second generations living in the US.

What their families have brought to those of us who have been raised here, in the US, is greater than what one could read in a book or see in a picture.  They are living accounts of how they lived, their families lived, the foods they ate/eat, the ingredients that shaped and molded their dishes and why they are here in the US.  

They brought a wealth of information that could easily be found in a book, but it's not the same as talking with them, cooking in their kitchens or listening to their stories.  Feeling and experiencing the emotion behind what they cook is a powerful experience.

I have never been to Mexico, I lived close as a child in LA.  I don't have any ancestry that is from Mexican/Spanish descent.  Yet, I find myself wanting to eat and learn to cook food from this region of the world.

This can be said for so many of the dishes that I make.  I love flavor, exotic spices and ingredients, new techniques, a challenge in the kitchen…I just love ALL facets of cooking, baking and eating it all. The fact that the world cooks so differently creates a challenge for me to learn.  

I never want to stop learning.  EVER!

In Denver, we had friends that would make tamales like they would never have them again.  When you make tamales for a huge family event, we are talking hundreds of handmade tamales.  Our friends would often invite us to such events and my mouth would drop when I saw the amount of food they would prepare.  Their food is a part of who they are.  It made a statement of where they came from.

I learned to make tamales from a lady that my husband worked with.  In their culture it would usually involve several women from different families.  The recipe I share today was made by me, single handily done.  I do believe that cooking in a kitchen filled with women and laughter would be a happier experience. 

 Invite your friends and family to help you make these tasty tamales.  Tell stories, laugh and share in the joy of working together in the kitchen.  It is a bit of work, but so worth it!

Recipe: Pork Tamales

4 thick boneless pork chops
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Cumin
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375.

I use a cast iron pan.  Lay the pork chops on the bottom and add the other ingredients (see picture below)

Cover pan with foil.  Bake for 1 hour at 375 and reduce temperature to 325 and cook for another hour.

When you unwrap the foil, using two forks, pull the meat apart.  You will notice that some of the water is still in the pan. Do not  pour this out.  The meat will absorb the liquid and make it very tender and moist.  At this point, you can set it aside until the tamales are ready to be made or you can recover and put in the fridge for a 1-2 days.

Recipe: Tamale Batter
Recipe adapted from The Dumpling, a Seasonal Guide by Wai Chu and Connie Lovatt

I doubled the below recipe and had a little bit left over for the meat recipe above.

1/3 cup of Crisco or lard at room temperature
1 cup  masa harina
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 chicken broth, lukewarm

In a medium size bowl, add your Crisco.  With a hand mixer, beat the Crisco until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

After being whipped.

Add the masa harina, baking powder and salt into to a large bowl.  Add the broth and mix until all of the liquid is gone.  Add lard a tablespoon at a time.

After the last bit of Crisco is added, beat on high for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.  This will last for one day in the fridge.

Time to pull it all together.  You will need the corn husk.  I like to go through the pile and pull out the best ones. I start with 20-24 and add them to a bowl with warm water.  This short bath makes the husk easier to bend and fold.  You will need some cooking twine to close the ends  I usually cut these about 6 inches in length.  You can use pieces of the husk, but for the sake of time…the string is easier.

This process does not need to be perfect.  You basically are wrapping the tamale batter around the pork.  SIMPLE.

Select a piece of corn husk and spread a golf ball size of batter in the middle of the husk…estimate about a 4X6 size.

Add the pork.  I usually estimate a 1/4 cup or less.

This picture below is showing you that the idea is to have the tamale batter go all around the pork.  So you can fold the corn husk in half so the sides can meet and then continue wrapping the corn husk to create a tube.  See picture below.  Use twine to secure the ends.

 Tada…you have a tamale.

I layer mine on a cookie sheet until I am ready to add them to the pot to be steamed.
I use a large stock pot with this steamer basket in the bottom.  I layer my tamales up to the top.  Make sure you add water to the bottom of the pan frequently.  You want the steam to cook your tamales.  I would suggest adding 1/2-1 cup of water every 20 minutes.  The tamales will take about 90 minutes.

