Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crispy Rice Waffles

This recipe was created out of a desire to make a light, wheat-free breakfast. These crispy treats are so light that you certainly won't be stuck with that bloated, food coma feeling after enjoying them.

Rice flour is surprisingly easy to find, but it isn't cheap. At about $4.50 for 4 cups worth of flour, it isn't likely that most people will toss out their wheat flour and stock up on rice flour. But it is a handy item to have in the kitchen and has become my go-to for breakfast breads. Rice flour has a natural hint of sweetness to it and it's powdery fine texture is divine.

Waffle irons are a fantastic kitchen utensil and everyone should have one. They don't have to be expensive and honestly, most fancy waffle irons are no better than a $20 generic one.

Crispy Rice Waffles

1 cup rice flour
1 large egg
1 cup rice milk or regular milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup blueberries (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. Let rest for 3-5 minutes. 

Lightly grease waffle iron with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Heat waffle iron. Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour batter into waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve warm with syrup.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Turkey Pot Pie

Thanksgiving is over and the leftovers abound! You can only eat so many Thanksgiving sandwiches! Why not throw some of that turkey into a delicious and flaky turkey pot pie?

Savory pies were very popular in Colonial America and have remained so ever since. Flour was a precious commodity in Colonial America and pie doughs use less flour than bread. And pie was a great way to stretch what might be considered a meager amount of ingredients to feed more mouths.

If you've finished off your Thanksgiving turkey already, then make it a chicken pot pie! Now that the chill of Winter is upon us, indulge yourself with this warm comfort food.

Turkey Pot Pie


2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
4-5 tbsp ice water

2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked turkey or chicken, shredded
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt. Cut in 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp butter using two knives or a mixer. Mix until the butter is incorporated in pea-size crumbles. Add water one tablespoon of water at a time, mixing between each until the crust is slightly sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a large pan, melt butter and bring to a light bubble. Add onion and saute for about 1 minute. Add flour and combine well.

When the flour and butter mixture begins to bubble a little, add chicken stock a little at a time and make sure to mix thoroughly between additions.

Add salt and pepper.

Simmer until thickened. Add remaining ingredients and set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut dough in half.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough very slightly. Then fold it in half and roll it out a little again. Repeat this four or five times. Then roll the dough out completely and place it in a 9" deep dish pie pan. Repeat the folding and rolling process with the other half of the dough.

Pour filling into pie crust and top with the other half of the rolled dough. Trim edges and fold under. Pinch the edges to seal the dough. Brush the top with an egg wash for a shiny crust.

Egg wash should be one beaten egg and about 2 tbsps of cool water.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving so that filling has time to set up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cider Brined Turkey!

With Thanksgiving upon us, I have received many emails about the best practices for turkey. Turkey is a very lean meat. And while that is great for your waistline, it can mean trouble for the taste and texture of your holiday bird.

Here are some tips for keeping your turkey juicy and flavorful. I've also provided my favorite brining recipe!

* Do it breast down. Yeah, that's what I said. Let your bird roast breast side down for the first two hours. This will allow some of the fat and brine in the bird to pool in the white meat, which is the dryest part of the bird.

* Baste! The skin of the turkey can dry out and become bitter. Basting will cool the surface of the skin and provide moisture.

* Tie it up. Tying the legs of your turkey together may seem like an insignificant detail, but this step is really important. The thigh meat is the most tender area of the bird and it will start to pull away from the bird if left hanging. Not only will this make your bird less pretty to look at, but it will allow precious moisture to cook away.

* Rub it down. Seasoning your turkey is a fruitless effort if you are just going to wash it all away when you baste. Rub your turkey with seasonings under the skin instead. You'll be amazed at the difference in flavor.

* Brine, Brine, Brine! Brining your turkey will allow the bird to become engorged with flavorful liquid. So even after you've been cooking that turkey for hours, there will still be enough liquid in there for a tender, juicy texture.

Cider Brined Turkey


½ gallon apple cider
1 quart hard cider
1 quart chicken broth
1 gallon ice water
2 cups sea salt
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon ground cloves

In a large pot, heat broth, apple cider, hard cider, sugar and salt until sugar and salt dissolve. Do not boil it!

Remove from heat and add remaining seasonings. Let steep for 5 minutes. Add ice water and allow brine to reach room temperature.

Soak 10-12 pound turkey in brine for at least 8 hours.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry Walnut Tart

Thanksgiving is upon us and that means it is time to take advantage of all of the seasonal goodies this time of year offers. Cranberries are an excellent anti-oxidant and they add a tangy kick to baked goods. Pairing them with sweet, velvety walnuts is a great way to showcase the flavors of fall. Add this dessert to your Thanksgiving menu and wait for the compliments to come pouring in. ;) Enjoy!

Cranberry Walnut Tart


1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4-5 tbsps cold water

1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar, granulated
2 eggs, beaten
12 tbsps unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqeuor
1 1/2 cups walnuts
2 1/2 cups cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixer or bowl, combine flour and salt. Then cut in butter. Add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Add eggs and butter and mix well. Add Grand Marnier, walnuts and cranberries and combine well.

Roll out dough and place in 9" pie pan. Pour filling into crust and fold edges up and over the top. Make sure to leave an opening at the top for steam to escape.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Video Post: Classic Chicken Marsala

Classic Chicken Marsala


2 chicken breasts, halved
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
2 -3 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup unbleached flour
2 -3 cups egg noodles

Melt 2 tbsps butter in a large pan. In a shallow bowl, combine flour, thyme, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

Dredge chicken in flour mixture and add to hot pan. Saute on medium heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

Boil egg noodles and strain.

