Friday, December 31, 2010

Diet Dr. Pepper Glazed Ham

I don't typically make ham very often, but there is something about New Year's, ham, black-eyed peas and cornbread that just go so well together that totally justifies buying a huge ol' ham!

This year, I wanted to do a fun twist on the regular glazed ham and since my husband is a HUGE Diet Dr. Pepper fan, I thought I would make a diet Dr. Pepper glazed ham for him! Diet Dr. Pepper has a natural brown sugar flavor --or 23 flavors to be exact ;)-- so that I thought it would work really well as a glaze for the ham.

I hope you enjoy it and most of all, I hope you all have a wonderful New Year full of blessings!

6-8 lb. smoked, bone-in ham
1 12 oz. can of diet Dr. Pepper
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove ham from refrigerator. Next, you want to score the ham diagonally to create a diamond pattern. To do this, lay the ham, cut side down on a cutting board and with a sharp knife, lightly score the ham with diagonal lines one inch apart across the back of the ham. Turn the ham one counter clockwise quarter turn and score the ham with diagonal lines one inch apart. This should create a diamond pattern. Place ham in a shallow cooking dish (cut side facing out), set aside and allow it to come to room temperature. This is help the ham heat more evenly.

To make the glaze, combine remaining ingredients in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a light boil and reduce heat to low. Allow glaze to continue to simmer, whisking occassionally. Before the glaze thickens, lightly brush the ham with the glaze, cover the ham with foil and put in the oven to cook for about 3/4 of the total time (see below). The total cooking time will be about 15 minutes per pound, so for example, if your ham is six pounds, you will cook it a total of 90 minutes and you will want to cook it for one hour before reglazing.

Meanwhile, continue to simmer the glaze until reduced by 2/3, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

After one hour of cooking, remove ham from oven and discard foil. Liberally, glaze the ham with the thickened glaze and return to the oven to cook for the remainder of the time, reglazing every ten minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serve with Hawaiian rolls or your favorite sandwich rolls along with your choice of dijon mustard, mayonaise or leftover Dr. Pepper glaze.


Cooking times:
6 lb. 90 mintues total (1 hour, 30 minutes)
7 lb. 105 minutes total (1 hour, 45 minutes)
8 lb. 120 minutes total (two hours)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Black-Eyed Peas

It's not New Year's Day without at least a spoonful of Black Eyed Peas, is it? You know they are supposed to bring you good luck, how could you not have at least a spoonful?...Wink!
So, with the new year approaching, whip up a batch for your family... This recipe is so easy and delicious, you're all sure to have a lucky 2011!
1 cup thick-cut bacon, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalepeno, chopped (with or without seeds, your call)
4 cups water (plus 1 cup later, if needed)
1 12 oz. package of pre-soaked black-eyed peas
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 dashes of Tabasco

In a stockpot over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crisp. Depending on the size of your pot, you might want to do in two batches so as not to overcrowd the pot. Remove bacon to a plate and drain excess grease from the pot, but leave any browned bits in the pot. Add the onions, jalepeno and garlic to the pot and saute for two minutes. Add the water, peas, salt, pepper, cumin and tabasco and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered on low for approximately two hours, stirring occasionaly.

After the first hour, check the water level to see if it looks dry. If needed, add about one additional cup of water. Also, check the broth for flavor and adjust seasonings, if needed.

After the second hour, taste the black-eyed peas for tenderness. Remove from heat or continue cooking depending on how you like your black-eyes peas. Personally, I like them with a little broth and not too mushy, but you can certainly cook them longer if you prefer. Serve with corn bread.

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year full of blessings!

Happy New Year!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Smoked Gouda en Croute

If you loved my recipe for Baked Brie en Croute, you will love this recipe for Baked Smoked Gouda en Croute just as much! It is equally simple (if not more) and equally delicious! Perfect for those holiday parties and get togethers!

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 7 ounce round of smoked gouda, wax removed
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Dust your countertop with the flour and carefully unfold the puff pastry. With a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry out to expand the size a bit. Spoon the mustard into the center of the pastry and using a pastry brush, a knife or the back of a spoon, evenly spread the mustard over the pastry. Place the gouda in the center of the pastry. Carefully fold up the sides of the pastry around the gouda, crimping the sides together and tucking the folds under. If you can, trim off any excess pastry. Flip the gouda and place on a greased pan seam side down. If you have any excess pastry, use it to decorate the top. Use your favorite cookie cutters to achieve the desired shapes.  In a small bowl, beat the egg and add about a teaspoon of water. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is a nice golden brown color.

Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into the pastry to allow the cheese to set a bit. Serve with an assortment of crackers.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Southwestern Turkey Chili

Still have leftover turkey hanging around? Try this super easy recipe for turkey chili. It is perfect for the cold weather and you can make it in a snap!

You can also substitute chicken for the turkey if you want to make this any other time of year when you don't necessarily have leftover turkey!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. leftover turkey, shredded
1 14.5 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
1 10 oz. can of Rotel
1 15 oz. can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen yellow corn
1 teaspoon dried onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups water

Optional toppings:
Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Tortilla Chips

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and bell pepper for 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a slow cook and add all remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Turn slowcooker to high and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Serve with desired toppings and tortilla chips or corn bread.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey and Dumpling Soup

True or False: It's the day after Thanksgiving and your fridge is loaded down with leftovers from the day before. I'm going to go with True.

