Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pasta with Roasted-Tomato Meat Sauce

Unlike most in my family, I'm a big fan of spaghetti and when I saw this recipe that included anchovies in the sauce I was all over this dish and couldn't wait to make it.  One of our favorite side dishes is my Mother-In-Law's Caesar salad, which most Caesar dressings include anchovies.  Sara's salad would be a fabulous accompaniment to this recipe along with some good, crusty bread.  Over the years everyone in our family has acquired a taste for and gained a great appreciation of anchovies...they're salty additions of true goodness.  The anchovies don't lend a fishy taste like most people think, but rather are an element to season the sauce in addition to using salt.  This recipe was a very easy, authentic Italian dish to prepare and will be a dish I will make again soon. 

1 pint cherry tomatoes 
8 oz uncooked spaghetti 
2 tsp unsalted butter 
9 oz 80% lean ground pork (I used Jimmy Dean's Hot Pork Sausage)
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I didn't add because I used salted butter)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (I didn't use as much because the sausage I used was spicy)
3 canned anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place cherry tomatoes on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are lightly browned.  Crush the roasted tomatoes well.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and anchovies to pan; cook 4 minutes or until pork is browned, stirring to crumble. Add sherry to pan; cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add crushed tomatoes and vinegar; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes release their liquid and sauce is slightly thickened. Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle with basil and parmesan cheese.

This recipe was adapted from Adam Hickman, Cooking Light 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Grilled-Beef Summer Rolls

I hope everyone had a very Happy and safe 4th of July!  Steak is something many folks prepare for the 4th.  This recipe is a great use of leftover steak and makes for a fresh, healthy appetizer and/or snack.  You could substitute cooked, shrimp, pork or make it with no meat at all and go strictly vegetarian by adding any of your favorite veggies.  Serve with the sauce included in this recipe or serve with the peanut sauce that follows.  Happy Cooking!

1 1/2 oz rice stick
Twelve 8-inch round rice paper wrappers
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 large carrot, finely shredded
2 Persian cucumbers, cut into long matchsticks
2 - 3 green onions, sliced thin
2 tsp rice vinegar
6 oz very thinly sliced leftover grilled rib eye, steak or deli roast beef
4 TBSP fresh lime juice
4 TBSP Asian fish sauce
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Sriracha
pepper to taste

Boil the rice stick in boiling water for no more than 4 minutes.

Marinade cucumber, carrots, garlic and green onions in rice vinegar for a brief bit.

Fill a medium bowl with hot water. Soak 1 rice paper wrapper at a time in the water for 30 seconds, until just pliable. Transfer to a work surface.  Top each wrapper with some noodles, herbs, carrot, cucumber and beef. Tightly roll up the wrappers around the filling, tucking in the sides as you roll. Repeat with the remaining fillings.

In another bowl, stir together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, Sriracha and 2 tablespoons of water. Serve the rolls with the dipping sauce. 

*The above recipe is adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.

Peanut Sauce:

4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBSP white sugar
1/2 tsp garlic chili sauce
2 TBSP peanut butter
4 TBSP hot tap water
3 TBSP light soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped for garnish
1 - 2 TBSP dry roasted peanuts, chopped

In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chili sauce. In a 2 cup measuring glass add the peanut butter, then add the hot water. Stir with a fork until it is the consistency of whipping cream. Add the soy sauce, mix well. Garnish with chopped peanuts and green onion. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Salad Caprese

Happy July everyone!  Hard to believe we're already halfway through 2013.  So many fabulous recipes and so little time!  :)

We've been growing our own vegetables, and one of our newest, favorite salads has been with fresh mozzarella, our own homegrown, sliced tomato and fresh basil topped with either a balsamic or red wine vinaigrette.  For a healther version skip the oil altogether and dress the salad with your favorite vinegar only and use a lite mozzarella.  For a snack, I use cherry tomatoes and sliced, lite mozzarella string cheese for a mini-sized, healthy portion.  I dress my salad with my favorite, balsamic vinegar only and it's the perfect complement to this dish.

3 vine-ripe tomatoes, 1/4-inch thick slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/8-inch thick slices 
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil
Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)*
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange with the basil leaves on a large platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.