The tamales will soften and cook down a bit.  The masa may appear soft, but once it is exposed to the air and has a chance to sit for 5 -8 minutes it firms right up.

We eat our tamales with ketchup but by all means use what dipping sauce you like or none at all.

Chicken and Dumplings

Our weather this year in Maryland has been a sprinkle of this and a dash of that.  We have had high temperatures in March and low temperatures today, which today we are in the month of June.

It is no secret that my family enjoys a lovely bowl of soup all year round.

This is a basic recipe, that I am sure most of you make and probably use a little of this and a little of that to add flavor, texture and deliciousness to satisfy your families taste buds.

I usually make this right after I have bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  It's true, I cannot resist the aroma of the chickens cooking in our local grocery store.  

Sometimes I have a lot of meat still left on the bones and other times it's slim pickings.  If you don't have the amount of meat that you would like, then you can add a can of cubed chicken, cook up a couple of chicken breast or add a few thighs to the stock pot. 

I like to combine the dark and white meats in my chicken soup.

When I was a kid our chicken and dumplings were prepared with diced potatoes in the soup, served with mashed potatoes on the side and of course, they had dumplings.  That is a lot of starch.  We have learned a little bit since I was a kid of what might be considered too much.LOL  Oh,  but it did taste good!

This is a lighter version of what I grew up with: no mashed potatoes and the diced potatoes are an option.  

Recipe:  Chicken and Dumplings

1 rotisserie chicken, with meat still on bones or 6-8 thighs
10 cups of water (you need extra broth for cooking the dumplings or you won't have much liquid left)
1 teaspoon pepper
4-6 cubes of chicken bouillon,  add more if you want a stronger flavor
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups of sliced carrots
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of sliced onion
2 potatoes, diced (optional, not pictured above)
3 cups of chicken meat (picked off of carcass after it has simmered with the broth)

Dumpling recipe below

In a large stock pot, add the chicken carcass (or thighs), water, bouillon, garlic and pepper.  Let simmer for 60 minutes.

Taste the broth and see if it is to your liking.  Add salt or more bouillon to match your taste buds.

Remove the whole chicken or thighs.  Scrape the bottom to try and get any bones that may have slipped to the bottom. This can be a hot process.  Let the chicken cool or use two forks to remove the meat.  Remove all of the meat from the bones.  You can add as much meat as you would like.  I always start with three cups and go from there.

While you are removing the meat from the chicken you can let the veggies cook. Add the carrots, celery and onion.  Let cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.  If you choose to add potatoes, this cook time may be increase based on their doneness.

Add chicken and let soup simmer while you are making the dumplings. When ready to add the dumplings, I like my soup to be boiling.


2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of thyme. I like to add some dried herbs to make the dumplings look pretty.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, dried herb and baking soda, mixing well. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender or you can grate your butter, instead of using a pastry blender and toss together with your hands.

Add cold buttermilk, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not overmix - about 2 minutes total).  Based on where you live you may need to add a bit more flour or buttermilk, do so sparingly.  The dough should not be too wet or too dry.

You have two options to adding your dumplings to the chicken soup. You can roll out the dough to 1/4 inch on a lightly floured surface and cut them into strips or use a round cookie cutter OR you can drop by spoonfuls.  This is the method I have always used.  I try to make sure that when I place the dumpling in the soup that I spread it out a bit so that it's not too thick and they cook through.

Add dumplings to boiling soup and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Try not to remove the lid before the time is up.  The steam is what will cook the top of the dumplings and when you crack the lid it releases the steam.

Serve in a bowl.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade BBQ Sauce

2020 Update: With the stay-home policy set in place, I am cooking a lot from scratch. I made this today and it is still just as good as when I made it many years ago. I did double my batch and this required me to adjust some of the seasonings, so if you double the batch, you will also want to increase the seasonings to your flavor preferences. 

