Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grilled Bacon-Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños

This post is dedicated to those who love a little heat mixed with the delectable flavor of bacon!  This is a simple recipe that will bring delight to the palate of any person worth cooking for.  The amount that you make will depend on the number of people you are making them for.  I will warn you, it is extremely easy to eat 3-4 of these by yourself so keep that in mind.  What you will need:

Jalapeños (Typically 3-4 per person)
Cream Cheese
Pastry Bag (You can substitute this with a sandwich bag for ease.)

     Cut the tops off of the jalapeño peppers and core out the seeds and membrane.  This can be done with a knife (be careful) or a jalapeño coring utensil that can be purchased at Williams-Sonoma.  Once you have cored them, set them aside. 

     Cook the bacon until it is crispy and then let it cool.  Warm the cream cheese in the microwave until it is soft, usually about 15-20 seconds.  When the bacon has cooled, crush it into bacon bit size pieces and mix it with the softened cream cheese.  Place the AMAZING mixture into a pastry bag and squeeze the contents into the cored out jalapeños.  (If you do not have a pastry bag, put the AMAZING mixture into a sandwich bag and cut a small piece of the corner off to squeeze it through.  Cheaper, and easier to clean up!)

****Do not fill the jalapeños all the way to the top or when they are heated, the contents will spill out***

     Cook the jalapeños on the grill at about 400 degrees until they are blistered and slightly charred.  (In this case, blackened is better!)  You will have to turn them several times to ensure they cook evenly.  Or, you can purchase a jalapeño pepper roasting tray for your grill at Williams-Sonoma to make your life easier.  Remove, let cool, and enjoy!


Use this link to the Williams-Sonoma website to find the jalapeño coring utensil and jalapeño roasting tray for your grill.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pork fillets with Caper Sauce

So for those craving a slightly irregular Italian dish (so no pasta or chicken involved, O.G. lovers, be warned) this is one that I recently tried and was pretty happy with.

You'll need pork fillets - which if you cannot find in the store can be easily substituted for with butterfly cut pork, cut in half and pounded thinner, or thin boneless pork chops (these are easy to find in most grocery stores). Get a large frying pan and heat some olive oil and a smidge of garlic. Then simply dust the pork with a pinch of flour and pepper mixture, add them to the hot pan and brown them on both sides (should take between 6-9 minutes, depending on the fillets' thickness).

For the sauce, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan (I recommend a wider one and not aluminum) and then stir in about 1/4 cup chopped onion. Once that is soft and starting to brown slightly, add in anchovy. NOW, if you are hardcore, use one chopped up anchovy fillet. If you are not residing in Naples, use anchovy paste - say a tbsp or so, depending on taste, but note that the paste won't overpower the sauce unless you put the entire tube in.

Ok, now stir in a few pinches of flour (here I use crushed almond meal, which adds a little extra flavor) and let the sauce thicken. Then add in about 1 scoop of chopped parsley and 2-3 tbsps of rinsed capers. Let this simmer for a few minutes, then stir in some water and about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. The thinner you want the sauce, the more water to add. If you want to thicken it, add more flour/almond meal. Turn the heat down and keep this warm till the pork is done, then spoon over the pork fillets.

*I served with french green beans and oven roasted Yukon gold and Peruvian purple potatoes.

- Melissa

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jasmine Rice, Turkey Bacon, Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Green Chili Salsa on Flour Tortillas

So, being that I am a lover of all things breakfast, I decided to share one of my favorite things to eat in the morning.  This is an extremely easy recipe to make and truthfully requires little effort on the cook's part.  I may or may not (consider that may) be famous for my scrambled eggs so breakfast is EXTREMELY enjoyable for me!  What you will need:

2 Eggs (I use one whole egg and one egg white)
3 Pieces of Turkey Bacon (I know that is blasphemy for you Nate!)
1/2 c Jasmine Rice
3/4 c Water
2 - 3 Tbsp. Jared Roasted Green Chili Salsa
2 - 6" Flour Tortillas    
1 tsp. Butter (I prefer ICBINB)
1 Splash Milk (We use skim/fat free)

I use a rice cooker to make the rice and the best mixture that I have found is 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water.  So, for this recipe, I use 1/2 c rice and 3/4 c water. 

For the eggs, combine the egg and egg white with the splash of milk and beat until mixed.  Melt the butter in the skillet to keep the eggs from sticking and burning.  The key to having beautiful fluffy eggs is to continually keep them in motion so they don't have time to stick and burn.  (Eggs do not have to be discolored to be burned, if they get too hot the flavor profile will be completely different.)

Cook bacon to desired crispiness while you make the eggs.  (I know this requires multitasking but if I can do it, anyone can!) 

