Friday, November 29, 2013

southwest pasta salad

I often giggle to myself after I've taken pictures for the blog. I mean, really. Who eats a gigantic bowl of pasta salad? Well, in this case, I would eat an entire bowl of this pasta salad. As seen as above. I didn't eat the whole bowl, but I came close.
This is a pretty simple dressing for the pasta. Just mayonnaise, ranch dressing, distilled white vinegar, chipotle salsa, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and onion powder. I told you it was simple. Whisk it up!
When you taste this, keep in mind that it'll be stronger than you probably want. Once you mix it into the pasta and the other fixings, everything will be okay. Promise.
The pasta I chose was mini bowties, but you can use any pasta with little nooks and crannies for the sauce to hide in... like rotini or shells.
Here are the fixings you'll need. One full can of corn that's been rinsed and drained, as well as one full can of black beans that have been rinsed and drained. Finally, I chopped up a four ounce can of pickled jalapenos for even more heat.
And cheese! Glorious cheese! I went with Monterey jack cheese.
Add in the pasta salad! Mix it all together and what do you get?! An awesome side dish... or a whole meal if you're me. But meal or side dish, that's up to you.
Southwest Pasta Salad
8 oz. mini bowtie pasta
2/3 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 15 oz. can corn, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz. can pickled jalapenos, drained and minced
1 Tablespoon chipotle salsa, or sauce from chiptoles in adobo
2 Tablespoons cumin
1 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, ranch dressing, chipotle salsa and vinegar. Add in chili powder, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add in cheese, corn, black beans, jalapenos and cooled pasta. Mix together and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Keep chilled until serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

carrot cake pancakes

I've been in a pancake mood lately. They're so easy to make. Kind of like brownies, I really didn't believe there was any way to make pancakes other than a box for a very, silly long time. I was convinced that there was some kind of secret ingredient that made it possible to make brownies and pancakes from a box with only the addition of oil or water. There's no going back for me now. Both brownies and pancakes have changed for me forever!
These particular pancakes are inspired from an issue of Cooking Light that I was perusing at the office while on lunch. I've definitely fattened them up a bit, namely with flavored butter. What you see above is about to become Cinnamon Honey Butter. With orange zest. Amazing.
It's pretty imperative you use unsalted butter. The flavor will be weird if you don't.
Just like the berry butter we made a couple of weeks ago, this is going to be wrapped up and chilled for a while. Creaming room temperature butter with honey makes it pretty loose.
Perfect. Toss this into the fridge for about 1/2 an hour. Then start working on the pancakes. They come together super fast!
So, normally a carrot cake would have walnuts in it. Well, fun fact. I am allergic to walnuts so I avoid them like the plague. Nothing too serious, but I get itchy and scratchy and my mouth feels like sandpaper. So no walnuts for the Dog Mom. Pecans just get better when they're toasted, so go ahead and take the extra 10 minutes to do it. You'll be glad you did.
Easy, easy, easy. This is your basic pancake mix (flour, baking soda, salt) but instead of using white sugar, use brown sugar, add some cinnamon, ginger, fresh grated nutmeg and some orange zest.
Liquids to include vanilla, milk, eggs and vegetable oil. Whisk to combine and stir into the flour mixture.
 At this point, your pecans should be toasted and slightly cooled. Chop them up and toss 1/2 a cup into the mix. Leave a little to sprinkle on top.
Don't forget the carrot! Fresh grated carrot is essential- they will be softer, sweeter and more supple than store grated carrot.
Pour a ladle-ful of that mix into a greased pan over medium heat. Here's how you know when to flip- when the edges start to curl and form up and you see little bubbles coming through, it's time to flip!
Perfect! Good luck trying to avoid making the pancake "flip trail". I've never been able to figure out how not to do that. Cook them up- you should either get 12 small or 6 large pancakes. You can keep them warm in a 190 degree oven without cooking them too much more- but make sure you serve them with plenty of that Honey Cinnamon Butter!
Carrot Cake Pancakes
1 stick room temperature unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of an orange, divided
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup toasted pecans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and grated

In a small bowl, cream together butter, honey, cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and half of the orange zest. Place mixed butter on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Seal both ends and refrigerate to set up and keep cold until use. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, remaining salt and orange zest, ginger, nutmeg and brown sugar. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together beaten eggs, milk, vanilla and vegetable oil. Pour liquids into dry ingredients and mix to combine until smooth. Add in grated carrots and toasted pecans and combine. Pour 1 ladle of batter into a preheated greased skillet over medium heat. When bubbles appear in the pancake, flip to cook other side. Remove from heat and keep warm in a 190 degree oven. Repeat until all pancake batter is gone. Enjoy with Cinnamon Honey Butter!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

crock pot pork verde

I love easy recipes, and this is about as easy as it gets. Not quite as easy as my 3 ingredient Kahlua Pork, but it comes pretty darn close. If you were feeling extra lazy that day (no shame) you could even omit all the slicing and smashing and just go with the jar of salsa and call it a day. But I like doctoring mine up. I don't really like putting in my contacts later with all that pepper oil left on my fingers, but that's another story.
Start off with some pork butt, also known as pork shoulder. It's not actually a booty. But if it was, I wouldn't care. It's still so yummy and moist.
Now we add the good stuff to the crock pot. Here is the good stuff. Of course, you could take the time to roast the tomatillos and poblanos, and peel them, and puree them... but I'm trying to make this easy on you! Just buy the salsa. No shame.
Just dump it all in together. The salsa, the sliced poblanos, the sliced onions and the cilantro. I don't even bother to slice up the cilantro. I just throw it all in.
This is what it's going to look like. And the smell is going to be even better.
Shred it into wonderful-ness. You can see that I was even lazy when it came to this. I barely shredded it. I said to myself, "This is good enough". And then I said, "It will fall apart as I grab it with the tongs". The definition of lazy. Right here. Serve this with lime wedges and tortillas- that's all you need!
Crock Pot Pork Verde
4 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt
1 17 oz. jar salsa verde
1 poblano pepper, sliced thin
1/2 large onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch cilantro, shredded or chopped

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours on on high for 4 hours. Shred before serving and serve with lime wedges and tortillas. Enjoy!

