Spreading the Love

February 11, 2013 by
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.

Options
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.

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Fettuccine Feuxfredo

February 5, 2013 by
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! 😉

Cast Iron Confessions

January 31, 2013 by

I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it, but I just got around to purchasing my first proper cast iron skillet. I can hear you now — “(Gasp!)” “I declare!” “What the tarnation?!!”

While I realize that you are neither Foghorn Leghorn nor Yosemite Sam, I can’t imagine your real-life disbelief is far off the mark. I mean, I talk about cooking ALL THE TIME. We have like, hundreds of recipes on here. I’m from MISSISSIPPI, for heaven’s sakes! I accept your culinary shaming and the righteous indignation with which it was delivered. Now can we please get on with the introductions? I’d like you to meet Big Molly.

photo-22

I got Big Molly at Little Hardware in Mountain Brook Village shortly after receiving the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas (Thanks, Jen & Ben!). In it, author Deb Perelman (an awesome food blogger) wields her honkin’ cast iron skillet like a culinary swiss army knife, browning, braising, baking, and generally making tons of tasty magic. I simply had to have one for my mischief!

photo-24

Truth be told, I’m not a complete cast iron novice. When I moved in with my partner David seven years ago, I inherited a tiny little cast iron skillette (see what I did there? Grin.) I mean, if Puss in Boots were to make anchovy omelets for his Lady Cat Callers, this is the skillet he would use. See how Petite Polly nestles right down into Big Molly’s generously seasoned embrace?

photo-23

So I was glad to trade up and graduate to a “traditionally built” cast iron skullet. “U” feels like a more substantial vowel than “I,” yes? I christened Big Molly with an odd dish from the Smitten Kitchen book — Roasted Chicken with Olives and Grapes. Yes, GRAPES. Here’s a peek.

photo-21

It was a little weird, but good. Subsequent recipes have been increasingly pleasing. The real tests are yet to come — GIANT cornbread, and yes … Fried Chicken! Thank goodness they built a new fire department just two blocks away in Avondale!

Wish me luck — and the arm strength to dance around this kitchen with Big Molly! Bring on the Mischief! 😉

PS: In the meantime, check out Deb’s blog and try out some of her recipes, or take a peek at the tasty cast iron slideshow I stumbled upon over at Taste of the South.

Super-Cute & Super-Easy Pumpkin Dip

October 26, 2012 by

Halloween is almost here, so it’s time to break out a Kitchen Mischief Klassic — Pumpkin Dip!

I have to admit, I did not develop this recipe. The good foodies over at Southern Living get credit for that. But of course I mischieffed it up a little bit. You know I am INCAPABLE of following a recipe to the letter. 😉

Here’s what you need and how to do it.

Pumpkin Dip

• 1 box of cream cheese, softened

• 1 ½  to 2 cups powdered sugar

• 1 (15-ounce) canned pumpkin

• 2 tsp ground cinnamon

• 1 tsp ground ginger

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

• ½ tsp ground clove

• the tiniest dash of fine salt

• 1 pie pumpkin (optional)

• serve with ginger snaps

The most important thing is to start with super-soft cream cheese. Mix it together with your powdered sugar, get it nice and smooth, then add your pumpkin.

NOTE: If you try to blend cold cream cheese and canned pumpkin together, the cream cheese will pebble up, yielding you a dip that resembles orange cottage cheese [sound of Josh dry heaving into trash can]. Avoid this mischief at all costs!

Finish it by seasoning to taste. I like mine nice and spicy, and not too sweet. You can also add honey, maple syrup or agave nectar — just watch your consistency.  You don’t want sweet pumpkin soup. 😉

Now, you can always just serve this in a bowl and be done with it. But why do that when you can serve it in a super-cute hollowed-out pie pumpkin? Not only is this adorable, but it makes it clear to your guests that they are not eating hummus.

If you’d like to taste this cute deliciousness in person, stop by Boo Gurl X this weekend! It’s our final Boo, and it’s going to be a blast!

Happy Halloween — get into some mischief, why don’t cha? 😉

Boo Gurl X Info:

Home of Lane Snider: 5721 10th Avenue South, Birmingham (Crestwood); 8-until!
Join us as we celebrate 10 years of Boo Gurl. Boo Gurl X promises to be the best of the BOO. So, put on your creativity smock and come up with a great costume. Funny, Scary, Sexy, Dirty, Political, topical… you choose, but make it good. Hosted by Ray Hydrick, Matthew Warren, Lane Snider, Josh Miller, David Brothers and Vicky Carstens and Jamie Hodge.