Remove chicken from pan and transfer to skillet in warm oven. Add remaining butter to hot pan. Add onion and saute until almost transparent. Add mushrooms and saute until browned. Slowly add wine and chicken stock. Simmer for 8 - 10 minutes.

Add chicken back to pan and simmer another 4 -5 minutes.

Serve chicken over noodles and pour sauce on top.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

Today’s post is a Guest Post by the lovely and talented Jennifer Currie. Jennifer lives in Maryland with her husband and their daughter. She is a true food enthusiast in many ways. Welcome the crisp Fall weather by enjoy her amazing soup and remember to share the love. ~ Jennifer Griffith

I could eat soup every day and at any time of day. And sometimes I do! There's just nothing like a steaming hot bowl of savory, soulful, comforting love! So as this time of year approaches, I can't wait to bust out my big red pot and go to town on whatever ingredients happen to be swirling around in my head to make my all time favorite comfort food: SOUP!

One of my absolute favorite soups is Italian Wedding; it's so hearty and flavorful. It's also versatile and super simple to make. You can make it with turkey, beef, pasta or beans. This recipe has two of my favorite ingredients; meatballs and dark greens. I have been on a really big Bison kick lately, so I chose to make these meatballs with this delicious meat.

Bison is much leaner than beef and has a full flavor that will add a little richness to your broth. My favorite greens to use in this soup are Kale, preferably Dino Kale, but you could certainly use whatever green you like. Try Escarole, Swiss Chard, or Spinach. Dark greens are a great source of antioxidants, so you can't go wrong.

I think most people who have had this soup before have had it with some kind of small pasta like Ditalini or a pearl pasta like Israeli Cous cous. I like to use Cannellini Beans. I just think beans and greens go hand in hand.

Editor’s note: Wouldn’t Beans & Greens be a great name for a restaurant? J

I guarantee after you make this soup, you'll love it and whoever you feed it to will love you for it. And man, is it a great cure for a cold, blustery day! Enjoy!

Italian Wedding Soup


64 ounces chicken broth
1 1/2 cups carrot, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounces cannellini beans (2, 14 ounce cans)
1 pound kale, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 parmesan or romano cheese rind
1 large bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste

For meatballs:

1 pound ground bison
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese

Coat a large pot with extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onion, crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Next add garlic, celery, and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil. And the Parmesan/Romano rind,  basil, & another pinch of both salt and pepper, reduce to a simmer and put the lid on.

While all those flavors are combining  in your pot, you're going to make your meatballs.
In a large bowl, combine bison, egg, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper. While combining, add the cheese and breadcrumbs a little at a time. You want to make sure everything is well-combined, but still moist. Make sure you don't work the meat too much or it will become tough. The meatballs should be the size that you would achieve by using a melon-baller. If you have one, great. If not, that's fine. Just use a small spoon to help you measure out the melon-ball-sized meatballs.

Once the meatballs are all rolled out, give that soup a good stir and take out the cheese rind and bay leaf. Then, add the cannellini beans. Bring the soup back up to a boil and start adding the meatballs into the broth. Let the meatballs cook for about 5 minutes (they'll start to float). This is when youre going to add the kale and cook for just another couple of minutes. When the kale begins to wilt into the soup and all of your delicious little meatballs are floating around, the soup is done...well, just about. Turn off the heat. Ladle your servings into bowls and garnish w/freshly chopped Italian parsley and grated parmesan or romano cheese.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Photo Contest Winners!

The moment you have been waiting for has arrived! We have two winners for this contest and they are:

Lucy Lu's amazing cakes


Jennifer Currie's mouthwatering chili

You will be notified as soon as your prize ships.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sausage with Kale and Peppers

Kale is the amazing little veggie that could. Although it looks more like a lettuce, it is actually a form of cabbage. Like its relatives broccoli and brussel sprouts, kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C.

During World War II, the cultivation of kale was encouraged with the Dig for Victory Campaign. Victory Gardens, as they were called, were popular in the U.S., Britain, and Canada because of the lack of some foods due to rationing. The war efforts put a great deal of pressure on the public food supply, so Victory Gardens were a great alternative.

There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. Unfortunately, we haven't been growing anything in our little garden this summer. So I grabbed myself a big bunch of delicious kale at the market and whipped up a delicious garden fresh meal. This dish is so simple and really lets the flavor of the kale come through. Enjoy!

Sausage with Kale and Peppers


4 sausages (chicken or pork), sliced
1 pound fresh kale, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, julienned
1/2 red pepper, julienned
1/2 green pepper, julienned
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt butter on medium high heat. Add onion and peppers and saute until slightly transparent. Add sausage and saute until almost cooked through. Remove onions, peppers and sausage from pan.

In the same pan, add chicken broth and kale. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Add sausage, peppers and onions and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Contest Announcement: Food Photos

It's here! Our Fall contest!

The last contest was so much fun and this one is even better. See below for details!

Food Photo Contest

You could win this amazing Cranberry Walnut Tart!

