Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bananas Foster - A New Orleans Necessity!

Nothing in this post is remotely close to light or healthy....

One of our favorite places to go is New Orleans, there really is no place like it.  If you like seafood (or food period) like we do, then you will be in food heaven!  Here are a few pictures from our last trip to new Orleans:

The above picture is of Jackson Square, in The French Quarter.  It's where people congregate to sell "art", give palm readings, dress up and play music, all with a bucket for you to put money in. 

This is our shadow picture, the white powdery stuff is powdered sugar from Beignets.  Beignets are deep-fried dough (I think it tastes like a funnel cake) covered in powdered sugar, they are pretty good. They are best enjoyed on the banks of the Mississippi in the early morning with a cup of coffee and loved one!

This picture is us at Commander's Palace (another New Orleans tradition and must do). Don't you love the bow-tie? 

One of our favorite places to go for brunch in New Orleans is Brennan's.  Now, you have to make sure you are hungry, because you will eat a lot, you will make yourself miserable and you will enjoy every second of it (that's what is great about New Orleans, you eat and then walk it off on your way to your next stop of culinary indulgence). I usually start out with Strawberries and Cream (yes, heavy sweetened,whipped-cream), then move on to the Eggs Benedict, and the meal culminates with the infamous Bananas Foster (yes, a 3 course meal for brunch) ohh, and don't forget the delicious french bread that comes prior to the food.  Kent wanted to mention that they have some of the best Bloody Mary's around too!

Not that it makes it any healthier, but we usually skip a formal lunch when we have this big of an early morning meal.  

I was inspired to make this dish because I learned it was one of my husband's favorite desserts and I had never made it for him (he also mentioned an ex-girlfriend made it for him and it was "delicious"), so I took it as a challenge.  

One of the Chef's at Brennan's created Bananas Foster in the 50's, I got the recipe off of the Brennan's website, but there are also many variations online. It's up to you, but I would recommend the original. You will need the following ingredients: 

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur (we used Cruzan Banana Rum)
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • ¼ cup dark rum (we used Sailor Jerry's)
  • 4 scoops vanilla bean ice cream 

*This is definitely enough for 2 people to share

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambĂ© pan or medium-large sized skillet (I used a smaller skillet, I should have used a bigger one; I think it would have caramelized better). Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. 

Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, add the rum. 

Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum (we used a lighter). 

When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream (make sure your ice cream is really frozen, it melts very quickly). Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

The picture may not look all that appealing, but rest assured it is amazing and you will be planning a trip to N'awlins before you know it! 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Macadamia Crusted Halibut, Coconut rice and Braised Endive

Apparently it has become tradition on the days I have Dr. appointments to eat lunch at Old School Bagel Cafe (yes, I had another fabulous cookies and cream cookie today) and then wander aimlessly around Whole Foods trying to find new foods to experiment with. What can I say, we love food. Even though Whole Foods tends to be more expensive for groceries, it is still cheaper than eating out.  

So, for tonight's experiment, I made Macadamia Crusted Halibut, Coconut rice and Braised Endive.  

Well, technically, Kent made the endive.   Endive is a vegetable that belongs to the daisy family and is normally served raw in salads and tends to have a bitter flavor.  However, with this recipe, the endive almost had the consistency of pasta and was not bitter at all.  

Kent started the braised endive first, it took the longest to cook.  The recipe is as follows:
2Tbsp. butter
10 to 12Belgian endives
1Tbsp. lemon juice
¼tsp. salt
cup water
Melt butter over medium low heat in a large, heavy frying pan, saute pan, or pot with a tight fitting lid.
Meanwhile, trim and discard any browned bit son the ends of the endives. When butter is melted, lay endives in a single layer in the pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Pour water down along the side of the pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook, undisturbed, until endives are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
When endives are very tender, set lid ajar and cook until endives start to brown. Turn endives over and cook until they are browned on both sides.
I started the Coconut Rice next.  I could not find a recipe I wanted, so I combined a few...  
1can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
½C water
1⅓cup rice
2Tbsp Sugar
1Tbsp. butter
sprinkle of salt

Combine water, butter, coconut milk and a sprinkle of salt in medium sauce pan. Let the mixture come to a boil, stir in rice, let boil for 1 minute (continue stirring). Turn burner to low, put lid on the pan and let cook for 15 minutes. (During this time, I had already began cooking the fish) Turn off burner, take off lid and let stand at least 5 minutes before fluffing.
This is when I added the sugar, you may leave it out if you would like, however, the sugar really brings out the coconut flavor. The rice was still hot enough to dissolve the sugar.
When Kent finished his endive dish, I had him cut up the mango.  I love mango and when I saw it at the store calling to me (Kent's name was on the label), I took it as a sign. 

