Classic Barbecue Sauce

My family is definitely a cooking family.  Some of my best memories in life center around the kitchen – bustling around with my parents and brothers, my husband and sister-in-law, and now my kids.  As with anything, after you’ve cooked enough meals together everyone sort of falls into their own specialty – my dad will set an alarm every three hours all night to feed the smoker, my grandma makes amazing potato salad, my mom pulls together insanely good sides, I typically make dessert, and, in the case of a bbq, Ross always makes the sauce.  The recipe comes from one of our dearest friends, James, and exists only in an email sent from him to my husband 8 years ago (it’s a picture taken of a recipe).  I haven’t changed anything about the recipe, but I’m tired of searching through the archives of Ross’ email every time I want to make barbecue sauce so I’m sharing it here.  James is one of the best barbecue-ers (meatists?) I know, so his authority on sauce is commendable.  It’s only fitting that I share it now, as he’s about to move across the country and we won’t be seeing him for a while (though, he offers us an excellent excuse to visit L.A.!)

The smell of smoking brisket and homemade barbecue sauce is one of my favorite smells in the world and given that our sense of smell is tied so closely to my memory, it’s no wonder I have so many wonderful memories of cooking.  If you’ve never made your own sauce, give it a try – it’s not very hard and it tastes a million times better than what you could purchase at a store.  We’re hoping to try some new varieties this summer (I’ve grown some awesome peppers in my garden, so a spicy version is on tap for the near future).  This makes about a quart of BBQ sauce, enough to serve and have plenty left to keep in the refrigerator.  It you reduce it enough it fits perfectly in a large mason jar.

James’ BBQ Sauce

3T olive oil

3 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups ketchup

3/4 cup chicken broth

3T soy sauce

6T brown sugar

5T molasses

3T red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Mince the garlic.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.

2. Add the other ingredients, stir, and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  When it does, turn the heat to low, and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for 20-30 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

Memorial Day, like Thanksgiving, is one of those holidays that I never really “got” until I was an adult.  As a kid, I was fine with the day off from school, a few flags in the neighborhood, and a tasty barbecue, but really, there were no fireworks, no gifts, no parades to speak of, so it wasn’t anything special.  As an adult, it has become one of my favorite holidays, partially because it truly signifies the start of summer.  As a stay-at-home-Mom, with no end of the school year to trigger the “summer” vibe, I like that Memorial Day weekend marks the start.  We usually swim for the first time, eat watermelon, spend time outside in the heat (though this year it rained all three days), and, of course, it’s the first day of the year that I make homemade ice cream.

For me, ice cream is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Having spent two of the last three summers extremely pregnant, I acquired a whole new love for frozen desserts, and I felt like I was making homemade ice cream all the time.  I’ve made several vanilla ice cream recipes, and this one is undoubtedly the easiest, but it’s weirdly also the best.  During my second pregnancy in a bizarre nesting/hot/hungry rage I made several varieties in one day and hosted a blind tasting to determine the best – and Philadelphia style (no eggs) won out unanimously.

One way to make this easier is to purchase vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla beans.  I started using the paste many years ago and I haven’t purchased a single vanilla bean since.  The paste gives the correct look, taste, and consistency without the trouble (and expense!) of real vanilla beans.  The bottle may seem expensive, but it will last for a long time.  Pair this with some homemade chocolate sauce, a handful of strawberries, and some toasted pecans and it’s basically heaven.  This recipe makes the perfect amount for my 1.5 quart Cuisinart ice cream maker and serves about 6.   I purchased a second bowl for my ice cream maker a few years ago so I make 2 batches for a crowd.  As with all homemade ice cream, getting the ice cream to harden is difficult, so making it the night before so it can benefit from a night in the freezer gives it a great consistency if you aren’t into soft-serve.

Vanilla Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk (I used 2%)

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1. Pour the sugar, 1 cup of the cream, the salt, and vanilla bean paste into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved (don’t bring it to a boil, it doesn’t need to be that hot).

