Fall-apart Pot Roast


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Who doesn’t love pot roast? Well, I suppose some of my vegetarian friends are not fans, but most everyone else I know deems pot roast as the ultimate comfort food. However, I have heard many friends complain that they have not been successful… that often the meat comes out tough!

Contrary to belief, tough pot roast is not a result of over-cooking… but of UNDER-cooking! And the science of that is not always consistent. For example, the rule of thumb is to cook low and slow, about 1 hour per pound of meat. But temperatures in ovens vary and sometimes the weather can throw everything off… so shoot for an hour per pound, but if it’s not falling apart tender then put it back in and check it every 20 minutes. I had a small 2lb roast this time, yet it took 3 hours. You just never know. But the longer in the oven the more the connective tissues break down and turn into succulent deliciousness.

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Cheesecake with Cranberry Port Compote


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I am generally not a dessert person. Often, when out to dinner, I opt for a second glass of wine over ordering dessert. If I’m going to spend the calories, I’d rather it be on wine. 🙂 But cheesecake has long been a weakness of mine. And this just may be the most perfect cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. Adapted from a couple of recipes I’ve researched, below is the final product after much trial and error.

Also, I’m dedicating this post to my sister Brenda… who two days before Christmas was madly searching stores for a cheesecake without toppings. When I said, “It’s too bad you don’t live closer, I’m making cheesecakes tomorrow.”  She replied, “Wait. You can make a cheesecake?”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we come from the same womb.

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Nine Hour Burgundy Mushrooms


Beautiful Burgundy Mushrooms

The irony of this post is that I generally don’t like mushrooms. But I read about these on the Pioneer Woman’s site and her description alone made me want to spend the 9 hours it takes to make them! These are definitely for a special occasion because who typically has an entire 9 waking hours at home? But maybe this winter if you’re snowed in or just want to spend that chilly Saturday in your pj’s and have a legitimate excuse not to leave the house… then that’s the perfect occasion!

You can get a lot of miles out of these beauties. And whatever you do – save the cooking liquid! It’s to die for…. dip bread in it, use it as a soup broth or my favorite – make mushroom risotto with it! Be sure to read The Perfect Bite below for additional ideas.

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Sriracha-Pomegranate Chicken Wings


 

useGenerally, I try to post only my original recipes on here… but this one is too good not to share! Plus, every time I make these people insist on having the recipe “right away.” So, courtesy of one of my favorite Food Network stars, Aarti Sequeira of the cooking show Aarti Paarti, I present to you, Sriracha-Pomegranate Wings! As Aarti likes to say, “Serve these and people will write poetry about you.”

I have made these for several different occasions and without fail I get the same reaction, “These are the best wings I’ve ever tasted.” And often, when running into folks weeks after the event, I hear, “I can’t stop thinking about those wings!” I’m perfectly content bragging like this because, well, it’s Aarti’s recipe and she gets all the credit.

So get ready – Super Bowl is right around the corner. So start shopping for some of these ingredients, unless you’re like me and your pantry is already stocked with Indian spices. 🙂

(HINT: You can usually find pomegranate molasses at gourmet stores, better supermarkets, Indian and Middle Eastern stores. If you can’t, don’t fret. Grab yourself a bottle of pure pomegranate juice, pour it into a saucepan and boil it down until it reaches a loose syrup consistency. Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t burn. There you have it. Pomegranate molasses. Sriracha is available in the international aisle of your supermarket — it usually has a little rooster on the label, and a bright green top. It either comes in a jar (more chunky) or a squeeze bottle (pureed). If you can’t find it, or don’t like it, any hot sauce or Tabasco will do. A little chipotle Tabasco would be awesome!)

