Sunday, January 30, 2011

Super Bowl Party Food

In just one week thousands of fans will descend upon our city for Super Bowl XLV-something or other. I, as you may have guessed, am not really a football fan. Its just not my thing. But I do share their enthusiasm for one thing- the food. Give me a bowl of chili, some pizza, or my mom's famous chicken wings and I might be able to sit through a play or two.

So I thought I'd do a roundup for those of you planning your Super Bowl Sunday feast. Here are a few of my favorite munchies that would be great for game day:

Stuffed JalapeƱos
Hank's Tomatillo-Avocado Dip
The Hungry Texan's Ultimate Italian Sub
Gasp! Chili with Beans
Spiced Tortilla Chips
Queso Flameado
Hank's Roast Beef Sandwiches

Oh, and don't forget the beverages! Only beer will do,


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hank's Roast Beef Sandwiches

Not many are aware, but my husband Hank is actually a really good cook. Its just that he rarely has a chance to shine seeing as how I'm such a kitchen-hog. I think he's accepted that cooking is a passion of mine and politely steps aside and happily eats anything and everything I make for him. Its a win-win.

But now and then I'm exhausted at the end of the day or just plain tired of being in the kitchen (it happens, I blame pregnancy). This month has been particularly uninspired, so I begged Hank to make one of my old favorites, these delicious Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Hank spent a few years as head cook that the Bagel Nosh in Arlington and learned to make a mean sandwich. This one is his adaptation of a classic roast beef with provolone and horseradish spread, its delicious on its own but I insist on the au jus for dipping.

Hank's Roast Beef Sandwiches
(printable recipe)

1 lb. thinly sliced roast beef
1 bell pepper
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. butter
4 sandwich rolls, hoagies, or bolillos
6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
fresh horseradish, or horseradish spread
1/2 lb. provolone
2 c beef broth

Thinly slice the bell pepper and onion, and saute in a bit of oil. Mince the garlic and add to the pan. Continue to cook until soft and fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter in the pan and add the roast beef slices, separate the slices and toss them around a bit to brown. Meanwhile lightly toast the sandwich rolls and make the spread.
Combine cream cheese and add horseradish to taste, we like it to have a bit of a kick but not so much that its overpowering. Add a little at a time until you get to the right flavor.

Layer the sandwiches, spread the horseradish-cream cheese on both sides, add a slice of provolone, roast beef, and finally the bell pepper mixture. Add an additional slice of provolone over the top if you like. Put these in a warm oven to melt the cheese.

Meanwhile add the beef broth to the pan you cooked the meat in. Scrape the bottom to remove any tasty bits. Season the broth with a bit of pepper and kitchen bouquet. Serve the warm sandwiches with a small bowl of the broth for dipping. Have napkins handy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Road trip: Amarillo / Canyon, TX

So far January has been a pretty hectic month for us. You may have noticed that I haven't been posting quite as frequently. Honestly I haven't had the energy to shop, cook, photograph, edit and write as much as I've wanted to. Over the holidays Hank and I found out that we are expecting our very first child! Needless to say I'm experiencing the exhaustion that comes with pregnancy. All I want to do when I get home is eat a burger, watch the tube, and lounge around- I haven't had energy to do much else.

Along with all this, we've been caring for a new puppy! We drove out to Canyon, TX this past weekend to pick up little Zeke. He's been a joy so far and we're so happy to have him as part of our growing family.
I thought I'd recap a few of the sites in case you happen to drive through this area of the panhandle. I love a good road trip, and as usual planned every one of our meals.

In true Texas fashion we stayed at the Big Texan Motel. The rooms were nicely appointed with a king bed complete with faux-suede duvet, a large western mural, and saloon doors to the closet / washroom. Across the way from the hotel is the Big Texan Steak Ranch, famous for its free 72 oz steak- that is if you can eat it in an hour. But not only do you have to eat the steak, you have to swallow all the sides- a baked potato, shrimp cocktail, salad, and a roll. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

We dined at the Big Texan, and although I contemplated the challenge I knew I was no match for that much food, and I could never bring myself to waste steak. Hank and I stuck with a reasonable portion, an 8oz. top sirloin with sides. The steak was seasoned well, extremely juicy and cooked perfectly.

