Friday, March 29, 2013

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

OMG! Finally! I finally found a tomato soup recipe that is incredibly, deliciously, scrumptiously good!! Barefoot Contessa really knows how to put a recipe together. There's layers of flavor in this soup from the garlic to the hint of spice to the tomato flavor, of course. Heaven! That's what this soup is! It's also really simple to make and it's oh so good! Please do yourself a favor and make this soup ASAP! Forget the tomato soup I made a couple years ago. Make THIS one!! Enjoy!

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise (I used 7 tomatoes on a vine and didn't cut them)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, take your tomatoes and smother them with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the salt, and the pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. 

Take a large stock pot, and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the butter, onions, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Sautee for 10 minutes until the onions turn a slight brown color. Then, add in the canned tomatoes and the basil. Next, pour in the roasted tomatoes along with the juice from the pan. Bring this to a boil and then simmer uncovered for an additional 40 minutes. Next, use an Immersion Blender or carefully transfer a little at a time into a blender and puree the soup. Serve warm and garnish with additional basil leaves if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spicy Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Last Memorial Day, our lives changed forever. We had gone back home to Indiana to visit my family, and my chef brother casually mentioned that he’d be smoking some ribs for dinner. Well, if you know anything about smoking, you know that there’s nothing casual about it. It was an involved, 8 hour process, and the results were delicious enough that we decided on the spot that we needed to own a smoker and produce such delectable meats at home. Since then we’ve smoked ribs and chicken wings with mouth-watering success, but we’d never tried a whole pork butt. That’s a 12 hour deal, with injecting and rubbing beforehand, so maybe the whole thing intimidated us. Well, we decided to step up to the plate and smoke some Boston butt. And it was worth it. Our house still smells of smoke and delicious pig. Worth it. And I’ve eaten pork every night for the last few nights (and will in the next few). Worth it.

But enough about butts! My husband handled the butt (teehee) from start to finish, so it’s all his deal, not mine. I handled the sauces. I made four sauces: Spicy Honey Chipotle, Hot Vinegar, Sweet Original and Kahlua Coffee. They were all pretty good, but the Spicy Honey Chipotle was a clear favorite (with vinegar coming in second for the fans of that style). I found it on a site called Little B Cooks, and it’s good enough to make even if you’re just having regular old pulled pork and not fantastically amazing smoked pork. It's definitely very spicy, but I find that the fat of the pork and some nice creamy slaw balances it out nicely. 

Olive Oil
1 cup onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup ketsup
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp dry mustard
1tsp chipotle chili pepper powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium low heat, and add the onion and garlic, sautéing for about ten minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and stir. I found that it helped to have all the ingredients out and ready to go before hand so I could just toss them in on cue. Simmer on low for 20 minutes, giving it a stir every once in awhile. The instructions said to puree it with an immersion blender, but I found that there wasn’t enough liquid to do so without splattering it all over myself and the kitchen. I would recommend putting it in the blender or food processor to get it smooth. And that’s it! This sauce plus some amazing smoked pork butt and you’ve got something magical, friend.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fried Plantains

I love cuban food. It's probably a result of growing up in Tampa, Florida. But, I'll take plantains, cuban sandwiches, black beans, yellow rice, Picadillo, etc any day of the week. Unfortunately, I can't always get Cuban Sandwiches (well, the real deal) unless I go to Florida. But, I can get plantains at the grocery store (when they're in season) any day of the week. Recently, Kroger had some plantains for sale. They were that nice dark color that usually indicates a ripe plantain. Trust me you don't want green plantains that's when you know they're not ripe. Try to find dark brown to even black plantains. They're the best. This is a really simple recipe and the result is delicious. Enjoy!

1 plantain (dark in color)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Simply remove the peel off the plantain. You can slice the plantain however you want. I sliced it down the middle once and then turned it over and sliced it length-wise again. Then, I cut it in half. Take a medium-sized skillet and add in your oil. You may add in more oil if needed. Let the oil heat up over medium-high. Sprinkle some water over the oil and when it sizzles you know it's ready. Add in the plantains and cook for a couple minutes on each side. Once cooked thru remove from the oil and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt or kosher. Serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ginger Stir Fry with Soba Noodles

At Iron Chef Ginger, there were a lot of really good dishes. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they were all good. Still, Doan’s was my favorite because it was nice and spicy, and I’m totally a sucker for noodle dishes. So after the competition was over, I made sure to get the recipe from her, and here it is! When I made it, I don’t think it tasted quite as good as when Doan made it, but it was still delicious. I love that it has so many veggies in it, and a ton of flavor. We even got a ton of ginger flavor! I’m going to include Doan’s recipe exactly, even though it’s easy to customize to your personal likes. I left out the fried tofu and snow peas, and used an orange bell pepper instead of the red bell pepper. I also used Simply Orange orange juice instead of fresh which may have made mine a little sweeter than Doan’s, so I recommend using fresh squeezed juice.

