Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles

Every mama, daddy and/or working person should have this recipe up their sleeve. You can make it ahead and just reheat the meat in the microwave and serve in lettuce cups whenever you need dinner asap.

I add hoisin at the end for a little sweetness but you could add some sriracha for more spice or both. Of course you could leave out the noodles but I just love them in this. They add some body and depth and a toothsomeness. To put it bluntly, I'd have a hard time calling these wraps 'dinner' without them.

To make this gluten free just be sure to use gluten free soy sauce, noodles and check the other condiments involved for gluten.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Rice Noodles

2 teaspoons grape seed or vegetable oil or olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin 1/2 inch strips
1 pound ground chicken thighs
2 large portabello mushrooms, diced
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
couple dashes garlic powder
1/3 cup green onions, chopped plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon Mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
6 oz rice noodles, boiled and drained (or rice if desired)
2 tablespoons chopped raw cashews
1 head Bibb lettuce, or whatever kind of lettuce you like to use as wraps (leaves cleaned and separated)
2 tablespoons Hoisin, optional and/or some dashes Sriracha or red pepper flakes, optional
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

How To:
Add the oil to a large nonstick pan and heat over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the ground chicken, breaking up gently with a wooden spoon. Season with a couple of pinches salt. Cook for 2 minutes, then add in the mushrooms, ginger, garlic powder and green onions. Cook until chicken is cooked through - about 8-10 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the Mirin, soy sauce, and vinegar. Once the chicken is cooked through, add in the Mirin mixture and bring to a boil, stirring for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hot burner. Gently stir in the rice noodles and 2 tablespoons hoisin and/or sriracha if using (or red pepper flakes) then the cashews.

Serve in lettuce leaves and garnish with additional green onion and/or cilantro.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Sawyer Lee.

To Sawyer on your first birthday,

Today you are one year old. I’m so excited and overwhelmed by what you’ve already become at just a year old that I’m at a complete loss as what to write. And I’m a writer. I could say that I love you so much that even on your fussiest and most teething and non-napping days I still consider myself the luckiest person on earth. I could say that when you flash me your quick, yet deliberate toothsome smile when you’re learning something new or something’s tickled you – I want to die. Right then and there. Go out on the highest of highs. See ya, earth! I won at this shit!

I could say that when I watch you dig into my spice drawer and pick out what strikes your fancy then crawl around with it like Tiny Tim on all fours so astoundingly fast - ‘clack! – clack! – clack!’ - I have the most morbid thought that if you just stayed that size the rest of your life, that would be beyond cool with me.

But I need to tell you more. Having you added the onus of wanting to be a better person myself. To set the best example I can for you. So I started a list of some guiding principles that I now aspire to in my life. I hope to drill them into you as much as myself. Thanks for that, Bubbas Bear.

Be kind.
To everyone - the old and young, the strong and weak, the shiny and the lackluster, even those who are unkind. The fact is nothing is more attractive on a human being than kindness. 

Love with your whole heart.
It will get bruised and broken along the way but try to keep it wide and open. Remember to look for the light in others. And when someone shows you only darkness, move on from them. The world is filled with kind, loving, big hearted people. Don’t waste time on the rest.

Happiness is a hobby.
When you find what makes you happy, stick with it. When I was six years old I was head over heels in love with horses, reading, writing and fashion. I love the same things to this very day. For your dad it was music. And judging from your current obsession with your daddy's drum sticks and tapings of ACL Live, it might also be yours. A hobby that you love is instant happiness at your finger tips whenever you want or need it. So when you find yours, stick with it. (This excludes masturbation. Please have sex with someone aside from yourself when age appropriate. *Also I just said 'tapings' which you will undoubtedly have no idea what I'm referring to when you're old enough to read this. Really dating myself here. We don't even 'tape' anymore - we hit a button on the remote. Maybe by the time you read this we will just think what we want to record and it will lodge itself in our brains somewhere for us to retrieve later at will.)

Look where you're going.
Literally and figuratively. Your dad and I are both specialists at eating asphalt so I need to drill this into your head early and often. Look where your feet are landing. 

In the figurative sense, I don't expect you to have your life figured out by your early teens (I always felt this pressure and hated it.) But start thinking of a master plan for yourself. Do you want to travel? Do you want to move to a small town in Idaho? Do you want to raise sheep? Run for governor? Play rock shows? Be a barista? I don’t care what it is as long as it’s something you feel in your bones you should be doing. And on that note…

Take pride in your job.
Whatever it is. Do it right and represent yourself and your parents well. I look back at certain odd jobs I did as a teen and feel horribly embarrassed. I had no pride. I was lazy. And I will never forget it. It haunts me. So if you take something on – do it right. Or don’t do it.

