Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Homemade Salsa

The day after Christmas David and I were at it again in the kitchen and made homemade chips and salsa with peppers we grew in our backyard.  Pretty simple and can be done in under an hour. This salsa is good on just about anything.  For homemade tortilla chips, quarter corn tortillas and fry in hot vegetable oil, turning once, until golden.  Drain on some paper towels and salt immediately while still hot.  Muy delicioso!

8 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup of diced red onion
3 cups of diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 medium chili peppers
4 habanero peppers, seeded
1 cup of distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white sugar

Over medium heat in a large saucepan, heat oil and add the onion, chili peppers, habanero peppers and garlic. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions begin to brown. Stir continuously.

Reduce heat. Add the vinegar, tomatoes, salt and sugar. Stir until the tomatoes break down. Roughly 6 minutes.

Place mixture in blender and blend until a puree is formed.

Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

Let mixture cool for an hour.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

This is comfort food at it's best!  Need I say more?!  =)

3 TBSP unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 oz carrots, sliced
4 oz celery, sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 purchased rotisserie chicken or 2 whole, bone-in chicken breasts roasted
4 oz frozen corn
4 oz frozen peas

1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
sometimes I add steamed green beans or snow peas as well

1/2 cup (1 STICK) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
A dash or two of Frank's Hot Sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Pkg (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) Puff pastry, defrosted or 2 Pillsbury ready made pie crusts

1 egg

To Make The Filling:
Melt the butter in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and potato; saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots and celery, and saute about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the crushed red pepper and add salt and pepper to taste.

While the vegetables are sauteing, skin the chicken, pull the meat off the bones, and shred the meat or cut into bite-size pieces. Stir the peas, corn, parsley and chicken into the vegetable mixture. Set the filling aside.

To Make The Sauce:
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the chicken stock and cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of a cream soup. Add the hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken filling and stir to combine.  Set aside.

To Make The Crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Unfold a sheet of puff pastry or pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out slightly. Measure the diameter of the pot pie bowls, and cut out dough rounds that are slightly larger in diameter. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 8 circles in all for 4 pot pies.  
Place one dough round in each individual 1 1/4-cup capacity oven-safe bowl or aluminum tin, pressing dough onto the bottom and sides.  Add creamed chicken filling three-quarters of the way to the top.  Lay the remaining dough rounds on top of the pot pies.  Whisk the egg in a small bowl.  Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg. Bake the pies for 45 minutes to an hour, until golden brown. Serve immediately.

**You can freeze any leftover pies and/or filling for up to 6 months for a quick fix dinner.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

I've been wanting to try to make homemade chocolate truffles ever since I saw Ina Garten's, aka "The Barefoot Contessa" feature them on one of her shows.  They were fairly easy to make and decadently delicious.  These will make great gifts for the holidays.

1/2 pound good bittersweet chocolate such as Lindt
1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate such as Ghiradelli
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional
1 tablespoon prepared coffee
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar
Cocoa powder

Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just boils. Turn off the heat and allow the cream to sit for 20 seconds. Pour the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the bowl with chocolate. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

With 2 teaspoons, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least an hour or until firm.  Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, or both. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Danish Roast Pork, Potatoes and Red Cabbage with Apples

This is a beautiful, hearty, simple "go-to" dish for the holidays.  Foolproof and inexpensive, anyone can pull off this delightful feast.  I do have a few pointers though...when making the compound butter be sure you grate the onion over the butter so that you get all the juices from the onion, because that adds an incredible amount of flavor.  In this recipe you cut the potatoes in half and cook them on the stove in the roasting pan on one side until golden brown (more golden than pictured above).  Then you flip them and let the other potato halves slow roast under the pork, soaking up all the compound butter and wine.  The potatoes turn out nice and juicy from all the juices on one side and good and crispy on the other.  About a half hour into cooking the pork roast start on the red cabbage and apple side dish.  It couldn't be easier to make and is the perfect accompaniment to the roast pork and potatoes.  Happy cooking and Happy Holidays!  =)

This recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray's.

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup grated onion, 1 small
1 tsp dried marjoram, lightly crushed
1 tsp ground sage
2 TBSP olive oil
3 lbs medium white-skinned potatoes
1 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1 3- to 4-pound pork loin roast
1 medium red cabbage
2 crisp apples, chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup cloudy apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 round TBSP light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp caraway seed, half a palmful

Heat oven to 350°F.