6 oz Soba Noodles
2 Tbsps grated ginger
2 chicken breasts cut into thin strips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 Tbsps grated ginger
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Peanut Oil
4 oz fried tofu
4 Scallions (white parts and 3 inches of the green, sliced on the diagonal into ½-inch slices)
4 cloves Garlic (thinly sliced on the diagonal)
1 large Carrot (grated)
¼ pound Snow Peas (sliced lengthwise into thirds)
½ Red Bell Pepper (seeded and thinly sliced)
4 oz Mushrooms (sliced) baby portabella or shitake
4 oz Bean Sprouts
¼ cup fresh Cilantro (chopped)
Lime Wedges (for garnishing)

Sweet Ginger Sauce:
½ cup fresh Orange Juice
2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
2 tsp reduced-sodium Soy Sauce
2 tbsp fresh Ginger (minced)
2 tsp Thai Chili Sauce

Start by marinating your chicken in the salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp grated ginger. We also added a little olive oil to the mix just to help it get all over the chicken. Marinate it for about an hour. Use that time to prep all of your veggies since the cooking process happens pretty quickly. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix orange juice, hoisin, soy sauce, ginger and Thai Chili Sauce. We actually used Chili Garlic Sauce instead. Mix this well and bring it to a simmer. Cook one minute and then set aside.
Next cook the soba noodles for one minute less than the directions call for. Also add two tablespoons of ginger into the water for extra ginger flavor. When they are done, set them aside. Stir fry the chicken in a wok or nonstick pan. We used a nonstick pan so we could cook everything in the same pan. Set the chicken aside (lots of setting aside in this recipe!)

Now, in your nonstick skillet, heat up the sesame and peanut oil over high heat. Add in the tofu, scallions, garlic, carrots, snow peas, bell pepper and mushrooms and stir fry this for two minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the chicken, noodles, bean sprouts and sweet ginger sauce and stir fry for another 30 seconds or so. Add in cilantro and stir well and then serve immediately! Garnish with lime wedges. It’s spicy, it’s gingery, and it tastes great cold too! Thank you, Doan for such a great recipe. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pork Carnitas

I have recently come to a startling realization. I freaking LOVE tacos. Love them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, considering the volume of taco recipes I’ve already posted. But damn! Aren’t they just the perfect little delivery systems for delicious meat and some kind of slaw or salsa or cheese? I mean, I’m hard pressed (unless we’re talking beans) to find something that wouldn’t be delicious in a taco. And here I go again with yet another taco recipe. The photo on Jo Cooks of this beautiful pork made my mouth water, and made my brain say, “Tacos!” To be honest, the pork itself, while deliciously porky, did not have as deep a flavor as I would have liked. I wish it was a little more spicy, a little more salty, a little more… something. But, it was still damn good, and more than worthy of hopping up in a tasty taco. I served this one with my Southwest Slaw which never fails to put a smile on my taco-loving face.

4 lb pork shoulder or pork butt, trim fat if too much fat
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, peeled and halved
Juice of one lime
1 medium orange, juiced and keep the spent halves
2 cups water

Start by butchering your meat, trimming off excess fat and cutting it up into 2 inch chunks. Put the meat into a dutch oven or cast iron pot along with all the spices, onion halves, lime juice, orange juice, and spent orange halves. Then pour the water over everything and bring to a boil. Once it boils, move the pot to your oven at 300 degrees for about 2 hours. It should be extremely fork tender.

After the two hours, remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Also remove the onion, orange halves and bay leaves from the pot and discard them. Cook the liquid in the pot over medium high heat until it reduces to about a cup of liquid. I don’t think we reduced ours long enough which may have affected the flavor.

While that reduces, shred your meat, and then place it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Don’t do this step in reverse or you’ll end up shredding your foil. Once the liquid has reduced, pour it all over your meat. Then broil the meat for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it gets nice and browned and maybe even a little crispy. Use a spatula to flip it over and broil the other side for another 5 minutes. Once it’s looking nice and tasty, pop it out of the oven and pop it right into a taco! You could always use the meat for a sandwich or burrito if you want, but in my book, the taco is your best bet. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Baked Brie

Baked Brie is one of those appetizers that are sure to be a hit at your next party. One of my friend's made this recipe at a Volleyball party and it was gobbled up by everyone. I asked her for the recipe, and I've made it several times since. It's a really simple recipe, but tastes like you put a ton of effort into making it. If you like brie, apples, cranberries, brown sugar, and pastry dough then you will love this recipe. Give it a try and you will be a big hit at the next party. Enjoy!

1/2 of a red apple, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 brie wedge (okay to keep the rind on)
1 Pillsbury Crescent dough sheet

Simply roll out the crescent dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the brie on the crescent sheet. Then, sprinkle the brown sugar, diced apples, and cranberries on top of the brie. Gently fold up the dough and twist to seal. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 30 minutes or until the dough is a pretty golden brown color.