Author Archive

Chickpeas Are Not Just for Hummus

February 6, 2014


The poor chickpea.  It’s either pulverized for hummus or banished to the salad bar to be glared at and ignored by salad eaters.  But not anymore.  I decided to step out of my comfort zone and make something a little different, a Moroccan stew. Yes, I know this is soup week and this is not called a soup…tomato, to-mah-to, I say.

You will see that I have chicken in my stew.  If you want to go meatless, leave it out! I won’t judge…maybe.  Let’s get this stew started!

All photos and horrible editing by Matthew

All photos and horrible editing by Matthew

Moroccan Stew with Chicken

2 roasted chicken breasts, shredded (recipe below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup parsnips, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, sprinkle with salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yummy caramelized onion

Yummy caramelized onion

Add garlic, tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Add tomatoes, cumin and cinnamon.  Cook for an additional two minutes.
Add chickpeas, chicken broth, parsnips and carrots.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes.



After 40 minutes, use your potato masher and mash chickpeas a little.  I would say around 10 mashes would do it.

This is not soft-focus, it is steam.

This is not soft-focus, it is steam.

I served it with a little jasmine rice but you could substitute for couscous.

Need another chickpea recipe?

Josh and I found this one online and it looked really fun and tasty.

Crunchy, spicy and yummy

Crunchy, spicy and yummy

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the over to 400°.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Spread chickpeas in a even layer on sheet pan.  Roast for 35-40 minutes or until crunchy on outside but tender in the middle.

This was taken by Ray - looks much better

This was taken by Ray – looks much better


This Soup Is To Thai For!

February 5, 2014

I love this Thai chicken coconut soup. You can eat it as is or add various noodles to make your favorite noodle bowl.  I know when you see the ingredient list below you may think that I ransacked an Asian market but I really bought most of this at our local mega mart and maybe Whole (Paycheck) Foods.  Believe it or not, this soup can be on your table in less than hour.

A few things before we get to the recipe.  The original recipe calls for fish sauce.  We cannot use fish sauce in our house because of Ray’s allergy (so he says) to fish.  Soup should be warm and comforting, not send you to the hospital.  So I substituted soy sauce for fish sauce.  Also, I was able to find lime leaves at Whole Foods.  These little babies are cheap and pack a punch (steep them in a good green tea).  If you can’t find them, use a vegetable peeler to remove a few strips of zest from a lime.  Last thing, if you can’t find Thai chilies – use Serrano chilies, they are a staple in most mega marts.

Thai Coconut Soup with Chicken and Tofu 
2 32 oz boxes of chicken broth
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
2 14 oz cans of coconut milk
10 quarter-sized slices of ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, cut in large chunks
3 Thai chilies, de-ribbed and seeded
5 lime leaves (or 3 large slices of lime zest)
10 whole peppercorns
½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or fish sauce)
7 oz (½ loaf) firm tofu, medium diced
2 scallions, sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
Cheese cloth

In a stock pot, add the chicken broth and heat over medium heat.  With the back of a heavy knife or rolling pen, whack each piece of lemon grass to open the stalks.  Add lemon grass, ginger, chilies, lime leaves and pepper corns to an 8”x8” piece of cheese cloth and tie into a bundle.

Add bundle and diced chicken to broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Do not put this sachet in your lingerie drawer

Stir in coconut milk, chili-garlic sauce, chili oil, soy sauce and tofu.

Simmer for 10 additional minutes.  Serve with scallions and mushrooms.

Serving suggestions: 
-Add rice noodles, udon or ramen for a hardy noodle bowl and top it with fresh bean sprouts and extra lime
-Add pre-made dumplings

Can’t take the Heat?
Let’s keep the mischief to a minimum when it comes to working with chilies.  These bad boys are HOT! So here a few tips for keeping the heat down:  When working with any kind of chili, wear gloves to keep the oils from burning your skin.  It may not burn your fingers but wipe your eye or nose and the phrase “feel the burn” has a whole new meaning.
To make chilies a little less hot, remove the seeds and ribs.  Holding your knife horizontally, slowly cut out both.

  • The glove is for safety not a Michael Jackson tribute

We’re Nuts for Butternut Squash Soup!

