southwestern slow roast

5.11.2019

So candidly this original recipe called for short ribs... but I'm on a budget. Short ribs feel like an expensive cut of meat. Now, I'll be honest if I was having a special guest over for dinner I might pull the trigger on a trip to Whole Foods for short ribs - but I'm less likely to buy them (or find them for that matter) from my local grocery store. While I was in the grocery store I did a quick google for substitute options and came up with beef chuck. I selected a cut style that wouldn't feel like beef stew and feel pretty great about it.

For a recipe like this, they can often all blend together. Like how can you always put celery, tomato and onion in a pot and it not taste the same? The answer in this case is tequila, chili powder, and beer. The end result of this definitely has a spicier kick to it. I'm a pretty gentle soul when it comes to spicy / hot seasoning but I could handle this. It feels very on brand for a Cinco de Mayo meal.

I served my meal over cauliflower rice to keep it nice and light. It was also the absolute easiest option. Other great ideas? Cauliflower puree, rice, grits, mashed potatoes... Pretty much anything would be good.

Here's how it goes.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven. Season the ribs with salt and 1 tsp. pepper, then cook in batches – being careful not to crowd the pan – until browned on all sides (3 to 4 minutes per side). Transfer the ribs to a platter and repeat with the remaining ribs. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.
  3. Add the onions and celery to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the vegetable are soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add bay leaf, garlic, jalapeno, and chili powder. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Deglaze the pot with tequila, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook for 1 minute, or until reduced to about 2 Tbs.
  5. Add all the ribs back into the pot. Pour the tomatoes and beer and 1 cup water over the ribs. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs occasionally, until they are fork tender, about 3 hours.
  6. Transfer the ribs to a serving platter or dish. Let the sauce and solids sit in the pot for a few minutes to cool and with a shallow spoon, skim off as much of the fat as possible from the surface. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the lime juice. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Shopping List
48-ounce beef short ribs
olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/4 cup tequila
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)
1 cup light beer
1/2 lime, juiced
Fresh cilantro, chopped

margarita macarons

5.10.2019

To continue on the Cinco de Mayo party.... I also made a margarita macaron. I figured if I was buying tequila, I might as well use it for two things instead of just one. As a result, we have these beautiful babes on a plate. 

It's been awhile since I made macarons. It always feels so arduous and rife with concern about the precision that is required. Macarons can so easily go wrong seemingly. You look like a lunatic examining the almond flour after sifting it. Turning the egg whites upside down to see if they are stiff enough. Whacking the pan on the counter so the cookies develop "feet". But it is all worth it when you take that first bite of a macaron.

A few notes:
- coconut v almond extract. I intended to do coconut but grabbed the wrong bottle from the cabinet. I truly think either is fine but the coconut will give you a much more distinct flavor. I wouldn't use vanilla, that's the only thing.
- filling. In the past I've done a couple varieties but I believe buttercream is the most ideal. It creates a bit of a heftier filling that is more visually appealing. 
- Cooking time. I had two sheet pans of macarons and slightly undercooked the first one. They turned out okay but the bottoms were a little soft. It's definitely a hard game because you see the shell developing a slightly brown color that you want to avoid. You can probably improve this with different placement in the oven.

Also for reference, here are the other macaroon recipes I've tried: raspberry with coconut filling, standard, and these award winning Christmas cookie variety.
  1. Set your oven to 375 F
  2. Combine your almond flour and powdered sugar in a flour sifter and sift until you have a nice, pretty pile. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat your egg whites with an electric mixer until nice and foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar until they develop stiff, glossy peaks. I added my sugar in 1 tablespoon at a time. If you think your egg whites are stiff enough, they probably aren't. Keep going. One blog I read said you should be able to flip your bowl upside down ... I make enough of mess in the kitchen without doing this step, but you get the idea.
  4. Add coconut extract and mix gently. If the mixture gets a little less stiff, just toss that mixer on again for a jiffy.
  5. After the meringue is stiff and glossy, you essentially get to mix it all up again - but none of that "folding in the egg whites" business. This is straight mixing folks. Add about half of the flour/sugar mixture and stir with your spatula until mixed. Then, add the rest and stir again.
  6. This is now a "crucial" part in the macaron process.... you need to stir until the mixture is even and smooth. A smooth mixer makes for good meringues and that is what this is all about folks. What you do is spread the batter against the sides of the bowl, then flip it back into the middle, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat times 15 or so times. Just like the flour sifting process, I thought this would be all phony and silly and not worth it, I was wrong. You can see the difference in the batter. Add in food coloring until you get the shade of green you'd like.
  7. Fill your "pastry" bag with the batter and squeeze it out gently into small circles on your parchment lined baking sheet. Note: the batter will settle a bit so, don't worry too too much about having a "tip" in the middle of your circle. Just try and keep your circles in similar small sized circles - about 1.5-2 inches.
  8. After you have filled you pan with little circles, whack the sheet against the counter several times. According to the post I read, "This will set the pied or little pastry lip at the base of the cookie (an essential for an authentic macaron)." Now, set the tray aside for 30 minutes to dry. You'll know they are dry when you tap the surface of the circle and it does not stick to your finger.
  9. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn the sheet so that the front-facing macarons are now towards the back of the oven for an even bake. If after 14 minutes, they are still super-soft, reduce heat to 325°, cover in aluminum foil and bake for 2 more minutes. Watch them carefully.
  10. When the macarons are done baking, take them out of the oven and let sit until cool. When they are cool, they'll pop right off the parchment but they won't before then.
  11. Fill a new pastry bag with the filling and create about 1/2 inch dot on one macaron cookie, then sandwich another on top. Be careful not to squeeze the filling out on the sides.
  12. That's it. Now eat them... and store them in the fridge.
Making the Filling
  1. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, cream butter on high speed until light and smooth (about 5 minutes).
  2. Reduce the speed to low and add powdered sugar. Mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add lime juice, zest, tequila and salt and mix on high speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
Shopping List2/3 cup almond meal/flour
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
3 egg whites
5 tablespoons of white, granulated sugar
1 teaspoon almond or coconut extract
green food coloring