It is so simple. All you have to do is post a picture of food YOU made on our Facebook Wall. That's it! Photos will be judged based on clarity, creativity and composition. 
The deadline for submissions is October 24th. 
Winner(s) will be announced on October 29th.
Prize(s) will be shipped overnight by November 1st. 
One submission per person. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Turkey Breasts with Mushroom Gravy

When is a not-so-great bottle of wine a great thing? When you need to make some gravy! (Don't let this stop you from having a glass of this not-so-great wine while you cook.)

I'm not even going to wax poetic about this recipe. It is just good. Plus, it is super quick and easy.

Turkey Breasts with Mushroom Gravy


2 turkey breasts
2 cups mushrooms, sliced thick
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp red wine
salt & pepper to taste

4 cups water
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

In a large container, combine all brine ingredients. Add turkey breasts to brine and let sit in the fridge, covered, for 2 to 6 hours.

Remove turkey breasts from brine and rinse in cool water. Cut into 1/4" slices. Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Do not grease the skillet. Brown turkey slices in both sides, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove turkey from skillet. Add 2 tbsp butter to the skillet. Saute garlic and mushrooms until browned lightly browned. Remove from pan and add 2 more tbsp butter. Lower heat to medium. When butter starts to bubble a little, add flour and whisk until creamy and bubbly at edges.

While whisking constantly; slowly add wine and chicken stock a little bit at a time, allowing it to thicken slightly bfore adding more each time. Salt and pepper to taste and add mushrooms and garlic to gravy. Cook for another 2 - 4 minutes on low heat.

Pour gravy over turkey (and mashed potatoes; you DID make mashed potatoes right?!) Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gnocchi with Gin Pesto

The most useless leftover in the world is mashed potatoes. No one looks in the fridge and says "Mmm! Cold, dried out, old mashed potatoes!" But don't go throwing them out right away. Those sad little taters can be repurposed into a whole delicious meal. It's true!

Gnocchi has been around in many forms for a long time, but potato-based gnocchi came about in the 16th century with the introduction of the potato in Europe. The type of potato used is particularly important. Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes will give you a mealy texture. Other forms of white potato usually result in a more gummy or chewy texture. I always go with Red potatoes. They are a little firmer once cooked and they are delicious!

And pesto, where do I start? Pesto is a simple and delicious sauce all on its own. But one of the best basil pairings often goes unnoticed...gin. That's right, gin. The floral aroma of this spirit really brings out the bold flavor of basil. If you are a little hesitant, go ahead and skip the gin in the pesto. But at least have yourself a little gin martini with this dish and you'll see what I mean.

So next time you have some leftover red-skinned mashed potatoes, don't let them go to waste. Just remember to remove the skins from the mashers before you begin. You can even make a whole bunch of these and freeze them for later use.

Gnocchi with Gin Pesto


1 cup mashed potatoes (make sure these are well seasoned)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 cups fresh basil
1/2 tbsp gin (trust me on this)
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil (use the good stuff here, guys)
salt and pepper to taste

Let's make the pesto first. In a food processor, combine basil, gin, garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil. Blend until combined well. Add remaining oil and salt and pepper and puree until smooth. Easy right?

Now for the gnocchi. First, set a large pot of water to boil.

In a large bowl, knead all gnocchi ingredients together. (Don't overdo it. Just enough to get all the ingredients combined well.

On a floured surface, shape small portions of dough into 'snakes'. Then cut into 1" pieces. (Or cut smaller for Gnocchicetti.)

If your potatoes get too warm and won't roll properly during this process, pop them in the fridge for a couple minutes.

Make Ahead Tip: If you end up with more than you will eat, this is the time to freeze the gnocchi. Put uncooked pieces in a freezer bag in a single layer and lay flat in the freezer.

Once your dough is all cut up, put gnocchi in boiling water in small batches. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Once they start to float, they are done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and toss with pesto.

Serve them right away with grated asiago or pecorina romano cheese.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mama mia! White lasagna!

This recipe makes me so happy. We've done southern Italian with our Parmesan Chicken Tartine, now its time for some northern Italian cuisine.

In northern Italy, lasagna's red sauce gets replaced with a cheesy, white cream sauce known as Mornay. I use this sauce in lasagna with red sauce as well. But today we are going all white veggie baby! No further explanation needed. This meal speaks for itself.

 Veggie Lasagna with White Sauce


6 oven-ready lasagna noodles
3 cups broccoli, chopped
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, pureed
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup asiago chese, shredded
2 cups milk
4 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried basil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Saute broccoli 8-10 minutes, until al dente.

Remove broccoli from the pan and heat 1 tbsp butter. Saute carrots, covered, for 5-8 minutes or until slightly softened.

Remove carrots from pan and heat 1 tbsp butter. Saute mushroom, onion and 1 clove garlic for 5-8 minutes.

Now we make-a da sauce!

In a large saucepan, heat 4 tbsp butter. Whisk in flour and cook until slightly bubbly. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat, still whisking. As sauce starts to thicken, add 1 cup mozzarella and all of the asiago. Keep whisking!

Add nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt, basil and remaining garlic. Once sauce reaches desired consistency, remove from heat.

In an 8x8 casserole dish, pour pureed red pepper and top with two lasagna noodles. Then layer in the following order:

Mushroom and onion mixture
1/2 cup mozzarella
Two noodles
Carrot mixture
1 cup cheese sauce
Two noodles
Remaining cheese sauce
Remaining mozzarella

Bake, covered for 20 minutes. Then bake, uncovered for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sausage Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Ok, it is officially Fall and I'm skipping right ahead to winter squash season.

