February 28, 2014

Serrano Pickled Brussels Sprouts

1 1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, stem and loose leaves removed
1 serrano pepper, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch chunks
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery flakes
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons pickling salt

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Evenly divide all of the spices and peppers between 2 or 3 pint jars. Add the Brussels sprouts, leaving 1/4 inch headroom.

Pour in the vinegar mixture, still leaving that 1/4 inch headroom. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least 1 week before eating.

Yield: 2-3 pints (depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts)

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
I really miss canning in the winter. I was writing my latest cookbook during the heart of citrus season and didn't get a chance to make marmalade. I thought I might have to wait until spring to can but when I received these green heritage Ball jars, I knew I had to make something in them! I wanted to make something that would look pretty in the jars (vain!) so when I ended up with a bunch of leftover Brussels sprouts, I thought they'd be perfect to pickle. I'd never had a pickled Brussels sprout before, but that didn't stop me, a lot of my pickling has been of fruit I haven't had pickled before and it has all been delicious. I love sauerkraut so it only stands to reason that I'd love pickled Brussels sprouts as well. I had some serrano peppers so I popped one in and to mellow it out, I added some celery and dill flavors. The result? A spicy, savory bite that a pickle or sauerkraut fan would love. Try them on a cheese plate.

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February 26, 2014

Spicy Turkey, Bacon & Veggie Skillet

4 slices bacon
2 lb ground turkey thigh
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
10 oz shredded red cabbage
2 serrano peppers, diced
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice*
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped flat leaf parsley

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add the onion, zucchini, celery and peppers and saute until the onion is just translucent. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large chunks. Add the cabbage and cook until the zucchini and cabbage is tender and the turkey is nearly fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice, spices and stock. Stir until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Crumble the reserved bacon and stir it in. Stir in parsley. Serve.

*I used leftover rice from Indian take-out that I allowed to come to room temperature. Alternatively, use freshly cooked (hot) jasmine or basmati rice.

My thoughts:
I had some rice leftover from take out, some turkey from the milkman, odds and ends of vegetables in the crisper from other recipes and I put them all together and ended up with this. It is sort of a cross between dirty rice (minus the liver) and bacon rice (minus the egg and Asian flair). I'm always getting requests for more 1 dish meals and I see the appeal, less to clean! Plus making the bacon in the same pan you cook everything else in infuses the whole dish with a hint of smoky piggyness. It is rather hot thanks to the serrano pepper. If you'd like less heat use jalapeño peppers instead.

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February 24, 2014

Chorizo-Potato Tacos

1 lb Mexican chorizo (casings removed)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano peppers, diced
2 cups small diced Yukon Gold potato, parboiled
1/2 cup water

to serve:
warm tortillas (corn or flour)
Mexican or Salvadorean crema
homemade pico de gallo

Saute the meat in a non stick skillet, breaking up any chunks with a spoon. When nearly fully browned, drain off any excess fat. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook until the potatoes and onions are soft and the liquid has evaporated. Serve immediately in tortillas and top with pico de gallo and crema.

My thoughts:

Our favorite Mexican take out place has the best chorizo con papa sopes. I've always wanted to get a taco with it but he only offers it on sopes or in quesadillas and tortas. So, when I saw some good looking Mexican chorizo at the store, I picked it up and lucky me, Matt was happy to turn it into tacos. They were every bit as good as I hoped. Well-spiced without being blisteringly hot and the potato-chorizo combination is very comforting. I topped mine with pico de gallo and crema but plain old chopped tomatoes, sour cream and cheese would be just as tasty, I bet.

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February 21, 2014

Maryland Style Fried Chicken

2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

Place the milk and the flour in seperate shallow bowls. Add salt and pepper to the flour to taste. Dip the chicken in the milk then in the flour mixture. Place on a platter. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat about 1/4 inch canola oil. Add the chicken and cook about 2 minutes on each side or until it starts to brown. Cover the chicken and cook 8 minutes or until the chicken is very nearly fully cooked. Uncover and fry on both sides until well browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper-towel lined plates and eat immediately.

My thoughts:
Did you know that Maryland has its own style of fried chicken? No? Neither do most people, including ones that live here. It seems to have all but died out and it is a shame. Luckily it is easy to make at home. The major differences between Maryland fried chicken and Southern style fried chicken is that the chicken isn't heavily breaded, it is pan-fried (not deep fried) and it is covered for part of the cooking time to almost steam the meat cooked.

This is very similar to the way my Grandpop always made chicken. I didn't realize until I was older and did more food history reading that it wasn't just something he did, but an actual thing (much like meat cakes) that other people made. He only made it with thighs so that is how I made it here. I guess you could use other pieces of chicken, but I think the thighs cook up the best: crispy and evenly, while angular breasts and bumpy legs are a bit more difficult to achieve good, brown crispy skin via pan-frying. The "steaming" time results in super moist chicken under that crisp shell. So good! Better, perhaps, than what you can achieve frying Southern-style when it is more difficult to tell when the chicken is fully cooked resulting in either under or over-cooked chicken.

Note: This is not be confused with some old recipes for "Chicken Maryland" which call for bananas. Bananas! Baltimore once was a major import spot for bananas so I guess it makes sense but it is an odd recipe most often found overseas.

