Friday, November 21, 2014

Corn, Sausage & Leek Chowder. A warm hug in a bowl.

If I was one of those organized people who hosted holiday open houses with Vince Guaraldi playing in every room and Mistletoe hanging above the doorway, I'd serve this soup. Comforting yet not too rich with its brothy stock laden with all kinds of textures, it has everything going for it. And that's before you add toppings!

You can use sweet sausage instead of spicy but I love a little heat against the sweet corn. And if you want it 'meatier' feel free to up the sausage to one pound. I find the ratio below makes this a perfect guys and gals soup though. The dudes feel like they're eating a hearty meal and us gals can still hold our head up and say we had soup for dinner. But if you're in the camp of 'mo sausage, mo betta' cheers to that.

Maybe one year I'll be organized enough to actually host that holiday party of my dreams. Until then I'm just happy knowing I already have the perfect recipe.

Corn, Sausage and Leek Soup
* This soup is great to make ahead and tastes amazing reheated.
* I can't stress rinsing your leeks thoroughly enough. This is best to do once you've halved them lengthwise so you can get the water in between the leaves where fine grit hides.
* Serves 6.

3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, loose
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 med sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, white and light green (not tough) parts only, well rinsed, halved lengthwise then chopped into thin strips crosswise
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
pinch pepper
10 oz frozen corn
32 oz low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Chopped Fresh cilantro, for serving
Tortilla chips, crushed up, for serving


In a large dutch oven, break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat until cooked through and some bits have become nice and brown and crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove sausage with a wooden spoon and set aside.

To the dutch oven, add 2 tablespoons salted butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Allow the butter to melt then add the onion. Cook stirring often for 3 minutes then add the leaks. Season with coriander, salt and pepper and continue cooking and stirring over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the leeks are super soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Stir in the corn, chicken stock, and cooked sausage and raise heat slightly so the soup comes to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low and stir in the half and half. Taste for seasoning. If it's not the most delicious thing you've ever eaten, it needs more salt so make gradual adjustments until it is.

Serve with chopped fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar and or/any other toppings you see fit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro


This is my new favorite thing to make and eat. I usually keep a bag of chopped onion in my freezer which makes this something I can put together in five minutes in the morning before work.

The following statement may officially make me the lamest person on the planet but remembering that dinner is already made when the work day comes to a close and I get that panicked feeling (baby needs a bath! I need a bath! What are we eating? Why is my underwear on the TV?) is the best. thing. ever. As they say a baby changes everything.

Two notes: I actually like sushi rice with this (rinsed before cooking) but any variety would work. Also this freezes beautifully even with the rice included.

Slow Cooker Pork Tikka Masala with Tomato, Coconut Milk and Cilantro

Ingredients/How to:

To a slow cooker, stir together and cook for 4 hours on low:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds thin cut boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut against the grant into thin 1/8 inch thick strips (you can often buy it already prepared this way or have your butcher do this)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika or curry (I prefer curry but both are great)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Big handful cilantro (no need to chop) plus extra chopped for garnish

After 4 hours, stir in the following and cook another 30 minutes while you make 2 cups of prepared rice:
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 (14 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

After 30 minutes, turn the cooker off and stir in:
1 tablespoon honey

Serve over rice and with additional cilantro for garnish.

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.