Ingredients
2lb chicken wings (about 12)

Rub:
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cracked black peppercorns
8 green cardamom pods, cracked open, seeds removed, husks discarded (if you can’t find these, use 2 tsp cardamom powder)
2 tsp cumin seeds
4 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp kosher salt

Sauce:
4 tsp grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp reserved spice mixture
2 tsp Sriracha (Thai chili sauce; use more if you like it spicy!)
2 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp minced or torn mint leaves
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cold butter

IMG_1669Preparation
Pat chicken wings dry with a paper towel; don’t skip this step! This will both help the rub adhere, and ensure crispy skin.

Place a small but heavy skillet (I like using a small cast iron one) over medium heat, and add coriander seeds, cracked black peppercorns and cardamom seeds. Toast, shaking pan often for about 1 minute.

Add cumin seeds and toast another minute until seeds have darkened, are fragrant and faintly smoking. Immediately transfer to a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder, and grind to a fine powder.

Grab a bowl large enough to hold all the wings (or giant zip lock if you must). Pour ground spice mixture into the bowl, and add the mustard and the salt (and the cardamom powder if you’re using this instead of seeds). Whisk to combine. Reserve 4 tsp of this mixture for the sauce (see below). *I would encourage making a double batch of this rub, as you will want to keep extra handy for other meals. It’s amazing on beef or shrimp.

Drop wings into the large bowl or zip lock; toss to coat the wings well. Let those puppies sit for about an hour.

Ready To Cook?
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack over it, and grease with cooking spray (or brush with grapeseed oil oil). Place the wings on the rack, at an even distance from each other. Pop into the oven for about 45 minutes, flipping the wings over halfway through, and rotating the baking sheet for even cooking.

As the wings are roasting away, make the sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the grapeseed oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the reserved spice blend; cook another 30 seconds. Then add Sriracha sauce, pomegranate molasses and mint leaves. Stir, and cook for about 5 minutes, before finishing with the butter and the lemon juice. Stir. Taste for seasoning and set aside off heat.

When the wings are done, toss with the sauce. Avoid the temptation to eat them all yourself.

Recipe courtesy of aartipaarti.com
Link to recipe here  (Aarti even gives me a shout out!)

The Perfect Bite
So, this might depend on whether you like the drum or the flapper. For me, the perfect bite is the chubby part of the drum. What about you?  Now, I have gone to the trouble of making a yogurt mint sauce for dipping each time, but no one really goes for it. The taste of the wings, by themselves is so profound… why mess with perfection? So just dive in.. because really, the perfect bite is every bite.. including the licking of fingers and your now numb lips.

The Perfect Pairing
Fact: Indian food is incredibly flavorful and can be quite spicy.
Fact: India pale ales are incredibly flavorful and can be quite bitter.
Fact: It’s difficult to pair beer with Indian food.
Fact: It’s difficult to pair food with IPAs.
Fact: Indian food and IPAs were made for each other, literally.

These wings are merely Indian-inspired but have many of the traditional flavors…and with the sticky sweetness of the pomegranate molasses and the earthy, smoking spice rub – an IPA is an ideal choice. That said, I’m no expert on IPA’s to recommend a good one – so if you have a favorite, feel free to suggest it in the comments!

The Perfect Health
To start off, I love these wings because they are baked and not fried. But also, studies indicate that daily consumption of pomegranate juice, about 8 ounces a day for three months or more, can help:

  • Reduce dangerous LDL-cholesterol in blood
  • Improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary artery disease
  • Reduce thickening of the arteries that supply blood to the brain
  • Lower the level of systolic blood pressure

See? Not only are these wing unbelievably delicious – they can save lives!

Bon apetit.

The Red-Headed Martini


Autumn flavors are magical. They bring you warmth and comfort and often hit all 5 tastes… sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. I wanted to create a beverage that “felt” like Fall. And I think I did it.

Introducing, The Red-Headed Martini. All it’s ingredients are auburn-red (as is its creator) and it’s a smooth yet feisty little drink (as is its creator). So aptly named.

I have now made this a few times using different brands of bourbon – some more expensive than others. And I can tell a difference. A big difference. If you can, please opt for the quality… make it last… make it a special occasion… but do yourself a favor and splurge a little. You will thank me.

