Friday, February 27, 2009

Red Beans and Rice and Cornbread Pudding

For some reason, I'm getting some weird cravings, and I was craving red beans and rice the other day. When I was in boarding school in Florida we used to have black beans and rice or red beans and rice A LOT! It was probably a cheap way to feed hungry students.

I got this recipe from "Down Home With the Neely's" which is a semi-new cooking show on Food Network. I'm still not sure if I like it, only because the couple (the Neely's) are so freakin' lovey-dovey...Oh, and if you're a bread pudding aficionado, I think you'll like this cornbread recipe. Bon appetit!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 to 6)

Red Beans

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used Kielbasa)
  • 1 tablespoon your favorite dry rub or seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans red beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Pinch salt

In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, celery, green bell pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the smoked sausage, dry rub, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes then add the red beans, chicken stock and bay leaves. Let simmer uncovered on low for 1 1/2 hours. Stirring occasionally and adding water, if necessary.

While the beans are cooking add all the ingredients for the rice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with the red beans.

Cornbread Pudding

  • 1 (17 oz.) can whole kernel corn
  • 1 (17 oz.) can cream style corn
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix

Beat eggs. Add melted, cooled butter, sour cream, whole and creamed corn, and Jiffy mix and mix well to combine. Put into 2 1/2 quart casserole. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Avocado Dip

I love fries...but what girl doesn't, right? One of my favorite kind of fries (besides truffle fries) are sweet potato fries. Since I'm trying (keyword: trying) to eat healthier these days, I found this recipe for oven fried sweet potato fries--yes, I know "oven fried" is an oxymoron--and I have to say the fries were good, but not as crispy as I would have wanted them to be. Next time I will cut the potatoes much thinner, almost matchstick, and bake them less time because some of my fries got burnt. However, the fries were delicious and the avocado dip was pretty good, too. You can also use the avocado dip as a substitute for mayo in a sandwich. I got this recipe from Simply Delicioso, which is not one of my favorite cooking shows but some of the recipes are pretty good.


Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 4-inch long and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick fries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Coarse ground rock salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Avocado Dip, recipe follows

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil until the sweet potatoes are coated. Add the paprika, chili powder, coriander, salt, and pepper; toss to distribute evenly.

Arrange the coated fries in a single layer on the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack until the sweet potatoes soften. Transfer the pan to the upper rack of the oven and bake 10 minutes longer, until fries are crispy. Serve with Avocado Dip.

Avocado Dip

  • 1 Hass avocado
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped.
  • 2 scallions, white and light green part only, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the avocado, mayonnaise, cream cheese, jalapeno, scallions, and lime juice into a blender or small food processor. Blend for 1 minute or until you have a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve as a dip for the Sweet Potato Oven Fries.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grilled Salmon Sandwiches

The Contessa never fails! I got this recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook and I just had to make it because it seemed like such a simple yet healthy meal and, as I mentioned before, my family and I are trying to eat more fish. I am very lucky that there is a fishmonger I can go to and get the freshest catch of the day, and I think that's a big key in this recipe: super fresh salmon fillets. I cut the recipe below in half since it's just me, Matt and Mike, and the portions came out perfectly!

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)

  • 2 pounds fresh salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped scallions, (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons capers, drained
To assemble:
  • 6 fresh white or brioche rolls (4-inch round)
  • 1/4 pound mesclun mix or fresh basil leaves

For the salmon, heat your (coals or propane) outdoor grill and brush the top of the grill with oil. Rub the outside of the salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until the salmon is almost cooked through. Remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

For the sauce, place the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, basil, dill, scallions, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until combined. Add the capers and pulse 2 or 3 times.

To assemble the sandwiches, slice the rolls in 1/2 crosswise. Spread a tablespoon of sauce on each cut side. On the bottom 1/2, place some mesclun salad and then a piece of salmon. Place the top of the roll on the salmon and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pannekoeken Revisited

There's a controversy in the family about "pancakes." Apparently a lefse is not a pancake, but more like a Norwegian tortilla. But there is a type of Nordic pancake that my father-in-law makes; he calls it a Finnish Oven Pancake. My husband and his brothers grew up eating this pancake, but they call it panakuken or panakoken. Nevertheless, my brother-in-law, Michael, perfected the recipe below and he makes it for us at least once a week. You don't really need to add any syrup after the panakoken is baked, but a little brown sugar and melted butter go great with this pancake and so does a a really hot cafe au lait!


