Monday, December 1, 2014

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

A hot toddy is the kind of enticing thing you read about in books when you're a kid, like baked alaska, or Turkish delight - it sounds so amazing that the name sticks with you, even though you may have no clue what's in it or how it might taste.

I have heard from friends that grew up in cold places that this is often served after winter sports, like ice fishing and skiiing.  I grew up in California, so I never had this until recently, when I had a bottle of bourbon on hand and the wind was whistling outside.

It's the perfect drink for a cold night in front of the fireplace, snuggled up to someone special... or with a good book!

Yield:  2 cocktails

6 tablespoons honey
2 cups hot water
3/4 cup bourbon (I used Maker's Mark)
2 lemon peels
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise cloves 

Heat the water on the stove, in a teapot, or in the microwave. Mix in the honey until it dissolves. Add the bourbon and divide between two rocks glasses.

Add a strip of prepared lemon peel and the star anise to each cocktail. Stir the drinks with the cinnamon sticks, drop in, and serve. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Spiced Scones

Scones are surprisingly easy to make!  They taste best eaten within a day or so and while warm.  Happy holidays!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup buttermilk, divided (reserve ¼ cup)
1 large egg

3 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Spiced Pumpkin Glaze: 
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons milk (add more if needed for a pourable consistency)

The first step is to combine the dry ingredients.  The idea is to blend the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  The old school way to do this is to cut in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender.  You can save a little time and carpal tunnel by doing this in a blender or food processor - I have replicated this technique in my blender many times and there is no discernable difference in taste or texture in the final product.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin and milk. Stir in the crumbly flour/butter mixture until just moistened; do not overmix.  On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it comes together. Use your hands to form the dough into a large round shape, making it smooth and even, about 1 inch high.  Using a large knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 triangle pieces.

You can bake the scones right away if you're in desperate need of carbs, however the best thing to do is chill them first!  The scones have a large proportion of butter to flour, and if baked while at room temperature, the butter will melt and seep out, which will make the scones overly dense and dry.  Freeze or refrigerate the scones until they are cold, and you'll end up with a much tastier scone!  The scones can also be frozen indefinitely and baked at a later date.

When ready to bake the scones, preheat the oven to 400.  Place the scones 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Brush reserved buttermilk over the top of each scone.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

To decorate the scones, if you want to be fancy, you can make a simple powdered sugar glaze (1 cup of powdered sugar and several tablespoons of milk or water) and coat the top of each scone with that before drizzling with the spiced glaze.  That will create a dual toned icing (see top picture).  Or you can simply combine the spiced glaze ingredients as listed above and drizzle over the scones.  Either way they will be delicious!  Enjoy!

Note: if you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, you can substitute the other spices in the recipe with that. Season to taste or use about the same total quantity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spicy Stewed Mexican Potatoes (Papas Guisadas)

This is a super easy dish to make that is hearty, but still healthy.  I like to make a big batch of this, serve it as a side dish, and then eat the leftovers for lunch for a couple of days.

Yield:  5-8 medium servings

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 pounds russet or red potatoes, cubed
3 serrano peppers, diced (remove seeds for a less spicy dish)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 whole bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste


Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Cook in boiling water until just tender. Drain and set aside.

In a blender, add the fresh and crushed tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, oregano, chiles and garlic. Blend until smooth.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook over high heat until slightly soft. Add the potato cubes and continue frying. Once the potatoes are cooked through and have started to brown, pour the sauce over the potatoes, reduce heat, and cook for about 10 more minutes.

Potatoes should be soft and tinged with the color of the tomato before this dish is ready.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with cilantro, then serve. This dish is great as a meal, a side dish, or in tortillas as vegetarian tacos.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oaxacan Red Chile Enchiladas

Making enchilada sauce from scratch is very easy and tastes a million times better than the canned stuff!  This recipe is slightly different than traditional red sauce.  It's very garlicky, a little spicy and a little sweet.  I like to double the sauce ingredients and freeze half later, to use over quesadillas or in beans (or in another batch of enchiladas!) 


Yield: approx 6 servings 



1 medium white onion, diced

2 whole dried guajillo chiles
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 plum tomatoes, cored and quartered
2 serrano chiles (remove seeds for a less spicy sauce)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tsp. fresh chopped oregano
2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 slice white bread, toasted and crumbled
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste
18 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
3 cups cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping) 

1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese 
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup copped cilantro
Salsa (for serving)
Heat a skillet on high heat and add the dried chiles. Toast for about two minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with boiling water, then allow to soak for about 20 minutes.  Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid, and remove the stems and seeds.  Transfer the chiles to a blender or food processor along with enough of the soaking liquid to cover the chiles.  Purée until smooth, then set the chile purée aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat, and add the whole garlic cloves, tomatoes, chiles, spices, herbs, and onion.  Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.  Add the chicken stock, lime juice, sugar and bread, then cook until the mixture has thickened a bit.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Once the mixture has cooled, pour into a blender with the chile puree.  Purée until smooth, then season with salt to taste.  That's the sauce!

For the chicken, I usually boil boneless skinless chicken breast for about 30 minutes, allow it to cool, then shred it by hand.  Depending on how saucy you want your enchiladas, you can add about 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce to the chicken to coat it.  If not using additional sauce, add a bit of salt and pepper to the chicken so it isn't bland.

Now, set up your enchilada making station!  One bowl of chicken, one bowl of enchilada sauce, one bowl of cheddar cheese, and a pile of tortillas.  And a casserole dish.

The tortillas must be warm in order for them to be pliable enough to fold.  The traditional way to make them pliable would be to fry them, but personally I find that adds more grease (and more calories!) than necessary.  What I usually do is heat about half of the tortillas in the microwave at a time - about 30 seconds will do it.  It won't affect the flavor at all, and if the tortillas get cold while working, you can just nuke them again.