February 4, 2014


Intimidated by the beastly behemoth of a butternut squash? Don’t be! Let Josh hold your hand and guide you through transforming  this plus-sized veggie into a rich, simmering cauldron of velvety butternut goodness. Read on…

Photos by David Brothers and swirl in soup by Josh Miller

Classic Butternut Squash Soup

For the Soup:
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 large carrots
1 yellow onion
1 head of garlic (optional: see note below)
3 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth (maybe extra)
2 cups milk (maybe extra)

Before You Begin…
First, a note on the quantities here. Plan to have some extra broth. It’s hard to find a squash the exact right size, so you may have to add more liquid to get a consistency you like. Some folks like it thick, some thin. It’s entirely up to you.

Roasting the vegetables is the key to adding rich flavor to this soup. So go ahead and set your oven to 400° before you start chopping.

Conquering the Butternut
Don’t be intimidated by this squashy beast. Just think of her as a pale, rather elongated pumpkin that you’re going to peel like an apple. TIP: Poke the squash a few times with a fork and microwave it for 40 seconds. It helps with the peeling.

TIP: Peel from the base toward you. This seemed to get more peel off without redundant hacking

After you’ve got the peel off, use a big sharp knife to cut the squash in two pieces. You don’t want to split it down the middle yet — unless you’re using a machete, your knife isn’t big enough. Cut it in half horizontally, so you end up with the neck and base, like this:

Off with your head!

Now split these puppies in half, remove the seeds (mostly in the base) and cut the squash into cubes (about 1-inch). And now, a journey in pictures…

The “base” has seeds, the “neck” doesn’t.

David took this picture of me performing a Butternut Magic Trick…

Ta-Da! No seeds!

It’s easy to get excited during this step, but please be careful. I almost ended up with a hook for a hand.

And the winner is…Squirrel! Take that, Butternut. Now you are but rubble on my Boos Block.

Sorry, out of pics, but the rest is pretty simple. Peel your carrots, and give them and your onion a very rough chop. You want big chunks so they cook along with your squash. Toss all the veggies in a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty onto a cookie sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.

The Garlic Option
If you’d like to add the flavor of roasted garlic to your soup (which I love), simply cut the top of a head of garlic, set it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap it up. It will roast to perfection along with your veggies.

The Blends
Here is the messy — and to be honest — the somewhat annoying part. Getting your lovely roasted vegetables to a delicious, creamy consistency requires the assistance of a small motor. You can use a regular blender, a stick blender, or a food processor. Here’s a quick review:

Stick Blender
This is the least messy option. Start by combining your milk and broth in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When it warms, add half the roasted vegetables (and all garlic, if using) and blend until smooth. Simply add the rest of the veggies and repeat. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or milk. Season to taste. Want to know more about stick blenders…read Matthew’s post here.

Food Processor or Regular Blender
These methods are pretty easy, and result in a smoother texture for the soup. Work in batches, combining half the liquid mixture with half the veggies, blend, pour into dutch oven, then repeat. Heat to simmer then season to taste.

Punching Up the Flavor
If you like exotic flavors, add a tablespoon or two of curry powder to the soup while it’s simmering. I’m not a huge curry fan, but it really works with this soup. You can also use thyme, sage, fennel, smoky paprika — just be sure to use ground spices to preserve the soup’s creamy texture.

And to Top it Off…
Toppings make this soup even more fun. I love toasted walnuts and crunchy bacon, but get creative and see what you can come up with. Barefoot Contessa tops hers with cashews, green onions, banana and coconut. Crazy! The possibilities are endless.

Welcome to Soup Week!

February 3, 2014

SOUPWEEKWelcome to Soup Week! We got the idea to share our favorite soups during our harrowing survival of Clusterflake 2014 here in Birmingham. By harrowing survival, I mean Josh spending the night under his desk at the office and me sleeping soundly in my bed under a very warm quilt. 😉

Because the storm quickly brought the city to a standstill, very few folks were able to go grocery shopping. Fortunately, my pantry and freezer were full of mischievous ingredients, so I was able to serve as an impromptu soup kitchen for my friends. Since we have a couple of months of winter left, this is a perfect opportunity to share some of those with you. Check back each day for some of our favorite soups, and a few ideas to make them your own. Up first—Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup…quick, easy, and guaranteed to ward off the chills!

All photos by Ray Hydrick

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 32oz box of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cup of orzo
2 medium bone-in chicken breasts, baked and shredded (recipe at bottom) or use a store-bought roasted chicken
2 tablespoons dill, roughly chopped
2 cups kale, shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 lemons, cut in half

Soup ingredient lineup

Soup ingredient lineup

In an 8-quart pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onion, carrots and celery. Stir to coat in oil. Cook until tender. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Instagram of the “holy trinity” – Ray was playing with filters again

Add chicken stock, chicken and bay leaves to the pot. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and kale. Stir to combine and cook for 10 minutes. Add dill and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon over each serving.