Memphis, Carolina, Hot, Sweet, Spicy, Mustardy….all words to describe one sauce:  BBQ.

I found this great link to learn more about some of the top flavors of preferred sauces.  LOOK HERE.

Making my own sauces from scratch is something I enjoy doing.  When it comes to salad dressings, marinades and dips, fresh sauces always taste better to me.  If they sit for a few days that flavor gets even better with time.

This bbq recipe I have been making for our favorite BBQ items for a long time now.  I use it on chicken and ribs.

Over the years it has been modified with a few tweaks here and there based on what I have had on hand.   This is the beauty of cooking from scratch, you never get bored because your imagination with flavors are always changing and improving based on what you have at your fingertips.

I play this silly game with myself, I imagine walking into someone's home and being asked to cook dinner with what they have…no grocery runs, borrowing from the neighbors or sneaking into my purse to retrieve something from my home.

Just me and their ingredients.  Oh the fun that I would have and the challenge it could be.

Back to the recipe…LOL  I get easily distracted.  Okay here you go.

This recipe today, I have made several times the exact same way, that last few months.  I really wanted to TEST this recipe so that it was perfect.  My family believes it is.

If I had to label the flavor, I would lean toward a Memphis style.  It has the twang of vinegar and a little bit of a sweet touch.

It works so well with the mild flavor of chicken and pork that I often have to put a small bowl on the table for my family and friends to add more to their plates.  They always want MORE.

With this sauce, more is better.  It cooks nicely to the meat and creates a rich reddish brown coating.   I also love the tips of my meat to get charred…I love that slight touch of a burnt BBQ flavor in some of my bites.

Yes, it's a weird thing but I also grew up with my Mom eating burnt toast….it must be in our DNA.  LOL

Recipe:  Homemade BBQ Sauce

Makes 3 cups of sauce, after simmering for an hour

1.5 cups of ketchup
1 cup of tomato sauce
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1/8-1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke (start with less and add more based on your taste)

Combine all of the above ingredients into a medium size pot.  Turn heat to medium high and bring sauce to almost a boil, bubbles around edges.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

You will start to notice your sauce getting deeper in color, thicker and reducing.  This is what you want.

 With your meat prepared, add your sauce to coat.  I will use our chicken legs as an example.

Make sure your meat is well coated.

I set my grill at 350 degrees.  I add my coated chicken legs and let each side cook for about 7 minutes.  I add more sauce each time I turn my legs.  This gets the sauce nice and thick on each piece.

TADA…you're done!  Nicely BBQ'd chicken legs or ribs (picture below).

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Focaccia Bread

I am so excited to be sharing my recipe for focaccia bread with Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  Ann is wonderful and she has always been so supportive of my blog and photography.  This is the post that I shared with her last month.  ENJOY!


It will be one year in June when I started my blog, Simply Gourmet Photography.  I have been taking pictures for a long time and just happened to be asked to work with some amazing companies as a food photographer.  I recently moved to MD and was needing a change, so I started the blog with the hope that new opportunities would come my way and they have.  I am now a writer for one of our local magazines and I enjoy it very much.  I still get to take pictures, develop recipes and write. 

One thing that I love about Ann's recipes are they are fresh.  I love her salads the most!  She has inspired me on more than one occasion to create a fun salad and dressing.  What better accompaniment to a salad than a fresh loaf of bread.  

I love bread and I make bread a lot for my family.  I have easy one hour recipes and then I have the all day, double rise, let sit over night recipes.  I enjoy them all. I love the way the dough feels in my hands after it has risen, so soft and airy.  I find the process of making bread creative.  There are so many types of bread, toppings, flours and styles.  You could never get bored with making bread.