While you definitely can't go wrong with just heating up a little turkey, mashed potatoes and drizzling on a little gravy, here is a great recipe if you want something a little different or have more turkey than you know what to do with! Plus this the perfect thing to make on a cold rainy day like today! )Well, at least here in Louisiana--even though it was 80 degrees yesterday!)

1 tablespoon oil or butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small onion-baseball size)
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups turkey stock, see below for recipe or purchase at the store
2 cups water
1 lb. leftover turkey (more or less, depending on your leftovers)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

In a large stockpot, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Saute onion, celery and carrot 3-5 minutes. Sprinkly veggies with flour and cook for one to two minutes. Pour about one cup of stock into the pot, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom and stirring to incorporate. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Pour in remaining stock and water. Add turkey and stir in bay leaf and rosemary. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper, as desired.

1 1/2 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped or crumbled in your hand

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients until you get a slightly sticky dough. Bring broth mixture to a boil and spoon about a teaspoon at a time of dumpling dough into the boiling liquid. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes and then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve with leftover rolls and whatever else you have! And if you have leftover soup, save it for the next day--it'll be even better!

Turkey Stock
Turkey Carcass,  meat removed and broken down to fit into the pot
16 cups of water
2 celery ribs, cut into two inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into two inch pieces
2 onion, quartered
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons black peppercorn

Add all ingredients to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, skimming fat, occasionally. Strain the stock and use in your favorite recipes, like this one, or freeze for later use.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu

Planning your Thanksgiving Day menu? Need some ideas? 

Here's what will be on my table this Thanksgiving:

 Turkey Gravy

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Baked Brie en Croute (with cranberries and pecans)

In need of an easy yet elegant appetizer? Look no further! This recipe can be prepared in less than ten minutes and will look great when it comes out of the oven--and will taste even better! I recently made this for a dinner party and it seemed to be a big hit because it was gone fairly quickly!

The creamy brie goes really nicely with the tang of the cranberries and the crunch of the pecans while the buttery, flaky pastry holds it all together and imparts a decadence in both taste and appearance.

1 wheel of brie cheese
1/4 cup pecan halves, chopped
3 tablespoons cranberry preserves
2 tablespoons dried cranberries (Craisins), roughly chopped
1 tablespoons flour
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove brie from packaging and carefully cut the rind off using a serrated knife. Hold your knife parallel to the counter and carefully shave the brie off the top and bottom. Turn the brie up on its side to cut the rind off the sides. Don't worry if you don't get it all off, you just want to lightly remove the rind but not too much that the cheese will lose the shape.

In a small pan over low heat, toast pecans for several minutes, until warm. Toasting nuts releases the oil in the nuts and intensifies the flavor. Remove pecans from pan and roughly chop. Add the pecans, preserves and cranberries to a small bowl and mix until well combined.

Dust your countertop with the flour and carefully unfold the puff pastry. With a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry out to expand the size a bit. Spoon the pecan mixture onto the center of the puff pastry. Place the brie directly on top of the pecan mixture. Carefully fold up the sides of the pastry around the brie, crimping the sides together and tucking the folds under. If you can, trim off any excess pastry. Flip the brie and place on a pan seam side down. If you have any excess pastry, use it to decorate the top. I attempted to make some leaves for mine and they didn't turn out so hot, so I hope you have a bit more talent than I-which shouldn't be hard...I am not much of an artist! In a small bowl, beat the egg and add about a teaspoon of water. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is a nice golden brown color.

Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into the pastry to allow the cheese to set a bit. Serve with an assortment of crackers.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mashed New Potatoes

Who doesn't love mashed potatoes? Well, I don't really know anyone! I personally, love  potatoes--there are so many things that you can do with potatoes and mashing them up with different ingredients is both super easy and super delicious. In this version, I use red new potatoes with the skin on and mash them up with a bit of cream cheese. This is just one of the my favorite ways to do mashed potatoes. The creamy consistency of the potatoes goes really well with the cream cheese and the skin gives a the potatoes a nice texture.

2 lb. red new potatoes, scrubbed well and quartered
1/3 cup milk
4 oz. cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Fill a large stock pot with water, place potatoes in pot and bring water to a boil. Cook potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork. Drain potatoes and then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, slightly mash the potatoes with the beaters (don't turn it on yet). Add cream cheese, salt, garlic powder and pepper and then beat potatoes on low until slightly smooth. Slowly add milk and continue to beat until you reach your desired consistency, but don't over beat as the potatoes can get gummy.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Football Food Friday! Chipotle Chicken Taquitos with Smoky Sour Cream Sauce

One of the great things about having a husband that loves to eat is that in addition to loving almost everything I make (except for that one time I made fried rice...that's a story for another day) he also, on occasion, helps me think of ideas of stuff to make--and for him to eat!

This recipe is one of those occasions. Last Saturday, as we were driving to the city he asked the weekly question,
S: "What are you going to make for the game?"
C: "I don't know, any ideas?"
S: "How about those taquitos that I love that you never make anymore."