Combine butter with onion, marjoram and sage.

Heat a metal roasting pan on the stove over medium high heat with 2 turns of the pan of olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Halve potatoes and place cut-side down in the hot pan. Cook until golden brown, flip and turn off the heat. Add the wine or stock to the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Rub pork with flavored butter and aggressively season with salt and pepper. Arrange the pork over the potatoes and dot with remaining butter. Roast about 1 hour and 30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145°F on a meat thermometer.

Meanwhile, shred the cabbage and add to a large covered pot with the apples. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Add cider, vinegar, sugar and caraway; bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Slice pork and serve with potatoes and cabbage alongside.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

N Cuisine in Lakewood Shopping Center

David and I had a really nice lunch last week at a funky and eclectic little Greek bistro called "N Cuisine" in Lakewood Shopping Center in Dallas...just a few doors down from Dixie House.  Delicious food, all organically made with the freshest of ingredients.  The menu ranges from all the classic Greek dishes, such as beef, chicken or lamb gyros, to pita pizzas, to soups and salads and sugarless desserts including baklava, pumpkin cookies and chocolate truffles, to name a few.  It's also a quaint tea/coffee house and they serve brunch during the weekends and even have live music on Friday nights, which we look forward to checking out soon.  

Gino Nikolini is the proprietor and chef of "N Cuisine" and takes great pride in the healthy foods he serves, as well he should.  He's a 64 year old Greek hippie that has traveled the world and after changing his lifestyle and losing a bunch of weight has committed himself to a healthier way of life for many years now.  It shows in how he looks and feels and in the passion he has for his food and restaurant.  After serving us a side of Greek cole slaw complete with black olives and pomegranate seeds, Gino explained to us if you eat at least 4 black olives per day that that will help improve one's memory.  I bought an abundance of black olives the very next day...I'll let ya'll know if it helps.  ;-)

The gyros were truly some of the BEST in town.  Their meats are raised in Vail, CO and are 100% organic.  The gyros are served traditionally in a cone shape wrapped in wax paper and foil topped with Greek yogurt and a little spice.  On the side, were lightly roasted potatoes and salad.  The truffles we were served for dessert were rich and decadently delicious and they didn't have a bit of cream, butter, sugar or salt and you would never know it.   "N Cuisine" is a well kept secret that's worth knowing about.  You may not know it's a restaurant just by walking past, but it's definitely worth stopping in for a bit.  

BTW, if you haven't already, be sure and check out our version of a Gyro...It's not quite as authentic and healthy as Gino's, but it's a good homemade contender.  Go check out "N Cuisine" and I promise you will be glad you did and be sure and tell Gino that the McQuaids sent you.  Opa!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

Although these aren't true Mexican enchiladas because the recipe calls for flour tortillas as opposed to corn, these still turned out very good with great flavors.  You can make this recipe super easy and substitute the homemade salsa with a good, thick and chunky, store-bought salsa like Pace Picante Sauce.  Be careful with whatever salsa you do use that it's not too watery or the tortillas will get mushy.  With a little tweaking these were delicioso!

Recipe is adapted from the Food Network's Ingrid Hoffmann.

PS  Again, I don't understand why there are all of these unintentional gaps in my posts.  Blogger what's up with that?


2 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained
1 bunch scallions, light green and white parts only, finely chopped
4 jalapenos, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced and zest
Pinch salt


1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed and shredded (skin and bones discarded)
3 cups grated Cheddar, divided
1 cup sour cream
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 TBSP butter
1 package Fajita Seasoning Mix
1 tsp cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 - 8 (8") flour tortillas

To prepare the salsa:

Combine the tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice in a mixing bowl. Add a healthy pinch of salt and set aside at room temperature until ready to cook the enchiladas.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

To prepare the enchiladas:

In a pan saute' the onion in butter until translucent.  Place the shredded chicken in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the grated cheese, sour cream, onion, Fajita seasoning and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.

Place the tortillas on your work surface. Spoon about 1 cup of the chicken mixture across the center of each tortilla. Roll them up to close and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Pour the salsa over the tortillas. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.