There are many varieties of squash and they all have very distinct flavors. Today we are making spaghetti squash. This yellow beauty is low in calories (about 45 calories per cup) and high in Vitamin A, potassium and beta carotine. When raw, the inner flesh of a spaghetti squash is solid like other squash. When cooked, the flesh pulls away in strands that look just like spaghetti. It has a mellow flavor and is an excellent, healthy pasta substitute.

Today's recipe is sort of like a casserole and the best part is, you serve it right inside the squash itself.

Side note: It was brought to my attention that there are no pork recipes on Bon Vivant (yet). This recipe uses pork sausage but can easily be made with turkey sausage or no meat at all. Happy John Calandra? ;)

Sausage Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash, halved and cored
1/2 pound breakfast sausage, crumbled
4 cups fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup parmesan or asiago cheese, finely shredded
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a roasting pan with about 1/2 inch of water or just enough that the water level is below the roasting rack. Place squash open side down on roasting rack in the pan and bake for 30 -35 minutes or until insides are soft. (This will vary based on the size of your squash.)

While your squash bakes, heat a large non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned. Remove sausage from pan but leave the drippings in there.

Saute garlic in sausage drippings until lightly golden. Add spinach and saute until wilted.

Remove squash from the oven and using a fork, scrape the strands from the sides into a large bowl.

Add butter, parmesan, spinach and sausage and toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture right back into the squash and serve warm.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cookie Contest Winner

The cookie contest is over! You guys really put up a big fight!

And the winner is...
Liz Chepul!

Liz is a lovely southern girl (as you can see by this picture) with a talent for being adorable. What's that you say? She seems to have some beefcake on her shoulder? No, that's just her awesome, monacle wearing hubby Michael. And they won some cookies! Congratulations!

Now don't you worry, we will have another contest soon. The next one is a doozy so watch out!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Pancakes are a Sunday breakfast staple. A perfect pancake can really make you feel like a kid again. When you forget all of your grown up manners and use your fingers to swipe the last piece across a golden pool of syrup; that's pure joy. And making pancakes from scratch requires just as little effort as making them from a mix and they'll taste better!

For a long time, I hated making pancakes. Mostly because I am a perfectionist in the kitchen and I could not get them to look 'pretty' and have a fluffy texture. After much perseverance, and many failed experiments, I have a deep respect for a good pancake.

The secret lies in the flour. Many people aren't exactly clear on the differences between bleached and unbleached flour. Over time, flour naturally bleaches to white and develops a finer, softer texture and helps with the development of gluten. But nowadays, manufacturers are not interested in waiting 6 months for this process.

Manufacturers use bleaching agents to achieve this process in weeks instead of months. Products like benzoyl peroxide, calcium peroxide and chlorine are the most commonly used. For those with a delicate palate, a slightly bitter aftertaste can be detected in products made with chemically bleached flours. And even if you don't have a very sensitive palate, try eating foods made with unbleached flour for a month or so and then switch back. You will taste the difference.

Today's pancake recipe uses a blend of whole wheat flour and unbleached flour. These bad boys have a light, airy texture and are high in protein (as flour processing affects protein levels). And one of these pancakes has about as many calories as a bowl of Special K cereal (about 110 calories). Enjoy!

A few tips before you get started:
  • Heat your griddle or skillet to 375 degrees for ten minutes before you begin to cook. (If you put a drop of water on the griddle and it begins to jump around, you've got it right).
  • If you are not using a non-stick or well seasoned griddle, you can lightly grease your cooking surface with a teeny tiny bit of butter. (If you use too much, you will get a chewy crust on your pancake.)
  • Make your batter in a large measuring cup so you can pour it right onto your cooking surface.
Now go make pancakes!

Light, Fluffy Pancakes


1 large egg
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1 cup buttermilk (See Ingredient Substitutions page for alternatives)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, beat egg until fluffy (foamy). In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add all dry and wet ingredients to the egg and whisk together. If you would like to add nuts, berries or chocolate chips, this is the time to do it. Let the batter rest for about three minutes.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. As soon as bubbles form across the top of the pancake and the edges begin to cook, use a large spatula to flip. One side will always brown better than the other.

Serve immediately with warmed syrup.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We're having a contest and YOU could win it!

Enter to win today!

Are you Bon Vivant's biggest fan? Prove it!

We're giving away a dozen of our most requested cookies; Monkey Chip.
It's our first contest and YOU could win it! That's right, you!

Simply 'like' Bon Vivant on Facebook and you will immediately be entered into our voting pool. If you already like Bon Vivant, simply like any of our status updates before 9pm September 5th.
Between September 6, 2011 and September 13, 2011, your friends on Facebook will be able to vote for you on our page. The contestant with the most votes will win!
Entries will be accepted through September 5, 2011.

'Like' us and enter now!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Back with a bite: Stuffed Peppers with Cheddar Cilantro Sauce

After a short hiatus (and much needed vacation), we're back! So let's jump right in!

I love peppers; especially when they're stuffed with delicious fillings. Cultures all over the world utilize peppers in this way. In Italy, bell peppers are stuffed with tomatoes, basil and garlic. In Greece, pepperoncinis are packed with capers, fish and mint. And in Mexico, poblanos are stuffed with pork, adobo and chili sauce.

Taking some inspiration from these dishes, this recipe is a mish mash of awesome. It can be made with bell peppers or poblanos depending on your desired heat level. And topping it off with a creamy cheddar sauce just makes it THAT much better.