For dinner we headed over to Coyote Bluff Cafe, renowned for their burgers. After such a great lunch we weren't awfully hungry but still managed to share some delicious chili cheese fries, a hickory burger for me, and a bacon cheeseburger for Hank. Both were substantial and delicious, I just wish I was hungrier.

Coyote Bluff is a great little place, we were immediately offered a beer when we walked in (Hank indulged, I of course did not), the place was packed but we only waited a few minutes before we were seated. Unfortunately we were put in a dark corner so I don't have any food photos to share but we'd definitely go back if we're ever in Amarillo.

The next morning it was time to pickup Zeke. I had planned it so we'd have just enough time to grab a quick breakfast at El Tejavan, which was just minutes away from the hotel. Unfortunately Urbanspoon had the wrong opening time listed and we couldn't wait any longer before we had to hit the road. I can say that we could smell fresh corn tortillas from outside- I wish we could have sampled them. Instead we grabbed a bite at a small diner in Canyon, the Ranch House Cafe, before going to pickup the puppy.

All in all it was a great trip, lots of good food and a nice little escape from the big city. I'd definitely recommend the Big Texan for the kitsch and great steaks and Coyote Bluff for a great burger and an awesome plate of fries.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Queso Blanco Burgers

A few months back Rebekah from Rebekah's House of Munch posted these amazing burgers. I could not wait to give them a try, a burger covered in queso? Yes please, and thank you.

These Queso Blanco Burgers have a few components but come together easily. The patty is spiced up with a bit of hot sauce, cooked to perfection, then covered with homemade queso blanco and topped with pico and sliced avocado. Definitely my kind of burger.

Now, as luck would have it my internet crapped out the day I planned to make these so I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but remembered most of it and improvised where I could, adding what I had on hand. Here's how they came together.

Queso Blanco Burgers
(printable recipe)
adapted from Rebekah's House of Munch

for the patties:
about 2 lbs. ground sirloin
1/4 lb. chorizo
3 tbsp. hot sauce (I like El Yucateco chile habanero)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. comino

for the queso blanco:
3 tbsp. butter
1/3 c diced onion
1 jalapeno, diced
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 c milk
1 small poblano, roasted and diced
8-10 oz. white american cheese, shredded
4 oz. monterrey jack cheese, shredded

pico de gallo
8 hamburger buns
sliced avocado

To make the hamburger patties combine the meat, hot sauce, and seasonings. Mix thoroughly and form into 8 patties. Grill outside or in a cast iron skillet on the stove. Set aside.

For the queso blanco saute the onion and jalapeno in half the butter until soft. Add the remaining butter, and turn the heat to medium low. Add the flour and stir together to form a roux. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Add the poblano and shredded cheese, stir until combined, adding more milk to thin to desired consistency if needed.

Assemble the burgers. Place a patty on each toasted bun, top with warm queso, pico de gallo, and sliced avocado. Serve with spicy chichurritos.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Dishes

Those of you out there who know me are already aware of the fact that I love to go thrifting. I started shopping at thrift stores soon after I learned to drive as I prepared to move out on my own, purely for economical reasons. But then I experienced the thrill of the hunt. The excitement of finding a must have piece, like buried treasure, and for only $2.62! Amazing.

These days I shop at thrift stores just for the chance to find something unique. Hopefully its furniture (see my husband's business, Toshmahal), something I can wear, (that 1950's beaded cashmere sweater? yes, thrifted. thanks.) or use in the kitchen somehow, like these great plates!

I have a severe weakness for vintage china patterns. I've versed myself in a lot of the manufacturers and pattern names, and I like to think I have a keen eye, but really the stuff I'm after is pretty easy to spot. Luckily Hank shares my taste and doesn't think it odd that we have random plates and pieces. And hey, they come in handy for food photos too! I'll have to remember that... "This? Its for the blog of course! Got to keep it interesting ya know?" Ha.
So I hoard plates. I'm ok with that.