This recipe for focaccia has been made numerous times for my family.  I especially like to make it for sandwiches and big parties.  It makes two loaves and the options for toppings are endless.  This flavor of the caramelized onion and grilled garlic is my favorite.  I will make this focaccia and use the bread for French Dips.  It holds up great for a sandwich and the onion/garlic combination compliments the beef well.

Recipe:  Caramelized Onion and Garlic Focaccia

Makes 2 loaves

To make the caramelized onions you will need:

1 large red onion, sliced
1 T. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Splash of red wine

In a large saute pan, add oil.  Add the sliced onion and cook over medium heat.  The onions will start to turn a light brown and then gradually become darker.  If you need to add a bit more oil go ahead.  You don't want them to get dry.  When the onions are dark brown, add your splash of red wine.  This step is optional but it does add a deep rich flavor to the onion.  Continue cooking until the onions are dark, not burnt.  The process takes about 25 minutes depending on how many onions you have.  If you only use half of the onion, the cook time may be shorter.

To make the grilled garlic:

1-2 bulbs of garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil

Cut the ends off of each garlic bulb.  Brush the ends with the olive oil.  On your BBQ, set your grill to 350 and grill the garlic until browned on both sides.  They should be done at around 15 minutes.  I try to do a bunch at this time and then store the extra's in the fridge.  When they are cooked, I remove the cloves and smash into a small bowl with 4 T. of olive oil, this will be used on the focaccia bread.

To make the loaves of focaccia:

2 cups of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4-5 cups of flour, start with the smallest amount and add as needed
5 T. of olive oil

Toppings for focaccia:

coarse salt
fresh herbs or dried (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
olive oil
grilled garlic (recipe above)
caramelized onions (recipe above)

Prepare the yeast by add the water, yeast and sugar to a small bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes until it starts to bubble.  If your yeast does not create a foam/bubbly top then you may need to start over.

In your Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle, add the salt, 3 cups of flour and 2 T. of olive oil.  Start to mix together and add yeast mixture.  Mix well.  Let rest 10 minutes.

Change from the paddle to your bread hook.  On medium speed, add a 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Because my humidity is so high I usually end up adding more than 5 cups…just add it in 1/4 cup increments and you won't add too much.

Knead in your mixer for 7 minutes. Move dough to an oiled glass bowl and let rise until double.

When the dough has doubled, turn onto a floured surface and knead for one minute.  Cut dough in half.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Prepare your cookie sheet.  Spray or oil the sheet then sprinkle some cornmeal across the cookie sheet.

The two focaccia loaves should fit side by side on your cookie sheet.  With your hands pull and push the dough into a small rectangle to fit on half of the cookie sheet.  Leave an inch in between the two loaves.  It will be uneven, this is okay.  It should look like little hills and valleys over the top of each loaf.

Take a pastry brush and brush the olive oil and grilled garlic over the top of both loaves.  It will pool and look like a lot, this is okay as it all cooks into the focaccia.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

Next, add the caramelized onions.  

The final step is adding your herbs and coarse salt.  I used dried herbs in this recipe.  I sometimes use fresh and I love that too.  I usually use an Italian spice blend or you can use oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  The focaccia bread should be golden brown.  We slice ours into 1 inch chunks.

I often times serve the focaccia with a dipping mixture of: extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and salt.  My guest love it!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

152. Mango's and Capital Style Magazine-May 2012

Have you ever received a call and when you hung up you cried?  This happened to me recently.

Oh rest assured, those tears were tears of JOY!

I submitted a picture, was asked a question, got a call and cried.

Called everyone I knew to tell them the news only to be met  by voice mail after voice mail..even the hubby…LOL

So, I sat and enjoyed every minute until I could tell someone that I was being asked and given the opportunity to be the food writer for Capital Style Magazine in Annapolis, MD.

Why the tears?

Hard work!  I started this blog in June of 2011 not having any one area of focus (writing or photography) of what I would do with it in a year.  I worked really hard to maintain updates on the blog, worked on recipes, took pictures and just keep going.  I wanted the process to be "organic" in the sense that I wanted the opportunity to find me and it did.