1/4 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tsp dark brown sugar, optional*
1 TBSP chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil (I only use about 1/2 cup or even less because I like my dressing more vinegary)

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the optional sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

*The vinaigrette recipe is Emeril Lagasse's

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bonnie's Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken

Our very dear friend, Bonnie generously passed along to me one of her classic recipes that she knew our family would love.  Bonnie knows and truly appreciates what a foodie I am and how I'm always on a quest for a new dish to try...especially a Mexican dish.  :)  Many thanks to our sweet and beautiful friend, Sista B...I post this recipe in your honor.  We love and miss you lots!  xoxo

I so enjoy preparing dinner in my Crock Pot, so as to make the house smell wonderful, with tasty temptations, teasing most all of our senses all day long, until the final reward when dinner is served.  So for this dish in particular, and being on a bit of a health kick, I've combined multiple recipes to come up with the healthiest, tastiest version I could.  This is yet another versatile dish that you can serve over rice, in tortillas or crispy taco shells, serve with chips as a nacho dish, eat it like chili or tortilla soup.  You can make it richer by adding a cut up cube of cream cheese at the end of the cooking process, which is how Bonnie's recipe directs (see below)*.  Or skip the cream cheese and make it lighter, it's still very tasty that way.  On our first attempt at this recipe we made a tortilla soup by adding more broth and topping our soup with avocado, cheese, baked tortilla chips and lime slices.  It was absolutely fabulous.  No matter how you decide to prepare this meal, it's definitely one to add to the repertoire.  Happy cooking! 

4 chicken breast bone-in (I left one breast with the skin on to help add flavor to the broth, also, most of the recipes I saw called for boneless, skinless breasts...I prefer bones in because that also helps add to the flavor)
2 cans seasoned black beans, not drained
2 cans of corn, drained and rinsed
Chicken broth, (the amount depends upon how you will be serving, more for a soup, less for tacos or nachos)
1 package taco seasoning...I prefer McCormick's because I'm partial to the name ;)
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp garlic powder
pepper to taste
1 cup salsa, I used mild "Hell on the Red, " (but why not kick it up a bit with a hotter salsa if you like it extra spicy)
1 can hot Ro-tel tomatoes or use original to make it less spicy
Mexican cheese for topping
Avocado, sliced for topping
Fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges

Put beans, corn, taco seasoning, and broth in crock pot and mix together until seasoning is dissolved. Place chicken breasts on top and spread salsa on chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. 

Shred meat and serve however you want (see explanation above). Garnish with cheese, sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and hot sauce.

*For a richer version and the way our friend Bonnie prepares it, is to add a small, cut-up bar of cream cheese on top towards the end of the cooking time.  Let melt and once melted stir through and serve with tortilla chips.

**Also, this is such an easy freezer meal to save with any leftovers.  Prepare it with 5 chicken breasts and eat half for dinner and freeze the other half in a gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bag for another meal.  Make sure you let the food cool before freezing it. On the day that you're ready to eat it, let it thaw and then cook on low in your Crock Pot for 2 - 3 hours.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thai Chicken and Shrimp Noodle Salad



Hello again my fellow foodies and Happy Summer to you all!  I've taken yet another break from blogging, as somehow life gets in the way. ;)   I return to you with healthier recipes that I promise won't disappoint.  With our home full again, the girls are briefly back from college and jobs and we've all vowed to eat healthier, exercise more and it's just worked out that we're spending a lot more time with our family unit this summer. :) Needless to say, David and I are loving every every minute...chaos and all.  In addition to our kids all home we have two dogs (lab pups no less), a cat and whatever animal Cassidy has adopted, whether it be a baby squirrel or alley cat...and of course we can't forget our beloved snake, Bond James-Bond, a snake we adopted 4 years ago for Dylan...Who would've ever thought I would have a snake in my house?!  We're definitely glutton's for punishment, but would have it no other way.  With all of our time together we're hanging out in the pool, watching lots of movies and of course, are cooking away, with Avery and Cassidy helping mostly, Dylan's the in-house comedian with his Dad's sense of humor.  There have been a few epic jam sessions with great friends and family...I love, absolutely LOVE having our house full of family, friends, music, painting Altoid tins ;) (don't ask), cooking our favorite foods and whatever creative energy might be happening at any moment.  I do adore summertime!