Filling
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lime juice
1 Tbsp tequila
1-2 tsp lime zest

Coconut-Lime Pork Tacos

Yikes, it's been a small lifetime since I last popped in here.

I thought I had been cooking, but I guess I've just been eating a lot of basic things. Basic isn't bad but it's always nice to get a little adventurous. I'm always prone to be adventurous on a theme day. When I realized that Cinco de Mayo was sneaking up on me last week, I found a few things that would be fun to try.

Initially I was just googling "tequila" on my favorite recipe sites. I found one of my all-time favorite meals tequila fish. That was a good one. In the end, I landed on these pork tacos from Food52. They won me over with their leftovers appeal ... and the fact it was only going to take about 20 minutes of cooking. Not everything calls for a marathon chopping and stirring session.

These tacos could not have come together more easily. I was really intrigued by the different use of coconut milk as well. I'll have to keep that in mind going forward. The recipe overview indicated that this would take about 15-20 minutes and that was right on par. 

A few notes:
- original recipe // just called for slices of avocado on top of each taco. This is absolutely the easiest route to go - but! next time I might actually make a quick avocado crema or guacamole instead. It would just elevate the tacos a tiny bit and perhaps be easiest in the long run.

- taco tortillas // I found the smaller restaurant size tortillas at the local grocery store and really loved them. It was the perfect sizing. You could eat 3 or 4 of those little babes and still feel great about yourself. I opted for flour because that is what makes me happiest.

- Lime // The whole meal is great but just don't forget the limes. The little squeeze of juice is awesome.

- Leftovers // I proceeded to eat the meat as leftovers for about 3 days. It went wonderful with so many things included on top of naan like a pizza topping. I ran out of tortillas ... and it was quite great. Added mozzarella cheese and was not disappointed.
  1. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and a large pinch of salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until they’ve softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Push the onion and garlic to one side of the pan, and add the cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, and cayenne. Let sizzle in the pan until they’re toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute, then stir well until the onions and garlic are evenly coated with the spices.
  2. Add the ground pork to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks of pork and stirring occasionally, until the pork is just cooked through. Season with salt to taste. Remove any excess fat from the pan.
  3. Add the coconut milk; simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened, then stir in the black beans, pineapple juice and 1 tablespoon lime juice and cook for an additional minute or two. Taste and add more lime juice if needed. Adjust the seasoning to taste. You can serve right away, or cover the pan and let the pork gently simmer over low heat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, divide the ground pork equally among lightly warmed flour tortillas. Serve with lots of avocado and other toppings of your choice.
Shopping List
1 pound ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pinch Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 pinch Cayenne pepper, to taste
2/3 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1 lime
1 15 ounce can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
tortillas, for serving
1 1 large avocado, diced
cilantro for topping

irish creme scones

3.25.2019

I stumbled across this scone recipe when I was doing some St. Patrick's day recipe searching. I was targeting a biscuit to go with our Guinness Stew... and this little gem of a scone popped up. The facts are obvious that I cannot bypass a scone recipe. I just merely needed a reason to make the scones.

Earlier this week my brother-in-law helped me with a house project and it felt like an appropriate thank you... along with a bottle of Jameson. I managed to whip out this batch of scones in the time it takes to preheat the oven. The recipe ends up being almost a half batch of what I would normally make but it was a good experiment.