I preceeded to tell him that I would make his beloved taquitos but that I thought we should make a new type of taquito. So, what follows is what we came up with as we crossed the Causeway bridge....24 miles of talking about food...Gotta love my huz!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped as finely as possible
1 clove garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, minced
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce
4 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated
6 tortillas

Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Saute garlic and poblano pepper for about one minute. Add chicken and cook until browned. Spoon out about half of the can of chipotles and sauce and chope finely. Add to pan and stir to combine all ingredients. Cook another minute or so and then remove from heat to cool before assembling the taquitos.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 450 degrees. Remove chicken mixture from pan to a cutting board and chop chicken as finely as possible. Return to pan. Cut each tortilla in half. Starting with one tortilla half, spoon about two tablespoons of chicken mixture into the tortilla. Top with a pinch of cheese, roll tortilla up, wrapping as tightly as possible, secure with a toothpick and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas or until you run out of chicken. Top each taquito with a bit of cheese, if you still have extra cheese leftover. Bake for 7-9 minutes and then broil for one minute. Serve immediately with Smoky Sour Cream Sauce, recipe below.

While taquitos are cooking, make the sauce.

Smoky Sour Cream Sauce
1/3 cup nonfat or light sour cream
1 chipotle pepper plus 1 1/2 tablespoons Adobo sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon honey

In a food processor (those mini ones are perfect for something like this), combine all ingredients and process on high until well blended. Serve with taquitos.

I hope you enjoy these homemade taquitos! I have to warn you that these babies are hot, so if you don't like spicy food, I recommend cutting open the peppers and removing the seeds before chopping them and adding them to the chicken. This will cut down on the heat.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Texas-Style Cranberry Orange Sauce (with Jalepenos)

Growing up, cranberry sauce was not the most popular item on the Thanksgiving table (and I know my sisters are laughing right now because they know what I mean...), but since it is a staple in most people's homes on Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to create an easy yet delicious recipe for all of you that are looking for something a little different this year.

This is a pretty typical cranberry orange sauce that is a snap to make, but as they say in Louisiana, I added a little Lagniappe (meaning "a little something extra" and pronounced Lan-yap) and spiced it up--Texas-style--by adding a jalepeno. I hope you like my version!

12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 orange, zest and juice
1 cup water
1 cup Splenda (or sugar)
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
Pinch of salt

In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, pour in cranberries, water, sugar, orange juice and orange zest stirring to combine. Bring just to a boil and reduce heat to medium low and cook for five to seven minutes. Cranberries will begin to burst and the liquid will thicken. Remove from heat and stir in salt and jalepeno. Allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mushroom, Sausage and Sage Stuffing

Thanksgiving is approaching so it's about time to start planning your Thanksgiving menu! I am a major planner, so I have of course been thinking about mine and preparing accordingly. I have cooked my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners; however, I have to be honest...I am not a fan of stuffing and usually let someone else make it! I have a major aversion to anything soggy, so you can see why I don't really care too much for stuffing. But, I am having a Thanksgiving dinner party soon and Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching, so I wanted to come up with a stuffing recipe worthy of sharing with you!

I planned to test out my ideas for dinner knowing that my husband would be happy to eat my share of the stuffing, but I liked the stuffing so much I kept my share to myself! I have to admit, I was surprised at how much I liked it! The sausage gives the stuffing a great flavor and texture and since I cooked it uncovered, the top was crunchy and the inside was not soggy at all! Who would have thought--I like stuffing!

1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
12 oz. sliced mushrooms, roughly chopped
8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
14 oz. dry stuffing
2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble sausage into a large skillet over medium heat and cooked until browned. Remove sausage from pan and drain on paper towel. Add onion, celery and mushrooms to pan and saute until onions and celery are opaque and mushrooms are cooked through and browned. Add sage and worchestershire and stir to combine. Add sausage back to pan. Add stuffing mix and broth and stir to combine all ingredients.  Spoon stuffing mixture into a greased 9x13 baking dish and bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

Enjoy! I hope this recipe graces your Thanksgiving table this year!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Football Food Friday! Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mustard Vinaigrette Coleslaw

Since most of my other Football Foods are either dips or appetizer-ish, I wanted to do something a little more main dish-ish for those days when you want more of a meal than snacks for the big game. And the best things about this recipe though it that it takes very little effort and active cooking time and is probably easier than some of the other football food recipes!

This sandwich is so delicious and I think you'll really love it! It is the perfect combination of flavor and texture. The pork is juicy and tender, the coleslaw is tangy and crunchy, and the avocado adds a creamy texture and mild flavor. I hope you enjoy it!

3-4 lb. pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
32 oz. beef broth
2-2 1/2 cups of water (enough to cover the pork with liquid)
About 2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce
Hamburger buns

Extra BBQ
Coleslaw (see below for recipe)
Pepper Jack cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Lightly season all sides of the pork loin with salt and pepper. Brown each side of the pork loin in the oil, about 2-3 minutes per side.

In a slow cooker, create a bed of onions with three quarters of the onions. Place pork on top of onions and place remaining onions on top of and around pork. Place garlic in the slow cooker and pour in broth and water to cover the meat. Cover, turn heat to high and cook for five hours.