  • 1/4 c butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tblsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Divide the butter and melt it in two 8" round pans in the hot oven.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl, add milk, flour sugar and salt. Beat continuously with wire whips for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into sizzling hot pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Serve the Finnish pancake with melted butter and brown sugar.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I'm not a Sandra Lee fan as most of her recipes call for 70% canned or store bought ingredients and only 30% fresh ingredients, but at times some of her recipes do save many cooks a lot of time. So what I did here is we took part of her BBQ chicken pizza recipe but we raised up a notch by making our own dough and grilling our chicken. Yes, this definitely is not a Semi-Homemade recipe, but give it a try because homemade pizza dough is so good and this pizza was super cheesy and gooey!


Pizza Dough

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup warm water (110 to 115° F)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
BBQ Chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 Tablespoon Butt Rub
  • 2/3 cup barbecue sauce (we used Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Grilled chicken, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Make the dough: In a small bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves. Let the yeast mixture stand for 5 minutes, until a layer of foam forms on the surface.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the olive oil and the yeast mixture. Stir the flour into the wet ingredients, until all the flour is incorporated. If its too dry, add more water in tablespoon increments.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 15 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and put in in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with a moist towel and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 45 minutes).

After about 45 minutes the dough should have about doubled in size. Show it who's boss and punch it down. That's right, give it a good smack so it deflates. Let it rise for another hour to an hour and a half. The dough is now ready to be rolled out

About 15 minutes before baking, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

For the Chicken: sprinkle the Butt Rub (or your favorite grill rub) over the chicken. Heat your grill on medium-high for direct heat grilling. Grill chicken pieces, about 5 minutes per side.

About one minute before you remove chicken from grill, brush two tablespoons of the bbq sauce over chicken. Set chicken aside to cool and chip into 1" bite-sized pieces.

For the Pizza: Punch the dough down, and roll out into a 16 inch flat circle. Spread remaining barbecue sauce evenly over pizza dough. Sprinkle smoked Gouda, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and Parmesan. Next spread the onions and chicken pieces and top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cheese bubbles. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and cut into pieces.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Banana Cake

I found that we had two overly ripe bananas in the house the other day and, of course, the first thing that came to mind was banana bread. I checked my cookbooks for recipes and I also checked online, and the recipes were all pretty much the same. I had remember a long time ago that my mom used to make a banana bread with sour cream. So finally, I found the recipe below (it is for banana muffins, but I adapted to a cake) and the cake was moist and delicious and it goes so well with a hot cup of coffee. I called this banana cake because I didn't have a loaf pan, so I baked it in a 9" round cake pan. Next time, I might make a strudel and put it on top. Umm..that would be yummy.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 ounces chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter 9" cake pan.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla, then the egg, beating for about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't be disturbed if the batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Stir in the chopped walnuts by hand.

Pour cake batter into cake pan.

Bake for about 28 to 32 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer cake to a rack, cool for 15 minutes, then gently turn the cake out of the pan. Cool to room temperature on a rack and cut into wedges and serve. YUM!

Peanut-Bacon Brittle

This is all Kerry's fault! My friend Kerry Sainato from Boston is the ultimate foodie and she's about to finish her culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University. This past Christmas she sent us a goodie box filled with her homemade morsels, and one of them was bacon-pecan brittle. It was so divine, that Matt and I ate it up immediately. So, ever since then Matt has had a craving for more things bacon. We searched for recipes for brittle, and the first batch he made did not come out because he did not use a candy thermometer. The second (and subsequently third) batch all have been quite successful. A candy thermometer is a "must" if you want your brittle to come out delish, and it's always good to have one in the house anyway. So here is Matt's version of peanut-bacon brittle--I supervised the entire process!