You’d be Bananas not to Try this Recipe!

September 13, 2012 by

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. 😉

Veggie-Packed “Lettuce” Wraps

September 6, 2012 by

 

—or—

BRING YOUR CABBAGE to WORK(out) DAY!

What's more round, the cabbage, or my head?

 

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why does it look like Josh is holding a cabbage in what appears to be a gym/workout facility?” Darlings, it’s because I AM holding a cabbage in a gym/workout facility. Allow me to explain.

So dashing from work to workout, I realized I was missing a key ingredient to that evening’s dinner — cabbage! Before you say “yuck nasty!” like I tend to when contemplating cabbage, know that it’s merely a vehicle for a way-better-than-PF Chang’s version of “lettuce” wraps. Cabbage is to “lettuce” wraps as chips are to rotel. Except not a fat factory. Got it? On we go.

So I zipped past the gym (Birmingham’s LJCC, love it, go there!) and plunged into the Publix. Cabbage in tow, I hurled back gymward, peeling into the parking lot with about 47 seconds to spare before it was time to begin doing sit-ups in unison with a room full of perfect strangers. But I had a cabbage dilemma: Do I leave the cabbage in the car to possibly wilt and yuckify, or do I smuggle her into the gym? Fearing wilt above mockery or inconvenience, I bagged her and sprinted inside.

 

Plastic bags are sinful. Mea culpa, mea culpa!

 

What I failed to factor in was the locker room. Let’s be clear — I’m not knocking the cleanliness of the men’s locker room, but it’s absolutely no place for a cabbage! There’s entirely too many feet and undercarriages swinging about in there. Blech! By this time, I was already fully committed to the mischief-y idea of toting a cabbage around the gym, so off we went to the workout studio!

I briefly considering subbing in the cabbage as a weight plate for lunges, but that seemed a mite ridiculous (ha!). So she sat in the corner, cozy in her Publix bag, while I crouched, crunched, and planked my way toward a six pack that only exists in magazines.

As the class ended, the instructor (who David and I call ‘Sweet Sara’) told us to eat our veggies. Oh, the irony! So of course I had to introduce her to my special guest. Sara is a culinary school-trained foodie, so she totally understood my wilt vs. locker room dilemma. I mean, who wouldn’t? 😉

There’s nothing to the rest of the story, really. I rushed home, chopped a queen’s ransom of vegetables, and combined them with ground chicken and seasonings to yield a very tasty and healthy version of “lettuce” wraps. If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve already told you how to cook this before. Actually, Matthew did! Here’s the recipe. I simply added the following diced veggies: one red bell pepper, half and onion, an entire bunch of scallions, one pint container of mushrooms, and two large carrots.

 

Mom would be proud!

 

Don’t forget the seasonings! I used a sixfecta of low-sodium soy sauce (salty), fish sauce (sour), chili sauce (hot) honey (sweet), and rice wine vinegar (tangy!).

 

Instead of a wok (which I do own but am terrified of, mainly because my electric stove doesn’t cooperate with it), I used a gigantic skillet, like this:

 

Yummy goodness!

 

And that’s it! A little ground chicken, a little cilantro, and a whole lotta flavor! Oh yeah, I forgot about the cabbage!

 

 

And that, friends, is all she wrote! This is a great recipe if you’d like to play with asian flavors, but you’re intimidated by stir-frying. Just saute it all in stages and you’re all set!

Have fun, cook mischievously, and don’t be afraid to play — or workout — with your food! 😉

The Easiest Recipe EVER!

August 24, 2012 by

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.

Chimichur-yeah!

August 8, 2012 by

All photos by Ray Hydrick – except for the blurry one.

This has been my summer of chimichurri. What is it, you ask? No, it is not a song in Mary Poppins – that would be Chim Chim Cheree. Close though. Chimichurri is pesto-style sauce from Argentina that is made to go over grilled meat and let me say, it is delicious. I say pesto-style because it has similar ingredients but it is not a pesto. Pesto has cheese and nuts, whereas chimichuri does not. What it does have is fresh herbs, onion, garlic, lemon juice and a little olive oil.

I know in the past I have preached to keep grilled steak and burgers pure with no added spices or marinades and I stay true to that belief. This is a topping that enhances the flavor and helps cut through the rich, fattiness that tender meats

Here are the players

can have. Here’s what you will need.