Notes:
  • Yield // only 8 smaller sized scones. If you want anymore than that, you should double the batch for sure.
  • Milk // I had leftover buttermilk from my holiday recipes so I obviously used that instead. There is absolutely no downside to using buttermilk in scones... or any heavy, fattier milk really. 
  • Glaze // Since the alcohol does not cook off, the glaze is literally pure sugar and booze. Yes, it is about a shot glass worth but maybe keep that in mind when you are serving to people that are either children or do not drink.
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt, 1 1/2 cups flour and sugar. Add the butter and mix with a pastry blender or fork until pea-size pieces form. Add the milk, irish cream and mix with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently knead until dough begins to form a ball, approximately 3 - 4 times.
  3. Gently pat dough into a 1-inch-thick circle. Using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out scones. Combine the scraps and repeat, patting out and cutting to make 8 scones. Transfer baking sheet lined with parchment and brush with the egg. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar.
  4. Bake the scones until golden brown, 12-15 minutes. 
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the Irish cream and sugar until smooth. Drizzle the mixture over the room temperature scones.
Shopping List
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons chilled salted butter cut into cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream
1 large egg beaten to blend
1 tablespoon Sugar (topping)
Glaze
1 tablespoon Bailey's Irish Cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Guiness Stout Cake

I thought this cake seemed like a great idea from the name. A Guiness cake? perfect for our family St. Patrick's Day dinner. Plus, I had 5 Guiness in the house and this called for 1 and the stew I made needed 4. I am a big fan of finishing things off. It's why I can't open a box of Goldfish or bag of bbq chips. There is no stopping me once I start.

This cake got pretty rave reviews. I did immediately ask everyone if the frosting looked like the top of pint of beer ... like the instructions told me to. I do not believe I was artistically successful, but the cake tasted good. The consistency skews more dense than light, but that goes with the cream cheese frosting nicely. My brother-in-law made an oreo mint pie as well. The actual best combination was his mint with my chocolate. True home run.

I would absolutely make this cake again another time. It comes together incredibly easily and quickly. You probably have all the ingredients already except the Guiness... unless you are my grandfather in which case you most likely always have it. Lastly, I can also testify that it tastes great as a breakfast food. I ate it in bed on Monday morning while watching the news. I'm not clear on the real difference between chocolate cake, scones, and muffins... and I truly do not care.

Here's how it goes.
  1. Grease a 9-in. springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat beer and butter until butter is melted. Remove from the heat; whisk in sugar and cocoa until blended. 
  3. Combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla; whisk into beer mixture. 
  4. Combine flour and baking soda; whisk into beer mixture until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Remove sides of pan.
  6. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cream; beat until smooth (do not over-beat). Remove cake from the pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake so that it resembles a frothy pint of beer. 
Shopping List
1 cup Guinness
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

TOPPING:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 

Guinness beef stew

3.18.2019

The name of this recipe might lead you to believe there is Guinness in it. And boy is there ever. Normally when a recipe calls for liquor or beer, it's just a part of the ingredient list. But there is more beer in this stew than there is beef stock!

There is a whole lot of chopping in this recipe. I doubled the batch because (1) I love leftover and (2) we were having family over for the big day. That meant I was chopping: 2 lbs beef, 8 carrots, 8 celery, 2 onions, nearly 2 lb mushrooms, and 6 garlic. But it was totally worth it. After a couple hours simmering on the stove, this was a wonderfully tender and flavorful stew.

One of the worst parts about coming to my house for dinner is that as soon as you finish eating, I make you critique the meal. It's a real joy. But how am I supposed to improve and make amazing things if I don't know how you feel about the mushrooms?

So here was some of the feedback. But since I wouldn't expect anyone else to make a double batch of beef stew, my notes will be inline with the single batch:
  • More onion // Agreed. I would probably go up to 3 onions in the next batch.
  • Less mushroom // Agreed. The original recipe called for a full pound of mushrooms. I would probably cut this back to 1/2 pound if you just slice the mushrooms. If you chop them more finely, then I would go up to 3/4 pound. 
  • Pepper // My dad loves pepper. I still don't have any in my house. There is no good reason for this - but yeah, I'll put it on the grocery list.
  • More beef // I think I ended up using 20% more than originally called for in the recipe. This was mostly fine until we got to leftovers. There wasn't any beef left. I think the next time I would probably go for 1.5 lbs of beef and perhaps reduce the size of the chunks as well to spread it further.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Brown the beef: Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef in batches to brown. Remove from the pot and set aside on a plate.
  2. Sauté onion, garlic and celery: Put the Dutch oven back over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery and sauté until tender and lightly colored, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the beer: Stir the tomato paste into the onion mix in the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Pour in the Guinness - careful, it will foam. Add the minced sun-dried tomatoes and simmer over medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced by half, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and cook: Add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and beef stock to the Dutch oven. Add the meat back in and stir well. Add the bay leaf. Firmly cover the Dutch oven with its lid and let simmer until the meat is tender. I didn't keep track of time super well but it was between 2 and 3 hours. 
  5. Rest? I read in the original recipe that giving the stew some time to rest will make the beef more tender. So I cooked for Give the stew some time to rest before serving. I prefer to let it cool almost completely, then reheating it to serve. But even a 10 minute rest will make the beef a lot more tender vs eating straight out of the oven.
NOTES
To make this in an electric slow cooker, follow the recipe until step 4. Transfer the beer reduction, meat, vegetables and stock to a 6 quart slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Shopping List
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound beef chuck cubed
2 medium onions cut into slim wedges
3 cloves garlic smashed
4 large celery stalks sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 12-oz bottles Guinness beer
4 large sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil drained and very finely minced
1/2 pound small-medium floury potatoes peeled and roughly cubed
1/2 pound small-medium waxy potatoes roughly cubed
4 medium carrots cubed and sliced diagonally
3/4 pound brown button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf optional
Salt and pepper to taste

