Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A 3-Hour Pork Stew in Only 35 Minutes!

While I probably try more recipes from magazines than cookbooks these days, I'm making a conscious effort to select at least one recipe a week (or more) from one of the many cookbooks I own.  Maybe it's guilt or the thought that I shouldn't have a cookbook I don't use, but it's something I'm committed to.  One cookbook I received as a gift is a compilation of recipes called "Best of the Best" by Food and Wine.  Essentially, they release a cookbook that pulls the "best" recipes from the "best" cookbooks of that year.  It's actually a great concept since I don't want to necessarily own all of those cookbooks, but I might like a few of the recipes from each.

In the cookbook, I found a pork posole recipe that looked mouth-watering good.  Pork shoulder, hominy, and a homemade tomatillo sauce that's added at the end for a flavorful stew.  Problem is, I had to cook this on a weeknight with limited time AND I wanted to make it a bit healthier.  How to accomplish?  Take a lighter cut of pork, sub frozen corn for hominy, punch up the corn flavor with a secret ingredient (hint: you probably have this snack food in your pantry), and use pre-made tomatillo salsa.

I browned up a pound of pork tenderloin that is cut into small cubes, added in some diced onion, poblano, and a little jalapeño for heat (you can omit the last item to make it more kid-friendly), and cooked until soft.  Then, I added 1 quart of chicken broth 1/2 package of frozen corn, and one jar of mild tomatillo salsa.  Brought to a boil, simmered 10 minutes and served.  While that was cooking, I microwaved a package of the 90-second rice to mix in (though you could cook rice in the soup or separately).

Pork, rice, sour cream, and cilantro - yum!

But the true test, how did it taste?  Well, my pickiest critic (my sweetie) ate two bowls.  I'd say that it passed the test!  Serve this with your choice of toppings - shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, lime wedges, and fresh cilantro are all options.  Happy eating!

Quick Pork and Tomatillo Stew

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, chopped
1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into small cubes
1 jar green tomatillo salsa (mild)
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 package frozen corn
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed.
1 cup rice, prepared according to package directions
Chopped cilantro and sour cream, for garnish

In kettle, heat canola oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion, poblano, and jalapeño (if using).  Cook until onion is translucent.  Add in pork tenderloin pieces and sauté until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.  Add in jar of salsa, chicken broth, corn, and tortilla chips.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a summer.  Simmer 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through.  Check for seasoning.  To serve, divide rice into 4 bowls, ladle in soup and garnish with cilantro, more crushed tortilla chips, and sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spicy Sriracha Shrimp

Like spicy? If you do and haven't discovered the greatness of Sriracha, this recipe is for you.  For the unfamiliar, Sriracha is like a spicy hot wing sauce with extra garlic.  It's pretty spicy, so if you aren't a fan of of that, rachet down the quantity of the sauce and substitute chicken broth or something not spicy. A couple of years ago, I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine by a chef named Sean Baker from the restaurant Gather.  It was called "Buttered Shrimp" and involved the greatness of Sriracha with butter, mint, and basil.  I liked the idea of Sriracha and butter, but not necessarily the rest of the ingredients.

After two years of saving the recipe, I finally got around to experimenting this week.  Out was the lemon and mint.  In was green onion and lime zest.  I also lowered the amount of spice to our taste.  I cannot say this is a recipe for young families, but it would be great for a quick adults-only dinner or could easily be modified to turn this into an appetizer for a party.  I've given two variations as well.  One incorporates vegetables for a curry-style supper and the other modifies the recipe for serving as an appetizer. Happy eating!

A great balance of spicy, herbaceous, and tangy flavors

Spicy Sriracha Shrimp

Serves 3 - 4 (Main dish)
2 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp Sriracha
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 31-40 count)
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 Tbsp basil, minced
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Melt butter in non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add Sriracha and stir to combine.  Add in garlic and green onions and saute 1 - 2 minutes.  Add in the shrimp and saute until cooked through, 5 - 8 minutes.  When nearly cooked, add in the lime zest, basil, and heavy cream.  Serve with rice and vegetables.