Kale Cutting Tip:

1. Remove the large stem of the middle of the leaf — it is tough and will not soften in time.

That stem is tough

That stem is tough

2. Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them like a cigar.

This looks nothing like a cigar

This looks nothing like a cigar

3. Cut the leaves in 1/2 inch strips — the big word for this is chiffonade.

Kale ribbons!

Kale ribbons!

Simple Oven-Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 bone-in chicken breasts
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 25-30 minutes (times may vary with size of chicken breasts) or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°.  Let chicken rest for 10 minutes.  Remove skin and shredded meat with fingers or two forks.

Simple Sunday

August 8, 2013
All photos by Matthew

All photos by Matthew

After enjoying a night out with my favorite mischief-maker, Josh Miller, who needs some easy comfort food that didn’t break the calorie bank? This guy! After taking inventory of the fridge and the fig tree from my neighbor’s yard (thank you, Keith!), I just needed a few ingredients for my recovery meal.

Most of the recipes below only have a few ingredients. I keep most of these ingredients on hand. For example, prosciutto is a great, low calorie substitute for bacon, so I grab some from one of the mega wholesale places when I go.

Here are the simple dishes I made this Sunday to make me feel better.

Figs courtesy of Keith

Figs courtesy of Keith

Grilled Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto
2-3 figs per person
1/3 of a slice prosciutto per fig
Balsamic reduction (find in specialty marts)

Preheat grill. Wash and pat dry figs. Wrap prosciutto around each fig and place on grill set at medium heat (350°).

Figs in their little meat jackets

Figs in their little meat jackets

Turn every 2-3 minutes (8 minutes total) until prosciutto is golden brown. Place on tray and serve with a dollop of balsamic reduction.

Sweet, salty and rich.

Weird plating by Matthew

Weird plating by Matthew

Pan Con Tomate

I stole this EASY and tasty dish from Bottega Cafe. This is a very simple way to use those farmers’ market tomatoes that may be going bad.

2 Large ripe tomatoes
4 pieces of French bread
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt & cracked pepper
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
4 large basil leaves
Olive Oil

Wash and dry tomatoes. Using a box grater, grate the tomatoes on the course side – flesh, seeds and all (disregard the skin left). Place the pulp in a sieve or fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 10 minutes.

Don't grate a finger or would blend in!

Don’t grate a finger or knuckle…it would blend in!

While that sits, brush bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill bread until edges are chard and grill marks appear. (You can use your oven broiler – just watch it, I always burn mine). Once the bread is toasted, rub a half clove of garlic on one side of the bread. Do that to each piece and place aside. Place the strained tomato pulp in bowl. Add salt and pepper, mix to combine. Spoon the tomato mixture evenly over each piece of bread, drizzle with olive oil and top with a basil leaf (can be torn).

Fresh, easy and very tasty.

So tasty...I'm addicted.

So tasty…I’m addicted.

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Broccolini

This is very easy dish and comforting dish. You can use any pasta but I love these little orecchiette from Whole Foods, I do suggest, have you pasta 80% done before starting the sauce – it is very quick (8 minutes total). This makes two large servings.

1/2 box – 1/2 lb Orecchiette Pasta
2 Chicken Italian Sausage (removed from casing) – I used spicy
1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Follow package directions for pasta. With three minutes remaining in cook time, add the broccolini to pasta water. While that cooks, preheat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and use tongs or spoon to break up the pieces. Stir for 2 minutes, breaking pieces as you go. Add shallots and cook for one minute. Then add tomatoes and stir to combine.

Comfort in the making.

Comfort in the making.

Using tongs, grab the broccolini from pasta water and add to pan. Stir to combine. Using a ladle or measuring cup, add a 3/4 cup of pasta water to the saute pan. Reduce to medium heat. Drain pasta and add to saute pan. Fold to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese.

Simple, spicy, warm, comfort food.

All photos by Matthew

This dishes are easy to make and delicious to eat. My absolute favorite is the Pan Con Tomate – you can’t get any simpler than that.

Hope these dishes give you some ideas for an quick meal at the times you need it most. Maybe next time I’ll just stay home and make this instead of meeting Josh. 😉

You Will Gobble Gobble This Up

May 2, 2013
All pictures by Ray Hydrick.

