day 27: beer + fish + chips = bliss

I’ve always known that my stomach runs my life. I wake up with cravings and simply have to act on them. The failure to feed deploys the hungry version of me – the cranky, green hulk monster being kept at bay by snacks – yeah, that one.

I wish my cravings came in a complete thought … like, I’d like a BBQ sandwich with with spicy cole slaw (which sounds delish by the way). But, oh no, not me! I crave the sauce or condiments and try to figure out the rest … like, I’d like to devour something with sour cream on it. Makes no sense, but I’m used to it.

So, today when I woke up craving malt vinegar. I knew I had to break out the fish & chips and fast. Oh, and a beer (because I like it).

Pub worthy fish + chips

Pub worthy fish + chips

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb of white, meaty fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 bottled beers (one to batter and the other to drink)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 russet potatoes, skin on, cut into wedges, soaked in water
  • canola oil for frying

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat oil to medium
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper
  3. Slowly add the beer to create a batter. Be sure there are no lumps left in the batter. Allow to rest in the fridge as we tend to the chips
  4. Pat the potatoes dry and place in the oil. When potatoes begin to soften and brown slightly. Remove form oil and allow to rest on a cooling rack (this single step with give those potatoes a heck of a crunch later on)
  5. Return potatoes to the fry to completion
  6. Meanwhile, batter up the cod strips and drop into the oil
  7. Once the batter begins to set, rotate! Remove when browned all around
  8. Serve with malt vinegar, lemon and tarter if you like (my recipe is below)

*For a quick and delicious tarter sauce combine 2 heaping tbsp quality mayonnaise, 1 tsp of grainy mustard, a dash of white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper, sweet pickle relish and pulse in a food processor for a few moments.

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day 24: sugar, spice + everything nice, well bacon at least

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. Everything is better with bacon. So how on earth could one possibly perfect the already perfected?

You see, I think bacon is like a really wonderful makeup palette (gents, stay with me). A natural beauty with just the right combination of makeup can make you weak in the knees, by merely glancing in your general direction (you know it’s true).

So next time you want your Bloody Mary to truly shine or you’re thinking of a good ole’ fashioned BLT, do yourself a favor and dress it up a bit.

*Though the bacon was delicious and did receive a photo shoot, I found it to be best to simply show ingredients (you try shooting bacon – it’s hard)!

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

What you’ll need:

  • 12 pieces of thick sliced bacon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of course ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cayenne pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat to 350 degrees
  2. Layer cookie sheet with bacon (ungreased and in a single layer)
  3. Meanwhile combine the brown sugar, cayenne and pepper
  4. Cook for 12 minutes, then flip the bacon
  5. Coat with the mixture on the uncooked side and return to the oven
  6. Cook another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes (if you don’t, you’ll burn your lips like I did).
  7. Enjoy!

day 22: white beans for casey lou, who? (insert a grinch & a rhyme)

I’ve been quite the Grinch this holiday season thus far … completely devoid of all things shiny & red (except my lipstick, of course) & green. No pine or cinnamon taunting the air in my house. It’s been a bit drab. Now, I’m not saying I’m not a fortunate gal at all. Don’t misunderstand. I have a family that loves me. Friends that have evolved into family. Colleagues and acquaintances that have become friends. The cycle is endless.

I think sometimes (definitely not always, but literally sometimes) when we think we have nothing left to give … it’s truly the simple things that make Christmas … indeed what it is. It can be a simple smile, a thoughtful call, a kick in the ass or just being together doing nothing at all. Diary entry complete … time for comfort food!

In all seriousness, my dear friend & colleague mentioned her love of the Southern style white bean … so, in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing my no fuss recipe. How lucky is she?

*Yes, all previous rhymes were intentional & made perfect sense, I might add.