Remove the foil and sprinkle the enchiladas with the remaining 2 cups of grated cheese. Return the baking dish to the oven until the cheese is melted and edges of the tortillas are just beginning to get crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve hot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ninfa's Green Sauce

Here's another classic recipe I came across in Lisa Fain's "The Homesick Texan's" cookbook.  I used to eat at Ninfa's all the time when I worked close to one of their Dallas locations way back when.  I especially enjoyed their green sauce and their tacos al carbon is another favorite, which that recipe I've also found in "The Homesick Texan's" cookbook.  So, you can count on me cooking that up soon and blogging all about it as well.  Lisa and I have very similar tastes in the food we enjoy.  I've thoroughly enjoyed her new cookbook and I've said it before, her book would be a wonderful Christmas gift for the foodie in your life.

3 medium-sized green tomatoes, coarsely chopped (you can substitute yellow if you can’t find green ones, but never use red)
4 tomatillos, cleaned and chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, stemmed and coarsely chopped
3 small garlic cloves
3 medium-sized ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 sprigs cilantro
1 tsp. of salt
1 1/2 cups of sour cream

Combine chopped tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos and garlic in a saucepan. Bring to a boil (tomatoes provide the liquid), reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Place tomato mixture with the avocados, cilantro and salt in food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into a bowl and stir in sour cream.

Makes 4 to 5 cups

Saturday, December 10, 2011

French Dip Brisket Sandwiches

I saw this on Rachael Ray's website and being very fond of foods cooked in a slow cooker it was another one of her recipes I had to try.  This dish turned out better than I could've hoped for, with the meat cooked to slow perfection.  I did alter the recipe just a bit, I doubled the amount of garlic, beef stock and Worcestershire than what's called for here.  The meat turned out super tender and juicy and very easy to shred.  I find shredding the meat with my hands helps gets the fat out easier and makes the meat just right for a hoagie-style sandwich.  Rachael actually dips her entire toasted bun into the leftover juices...that's a little much for me as I like my "au jus" to be served on the side with a touch poured over my meat.  I don't like my sandwiches to be soggy, I like to dip my sandwich into the juice one bite at a time.  Such an incredibly easy dish to serve for a large crowd.  It's the perfect recipe for a tailgating contribution or as I'm doing tonight, I'm slow cooking this brisket for a hearty meal to serve while watching our beloved Cowboys kick the New York Giant's butts tonight!  GO COWBOYS!!!  =)

1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 slices smoky bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 3-pound beef brisket
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 bay leaf
1 box or 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef stock or broth
2 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped
2 TBSP honey

To serve:

1 loaf bread, cut into 4-inch sections, split and toasted
Sliced Swiss cheese
Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Place a large skillet over medium heat with 1 turn of the pan of EVOO, about 1 tablespoon. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat with the bacon fat. Season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side.

While the meat is searing, add the reserved bacon, onion, garlic, bay leaf, mushrooms, beef stock or broth, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and honey to the crock of a slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the seared meat to the pot and cover. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 7-8 hours until the meat is tender.
Thinly slice the brisket. To serve, dunk bread into sauce, and top with brisket, Swiss cheese, cooked veggies, more juice, and parsley.

**As a side note, another use of the brisket is this makes for excellent authentic brisket tacos.  Serve topped with cilantro, diced onion, lime wedges and your favorite red and green sauce.  Reminiscent of 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

With Thanksgiving having just come and gone I tried a new recipe that everyone loved.  Cassidy is especially a fan of pumpkin pie, so in addition to the annual pumpkin pies I make, this year I thought I'd switch it up a bit after seeing Paula Deen's recipe for Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes.  These were so moist and fluffy, very similar to a cheesecake and absolutely delish!  David, who is not a big pumpkin fan (other than his yummy, roasted pumpkin seeds) loved this and suggested I make this instead of my pies.  Also, this recipe is super easy, it serves quite a few folks and is another one that makes the house smell heavenly.  This would be a good dessert to serve after any big holiday feast.

Thank you to Cassidy for the beautiful pictures.  That was fun setting that all up with you in the wee hours.  =)


1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 TBS butter, melted


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla
8 TBSP butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

fresh whipped cream to top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Variations: For a Pineapple Gooey Cake: Instead of the pumpkin, add a drained 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple to the cream cheese filling. Proceed as directed above.

For a Banana Gooey Cake: Prepare cream cheese filling as directed, beating in 2 ripe bananas instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

For a Peanut Butter Gooey Cake: Use a chocolate cake mix. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter to the cream cheese filling instead of the pumpkin. Proceed as directed above.

*This recipe adapted from the great Paula Deen.