Stuffed Peppers with Cheddar Cilantro Sauce


4 medium sized peppers
1/2 pound ground turkey (dark meat)
½ cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, diced
1 fresh jalapeno, minced with seeds (without seeds for less heat)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, finely shredded

Heat a griddle or grill on high heat. Cut the tops off the peppers, seed and core them, and place them open side down on the griddle. Pour about 4 tablespoons of water on the hot griddle every couple of minutes to add some steam to the cooking process.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add olive oil and saute onion until slightly transparent. Add jalapeno, cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and ground turkey. Cook until browned and add red pepper.

In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat until bubbling slightly. Add flour and stir continuously until it forms a creamy paste. (This is also known as a roux.) Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Add nutmeg and cheese while stirring and remove from heat once it has reached a thick consistency. Stir in fresh cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once peppers are fully grilled, stuff with ground turkey mixture. Serve with rice and pour cheese sauce over the peppers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

German Potato Salad? Ja bitte!

I love Germany. Before I visited Bavaria, many of my friends joked that we would find nothing but sausage and kraut. Although that would have been fine with me, I found quite the opposite. There was a wide variety of traditional and international options. I have had "German Potato Salad" here in the states. But when I had it in Munich, it was entirely different. Somehow, when this dish made its way to America something got lost in translation.

On a dark and cold winter night, we trekked through the empty streets of Munich. When we came upon the Hirschgarten Biergarten, we thought it might be closed. The log cabin style building was almost ghostly in it's stillness. But as soon as we opened the door, the sounds of clanking steins and jovial conversation came pouring out.

Just sitting in that dimly lit room and smelling the aromas would be enough to drive any human to gluttony. But it was my first bite of REAL German potato salad that sent me into a full fledged foodgasm. Between that and the Schnitzel, I could have died happy right there.

So in honor of my German nostalgia, today's recipe is German Potato Salad. Enjoy and share the love!

German Potato Salad


4 large red potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
5 - 7 slices of thick cut bacon
1/2 cup peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp brown mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
nutmeg, whole (not ground)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, boil potato cubes for 4 - 5 minutes or until al dente. Remove potatoes from boiling water and place in ice water for about 1 minute.

*Quick Tip: Make sure you do not cook the potatoes completely. The ice bath will quickly halt the cooking process.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until almost crisp. Remove bacon from pan but leave the grease in the pan. Place bacon on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 3 -5 minutes or until crisp. When bacon is finished, allow to cool and chop into small pieces.

In skillet with bacon grease, saute onions, garlic and peas until onion becomes almost transparent. Add potatoes and cook on high heat for 5 - 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain off grease and add bacon to mixture.

In a small bowl whisk together mustard, olive oil and pepper until well combined. Add to potato mixture and stir to coat. Salt to taste and grate just a dash of nutmeg over the top. Serve warm.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Souvlaki: Ohpa!

This dish is the result of my love of Mediterranean food and a desperate craving one night. Traditional souvlaki is made on a skewer with roasted vegetables and is served with pita. I am not a big fan of pita and I prefer thinly sliced chicken or lamb.

The joy of cooking is finding your own twist on dishes you love. I serve this with a nice garnish of pepperoncini and cucumber slices.

Summer Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce


2 chicken breasts or 1/2 lb leg of lamb, sliced thinly
2 pieces of flatbread
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 cup tomato, diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/4 cup spanish olives
2 cups shredded romaine or spinach
1 roasted red pepper, julienned

Wrap bread in foil and keep warm in the oven.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and pepper. Whisking constantly, add oil (pour slowly so the mixture has time to emulsify).

In a separate bowl, combine cucumber, tomatoes, onion, feta, olives and lettuce. Coat this mixture with 2 tbsp of the vinaigrette mixture and refrigerate.

Coat the chicken (or lamb) with the remaining vinaigrette mixture and grill. (This only takes about 3 or 4 minutes if sliced thinly.)

Remove flatbread from the oven.  Pour some tzatziki sauce over the flatbread (see recipe below) then top with vegetable mixture and chicken. Top with roasted red pepper and a little more tzatziki. Voila!

For tatziki sauce:

2 cups greek yogurt
1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, pressed
fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine All ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Chill for 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shrimp and Asparagus Fettucine

Time to tackle shellfish my friends. Shrimp and pasta always play nice together.

So let's talk ingredients. As with other seafood, shrimp is high in calcium, iodine and protein but low in food energy. A shrimp-based meal is also a significant source of cholesterol. Shrimp consumption, however, is considered healthy for the circulatory system because the lack of significant levels of saturated fat in shrimp means that the high cholesterol content in shrimp actually improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.

Your choice of olive oil is especially important. When you are making an olive oil based pasta dish, there is nothing worse than a bland, oily taste. So choose an olive oil with a rich green color for the most robust flavor.

Now on to the yummy stuff! The key to a great dish is uniformity. Make sure your veggies are all cut to similar size to make for easy bites.

Shrimp & Asparagus Fettucine


1 pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Be sure to salt the water before it begins to boil. This will add a subtle flavor to your pasta and make for a better texture.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsps of olive oil on medium heat. Saute onion and asparagus until onion becomes translucent. Add 2 more tbsp olive oil, garlic and shrimp. Cook until shrimp becomes pink throughout. Lower heat and add remaining olive oil. Add pasta and, using tongs or two wooden forks, combine all ingredients in the pan and let cook another 3-4 minutes stirring occassionally. Salt and pepper to taste during this time.

