Thursday, October 23, 2014

Way Better than a Benedict

What happens when you take a traditional eggs benedict and put a south of the border twist to it? I was curious to find out, so my brain went into creative mode. (My dad likes to call these types of thoughts and the resulting dishes concoctions. I've been dreaming them up since I was a kid, but they have thankfully evolved from their ketchup mixed with ranch stages.) What I devised is far from your traditional benedict, and far better if you ask me or my roommate. (She was in awe.) I replaced the hollandaise sauce with a little avocado crema, the base was a cheddar scone instead of an English muffin, and the eggs were scrambled with veggies instead of poached. The result was divine.

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South of the Border Benedict
serves 1
1 cheddar scone (recipe follows), split in half
1/2 a ripe avocado
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used a mozzarella/ cheddar/ parmesan blend)
1/4 cup diced jalapenos, onions, and bell peppers
2 eggs
3 tbsp. heavy whipping cream cream
2 slices of ham
salt and pepper, to taste
oil, as needed

Cut two slivers off of the avocado, and then mash the rest of it with 2 tablespoons of the cream. Spread this over each of the scone halves. Heat 1/4 an inch of oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Cook the ham until each side is lightly browned, flipping over once to cook for about 45-60 seconds per side. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Whisk together the eggs, 1 tbsp. of cream, salt and pepper, veggies, and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pan. Once the eggs have set, scramble them up and cook until they are done. Top the avocado crema with first the ham, then the eggs, and finally the slices of avocados to serve.

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You can choose to make the benedict, or just eat this scone plain. It's the perfect portion for just one and is simply delicious. One of my flakiest scones yet.
Single Serving Savory Cheddar Scone
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
dash of salt
2 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Cut the butter into cubes, and mix it into the dry ingredients with a fork. Once the dough is crumbly, add in the cream mixture along with the cheese. Mix until just combined. Roll the dough out 1” thick on a lightly floured surface, and put it on a small baking stone. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the bottom is slightly browned. Allow the scone to rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Flavors of Belize

Tonight I explored the rich culinary traditions of the little Central American country of Belize. The official language is English, surprisingly, as Spanish dominates the surrounding countries. This is easier to understand when you consider that Belize is under the common law of the united kingdom, and their monarch is Queen Elizabeth. Most of the population can speak Spanish (56%) as well as English (63%) and Creole (44%). You can thank Belize for gum as it was first cultivated there and called chicle. They have awesome toucans, the lowest population density in Central America, and the largest cave system in Central America. With all of this in only 8,867 square miles, Belize is a country jam packed with awesomeness.

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The culinary scene of Belize is broken down into three main categories: the food of the mestizos and Mayas, the food of the Kriols (the descendants of African slaves), and the food of the Garifunas (the descendants of the native Arawaks and free Africans). The indigenous Mayans are known for their tortillas, tamales, and caldo. The Garifunas like to make a complicated bread out of cassava and use a lot of plantains. My dinner tonight was mostly Kriol inspired. The Kriols have a diverse and varied diet consisting of many native veggies, beans, rice, chicken and fish. Coleslaw, bile up (made of pig's feet), and rice and beans are some of their specialties.


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A traditional lunch time meal often served in homes and restaurants across Belize, stew chicken is what is sounds like- chicken stew. The red recado paste used to flavor the dish gives it a nice red hue with pops of green from the pepper. It's a very interesting combination.
 
Stew Chicken
1 pound chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
red recado (recipe follows)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp oil

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot. Add the chicken and brown each side for about a minute per side. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the garlic, onion, and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken back to the pan, and pour in enough water to almost cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 35-40 minutes.


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Red recado is a paste made primarily out of ground annatto, and can be used to flavor meats, fish, poultry, or veggies. It was traditionally a Mayan seasoning mixture that is popular in the Yucat√°n area of Mexico and in Belize. Be careful with this stuff. It turns everything it touches red. (Including all your dish rags.)
 
Red Recado
2 tbsp ground annatto
½ tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried minced garlic
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp vinegar
3-4 tbsp orange juice

Mix all the dry seasonings together and then stir in the vinegar and orange juice.
 
 
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Don't get this Belizean staple of rice and beans mixed up with their also popular beans and rice. Unlike the latter mentioned dish which is made by separately cooking rice and a special type of stewed beans and then combining them, rice and beans is a one pot side for a meat dish. Often times coconut milk is added in to make the rice and beans super creamy, an addition that I loved.
 
