Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mango Chicken

My husband grew up on a little French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. He lived there until the age of 18 when he left for Bordeaux in France to go to college. I have had the fortune to return back to Réunion Island with him twice. It has an active volcano and has a tropical climate similar to Hawaii. There are both black sand and white sand beaches, and the reefs provide a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers alike. The islanders comprise of people hailing from Europe, Asia and Africa. The populations have combined in a melting pot to form a culture of Creoles. The Creole cuisine has influences from all of the cultures, which makes it both unique and exotic. Many local dishes combine the use Indian spices along with fresh herbs and local vegetables, and are served with lentils, rice or beans. The Saturday farmer's market is bustling with patrons lined up to buy fresh fish, poultry, spices, fruits and vegetables for the week. If you have a bucket list of places to visit, then I highly recommend that you add Réunion Island to the list! It will not disappoint.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parmesan Sformato - Italian Cheese "Flan" or "Souffle"

My husband and I traveled to Italy last year. We went to Venice, Lake Como, Tuscan hill towns, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre. We ate amazing food; drank great wine; practiced what little Italian we know; marveled over the architecture and scenery; and tried to absorb centuries of history and culture. It was awesome. We are looking forward to the day we can return to do a Southern tour of Italy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

UP Michigan Pastys

This isn't a vacation or even a getaway recipe. This is a recipe that I hold very close to my heart because it combines two of my great loves. Cooking and my sweetheart Bill. He is originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He and I met in California and he always talked about his Ma, Evelyn, and all the neighbor women that would get together to cook huge batches of Pastys. They were easily tucked into shirt pockets of miners when they were headed into the mines and usually eaten with just ketchup. Bill was a very spoiled young man and got his special...without onions. Now he likes them with onions.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chiles Rellenos

In 2005, I was given a trip to Mexico for my birthday (which one I will not admit to.) I invited my sister, Kerri, and off we went. At the hotel they had day trips, so we picked one to go see the Mayan Ruins, Chichen Itza. It was brutally hot and it took us four hours through the jungle to reach our destination. After a long day of exploring and praying for cold drinks, we were glad to get on the bus and head back to the hotel to eat. About halfway back, the bus stopped at another tourist shop and the guide announced we were here for a meal and a show. The show was spectacular, with all the dancers weaving their way through the tables and their outfits were so pretty. After the show, everyone was invited to enjoy the buffet. At first I didn't know what to make of a pepper that I grabbed, until I took a bite and almost got up to shake the hand of the man standing behind the table. He didn't look very friendly and had a scowl of boredom on his face, but boy was he a good cook! Instead, I took a few more and just smiled. Surprisingly, he smiled back and for some reason that was enough. Since then, I have made these using different cheeses and coatings and this is my favorite way to eat them...I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gulasch Soup

Many years ago, dear hubby and I spent a winter vacation in Austria. We skied (real mountains!), we sledded (dear Gods, 8 km down a steep mountain road together on a single little sled!), and we led the genteel life in Vienna (Coffee! Sacher Torte!) It's a vacation we still talk about many years later.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shrimp and Cucumber Ceviche

My family loves the beach. Whenever we get a chance to get away, we always try to find someplace tropical. Hopefully when you are at the beach it is sunny and hot, and on those days it is great too cool off with something fresh and cool, like ceviche. Fresh seafood and vegetables served cool with a beer or Margarita is just what we love. There are many recipes for ceviche all over the internet. You can certainly adjust ingredients as you like. Also, the cucumber salsa portion of this recipe is great on its own. Just leave out the first 5 ingredients for ceviche and you have a great chunky salsa that you can serve with chips.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bocadillo de Lomo con Tomate Rallado (Pork Sandwich with Grated Tomato)

Inspired by a trip to Barcelona, this simple sandwich benefits from the use of the most flavorful, best quality ingredients you can find. Spanish pork is amazingly flavorful and the loin is traditionally served with this sandwich. Here is the menu board at a little café near La Sagrada Familia, where I had my first Bocadillo de Lomo:

Back home I prefer the more complex (read: fattier) slice of shoulder steak or loin chop. Many recipes call for simply rubbing the bread with the cut tomato, but grating will yield more “meat”. Use the best, ripest tomato you can find. Serve along with marinated olives, a good sheep’s milk cheese, and a good Spanish red!