Open doors for ladies.
Car doors, elevator doors, building doors, all doors. This will help you more than you will ever know with the fairer sex. Wait -  is ‘fairer sex’ not PC anymore? Fuck it. Also don’t cuss. It’s ugly. Seriously. Like I said I’m still a work in progress.

* Also if you end up liking dudes I will still love you. Though based on how much you flirt with anything with boobs I suspect you're a ladies' man. But still if not – I support you. All the way. Now let's go shopping!

That said, there's no woman on earth worth letting treat you poorly. That's not a lady by the way.

This last one is the hardest to follow through with. Don't judge people. You don't have the right and nobody asked you. You don't know where they've been and how they got there. And if you can avoid making judgments of others, maybe you'll get spared a little judgement along the way.

Above all remember this - you are loved beyond measure. I love you. Your daddy loves you. Your family loves you. God loves you. Hell even the devil loves you. You're better than Christmas, first concerts, first kisses, cake, pie, ice cream and House of Cards rolled into one. You will forever be the one who showed me that there is no limit to the amount of love a person can hold in their heart. My heart - tonight and every night since you were born - overflows with happiness, gratitude and awe.

Happy birthday Sawyer Lee.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Miso Sea Bass, Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, and Simple Salad with Ginger Carrot Dressing

Sorry y'all. Long time no post. Work has been crazy, we're about to go on vacation and my baby is turning one in a couple of weeks so I've been spending any free time planning a little family party. Anyway Saturday we had a couple of friends over for a potluck and one of the best meals I've eaten in a long time. I volunteered to make miso sea bass and my two girlfriends filled in the gaps with Asian themed sides. And boy did they fill those gaps!

This will now be my go to meal when I'm stumped for what to serve at a dinner party. Everything when together perfectly. Sweet and sticky glazed sea bass, subtly spicy creamy mashed potatoes and a crisp salad with a refreshing carrot ginger dressing. So good!

However if I'm being honest I'm not sure I'll ever make an entire meal by myself again for company. It's kind of more fun when everyone has a hand in creating the meal…not to mention a lot less work.

Hope your summer is winding down and/or you're squeezing every last ounce of it. Personally I have never been so excited to kiss it goodbye and welcome a change in weather. Some rain would be nice too but who am I kidding? It doesn't rain in Austin anymore.

Miso Sea Bass (subbed Sea Bass for Cod) courtesy of Food & Wine

Wasabi and Green Onion Mashed Potatoes courtesy of Bon Appetit

Simple Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing courtesy of Just One Cookbook

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Healthy Strawberry Oatmeal Bars - Gluten Free

I discovered a new (to me) blog - Sally's Baking Addiction. Oops. This could have been a really bad thing but luckily Sally posts some healthy recipes now and then to fuel her marathon training. These bars were fantastic however I did make a few tweaks.

As with a lot of gluten free/Paleo-ish recipes, these were not sweet in the slightest. I suspect part of it was the fact my almond butter has zero sugar in it but just to be sure I could also serve these to people NOT worried about their calories I upped the sugar a hair. There was already one tablespoon in the recipe (the rest of the sweetness comes from maple syrup) so I threw caution to the wind by doubling it and also sprinkling a little over the top before baking.

They're still not what I would call a dessert bar or a 'sweet' but they're absolutely perfect for breakfast or as a snack IMO. Particularly with some Greek yogurt. And a latte. Or five.

Sally asks that you link back to her recipe rather than copy it so I'll just include my tweaks below that you can apply if you wish. I also added vanilla extract because I'm suspicious of any baked good that leaves it out. And salt for the same reason.


Alisa's Tweaks to the filling:

Use 2 tablespoons sugar in the strawberry filling. If you want a more dessert like bar versus say a breakfast or 'snack' bar, I suggest 1/4 cup.

Add in the zest of one lemon to the boiled strawberry mixture along with the cornstarch mixture as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of kosher salt. I suspect orange zest would be equally amazing.

Alisa's Tweaks to the 'topping':

Add a pinch of salt into the mixture along with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. I often use chopped pecans instead of sliced almonds.