There are two ways that you can warm up the tortillas.  The easiest one is to clean and re-use the same pan that you made the bacon on.  If you really want to test your skills, and perhaps your smoke detectors sensitivity, you can sweep them over an open flame.

Once everything is cooked, divide evenly into freshly warmed tortillas, top with the roasted green chili salsa and enjoy!

- Chris

Mixed greens with Roasted Beets, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Since it's (slowly) becoming Spring, I've been interested in all the seasonal Spring veggies.  The star of this inspiration - beets.  I've been on a beet kick lately.  So, I made a green salad with roasted beets, blue cheese, walnuts, and dried blueberries with a white wine vinegarette.

So simple, yet so delicous.  To roast the beets, I cut off the greens and left the beets whole. Wash them throughly, they are root vegetables! I placed them in about a quarter of an inch to half of an inch of water in a glass baking dish put them in the oven for an hour and a half at 375 degrees.  I felt that the skins should have come off a little bit easier though, so I am going to try a different roasting method next time.  The beets should be fork tender after roasting.  I let them cool, and then peeled the skins off and cut into wedges.

After they cooled completely, I mixed them in with the salad greens and remaining ingredients.  To make the vinegarette, I used about two parts olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar.  I probably used about 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar, mix well with a little salt and pepper. 

Dress the salad, mix well and delicious. 

PS - I used a spring mix - arugula would also go well.  Dried cranberries would also work instead of the blueberries, but they are more tart.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Farfalle with tomatoes, basil, artichokes and fresh mozzarella

If you are reading this, I assume you are aware that the Olive Garden is NOT a real venue for Italian cuisine and you will stop insulting me. Furthermore, let it be known that if you ask me to go there, I will not as I dislike bologna parmesan.

That being said, this is a quick, throw it together meal....if you're me and you have these things in the house. So, if not, make a list and then have them for a night when you need a quick fix! So, for the sauce you need to heat some olive oil (let's say 1/4 cup) and garlic over medium heat. When that starts to pop, add a can of tomato paste, a can of diced tomatoes (pre-seasoned with basil & oregano are best) and a can/jar of artichoke hearts. Turn the heat down and then add a little more garlic, some crushed red pepper, more oregano (I do this all by eye, so I apologize there are no exact measurements!). You can also add some water, maybe 1/4 cup or even 1/3 cup if you want to thin the sauce out. Cover and let simmer.

For the pasta I used farfalle, but any pasta will do. So cook that and if I need to tell you me offline! Anyway, when the pasta is done, remove the sauce from the heat. Place the pasta in a bowl, cover with sauce. Then GENTLY shred fresh basil and fresh mozzarella on top of the dish. Grated Parmesan is optional - but delicious!

Start to finish, maybe 15-20 minutes, and for a lot of it you can be multitasking with other things. For the record, this was served with a lovely, dry Toscano wine.

- Melissa

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cuban Pork Burgers with sweet & spicy mustard

So for tonight's dinner, Tim was at the helm making burgers, which, next to omelets, is the hub of his culinary wheelhouse. Anyway, the burgers are fairly easy but do require being made about an hour prior to hitting the grill. Mix the following together: ground pork (2 lbs if you want 4 pretty thick burgers), 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp of dried oregano, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 tsps of cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Once you have a mixture, make patties by hand and make a small, circular indentation on the tops to encourage even cooking. Place in the fridge and go have a beer.

Grill between 450 - 500, approximately 10 minutes per side or at 160 degrees in the burger's center. Remove from grill, cover with foil for a few moments before serving.

The mustard is a little more complex; using a food processor, blend 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tbps horseradish, 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup ground mustard (using Grey Poupon country blend works fine here), splash of lemon juice, pinch of salt and 1/2 cup sugar (here I substitute about 3 packets of Splenda). After blending let the mixture sit for a few minutes and then place it into a small saucepan over low heat. Add some water at this point to thin the mustard out if you so choose. Let it come to a slight boil and then remove from heat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. The sweet and spicy components can be adjusted as per your palette by changing the sugar and horseradish amounts.

We served the burgers on onion rolls with a side salad. Delicious!

- Melissa & Tim

Monday, April 4, 2011

Seared Ahi with wasabi guacamole

To kick things off with the first West Coast entry, we made seared ahi tuna steaks, coated with a ginger, sesame seed crust and served with asparagus and brown jasmine rice. Best of all, it was accompanied with a wasabi guacamole which had just enough spice to truly highlight the rare, juicy tuna. (Please note, this is not for the faint of heart that cannot handle RARE ahi tuna...which is how the chef in the sky intended.)