2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the milk, the second cup of cream, and the vanilla extract until combined.  Place the bowl in the freezer or refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.

3. Make the ice cream according to directions on your ice cream machine.  Mine usually takes 20 minutes or so and makes a soft-serve consistency.  Transfer to a container and move it to the freezer to harden before serving.

Chilaquiles

I had chilaquiles (chee-la-key-lays) for the first time at Tila’s an adorable restaurant in Montrose  near our old apartment in Houston.  I am pretty sure I only ate inside once, as they had a fabulous patio like so many Houston restaurants.  See, in Houston, June-August is really, really awful and hot, but September through May is absolutely gorgeous.  You basically transition from summer to the rainy season (hurricane), then it’s lovely weather for 6 months before it gets dreadful and those 6 months were ideal for margarita sipping on patios.  This was back before we had kids and actually ate at restaurants other than Taco Bell.  Chilaquiles are basically a nacho casserole – and from my understanding you can pretty much put anything you want on them.

I love the pickled onions and avocados on these, it makes the dish really summery.  You can throw this together in a matter of minutes, depending on what you have on hand.  I made my own salsa verde, but you could certainly use jarred salsa as well.

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Chilaquiles

2 jalapenos

1 red onion

2 limes

1 bag tortilla chips (Calidad are my favorite)

2-3 cups cooked chicken (I used 2 grilled chicken breasts)

3 cups green salsa

1 cup queso fresco

sour cream

cilantro

2 avocados

1. Finely dice the jalapeno and slice the onion into strips.  Place both in a small bowl and juice the limes into the bowl.  Allow the mixture to sit at least an hour, but you could let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.  Cube the chicken, grate the cheese.  In a large casserole dish, arrange half of the bag of chips along the bottom of the pan and spread the chicken over the top.  Pour the green salsa over the top and sprinkle the cheese over the whole dish.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  While it’s baking, slice the avocados and chop the cilantro.

3. Top the hot chilaquiles with the pickled onions from before and the sliced avocado.  Serve with the cilantro and sour cream on the side.

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Chickpea and quinoa Thai-style vegeburgers

Before you start thinking that I’m here to replace all of your actual meat burgers with quinoa, know that I am not.  I grew up eating various iterations of vegeburgers, some excellent and most not so excellent.  As for the idea that a Boca burger is a reasonable substitute for actual meat, I firmly disagree.  Unless you’re a vegetarian, if you want a burger, you want a real burger and no matter how delicious, a vegeburger isn’t going to cut it.

To that end, I’m selling you on this the same way I sold my husband on vegeburgers: an alternative sandwich option.  Sort of like a snowcone and a chocolate brownie are both delicious desserts, but if you want chocolate a snowcone won’t do.

We had ours on a bun with the slaw and peanut sauce, but if you’re vegan  (or just not a fan of carbs, whatever), they really aren’t necessary.  And know that they don’t resemble the sad little pre-formed quinoa/boca/TVP you’re picturing in your head.  There are 3 components: the patty, the slaw, and the sauce.  You can easily make the slaw while the quinoa is cooking and then mix up the sauce while the patties are cooking.

Chickpea and Quinoa Thai Burgers

makes about 8 patties

for the patties:

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup water

15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup cornmeal (I substituted grits since it’s what I had)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. sesame oil (or olive)

1 egg

1 bell pepper

1/2 of a small red onion

olive oil

 

for the slaw:

1/2 head  of purple cabbage

3 carrots

handful of cilantro

 

for the sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter

2T honey

2T soy sauce

2″ piece of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp red pepper

1 lime

2 T water

 

1. Toast the uncooked quinoa in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Add in the cup of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pulse the chickpeas, cornmeal, oatmeal, salt, paprika, garlic and sesame oil together in a food processor until well combined (it should look a bit like wet sand).

