Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scrabble Diva

Can I add a letter to a word I've already played?
Can I rearrange a word I've already played?
I'd like to swap this tile for an E.
Oh look. This isn't a blank tile after all; there's a letter underneath. (Nice strategy if your opponent doesn't count tiles played!)
You can go read Facebook while I think. It's less pressure that way.
Oops! I have 8 tiles instead of 7.
Are you sure "___"isn't a word?

(I don't know when I've laughed so much playing Scrabble. Oh yes--I beat the Diva.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake Serves 12
Milk Mixture
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
 1  (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 
 1  cup heavy cream 
 1  teaspoon vanilla extract 

2 cups all-purpose flour 
2  teaspoons baking powder 
1  teaspoon salt 
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter 
1  cup whole milk 
4 large eggs , room temperature
2  cups sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1  cup heavy cream 
3 tablespoons corn syrup 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Topping (optional)
Mandarin Oranges

1. For the milk mixture: Combine all ingredients. Set aside.

2. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Heat butter and milk in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted; set aside off heat.

3. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs in large bowl for about 30 seconds, then slowly add sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until egg mixture is very thick and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in melted butter mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, scraping down bowl as necessary, then mix on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cake cool.

4. Using skewer, poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in top of cake. Slowly pour milk mixture over cake until completely absorbed. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate uncovered 3 hours or up to 24 hours.

5. For the frosting: Remove cake from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat heavy cream, corn syrup, and vanilla to soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. Frost cake and slice into 3-inch squares. Serve. (The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Fish Tacos: A Great Catch

Lure your guests....
Hook them with one bite...
On a scale of 1-10....   I just crack myself up sometimes!

Ok, seriously, fish tacos are a quick lunch, even quicker if you make the slaw the night before.

Southwest Slaw
1/2 bag of ready-made coleslaw mix
Juice of 1 lilme
1 T. honey (eyeball it)
2 T. apple cider vinegar (generous splash)
2 T. vegetable oil (a glug)
Sprinkle of salt
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced (We're going for tang, not pain.)
1 generous handful cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. chopped red onion
Mix all ingredients and let them get all friendly with each other while you make the fish.

I used a bag of frozen tilapia "loins" from Costco. (Loins? Seriously? What kind of fish has "loins"?????) Thaw and sprinkle both sides generously with the Ancho Rub. (You can substitute any chile-based dry seasoning. If you are desperate I'd use ready made taco seasoning.)
Heat a large skillet over high heat, add enough vegetable oil to keep everything from sticking, and place the fillets in the pan. Oh sorry...lay the "loins" in the skillet. (This is just WRONG people!)  Sear until there is a nice brown crust, flip over and do the same thing on the other side. That's all!

While the fish is cooking, place your desired number of corn tortillas in a pie plate, place a moist paper towel on the top, and microwave for 90 seconds or so until steamy warm.

To serve
Place a piece of fish in the tortilla, top with the slaw, and then a drizzle of jalapeno dip. (This is similar to the Chuy's Creamy Jalapeno Ranch Dressing. If you can't find something similar, start with ranch dressing and chop up a jalapeno or two.) Fin-fully delicious!

Creamy Jalapeño Dip from Chuy's

This one's a keeper folks! It really does taste like the real thing. For those of you who aren't privileged enough to have a Chuy's restaurant in your backyard (or who don't want to stand in horrendously long lines because it's the only decent place to get Tex-Mex in Nashville.....) I offer this wonderful recipe. You can dip your tortilla chips in it, you can dress your salads with it, you can top your tacos with it. Enjoy!   

I'm not usually a fan of "copycat" recipes because they tend not to taste anything at all like the real thing ("Well I just changed this and this, but I think you'll really like it." Um. No. I don't want your version, I want the restaurant version.) OR they go to such ridiculous extremes to try and replicate what are obviously "food service" ingredients that it's just hopeless. Not so in this case.  I stumbled across this one while reading the comments to an article from The Houston Press on salsas. I did a little more hunting and found enough comments from employees to verify.

Your friends and family will think you are amazing and you won't have to wait an hour for a table.

20 oz. sour cream
1/2 c. (approx) buttermilk
1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix (not the dressing)
2/3 c. pickled jalapeno slices (use less if you don't want it as spicy)
1 tomatillo (take the husk off first!)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (Did you know the stems are flavorful as well? Don't worry if you throw a stem or two in there. I don't measure - just grab a handful.)