Traditional white beans + fresh herbs

Traditional white beans + fresh herbs

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. dried Great Northern beans
  • 1 smoke ham hock (for you folks who are unfamiliar, it’s by the country ham)
  • 1 lb. country ham seasoning pieces
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a slow cooker (crock pot)

What you’ll do:

  • Place ham hock in the bottom of the crock pot
  • Then pour in sorted and rinsed beans (pick out any gnarly looking ones and discard, then rinse)
  • Place ham pieces on top of beans
  • Cover all with fresh, cold water (about 2 1/2″ above the bean mixture level)
  • Throw in garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves
  • Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Check the beans at 5 for tenderness and seasoning.
  • Serve with hot skillet cornbread, fresh sliced onion, tomatoes & chow chow (really, whatever you please).
  • Enjoy!

day 20: a staple I can’t take credit for … lentil stew + arugula

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … recipes are meant to be shared. They’re in constant evolution and when they’re truly great, they last for generations. I borrowed this one from Real Simple and I’ve been making it in masses for months. I normally add, omit, or substitute … but hey, if ain’t broke, why bother fixing it?

*I did leave out the feta cheese & reduced the amount of potatoes (reflected below)

lentil_stew

What you’ll need:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups lentils
  • 6 small red potatoes, quarted
  • 1/2 pound turkey kielbasa, sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 small bunch of arugula roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the broth, bay leaf, and lentils and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, cover, and cook until the potatoes and lentils are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place the kielbasa in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown on both sides. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. When the stew is cooked, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, arugula, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the stew among bowls and top each with the kielbasa.
  7. Enjoy!

day 19: butternut squash + kale lasagna … don’t mind if’n I do

I think I’m getting to a point in life where there are very few things that truly shock me … maybe a few that catch my emotions off guard, disappoint or baffle, but very few that genuinely shock me. Now, food on the other hand never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think there couldn’t be anything else worth trying I find a new flavor profile that rocks my world. I say all this to say … food just doesn’t let me down.

It’s no secret, I’m from the South and there are some things I just didn’t have exposure to as a young’n. I don’t believe butternut squash and I met until the latter of my twenties. Hell, I thought it was sweet potato. It’s a truly interesting vegetable. It’s pale and seemingly boring on the outside, but a beautiful orange on the inside. It smells like cantaloupe when you cut into it raw, but roasted it mirrors sweet potato. What on earth to do with such a chameleon? Lasagna. That’s what.

Shockingly fantastic butternut squash + kale lasagna

Shockingly fantastic butternut squash + kale lasagna

What you’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced thinly.
  • 1 handful of dinosaur kale, washed and stems removed.
  • 2 cups of milk or heavy cream (milk cause you probably have it and cream if you’re trying to put yourself into food coma & forget somethings)
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups of Italian cheeses (I used parmesan, romano, and fontina)
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • no cook lasagna noodles

What you’ll do:

  1. Melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour to form a rue
  2. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper
  3. Add cold milk or cream and continue to whisk until well combined
  4. Gradually add in cheese and continue to whisk until well combined
  5. Ladle sauce on the bottom and top with noodles, followed by squash, then sauce, then kale (salt & pepper each layer)
  6. Bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes
  7. Continue to bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until top is golden brown
  8. Allow to rest for 20 minutes
  9. Serve & Enjoy!

day 17: if looks could kill … but tastes could revive …

Ever had those moments you WISH you could have gotten on camera? Or rather, you wish you had a better photo to represent the moment that ROCKED your world? Welcome to today’s lesson in culinary genius …

On that note, tonight was all about flexibility and creativity … I realized that I was a bit behind on the start with tonight’s blog post. In a dash, I got flexible and creative. What’s in the fridge … Pork steaks, broccoli, black rice, cilantro, onions and apples … Sounds like a meal, eh? And indeed it was. BUT, let’s not forget, part of the appeal in reading a food blog is the inspiration to replicate the beautiful photo of food you see before you. One day, I’ll learn enough tips & tricks to make Teresa Blackburn of Food on Fifth proud (hopefully, she’s still keeping up with me *hint hint). In the meantime, let’s just take a leap of faith. Take my word for it … this one is worth perfecting through the lens.