Remove the pork and onions from the slower cooker to a plate and discard the cooking liquid. With a tongs and a fork, shred the pork. After the pork is shredded, return the pork and onions back to the slow cooker. Pour in BBQ sauce and toss to combine. Heat another 30 minutes to an hour on high.

Mustard Vinaigrette Coleslaw
10 oz. bag of cabbage
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil

While pork is heating in slow cooker with the sauce, make the vinaigrette. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. While continuously whisking with one hand, very very slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. It is important to continue whisking and drizzle as slowly as possible so that the dressing will emulsify and not separate on you. If it easier for you, you can easily do this in the blender, drizzling the olive oil slowly through the top opening or pour all ingredients into a dressing shaker or tupperware and shake, shake, shake! Chill the vinaigrette until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.

Toast buns, if desired and top with pork and coleslaw and any other toppings desired.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Festive Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

I normally consider myself more of a cook than a baker and I usually don't dabble too much in creative cutesy food, but for some reason, I really wanted to make something cute for fall and this is what I came up with! Perfect for Halloween parties, Thanksgiving or just for fun! Cute and delicious--can't beat that!

1 butter yellow cake mix
1 package sugar free instant butterscotch pudding mix
4 eggs
1/4 vegetable oil
1/4 water
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Starting on a low (so you don't splatter yourself and your kitchen), mix ingredients until slightly incorporated before turning the mixer to medium high. Continue to beat the batter for three to five minutes. This will "activate" the instant pudding mix and also whip air into your batter leaving you with a moist and airy cake. Pour batter into a well greased fluted bundt pan. Bake for approximately 55 minutes. Remove cake from oven and test with a knife or tooth pick to ensure the cake is finished. Cool in the pan for approximately 20 minutes and then remove from pan and cool on a cooling rack.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/2 block)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
Yellow and Red gel food coloring

While cake is cooling, in a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Again, start on low and work your way up to medium on the speed! Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Add milk a little at a time until you get a consistency that will allow you to drizzle the icing over the cake and let it drip down the sides.

1/2 roll marzipan (almond paste found in the baking aisle)
Green gel food coloring
Toothpicks for assembly

Unwrap the marzipan and gauge the pliability. It should be soft and moldable, but if it is like mine, it will be hard as a rock! So, what you'll want to do is heat it for about 30 seconds to get it a little softer. After it is soft enought to mold, knead the marzipan to get it so a smoother consistency and then add the food coloring to get the desired color of green you are looking for. Break off about 3/4 of the marzipan and begin to mold the stem. Next, proceed with molding the remaining marzipan into leaves. At any point during the molding process, you might need to pop the marzipan back in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften it back up. Set Leaves aside until you are ready to assemble.

After the cake has cooled completely, invert the cake onto a serving platter and slowly spoon the icing over the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the side. Attach the stem with a toothpick by heating the stem in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Push a tooth pick through one side of the bottom of the stem and out the other side. Using another toothpick, create a cross with the toothpicks by pushing the second through the other side. Secure the stem into the cake using the toothpicks. Place the leaves on the cake, resting them against the stem and the toothpicks.

Refrigerate until serving.

Serve and enjoy! Happy Fall!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Football Food Friday! Mexican Corn Dip (Hot or Cold)

One of my sweet friends, Amy, made a dip similar to this for one of my wedding showers and it was a huge hit. I asked her for the recipe afterwards and she sent it to me and I somehow lost it! Oh, the tragedy! So, I had to come up with my own version and here it is! Mine is a little different than Amy's so maybe I can get her to send it to me again and I'll post it for her (and for you!)

This dip, like my Spicy Artichoke Dip is good hot or cold, so take your pick!

1 lb. bag of frozen yellow corn, thawed (or 2 cans of corn)
8 oz. package of cream cheese (non or reduced fat is fine), softened
1/2 cup of mayonaise
1/2 cup of sour cream (non or reduced fat is fine)
1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped (leave the seeds if you like it spicier)
4 oz. can of chopped green chilis
4 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded (about half of a small block and equals about one cup shredded)
1/ teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated. Chill at least two hours.

To Serve Hot: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon dip into an oven proof dish and bake for 35-40 minutes until warmed through and slightly brown on top. Serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.

To Serve Cold: Spoon into serving dish of your choice and serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Celebrity Sighting! Tre Wilcox, Top Chef Season 3

This past weekend, my sister got married in Dallas! Congratulations Katherine and David! The weekend was busy busy and was a complete blast from start to finish.

Friday night was the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner which was hosted by the Helffrichs at Loft 610 where top Dallas Chef and Top Chef Season 3 contestant, Tre Wilcox, is the head chef. Naturally, I was super excited for the dinner! Not only for the fun night with family and friends and the delicious dinner but also for because I was secretly hoping to meet Tre.  

Now, normally I would not even think about this being a possibility but I thought it was more likely since we were at a private event as opposed to just regular diners. You see, Tre used to be the Chef de Cuisine at Abacus, another amazing Dallas restaurant, and I went there several times while he was there and never even considered going to meet him because I would be too embarrassed! But that's where my sweet husband came in...I told him about my now not-so-secret desire to meet Tre, so being the good husband that he is, he got up and asked him to come over to the table to say hi! What a good husband I have! 