Do you have a little voice that speaks to you?  Well, I do.  It kept telling me to "build it and they will come".  Yes, I just used an old movie quote…but it is true.

I knew that if I stayed focused and did my very best that something would come my way, and it has.

To write about food, create recipes and share this all while living in a place that I love…is a dream come true.  This is my first set of recipes for Capital Style Magazine.

I put together a set of recipes that could be a "mix and match" for one meal or they could be prepared individually and used at separate times.  I chose to use Mango's because they were one of the first foods that I remember, as a child living in the Philippines with my parents, eating right off of the tree.  I have remained a fan of this fruit my whole life.

Mango's are best eaten when they are fully ripe.  Even when they look over ripe their fruit inside will be so sweet and juicy.

Here is a link showing you how to cut a mango.  They even have a short video you can watch.

1.  Mango Salsa:  This is wonderful served with a batch of warm chips OR it could be used as a relish for your favorite grilled fish OR to add a tropical flavor to your favorite salad.

2.  Parmesan Croutons:  We eat these in soups (usually tomato bisque), like crackers by the handful or served with your favorite salad to add that extra crunch.

3.  Mango Marinade/Dressing:  Just as the title says, it can be used as a marinade for shrimp or chicken OR as a salad dressing.  Our favorite way to enjoy the recipe is warming it first.

Mango Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1 mango...very ripe, cubed

1 slice of pineapple or a small can of tidbits, drained

1/4 cup of red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup of red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 T. cilantro, finely chopped

In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well and serve with chips or as a side with fish.

This will show you how each of the ingredients were prepared before I combined them.

Parmesan Croutons

Makes 4-5 cups of croutons depending on how big your cubes are.

4-5 cups of cubed stale bread. French bread works great.

1/3 cup of olive oil

1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon of dried basil

1/4 cup of fresh parmesan, grated finely

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Combine the bread cubes, olive oil, herbs and cheese. Mix well until each crouton is tossed with herbs, oil and cheese.

Pour the entire bowl onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Toss the croutons every 10 minutes until they turn a golden brown and are crunchy. The tossing will allow the melted cheese to stick to the croutons and bake into the bread cube.

Estimated cook time is 45 minutes. Store croutons in a brown paper bag. They may be served with a salad, soup or just by themselves as a snack.

Mango Basil Marinade/Salad Dressing

Makes about 2 cups

2 ripe mangos, peeled and seed removed

1/3 cup of fresh basil

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano

2/3 cup of orange juice

2/3 cup of sweet chili sauce. I used Mae Ploy.

1 teaspoon of soy sauce

Using a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend the marinade/dressing until you have small flecks of herbs.

To use as a marinade: In a bowl with your desired meat (pictured is shrimp), let marinate at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. If using raw meat, do not serve the marinade as a dressing. This should be thrown away.

To use as a dressing: My family loved this dressing served warm over their shrimp salads. It will last one week in the refrigerator.
Here, I marinated the shrimp, skewered them, and grilled them on the BBQ for about 3 minutes on each side.
I served the shrimp with a huge salad.  My family used the mango salsa, croutons and the warmed up dressing to combine all of the flavors to create a mouth watering dinner.

Monday, May 21, 2012

153. Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats

I am convinced that once you have brown butter, you will never go back to using plain butter.

Ok, so I am exaggerating a bit.  There are a few things that plain butter is best used for, but at the moment I am finding it hard to remember exactly which recipes.  

All I can see are those little brown specks of deliciousness, the aroma of nutty flavors wafting through my house and my teeth sinking into one of the yummiest desserts I have had in a while.

I grew up on Rice Crispy treats.  They were a staple for classroom parties, sleep overs and church bake sales.  