Meal on the fly!

Meal on the fly!

What you’ll need:

  • Pork steaks
  • A healthy sprinkle of cinnamon
  • A healthy sprinkle of cumin
  • A healthy sprinkle of garlic powder
  • Broccoli florets
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of honey
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 granny smith apple, sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • black rice, cooked to recipe with chicken stock and 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • a handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salsa verde (I used a personal favorite’s house green hot sauce – ask nicely and I’ll connect you with that recipe one day)

What you’ll do:

For the Pork Steaks

  1. Allow steaks to come to room temperature and sprinkle with cinnamon, garlic powder and cumin.
  2. Grill steaks to your preference. I typically go for 135 internal temp and let them rest for a few minutes
  3. Make chutney (recipe below) amazing!
  4. Enjoy!

For the Roasted Broccoli

  1. Combine 2 tbsp of olive oil, lime, salt & pepper. Whisk well.
  2. Toss broccoli in dressing
  3. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet
  4. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes
  5. Enjoy!

For the Chutney:

  1. Sautee onions and apples in the remaining oil and butter
  2. Add in salsa verde of your choice (I used about 3 heaping tbsp)
  3. Toss in fresh cilantro (leave a few to dress your plate if you like)
  4. Enjoy!

*Plate it up with black rice. Get brave stir it all together. Bite, chew and continue the digestion process. You can thank me later!

day 16: always on time & in a curry shrimp with coconut milk

It’s been quite the trying day. Emotions are high and the body is weary! I understand that it’s not necessarily a food worthy topic, but if one is to appreciate one’s motivation for writing, cooking, sharing, blogging … it’s a must.

The truth is, there are two kinds of recipes – emotionally driven ones and those glorious accidents that evolve into culinary skills and expertise. When you understand that, the art of cooking becomes quite simplified. You become more interested in the story and effort of the dish than that of the outcome. It heightens the senses and becomes more of an experience vs. a taste. And as an added bonus, the taste exceeds expectation and eludes absolute, undeniable bliss.

This recipe is the emotionally driven kind – I say that as a preface. Don’t expect traditional blends or results. Open up and explore.

Curry Shrimp with Coconut Milk & Parsley

Curry Shrimp with Coconut Milk & Parsley

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of raw medium to large shrimp, deveined & peeled.
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 inches of ginger, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut thinly
  • 2 honeycrisp or other pink variety apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 plum or campari tomatoes diced
  • 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. corriander
  • 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • a dash of sriracha (optional)
  • 4 tbsp. quality olive oil
  • Prepared rice (I cooked mine in equal parts white wine and chicken stock)
  • Salt & pepper (layer each time to add something to the recipe)
  • A handful of chopped Italian parsley (I had it on hand) or cilantro

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat olive oil to medium-high. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until onions are becoming translucent & others are fragrant.
  2. Add in carrots and apples and cook until almost tender.
  3. Incorporate all dried spices. Combine until spices are fragrant & coat existing mixture.
  4. Add in tomatoes, coconut milk, and shrimp. If you’re adding in cayenne and/ or sriracha add this in now too.
  5. Cook until shrimp is tender and opaque.
  6. Allow to simmer to reduce by 1/3. Serve with prepared rice.
  7. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Lime would be delish too!
  8. Enjoy!

* Also in the spirit of being earnest, I doubled my sriracha & cayenne counts … Do not do that! I nearly lit my esophagus on FIRE.

day 15: good + good for you roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

I love roasted root vegetables! I mean seriously … the affinity is almost bizarre. Almost.