Here are a few pictures....
Me and Tre Wilcox from Top Chef, Season Three and Chef at Loft 610

I had to let Steven into the picture since he was the one who asked Tre to come over! ;)

Jealous? Yes or Yes? 

Tre is not only an extremely talented chef, but he is a very very nice guy. If you're in the area, you should definitely stop by Loft 610 for dinner, it was DELICIOUS!

Tre is going to be on Bravo's upcoming Top Chef Allstars which starts December 1st! There are a ton of awesome people coming back for the All Stars season including other favorites of ours like Richard Blais and Casey Thompson (another Dallas chef), but you know who we'll be cheering for! 

Friday, October 8, 2010


Jambalaya is definitely one of the standard cajun cuisine dishes; however, just like many other cajun favorites, when it comes to recipes there is probably nothing standard about it! There are probably thousands of variations for jambalaya and I am sure every Cajun family has their own "perfect" recipe, but the following recipe is how I make it and I think it is pretty darn good...for a Texas girl! So give my variation a try, but to all you locals, please go easy on me! Afterall, I am just a Texas girl in a Louisiana world!

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 lb. andouille sausage, casings removed, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced*
1 large green bell pepper, diced*
6 celery ribs, chopped*
2 cloves of garlic, minced*
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
2 cups uncooked white rice
4 cups chicken broth (2 cans)
1 dried bay leaf
1-2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Brown chicken and sausage until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, cayenne pepper and cajun seasoning. Saute until onions are translucent. Pour in chicken broth and add the rice and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20-25 minues or until the rice is cooked through. Check the liquid level towards the end of cooking, adding additional water or broth if the mixture is getting too dry. Stir in worchestershire sauce and serve.

Although it is probably not the proper cajun way, we like it with cornbread. Jiffy, of course.


*For those in Louisiana, feel free to use Guidry's Fresh Cuts if you don't want to/don't have the time to chop the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kidd's Kids!

Good morning!

If you didn't already know, today is a special day. It is Kidd's Kids Day! Kidd's Kids is a wonderful charity started by Kidd Kraddick of Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. The charity raises money to send chronically and terminally ill children and their families from across the country on a five day, all expenses paid, trip to Disney World. This is a trip of a lifetime for families that don't otherwise have the time, means and ability to take a trip as a family due to the struggles they face with a sick or disabled child.

The trip is first class luxury all the way and it is fully paid for by donations that are only requested one day a year, TODAY! Southwest Airlines even donates an entire airplane and the time of their employees to take the families from Dallas to Orlando. But the trip can't happen without donations, so if you have a few extra minutes and a few extra dollars, I encourage you to visit the website to learn more about Kidd's Kids. It is a wonderful charity that we love to support every year.

It is days like today and the stories of the deserving families that have been chosen for the trip that make me realize how very blessed I am in my own life. I hope, after visiting the website, you will feel the same!

I hope everyone has a wonderful day! May God Bless you today and everyday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apple, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

A few months ago, I posted this recipe for Strawberry Feta Salad with Sweet and Spicy Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette. I hope you all love that recipe as much as we do. It is definitely a staple at the Patterson's; however, strawberries are sadly going out of season... :( 

But the silver lining is that I have come up with a new fall version! Hooray! I wanted to come up with something that showcases the flavors of the season and I think this recipe does the trick! This version utilizes apples instead of strawberries, walnuts instead of pecans, blue cheese instead of feta and a new vinaigrette recips. If you've made the Strawberry version, then this will be a snap for you!

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the vinegar, shallots, mustard, garlic, honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl. While continuously whisking with one hand, very very slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. It is important to continue whisking and drizzle as slowly as possible so that the dressing will emulsify and not separate on you. If it easier for you, you can easily do this in the blender, drizzling the olive oil slowly through the top opening. Chill the vinaigrette until you are ready to assemble the salad.

1 c water
1/4 c sugar or Splenda*
1 cup pecan halves
3 T sugar or Splenda*
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t cajun seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350. Microwave the water in a microwave safe bowl until the water boils. Remove from microwave and dissolve the fourth cup of sugar in the water. Soak the walnuts in the sugar water for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining sugar, chili powder, cayenne and cajun seasoning in a plastic baggie. Drain the walnuts and toss in the sugar mixture to coat. Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Immediately spread the walnuts onto wax paper to cool. Do NOT let them sit or the sugar will harden and all the walnuts will stick together!

3-4 chicken breasts
Garlic Powder
3 hearts of Romaine, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
2-3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1 tart apple, rinsed, cored and sliced or chopped into bite size pieces**

Heat grill to medium high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Grill chicken breasts until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes on each side depending on size. Remove from grill, cool and cut into strips or bit size pieces.

In a large bowl, toss lettuce with desired amount of dressing. Add apples, blue cheese and walnuts tossing gently. Serve with chicken on top. 

Serves 4, as a main dish.

I hope you enjoy this fresh and delicious fall version!