Bocadillo de Lomo con Tomate Rallado (Pork Sandwich with Grated Tomato)

by Gary

serves/Makes 1

1 slice pork shoulder steak or loin chop, about 1/2” thick

Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Smoked paprika
Extra virgin olive oil
1 slice baguette, 4”-5” long, cut lengthwise in half
1 clove garlic, peeled, lightly smashed, and cut
1 vine-ripened tomato, halved

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vacation Destination Challenge

The new year rolled around with crazy cold and snowy weather across much of the USA and Canada and with many of us wishing to get away from it all! So the Vacation Destination Challenge was a natural choice for us to start off our cooking endeavors in 2014, and as you will see in the coming days, our cooks have outdone themselves.

What are some of your favorite vacation destinations? Is there a certain dish that reminds you of a special place? Do you have any vacation plans yet for 2014? Are they old favorites or will they bring new discoveries? Willie and I have definite plans to visit Miami, FL and the Florida Keys. We're excited and we just know we will find some culinary adventures while we are there!

We hope our cooks' recipes from some of their favorite trips will entice you to cook in your home and take a food staycation that is memorable and delicious! ~Sandra

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

I was very excited to try The Spice House products when I heard about the challenge. I love products like the chorizo sausage seasoning. It gives me a chance to make delicious sausage from scratch, controlling the amount of seasoning in the meat. It also worked wonderfully as an additional seasoning to the stuffing mixture.

Maple Waffles with Venison Breakfast Sausage

This recipe is dedicated to both my mother and my husband. Mom passed away right in the midst of this challenge. The waffles are something she would have really enjoyed. Breakfast was one of her favorite meals of the day and my brother, who lived with her, made her breakfast every Sunday. The venison sausage is one of my husband's favorites.

Meet Maryjo!

Thanks to my dad’s offshore jack-up oil rig building career, I got to travel a lot and live in some pretty great places at a very young age. No doubt the two times I was lucky enough to live in Japan lead to my love of rice and all things neatly compartmentalized. To this day, I get excited when I see a Bento box. Singapore introduced me to Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian foods (among others.) The tiny little Southeast Asian island is a melting pot of so many different cultures that you can’t help but learn to embrace and appreciate all things different and unusual. Scotland introduced me to potatoes…every meal…every time. Yup, potatoes…oh, and fish & chips…and pies (sweet and savory.) Between every move overseas, we’d return to home base (Houston) where I learned to love Texas BBQ , gumbo, homemade ice cream, and all of the traditional comfort foods being made in homes in Southeast Texas.

I’m not 100% sure how or when I started cooking…probably in my teens. But like most cooks, my family, friends, travels and my hometown have certainly influenced what and how I cook. Like so many, I’m busy. I commute each day for a full-time job, I have two beautiful kids (one of each…I’m soooo blessed), and a loving English husband whose sense of humor is unmatched. I spend the “extra” time I have cooking yummy foods and trying like crazy to get vegetables to grow in my back yard. One of my family’s favorite dishes is my Chicken Pot Hand Pies. Born out of the need for something hot, homemade, and relatively fast, I worked to create my own hand pie version of that southern favorite, Chicken Pot Pie. I do other fillings too, but the Chicken Pot Pie filling is by far the favorite in my house. My guys love them…and they’re also great for a quick Saturday afternoon snack for my growing boy. I use cheap, but delicious boxed dry white wine in this recipe (we call boxed wine “Tip-it” in my house…cause that’s what you have to do when you get to the bottom of the box-o-wine…ya ”Tip-it”.) I typically prep and freeze these pies a batch or two at a time so that they’re a relatively quick, delicious weeknight dinner (with a salad, of course.) So here you go...Chicken Pot Hand Pies…enjoy!

Chicken Pot Hand Pies
by Maryjo  
Crust recipe adapted from the crust recipe for Potato Bacon Torte by Melissa d'Arabian

2 sticks cold butter, cubed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 to 10 Tablespoons ice cold water

4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (approximately ¾ cups)
1 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 cups diced russet potato (about one medium potato)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, stems removed and lightly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, stems removed and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked and diced skinless chicken breast
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
Sea salt
Thyme sprig tips (garnish)

For the crust:
Put the cold butter, flour, salt, and baking powder, into a food processor. Pulse to combine (about 15 pulses.) Add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time, pulsing 1 to 2 times to combine before adding the next Tablespoon of water. When the dough starts to clump together slightly (usually after 8 Tablespoons of water), stop. On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a 8-inch long log and roll out until you have a sheet of dough about 8 inches x 8 inches. Lightly dust with flour and fold the dough into thirds, like you’re folding a letter to stuff into an envelope. Turn the dough 1/4 turn and roll it out again into an 8 inch x 8 inch square. Light dust again, fold the dough into thirds again, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can also place the dough in a zip top bag and freeze it to be use another time. Makes enough dough for 8 to 10 hand pies, so I usually make two pie crust recipes.