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February 19, 2014

Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Cake


2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup extra light olive oil*
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
pinch salt

for the glaze:
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
zest of 1 Meyer lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the egg, buttermilk, lemon juice, oil and zest. Slowly stream in the dry ingredients (while the mixer is running!) and mix to combine. Pour into prepared pan, bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Unmold to a wire rack and cool.

Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle over cake.

*I used Bertolli Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil but I bet there are other brands available too. It isn't lighter calorie-wise but it has a lighter olive taste and a lower smoke-point than regular olive oil. You can also use canola oil.

My thoughts:
I wanted to use up the last bit of buttermilk my milkman delivered (I had already made this buttermilk cornish game hen recipe, buttermilk grits and two batches of pancakes) and had just about 1/2 a cup left, perfect for a little loaf cake. I really should make more loaf cakes, they are quick to put together and the yield is rather small which is perfect for the two of us. Some times I feel like making a cake but I know we can't knock out a whole layer cake or batch of cupcakes by ourselves. The cake is very moist but don't be tempted to skip the glaze, it provides the perfect amount of sweet and pucker to really bring the cake to life.

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February 14, 2014

Buttermilk Thyme Cornish Game Hens

2 ~1 3/4 lb Cornish Game Hens
1/2 white onion, sliced
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups buttermilk
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Place the Cornish Game Hens, onion, 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, salt, pepper and buttermilk in a resealable bag or marinating container. Marinate overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Drain the hens and discard the marinade. Place on a roasting pan with a rack. Bake for 45 minutes or until fully cooked.

My thoughts:
This year I fulfilled my life-long dream of having a milkman. Not only does he bring me milk (and chocolate milk) but local beef, pork, sauerkraut, hummus, cream cheese, and yogurt. I just leave my milk box outside and then next morning it is filled. We tried a quart of their buttermilk two weeks ago and it was so good, I ordered a half gallon of it last week. That is a lot of buttermilk to use up! I decided to expand my buttermilk usage beyond baking and these Cornish Game Hens were my first attempt. Since we are a family of two, I just made enough for two (but you could double this recipe and make enough for 4) which was perfect for us.
(I served it with blue grits made with more buttermilk, you can sort of see them in the picture and green beans)

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February 12, 2014

Snow Day Steak Fajitas

1 1/2-2 lbs skirt steak
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cubanelle peppers, sliced
pico de gallo*
sour cream
corn tortillas (warmed)
shredded cheese

for the marinade:

12 oz brown ale
1/3 cup canola oil
juice of 3 limes
1 small (or 1/2 1 large) white onion, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon New Mexican style chili powder
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ezpazote
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

Place the steak in a resealable bag or marinating container and add the marinade ingredients. Refrigerate 24 hours.

In a medium skillet, saute the onions and peppers until soft, golden and fragrant. Set aside.

Broil the steak until medium-rare, about 2 minutes on each side. Let rest 1 minute then slice thinly. Serve immediately with the onions and peppers, pico de gallo,
guacamole, sour cream, corn tortillas (warmed)

*We used a mix of greenhouse heirloom cherry tomatoes for this; they had the best flavor of the tomatoes available this time of year. We subbed in jalapenos for serranos due to availability. And flat-leaf parsley instead of cilantro because a lot of cilantro kind of makes my tongue numb. But you can make pico de gallo however you prefer!

My thoughts:
The few times we've made fajitas it has been in the summer when we can grill. Which is awesome but what about these poor winter months that are fajita-less? We decided to go ahead and try an indoor version. Matt made the pico an hour or two before we were going to eat so it was perfect, well-marinated and flavorful. We marinated the steak overnight so it was extra juicy and flavorful and ended up making the best fajitas you could hope for on snowy day.

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February 10, 2014

Dark Chocolate M & M Toffee Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup dark chocolate M & Ms
1/3 cup toffee bits


Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla paste and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the toffee then the M & Ms. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough on the sheet two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake 12 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Yield: about 2 dozen

My thoughts:
I keep thinking I making some really romantic desserts for Valentine's Day but all I really wanted to make was cookies. I'm not one to make something for the blog that I don't want to actually eat so cookies it is! Maybe the baking bug will strike again soon. I do love Valentine's Day, and I have a ton of Valentine's Day related baking equipment: sprinkles; liners; and heart-shaped tart pans, mini springform pans, cake pans etc.

These cookies are a bit more special than regular chocolate chip, they are slightly chewy and flecked with toffee and of course, melt-in-your mouth candy shell. The trick is not to overbake them. 12 minutes seems arbitrary but when I've baked them for just a bit less (or more) the result wasn't nearly as good. If you find they are too soft straight out of the oven easily remove to cool on the racks, just carefully slide the parchment paper (with all the cookies still on top!) on to the wire rack, let them cool a minute or two and then remove the paper. You don't want to leave them on the pan or they will continue to cook and get a little too crispy.

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February 05, 2014

Slow Cooker Thyme Brussels Sprouts

1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a 2 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until the sprouts are tender. Stir again prior to serving. Serve using a slotted spoon.

*I used the Salento Farm Gourmet Hardneck Garlic Powder I ordered online. So good!

My thoughts:
I'm always getting asked for slow cooker side dish recipes and recipes that use small slow cookers. This recipe answers both of those questions. I know there is no real reason to make Brussels sprouts in the slow cooker, they can be sauteed, boiled or roasted using the stove but when you're in a pinch space-wise and can't fit another pot on the stove or pan in the oven, the slow cooker comes to the rescue. The sprouts basically steam and get infused with flavor at the same time.