Remove from heat and toss with fresh parsley. Top with grated parmesan and serve with a light, flaky bread and some good wine. Mmmm!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Midweek Morsels: Key Lime Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Hello fellow food lovers! Welcome to the first installment of our newest feature: Midweek Morsels. After our recent poll, y'all voted for one of my favorite recipes Key Lime Pie.

Although typically associated with the Florida Keys, the Key Lime originated in Southeast Asia and was brought to Florida by the Spanish. It is smaller, seedier, has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than that of the Persian lime. And the flavor profile of a key lime is much more tart and bitter than other limes. Most Key Lime Pie recipes utilize large quantities of cream and/or eggs which pair beautifully with the Key Lime's flavor.

Most grocery stores carry key lime juice in the fruit juice section. Don't cheat and use regular lime juice! It will not taste the same. I promise.

Key Lime Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Coconut Shortbread Crust

1 1/4 cup shortbread cookie crumbs
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
6 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine coconut and shortbread crumbs. Add butter and combine well. Turn mixture out into a 9 inch pie pan and press into pan evenly throughout. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove crust from oven and allow to cool.

Leave oven on for baking the pie.

Key Lime Pie

4 egg yolks
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces key lime juice

In a stand mixer or with a whisk, blend egg yolks and milk until well combined. Slowly mix in lime juice and stir until smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into cooled pie shell and bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow to cool before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

*Disclaimer - The photo above is a stockphoto. 99% of the time I post pictures of my food. But SOMEONE forgot to take a picture of the pie before it got eaten....ahem...Richard.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stone Soup Chili

Every culture has their one pot magic dish. If you aren't familiar with the childrens tale "Stone Soup" I'll quickly fill you in. A young man claims to have a magic stone that makes broth. He puts it into a pot of boiling water and tricks people into adding things to the 'soup' until it becomes a hearty stew. And SHAZAM! You've got stone soup.

In America, our stone soup is chili. This American staple is a mish-mash of everything from beans to ketchup. Chili recipes across the country are as varied as the country itself. The recipe used for American expeditions in the 1800's consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt, which were pounded together and left to dry into bricks which could then be boiled in pots on the trail.

Nowadays chili is a full fledged industry. Cookoffs and cookbooks revolve around this once low class dish. To honor chili's rise to fame, (and because I promised a friend a vegetarian recipe) today's recipes are Stone Soup Chili and Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins.

You can certainly add ground meat to this recipe as I do from time to time. And every once in a while I throw all kinds of random veggies in there. It is pretty hard to mess up chili, so don't be afraid to get creative.

Stone Soup Chili


15.5 ounce can kidney beans, with juices
15.5 ounce can pink beans, drained (Substitute 1 lb ground turkey or beef if you like.)
28 ounces diced tomatoes
14 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, julienned
1 tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp adobo sauce*
pinch of cinnamon
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

*You can purchase adobo chiles in sauce in the 'ethnic food' aisle of most grocery stores.

If you want to make this in a crock pot, simply saute onions, peppers and garlic (and meat if desired) and toss it all in. Cook on High for 4 hours.

Without a crock pot:

In a saute pan, saute onions, garlic and peppers on high heat for only about 3 or 4 minutes. Just enough to quickly carmelize them. In a large pot on medium heat, combine all ingredients except jalapeno and cheese. Stir well. Cover and let simmer for at least 1 hour. The longer you let it simmer, the more intense the flavor.

Garnish with jalapeno and cheddar or - my favorite - a dollop of greek yogurt.

Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins


1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup corn
1/2 cup diced jalapenos
3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk milk, butter and egg. Using a rubber spatula, mix in remaining ingredients except cheese. Gently fold in cheese.

Pour into well greased muffin pan and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

*Don't use paper muffin cups. They will give the muffins a chewy texture and they don't pull away easily.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Go Nuts: Pecan Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce

There is nothing better than the sweet, buttery taste of pecans. Traditionally used in desserts, these versatile nuts are quite underestimated in the world of savory dishes. But they make an excellent addition to fish and chicken dishes.

"Pecan" is from an Algonquian word, meaning a nut requiring a stone to crack. The antioxidants and plant sterols found in pecans reduce high cholesterol by reducing the "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats.

Whether you pronounce it "Peh-kahn" or "Pee-can", these tasty little devils are just what you need to change up your family dinners.

Pecan Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce


For Chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 4 tbsps peanut or olive oil
1 egg white
1 tbsp water

For Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

Using a meat tenderizer, pound chicken breasts to about 1/2 inch thick. (Or you can butterfly the breasts if you're feeling fancy.)

In a small bowl, whisk together honey and mustard.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. In a food processor, combine bread crumbs, pecans and salt and pulse until you have a fine crumb mixture. Pour the mixture into a large, shallow bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg white and water.

Dip chicken in egg white mixture and then in pecan mixture. Place in the pan and cook until brown on both sides and juices run clear.

Serve with honey mustard sauce on the side or drizzle it on top.