For the filling:
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to keep from browning. If it starts to brown, turn the heat down to medium. Add diced potatoes, stir, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Make a well in the middle of the vegetable mixture and add the crushed garlic. The garlic should be touching the bottom of the pot. Press the garlic down so that it starts to sizzle in the bottom of the pot. Cook for an additional 30 second, just until you can smell the garlic. Stir the garlic into the mixture and remove the vegetable mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in the pot over medium-high heat. Add flour to the melted butter and stir constantly, moving the mixture around the bottom of the pot, being careful not to burn. When the flour and butter mixture has turned a dark blond color, slowly add the chicken broth, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Continue stirring. The sauce will begin to thicken slightly. Add the wine and lemon juice. Stir. Add the thyme, rosemary, white pepper, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the vegetables back to the pot and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked chicken, frozen peas, and heavy cream off heat. Pour the filling onto a large rimmed baking sheet to cool. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until it’s very cold. Makes enough filling for about 16 hand pies.

Hand Pie assembly:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough into an 8 inch x 8 inch sheet. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside. Roll each square of dough into about a 5 inch by 7 inch rectangle. Brush egg wash onto the dough. Fill with 1/2 cup of the filling. Fold the shorter end of the dough over the topping to form a pocket. Trim the crust and crimp the three sides of the pocket using a fork. Brush egg over the top of the hand pie and cut vents into the top of the pie using a sharp knife. Sprinkle with sea salt and place a sprig of thyme on top. Place the pie on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I usually transfer the hand pies to the baking sheet using a spatula.) Bake at 375°F for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: You can assemble the pies, put them on a baking sheet, and freeze them. Once frozen, wrap them well in plastic wrap, put them in a zip top bag, and put them in the freezer. These little individual pies can be baked one at a time if you like. Just add about 10 minutes to the cook time if you're cooking them straight from the freezer.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Slow-Cooker Beef Stew

I love my slow cooker, but since I cook just for just my husband and I most of the time, I own a small 2-quart model. If you will be cooking in a larger model for your family, please double this recipe. I find that the 2-quart size is just perfect for us. I love being able to throw ingredients in it and when we are ready for dinner we have a wonderful hot meal. My crock pot meals are some of our favorites!

Greek salad with Marinated Grilled Chicken and Lemony Dressing

I absolutely love lemon! When I started looking on the website of our awesome sponsor, The Spice House, a few of the spices with lemon notes jumped out to me. There are a lot of choices which are all great, but when I saw the Sunny Greek Islands Salt-Free Seasoning, I really liked the idea of doing something Greek inspired. I also love salad, so it was no wonder I immediately thought of this recipe.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Turkish Stuffed Peppers

I have made variations on these Turkish-inspired stuffed peppers for years. The version I give here includes meat, but they are 100% delicious without it. Any extra stuffing that doesn't fit in a pepper could be mounded in a hollowed-out zucchini, heaped on a slice of eggplant, or simply eaten as a treat.

Apple Cake in the Rice Cooker

Autumn is apple season here in Michigan, and this year’s crop was abundant. I wanted to feature almond extract from the Spice House in a small and simple breakfast cake. This experiment succeeded wildly! It’s easy enough to pull together while still half asleep, and quick enough to be ready with your morning coffee.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Grilled Harissa Honey Chicken Wings

I was born and raised in Western New York, about 90 miles from Buffalo, where chicken wings are pretty much considered a food group.  There, you can find wings in virtually every casual restaurant and pizza shop around.  That is not the case in Atlanta, where my husband and I recently relocated to.  My friend Larissa (a transplant to Florida from our hometown of Rochester) shared her method for cooking wings with me, and I decided to give it a try.

Kadhi Pakora

I am a huge fan of Indian food. One of my favorite dishes is Kadhi Pakora. I never really knew what "Kadhi Pakora" meant, I just knew that I liked it. My friend, Seema, explained that pakoras are the fritters made from chickpea flour (AKA Besan or Gram Flour) that usually have vegetables in them, and the kadhi is the sauce or gravy that they sit in. Kadhi is apparently also served as is with rice or roti (a type of Indian wheat flatbread).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pork Carnitas Under Pressure

Carnitas are a traditional Mexican dish of seasoned pork fried in lard and then slow cooked for hours. Since just about every voice in my universe says to avoid too much frying in animal fat and doing anything slow for hours in this busy mama’s world seems impossible, I’ve found a fabulous cooking alternative for this dish that never disappoints. Using a pressure cooker gives you an incredibly flavorful slow braised result in just a fraction of the time. Afterwards, popping the pork under the broiler instead of immersing them in fried animal fat not only avoids the need to go up a size in pants but provides a delicious crispy coating to the juicy shredded pork. So, take a trip to The Spice House for some authentic spices and cook up some Mexican goodness without sending your cholesterol through the roof and with several hours to spare for that siesta.