*I have tried the pecans (from the strawberry version) with Splenda but they do not turn out as sweet or crunchy.
** My absolute favorite apple is the Honeycrisp apple. They are sweet and tart and in peak season, they are about the size of a grapefruit! yum! They can be a little pricey though, so other favorites of mine are Granny Smith, Gala and Pink Lady if you don't want to get the Honeycrisp.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Football Food Friday! Spicy Artichoke Dip

I am so excited to share this recipe with yall as this dip is by far my favorite dip and I love any opportunity to make it! It is creamy and delicous with just a hint of heat.

Another great thing about this dip is that it is great hot or cold, so depending on when you're making it, if you're taking it somewhere, etc. you can decide whether or not to serve it hot or cold.

2 cups of artichoke hearts, drained, lightly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalepeno peppers, finely diced
1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonaise
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To serve warm: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and pour mixture into an oven proof dish. Bake uncovered until lightly browned on top, approximately 25 minutes.

To serve cold: Mix all ingredients together and pour mixture into a serving bowl of your choice.

Serve with pita chips, wheat thins or crackers or chips of your choice.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Crispy Ranch Chicken

Looking for a new twist on boring ol' chicken? Well here is a healthy and flavorful chicken recipe that is super easy! You'll never think chicken is boring again!

This chicken is baked so it is healthier than typical crispy chicken but the Panko gives it the crunch of fried chicken, so you won't miss out on the flavor and you definitely won't miss the extra calories and fat of typical fried chicken!

If you are not familiar with Panko, it is a Japanese bread crumb and is drier, lighter and flakier than a typical store bought bread crumb and provides the perfect crunchy coating. Once you try Panko bread crumbs, I can promise you that will be hooked!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 package of dry Ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season both sides of chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Lightly beat the egg whites in a shallow bowl. Combine ranch mix, parmesan and Panko in another shallow bowl or plate. Dip one chicken breasts in the egg whites, coating both sides and then dredge in the ranch mixture, patting the mixture into the chicken to completely coat the entire chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Place chicken breasts in an oven proof baking dish. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. This will allow the coating to dry out a bit and will give you a crunchier coating.

Bake chicken for approximately 30 minutes or until cooked through. If desired, turn your broiler on high and brown the tops of the chicken for one to two minutes or until golden brown.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Green Beans Amandine

If you like fresh green beans, you'll love this recipe. It is super easy, fast and big on flavor. The combination of the crisp green beans with the crunch of the almonds makes for a great side dish with great flavor and texture.

1 lb. fresh green beans, rinsed, ends trimmed
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons butter, margarine or spray butter
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 lemon

Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. While water is coming to boil, fill a bowl with ice water.

Cook green beans in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove green beans from boiling water and plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking process and maintain the bright green color. Remove from ice water and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan with over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Melt butter in the pan and add green beans to pan, tossing to coat with the butter and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until green beans are tender but still crisp.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a small pan over low heat until just golden brown. Add almonds to green beans and toss to combine. Squeeze the lemon juice over the green beans and toss to combine. Taste the green beans for seasoning and add additional salt, pepper, or lemon if necessary.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Strawberry and Feta Salad with Sweet and Spicy Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette

I started making this salad in early spring and it has become one of our absolute favorites! And let me please note that my husband, a self-proclaimed "meat-a-tarian," does not and I repeat, does not consider salad as a meal, but he LOVES this salad and so will you! It is great as a main dish, but you can easily ditch the chicken and make it as a side salad or serve it at a party with the dressing on the side so it doesn't get soggy.

We're a bit on the tail end of strawberry season, so I probably should have posted this when I originally made it, but oh well! You can still easily find strawberries for a good price so don't worry about that! Considering I have made this salad probably every week since I first made it up, I really don't know why I am just now posting it. I clearly dropped the ball! :)

1/2 c balsamic vinegar
3 T Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
About one cup of extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the balsamic, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl. While continuously whisking with one hand, very very slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl. It is important to continue whisking and drizzle as slowly as possible so that the dressing will emulsify and not separate on you. If it easier for you, you can easily do this in the blender, drizzling the olive oil through the top opening. Chill the vinaigrette until you are ready to assemble the salad.

1 c water
1/4 c sugar or Splenda*
1 cup pecan halves
3 T sugar or Splenda
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t cajun seasoning

Preheat the oven to 350. Microwave the water in a microwave safe bowl until the water boils. Remove from microwave and dissolve the fourth cup of sugar in the water. Soak the pecans in the sugar water for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining sugar, chili powder, cayenne and cajun seasoning in a plastic baggie. Drain the pecans and toss in the sugar mixture to coat. Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Immediately spread the pecans onto wax paper to cool. Do NOT let them sit or the sugar will harden and all the pecans will stick together!

3-4 chicken breasts
Garlic Powder
3 hearts of Romaine, rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
4 oz. feta crumbles
1 carton of strawberries, rinsed and sliced

Heat grill to medium high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Grill chicken breasts until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes on each side depending on size. Remove from grill, cool and cut into strips or bit sized pieces.

In a large bowl, toss lettuce with desired amount of dressing. Add strawberries, feta and pecans, tossing gently. Serve with chicken on top.

Serves 4, as a main course.

I hope you enjoy this fresh and delicious salad as much as we do!

