Friday, January 28, 2011

Shrimp and Grits

I'll be the first one to admit that the very thought of eating shrimp and grits had me gritting my teeth. Not only does it not sound appetizing (grits reminded me of oatmeal or poridge, and why would I want to eat that as a savory meal?), but it sure doesn't look all that great when it's served to you. School cafeteria mush anyone? I had a teeny taste of grits for the first time at Cracker Barrel and vowed to never try them again. I swear it tasted like cardboard, even with two pads of butter melted in it. Simply put, it was bland, and I don't like bland.

But then I tried cheese grits and everything changed. I discovered there are grits (the kind that tastes like sand and cardboard) and then there are grits (the kind that is so savory and creamy you wish it was never ending). Shrimp and grits, however, is a whole other level of just deliciousness.

This summer, my best friend flew in from New Mexico to hang out in Georgia for a few days, and while she was here we hung out in Savannah. If you're ever in Savannah, there's this nifty kitchen store called Kitchens on the Square, and the best part is that they host cooking classes! We took a class and besides making the following recipe, we also made southern classics like Tomato Sandwiches, Buttermilk Dill Cole Slaw, and Stuffed Banana Cakes. The shrimp and grits were fantastic and I told myself I'd remake them someday for my husband. Well, that day was yesterday.

I served them along with these collard greens, and he loved it so much that he described the meal, through a mouth full of grits, as "so freaking good." Grits don't have to be boring and flavorless. Just make this recipe and see for yourself!

Shrimp and Grits

1/2 cup diced bacon (about 5-7 slices)
2 tablspoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablspoons fresh chives, roughly minced
1 cup quick cooking grits *see notes for using stone-ground (not instant) grits
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (can use whatever type of milk you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
shrimp, peeled, and deveined (desired amount)
1 cup goat cheese (or whatever cheese you would like—we had cheddar, so that's what we used)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium sauce pot, cook bacon until crisp. Add butter, garlic, and chives; saute another 2-3 minutes. Add grits and stir to coat with bacon fat (should look like bread crumbs). Stir in chicken broth, wine, and cream.

3. **Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until grits have thickened, 5-8 minutes.

4.Season with salt and pepper; transfer to baking dish.

5. Scatter shrimp evenly over grits; crumble/sprinkle cheese over shrimp. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until shrimp are pink and cheese is melted.

*When using stone-ground grits: increase the following: 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, 3/4 cup white wine, 3/4 cup cream
**When using stone-ground grits: Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring often. Continue with step 4.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Collard Greens

I tried Collard Greens for the very first time at Paula Deen's restaurant, Lady and Sons. And let me tell you, if you're ever going to try a food for the very first time, Paula Deen's version is the best way to try it. I was hooked from that first bite and vowed to recreate it at home.

Since then, I've made this multiple times and love it more every time. With so much flavor packed into these greens, they're so good that I've eaten them as a meal and a side dish, but my favorite way to eat them is straight out of the pot right around the time that they're finished cooking.

If thinking about collard greens makes you squeamish, you're not alone. The first time I told my husband I wanted to make these, he looked at me like I was crazy and then said he'd try "one" bite. Emphasis on the "one." Then he tried it and had not one, but two heaping servings. These are not only quite delicious; they're very nutritious. Collard greens are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and are just straight up good for you! And even though this recipe calls for four slices of bacon, you can chalk the bacon up to a great flavor enhancer.

Spicy Collard Greens
adapted by Sunny Anderson

  • four slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don't want it too spicy)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound collard greens, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste; the bacon ads enough salt for us, so I don't add any extra)
In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove cooked bacon; drain on paper towel. Add onions and saute until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, garlic, and bacon; cook another minute. Add collard greens; stir and cook another minute. Add chicken or vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until greens are tender and dark green, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Operation Kitchen (Onions)

Oh boy are you guys in for a treat this morning! Today is my birthday and since I'm feeling a little generous, I have a gift for you.

My lovely friend Natalie from Oven Love came over to my house last week and we recorded a little tutorial all about how to cut an onion. This is our first attempt a video, so I hope you enjoy watching; we had a fun time creating it!

What type of tutorial would you like to see next?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Apple Pie Cupcakes

Fact: When I was younger I accidentally put salt in cookies instead of sugar.

Fact: I love apple pie and cupcakes equally. They're the best desserts on earth. 

Fact: I really like to cook, but baking still slightly terrifies me (see first fact).

Fact: This was the first time I made something—entirely from scratch!—all by myself in the kitchen.

Fact: I truly believe these Apple Pie Cupcakes will be waiting for me in Heaven. 

I originally posted this on my personal blog, but felt the need to share, because they're so good I wish everyone could enjoy them. 

Don't let the "apple" part of this recipe fool you; these are not—in any way, shape, or form—healthy. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm gaining weight just by ogling the picture and thinking about eating one again. Make these. Your taste buds will thank you.

Apple Pie Cupcakes 

For cupcakes:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the apple filling:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 tbsp. sugar
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

For Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
from Natalie at Oven Love
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
up to 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of bowl after each addition. Add vanilla extract; mix well to combine. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, filling about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake until golden; about 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven; cool for 5 minutes in pans. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely.