If you have never cut up a mango before, it can be somewhat time consuming, I have a mango corer, but it doesn't always work with the different sizes of the mangoes.  So, I peel it using a vegetable peeler, then cut around the pit/seed.  

The large piece on the bottom left of the picture is the pit/seed, it is very hard.  

Here is the mango chopped into smaller pieces.

The recipe for the Halibut and sauce is as follows:


½mango - peeled, seeded and diced
½cup heavy cream
1teaspoon lemon juice

½cup chopped macadamia nuts
¼cup seasoned bread crumbs (I did not have any, so I used pretzels)
1teaspoon olive oil
½teaspoon black pepper
1pinch red pepper flakes
egg white of 1 egg

1pound fresh Halibut (portioned)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2cloves minced garlic
1tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a food processor (I used a small blender), combine macadamia nuts, bread crumbs (Pretzels), 1 teaspoon olive oil, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Process until macadamia nuts and bread crumbs are smooth (I like crunch, so I left them a little bit bigger). 
Pat fish dry with a paper towel.  Season fish with salt and black pepper.

 Using a brush, spread a thin layer of the egg whites on top of the fish and then sprinkle over the chopped macadamia nut mixture. You kind of have to press it into the fish.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and crushed garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Sear Halibut, macadamia side down, cook 3-4 minutes (if your oil is popping and going crazy, turn your heat down a bit), then turn over and sear the other side for 3 minutes. I use my handy fish spatula, that “Santa” brought me for Christmas.

Once the fish is seared, place fish in a baking dish and cook in the oven for another 10-12 minutes.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine mango, cream, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened. This sauce is a little tart, but it compliments the sweet coconut rice very well.
I put the sauce into the blender to make it smooth, I think you taste more mango flavor if you blend it. However, you can leave it as is.  Now, it is not exactly the most eye-appealing dish (I need more color on the plate), but it was pretty good!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Loaded Pork Chops

When I awoke from my afternoon slumber, I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. My husband set out pork chops from the freezer earlier today, so I was trying to think of a meal to go with pork chops. After looking through the pantry, the fridge and the freezer, they finally spoke to me... 

You know the commercial with the Beggin' Strips, where the dogs are running around the house screaming BACON!!!! Well, that's exactly how my husband reacts to bacon!! But, who doesn't love bacon? So, I decided to use the cooked bacon (frozen from a previous breakfast) and make loaded pork chops, creamy garlic grits, sweet carrots and salad (for those salad eaters).  

The pork chops are super easy, and delicious!! Here's the recipe:

2Pork chops
4strips of bacon (cooked and chopped into small pieces)
2Tbsp. oil (or enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan)
1/4 Cshredded cheese (I used cheddar, but anything will do)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
When I pan sear my pork chops, I always like to tenderize them, especially if they are thick. There is nothing worse than meat you can’t chew.
Tenderize pork in a plastic bag, this helps prevent splatter all over your kitchen and counter tops. I also tenderize on top of a cutting board, the husband would not appreciate the tenderizer on the granite. Then, I bang away.

When the pork is tenderized, take it out of the bag and pat it dry on both sides (you get a better sear if the meat is dry). Then, season both sides with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.
Turn your pan on medium to high heat. Let the oil heat up a few minutes. 
Put the pork chops in the pan and let cook for around 2 minutes, or until the pork has a nice golden brown color. Let it cook on the other side for the same amount of time. Turn the burner on low and let the pork chops finish cooking (About 15-20 minutes). 

Put the bacon and cheese on top of the seared pork chops, let the cheese melt. turn off burner and let pork chops rest (about 5 minutes) before eating them.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If you give a Gooch a Muffin...

If you give a Gooch a muffin... he'll probably want another one (even if it's a bran muffin)

Bran muffins definitely were not my muffin of choice.  Every time I had one, they were dry, heavy and had no flavor.  My mother got this recipe from a friend, and, like every other recipe, we have been experimenting with it.  

I am not sure it's the healthiest, but I will eat them in the morning between 6 and 7 and not get hungry until lunch (even being pregnant).  