*I have tried the pecans with Splenda but they do not turn out as sweet or crunchy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is probably not most people's "go-to" veggie or side dish, but after you try this recipe, I can guarantee you that you will think of cauliflower differently. After I came up with this recipe, it quickly became Steven's favorite dinner side dish and he wants me to make it at least once a week! The great thing about this dish is that it is super fast to prepare, requires very few (and very common) ingredients and it is very flavorful!

I hope you love it!

1 head of cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and stem and cut into florets
1 tablespoons of olive oil for drizzling
1 lemon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup of grated or shredded parmesan cheese
white or black truffle oil spray, if desired *

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put trimmed cauliflower pieces into a 2.5 quart oval casserole dish or other oven-proof dish of this approximate size. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and then squeeze the lemon juice all over the cauliflower. Toss a few times to coat all the pieces. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven. Turn broiler on high. Make sure oven rack is in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle parmesan on top and spritz all over with truffle oil. Return to oven and broil for about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

*If you are not familiar with truffles, they are in the mushroom family and are most often found in Europe. The flavor is very unique and you are likely to fall in love with truffles once you taste something made with truffles or spritzed with truffle infused oil. You can find white or black truffle oil at specialty stores (like William Sonoma) or specialty grocery stores. I have been lucky to buy it super cheap at TJMaxx, so I would definitely try to find it there.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekend with Makenzie

One thing that I have not yet done since I started this blog is write non-recipe posts about our life here in Louisiana and our new adventures. So, since our families and friends (except our new ones) live elsewhere and we are fortunate to get to experience a new place while we are young and without kids, so I think that I'll start sharing some of our adventures with you.

AND, since this is technically a food and recipe blog, I will share with you our thoughts on restaurants we go to. After all, New Orleans is known for having some of the best restaurants in the world and we definitely do our part to contribute to their patronage!

Fortunately, I have perfect opportunity to begin this new little blogging endeavor as my very best friend, Makenzie, came to visit Steven and I this past weekend. Makenzie and I have known each other since we were 11 years old when we met in Mrs. Reeves' fifth grade class. We were instantly best friends and have been ever since. We were even born one day apart. Needless to say, I was so happy when she said she was booking a flight to come visit!

One thing that is funny about me and probably not surprising to anyone is that when people say they are coming to visit, I get a little stressed and start planning and thinking of all the things we are going to do and every single time I realize there is no need to stress because it is so much more fun when you just go with the flow and see where it takes you. That is definitely what we did with Makenzie and it was sooo much fun!

Friday night, we took the suggestion of my friend, Casey, and went to Jacques Imo's . Jacques Imo's is located in the Uptown area of New Orleans and is such a cool place. Very funky and totally reminded me of something you would find in Austin (for all you Texans reading this). The food was amazing! They started us off with what I'd consider one of the best parts of the meals and that was the corn muffins. Oh. My. Gosh. They were like heaven on a plate. I pretty much always love corn bread, but these were on another level! For dinner, I got grilled Mahi Mahi which was prepared with a sweet Asian sauce and served with asparagus and pistachios. Such an odd combination, but so good. Makenzie got the blackened Red Fish, which is one of their specialties and most popular dishes. For someone that had not really had much Cajun cooking before, I'd say that Jacques Imo's won Makenzie over. Thanks Casey for the great suggestion, we loved it and we will definitely go back again!

The next morning, we took Makenzie to our favorite breakfast place on the Northshore, The Broken Egg. Now, if you're thinking, "Oh, I've been there in (fill in the bank)." You probably have, however, the one in Mandeville is the original and, in my opinion, the best one! From the spicy bloody marys to the extra large selection of breakfast favorites and cajun specialities, The Broken Egg is a winner in our book. It is a staple in every Patterson visitor's itinerary. (I don't actually write one, but you get what I mean.

After brunch, we had a terrific day of New Orleaneans' favorite pastimes--drinking and eating. We hit the Abita Beer Brewery, the Pontchartrain Vineyards and then we were off to Friends for a drink on the patio (after a stop home to change, recharge and let Lily out!) Makenzie loved Friends, as everyone does, because it is in the best location and it is so great to sit outside and have a drink right on the river. So relaxing. We had a casual dinner at Morton's and then called it a night after one last drink at Friends (again).

Makenzie's mom was coincidentally in New Orleans with a friend the same weekend, so the next morning, we drove into the city to pick them up for brunch. We decided to try Camellia Grill. We had never been there and I knew next to nothing about it, so I was a little nervous as to how it would all turn out since as I mentioned, I like to impress my guests. ha ha

Well, worry no further because Camellia Grill is delicious. It is definitely not your typical fancy New Orleans Jazz Brunch ala Brennan's, but it very tasty and a fun New Orleans type experience. You have to wait outside in line because it is pretty small and the seating is all counter-seating where you can watch them whip up your breakfast/brunch. But fear not, the waitstaff if pretty entertaining and the wait goes by fast. We got there fairly early so we didn't have to wait too long. I'll tell you one thing though, bring a sweater. It was like an icebox! Everyone else got omelets of varying styles while I decided on a french dip style roast beef sandwich since I don't like eggs (that eliminated about 95% of breakfast foods for me!) The omelets were huge and fluffy since they beat their eggs in a milkshake maker! What a great idea! Then came the best part of any meal...dessert. Even though it is breakfast, it is a necessity to get dessert if you go to Camellia Grill. It should be a rule. I'd read on the Internet (in my pre-visit planning, of course) that they had the best chocolate pecan pie. Now I don't really love pecan pie all that much, but since I had read about it, I decided to give it a go. And boy am I glad that I did! You see, they put the pie on a buttered grill to heat it up so that all the ooey gooey goodness can start to ooze out. Then they plop a grapefruit-size scoop of Blue Bell (made in Texas!) homemade vanilla ice cream on top. Again, I was in heaven. Just like with the corn muffins.