In the spirit of eating healthier here's a fabulous dish that was a hit with the family.  It's a recipe I tweaked from the one I saw on  I quadrupled the amount of dressing that their recipe originally called for, because I like having extra for a dipping sauce, especially if making spring rolls, which would be the perfect side dish or appetizer.  This dish is a lot like Pad Thai minus the egg and could work out beautifully as a vegetarian dish, adding most any vegetables you prefer.  Another option is to use just chicken or just shrimp...I especially appreciate a dish that is so versatile.  I will be back soon with another healthy recipe.  Happy, healthy cooking everyone!  <3

Salad Dressing:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fish sauce* (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1/2 cup Asian sweet chili sauce*
4 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
pepper to taste

Salad Additions:

9 oz Rice Stick*
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
32 oz bag of raw, medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, cooked and marinated as  
   directed below**
1 - 1/2 cups cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store works well)
1 cup green onion sliced thin, divided use for salad and for garnish

Garnish Plate:

1 - 1/2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed

1/2 English hothouse cucumber, very thinly sliced and peeled (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots or red onion
2 red (or green) jalapeno pepper with or without seeds, depending upon how spicy you   
    like it, sliced into thin rings

1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes cut into wedges

*Available in the Asian foods section in most supermarkets and at any Asian market.

**I marinated the shrimp in 1/4 cup soy sauce with a splash of white wine, a little garlic  
powder, ground ginger for at least 30 minutes.  I sauteed the shrimp in a wok with a little vegetable oil and just a splash of sesame oil until they turned pink.  Or make it easy on yourself, although not quite as tasty, and buy already cooked shrimp.

Two hours prior to cooking time, whisk the first 7 ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl to blend. Let stand at room temperature.

Put together a garnish plate consisting of bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, basil, cilantro, shallots, jalapenos and lime wedges.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Boil rice stick in boiling for 4 minutes.  Promptly drain and rinse under cold water to cool; drain well. Transfer to bowl with 3/4 of the dressing, saving the rest for a dipping sauce, if you so desire.

Add tomatoes, shrimp, chicken and green onion except peanuts and the rest of the green onion, to noodles; toss to coat.

Divide among 6 plates. Sprinkle with peanuts and green onion.  Serve with the garnish plate, Sriracha and additional dressing so your guests can doctor up their plates to their individual liking.  

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day I'm posting some of my Dad's writings again. This is mostly for my kid's and my benefit more than anything.  My Dad was the most inspirational, positive and kindest soul I ever knew.

Shortly after being diagnosed with bone cancer Dad wrote "Notes to My Grandchildren." The title says it all. It's a heart-warming essay full of inspirational advice that he knew he wouldn't be around to give to most of his grandchildren in person. He truly was like no other.

Thank you to my dear friend, LuAnn for typing NTMG so I could post it on-line for everyone to enjoy. You're the bestest friend ever...I love you so much!

The last week of Dad's life, he was in charge of the huge undertaking of "Dallas Acts Kind Week."  My sweet Mom was with David, our daughter, Avery (17 months) and me in West Palm Beach, eagerly awaiting Cassidy's arrival as she was several days beyond her due date.  My Dad strongly encouraged my Mom to go be with us for the arrival of our newest blessing, our Cassidy.  Of course, my Mom had no idea the end was so near or she would've never gone to Florida.  Although, now looking back, I think my Dad knew exactly what he was doing by sending my Mom away.  Cassidy was just 4 days old when we received the call that my father passed away. I believe he sensed his passing was near and wanted to spare my Mom as much trauma as possible.  He wanted her to relish in the beauty of a new life beginning.  Not his ending, as his body has threatened to do so so many times before and she was always there right by his side.  God Bless my beautiful Mother...She and Dad have been through more than anyone should ever have to, but both of them will forever be my heroes.  My sister, Patti was left to help my Dad at home and she and my brother, Mike were with him until the very end....God Bless them all!  My Dad was determined to get through "Dallas Acts Kind Week," which he did and with so much grace and dignity.  

Several weeks after my Father's passing someone pointed out to us the meaning of the Grateful Dead's song Cassidy.  Right about the time Avery was born David became a major Deadhead.  We didn't know the lyrics to the song, "Cassidy" but we loved the name and decided we would name our beautiful daughter after the song, with no idea it was so poignant to our situation.  It's about how one life ends and another one begins.  If you care to read the words, it truly is ironic.  She was definitely born to be Cassidy!  <3

Dad, you are missed each and every day, much more than words could ever convey! I'm so proud to be your daughter!

