day 30: much ado about cauliflower

I have my grocery list … I’ve had the talk with myself … “Nothing that’s not on the list, Shamille” … I enter the store … but there’s a SALE on cauliflower. 2 for $4 … what, what? I’ll take both. Every single time … this is the chat I have with myself and every time I loose the list game.

So since I’ve procured both of these ever-elusive sale cauliflower heads … I’ve had cauliflower with yogurt dip, cauliflower in curry, mashed cauliflower, cauliflower salad, cauliflower soup … What now? Roast it!

Roasted cauliflower with Parmesan + Paprika

Roasted cauliflower with Parmesan + Paprika

What you’ll need:

  • A head of cauliflower (or whatever you have on hand – don’t get suckered by the sale), chopped into florets
  • a healthy sprinkle of smoked paprika
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • kosher salt a generous coating
  • fresh ground black pepper … a generous bit
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on cookie sheet
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, & paprika
  4. Bake for 15 minutes and coat with parmesan
  5. Bake another 5 minutes
  6. Serve hot with whatever you like
  7. Enjoy!

day 25: snappy shaved brussel sprout salad + white balsamic lemon vinaigrette

I’m not big on trends in food … I like what I like and personally, I think it’s delicious all the time. Some foods have had the misfortune of encountering me ill-prepared, inexperienced or drenched in cheese. Brussel sprouts, for years, have fallen into such a scenario. Imagine my surprise when EVERYONE, and I do mean everyone suddenly starts touting the best shaved brussel sprout salad in town (ick)!

That being said, I’m not one to give up. To date, I’ve had 4 variations out on the town. Not that I’m not impressed or inspired. But, when you discover for the first time brussel spouts are not disgusting, I think it only fair to let their natural flavors shine. So to the kitchen I go!

Remember this … anything that someone has skillfully created in a restaurant, you can learn to do for yourself at home. Dining out is an opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience of the atmosphere AND the fare. Don’t you deserve that at home too?

Shave brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

Shaved brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves removed and sprouts shaved (use a mandolin or simply cut very carefully)
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, shaved or cut thinly
  • 1 cup of shaved pecorino cheese
  • 2 tbsp or juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp quality olive oil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave nectar

What you’ll do:

  1. Toss sprouts, onion and cheese in your favorite gorgeous bowl and set aside
  2. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey until well combined
  3. Whisk in olive oil slowly and until emulsified
  4. Toss sprouts mixture with your dressing
  5. Enjoy!

*Undressed salad last for days in the fridge! Make a batch for the work week.

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 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 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 11: have your (cornbread) cake & eat it too!

The question of sweet or savory is just about as infamous as the Hatfields & the McCoys, but we live in a world where everything you crave is essentially in reach … so why on earth should your cornbread recipe suffer on one side of the fence? Exactly! With cornbread, you can have your “cake” and eat it too! Sweet, spicy Mexican cornbread … you’re just 15 minutes away.

Mexican Cornbread for the cold!

Mexican Cornbread for the cold!

It’s no secret that I do not bake. Thank goodness for those of you who do! Now, it’s not that I don’t crave a baked good or that I can’t. It’s the measuring, weighing, timing, fretting … I am not a fan. But, I will go to great lengths to ensure that my cornbread is perfect!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 milk or buttermilk (I used buttermilk – comes in handy to simply keep on hand)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of whole kernel corn (fresh or thawed frozen)
  • 1 serrano pepper, washed & diced with seeds
  • 1 tsp chives chopped
  • canola oil for greasing muffin tin

What you’ll do:

  1. Coat bottom of each muffin form with a drop of two of oil and place in oven & preheat to 400
  2. Combine all ingredients. It will be a bit lumpy … it’s OK!
  3. Pour directly into preheated muffin tin (edges will start to cook immediately – that’s perfect by the way)
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a knife slides cleanly from the center.
  5. Serve with butter, chili, your favorite soup, plain.
  6. Enjoy!

day 6: sunshine all the time + anytime asparagus

This lovely side always brings a little sunshine to a cold, dreary day. Though I can’t take credit for this one … After all, I always thought asparagus was a my way or the highway type veggie. Grilled. Steamed. Boiled and grey. Anne Burrell gave me some inspiration and taught me a trick or two. The key here is to remember that green should stay GREEN. Do not serve your guests, your children or your worst enemy overcooked vegetables (they will resent you for it – as they should). Oh, and in this case salt is most certainly your ally.

Serve this as a side dish, an add-on to your favorite salad (mine is baby kale with pickled beets & goat cheese), or all alone (with a sprinkle of fresh reggiano). You won’t regret adding this one to your arsenal. Mark my words!