All pictures by Ray Hydrick.

Josh first posted about his recreation of his favorite burger in March, 2011 and since then he has been adding to his repertoire of tasty creations. He told me about making a turkey burger with spinach and feta. Sounded delicious! So rather than steal this recipe fair and square, I decided to change it up a little, take the ingredients and turn it into a meatloaf. A recipe tag team of sorts.

The key to any meatloaf and especially turkey meatloaf is keeping it moist. The moist-making lineup for this meatloaf is sautéed spinach and an egg. Since spinach is mostly made up of water, it is the perfect addition. The other technique I used to keep the moisture is cooking it faster. Ever had a really…I mean really dry meatloaf? It usually is in one big loaf. I decided to make four smaller ones to allow it to cook faster. Don’t have a small loaf pan? No worries. I have that covered.

Turkey, Spinach and Feta Meatloaf

1 lb Ground Turkey (93% fat-free)
1 package of baby spinach (6 oz)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (dry bread crumbs soak up too much liquid)
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until tender and translucent. Add the minced garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Sauté for one minute – keep stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Burned garlic is bitter garlic

Burned garlic is bitter garlic

Add the package of spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using tongs, turn the spinach until wilted. Place on a plate to cool (hot spinach in cold turkey could create a perfect place for bacteria).

Takes less than a minute to make

Takes less than a minute to make

In a bowl, add ground turkey, spinach mixture, egg, bread crumbs and feta cheese. Mix completely but don’t “squish it” – that makes it very dense.

If it grosses you out to mix with your hands, then good luck.

If it grosses you out to mix with your hands, then good luck.

This is the fun part – place a piece of plastic wrap in a small plastic container. Spoon in the turkey mixture and press gently to compact. Turn the loaf out on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Complete the process until the mixture is gone (mine made 4).

Click on the pic for a better view.  Apparently, my computer wants to give you an eye exam.

Click on the pic for a better view. Apparently, my computer wants to give you an eye exam.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165°. Let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

165° is the recommended temperature for turkey

165° is the recommended temperature for turkey

I ditched the traditional tomato slather and went for a balsamic reduction drizzle (I found mine at a specialty food store). I served mine over sautéed white northern beans with thyme and escarole. Delicious and healthy!

P.S. – I told Josh that I stole his recipe. After he cut me in Publix Supermarket, he was fine with it. I just think he was just hungry.

P.S.S. – I cannot confirm that Josh cut me.

Spreading the Love

February 11, 2013
All photos by Ray Hydrick

All photos by Ray Hydrick

Like many of you after the New Year, I made the choice to start watching what I eat to lose the weight I gained during winter hibernation. One way of lowering the calories is by making my lunches at home and taking them to work, so I know what’s in my meal. The only problem is…you can only have so many sandwiches before your taste buds start fighting back. So I have been making some easy spreads to add to my less-than-stellar sandwiches that have brought them back to life.

In two of the spreads I decided to use a mixture of Greek yogurt and olive oil mayonnaise. You have the tang and fewer calories from the yogurt but the mayo makes it creamy and can help tone down the yogurt flavor. Yes, both of these have calories, but remember you only need one or two teaspoons on your sandwich. I pumped the flavor by adding roasted garlic and fresh herbs, so you don’t need much to taste it. Let’s get this love fest going.

Roasted Garlic Spread
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil mayo (I like Kraft)
3 tablespoons roasted garlic (I get mine from the olive bar at Whole Foods)
3 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
Salt and pepper to taste

Apparently, Ray added the Cybill Shepherd soft focus on this picture.

Apparently, Ray added the Cybill Shepherd soft focus on this picture.

Add the roasted garlic and thyme leaves to a food processor. I know that seems like a lot of garlic but roasted garlic is not as in-your-face as raw garlic, plus I just like it. Pulse the garlic and thyme till thoroughly minced.

I love a mini processor

I love a mini processor

Add the remaining ingredients except salt and pepper to the processor. Pulse until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

These cylinder measuring cups are great for measuring thick creamy stuff - no digging it would with a spoon!

These cylinder, plunger measuring cups are great for measuring thick creamy stuff – no digging it out with a spoon!

Add it to small jar and store in the fridge till ready to use.

Like it spicy?
Add a few dashes of hot sauce, like Texas Pete, to the mix.