Basil Chimichurri (makes about a cup)
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (half that if using dried)
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves fresh garlic (or 4 cloves roasted)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

You could put this all in the food processor and let it rip but you would have inconsistent onion and garlic pieces. To keep this happening, place the onion and garlic in the processor and pulse in the processor a couple of times before adding everything else. Once you add the remaining ingredients, pulse the processor until smooth consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

I love my little chopper!

What can you use this tasty topping?
Grilled flank steak – top gilled flank steak with a couple of tablespoons of the chimichuri for fresh, spicy bite.

Yummy goodness

Flank steak and brie sandwiches – I took the leftover flank steak, topped it with brie and added some chimichuri for a sandwich you will not forget.

I have yet to forget this sandwich.

Tacos – exchange the basil with cilantro and add it as a taco topping.

Drop the steak sauce and try this fresh alternative. You won’t be disappointed. Plus you will enjoy it while watching Mary Poppins.

Cream Corn, Reborn!

July 30, 2012 by

I grew up on my grandmother’s cream corn. I don’t know if it had actual cream in it or not, but it definitely had LOTS of butter. Plus, it seemed as if she cooked it for HOURS to get that creamy consistency.

My Mom modernized the routine by microwaving the corn, but she kept her Mom’s requisite butter. Still tasty, and with a good deal less stirring.

Well Mom, and May, I’m sorry — but I’ve got a new plan for cream corn. My method is less creamy, more crunchy, and very fresh. And … it doesn’t depend on butter for the flavor. But that doesn’t mean there’s no fun. Here’s what you need:

Josh’s Sauteed Summer Corn
Serves 4

Four ears of fresh corn
half an onion, diced
3 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup (about) of 1% milk
salt and lots of fresh pepper, to taste
1/cup chopped basil, optional

Shuck your corn and dice your onion. When removing your corn from the cob, place the pointy end in a bundt pan to catch the kernels as you run your knife down the cob, like this:

Next, saute your diced onions. While that’s happening, remove the kernels and set aside, then run your knife along the corn husks to extract the corn milk.*  Best thing to do is show you how. Watch:

Now, add the corn kernels to the pan, along with the corn milk.* After 3-5 minutes (or when the pan is looking dry), add the milk a little at a time, allowing it to cook down. After about 10 minutes, right before serving, add your basil. Done!

There’s nothing better than a plate full of soul food!

If you’re a traditionalist, this may not float your boat, but every time I’ve made it this summer it’s been my favorite thing on the plate. Plus it’s so easy and not that messy.

Matthew & I have been super-busy with work, but we’re going to try to get more quick recipes like this one in front of you more often. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!

Thanks, and happy Mischief-making!

*Corn milk should not be fed to Baby Corn. It prefers soy sauce.

Quick Mischief

May 31, 2012 by

All photos by Ray Hydrick.

If you are like me, you have been taking advantage of the abundant fruit options at the farmers’ markets and grocery stores.  And if you are again like me, you cannot eat the massive amount of fruits you have purchased at said markets and they are taking a turn for the worse.  So I thought we could provide a quick recipe to turn that fruit into an easy yet tasty dessert.  Lets make a quick cobbler!

I chose to make a Peach and Blackberry Cobbler.  You can choose the fruit of your choice but using apples, peaches or berries can guarantee a perfect outcome. 

This is what you need:
4 cups of roughly diced peaches
2 cups blackberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
Juice of one orange
2 tablespoons orange liquor (optional)
1 tablespoon tapioca flour (optional)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
I cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl add fruit, orange zest, orange juice, orange liquor and tapioca flour.  If you like your cobbler really sweet, add a couple of tablesppons of sugar to the fruit.  I like mine tart so I left it out.  

A big bowl of love.

Why tapioca flour? It helps thicken the mixture without lumps due to its fine texture. 

You can find this in the organic or natural flour section of the mega mart.

In another bowl, combine  flour, sugar, milk and vanilla.  Stir till combined.

At this point you can use individual servings or one large one.  I chose individuals  but if you chose a large dish – use an 9×9 inch dish.  Grease the dish with butter or cooking spray. 

Add the fruit evenly in the dish and pour over the flour-milk mixture over the fruit.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake is brown and firm.  Let it sit 10 minutes before serving or your mouth will melt like lava. 

See, almost the way grandma made them.

This may not be the cobbler like grandma use to make but this simple dessert is easy and can bake while you eat dinner.  Quick dessert, quick mischief. 😉