I love you!
Special K

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Couscous with Brown Butter and Parsley

Here's another additional side dish I cooked up for our Moroccan feast and another recipe from Williams-Sonoma.  Couscous is to Moroccan food what rice is to Chinese food and absolutely had to be a part of our meal.  I don't have a couscoussier so I just used a large pot and steamer basket that worked fine.

In this recipe the couscous is cooked in the traditional way. While this method is a lot more labor-intensive than instant, you’ll be greatly rewarded with tender, fluffy grains that cannot compare to instant couscous.

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp saffron threads
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more, to taste
1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into large pieces
12 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, plus chopped parsley for serving
3 cups couscous (not instant)
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

In a pot, combine 2 cups of the stock, the olive oil, saffron and the 2 tsp. salt. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to infuse the liquid with the flavor of the saffron.

Fill the bottom of a couscoussier half-full with water. Add the onion, carrots, celery and parsley sprigs and bring to a simmer.

Put the couscous in the terra-cotta tray or in a very large bowl, pour the infused stock over it (if you like, strain the liquid so you won’t have pieces of saffron in your couscous) and let the couscous absorb the liquid, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

Scoop up some of the couscous and rub it with your fingers to separate any lumps, letting it pour back onto the tray. Keep scooping and rubbing it this way until there are no lumps. Repeatedly separating the couscous into individual grains is an important part of the process, so be diligent and unhurried about this.

Meanwhile, increase the heat under the couscoussier to bring the water to a gentle boil; add more water if needed to maintain the level.

To steam the couscous, put the couscous in the steamer basket set over a plate to catch any grains that might come through (put them back in the basket). Run your fingers lightly over the top to make sure the couscous is evenly distributed, and set it over the gently boiling water. If necessary, carefully wrap a large piece of plastic wrap around the rim of the bottom pot to keep steam from escaping. Once you see steam coming from the top of the couscous, steam for 30 minutes. (Don’t put a lid on the couscous, and don’t stir it.)

Carefully remove the plastic wrap, if you used it, and then the steamer basket; always pull the basket toward you so you don’t get burned by the escaping steam. Spread the couscous in the terra-cotta tray or bowl and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, add enough water to the bottom of the couscoussier to bring its level back to the halfway point. Return to a boil. Clean and dry the steamer basket, discarding any couscous that stuck to it.

Run the couscous through your fingers as you did before to separate all the grains. If you come across any lumps that refuse to separate, discard them. When the couscous is at room temperature, you can begin the second steaming. Return the couscous to the steamer basket, add the plastic wrap if needed and steam for 15 to 30 minutes; the time will depend on how evenly the couscous is steaming. The couscous will take on a sweaty appearance and will feel tender.

Spread the couscous out on the tray or bowl as you did before and let cool. The couscous can be held at room temperature for several hours before the final steaming.

Put the remaining 1/2 cup stock in a spray bottle or in a bowl.

If you have let the couscous stand for a few hours and it is no longer warm, add water to the couscoussier to return it to the original level and bring the water to a gentle boil. Put the couscous into the steamer and steam it until it is warm. Then transfer the couscous to the terra-cotta tray or bowl and run it through your fingers to separate the grains.

To finish the couscous, return the couscous to the basket, set it over the bottom pot and bring the water to a gentle boil. Immediately begin to add the remaining stock, spraying the couscous with 15 to 20 sprays from the spray bottle or drizzling about 2 Tbs. of it over the grains. Continue to add the stock in the same way and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. (For this steaming only, stirring is necessary to fluff the couscous.)

Pour the couscous into the tray or bowl. It should have doubled in size to about 6 cups during the steaming process. Discard the steaming liquid and vegetables.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter and continue to heat until it is a rich nutty brown color. Add the butter, to taste, to the couscous, season with salt and stir in chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011) and Williams-Sonoma.

Vegetable Tagine

Here's a side dish we prepared for our Moroccan feast that was also featured in Williams-Sonoma's catalog.  Although I did not have a tagine to steam the vegetables in, I roasted them in the oven in a tall pot piling the veggies up high.  I used the same charmoula sauce I cooked the chicken and chickpeas in and that I bought at WS.