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)
1 cup bourbon – I use Woodford Reserve [pictured].
1/2 cup amber beer – I prefer Negra Modelo. Pick your favorite – just be sure it’s an amber beer that isn’t too nutty or you’ll change the whole flavor profile.
1 tablespoon of dark maple syrup (adjust to taste).
A dusting of fresh grated nutmeg
3-4 dried red chile peppers (1 for each drink)

Tools
martini shaker
grater or micro plane

Preparation
Chill martini glasses and your shaker in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. The bourbon and beer should be chilled and syrup at room temperature. You can use ice if you forgot to chill everything – but this is not a drink you want watered down.

Ready to Make?
Pour cold bourbon, beer and maple syrup into a martini shaker and stir to mix ingredients. I don’t advise shaking this drink as you will bruise the bourbon the beer will head and foam everywhere. I may or may not be speaking from experience. 🙂

Pour into chilled martini glasses. Grate nutmeg into the martini and then float one dried chili on top. You won’t really experience any heat from the chili until the last sip, when it’s had time to soak making your last sip is the best! When does that ever happen?

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato Pie


I’ve been in Nashville for more than 15 years now, and I’ve learned to embrace a lot of the Southern culture. I am enamored by the slower pace, the charming brick houses, and white church steeples that peer atop the gold and amber trees during Fall. I catch myself saying y’all… and I drawl out certain words, doubling their syllables. I’ve even listened to a country song here and there, and didn’t hate it. And I may or may not have tried on a pair of cowboy boots recently.

But Southern food? Oh dear Lord, the food. Try as I might, I have not learned to love it… or even tolerate it. I don’t like the smell of fried food. I don’t like brisket or bbq sauce. I don’t like sweet potato pie and I can’t stomach even walking into a Meat & Three (which I’d never even heard of before moving south).  I take pride in the fact that I have successfully avoided stepping foot into a Shoney’s for 15 years. That alone should earn me a West Coast badge. And don’t even get me started on the copious amounts of shortening that run through the veins of true Southern women.

But this past weekend, in an attempt to celebrate the tomato… something East Nashvillians have been doing for the past nine years at what’s now known as, “TomatoArtFest“… I decided to make a VERY Southern dish… the tomato pie.  In the south, the month of August is when tomatoes are in their prime. They are the sweetest, juiciest and most plentiful. It’s funny, because up until this year, I’ve not been a big tomato fan. But I began buying from local farmer’s, and spending a little more on quality heirloom tomatoes. Then I learned that I have been killing their taste all these years by putting them in the refrigerator!  Yes, that’s right… you’re not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes.  Who knew? According to Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, the author of Tomato Selection and Storage, “Refrigeration is the enemy of the tomato as it nullifies flavor and turns the flesh mealy. The culprit is a compound called Z-3 hexenel, which accounts for the tomato’s scent and taste.” She goes on to suggest that if you must refrigerate tomatoes, take them out about an hour before you will use them to allow the tomatoes time to return to room temperature. All that to say, I have become a tomato-convert!

So, quick – before August is over – go visit your local farmer’s market and pick out a nice firm but tender heirloom… my favorite is called Mr. Stripey (seen to the right over there). I mean, the name alone is worth spending $1.00 on him. But to me, he (yes, I’ve given Mr. Stripey a gender) is the sweetest, least acidic of all the heirlooms.

I loved that for this pie I used tomatoes and onions from local farmers, basil from my friend Lisa’s garden, and thyme from my potted garden!

So grab several, keep them on the counter, and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 9-inch pie shell (unfrozen)
1/2 medium to large red onion, chopped
3-4 heirloom tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes. Or thinly slice to layer into pie – your choice.  TIP: salt tomatoes and set aside for 20 minutes to remove extra water – important step or your pie will be soggy.
1/4 cup *chiffonade of basil (about 8 leaves)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves stripped off stems and finely chopped)
2 cups grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup Just Mayo
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Chiffonade basil leaves by stacking them on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice crosswise in thin slices.