Salted Caramel Cake Pops Recipe

Salted Caramel Cake Pops
by Krisi
Vanilla cake recipe adapted from Buddy Valastro's Vanilla Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring cake pan
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of The Spice House Portuguese Traditional Sea Salt "Sel Traditionael de l'Ocean Atlantique"
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup reduced fat milk
Unsalted butter for greasing pan

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Porcini Pappardell​e Dough

You know how you just love certain foods from the very first moment you taste it? I fell in love with porcini mushrooms the very first time I had it a loooooong time ago at a fancy schmancy restaurant in Miami. It wasn't even my entree. My BFF's cousin ordered it and I just had a taste and I'll never ever forget it. To me, porcini mushrooms have the mushroomiest flavor of any mushroom. They reach out and grab you by the shoulders and yell, "THIS IS A MUSHROOM!" Powdered porcini takes that flavor and intensifies it by, oh, roughly a hundredfold. You can always make your own porcini powder from dried porcini, or buy it powdered. The Spice House powdered porcini mushroom is finely ground and is easily incorporated into sauces or whatever else you're inspired to porcini pasta dough!

Portobella and Porcini Cream Sauce

Mushrooms and cream are a classic match. Combine them with handmade pasta and you have an instant comfort dish. As the winter blues settle over the MidWest, I find myself indulging in rich, creamy, carby dishes. This sauce is fabulous paired with anything from pasta or rice to chicken or beef.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Brie with Balsamic Maple Garlic Onions

I love that my daughter, Katie, has now moved closer to home where I can go visit and stay with her more often. On a recent visit, my friend and fellow 37 Cook, Judy, drove down to visit and have dinner with us. Judy gave my daughter a brie baker as a housewarming/birthday gift. Seeing it made me think how great it would be to make Brie with Balsamic-Maple-Garlic Onions. I’m glad I did because I think it all works great together. Thanks Judy and Katie! I know Katie will love this recipe when she starts baking her own brie!

Pork Chops With An Apple Cider Sauce And Roasted Tomatoes, Onions and Peppers

I am in a cookbook group with 15 friends. We each pick a cookbook and then it is mailed around the country to each member so we can cook from it and make notes in the book. We also post pictures and discuss what we have made in a private Facebook group. One of the books chosen this round was The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. There were two recipes that I made from the book that my husband and I loved. When it was announced that we would be doing The Spice House Challenge, I knew I wanted to use these two recipes as my inspiration. I hope you will pick up a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and that you will try Deb’s wonderful recipes. I was lucky enough to be given a copy for Mother’s Day. It’s a wonderful cookbook with great recipes and beautiful pictures. To accommodate The Spice House seasonings and to turn this into one recipe, you will find this recipe to be similar to Deb’s, yet very different. Enjoy!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thai Fried Snapper with Tangy Sauce

The Spice House offers an amazing variety of products, all of the finest quality. I found their Argyle Street Asian Blend to be a wonderfully balanced mixture of signature Thai flavors such as lemon grass, coriander, cilantro, and ginger, rounded out with garlic, chile, and white pepper. Sesame seeds add a nice visual and textural element.

Black Garlic was something I had never used before, but was eager to try. It has an amazing rich, pungent, but mellow garlic flavor, and is packed with umami. I knew this would pair well with the Argyle Street seasoning in an Asian dish.

Twice-Cooked Pork with Bean Curd Sheets

When I first smelled the rich, slightly sweet aroma of the Black Garlic I received from The Spice House, I was instantly reminded of a rich beef dish my mother used to make. It had chunks of slowly braised, tender beef and luscious bundles of bean curd sheets, all enveloped in a dark, silky sauce, with hints of five-spice and soy sauce. While my mother didn't use Black Garlic, I felt that this umami-packed ingredient would enhance this flavorful and delicious dish quite well. Bean curd sheets are soybean-based “sticks” actually lifted from the surface of heated soy milk, and dried. They have a wonderfully meaty quality and toothsome texture. The sheets absorb the flavors of whatever it is cooked with, so it is a perfect ingredient for soups and braises. Here, I chose pork shoulder as the meat, and created a bracing liquid in which to braise the meat and bean curd. While one could easily eat this dish after the initial braising, I chose to pan fry the meat and bean curd sheets afterwards, adding another dimension of browned, rich flavor and texture. Reducing the braising liquid further intensifies its flavor, and the finishing pat of butter solidifies a truly decadent, delicious sauce.