corn chowder

3.11.2019

It's been awhile since I've made a soup. At one point it felt like it was the only thing I whipped up in my kitchen. There are 45 soup recipes on this website but, they started to all feel like the same thing. Chop carrots. Chop onion. Chop celery. It has been enough time that this soup felt like a refreshing change - also it is totally different. This was my first ever chowder.
I'm not a big clam chowder fan - but I do love a corn chowder. This soup came together very easily although it was far more chopping than I've done in recent months. The flavors are obvious and by no means bland. I'm a salty person but the cajun inspired flavors here help to reduce my desire to add salt. Feels like a good win for my next blood test.

A few notes:
  • Corn // Corn is out of season right now in the Northeast. While the grocery store had corn on the cob, it felt wrong to buy it. I will absolutely make this recipe again when corn is in abundance. There is something very appealing about seeing the chunks of corn stuck together after you've cut them off the cob.
  • Potatoes // I didn't peel my potatoes. Why add an extra step when you don't need to? I didn't notice any impact in my soup.
  • Vegan // The original recipe called for vegetable broth and I substituted chicken since it is was I had on hand. If you want to stay vegan, you can with just one easy switch.
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop one of the red potatoes in half and carefully place into the pot. Allow potato to cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of frozen corn to the pot with about 5 minutes left.
  2. While the potato is cooking, saute the rest of the vegetables. Add the coconut oil to a large pot, along with the other diced potato, chopped onion, garlic, carrots, celery, bell pepper, sea salt, Cajun seasoning, paprika, and cumin. Heat to medium-high and saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Place half of the kernels in a blender, along with the cooked potato. Add the coconut milk and water (or broth) to the blender, and blend until completely smooth. This may take two or three rounds of blending.
  4. Add the remaining corn kernels to the pot with the sauteed vegetables, and pour the blended corn/potato (chowder) mixture into the pot. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until potato has softened, about 10 to 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and taste chowder. Add sea salt and Cajun seasoning as desired. 
Shopping List
4 ears corn shucked (or 2.5 - 3 cups frozen)
2 large red potatoes peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 large white onion
5 cloves large garlic minced
3 large carrots peeled and chopped
3 large stalks celery chopped
1 large red bell pepper cored and chopped
1-½ teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2/3 cup canned coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth

very delicious blueberry cake

3.10.2019

Ok - this picture doesn't exactly look like a success story. Where are all the blueberries? In the bottom of the loaf. Not the best. But, I'll do better next time.

Blueberry distribution aside ... this cake is incredibly delicious. That might have something to do with the amount of sugar and butter or just magic. The original recipe called for a bundt cake but I wanted to stretch my work a little further - so I opted for two loaf pans. Also, the bundt cake was going to take like 90 minutes to cook... and I didn't start this until 9 pm.

There really isn't a whole lot to say about this except that it tastes wonderful and you'll enjoy it. I made this along with a batch of pan monkey bread for an event my dad was hosting. Although monkey bread is delicious, this blueberry loaf was dominated within an hour.

Although this loaf is great with or without a glaze, I definitely recommend whipping one up. I made mine extra thick with only buttermilk and powdered sugar. The wonderful thing about these simple glazes is that you can adjust them so easily. Too thick? More liquid. Too thin? More powdered sugar.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease your chosen pan or pans and dust with flour.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the flour and buttermilk, alternating each, until all incorporated. Finally beat in the lemon zest before turning the mixer off. Use a spoon the stir in half the blueberries.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining blueberries over the top. 
  4. Bake for 45-60 mins [2 loaf pans] or 60-80 minutes [1 pan], until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  5. Allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. 
  6. For the glaze, whisk the buttermilk and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the cake.
Shopping List
For the Blueberry Cake:1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose Gold Medal Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 2 lemons
1 pound fresh blueberries

For the Buttermilk Glaze:3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup powdered sugar
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