Apple filling: heat butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add cinnamon and sugar; cook for a minute, until mixture begins to bubble. Lower heat to medium; stir in the apples. Mix well. Cook until apples are somewhat tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

While apple mixture cools, use cone method to remove a chunk from center of each cupcake, leave a rim around the top of cupcake. Fill holes with cooled apple mixture. 

Beat butter in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add 4-5 cups confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat until sugar disappears.  Add more sugar, by 1/2 cups, until desired consistency is reached. (For a stiff buttercream, use close to the max- 7-8 cups).  Beat in cinnamon.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fish in a Garden

Fish in a Garden doesn't sound like something anyone would want to eat. I know when I first heard of it I refused to go anywhere near it. It was a dish my dad always ordered at our favorite Chinese restaurant. When I realized it was basically a fish stir fry I wasn't freaked out anymore. I had a fridge stocked with veggies and figured this would be the best time to try out my version of Fish in a Garden. It's very easy and super good!

Fish in a Garden

1/2 yellow onion- small diced
2 cups broccoli
1 bunch of spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
10-15 spears of asparagus
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables
2 fillets of white fish (I used Basa)
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Brown Rice

Marinate fish in 1 tsp lemon juice, garlic salt, parsley, and 2 tsp sesame oil. Caramelize onion in 1/2 Tbsp butter and 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. While the onion is cooking blanch the vegetables, except spinach, and transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Add mushrooms to skillet and season with salt, oregano and garlic. Add in 1/4 cup of water. Add water or chicken stock throughout as needed. Reduce heat to low. Cook until mushrooms are soft. Add soy sauce and asparagus. Let cook for 2 minutes. Place fish with marinade in the middle of the pan in between the asparagus. When the fish is almost cooked cut into bite sized pieces. Add all the other veggies except the spinach. Stir in sesame oil. When the veggies are heated through add spinach and let cook until just wilted. Serve over cooked brown rice and top with pan sauce.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Eggnog is typically a holiday indulgence, but what if—what if!—you could have it whenever you wanted? Well, now you can!

My husband loves eggnog, but he missed out on drinking the creamy, rich, alcoholic beverage this season, because he was off serving our country in far, far-away lands. So when he came back we had the idea to make it ourselves; it can't be that hard, right? Right! The drink below was just as flavorful and spot-on with the store-bought variety, a whole lot cheaper, and surprisingly easy to make.

So if you feel like celebrating the holiday season all over again, any time of year, whip up some eggnog !

*There's a very similar recipe that uses uncooked eggs, and while the majority of eggs today are pasteurized, we couldn't verify on the carton that ours were. So at my request, my husband made the cooked version.

adapted from Alton Brown

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (pre-ground works fine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar; continue to beat until it's completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine milk, half-and-half, cinnamon, and nutmeg; bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and very gradually, temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Return everything to pot; cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from heat, stir in bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl; set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. With mixer running, gradually add 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk egg whites into the chilled mixture. Chill in fridge and enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

French Toast

Sunday mornings in our house typically means eating a yummy, homemade breakfast. My husband usually makes waffles, pancakes, or burritos (recipes to come soon), but last Sunday he made my favorite: French toast.

We picked out a nice potato sandwich bread—it's a little heartier than just white bread, but a little less expensive than a challah loaf—and left the slices out to harden-up/dry over night. Then, before we went to sleep on Saturday, my husband put all the ingredients together and let them sit in the fridge. He didn't do this to let the flavors merge; it was so he could get a few extra minutes of sleep Sunday morning. Don't skip that step. Put it together the night before you make this and it'll make your morning much easier and more enjoyable.

And speaking of enjoyable, these were delicious. They were so good that I actually forgot to drizzle syrup on top of mine. Crazy, I know. A good French toast in my mind means it's crunchy, but still soft; flavorful, but not too sweet; and golden, golden brown. Make this for a quick and easy meal. Your breakfast buddy will thank you. 

 French Toast
adapted from Alton Brown

  • 1 cup half-and-half (fat free works fine)
  • 3 large eggs (or 3/4 cup egg substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
  • 1 tablespoon, vanilla
  • 1/2 tablespoon, ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf or bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter 


In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt (this can be done the night before). When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a shallow dish; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds (time it!) on each side; put bread on a cooling rack that is  sitting in a sheet pan; allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes—this is where the flavor soaks in, and if your bread is hard and you only soaked for 30 seconds, you'll be good to go.

Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan; cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream, fruit, or just eat plain! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Green Chile Stew

When the temperature drops there's nothing nicer than enjoying a nice, warm bowl of soup for lunch or dinner. But when it's downright freezing outside, the only thing nicer than a bowl of soup is a hearty bowl of green chile stew. The warmth from the green chile and combination of tender meat and potatoes will instantly warm you right up.

This is one of those meals that's great to start in the morning and cook all day long; the ingredients will intermingle with each other and get more flavorful by the minute. If you can't find fresh green chile, canned will work fine, or you can try roasting your own (tutorial) Hatch or Anaheim peppers. Keep in mind that heat from chile—even canned—can vary, so start out small and work your way up. If you're making this for a milder crowd, you can always sprinkle in some red pepper flakes to kick up the heat.