2. Transfer to a bowl and add stir in the egg.  Finely dice the bell pepper and onion (I put them in the food processor) and stir them into the mixture.  Then fold in the cooked quinoa to create a thick, cement-like mixture.  If it needs a bit more moisture to hold it together, add in a tiny bit of olive oil.

3. Shred the cabbage and carrots, and chop the cilantro.  Toss together to make the slaw.

4. Form the quinoa mixture into 8 patties and fry in a tiny bit of oil over medium high heat.  Alternatively, you could use an electric skillet with no oil at 350.  Fry them for a few minutes on each side until they start to turn golden brown and crispy.

5. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together to make the sauce.  To serve, top each patty with a heap of slaw and drizzle the sauce over the top.  Serve with or without a bun.

 

 

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

Before you go any further, let’s just get one thing straight: this is “bread” in the sense that a bellini is a “fruit smoothie”, but eating bread for breakfast seems so much more reasonable than eating cake for breakfast and it IS baked in a loaf pan.  This comes together really quickly, uses pretty basic pantry ingredients, and smells absolutely divine while it’s baking.  Pair it with your favorite coffee for breakfast, or with a hot cup of tea for an afternoon snack and you’ll feel super decadent, even for a Tuesday.  Of course, pair it with a bellini and you basically have toast and a fruit smoothie – super healthy breakfast!

Almond Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour

2 tsp, baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

1 Tbsp poppy seeds

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter

for the glaze:

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup orange juice

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

1. Preheat your oven to 350.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the oil and eggs until well combined.  Mix in the sugar and milk.  Fold in the poppy seeds, extracts, and butter.  The batter should be a thin, not at all dough-like.

2. Divide the batter into two greased loaf pans.  Bake for 50 minutes, until the tops begin to crust.

3. As soon as you remove the bread from the oven, stir the glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Cook over high heat until the sugar melts (I brought mine to a boil, which was fine), stirring constantly.  When the glaze has cooled a bit, remove the bread from the pans and drizzle the glaze on top, stopping occasionally to let it soak in.  I recommend doing this on a plate or over foil because it will drip over the sides.  Allow the bread to cool before serving.

 

Lamb Rolls with Tzatziki Sauce

I am the first to admit that as a person who grew up not eating lamb, I had a hard time warming up to the idea as an adult.  I always kind of thought I had plenty of proteins in my lineup so there was no real reason to add another, but then I made this dish.  It’s the first lamb dish I ever made and I use it as a litmus test for those who are skeptical about lamb (read: my mom).  In the years that I’ve been making it, I’ve never had someone determine that they truly disliked lamb after eating it, so if you aren’t sure, give it a try.

The recipe originally came from a Rachael Ray cookbook we received as a wedding present nearly 7 years ago.  I generally am not a huge Rachael Ray fan – I find that in her “30 Minute Meal” gimmick it generally translates to 30 hours of dishes, which I’m so not down with, but in an effort to actually try something out of each cookbook, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of dishes.  I usually serve mine with a big Greek salad, and estimate that each diner will eat half of one roll (it makes 2 big rolls or 3 moderately sized ones).

Lamb Feta Rolls with Tzatziki sauce

1lb. ground lamb

1 cup feta cheese

2 green onions

1 jalepeno (only use half if you’re heat sensitive)

2 cloves garlic

10-12 sheets phyllo dough (I just buy a package – inevitably some will rip) – defrosted

6T butter

for the sauce:

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 of a cucumber

1/4 of an onion

1 clove garlic

1 small handful of mint leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Finely chop the green onion, mince the garlic and jalepeno, and melt the butter.  Mix the lamb, feta cheese, garlic, green onions, and jalepeno together in a mixing bowl.

2. On a large cutting board or cookie sheet, lay out your first two sheets of phyllo dough, brush it with some of the melted butter, season with salt and pepper, then add another 2 sheets, butter, salt and pepper again.  Continue until you have 6 sheets of phyllo dough.  Spoon the mixture in a log shape in the center of the dough and fold it up like a burrito.  Repeat for the second and, if you want smaller portions, a third roll.  Use a little butter to seal the edge and brush the tops with a bit before you place them in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the phyllo is a golden brown.