To assemble the enchiladas, start by spooning a bit of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish. Dip a warm tortilla in the enchilada sauce bowl to coat each side.  Place chicken and cheese in the center of the tortilla, then roll tightly.  Place seam side down into the casserole dish, then repeat until the dish is full.  Spoon additional enchilada sauce over the enchiladas, then sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Bake enchiladas in a 350 degree oven until melty and brown on top, or about 20 minutes.

To serve, transfer the enchiladas to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with cotija cheese, onion rings, and cilantro, and of course, don't forget salsa on the side!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Double Decker Inside-Out Grilled Ham & Cheese Sammie

This makes an enormous sandwich that you can share with a sandwich loving friend, or eat for two meals!  The method of cooking the cheese into each side of the bread makes for an extra crispy, cheesy sandwich.

Yield: 1 giant sandwich (serves 2)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large slices crusty Italian or Panini bread
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound deli sliced ham

Optional:  any desired condiments or vegetables

Heat a griddle, grill pan, or large skillet to medium high heat.  Butter each side of the slices of bread.  Place the bread pieces (you may have to work in batches, depending on the size of your surface) onto the hot surface.  Sprinkle the top of each slice of bread with Parmigiano, cheddar and mozzarella, a light coating for the surface of each slice, about a teaspoon of each cheese.  Allow the cheese to melt for about a minute, then flip over to cook into the bread.  If the cheese falls off, don't worry!  Just place the slide of bread right on top of it, it will still cook into the bread.

Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is cooked into each slice of bread and is golden brown.  Repeat on each side for all remaining pieces of bread, then remove from heat, leaving the heat on but turning down to medium.

Top three of the slices with the swiss cheese and ham and sprinkle with remaining cheeses, repeating and stacking the sandwich as you go.  Cover with the fourth slide of bread and press together, then place back on the hot surface and cook until the cheese melts, turning once, about 5 more minutes. Cut in half and serve warm, with any desired garnishes.  Enjoy!


Chocolate Strawberry French Toast Roll-Ups

These are super easy to make and delicious for breakfast or dessert.

Yield:  Serves 2-4

8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup prepared chocolate sauce
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Optional:  Maple syrup, for serving

Flatten each piece of bread slightly with a rolling pin. Place about two teaspoons of the strawberries on one end of the bread in a strip. Roll the bread tightly and repeat.

Next, whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium heat and add the butter. As the butter melts, dip each french toast roll in the egg mixture, coating on all sides. Place them on the heated surface, seam side down. Cook in batches until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve warm, drizzled with the chocolate sauce and dusted with powdered sugar, with maple syrup on the side, if desired. Enjoy!

Note: This is an easy recipe to customize, and would be good with any type of fruit, or stuffed with cream cheese, peanut butter, or nutella, or rolled in cinnamon-sugar, etc.

Beer-Battered Buffalo Fried Shrimp

Buffalo sauce!  This is a perfect appetizer or you could make it and serve it over pasta.

Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dark beer
1 1/2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 celery stalks, sliced diagonally

Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup prepared buffalo sauce
3 tablespoons melted butter

Optional:  Ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping 

Heat several inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until a deep fry thermometer reaches 375 degrees.

Whisk the flour, beer, and 4 tablespoons of the buffalo sauce in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat.  Cook the shrimp in batches, frying until fully cooked and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per batch.  Do not overcook or your shrimp will be tough.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the sliced celery to the remaining batter and toss to coat with the sauce, then fry the celery until crisp, about 2-3 minutes.  When ready to serve, whisk the buffalo sauce and butter together, and serve on the side with the warm buffalo shrimp, celery, and ranch or blue cheese dressing, if desired.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

French Fry Hamburger Bun

Okay, so this is barely a recipe... it's almost an edible craft idea.  I personally don't like to put french fries on a burger but I know many people (including my boyfriend Kyle) who do this to a burger every time they eat one, so the concept makes a lot of sense.  And of course it's an impressive presentation!

I won't bore you with a standard french fry and hamburger recipe- I'm sure you can figure that part out for yourselves : )

French Fries (fresh or frozen will work)
Wilton Edible Adhesive
Hambuger Patties
Any desired garnishes (cheese, condiments, veggies, pickles, etc)

Note:  You can find the Wilton Edible Adhesive in any craft store, such as Joanne's Fabrics or Michael's.  It is normally used for decorating wedding cakes, so it can be found in the cake decorating aisle.  It costs about $6-7 bucks and can be used for lots of other edible projects - pic below!
Assemble the buns first.  I have done this twice, once with fresh french fries and once with frozen.  The only discernible difference was that the fresh potatoes glued together more readily, probably because they were not as wet.  However, I did like using the frozen fries because I had more options for shapes & sizes to glue together.  If you don't usually make homemade french fries at home, now would be the time to give it a try!  They taste infinitely better than the frozen ones you're used to eating (and that most restaurants are serving you!)

Heat the oil that you plan to fry your french fries in to 400 degrees, or preheat an oven to 450 degrees if you plan to bake them.  Begin by assembling the puzzle of your bun, using longer and shorter pieces to achieve the desired shape.  Then separate them and glue them in the order you assembled them in.  Allow to dry for about 5 minutes, then fry or bake your french fry buns.

If frying, use a large pair of tongs or metal spatula to carefully remove them from the oil to drain.  If any pieces fall off, don't freak out!  The glue has no flavor or texture and you can easily reglue the piece without any noticeable difference to the food.

Finally, make your burgers, add your desired toppings, and enjoy!