Before baking, sprinkle 1 teaspoon granulated sugar evenly over the top.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Margarita Cheesecake, My Kinda Birthday Cake

Yesterday was America's birthday and mine. I hope you all had a fantastic 4th! I had a great one. My husband flew in on a red eye from a shoot so we could spend the day together, I got to take a nap with my baby in the morning and watch him eat (inhale) scrambled eggs for the first time at our favorite place, Elizabeth Street, before we spent the day with friends and family.

This was the cake I made to celebrate my 37 years on earth. I made it gluten free by using gluten free ginger snaps in the crust and no one was the wiser. But feel free to use regular ginger snaps or graham crackers. The filling is a classic key lime cheesecake filling but since it was my birthday I had to step it up a notch.

Enter the topping: a tequila infused whipped sour cream situation. You two should get to know one another.

Margarita Cheesecake with Tequila Whipped Sour Cream
Makes one big ass cheesecake.
*Takes a few prep bowls and steps, but worth it. Like all cheesecakes this MUST be made 1-2 days ahead and kept chilled in fridge for it to achieve the right consistency.

2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies (I used one 8 oz box Mi-Del Gluten Free Ginger Snaps), vanilla wafers or graham crackers
4 tablespoons salted butter
pinch kosher salt
zest of a small lime

Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream (I used light)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt

1 pint heavy cream, very cold
heaping 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon tequila
pinch kosher salt
zest of 1 lime
1/3 cup sour cream (I used light)
slices of lime, for garnish (optional)
whole strawberries, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 (I used convection bake setting.) Lightly butter a 9 inch round springform cheesecake pan, coating all sides and bottom. Use a large piece of aluminum foil to 'wrap' the base of the pan (just to prevent leaks) tucking it up and around the sides. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs, melted butter, salt and lime zest until well blended. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the buttered pan and just slightly up the sides. Use a lighter hand when doing this or it will be brick-like after being baked.

Bake for 8-12 minutes until edges are golden. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile in a standing mixer or big bowl with hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar, mixing until very well blended and being sure to scrape along bottom/sides for any hiding clumps.

Add egg yolks, one at a time blending after each addition just until yellow disappears. Add in the sour cream, juice, zest, vanilla extract and pinch salt. Mix well, scraping down sides and bottom once again.

In a separate (clean and dry) large bowl, whip the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form at the end of a beater when the beater is turned off but mixture is not dry (meaning there's still a little shine to them but they are no longer liquid.)

Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, until just mixed. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for one hour. Gently slide the tray the cake is on out and watch how the cake moves. If the entire thing is still jiggly/watery, bake another 10-15 minutes until JUST the very center is quivery. The center being loose is the goal - not the entire cake.

When just your center is jiggly, shut the oven door and shut the oven completely off. Leave for 15 minutes. Then crack the door and leave another 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. It's a big cake and will take a while so be patient.

Cover and chill over night or at least 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make your topping (topping can also be made several hours ahead or even overnight and put on the cake before serving.)

Using a standing mixer or large bowl with hand held mixer, beat the cream on high until it forms soft peaks, gently add in the confectioners sugar and continue to whip until you achieve classic whipped cream texture. Add in your extract, tequila, salt and zest and beat again just until incorporated. Make sure no little clumps of lime zest are lurking. Finally fold in the sour cream.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble, remove the cake from pan. Spread the whipped topping evenly over and decorate with lime slices, strawberries and more lime zest or strips of lime zest if desired.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mocha Heath Bar Bundt Cake (Can't Stop Won't Stop Cake)

Got to co-host the cutest sweetest baby shower last weekend for my new friend Jess who is due very soon with her first baby. My co-hostess with the mostess Krystle organized a fun project for us all to do painting onesies for Baby Gaffney which was really cute. Gurls got all crafty up in here! My backyard looked like a Pinterest board. Didn't think I was the crafting type but give me some wine and apparently I'll do anything. Except run.

Krystle also made an insanely delicious savory tomato cobbler which I'll post next as well as lots of other goodies. I also had grand plans to make a lot of food but with Kris out of town and the baby now crawling, I was just lucky to pull off this cake.

And I'm so glad I did because it just may be one of my favorite things I've ever made. After harassing Jess' hubby for details on what kind of treats she likes, we got the lowdown that she's a Heath Bar/mocha/toffee ice cream kinda gal. So Krystle made Heath bar coffee ice cream (to die for) and I made this chocolate mocha bundt cake that got drowned in a mixture of condensed milk and coffee after baking THEN caramel sauce and toffee bits. Mmm hmm. You heard me.

Next time I make it I'm going to soak it in the suggested Kahlua mixture and see what kind of party that leads to. I suspect a fun one.