3. While the rolls are baking, grate the cucumber and onion, mince the garlic, and finely chop the mint leaves.  Stir together with the Greek yogurt to make a sauce.  Serve the lamb rolls with the sauce.

 

 

Spicy Pasta with Prosciutto

For some reason or another, I’m not really a huge spaghetti fan.  I love pasta, marinara sauce is definitely my jam, but there’s something about plain old spaghetti and marinara that really doesn’t do it for me.  Not long ago, I realized that it was actually just the shape of the noodle (for the record, I’m not big on fettucine either).  Since I had this revelation, I’ve made a bunch of new pasta dishes with various pasta shapes and my interest in pasta and sauce meals has gone up tenfold.  This is a perfect example of that.  The sauce is pretty chunky, so it needs a substantial noodle, but you could definitely use spaghetti if that’s what you like or what you have in your pantry.  We used a curly rotini (my personal favorite).

All told, this meal is really easy and fast – and while I think it would be great to take for lunch the next day, we’ve never had any leftovers to save. Oh, and it has wine in it, which is awesome because you have a great excuse to drink the rest of the bottle of wine on a random weekday!

Spicy Pasta with Prosciutto

1lb. dry rotini noodles

4 oz. proscuitto

1 onion

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup red wine

28oz diced tomatoes

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

small handful of fresh basil

Olive oil

1. Chop the prosciutto, mince the garlic, and dice the onion.  Start the water for the pasta.  Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the prosciutto until browned (about 10 minutes).  Transfer the prosciutto to a paper-towel lined plate and add the onion, cooking until softened and translucent.

2. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt, stirring everything together for about a minute.  Pour in the wine and cook for a few minutes while the wine reduces.  Then add the tomatoes and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Chop the basil.

3. Add the prosciutto and the 75% of the cheese into the sauce and stir to combine.  Add the cooked pasta and stir everything together to coat the noodles.  Serve with the reserved cheese and basil.

Thai beef stir fry

In our efforts to add more Asian dishes to our repertoire, stir fry has become a mainstay.  My favorite thing about stir fry is that virtually all of the work is done in prep, so once you’re there it’s just a few minutes of cooking and then you’re ready to serve!  This particular stir fry is loaded with veggies and really is a complete meal in one dish.  We served ours with quinoa instead of rice (due to not having any rice), and honestly I think I prefer the quinoa in this case – it really soaks up the sauce and is a little fluffier.

You can substitute, add, or omit any of the vegetables involved if you don’t like them, don’t have them, or whatever.  That’s my favorite thing about stir fry – it’s great for a “clean out the fridge night” (Friday, in our case, as our trash pickup is Saturday).

Thai Beef Stir Fry

1 cup dry quinoa or rice

1 lb beef, cut into small strips – I used some thin-cut steaks that were on sale.  The cut isn’t really important

2 garlic cloves

a small piece of ginger

1 red chile (half if you don’t like spicy dishes)

8 oz mushrooms

1 large carrot

1 bell pepper

6 oz sugar snap peas

2 green onions

a few sprigs of basil

olive oil

For the sauce:

3T soy sauce

2T oyster sauce

2T fish sauce

2T rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

3T water

1. Rinse and cook the quinoa according to package directions.  Cut the beef into small strips.  Peel and mince the garlic, ginger, and red chile.  Chop the mushrooms, the carrot, the bell pepper, and the green onions.  Chop up the basil and set aside.  Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Congrats!  You’re almost done.

2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a wok (or big frying pan) until hot and sear the beef until the outside is brown, but the beef isn’t completely cooked (it will cook more later).  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

3. Add a little more oil and stir fry the garlic, ginger, and red chile until fragrant (a minute or so).  Then add the mushrooms, carrots, and about 1/4 cup of water.  After another minute or so add the bell pepper, snow peas, and green onions.  Stir fry another few minutes until the vegetables are a little tender (check the carrot).