The wasabi guacamole - which would be awesome with some pita chips as well - is simple: one ripe avocado, one chopped tomato, two cloves of minced garlic, juice from half a lime (or three squirts if you're using the bottled variety),  wasabi paste (this depends on your threshold for spice, so use at your own risk) and cilantro to taste.

The tuna is also remarkably easy and requires some toasted sesame seeds, black peppercorns and grated ginger. Rinse the steaks in water and then coat then with the mixture. Make sure to get the pan - here I recommend a frying pan - very hot and cover it liberally with some PAM or sprayed olive oil. Once the pan is sizzling, add the steaks and then sear then...meaning just a few minutes on each side in order to retain the pink inside. The outside will turn white/tan, but the inside should retain some color!

- Melissa

Curley Parsley vs. Flat-Leaf Parsley

Tonight for dinner, I made herb and goat cheese stuffed chicken breasts.  The recipe I used called for flat-leaf parsley, but I had curley on-hand.  While I was cutting my herbs, I thought to myself, "what is the difference between flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley?" Of course, there are the obvious physical differences.  I took a small bite of the parsley leaf, but didn't taste a difference in flavor.  The texture is different.  I find curly parsley to be more gritty and coarse than flat leaf.  I continued to make my herbed goat cheese and decided I would do research later. 

So, here I am - minutes after completing my "research," which I place in quotes because it was far from extensive.  My quick internet search showed me that many people can distinguish a taste in flavor between the two parsleys and believe that flat leaf holds more.  In addition, curly is used traditionally as garnish while flat-leaf is used for cooking.

I didn't perform a scientific experiment by tasting the curly, taking notes, cleansing my palate, and repeating with the flat-leaf, but I've come to a conclusion that will work for me.  I prefer flat-leaf strictly based on the texture. So, if I am using the parsley to mix into something like goat cheese (or another thick, creamy dip), curly will do the trick.  If I think the flavor is weak, I can always add more. Otherwise, I'm going to typically keep flat-leaf on-hand from now on.

PS - I mixed mint and parsley into the goat cheese.  The mint had a strong flavor after the chicken cooked, which I liked.  However, if mint isn't your thing, or if you just want to try something different, I think that chives, sage, or taragon would also work well, with or without the parsley.  While I was mixing, I also thought about how delicious my goat cheese mixture would be on some crostini.  To make a goat cheese spread, I would cut the flavor of the goat cheese with a little lemon juice and use mild herbs.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thai Beef Tacos with Lime Cilantro Slaw

We made this dish tonight and it was awesome!  It is an easy recipe to make and it gave me a chance to use the grill again!  We also topped it with a mango salsa that I made earlier (not shown). The mango salsa was made with two fresh mangos, about 1/8 cup of red onion, one whole jalapeno pepper, about 2 Tbsp. each of fresh cilantro and mint finished with a shake or two of my father's home made chili powder, circa 2010.  (Since you will not have access to my father's chili powder you can substitute your favorite chili powder.)  This was adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. minced, peeled, fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (since it's strictly for a marinade, I sliced the garlic)
1 lb. flank steak, trimmed (Cook this bad boy on the grill and anything more than medium rare is an insult!)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. minced, peeled, fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
2-3 cups cole slaw mix or cabbage
1-2 cups matchstick-cut carrots
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Remaining Ingredients: 8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. Combine first six ingredients in a large Ziploc bag and add steak.  Seal and marinate for 20 minutes in refrigerator, turning occasionally. (We recommend marinating for a longer time to intensify the flavor.)

2. Remove the steak from the bag, discarding the bag, and cook it on the grill.  (You can cook it in the broiler if you want but trust us, you will be missing out on some great flavor!) Let the meat rest for 5 minutes and then cut diagonally, across the grain, into thin slices.

3. To prepare slaw, combine juice and next five ingredients (through garlic sauce) in a large bowl.  Add slaw and next three ingredients (through cilantro); toss well to combine.

4. Divide steak evenly among tortillas and spoon about 1/2 cup slaw onto each tortilla.  Serve immediately. (Serving size is two tacos)  Enjoy!


Mango Habanero Margaritas

This is the first of many food and drink posts that a few foodie friends will be sharing with those who dare to follow us.  This is a wonderful margartia recipe that I am happy to say has been perfected!  You will get the sweetness of the mango up front with the spicy habanero pepper finish.  You can increase the heat by adding more of the pepper to suit your spicy desires.  Enjoy!


This recipe makes 2-3 Mango Habanero Margaritas

2-3 oz. Tequila
6 oz. Mango Nectar
4 Tbsp. Sweetened Lime Juice
2 oz. Triple Sec
1/8 - 1/4 of a small Habanero Pepper
Ice to desired consistency

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