Now that the details are out of the way, I really hope you'll enjoy this recipe!

 Green Chile Stew

2 quarts water
8 beef bouillon cubes
1 capful, kitchen bouquet (for color)
1 capful, Worcestershire
1 pound, beef stew meat, trimmed and cut in chunks/bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon flour
2 russet potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1-2 cups, green chile (to taste)
red pepper flakes (optional)

Boil water. Once boiling, add boullon cubes, kitchen bouquet and Worcestershire. Brown meat in skillet; lightly season with salt and pepper. When meat is finished cooking, add it to the crockpot; sprinkle flour on top and mix together. Add broth, potatoes and remaining ingredients to crock pot. Cook for 6-8 hours on low, or if you're in a rush, 4-5 hours on high.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pesto Couscous

I've been meaning to post this for a few weeks and my procrastinating side got the best of me. I almost forgot about it until I saw Jessica's pesto recipe the other day I figured this would be perfect timing. You can certainly use whatever pesto you'd like but I would highly suggest using Jessica's recipe. This is a super quick brainless dish. It can be made a main dish with some veggies and meat thrown in or a side dish to practically anything else. I've found it's really good with pork chops.

Pesto Couscous
1 1/2 cups couscous dry
4-5 Tbsp pesto
Olive Oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme
1/4 cup Parmesan- optional

Prepare couscous according to package directions. Add garlic powder and thyme while cooking. Take off heat when cooked and toss with pesto. If it's too dry feel free to add more pesto. Drizzle with olive oil and top with grated Parmesan. Perfectly simple and good to your waistline!

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Now that my husband is back home safe and sound, we've actually been spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking and making things I've had on my "to-make" list for months. Things like homemade salsa, green chile stew, hummus, collard greens, eggnog, and coffee cake, to be more precise. Posting may be heavy for the next week or so, but it's only because I'm really enjoying all the things I'm making and need to share them.

I'm starting off with this coffee cake, because it's the kind of recipe that's perfect to make and then keep around the house all week long—if you can keep your temptation to eat the entire thing at bay, of course. I've had it for breakfast, for snacks, and for dessert, and it tastes better with each bite. The ingredient list and directions may seem a little long, but it was really easy to make —I don't make things unless they're easy. Plus, check out the ingredients, because I bet you already have everything on hand!

Cinnamon Coffee Cake 
(6 WW points+ for 1/12 slice)

  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 4.5  ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1  ounce whole-wheat flour (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/3  cup butter/margarine, softened (used Brummel and Brown)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  (8-ounce) carton light sour cream
For Filling:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional, used strictly for color, not flavor; leave it out if you like)
For topping:
  • 2  tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1  tablespoon chilled butter, cut into small pieces (used Brummel and Brown)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown.

3. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; set aside.

4. Reserve 1/4 cup oats; set aside. Place remaining oats in food processor or blender; process 4 seconds or until finely ground. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine processed oats, flourr, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.

5. Make filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder (if used). Set aside.

6. Place granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup butter in a large bowl. Beat with hand mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.)

7. Spoon half the batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle filling evenly atop the batter. Spread remaining batter atop filling. Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake. Don't combine filling and batter thoroughly; just swirl.

8. Combine remaining 1/4 cup oats, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter/margarine with a pastry blender or 2 knives until well blended. Sprinkle over batter evenly with nut mixture.

9. Bake at 350° for 38 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan.

Cherry Blossom Cake

I'll be posting more recipes soon but for now enjoy this picture of a wedding I made this weekend.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Spicy Pesto

We love pasta in our household and are always looking for new twists to keep things tasty and interesting. So the second we saw this recipe featured on Food Network we knew we had to try it. This particular pesto is packed with bold and unique flavors that creates an unbelievable blend of deliciousness. Seriously, I started nibbling on it by the spoonful while I waited for the pasta to cook!

It's made with spinach, arugula, walnuts, garlic, cheese, oil, and is kicked up a notch with a jalapeno. The rich arugula flavor comes through nicely without being bitter, and the spiciness was perfect. If you're worried about the heat being too powerful, omit the seeds from the pepper. And if you're serving this with pasta, pick a noodle that has ridges or curves (fusilli, penne, rigatoni, rotini, etc.) so the sauce can stick and cling to the pasta.

The recipe below makes plenty of pesto, so freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray with olive oil drizzled over it. Once frozen, pop them out and continue freezing the cubes in a Ziploc bag—they'll be perfect for nights when you need a quick and easy meal!

Spicy Pesto


  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped (omit seeds for milder flavor)
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan/Reggiano cheese (Asiago or regular Parmesan works great, too)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces baby spinach
  • 3 ounces arugula
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


In a food processor*, combine walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, cheese, salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add spinach and arugula and process until blended. With machine running, gradually the olive oil.  

*We used a 14-cup processor and had to smash the spinach and arugula in there, so if you have a smaller food processor you may need to make it in a couple batches.