In a food processor, finely chop the jalapenos, tomatillo, and cilantro. Add to the sour cream and stir along with the dip mix. Add in a little buttermilk until it is creamy. Refrigerate.

Pastry Queen Parties by Rebecca Rather

Another winner from Pastry Queen Parties. I've made three batches in the past week and these went over great with everyone who tried them.  The author says you can actually make these without any fresh peaches at all, and I did that for one batch because my peaches weren't ripe, but please try to get some fresh ones if you can. They bring this recipe into new heights of deliciousness!  I can't believe I'm saying this, but you won't even miss the chocolate. 

Cookbook Note: Most of these recipes make very generous quantities. They are for parties after all! 

Peach Almond Bars
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.
In a food processor mix the following:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
11 T. unsalted butter
pinch salt
Pat the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.

While it is baking, peel and slice 5 peaches.
Set aside, along with 13 oz. good quality peach preserves (Bonne Maman brand is wonderful)

In the food processor (no need to wash), mix the following:
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
8 oz. almond paste

Spread the preserves on top of the crust and top with the peaches. Sprinkle the topping mixture over all. 
Sprinkle with 1 c. sliced almonds.
Bake for 35 minutes until topping is lightly browned.

Variations: Can use raspberries and raspberry jam. Can use frozen fruit that is thawed and drained.

Tilapia Tomatillo Fresco (From HEB Cooking Connection)
1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh tilapia fillets,
2 tablespoons Adams Reserve Southwest Rub,
2 Tablespoons Ottavio Private Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
2 cups (or more) Texas Two-Step Tomatilla & Green Chili Stew Mix,
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco,
* avocado wedges and coarsely crushed tortilla chips (optional garnish),
1 Season both sides of tilapia with Southwest Rub.
2 Heat a large skillet over Medium-High heat 2 to 3 minutes. Add oil; tilt skillet to coat. Sauté tilapia in skillet 2 to 3 minutes per side or until done.
3 Pour stew mix over fillets and sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat to low, cover and heat 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately after topping with avocado wedges and crushed tortilla chips, if desired.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn (from all

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
2.Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,
3.Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

Cookbook Review: Texas Eats by Robb Walsh

Texas is big. Some might say it's too big to have a definable cuisine. If you think Texas cooking is all about BBQ, burgers, and beef, you are probably still wondering who shot JR. Robb Walsh claims to have written "the new Lone Star heritage cookbook" and he delivers on that promise. Organized into 6 sections, each corresponds to a region of the state. Lone Star Seafood (coastal plain), East Texas Southern, Vintage Tex-Mex (South Texas), Old World Flavors (hill country), and Country and Western (West Texas).  Within each section, chapters delve into the specifics, everything from German and Czech to Vietnamese and Cajun.

I love cookbooks that tell stories and this one is complete with pictures and personalities. The recipes had better be pretty amazing as well. Good thing Mr. Walsh is no stranger to good food. I consider a cookbook a winner if I love at least 10 recipes and make them more than once. Texas Eats has earned its spot on my shelf.

Pecan Praline Ice Cream
Mama Sugar's Margarita Ribs
Chicken Fried Steak
Rebecca Rather's Ancho Brownies
Basic BBQ Rub
Chipotle BBQ Sauce
German Cucumber Salad with Dill
Puffy Tacos

Buttermilk Macaroni and Cheese w/ Homegrown Tomato

1/4 c. butter
16 oz. package elbow macaroni
3 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. half-n-half
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
12 oz. jack cheese, shredded
3/4 c. dried bread crumbs (I used panko)
1 lg. tomato, sliced 1/4" thick

Preheat oven to 350. Using 1 T. of the butter, grease a 3 quart baking dish. Cook the macaroni in boliing water; drain well. In a large bowl whisk eggs, buttermilk, half n half, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add to the drained macaroni along with the cheeses and place in casserole dish. Melt the remaining butter and toast the bread crumbs. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the macaroni then top with the buttered bread crumbs. Bake for 45 minutes and allow to set for 15 minutes before serving. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Never Too Hot to Drink Coffee

And to serve with the coffee? Another special from the archives.

8/8/07  There are not many recipes worth firing up the stove for in this Southern Capital of Heat and Humidity, but this one is guaranteed to make your guests  "stagger with joy." Honest! That is what the book says and I tried it on my guests last night. They positively swooned.