*To make this a heartier Thai curry-style dish, on medium heat, add 2 tsp. oil to a skillet and saute some chopped bell peppers (of various colors) - about 1 - 2 cups, 8 oz quartered baby bella mushrooms, and a can (about 15 oz) of quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained.  Once heated through and cooked to your liking, remove from heat and place in a bowl.  In the same skillet, prepare the shrimp, substituting coconut milk for heavy cream.  The sauce should be slightly looser, so add a couple extra tablespoons of the coconut milk and more Sriracha to your taste as needed.  Also increase lime zest to 2 Tbsp.  Combine with the vegetables.  Serve with jasmine rice.

* To make this into an appetizer, slice a long, thin baguette and toast slices in the oven at 350 degrees until crispy.  Prepare shrimp as directed, but zest 1 additional Tablespoon of lime zest and 1 Tablespoon of basil for garnish.  Once bread is toasted, place 1 - 2 of the prepared shrimp on each toast (whatever fits), then sprinkle with zest and basil.  Serve immediately.  If you want, mini frozen shrimp (thawed) may be used instead of large shrimp (they will cook in 1 - 2 minutes) to serve shrimp toast style.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bacon + Cinnamon = Brunch Heaven

By now you know I love bacon.  It's one of those foods that goes with just about everything and is appropriate for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  With the spring forward time change, I found myself in a weird place last Sunday where I wanted breakfast, but it was already 11 am and I wanted some savory for lunch too.  I had a can of "whomp biscuits" (you know, the kind you whomp on the counter to open?), about 4 slices of thick cut bacon, and my pantry at my disposal.  Then, lightbulb!  I thought about cinnamon rolls and thought "bacon cinnamon rolls!"
I had to put this in here as a preview of what's to come! :)

But cinnamon rolls involve making a dough, allowing time to rise, etc.  And I didn't want brunch at 2 pm, so, why not speed up the process by using that can o' buttermilk biscuits and creating muffins?  And I've seen recipes before involving snipping biscuits and making monkey bread.  Winner!  But how to do it?!  So, in case you're wondering, here's a step-by-step pictorial of how it's done!

1. Prep your bacon for cooking.  I chose to bake mine at 350 degrees
for about 20 minutes (thick cut bacon) until it was crispy, but still a little chewy.

2. While the bacon cooked, I prepped my other ingredients  -
combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl,
Melt 6 Tablespoons of butter in a separate bowl, and open the biscuits

3. After opening the can of biscuits, I put them on a cutting board
and used a dough scraper (from the dollar store) to cut
 the biscuits into 4 pieces for a total of 40.
(You can cut biscuits with scissors or a knife too)

4. After bacon was cooked, I let cool for a few minutes
and then chopped up into small pieces.  A few pieces may
have been for my kitchen helpers (aka my kitties)
5. I sprayed the muffin tin with non-stick spray, then
began the dipping process.  The dough was dunked into the
melted butter, then the brown sugar/cinnamon/salt mixture.
I put two nuggets into the tin, then a little bacon, then two more
pillows of love, followed by more bacon.  A total of 10 muffins.

6. Here are the prepped muffins topped with bacon
and some of the leftover brown sugar mix.
7. Into the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes
(put a cookie sheet under the tin to catch any bubble-overs)
or until done.  (Your oven may be hotter or cooler,
so keep an eye on them after 10 minutes) 

Cinnamon-Bacon Monkey Bread Muffins

1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, melted
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Open can of biscuits and cut each into 4 pieces (total of 40 pieces). In a bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix to combine.  In a separate bowl, melt butter in microwave (about 1 minute on high). Dip two dough pieces in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon/brown sugar mix.  Place two pieces in the tin, then sprinkle a little bacon over.  Dip two more pieces of dough and place on the first two pieces.  Sprinkle with a little more bacon.  Press down slightly to help the 4 pieces stick together.  Repeat this process for the remaining 9 muffins.  Place in oven (put a cookie sheet under to catch drips) and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (keep checking after 10).  Remove from oven and serve immediately (there will be gooey caramel at the bottom of each tin).  Happy eating!