NOTE: The next two spreads would follow the same instructions as above, just change the ingredients (see below).

Avocado Spread
2 avocados, ripe
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil mayo
1 tablespoon of roasted garlic
3 dashes of hot sauce
Salt and Pepper

The makings of a great avocado spread

The soft focus on this picture makes it look like a dream sequence.

Want something extra?
Add a tablespoon of chopped cilantro for a fresh taste or add a teaspoon of diced jalapeno, seeded.

Olive Spread
1 pint pitted olives of choice (I got mine from the Whole Food’s olive bar)
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Olive oil

Think your eyes are blurry?  It's okay, Ray added a soft focus to the picture.

Think your eyes are blurry? It’s okay, Ray added a soft focus to the picture.

Once the first four ingredients have been blended in the food processor, you may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to bind it.

Get the spicy macerated olives or the lemon macerated olives from the olive bar to give the spread a different flavor.

These spreads are tasty and very easy to make. Show a little love to your sandwich this Valentine’s Day and add a little spread. You both will be happily in love.

Fettuccine Feuxfredo

February 5, 2013
All photos by Ray Hydrick

All photos by Ray Hydrick

While eating in the bar area of a local breakfast joint, I became engrossed in an infomercial for Rocco Dispirito’s book Now Eat This! He was making, from what I could interpret from the poorly written close captioning, a lighter version of Fettuccine Alfredo. While watching and lip-reading Rocco, I deciphered he was using leeks, milk and small amount of cheese to make the Feuxfredo sauce. What was also really cool about this recipe was the fact he used a vegetable peeler to make “ribbons” of asparagus to add to the pasta, giving it an extra boost of nutrition. I had to make it. (By the way, while lip-reading Rocco, he said he loved Kitchen Mischief and reads it often for inspiration. On the other hand, I am horrible at lip-reading.)

During Rocco’s mime performance on TV, I figured the basic ingredients I needed but not the amounts. I had the Ray perform Google magic and find the recipe. I was 99% right on my lip-reading of his ingredient list. Let’s try this shall we?

Fettuccine Feuxfredo
2 cups sliced leeks
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
3 ozs of Parmesan Reggiano, grated
1 lb of asparagus
8 ozs of whole wheat fettuccine pasta
1 pat of butter
Olive oil
Salt and FRESH cracked pepper

Rocco’s recipe seemed a little bland to me, so in Kitchen Mischief fashion I used a few tricks to make the taste even better.

I started by slowly sautéing the leeks in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the pat of butter over medium heat. The goal is not to brown but to get the leeks really soft about 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Lovely leeks

Lovely leeks

While the leeks cook, take your washed asparagus and using a vegetable peeler, shave off thin slices – keep the tips! Put the ribbons and tips to the side.

Please do not use ribbons for your hair

Please do not use ribbons for your hair

Once the leeks are soft, combine the leeks and cup of milk in a microwave-safe dish and zap it on high for 4 minutes. We want them really soft. In the meantime, start your pasta water. Beep, Beep, Beep – your leeks should be done. Combine the mixture in a blender with 1/3 of the cheese. Start out on the slowest speed and make your way higher until as smooth as possible.

Remember to use a towel to hold the lid when blending hot liquids!

Remember to use a towel to hold the lid when blending hot liquids!

Cook your pasta according to package directions. While the pasta cooks, add the leek mixture to a non-stick pan over medium heat. Taste for salt and pepper. Bring to simmer until slightly thickened.

This is not pistachio ice cream

This is not pistachio ice cream

When the timer goes off for the pasta, add the asparagus ribbons and tips to the pasta water for 30 seconds. When the pasta and asparagus are done, drain and add to the leek mixture. Add the remaining cheese, mix to combine.

I added some extra goodness

I added some extra goodness

You may have noticed I took the liberty of adding some extras to the pasta. I added a 1/2 cup of frozen sweet peas (thawed them by running hot water over them), some crispy prosciutto and a little parsley.

You may be asking, “Is this as good as the real thing?” I would say, “Are you crazy? No.” But I will say that it was really, really good. I would make this light version again. It was comforting, not hard to a make and had great flavor. It makes me think what other options are out there to make high calorie meals into something lighter and just as tasty. Sounds like some mischief waiting to happen! 😉

You’d be Bananas not to Try this Recipe!