Priceless Pecan Triangles
Crust: 2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/8 t. salt
2 sticks butter, cut into slices
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 10x15" baking sheet with parchment paper (this is important; you'll see why later.)
In a food processor, combine dry ingredients. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until dough starts to hold together.
Space portions of the dough on the baking sheet and start to pat to make the crust. Actually, since you already have the parchment paper out, put a sheet on the top and roll the crust with your rolling pin. It will be thin. Just work with it.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes. When finished, take the crust out and leave the oven on.

2 sticks (yes, that's right...2 MORE sticks!) of butter
1/2 c. honey
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 c. cream
3 c. chopped pecans (or  you could use almonds. Those are yummy too!)
1 t. grated orange rind (If you don't own a microplane grater, this is the excuse you have been waiting for!)

In a saucepan, combine butter, honey, and sugars. Heat until dissolved. Raise the heat a tad, bring to a boil, and boil without stirring for 1 minute. Turn off the stove and add the remaining ingredients. Pour over the prepared crust and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven up to 375 and bake for 15 more minutes. The topping will be amber colored and bubbly.

When the pan has cooled enough to allow this, lift out the entire thing using the parchment paper. This will make cutting them into squares, then triangles, so much easier!


I Ate a Tomato!

(From 9/7/07)
Worthy of headlines? Only when you consider that in my 44 years of life I haven't willingly prepared and eaten a raw tomato. Until tonight. The tomato is one of those foods that just looks like it should taste good. It's colorful, good for you, versatile - all  those things that should recommend it, yet I've persisted in leaving it at the top of my "One Hated Food That I Refuse To Eat and You Can't Make Me" list. Everyone in our family gets to have one food on this list. It makes for a very peaceful mealtime. I don't have to worry about accommodating 7 different tastes at once and no one is freaked about having to eat their One Hated Food. (If anyone happens to forget what that food is, I simply assure them it is probably Brussels sprouts and they are safe from ever having to encounter it that evening.)

    But back to the killer tomatoes. In an effort to restrain our eating-out budget, which is rising quicker than our grocery budget, I'm trying to plan ahead. Tonight's dinner was quick, simple, and pretty darn yummy! If you'd like to recreate it for yourself (and any tomato haters in your house), here you go!

    (Note the first- this recipe is all about the ingredients. If you want just any old sandwich, throw together a pbj. To make  this one fancy-schmancy - splurge on the good stuff!
Note the second - some of you out there, and you know who you are, wouldn't follow a recipe if your life depended on it. That's cool. This one has no set quantities for you to worry about. It's most forgiving.)

Italian BLTs
1. Slice tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Set aside while you're preparing the rest of the ingredients.
2.Wash and dry some Romaine lettuce leaves.
3. Cook bacon.
4. While bacon is cooking, slice some fresh mozzarella and set aside. If your opinion of mozzarella has been influenced by too many servings of string cheese, you are in for a treat! Splurge, remember?
5. In your food processor squeeze 1/2 lemon, add a generous spoon of mayo (1/3 c. or so), a handful of fresh basil leaves, and a dash of garlic powder. Process until smooth.
6. Prepare the bread. Toast if you like. Use a good quality Italian bread (Central Market pagnotta is great) or get ciabatta, whole grain..whatever you like. No Wonder Bread allowed!
7. Spread bread w/ basil mayo, layer bacon, lettuce, dressed tomatoes, and cheese.


It's Thanksgiving in July!

(I'm in the process of migrating some blog entries from an old blog into this one. I'd like to have all my recipes in one place. Please excuse the dust while I remodel a little bit. The good news is that I'm adding labels to each post, even the old ones, so we can all find what we are looking for much easier!)

From November of '07

Cajun Cornbread Dressing

3 T. butter
1 c. each chopped onion and celery
1/2 c. each red, yellow, and green bell pepper
2 c. chopped smoked sausage (I used Savoie's brand beef sausage. You could use andouille.)
2 c. chopped raw shrimp
1 stick butter
1 32 oz. box chicken broth
1 16 oz. bag cornbread dressing mix (I used HEB brand)
2 t. Tony Chachere's creole seasoning

In a large pot or skillet melt the 3 T. butter and saute the vegetables until soft. Add the sausage and continue cooking until browned. Add the shrimp and cook through. Add the remaining butter and cook until melted. Add broth and turn off heat. Stir in dressing mix and seasoning. Bake in 9 x 13 casserole dish at 350 for 30 minutes.

Enjoy your leftovers!