Belizean Rice and Beans
1 cup rice
2 cups cooked red kidney beans
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
 
Bring the water to a boil and with the beans, onions, and garlic. Add the coconut milk and rice, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed. Let the pot sit with the lid on it for 5 minutes before serving. Season to taste.
 
 
 
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My Belizean dinner was not quite up to par with Aruba or South Africa, but it was far from inedible. I think my main issue was with the flavor of the annatto. I just was not a fan. This was especially disappointing since I wasted a bunch of time looking for it at the grocery store, didn't find it and had to order it off Amazon, and spent $5 for two tablespoons of it. Aside from that disheartening factor of the meal, the chicken was very tender, and the rice and beans were flavorful and delicious.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An Unusual Oatmeal Combination

I am all for a nice big bowl of steamy oatmeal on a cold day. Even though they are delicious, I sometimes like to shake up my standard peanut butter and banana or chocolate oats. This slightly unusual combination of ricotta and apricot preserves yields a thick, creamy, and delicious bowl of oatmeal.

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Apricot- Ricotta Oatmeal
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 cups water
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2-3 tbsp. apricot preserves
honey, to taste

Toast the oats in a small pot over medium heat until they are lightly browned. Add the water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the oats have reaches your desired consistency. Stir in the ricotta and any desired honey, and then swirl the preserves around on top.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Card for a Rainy Day

Here's a card to bring a little sunshine to someone who is having a rainy day. It's always nice to have a couple of these on hand to give to a friend who is going through a tough time. Just letting them now you care really can mean the difference.

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I used a stamp to make the rainbow, colored it in, cut it out, and made it the top of my card. The sentiment folds up to reveal the inside section of the card that you can write on. A button holds the top in place.
 

pistachio doughnuts (1)

 
 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Unique Way to Use Masa

I love to make homemade corn tortillas, but the masa harina comes in a huge pack. I was curious to try the lime treated corn flour out on other recipes, and thus these pancakes were born.

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The masa makes super fluffy pancakes, and anything with buttermilk is deliciously soft and airy. The oddest ingredients often make the most surprisingly delicious dishes.

 

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Masa Harina Pancakes
makes 12
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp. sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp. oil
2 eggs

Mix together  the flour, masa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing until there are no more lumps. Spray a nonstick skillet with oil and heat it over medium heat. Once the oil sizzles, pour 1/4 cup of the batter at a time into the skillet. Cook each side for about a minute, until golden brown.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Summer Meets Fall

The last few (and not quite as tasty) peaches are leaving the market, and the first pecans are just showing up. It is the perfect time to make some spiced peach pecan muffins! It's not too hot too bake, not too far in to the hectic holiday season, and everyone likes a good muffin.

spiced peach pecan muffins (10)
 
 
Spiced Peach Pecan Muffins
makes 16
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups oat flour (or rolled oats blended into a fine powder)
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
3 ripe bananas
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
3 peaches, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped pecans
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil a muffin pan. Mix the flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together. In a blender, blend the bananas, yogurt, eggs, and milk until creamy. Mix the wet and dry ingredients, stirring in the peaches. Divide the batter between the muffin holes. Top each muffin with a tablespoon of chopped pecans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
 

spiced peach pecan muffins (8)
 
These muffins are food for my Georgian soul. Fresh pecans right off the tree and peaches just picked that morning are two of things I miss most about my home state. These muffins help to fill the hole GA left in my heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicken Pesto Naan Pizza

Chicken + Naan + Pesto= One of the best pizzas ever!

Pesto and chicken are a natural combination for luxury pizza. Pesto is a nice replacement for the traditional tomato sauce, and chicken adds a nice touch paired with a trio of cheeses. Using a naan bread for the crust puts an untraditional twist to it. You can follow the link to make homemade naan  (which is especially delicious), or buy the store brand (not quite as good, but easier) for a quick, tasty supper. It's like the Indian and Italian fusion pizza that will captivate you at first bite.


chicken pesto naan pizza (2)
Chicken Pesto Naan Pizza
1 naan flatbread
3-4 tbsp basil pesto
½ cup shredded mozzarella
¼ cup shredded parmesan
1 cooked chicken breast, diced
¼ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
 
Preheat your broiler. Spray oil lightly over the top and bottom of the naan. Cover the side with bubbles with the pesto and sprinkle on the cheese. Evenly spread the spinach and chicken evenly over the center. Place the naan on a broiler safe pan and cook on the top rack of your oven for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.