Here’s the thing … they’re delicious, easy to whip up, and with a couple of additions they go from ordinary good to extraordinary. Perhaps that is the appeal! No matter, I’m hoping this is the catalyst for the week ahead. At least I’ve done my prep work…

Roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

Roasted vegetables with arugula + goat cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt & pepper
  • a handful of arugula, watercress, baby kale or spring mix
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • sunflower kernels for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey until well combined.
  2. Toss all veggies in sauce and coat generously with salt & pepper.
  3. Roast on a baking sheet in 400 degree oven until sweet potatoes are tender and veggies have a caramel color around the edges … all the sauce should be absorbed
  4. Allow veggies to cool for a few minutes uncovered and away from heat
  5. Serve atop a bed of greens (I used arugula – the peppery flavor is fantastic) and top with goat cheese & sunflower kernels
  6. Enjoy!

*Leftovers are great the next day – no need to reheat.

day 14: soon to be famous crab stuffed mac + cheese

I spent the day being an adult … not that I’m not all the time, but the not fun part of being an adult. Car repairs. I’m fairly certain the most stoic of grown ups has shed a tear or two over just the right unexpected car dilemma. And, once you’ve paid and gotten back on the road … I think you’re entitled to a little self-indulgence. What on earth could be better a fit splurge than crab and mac & cheese? Nothing. That’s what.

This ain’t your Momma’s mac + cheese … it’s got a few twists (literally).

Crab Stuffed Mac + Cheese

Crab Stuffed Mac + Cheese

What you’ll need:

  • 16 oz. Cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente & drained
  • 2 cups of shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1 handful chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup of panko
  • 16 oz. lump crab meat
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 tbps flour
  • 3 shallots minced
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 cups fontina shredded
  • healthy dash of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank’s here)
  • 1 tbsp of quality dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp quality of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a smidge of nutmeg
  • truffle oil drizzle (optional)

What you’ll do:

  1. Sautee shallots in 1 tbsp of the olive oil until fragrant & tender
  2. Combine crab meat, hot sauce, dijon, lemon zest, lemon juice and shallots. (Careful not to over mix – you want lump crab meat not shreds). Set aside.
  3. Combine shredded gruyere, panko, parsley, and the remainder of your olive oil. Set aside.
  4. Melt butter and whisk in flour over medium heat. Add heavy cream and fontina. Continue to whisk so nothing sticks! Throw in your smidge of fresh ground nutmeg.
  5. Combine your cooked pasta with the crab mixture in a casserole dish.
  6. Pour your sauce over the crab mixture.
  7. Next top with the panko mixture.
  8. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown & bubbling on the sides.
  9. Let stand for 10 minutes before digging in. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil.
  10. Enjoy!

day 13: if at first you don’t suceed, TRY again! Sweet potato + black bean chili at last!

Woot! Second time’s a charm folks. I believe after yesterday’s fiasco, it’s worthy. This dish is served with a bit of wisdom, parody … hey, let’s put it all on the table!

Life is an ever-evolving lesson in the art of the try. It’s not enough to declare you’re going to do something. You have to truly attempt and risk failing, pick it up (if you’re determined) and make the shit (sorry for the language) WORK! Don’t you dare give up after you fumble, try again. If you don’t … then you’ve truly failed.

Now that I’ve completed my soap box rant, here’s the recipe. It’s kind of fantastic, 100% vegetarian, and frankly amazing!

Sweet potato + black bean chili at it's finest

Sweet potato + black bean chili at it’s finest

What you’ll need:

  • 1 medium sweet potato – washed, peeled & diced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock, water or chicken stock – whatever you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp of quality olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • salt & pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat olive oil to medium and add onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, zucchini, cumin and chili powder. Combine until coated.Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  3. Add stock and crushed tomatoes
  4. Add in black beans and bring to rolling boil
  5. Reduce heat and reduce to simmer until sweet potatoes are fork tender
  6. Serve with your favorite toppings – cilantro, sour cream, avocado, cheese, jalapenos, fresh lime, salsa, etc.
  7. Enjoy!

* This freezes WELL! Don’t be afraid of leftovers.