Tagine is an incredibly diverse Moroccan dish that is prepared in a special cooking pot also known by the same name.  The tagine comes in two pieces of thick stoneware. The bottom piece is a large, flat-bottomed bowl with the top piece being domed and is designed to attach to the inside of the bottom piece creating a seal.  The food inside makes a cone-shaped pile that should fill the tagine about halfway and doesn’t touch the inner walls or the lid, so there’s plenty of room for air to circulate.  The two pieces of the tagine make a type of clay oven that would've traditionally been placed into an open fire for cooking. 

Again, tangines (and the charmoula sauce) are available for purchase at Williams-Sonoma and are equally as lovely as they are a unique way of preparing all kinds of foods.

4 1/2 cups Mourad’s spiced tomato and herb braising sauce
3 1/2 lb. trimmed vegetables, such as:
Cipollini onions, 1 inch in diameter
Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Baby carrots, 1 1/2 inches long, or large carrots, peeled and cut
  into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
Turnips, cut into wedges (optional)
Fennel bulbs, cut into wedges (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas 
Paper-thin slices of raw vegetables used in tagine for garnish
Fennel fronds for garnish (optional)
1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind thinly sliced
Crunchy sea salt for sprinkling

In a saucepan over medium heat, simmer the braising sauce, stirring often to prevent scorching, until reduced by one-fourth, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Position a rack in the bottom of an oven; remove the other racks. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Layer the vegetables in the tagine, starting with the cipollini onions and placing larger vegetables toward the bottom, where there is more heat. Add the chickpeas and raisins in the middle. As you layer, shape the vegetables into a mound, making sure the lid will fit securely without touching the vegetables. End with the smallest vegetable pieces.

Pour the braising sauce over the vegetables. Put the tagine on a heat diffuser over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Place the tagine on a baking sheet, cover with the lid and transfer to the oven. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove the lid. Garnish the tagine with raw vegetable slices, fennel fronds and preserved lemon. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serves 6.

Adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan, 2011) and Williams-Sonoma.

Chicken Chamoula with Chickpeas

One of my guilty pleasures is to go through the Williams-Sonoma catalog and obsess over their recipes.  The latest one made us want to cook Moroccan all the way.  I found the flavors to be uniquely subtle yet authentic.  It was a nice change from our more traditional dishes and made for some delightful aromas wafting from our kitchen.  I enjoy stepping out of our comfort zone on occasion and trying some more exotic meals for the family to share.  That's what is so wonderful about food...the possibilities are endless.

The Moroccan sauce I used in this dish is known as charmoula, which is a savory blend of tomato puree, olive oil, lemon and spices.  Charmoula is mostly used for preparing tagines as well as for braising poultry and a wide variety of meats. In their infinite wisdom with how they promote their products, Williams-Sonoma's sauce was created by Moroccan-born chef Mourad Lahlou, owner of San Francisco’s award-winning Aziza restaurant and of course is available to purchase online or I found it in their store here in Dallas.

In addition to this different, but really good dish I cooked Williams-Sonoma's   Vegetable Tagine  and I made couscous the traditional way as was also showcased in WS's most current catalog.  Those recipes are to follow and I will explain what tagine in my next post.

It is such a highlight for me when I get one of WS's catalogs in the mail.  I guess I'm just a simpleton at heart, but all I know is I do love me some Williams-Sonoma.  :-)

1 Tbs. canola oil
4 whole chicken legs
Kosher salt, to taste 
1 jar (21 oz.) Mourad’s spiced tomato and herb braising sauce
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas, drained 
Steamed couscous for serving

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Season the chicken legs with salt. Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add the braising sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is fork-tender, about 2 hours. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the chickpeas. Skim the excess fat off the sauce. Serve the chicken and sauce with steamed couscous. Serves 6 to 8.

This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma.

**As a side note, I added 1/4 cup of wine to clean out the the braising sauce jar so as to not waste a drop.  Happy Cooking!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Authentic Maryland Crab Cakes


This recipe was a great use of our leftover crab after our homemade steamed blue crab lunch we all feasted on yesterday.  It's super easy and now our favorite crab cake recipe to date.  We've found that simplicity is key to the perfect crab cake.  We took direction from a couple of different recipes and our good friend, Pete, who like David, is originally from Maryland.  Any crab connoisseur knows the best steamed crabs and crab cake recipes originate from Maryland.  Pete made us the best crab cakes that David and I've ever tasted over 12 years ago, back when we all were neighbors.  Those crab cakes made quite the impression on us because we're still talking about how amazing those were.  I think we did a good job of trying to replicate Pete's rich, but unbelievably delicious.