All in all, the weekend with Makenzie was terrific. I probably gained five pounds, but it was worth it. Five pounds and all. Thanks for visiting Mak, please come back soon! Love you!

P.S. Can anyone tell me how to upload pictures into posts (using a Mac) in the spot you want? I clearly can't figure it out but want to put pictures up!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Holy Moly Guacamole it's Cinco de Mayo!

In my last post, I mentioned my love for guacamole and my new love for avocados in general. Not being a fan of queso (surprise, surprise) I have always loved guacamole and it is of course my favorite thing about Mexican food (and margaritas). My brother in law, Brian, shares my loves for guacamole and I can always count on him to want to order it in addition to queso, so that I am not the only one who wants it!

Back in the day, I actually worked as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant. Funny to imagine that I actually carried those big trays around (I totally sucked at that, by the way) but I did. It was not your run of the mill Mexican restaurant and was actually pretty nice and one of the things that the restaurant offered was Table-Side Guacamole. So, needless to say, I got pretty darn good at whipping up tasty guacamole.

There are a few things that I make/cook that my family members look forward to and my guacamole is one of them. So, I hope you enjoy it just as much!

3 ripe avocados, halved and seeded
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons of salsa of your choice (I personally like Pace!)
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon of cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper or a few dashes of Tabasco

After halving the avocados and removing the pit, use your knife to make vertical cuts across the avocado being careful not to puncture the skin or cut your hand! Then rotate the avocado and make vertical cuts across the other side making a checkboard-type pattern. Repeat with all the halves and then carefully scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a bowl with a spoon by running the spoon around the edge of the skin. Combine the remaining ingredients and mash the avocado with either a potato masher or two forks to achieve the texture and consistentcy you desire.

Make sure to taste the guacomole and adjust the seasoning as necessary. I find that most often the salt or the lemon need to be adjusted, so add more according to your taste. Give it one last stir and taste and then serve with your favorite tortilla chips or as a topping for fajitas, tacos or your other favorite Mexican foods.

Tip: If you are not going to be serving right away, reserve one or two of the avocado pits and place them in the guacamole. This will help slow down the browning process. You may do this with leftovers as well, but I would recommend placing plastic wrap directly on top of the guamacole to prevent the air from getting to it and then putting one more piece of plastic wrap over the bowl.

Enjoy and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Friday, April 30, 2010

California Chicken Sandwiches

Not that this should be a surprise to anyone to knows me, but for most of my life I wouldn't have anything to do with avocados unless they were smashed up in guacamole. Bizarre, I know. But really, that's how a lot of my pickiness goes...its selective and avocados were no exception. Until recently.

Somehow I must have missed those big green chucks floating in my tortilla soup, but one spoonful of soup (avocado in tow) and I was hooked! What have I been missing all these years? Lots of things I presume.

Anyways, now, I love putting plain avocados on anything and everything. But I have to admit that a favorite combo of mine has to be avocado and bacon! YUM! Not the lowest fat combo, I know, but at least avocados have the good kind of fat. Wink, wink.

So, with that in mind, I was thinking of something to make for dinner last week and I whipped up with this little gem. I hope you like it!

1 package of dry Ranch dip mix
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 buns of your choice
4 slices thick cooked bacon (or more, if you want)
1 ripe avocado
1/2 sweet yellow onion, very thinly sliced
About 2 teaspoons flour

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with ranch packet seasoning as well as season with salt and pepper. Heat grill to medium high heat.

While grill is heating, cook the bacon until brown and crisp and remove from pan. Drain off all except for about 1 tablespoon or so of the bacon fat and add onions to the pan and saute. Continue to saute the onions until they are fairly brown and then sprinkle the onions with the flour and continue to cook until they are crispy then remove from heat.

Grill chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Toast buns, if desired.

Allow chicken to rest a few minutes and the slice it diagonally. Assemble sandwich with chicken on the bottom and then pile on the bacon, avocado and crispy onions.

Since this is a big and rich sandwich, I recommend serving it with a small salad or fruit salad as I did.


As always, let me know what you think or if you have questions!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I'm Back!

Wow, it's been awhile, hasn't? Did you miss me? I hope so.

Sorry to all of you who have been serving your families cereal for dinner during my blogging hiatus. Just kidding, I am sure you survived just fine without me considering I am not even sure if anyone reads my blog! I hope I'm wrong. (Please tell me if I am.)

You see, I have been in a little bit of a funk lately. Over the last few months, we were in and out of town and there were a few things going on that really prevented me from wanting to try new things in the kitchen or have the motivation to write down the things I did. I hope you understand.

But now, I'm back! Get ready for some new recipes that I hope you'll enjoy!

Until then...
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