Who didn't like the snap, crackle, pop of this yummy rice cereal?  In fact, I just introduced the cereal to my 5 year old and actually held my ear down to her bowl and gave her instructions to be quiet and to listen.   We laughed and she said she could hear every word.  I could when I was 5 too…LOL

So why not take this treat of my childhood and bring it into the 21st century with brown butter?  I am not the first to have thought of this over the top spin of a simple treat.  I don't know who did it first but all I can say is THANK YOU!

I will warn you that it's near impossible to eat just one.  Trust me I know these things.  

This is not a snack you want to eat's called brown butter for a reason, there is a lot of butter in the recipe.  

Recipe:  Brown Butter Rice Crispy Treats with Chocolate

Makes one batch of treats. 

1/2 box of Rice Crispy Cereal or 5-6 cups of cereal
1 bag of mini marshmallows
1 stick of butter, browned
1/2 stick of butter, browned for the top (optional)
1/4 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips (optional)

I used parchment paper to line my pan.  It made removing and cutting the treats so much easier.  If you use a 9X13 your treats will be thinner than what you see in my picture.  I have an odd size pan it's like 7X11.

To brown the butter.   In a large pot, melt your one stick of butter.  With your heat on medium, watch your butter slowly start to turn a caramel color, it will also bubble and foam right before it transforms to the desired brown butter.  I use a spatula to stir the butter so that it does not sit and burn.  The color will get darker and the aroma will become very nutty.  

Remove butter from burner after you have reached the desired color.  You don't want it to burn.
Immediately add your bag of marshmallows and return to the heat set to medium. Stir until they are melted. When the marshmallows have melted, add the cereal.

Dump your cereal into the prepared pan and with buttered fingers or spoon, press the treats into the pan.  I don't like to do this too hard.

At this point you can stop BUT to have the FULL flavor of the brown butter, it needs a bit more.
While those are sitting for a minute, melt the 1/2 stick and brown the butter.

I took a spoon and went for the dark flakes of brown goodness at the bottom of the pan and drizzled them on top of the already prepared crispy treats.
Those brown circles under the chocolate are brown butter spots.

I then melted the chocolate chips in the microwave and used a baggie with a small hole in the corner and piped the chocolate back and forth.  This created a thin layer of chocolate.  You can definitely add more, but I really wanted to taste the flavor of the brown butter more so than the chocolate.

 If you are in a hurry and want one immediately, I would suggest popping them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to cool the treats and firm up the chocolate.  Don't leave them in or they will become very hard (again, I know this from experience…LOL)


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Avocado Fries with Basil Ranch Dressing

I have never cooked so many recipes out of one cookbook….EVER.  I am usually all over the place and just jump from one idea to the next.  My inspiration comes from many sources: TV, Pinterest, Internet, blogs, family and friends.

I have to admit, that it's been nice to work through Joy's book, Joy the Baker, because it has allowed me to learn about new ingredients(leeks), try new skills (puff pastry) and try new concepts…Fried Avocado's.

I first saw this tasty appetizer a few months ago on Pinterest and thought it sounded amazing.  Why?  Because I love avocado's!  I remember living in California and having an avocado tree in our neighborhood.  Oh, how I would love to have one of those now.

I enjoy the creamy texture of an avocado.  I like to use them in salads, dressings or just plain.  I grew up eating avocados with salt and pepper and then drizzled with Catalina salad dressing.  I ate them this way for years…and years.

My new favorite way of having an avocado is simply cutting it in half and serving a big spoonful of marinated cucumbers and red onions on top.  There is something about the tartness of the cucumbers that marries so well with the smooth and subtle flavor of the avocado.  It's a delightful snack about midday.

Joy's recipe is great, I did have to embellish just a bit.  I think my taste buds are very active because I like flavor and lots of it!  I like spices. I want to taste those spices in the things I cook.

I love that Joy's recipes keep inspiring me and pushing me to think outside the box.