Lastly I can't take credit for its new official title - Can't Stop Won't Stop Cake. That was all the mama-to-be.

Mocha Heath Bar Bundt Cake (Can't Stop Won't Stop Cake)
From Allrecipes, submitted by alijmorris
* For a nonalcoholic version, replace the kahlua with 3/4 cup chocolate syrup mixed with 1/4 cup warm water.
* When I made this the first time, I used the chocolate syrup/water mixture for the Kahlua substitution in the cake but mixed a can of condensed milk with some hot coffee to pour over the cake instead of mixing the other half with confectioners sugar which worked well. But I suspect the more Kahlua, the better.
* This cake gets better the more it sits soaking up the glaze. Make it at least the day before you want to serve it but do not apply the caramel sauce/Heath Bar bits until closer to serving or it will drink it up and not look as pretty.

3/4 cup salted butter, room temp (1 1/2 sticks), plus extra for buttering pan
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pan
4 eggs, separated and at room temp
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (can use decaf)
1 cup coffee flavored liquor (kahlua), divided (if subbing see above note and divide prepared mixture)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
tiny pinch salt

1 cup confectioners sugar mixed well with 1/2 cup Kahlua OR 1/2 can condensed milk mixed with 2 tablespoons hot coffee

1/2 jar store bought caramel sauce (like for ice cream)
1 cup Heath Bar bits/toffee bits

Preheat oven to 325.

Butter the inside of a 10 inch bundt pan then 'flour' liberally with cocoa powder. Tap out excess and set aside.

In a large measuring cup, dissolve baking soda in water, stirring well. Add in coffee, 1/2 cup of the coffee liquor (OR chocolate syrup mixture if subbing) and vanilla.

In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy (will be a little stiffer than other butter/sugar combos but be sure to scrape bottom to get any sugar sticking to the bottom.) Beat in the cocoa, then egg yolks one at a time. Alternately beat in the flour and coffee mixture just until incorporated along with a pinch salt.

In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then quickly but carefully fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into pan. Bake for 55-6- minutes until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Meanwhile prepare glaze (either 1/2 cup Kahlua with 1 cup confectioner sugar OR 1/2 can condensed milk with 2 tablespoons hot coffee.)

Let cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a wire rack lined with wax paper (so you can move it later.) Pierce warm cake all over carefully with tester or fork and drizzle the glaze over until it soaks it all up (careful - makes a mess!)

Let cake cool all the way and either wrap well in plastic wrap or transfer to a cake keeper until ready to serve. An hour before serving, drizzle liberally with warmed caramel sauce (microwave for a few seconds so it pours easily) and sprinkle Heath bar bits over the top.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie with Chocolate Cookie Crust

Well when falls off the Paleo wagon, one really falls off. I have to admit being able to eat dairy again is the best thing ever. I had big plans for a French Silk pie yesterday but a non-napping baby forced me to try go with plan B that didn't involve so many mixing bowls and steps. As it turns out it was a delicious plan B.

The original recipe (from my beloved dog-eared Mrs. Fields Cookie Book) called for cream cheese. Since I didn't have any on hand I subbed creme fraiche and crossed my fingers. I think it gave it a particularly amazing texture. Definitely more 'mousse' like than it would have been with cream cheese and I loved the subtle depth of tanginess the creme fraiche lent to the filling really playing up the dark chocolate flavor. Another bonus to using creme fraiche? You can make this pie on the spur of the moment without having to wait for any of the ingredients to come to room temp first.

By the way my husband and our good buddy staying with us topped this pie with…are you ready?…Blue Bell and a big splash of bourbon. They swear it's the best thing ever.

Deep Dark Chocolate Mousse Pie
* Adapted from Mrs. Fields Cookie Book

1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (ground fine)
5 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugat

6 oz dark chocolate (55%-75%), chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream plus 1/4 cup, plus additional for whipping if desired
8 oz creme fraiche
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine the crust ingredients until well mixed. Gently press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool.

For the filling, place chopped chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream to just a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

In a medium bowl with an eclectic mixer, beat the creme fraiche, sugar, vanilla and pinch salt until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream. Gently beat in the melted chocolate mixture. Set aside.

Sprinkle the 3/4 cup chocolate chips evenly over the bottom of the crust (if it's still a little warm that's fine - the chips will melt a little which is just groovy.)

Pour the filling over, and if the crust was still warm, let cool a bit before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 2 hours before serving to firm up a bit.

Pie will keep, covered, for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.