Saturday, December 31, 2011


Here's to a great 2011 and a wonderful 2012!













Friday, December 2, 2011

Accidental Apple Cake and the Holiday Season

I haven't been blogging much lately. Obviously. Food and I have a funny relationship right now. At times, I know exactly what I want and will stop at nothing to create or obtain it. This apple cake falls into that first scenario. Other times, nothing sounds good and I try to piece together a relatively healthy meal. And still, at other times, what sounds good when I start preparing has no appeal once it is ready to eat, so I have a couple of bites and call it a day.

Combine the strange food relationship with (seemingly) never-ending fatigue and there is not much blog material, sorry to say.

There are reasons for this food madness. I am pregnant: we are expecting our first child in May. 
(That sentence deserves a million ! after it - we are so very excited - but one by itself did not fit, maybe because this is not an AIM conversation or, in this age, a teenage text message.)

This time last year, I was excitedly preparing for the holidays. This year, not so much, at least not yet. Presents are almost all purchased, plans are made, and so on, but I'm having a hard time fully embracing the season. Is it the exhaustion? Maybe. The overwhelming desire to empty my house of almost everything we don't use on a daily basis? Something like that. It might be the stresses of the past month, with travel (the husband to a conference and the both of us to a wedding - congrats guys!) and holidays to host and massive career-affecting exams to pass (American Institute of Certified Planners, and I passed!). But we got through all of that, we are starting to relax and let the holiday season wash over us. The autumn-themed dishes that came out for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving certainly helped.

One of the first things that has sounded good and remained good throughout its life over the past few months has been this apple cake. The cake started as simmered apples and cinnamon to enjoy over ice cream after the Thanksgiving meal and perfect turkey, and finished the next morning as a moist, spiced apple cake with crumb/streusel topping. Because it was an accident, or at least an experiment, there are no photographs of the process.

Johnagold apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
Pink Lady apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Heat all ingredients except for water over medium-low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Some of the apples will start to break down. Reduce heat and cover, let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add water as needed if the mixture gets too thick or dry. Remove from heat. Can chill overnight.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour (all-purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream*

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch springform pan or similar (the batter came within 1/2 inch of the top of my 3-inch tall springform pan, for reference). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat each until incorporated. Add vanilla, beat until incorporated. Remove from mixer. Add one cup flour and baking soda, stir until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon sour cream, stir until incorporated. Add another one cup flour and baking powder, stir until incorporated. Add second 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon sour cream, stir until incorporated. Add third one cup flour and nutmeg, stir until incorporated. Fold in apples mixture. Pour into your prepared pan.

4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons oats
5 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into chunks

Combine all dry ingredients (no butter) in a bowl or small food processor. The food processor will grind the oats a bit, or if you prefer them whole then skip the processor. Add the butter and rub into clumps with your fingers, or process in pulses until combined and crumbly. Sprinkle topping over batter in pan. Bake for 55 minutes or longer, until cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean (might not be completely clean if it pierces an apple). Immediately remove the springform shell and let the cake cool. Serve warm or cool with whipped cream for dessert or coffee for breakfast.

*If you have 8 ounces of sour cream and no more, you can use yogurt or something similar in its place.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

It's the end of November. How did that happen?
Thanksgiving has come and gone, and this year was surprisingly uneventful. We had planned to host a small group this year, the Husband's mom and my folks, but his mom was prohibited from flying because of a nasty illness. We had a small, 4-person meal, with a 12-pound bird for the three of us who eat such things. We tried a new turkey recipe, and while it cooked faster than expected, the results were stunning and magazine-worthy. The gravy was also outstanding. We omitted the wine and used our homemade broth to de-glaze the pan. I'm sure it would have been just as amazing with the wine.

The only thing I might do differently next time is figure out a way to get a little more flavor into the turkey. We stuffed the cavity with herbs, celery leaves, and onion, but I wanted a little more. The gravy took care of things this time around, but it would be nice to enjoy a flavorful piece of turkey without the gravy.

The leftovers made several of the all-important day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and a delicious turkey pot pie.

(Please forgive me for not including the turkey and gravy instructions. Saveur did a lovely job at capturing everything you need to know (and more) about this process.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Absent, but not forgotten

I promise I haven't forgotten about you. I was waiting for the lovely dear husband to finish his pizza post, but that was ages ago. You will be reassured to know he takes responsibility for the stagnant nature of late.
So, while we wait, here is something to hold you over. And please feel free to bug the heck out of him until he gets it together and posts. Apparently writing a dissertation and fixing the house from the flood take a lot of time. Or so he says.