1 - 1/2 cups blue crab meat
11 saltine crackers (you can use Ritz crackers for an even richer, butterier tasting crab cake, however, we prefer saltines)
1 egg beaten
1 TBSP mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire
1/8 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt  and pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
Tartar sauce (recipe to follow)

Carefully check the crab meat for any cartilage. Put meat in a bowl and set it aside. 

Crush the saltine crackers very fine and mix with all the other ingredients. Gently fold in the crab. Only mix enough to combine ingredients. You don't want to break up the crab into fine shreds. Shape into 4 crab cakes, an ice cream scoop helps make same-size servings.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. Sauté until golden brown on each side. This will only take about 3-5 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle a tiny bit of Old Bay before serving.  Garnish with tartar sauce, remoulade and/or lemon slices.

Tartar Sauce
1/4 cup Hellman's mayo
2 - 4 TBSP pickle relish
1 dash Old Bay
1 dash lemon pepper
1 dash celery seed
1 TBSP grated or finely chopped onion
1 - 2 dashes of Tabasco
juice and zest of 1/4 to 1/2 a lemon

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP chili sauce
1 TBSP Creole mustard
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 - 1/2 tsp Louisiana-style hot sauce, or to taste
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 medium scallions, chopped
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1 TBSP minced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Mix together mayonnaise, chili sauce, mustard, olive oil, hot sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in scallions, parsley, celery and garlic. Season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate.

Grilled Garlic Artichokes with Wasabi-Mayonnaise Dipping Sauce

We had this at one of our favorite restaurants, Tei Tei Robata Bar, served with a fabulous wasabi mayonnaise dipping sauce.  We couldn't wait to try this on our own and when we did we were very pleased with it's outcome.  At Tei Tei they served their artichokes with a fabulous wasabi-mayonnaise dipping sauce.  Or it's equally as good served with a lemon butter as well.  Very rich in flavors and now this might be my favorite way of preparing artichokes.

6 small artichokes
2 lemons, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
wasabi-mayonnaise dipping sauce or lemon butter (recipes to follow)

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze the juice from one lemon into the water. Trim the tops from the artichokes, then cut in half lengthwise, and place halves into the bowl of lemon water to prevent them from turning brown.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.

Add artichokes to boiling water, and cook for about 15 minutes. Drain.

Squeeze the remaining lemon wedges into a medium bowl. Stir in the olive oil, butter and garlic; season with salt and pepper.

Brush the artichokes with a coating of the garlic sauce and marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Place them on the preheated grill. Grill the artichokes for 5 to 10 minutes, basting with dip and turning frequently, until the tips are a little charred. Serve immediately with the remaining dip and either or both of the following for a dipping sauce.

Wasabi-Mayonnaise Dipping Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp wasabi paste or 3 tsp wasabi powder

Whisk together mayonnaise, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice, and wasabi paste until sugar is dissolved.

Lemon Butter

1 stick of butter
2 - 3 lemons
salt and pepper

Melt butter.  Add juice of 2 - 3 lemons depending upon size and your taste.  Stir in salt and pepper.

Monday, January 14, 2013

David's Easy, Individual Servings of Paella

Over the weekend David had the brilliant idea of making individual servings of Paella and to simply simplify what can be a very complex recipe.  He absolutely did that and more. What David prepared for us last night was the BEST Paella I've ever tasted...AND it couldn't have been any easier to prepare.  This is an exotic dish that is sure to please most everyone.  Thank you my sweet love for always sharing your creativeness with us all!

6 individual tin bowls, greased with a little olive oil
2 packages Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice 10 oz each
1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (a store-bought rotisserie chicken works well)
3 - 4 chorizo sausages, taken out of casings, browned with some chopped onion
24 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (save the shells)
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
12 saffron threads steeped in broth
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Lemon wedges

Bring the saved shrimp shells to a boil in the chicken broth to help make a fish-like stock.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes or so.*

In the meantime layer the rice in the tin bowls, top with a little chicken, chorizo, onion, pepper and 4 shrimp, divided evenly into each bowl.  Pour stock over each serving, again dividing evenly.  Submerge 2 saffron threads into each serving.  Cover with  heavy foil and place on a grill preheated to medium.  Cook for about 30 minutes, keeping a close eye that the Paella bowls aren't browning too much and that the desired "crust" is formed.  Plate each serving by turning each tin upside down into a bowl garnishing with chopped parsley.  Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco on the side.