Anyways, these are my latest acquisitions. I've lusted after the pattern on the plates for some time. The color palette, the line weight and style of the drawing- I love it! The plates are by Harmony House, which was a Sears brand in the 40's and 50's. The pattern is El Dorado. Now before you all rush off to do an ebay search, I will say that these seem to be pretty hard to find. And I will outbid you. (kidding)

The other little gem in the photo is a sombrero dip server I found this past weekend. Isn't it darling? The top portion of the hat lifts off to reveal a bowl underneath. I can't wait to fill it with warm black bean dip. It has only CA - USA on the bottom so I have no idea of its manufacturer, but would love to learn more.

What do you collect? Do you hoard dishes like I do? Or collect old microphones, fans or other cool stuff?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Potato Soup

Its been especially cold these last few days. The wind is relentless, not to mention the snow we saw over the weekend. Times like these call for desperate measures er... I mean delicious hearty soup. This rich and creamy Potato Soup fits the bill. I can remember this soup from when I was a kid, bubbling away on the stove, my dad made it every winter. Its always been one of my favorites.

This rich and creamy Potato Soup is slow simmered until the potatoes are tender and shredded cheese is stirred in for a boost of flavor. I love to top each serving with thinly sliced green onion, crumbled bacon, and an extra sprinkling of cheese. Serve up a bowl with a chunk of crusty bread, its comfort food at its finest.

Potato Soup
(printable recipe)

3 celery stalks, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. white new potatoes
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed cream of broccoli soup
1 c chicken stock
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 c sour cream
2 c milk
oz. cheese (I use half sharp cheddar and half pepper jack), shredded

thinly sliced green onion
crumbled bacon
shredded cheese

In a large pot cook the celery, onion, and garlic in 2-3 tbsp. of oil until they begin to soften. Peel the potatoes if you prefer, (I didn't) and dice into 3/4" chunks. Add the potatoes, soups, stock, butter, sour cream and milk. Stir well to combine and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through and tender. My dad says to cook them till the edges are somewhat round. Add pepper and garlic salt to taste. Shred the cheese and stir into the soup, reserving some extra for garnish.
Serve hot garnished with green onion, fresh crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese with a piece of crusty bread.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Banana Bread

Seriously? I haven't posted this banana bread yet? I could have sworn I had already but I must've got caught up in wondering whether or not anyone would really be interested. You see, I've had a go-to banana bread recipe for some time. Its good but really nothing special, just one I'd always used from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. I'm sure you have a banana bread recipe or two, maybe from Grandma or a treasured cookbook, so why would you bother trying some other recipe?

Well I thought the same thing until I read this article in the Dallas Morning News. My mom had saved it for me, since banana bread is her favorite, and was eager to see if I would make the recipe given. The author had been in search of the best banana bread recipe, one that would yield a tender, moist, flavorful bread bursting with banana flavor. It sounded like a noble quest to me, knowing that the recipe I had was just mediocre. So without delay I whipped up the recipe given in the article, and I'm happy to say it has been my new go-to banana bread ever since. The sour cream adds just enough acid to give it a good rise, and the loaf is full of chopped walnuts and plenty of banana flavor. Its the perfect thing to make on a lazy weekend or anytime you have several too-ripe bananas hanging around.

Banana Bread
(printable recipe)
from the Dallas Morning News

2 c flour
1 c sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
2 eggs
1 1/2 c mashed bananas (about 4 small bananas)
1/4 c sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick (1/2 c) butter melted, and brought to room temp.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, powder, soda and salt. Mix well and toss in the walnuts to coat. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, add the mashed banana, sour cream, vanilla, and butter. Stir well to combine.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture and stir well until thoroughly combined. Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly. Reduce heat to 325 and bake about 20 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes away clean.