Tips For This Recipe:

*Don't let your oil get too hot! Burned pecans are not tasty.
*Taste test your honey mustard sauce. Adjust your amounts if you like it more spicy or more sweet.
*Be careful when chopping the nuts in your food processor. If you overblend, you'll end up with a paste.
*You can add more seasonings to the bread crumb mixture if you like, but don't go crazy. Let the natural richness of the pecans do the work.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

This holiday weekend, most people will be grilling. But the Fourth of July always makes me think of picnics. And when I think picnic, I think FRIED CHICKEN! So today I am presenting you with two tasty recipes. That's right, two for one! My fried chicken recipe is one that took many tries to perfect. It has a little bit of a kick to it and comes out super crunchy and juicy.

The second recipe, a southern bbq sauce, has been my closely guarded secret for awhile. But because I love you, you may have it. Enjoy and as always, share the love.

Crunchy Fried Chicken


1 pound chicken (legs, thighs, breasts)

For Brine:
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 cup orange juice

For Frying:
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps chili powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Fill a large bowl halfway with water. Add 1/4 cup salt, oregano, 1 tbsp garlic powder and orange juice. Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This process (brining) is extremely important in creating juicy chicken.

In a large frying pan, heat enough peanut oil to partially cover chicken. (See Tips & Tricks for frying)
Heat a second, lightly greased skillet on high heat. Remove chicken from brine and rinse. Quickly sear the chicken on both sides.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients except bread crumbs. In another bowl, beat the egg. Put the bread crumbs in a third, shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in flour, then into egg and then into bread crumbs and carefully place into hot oil. Fry until golden brown (5 - 8 minutes on each side).

Southern Style BBQ Sauce


1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tbsps chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsps butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp liquid smoke

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except soy sauce, butter and liquid smoke. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer another 10 minutes. Refrigerate overnight. This will give the flavors time to develop properly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ciao Bella! Southern Italian in your kitchen.

When I went to Italy, I probably ate enough food to sustain a small village. But my favorite Italian food experience was visiting a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere. These farm-based restaurants are called Agriturismo - a combination of the words for "agriculture" and "tourism" in Italian.

Starting in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, small scale farming in Italy became less profitable, and, as one might predict, farmers abandoned many farms to search for work in larger towns. But Italians value highly the traditions and produce of small scale production of food, and by 1985 a law defined Agriturismo, and many abandoned buildings and estates were restored, some for vacation homes, and many for agritourismo. These agritourismi allowed the small farmer to augment the income from the farm, and for vacationers to sample the bounty of a rural life in Italy.

There is rarely a menu, as they typically serve whatever is pulled from the garden that day. It is the freshest culinary experience I have ever had.

Parmesan Chicken Tartine


2 chicken breasts, butterflied
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with chiles
6 ounces tomato paste
1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
1 cup fresh basil
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsps dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 slices of provolone cheese
1 baguette
5 tbsps olive oil

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsps of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion until onion is transparent. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 15 minutes, until tomatoes break down. Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring ocassionally.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tbsps olive oil on medium high heat. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Dip chicken in egg and then coat with bread crumb mixture. Place chicken in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through.

Slice the baguette and toast it in the oven or a toaster oven. Drizzle the bread with olive oil then place chicken on top of the bread and cover with a slice of provolone cheese. Pour hot tomato sauce over the chicken and top with a sprinkle of cheese and a couple pieces of fresh basil.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Get your brunch on! Sticky buns for all!

As a southern girl, decadent foods are what I do best. Low fat, reduced calorie...that's all well and good. But sometimes you just need to put on your fat pants and fall in love with your food. This little recipe is made for crowd pleasing and super indulgence. As a bonus, here is our first video post!

Sweet & Salty Sticky Buns


3-4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp kosher salt
2 pkgs active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (120 degrees)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

Caramel topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup dark corn syrup

In large stand mixer or large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, granulated sugar, table salt and yeast. Add milk, softened butter and egg. Beat on low speed for 1 minute then medium speed for 1 minute. Mix in enough remaining flour to handle dough easily. On lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and springy (about 4 minutes). Place the dough in a well greased bowl, turning to coat, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until doubled.

While the dough rises, make caramel sauce. In a saucepan, heat butter and 1 cup brown sugar, stirring constantly until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup.

Pour caramel sauce into 13x9 pan and sprinkle with kosher salt and 1/2 cup pecans.

Push fist gently into dough to deflate. Roll dough into a large rectangle on a floured surface. Brush dough with melted butter. In a small bowl, combine1/2 cup pecans, 1 cup peanuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the dough. Roll the dough tightly into a loaf and pinch the edges to seal.

Cut the roll into 1-1 1/2 inch thick slices. Place the slices in the pan about 1/4 - 1/2 inch apart and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled (20 - 40 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 2 minutes. Cover pan with serving dish or cutting board and flip over. Let sit 2-3 minutes. Remove pan and serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Falafel: A piece of the Middle East

The origin of falafel is unknown and controversial. However it is widely believed to have originated in Egypt. These delicious fried balls of flavor are gaining popularity in Western countries, showing up in street carts and vegetarian restaurants.

This recipe calls for it to be made with chickpeas, but they are also sometimes made with fava beans. When made with chickpeas, falafel is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Chickpeas are also low in fat and salt and contain no cholesterol. They are also high in soluble fiber. And if you don't want to fry them, these little guys are great baked!

Falafel and Tatziki Sauce


1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 can (15 oz.) of chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg

(for sauce)

2 cups plain greek yogurt
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh cilantro

In a large frying pan, heat olive or peanut oil to 375 degrees. (If you are not sure if your oil is ready, drop a SINGLE drop of water into the pan. If it sizzles, you are ready. If it pops, your oil is too hot.)