Something new to do for asparagus

Something new to do for asparagus

What you’ll need:

  • Fresh asparagus spears
  • A juicy lemon
  • Quality red wine vinegar
  • Quality olive oil
  • A healthy amount of kosher salt (more than you’d think you’d want or need)

What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 1 quart of well salted water to rolling boil
  2. Prepare a salted icebath
  3. Snap the ends from your asparagus spears (they’ll “tell” you where they need to be cut, just apply a little pressure)
  4. Drop spears into boiling water and allow to return to boil. Spears should be bright green (think fresh spring grass)
  5. Remove spears and place immediately into icebath
  6. Drain once cooled (just a few minutes). Spears should be tender yet crisp
  7. Cut into diagonal 1.5 inch pieces or leave whole (your choice)
  8. Drizzle with olive oil, red wine vinegar and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
  9. Enjoy!

day 5: this is nothing to turnip (gratin) your nose at!

I have a huge family. I loose track of names, kids, ages, birthdays … I should be ashamed, but I’m not the only one. Sometimes I think my gran remembers us all by the foods we request of her. Granted, there are hundreds of her staples I just can’t get enough of. However, her turnips have set me apart. I do believe I’m the only one aside from her that actually looks for them, much less enjoys them.

In light of the fact that I went to 2 stores in a torrential, frigid downpour looking for something (anything) to inspire me, I gave up and went home. Scanning the contents of my refrigerator, I discovered TURNIPS and milk and cheese. Gratin it is! Believe me, it’s delicious and worth a shot – especially if you like so many have discarded the root of your greens or haven’t dared to give these lovely treats a second glance.

Cheesy, buttery, peppery, turnipy goodness!

Cheesy, buttery, peppery, turnipy goodness!

What you’ll need:

  • 3 medium turnips, peeled and sliced paper thin
  • olive oil
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. of dried, crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese

What you’ll do:

  1. Oil a baking dish (I used 4 individual casserole baking dishes)
  2. Preheat oven to 375
  3. Layer 1/4 of the sliced turnips, a bit of salt & pepper, and parmesan
  4. Continue up to 4 layers (or until you run out of the mixture)
  5. Combine butter, rosemary and garlic over medium low heat
  6. Add flour and whisk in milk, once thickened remove from heat
  7. Pour mixture over gratin
  8. Bake covered for 30 minutes
  9. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
  10. Allow to set for 15 minutes
  11. Enjoy!

day 3: beet, beet, sugar beet … sugar beet, beet, beet (pickle)!

The holiday season brings all sorts of traditions out in full affect. Things that we forget about every other day throughout the entire year. Then, like clockwork, the smells and memories come flooding back like a typhoon. Today is no different. Amidst the ornaments, pine needles, and holiday cards from days of old there’s the memory of my grandmother’s beet pickle.

I remember going away to college, being far away from my loved ones and friends, all the while thinking of her kitchen. Her infamous back room lined with the fruits of the season in those ever-so familiar mason jars. Green beans, apples, chow-chow (southern relish for everything) and my FAVORITE pickled beets.

As we age, it’s our responsibility to carry on these moments to the next crew of folks … be it kids, in-laws, extended family, friends who are your family and beyond. So, when my mother and my aunt took the time to learn to make these delicious pantry treats … well, let’s simply say I jumped on the opportunity to learn on my own. I’m sharing with you today. *Please remember this gracious gift when you’re out shopping and someone steals your parking spot.

And for you 80’s kids, with your throwbacks … ah, the memories!

Gran's Beet Pickle courtesy of Mom

Gran’s Beet Pickle courtesy of Mom

What you’ll need:

  • 2 bunches of fresh beets (6 medium sized)
  • latex disposable gloves (beets stain EVERYTHING – don’t try to cheat on this one)
  • 2 cups of quality apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 bay leaves (one for each jar)
  • 2 wide mouth mason jars

What you’ll do:

  1. Put on gloves
  2. Peel and rinse beets
  3. Cut beets into halves then into 1/4 inch slices
  4. Bring all ingredients to rapid boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to continue gently boiling until beets are slightly tender.
  5. Transfer beets into jars and cover with brine (pickling liquid – and yes, you’ll have extra. Save it, we’re using it tomorrow).
  6. Seal ’em up! And allow to cool to room temperature. This will preserve the pickle.
  7. Thank my mother for sharing her altered version of my grandmother’s recipe profusely
  8. Enjoy!

*Note: Pickled beets are delicious on salads, in the company of charcuterie platters, a side for your simple country ham sandwiches, by themselves or with slow cooked beans!

**Further note: The brine described about is a wonderful way to pickle just about ANYTHING (don’t forget, I’m a Southern gal).