You'll be happy to know that this recipe adapts rather well. Don't like walnuts? Substitute chopped pecans or chocolate chips. Want a peanut butter flavored loaf? Substitute peanut butter for half of the butter called for. Either way, this banana bread will be a hit.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina

I know most of us probably still have the after-Christmas shopping blues but it never hurts to look, right? I won't be doing any real shopping anytime soon but I thought I'd share this new to me kitchen resource.

Melissa Guerra's Tienda de Cocina is based out of San Antonio, TX. The next time I pass through I'm going to make sure I stop by, as I'm sure the store has a much bigger and better selection than the online offerings. But don't get me wrong, there's plenty in the online store to drool over.

My current favorite is the line of Pomaireware they carry, handcrafted by artisans in Chile. I hinted to Hank to get me a set of these bowls for Christmas, and he delivered! I love them, they look primitive yet modern at the same time and have a wonderful earthy quality to them. And they smell of clay- the perfect vessel for a serving of frijoles or warming caldo.

Visit Melissa's store here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Honey Bun Cake

I do my best to keep us from eating so many pre-packaged foods- sweets and snacks in particular. Hank and I successfully resist the oh-so-tempting Little Debbie snack cake display quite often, probably 95% of the time. We're determined. Even if it means one of us drags the other away by the arm like a 5 year old.
Its a reality we face.

But sometimes temptation gets the best of us. Every once in a while we'll grab a box of our favorite Little Devil indulgence- Hank likes Zebra Cakes and Oatmeal Cream Pies, while I'm a sucker for Nutty Bars and Honey Buns. And we snack to our heart's content, well almost. Most of the time we maturely ration our servings so as not to annihilate the entire box in one day.

So imagine my elation when I stumbled upon a recipe for Honey Bun Cake on Tasty Kitchen, I had to make this. And share it. There's no way I could let such richness sit in my kitchen for nightly snacking. This Honey Bun Cake truly hits the spot and definitely delivers on the honey bun flavor we all know and love. I, of course, could not leave well enough alone and decided that layering the cake with real honey buns would only make it that much more indulgent. And I was right. And I have the tight pants to show for it.

(My apologies to those of you starting New Year's dieting resolutions... remember everything in moderation, just don't give up cake!)

Honey Bun Cake
(printable recipe)
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

for the cake
1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 c sour cream
3/4 c vegetable oil

for layering
3/4 c light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
6 honey buns

for the glaze*
2 c powdered sugar
6 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

*I made the whole batch of glaze, but it wasn't necessary and was a bit too sweet for my tastes. Next time I'll make a 1/2 batch and drizzle lightly over the top. A little goes a long way!

Combine the cake mix, eggs, sour cream and oil. Mix well and set aside. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Grease a 13x9 pan, add half the cake batter. Top with half the sugar mixture and 5 honey buns. Press the honey buns into the batter a little. Add the remaining cake batter and spread evenly. Top with the remaining sugar mixture and nestle the last honey bun in the center. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

While the cake is baking make the glaze. Combine the milk and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar and whisk until combined. Pour over warm cake, allow the glaze to set for a 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pimento Cheese

I blame Hank for getting me hooked on Pimento Cheese. Had I not married into his wonderful family I might have never tried it. Hank's mom, Betty Lou, makes the finest and she was kind enough to share the recipe with me a few years ago. Here is what I make from memory, sometimes adding a little variety with hot pepper sauce, garlic salt, or worcestershire.

Pimento Cheese
(printable recipe)

1/2 lb. longhorn cheddar cheese*
1/4 onion
2-3 tbsp. pimentos, drained of liquid
salt & pepper to taste

*if you can't find longhorn cheese use a sharp cheddar

Remove the red wax and shred the cheese. Mince the onion very finely. Combine the cheese, onion, and pimentos, add enough mayonnaise to moisten the mixture and form a very thick paste. Mix well. Add salt & pepper to taste and chill until ready to serve. Tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

Hot pepper sauce, cayenne, garlic salt, or worcestershire can be added to taste if desired.

Pimento cheese is great on crackers, celery, or sandwiches. Serve to hungry, sweaty, brides on their wedding day with an ice cold negro modelo. (worked for me on my wedding day!)