I am a dipper.  I honestly don't remember a time when I was not dipping.  I believe it all started when I was a toddler eating hotdogs…I dipped my hotdog bites into a huge pile of ketchup.  I then graduated to fried eggs with soft yolks.  My favorite was an English Muffin torn into bite size pieces and dipped into the soft, warm yolk…my mouth is watering!

It just progressed from there.  I dip sushi in soy sauce.  Pork Tamales into ketchup.  Chicken tenders into ranch.  Apples into fruit dip THEN popcorn.  The list is endless.

And yes, I have even skinny dipped at the embarrassment  of my children and the delight of my husband.  That is actually a funny story.  Cory's family has frequented the same camping spot for years.  It is very secluded, mostly family with a few friends.  One hot day, all of the Mom's swam out to the "LOG" and took our tops off and threw them on the log.  We felt so "wild".  Our daughters were mortified (they were 12).  We never left the water and from shore you could see nothing. It was a good 100 feet away.  You could just see our arms waving and a ton of laughing. This is a memory that our daughters still bring up to this day.  I just laugh.  See all of my memories are associated with food…LOL

Notes:  Joy's recipe calls for 2 avocados, but for my family we only made one and it was plenty as a test.  I wasn't sure if the big kids would eat it or not.  They did and loved it.  The 5 year old, she tried it but passed on seconds.

Recipe: Avocado Fries with Basil Ranch Dressing
Fried Avocado recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

1 quart of canola oil
1 avocado, medium firm to the touch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
dash of cayenne
1 Tablespoon finely grated Parmesan Cheese
2 cups of Panko

In a large pot, heat oil to 375.  I recommend using a thermometer.  If you don't have one then you can test the oil, by taking a small piece of avocado and preparing it as instructed below and gently placing it in the oil.  If it is bubbling, it is ready…if it is not, then you will need to wait a few minutes.  It will take about 5 minutes for the oil to get to temperature if your heat is on medium, although all ovens are different so be prepared and stand by.  You can usually see the oil start to swirl in the bottom of the pan and this is a good indicator that the oil is almost ready. BE CAREFUL WITH THE HOT OIL.

While your oil is warming up, prepare the three bowls.  You will need one bowl with the beaten eggs.  One bowl with the Panko bread crumbs.  The final bowl will have your flour with all of the spices and parmesan cheese.  Make sure you blend this bowl well.

Once your oil is ready, slice open your avocado, remove the seed and slice down..from top to bottom.  You want long and narrow strips.  I was able to get 5 slices out of each side.

I double dipped my avocado.  Some of the ladies did the single layer and they look great.  Because I added the parmesan cheese I wanted to make sure that everything stuck to the slice.  It did.

This is the process:  Dip in egg, dip in flour/cheese mix, dip in egg and then roll in Panko.

Fry for a quick minute.  It doesn't take long to get them golden brown.  Flip them over if you like.

The Panko will fall off into the oil and I just strained out the extra.  Otherwise it could burn and make your oil taste funny.

I also cooked one slice at a time because they cooked so fast I was afraid to have too many in the pot at once.

I lined a cookie sheet with paper towels and layed my cookie rack on top.  As they came out of the pot I set them on this.  The paper towels caught the extra oil and the cookie rack allowed the whole fry to cool an stay crisp.

Joy recommends keeping them warm in the oven until ready to serve.  You can preheat your oven to 200 for this step.  We ate ours so fast that this was a step we skipped, this time…LOL

Recipe:  Ranch Basil Dressing
Sherron Watson

Note:  This dressing can be made the day of, it should sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, but I believe it taste so much better if made the day before and allowed to rest for 24 hours.  When using the fresh herbs and garlic you need time for the flavors to bloom.

1 cup of sourcream
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2-1 teaspoons of salt, taste as you go
1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
1+ teaspoon of lemon juice, start of small and add more to your taste buds

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes in the fridge.

This is great as a dip or as a salad dressing.


Donut Breakfast Casserole

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