Last winter. Snow.

Taco seasonings.

Hot. September 25. The high at the house that day was 110. 

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pizza Throwdown

We took our annual Canada trip a few weeks back, and a part of that trip was the annual food throwdown, or cook-off if you're from around here. Last year was wings, this year, pizza. There were 6 entries and 5 judges, an afternoon of pizza cooking and eating, and lovely Canadian weather that meant we could spend most of the day outside. Prizes include bragging rights, drinks service, and, this year, the privilege of choosing the theme for next year's competition.More on that one later.

The Husband spent several weekends prior to the trip practicing, preparing, and generally making lots of pizza. We tried crust recipes, sauces, and a variety of toppings before settling on our favorite combination. As we learned, however, only so much preparation with American ingredients can be done for a contest in Canada. Food is different up there. We couldn't find the tomatoes or the sausage we wanted to use, but we made due and the substitutions were more than adequate. Our WINNING recipe for dough, sauce, and toppings will follow this post, with a few words from my first guest blogger, the Husband himself. (That's right, we won the pizza throwdown!)

(Side note: I love going to the grocery store in Canada, because they do have different foods, brands, and produce readily available. In Canada, Kraft makes peanut butter. Even so, after this trip, and the failed attempts to find particular pizza ingredients, I was very thankful for my HEB waiting for me back home.)

Here are some of the moments from the contest:

Making Pizza

The Judges' Table

Kitchen Work
Tossing Dough

Another Contestant

The Final Contestant (and the winner!)

Judges hard at work

Judges discussing their tastes

Presentation to the Winner

We did it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vanilla Beans and Tito's Vodka

Finally! My vanilla beans arrived, and the husband brought home a small bottle of vodka, so my vanilla making can commence.
I chose a lovely bottle of my favorite vodka, the locally distilled Tito's, for the base. Vanilla beans from Mexico will infuse their rich, slightly smokey flavor over the next 2 to 6 months. 

Apparently, all I have to do is shake it occasionally (and be patient) and after awhile, I'll have some fantastic homemade vanilla.

I'll keep you posted, with pictures monthly and a review of the final product once I deem it recipe-worthy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fish Tacos

Mmm. My relationship with tacos only recently expanded to include those with fish. They were rare, hard to spot on a restaurant menu growing up, at least here in Texas, or my eating habits did not include much fish, a direct consequence of only eating (and not much liking) gefilte fish, according to the Husband. Things might have been different in, say, California. A Bon Appetit (involved, multi-step, chill overnight) recipe got me started, and we've adapted it and changed  up some of the components so it can be a quick weeknight meal instead of a drawn-out, only-on-the-weekend affair.

We actually made these ages ago, but I found the pictures over the weekend and almost cried because I hadn't shared them yet. Okay, maybe not, but I was curious as to what was taking me so long to get this goodness to you.

Ingredients and directions, since there are many components

4 to 6 oz fish per person (we used tilapia, we've also used salmon and orange roughy)
1 tablespoon achiote paste (found in the Latin food aisle, comes in a box)
1 table spoon olive oil
1/2 cup flour (optional)

Combine the achiote paste and olive oil in a small bowl. Slather onto the fish, and cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to four hours if you've got time. While the fish is chilling, prepare the other components of the dish, so everything is ready to go when the fish goes in the pan.

Coat both sides of fish lightly with flour prior to cooking. (Optional)
Cook in a large pan over medium high heat, turning once, until cooked through or desired doneness is reached. Cooking times vary for different types of fish.

1 cup black beans
1 cup corn
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro (or to taste)
1 cup chopped onion, rinsed
Jalepeno, or serrano, chopped (seeds have the heat, use gloves or be very careful and don't touch your eyes while handling chili peppers)
1 tablespoon lime juice, or more to taste
Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, lime juice, cilantro, and heat as needed. Ideally, this salsa will sit for a couple of hours or longer to allow flavors to combine, but it doesn't have to.

Chipotle Mayo
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chilis in adobo, plus one half to one chili chopped
Combine mayo and sauce (and chili if using) in small bowl, stir to combine.

Olive oil
Chili powder (or other spices as desired)
Brush tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle with spices. Grill tortillas for 30 seconds on each side, until heated through. Grilling tortillas gives them amazing flavor.
(no pictures of that part, sorry)

Other toppings, as desired
Cabbage, sliced or shredded
Mango, chopped
Fresh lime wedges

We start with tortillas.

Then add the chipotle mayo, then the fish.
Next comes salsa, cheese, and mango. I add cabbage at this step but the husband does not.

Avocado tops it up, then time to enjoy!