Monday, November 25, 2013

oven smashed potatoes

Crispy and perfect is the only way to describe these potatoes. They are salty and golden and amazing. Try them. Try them now!
I've tried this with fingerling potatoes and little yellow potatoes, but the best are the petite red potatoes. This is what I'm using here.
See my new colander? It looks like a flower. I'm easily amused.
Use a potato masher or the bottom of a cup to smash the potatoes just a little bit. Not too much.
Season with olive oil, lots of salt and pepper and then pop them into a very hot oven.
So here is the moment of the reveal- before flipping and seeing the masterpiece.
Oh my goodness. Let these guys do the same thing on the other side then it's time to eat!
Oven Smashed Potatoes
2 lbs petite red potatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil and add in petite red potatoes. Boil until soft, then drain. Drizzle a little olive oil on a baking pan. Allow potatoes to cool for 10 minutes then place on the baking pan. Smash each potatoes slightly with a potato masher or the bottom of a cup. Season with more olive oil, salt and pepper then place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then flip. Allow other side to get crispy as well then remove from oven and enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

creme brulee french toast

The first time that I made this dish, I was in college. It was for our Thursday Night Dinners, when we all got together and ate food and played video games or watched Harry Potter... those were some of the best nights of my life. The first time I made this, though, I made a big mistake and used a disposable baking pan that had ridges on the bottom. So parts of the toast had the crispy bottom, and other didn't. Well, I've never made THAT mistake again.
The "brulee" part of the french toast comes from this yummy caramel sauce. It's just one stick of butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Once this has melted all together, you just pour it into a pan. A flat bottomed pan.
Make sure you spray the pan with cooking spray, too. It's important.
You want nice thick slices for this, so I just buy a roll of french bread and slice it up myself. Try to cram as many slice as you can in the pan, because you'll regret it if you don't.
Another thing that makes this meal so decadent and amazing is that you use half and half and 5, count 'em, 5 eggs to pour allll over the bread. Just a little splash of vanilla and some cinnamon really punches it up.
So, yea. Like I said. You're going to pour that creamy goodness all over the bread. And then this is going in to the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.
See how much liquid is gone? The bread has soaked all that yummy goodness up. This is going to go into the oven for 25-30 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
The bread will still be squishy and french toasty, and the bottom will be caramelized and perfectly "bruleed". Have your own Thursday Night Dinner and chow down!
Creme Brulee French Toast
Adapted from Six Sisters Stuff!
1 loaf french bread, sliced thick
1 stick butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup half and half
5 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together half and half, eggs, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside. In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt together butter, corn syrup and brown sugar until smooth. Pour sugar mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan that's been coated with cooking spray. Press each slice of bread into the sugar mixture and pour the egg and cream over the bread so that each slice is well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes or until bread is browned and toasted. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

beer battered fried fish

Fried fish is one of Ed's favorite foods. Well, really. Anything fried is Ed's favorite food. Dip it in oil and simmer it for a while and he's all about it. So this was a give in. Fried fish. I did have a moment in the grocery store where I couldn't remember if Ed like tartar sauce or cocktail sauce. So, I bought both. Turns out he likes both. That makes it a win-win.
The key to fried fish is to use a hearty white fish like cod, haddock, halibut... or tilapia. That's what I'm using here because it was on sale. Tilapia is hearty enough to handle the batter, and light enough to still be flaky. Another win-win.
Even though this is a batter, you'll still want to dust the outsides of the fish with cornstarch to help it stick even better.
Have you ever felt cornstarch? I mean, really feel it? It's one of the strangest sensations... just rub a little between your fingers. It creeps me out, kind of. In a good way.
Here's the dry stuff for the batter... regular flour, black pepper, paprika, all seasons salt, garlic powder and salt. That's it! Now time for the liquids.
Beer! That's all you need. Beer solves all problems... when it comes to batter that is. The addition of beer will add a hoppy flavor, some bubbly texture (that's a technical term) and just a touch of sweetness.
This is the beer I used. Keep in mind that any beer that you choose will add a distinct flavor to the batter. If you have any questions about this particular beer, you can visit their website here... or you can ask Ed and he'll tell you all about 'em.
Prepare your fish for the plunge...
Aw yessss... so messy! Let the excess drain off a bit before plopping the fish into the hot oil. And by plopping, I mean gently lowering it into oil as to not splash any on your hands.
This isn't going to take long to fry at all... just about 5 minutes of fry time. I do flip mine over just to make sure each side is nice and golden brown. You'll want to fry each piece at a time to make sure they don't stick together in the pan. To keep them nice and warm and crispy while waiting for them all to fry up, place the finished fillets on a sheet pan and keep them in the oven on warm.
Look at these handsome boys! They love watching me cook... and they love it even more when I slip them little bits of food to snack on.
Look how crispy and lovely this is. Begging for malt vinegar. You'll make this again and again. I had requests for more fish before I even served it.
Beer Battered Fried Fish
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon all seasons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 oz. light beer
1 1/2 lb. white flaky fish
Cornstarch, for dusting
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
Kosher salt

In a large stock pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. In a large bowl, combine together flour, all seasons salt, salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Whisk in beer until a cake batter consistency forms. Dust each fish fillet with cornstarch, then dredge them through the prepared batter. Drop each fillet, one at a time, in the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat until all fillets are fried and enjoy!