September 13, 2012

This past Labor Day when I was planning the menu of smoked pulled pork and the typical sides that accompany it, I decided to make a quintessential southern dessert that adorns the tables of July 4th, Labor Day or any family reunion.  I don’t usually make desserts after such a large meal because I am usually in a food coma and can’t move, but this time I wanted a classic – Banana Pudding. 

There are two trains of thought in making this dessert – those that make it from scratch and those that like the ease of Jell-O pudding and Cool Whip.  It leaves you in a pudding predicament.    If you have the time, the made-from-scratch is the way to go…and that’s the way I went.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe so I posted it below and added my commentary.  The only changes I made to his recipe was that I added fresh vanilla bean (a gift from Josh Miller) and I placed the pudding in individual containers.   

Alton Brown’s Banana Pudding – Link

You see in Alton’s directions that the pudding should cook a meer 5-10 minutes before bubbling and thickening.  I think I was in a Star Trek wormhole because this stuff took 20-25 minutes.  To pass the time, I suggest the following:

Once it’s done, when  you add the vanilla extract, you will also add the vanilla bean innards.  Don’t know how to open that pod?  Josh told us how in his Vanilla-palooza post. 

Where Alton used one dish, I used individual ones.  Why?  Because I will cut someone who takes a little too much and cutting into mine portion.  Cut.  Them.  Sorry for the violence, folks.  I came from a large family – it was basically the Hunger Games in my house at dinner time.  Well, I digress.  I used 6 individual dishes.  They were not completely full of pudding in the end but I was glad.  This pudding is rich.

My photo montage

As for my meringue, I totally beat those eggs whites to heck and back.  I did well with the soft peaks but over did it after adding the sugar. 

This pudding is very rich and very tasty.  I think I passed out into pudding bliss before I finished mine.  Going the easy route may save time, but it sure can’t replace the taste.  So try going old school with Grandma and make the good stuff. 😉

The Easiest Recipe EVER!

August 24, 2012

The title doesn’t lie; this is the easiest recipe ever – Seared Sea Scallops. I have always wanted to try making scallops but two things kept me from it: 1.) messing up an expensive ingredient, and 2.) killing Ray, who is allergic to seafood (or so he says). With these two worries in my head, I cinched up my apron, gave Ray a Zyrtec and decided to give it a go.

Sea scallops are the large scallops seen here

I bought my sea scallops (these are the larger scallops, the smaller ones are called bay scallops) at Whole “Paycheck” Foods. A little word of caution – ask the fish monger if the scallops have been previously frozen. If they have, just be warned that when cooked they will release a lot more liquid and could make your scallops tough. I could go into the Alton Brown explantation as to why but it would send this post into a spiral of food nerdiness. If frozen scallops are the only way you can buy them, thaw them in the refrigerator and not the counter – keeps the water loss to a minimum and prevents you eating a dollop of seafood bacteria. Enough of the science, let’s sear some scallops.

Seared Sea Scallops
Fresh sea scallops (3 per person for an appetizer or 5 person for a meal)
2 tablespoons oil (I used canola)
1 tablespoon butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse your scallops and pat them dry with a paper towel or tea towel. They need to be dry so the scallops develop a good sear. Sprinkle both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper.

Little blobs of the sea

Pre-heat your skillet (I used my lucky cast-iron skillet). Add one to two tablespoons of oil (you just need a very thin layer). Once the oil starts to barely smoke (basically the pan is searing hot), place the scallop in the pan one at a time. Set your timer for one minute – DO NOT push, poke, move, taunt the scallops or you will not get that perfect sear.

Like a burnt sea marshmallow

After a minute, turn the scallops and set your timer for one minute. At this time, add that tablespoon of butter. As it melts, spoon the melted butter on the scallops. Once time is up, remove the scallops and serve immediately.

Serving options:
Stir-fried veggies with rice – I added my scallops to a rice bowl with stir-fried veggies and a spicy, ginger-citrus glaze. (Picture at top)

Citrus and chive oil – I drizzled the scallops with a combination of red grapefruit, orange and lime juices and topped with chive oil (chives blended with olive oil).

The citrus plays well against the sweet scallops.

Seriously, this is the easiest and fastest recipe I have ever made. From prep to serving, the scallops took less than 10 minutes. Now what you serve with the scallops – that’s where the mischief begins.

P.S. – For those wondering about Ray’s safety. He did not die from the scallop, smoke filled kitchen. I did make him something good to eat. Using the same stir-fried veggies, I just added chicken to make his rice bowl.

Ray’s non-death meal.