The best thing about this recipe is, you make it and cook the muffins as you want them.  

6 Week Bran Muffins

1(10 oz.) Box Bran Cereal
5C. Flour
3C Sugar
5tsp. Baking Soda
2tsp. Salt
1qt. (4 cups) Buttermilk
1C. oil

Yield: between 50-60 muffins (depending on size)
Mix Bran, flour, baking Soda, Sugar and salt. I mix until the bran has been beat down.

Then add buttermilk, eggs and oil. Mix until all of the ingredients are blended.  

Store in an air-tight container in refrigerator. The batter is better after it has set overnight.  

When you are ready to make muffins, take out only what you need.  If you are not going to add anything to the batter, spray muffin tins with oil (liners are optional)  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (or until they are baked all the way through) or 7-8 minutes in the Babycakes cupcake maker.  

**If the muffins are dry, and the batter is super thick, you can add buttermilk to the batter until it is at the desired consistency. 

Here is where the experimenting part comes in...If you want to add anything to the batter, scoop out however many muffins you are going to make (I use a medium sized cookie scoop) and put it into a bowl.  Then add one of the many options below.  (measurements below are when making 6-8 regular sized muffins, if you are baking more than that, you will need to adjust):

-Orange zest and cranberries: zest of 1 orange, a couple of tablespoons of orange juice and a handful of craisins
-Dried blueberries/strawberries: add in a handful of your favorite dried fruit
-Banana: Mash up and add to mix (with or without pecans), they are very moist!! 
1 mashed banana

-Chocolate Chip: add a handful of Chocolate chips, I use the mini chocolate chips (Chocolate chip is my favorite way to have the muffins) 
-A Spoonful of your favorite jam: it just adds a little fruity flavor
-Raisins: add a handful of raisins to the batter
I have also used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 regular flower, the batter was dry, so I added more buttermilk to get it to the consistency I wanted.  

For Christmas, I received a Babycakes cupcake maker.  I have been using it in the mornings, to make these before school. You don't have to turn on the oven, and the muffins only have to cook for 7-8 minutes (do not need liners). When you are done, you just wipe it down. 

This is definitely one of my favorite cooking gadgets right now.  
For our Valentine's Day party at school, we made cupcakes using the cupcake maker and we had a cupcake party. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Marshmallows...White fluffy goodness

What do you think of when you hear marshmallow? My thoughts immediately go to smores, or rice krispy treats, both of which are amazing.  But do you ever just crave a marshmallow? 

I merely thought of marshmallows as an accessory... until I started experimenting with them. I tried a few different recipes, this was my favorite. This recipe is guaranteed to change your perspective on "the marshmallow".  

The first time I made them, I was a bit overwhelmed and I wondered if it was really worth it, but now that I have made them, it is SO worth it.  I must warn you, it is a bit time consuming... you make them, then let them set over night to dry out. 

Here is what you will need;

tablespoons unflavored gelatin (I use 3 packets of Knox Unflavored Gelatin)
cups granulated sugar
1cup light corn syrup
¼teaspoon salt
2tablespoons pure vanilla extract (I like to use Almond liqueur, but Godiva liqueur and Grand Marnier is also good)
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
Combine gelatin and ½ cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand at least 30 minutes. 
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and ½ cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.
Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.
With stand mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. I put a towel over the mixer so I do not have stuff everywhere. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla (or preferred flavor); beat to incorporate.

Spray an 8 × 12-inch glass baking pan with pam and lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, I usually PAM my spatula (it gets very sticky). Dust with confectioners’ sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out.
If you want to add any extras (chocolate chips, coconut, sprinkles) now would be the time to do so, while it is still warm so they stick to the marshmallow. 
When I cut them, I use lots of confectioner’s sugar because it is so sticky! I usually try to cut them into 1 inch squares.  I ALWAYS end up getting powered sugar everywhere and making a mess, however, when Kent cuts them up, it takes him no time at all and his area is spotless (go figure).  

I have made red and green marshmallows before, using food color, however, you need to use the food coloring gel, not the liquid.  The liquid food coloring makes them too sticky.  

My favorite way to eat them... is roasted over the stove, it's very similar to eating the top of the creme brulee.  They are also great in Hot chocolate or dipped in chocolate sauce!!! 

They also make great gifts, they get sent out in the Christmas goodie bags, and a few lucky recipients received them today for Valentine's Day!