*Usually when we make a stock of any kind we add a few whole pepper corns, a couple of whole cloves, a little chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic.  But the point of this recipe is to make it easy, so this process can be ignored entirely. 

**You could freeze individual servings for up to 6 months to make for a quick-fix, homemade meal.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sherri's Rocky Road Candy

This treat is a chocolate lover's dream come true!  I share this recipe with you that has been passed down from one of my sisters, Sherri.  I don't know that she knows this but I make RRC every Christmas.  It's super easy and is sure to cure any sweet tooth anyone might have.  Put RRC in pretty Christmas and holiday tins to give as gifts to neighbors, co-workers, etc...I sometimes double the recipe to make for bigger pieces of pure wonderfulness.  I share this recipe with lots of love and happy wishes to all of you for the New Year!!  BRING ON 2013!!!  God Bless you all!!

12 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 TBSP butter
1 - 10 1/2 oz. package tiny marshmallows (this is 5 - 1/2 cups and I usually don't use this much)
8 oz. unsalted roasted peanuts

Combine chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter over low heat until melted.

In a large bowl combine marshmallows and peanuts.  Add chocolate mixture.  Line a 9"x13" pan with wax paper.  Pour mixture into pan and chill for at least 2 hours.  Break into pieces or cut into small squares.

To a Happy New Year

Well, the holidays have come and gone and now comes the time in our lives when we make all of those wonderful New Year's Resolutions.  One of my New Year's Resolutions this year is to get back to my blog and share newly discovered recipes as well as old family classics.  David and I are as passionate about food as we ever have been and we look forward to stepping out of our comfort zone again and trying some creatively new and amazingly tasty dishes. 

In the meantime here's a brief background on what's been going on in the McQuaid household the last year...

Because we're complete gluttons for punishment, we adopted two lab puppies, Ryder and Layla, about a year ago. I've mostly been occupying my time with them and have not been very adventurous in the kitchen and therefore I haven't been blogging much at all.  Although, we're still cooking all the time, we've mostly been cooking up our family favorite comfort foods, like pho, roasted Cornish hens, cowboy steaks, homemade sushi, boiled crawfish, crab, or lobster, etc...  

As far as our kids go, Avery's loving life in college at CU Boulder and is thriving there...who wouldn't in such a cool town?  Cassidy continues college at Brookhaven and has admirably been working two jobs and saving money with the hopes of moving out on her own soon.  Dylan still enjoys playing  guitar and has been playing hockey for several months now, and it's amazing how quickly he's picked up the sport.  I respect how committed he is to always wanting to learn more.  With our nest quickly emptying, it's absolutely all the more reason to be celebrating life, family and friends.  What better way to do just that than with lovingly prepared food that we can all enjoy together.  

David and I cherish our date nights (or lunches) together where we will dine at Bolsa, Tei Tei, Javier's, Dalat, Ziziki's, Aw Shucks, Angry Dog or Herrera's to name a few favorites...there's definitely no shortage of incredible restaurants in Dallas.  Along with fabulous food, David and I will never tire of seeing live music, especially with the music scene in Dallas being so vibrant and diverse, so many great venues and so many great local bands.  

We're about to celebrate my beautiful Mom's 85th Birthday...she is truly an amazing lady.  She's still going strong, working out at Curves most everyday, she's always making us laugh and has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known.  I want to be just like my Mom when I grow up.  :-)  In December David's parent's, Tom and Sara celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with close family and friends traveling from as far as France and all over the US.  What an inspiration Tom and Sara are to us all.  The McQuaid's are such a special, tight-knit family because of the two of them and the love they represent.

As of November I landed a fabulous job with a fantastic team and I've met some really interesting people that will be my lifelong friends.  I'm so appreciative for this unique opportunity and to be a part of the revitalization of Downtown Dallas.  What an exciting time it is for our great city.  

Unfortunately with life there comes the heartaches as well.  I have to mention that this time last year we lost our beloved golden retriever, Bailey. What a beautiful friend and family member she was to us all and will be greatly missed...she will remain in our hearts forever.  RIP sweet, old, Bailey Boo!!

Words cannot express how proud I am of our family and all that everyone has accomplished!!  I love you all so much!!  Here's to a very Happy 2013!! xoxo