Preparation
Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels or place them in colander, lightly salt and let drain. The salt will draw out the excess moisture.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Tabasco, fresh thyme and the salt and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball.

Ready to Cook?
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place pie shell in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden.

While the pie crust is still warm, brush on your favorite Dijon mustard. Then sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with the chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Scatter the sliced basil over the tomatoes. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the tomatoes, covering to the edge of the crust.

Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 35-45 minutes before slicing and serving. you can reheat it if you want but trust me on this, if you cut it too soon the “pie” shape will not hold. Don’t believe me? Check out my first slice below (5 minutes out of the oven). More like tomato stew than pie.

The Perfect Bite
Obviously the best bite is when it’s warm and the cheese is all melty… but please heed my warning above. Let it cool first so it will set into a “pie” shape when you slice it  — then reheat if if you must. But I did eat this cold for breakfast the next morning and it was pretty tasty!

The Perfect Pairing
One of my favorite red wines is a Washington Merlot called 14 Hands. And I just found out that they produce a chardonnay as well! 14 Hands chardonnay would be a perfect compliment to this rich southern pie. Bright apple and floral aromas are complimented by light notes of vanilla and sweet butterscotch. Juicy pear and apple flavors give way to subtle touches of toasty spice and ends with a soft finish. I love the butteryness of a chardonnay – which means it must be appealing to my inner-Southern Paula Dean.

The Perfect Health
Tomatoes are well-known for being low in fat, sodium and calories. But did you also know that tomatoes make your skin look great?  Beta-carotene, also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, helps protect skin against sun damage. Tomatoes’ lycopene also makes skin less sensitive to UV light damage, a leading cause of fine lines and wrinkles. Read more HERE.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower


Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Cut or tear off all of the green leaves on the head of cauliflower.

With a narrow, sharp knife, begin cutting (at the stems) the florets off into bite size pieces. Try to keep as many of the florets whole as possible. Cut off big chunky stems.

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, scatter florets and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and red pepper flakes and toss again. Make sure florets are not piled on one another, but spread evenly across one pan (one whole head usually fills a standard cookie sheet).

Ready to Cook?

Place in a 375 degree, pre-heated oven on the very top shelf (or use broiler). Roast for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender and you can see the floret edges just beginning to brown.

Serve warm. Can be re-heated in microwave for 30 seconds.

The Perfect Bite

Is warm. Right out of the oven. For some reason, cauliflower gets cold, fast. But as I mentioned above, it is easily reheated.

The Perfect Pairing

Cauliflower is a perfect pair with any and all Indian-inspired dishes (try adding a little curry powder to it was well!).  And a perfect beverage with this would be a rosĂ©. Try Grandin Brut Rose… a french rosĂ© that obtains its brilliant pink color a longer pressing of the grapes. The juice then undergoes alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks before being put in bottles to form its bubbles through the methode traditionnelle. It is aged for a minimum of 9 months.

The Perfect Health

There are4 main nutritional health benefits of cauliflower. Antioxidants (because it’s a good source of vitamin C and manganese); Anti-inflammation (from vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids); Cardiovascular; Digestive (1 cup delivers 3.35 g of digestive fibers!). Cauliflower also contains vitamins B1(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 niacin, B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid). It serves as a good source of proteins, phosphorus and potassium.

Kale and Walnut Pesto


Kale is such a super food… add walnuts, olive oil and lemon zest and this little gem is unstoppable.  I’ve struggled to find ways to prepare kale that I enjoy. It can be bitter and a little tough. But I could eat this pesto by the spoonful!  I’m currently enjoying it on a Triscuit® but you can put it on just about anything. I’m thinking about smothering a chicken breast with it for dinner – but my favorite way to use it is to dollop it onto a crostini that has been pan-sauteed in butter.