4. Add the meat back into the stir fry and pour the sauce over the top, stirring to coat everything.  Once the sauce has soaked up into the stir fry, turn off the heat.  Serve the stir fry over quinoa and top with a little basil.

Source: Adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite

Tandoori chicken with mango and pineapple salsa

There are certain friends you have in life who become more of kindred spirits than friends.  The friends who really get you and, regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve seen them you’re always able to pick up where you left off.  One of our friends like that often comes over bearing a makeshift tupperware full of marinated meat and, upon his arrival, makes plans to grill it for us (a true friend brings dinner that they cook for you!).  Tandoori chicken is his specialty and this recipe is inspired by his many visits bearing delicious food.  He loves garam masala and, actually introduced me to it.  It’s totally worth buying – it’s a unique taste that can’t really be replicated by any other combination.  I like it mixed with greek yogurt as a dip.

This meal is great for a Friday, especially if you’re having company because you can make it all ahead of time.  In the afternoon (or night before), you make the mango salsa and marinate the chicken.  I made a quinoa salad to go with it last time, and it’s best made ahead, too.  Then you can clean the kitchen, and come dinnertime all you have to do is grill the meat and serve.  It’s also very flavorful and tastes very fresh.  I cut the chicken breasts in half width-wise before marinating them to increase the surface area and to avoid the unfortunate mass of dry chicken you sometimes get when grilling a whole chicken breast.  Alternatively, you could pound them out flat.

Tandoori Chicken with Mango and Pineapple Salsa

4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded flat

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

2 garlic cloves

a small piece of ginger

half of a lemon

1/2 cup greek yogurt

For the relish:

1 can diced pineapple (or fresh)

1 ripe mango

1/2 red onion

1 red chile

1 lime

1. Several hours or the night before you intend to serve, mince the garlic and finely peel and chop the ginger.  Mix the spices, ginger, garlic, and the juice of the lemon together with the greek yogurt to create a marinade.

2. Butterfly the chicken and place it into your “marinating tupperware” (or a big ziploc bag), pour the marinade over the chicken and move the pieces around, coating all of the sides.  Place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to finish your dinner.

3. Dice the mango into a size similar to the pineapple.  Finely dice the onion and mix the pineapple, mango, and onion together.  Start by mincing half of the red chile and adding into the relish with the juice of the lime.  Taste and add the rest of the chile if you need a little more heat.  This can also be made ahead of time and left in the fridge until ready to serve.

4. When you’re ready, grill the chicken until cooked through.  Serve with the relish.

Chili Macaroni

I’m borderline embarrassed to share this recipe with you.  I mean, it’s probably the easiest thing ever to make, there’s nary a vegetable to be found, and yeah, processed cheese food is not real food.  However, sometimes you just want to make something comforting, and although it’s good, quinoa and grilled fish isn’t comforting.  The marriage of chili and macaroni and cheese is the epitome of comfort and perfect for a cold Monday night when you just want to carb up and hibernate.

In my family, Velveeta Shells & Cheese stands head and shoulders above Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, so that’s what I use.  The powdered cheese makes me a little twitchy.  Enjoy and, if it makes you feel better, serve a nice salad with it.

Butter is my Jam

Chili Macaroni

1 family sized box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese

1lb ground beef

half of an onion

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 can rotel

1 can kidney beans

grated cheddar and sour cream for serving

1. Prepare the shells and cheese according to package directions.  Dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Brown the meat in a large skillet over high heat and add the onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt.  Stir to make sure the spices are well-distributed.  Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through.

2. Add the beans and rotel to the skillet, continuing to cook and stir for about 3 more minutes.  Pour in the macaroni and cheese, stirring the entire mixture together (this can be done in a large bowl if it won’t fit in your skillet).  Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.  Serve with sour cream and grated cheddar on top.