In a food processor, combine all falafel ingredients except bread crumbs and egg. Blend well. Then add bread crumbs and blend again. Scrape the mixture out into a large bowl and stir in the egg. Scoop the mixture into balls and place in oil using a slotted spoon.

Cook until sides begin to brown (about 2 minutes) then turn and cook the other side. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

For the sauce, place ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend well. Chill for about an hour and that's it! Enjoy!

Makes about 25 falafel balls.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Never had a fish taco? You are missing out!

While visiting the tiny town of Isla Mujeres, Mexico I had my first fish taco. At first glance, 'fish taco' is not what makes my Western brain go "Mmmm!" But I am not one to pass up an opportunity to try something new. After my first amazing encounter with these delicious treats, I was hooked. I had at least one every day I was in Mexico. It didn't even bother me that no matter where I went, if I asked what kind of fish it was the only answer I got was "It's fish."

Naturally, once I was home I had to experiment with my own version of this delicacy. I am including a recipe for the hottest and most amazing salsa I have ever eaten. We discovered it at a little restaurant on the island and the owner was happy to share his recipe.

Fish Tacos & Onion Salsa


Fish tacos:
1 large cod or haddock fillet, cubed
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 can beer
corn tortillas (see recipe in previous post)

Onion salsa:
One whole yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 dried habenero pepper, minced**

Fill a saucepan with vegetable or peanut oil (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep). Heat the oil to about 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, egg, and seasonings. Pour in enough beer to reach a thick yogurt-like consistency. (You can make it thinner if you like. This all depends on how much oating you like on your fish.)

Lightly cover the cubes of fish with flour and then dunk them into the batter. Using tongs, gently drop the fish into the oil. When the edges start to brown, flip the pieces over to fry the other side evenly. Remove the cooked fish cubes from the oil and pat them gently with paper towels.

Serve with all your favorite taco toppings and enjoy!

For salsa:

** Warning: Habenero peppers are EXTREMELY hot. When handling them, use gloves and keep your hands away from your eyes and face.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions become transparent. Remove from heat and add peppers and salt to taste. It is so simple but bursting with flavor. If you love heat, you HAVE to try it!

Homemade tortillas - You can do it!

Last year Richard and I planned a trip to Costa Maya, Mexico among other places. As part of our plans, we scheduled a day to go into a small village and have lunch with the locals. What we ended up with was much more than that.

If you've never heard of Costa Maya, that's probably because there is NOTHING there. Literally. We boarded a van and drove about 45 minutes North to a small village of Mayan descendants. We bounced along the dirt roads and as we reached our destination, we were inundated with the smells of chicken and peppers.

We walked though the garden at the front of the house and were greeted warmly by a couple of lovely ladies in brightly colored dresses. The 'house' was a small straw and mud structure with large openings on either side.

We sat at a small table while an older woman taught us to shape and cook tortillas. She didn't speak any English but she gestured very directly. If your tortilla was no good, she simply shook her head and slapped it back down on the table.

The tortillas are made from finely ground corn flour called Masa. It has a different flavor and texture than cornmeal, so don't try to cheat! You can purchase Masa at most grocery stores in the Ethnic foods or Chinese/Mexican section. All you have to do is follow the directions on the bag. Basically, you mix the Masa with water until it is the consistency of soft play dough. Roll it into a small ball and then press it flat with your fingers.

The ladies that made us lunch told us that when a girl in the village is able to make a perfect tortilla, then she is ready for marriage. I made one on my first try. ;)

After your tortilla is shaped, cook it on a dry skillet or griddle over high heat. It should start to bubble a little. Once it does, flip it over and let it bubble a little more. Your skillet should be hot enough that you get a nice browning very quickly.

In Mexico, we cooked ours over an open fire but you don't have to go that far. You can also fry them instead to make crunchy tortillas for chips or tacos. So don't be afraid! Go get yourself some Masa and impress your friends with homemade tortilla chips at your next party.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Let's turn up the heat!

My fiance and I love Indian food. If you have been scared off by the unfamiliar smells and difficult names associated with Indian fare, give it another try. Americans tend to be most familiar with northern Indian dishes. But if you're adventurous, southern Indian dishes are spicy and full of flavor.

Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular Indian dishes in the U.K. and U.S. It is basically, roasted chicken chunks in a rich and fragrant red or orange colored sauce. Masala means 'mixture of spices' so there are a wide variety of masala recipes and the flavor of the dish can vary dramatically from one restaurant to another.

After extensive experimentation, I have come up with a recipe that I really love. It has a good amount of heat, but you can certainly play around with quantities and ingredients. Serve it over rice to soak up all that sauce.

Chicken Tikka Masala


2 chicken breasts, cut into 1" chunks

6 ounces greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp butter
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsps cumin
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp salt
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsps cilantro, finely chopped

In a tupperware, mix together all ingredients for marinade. Add chicken and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for two to five hours. (If you're in a pinch, you can skip this and just cook the coated chicken right away.)

Cook marinated chicken in a medium skillet until no longer pink in the middle.

In a large skillet, melt butter and saute onion and garlic until onion is transparent. Add turmeric, cumin and paprika and stir constantly. Cook until spices become very aromatic (about 1 minute). Stir in tomato sauce, cream and salt. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chicken and cilantro and simmer another 10 minutes.

Servings: 2