So run , don’t walk, to your nearest grocery (or better yet, Farmer’s Market)… buy a large batch of kale (curly, flat, rainbow – it doesn’t matter)… a good size lemon (Meyer lemons if you can find them!) and some fresh garlic and make enough to eat all week!  Keep in mind that the shelf-life for this pesto is about a week. Read the Perfect Health section below below to see why you want to incorporate kale into as many meals as you can.

Ingredients
4-6 cups (about 6.5 ounces) kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
2-3 large fresh garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts (raw is fine but toasting brings out their nuttiness)
3/4 cup Parmesan (or Vegan Parmesan)
1/3 cup olive oil (for extra walnut taste mix with 1 part walnut oil)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation
Remove ribs from kale and give it a rough chop. In a large pot, bring water to a boil with a couple of pinches of salt. Prepare a large boil of ice water and set aside. Once water in boiling, add kale for about 1 minute. Your kale will start to turn a brighter green. Remove from kale pot and immediately put in ice water. This is called blanching and is what helps give (and keep) your kale a bright green. Remove kale from ice water after 1 minute and pat dry.

Peel and roughly chop two large bulbs of garlic. If you are using pre-minced garlic, this is roughly 2 tablespoons.

If you are roasting your walnuts, place then in a dry saute pan over medium heat. Continue moving them in the pan until you begin to smell their nuttiness. It should take about 2 minutes.  Keep an eye on them – they burn easily (which is why I don’t put them in the oven anymore – I always forget them!).

Ready to Make?
In a food processor, add the kale, garlic, Parmesan and walnuts. Pulse 6-7  times until it’s well-combined. Slowly, through the feed tube, drizzle the oil until mixture is moist and holds together. Remove lid and zest your lemon directly into mixture. Zest, and not juice, makes all the difference here. It’s sweet and tangy and every once in a while you’ll get a burst of it in your mouth. So delish.  But feel free to add a little juice for extra lemony flavor. Now add salt and pepper, return lid and pulse a couple of more times. NOTE: It’s important to use the pulse feature and not let your processor run… you want to retain some of the leafy texture of the kale and not make mush. I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. And presto you have pesto!

The Perfect Bite
Whenever making a dip or spread or something that is not meant to be eaten on its own… it’s important to taste-test it once just with a spoon and then again with what you plan on having it with. On it’s own it may taste like it needs more salt, but if you plan on eating it with salty chips or crackers… it may be fine as it is once combined with it’s dipping partner.

The Perfect Pairing
Since this is a new item to me… I may discover more and more pairing as I go.. so check back regularly.  I’m certain this will be delightful on a crostini and absolutely divine mixed into some whole wheat pasta. Let me know if you try it on something yummy! Enjoy this with a crisp pinot grigio.

The Perfect Health
Kale’s risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer. These types include cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in achieving these risk-lowering benefits. Read more about the benefits of here.

Baked Eggs


I love eggs. I could create an entire blog about nothing but eggs. One of my new favorite ways to make them, and healthier than fried, is to bake them. It’s simple, no fuss and a thing of beauty.

And since this is January 1st, I thought it appropriate to post this recipe since it’s an excellent New Year’s morning remedy breakfast.

So just follow these simple steps and enjoy.

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 pinches of dried oregano (or your favorite herb)
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of shredded Swiss cheese / divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Coat two small ramekins with non-stick spray (I prefer olive oil spray).
Crack and drop one egg in each ramekin.
Lightly dust salt, pepper and oregano on top of each egg, then sprinkle shredded Swiss on each.

Place ramekins on a cookie tray and put on middle rack in oven. Bake 10-14 minutes, depending on how “done” you like your yokes. I land mine somewhere around 12 minutes.

When done, immediately run a butter knife around the edges to loosen the egg. Slip the knife or a fork under egg and it should just pop out.

You can use a variety of combinations of herbs or cheeses. The above is just my favorite. But I’ve also used a cheddar with salsa, Gruyere with thyme, and so on. Get creative!