  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • parchment paper
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 slices of crispy bacon, crumbled (reserve 2 tablespoons)
  • A candy thermometer
  1. Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves in the water, about five minutes.
  2. Next, add the corn syrup and salt, and keep heating until it starts to boil. At this point, you'll want to add your candy thermometer, and while continuously stirring, monitor the temperature of the mixture. Don't let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan, since that's hotter than the mixture.
  3. When the sauce gets to between 225 and 230 degrees Fahrenheit, add the peanuts and keep on stirring.
  4. Keep heating, and when the temperature gets to 290 degrees, remove it from the heat.
  5. Add your remaining ingredients: butter, baking soda, and crumbled bacon, and stir until the butter is melted.
  6. Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and spread it around with a spatula.
  7. Sprinkle the reserved bacon bits over the brittle.
  8. Let it cool completely, up to 1 hour, and drop the sheet pan on kitchen counter to break the brittle or break with a knife.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Mikey Burgers

My brother-in-law, Michael, is staying with us for now and he had an insatiable craving for hamburgers a few days ago. Perhaps he was craving burgers because we have a new grill and the weather is quite nice here, or he's just low in iron. Nevertheless, he prepared these hamburgers for us and they were really good. He, of course, added all 5 cloves of garlic, but it's definitely up to you. We also used excellent buns we bought at Mike's new favorite place, Panchita's Bakery in Golden Hill.

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 to 7 burgers)

  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 1 lb. ground sirloin
  • half a red onion, chopped
  • 3 to 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 to 5 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt & pepper
  • Hamburger buns, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, mustard, catsup, etc...

In a large bowl add the ground chuck and ground sirloin, the chopped onions and garlic and mix, gently, with your hands until it's well combined. Add several dashes of worshy sauce and mix to combine again.

Lay out a piece of parchment on a shallow tray and start forming your patties. Place patties over parchment.

Let the patties rest 10 minutes before you start grilling.

Setup your grill for direct-heat grilling and grill patties, about 5 minutes per side, or depending on how you like them. While patties are on grill, season with salt and pepper. And if you want cheese, place a slice of American during the last two minutes of grilling.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Best BBQ Beans Ever

Best BBQ Beans Ever!

[REPOST] As you may have noticed, I haven't posted many recipes lately and that's because Matt and I have had a steady stream of visitors lately. So, we've been entertaining out-of-town guests and I haven't been doing much cooking lately--but Matt has been doing quite of bit of grilling since our weather here is warming up nicely.

When it comes to grilling I always think of beans as a side dish, but not just any beans...BBQ beans! This is a recipe I tweaked from Steven Raichlen. He makes his beans over a grill and adds wood chips to a smoker box to give it a smoky flavor. I, on the other hand, added smoked bacon and liquid smoke to my crock-pot beans to give it that "outdoorsy" taste. These beans are simply fabulous and a sure hit at any BBQ.

INGREDIENTS (feeds about 14 people)

  • 1 pound smoked bacon cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans
  • 1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans
  • 3 cans (each 15 ounces) baked beans or pork and beans
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and diced (for hotter beans, leave the seeds in)
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups sweet red barbecue sauce (your favorite commercial brand)
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat and fry until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pour off all the bacon fat, saving two tablespoons for the beans.
    frying up bacon drain the beans, man!
  2. Empty the cans of black and kidney beans into a colander and drain. Rinse the beans under cold running water and drain again. Place all the beans (including the baked beans or pork and beans) in your Crock Pot and add the onion, bell and poblano peppers, garlic, and jalapeƱos and Anaheim peppers and stir to mix.
  3. Add the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, mustard, liquid smoke, if using, and fried bacon and stir to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more brown sugar and/or mustard as necessary, and add salt and black pepper; the beans should be very flavorful.
    the crock-pot
  4. Place the lid on your Crock pot and set it to "High." The beans will be ready in about 4 hours. If you're cooking them over the stove top, simmer them for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirrings once in a while. Add the reserved bacon grease (if using) to the beans about 10 minutes before serving and stir well. Your beans will be perfect!
Recipe slightly modified from Steven Raichlen's BBQU.NET