Monday, July 28, 2014

Western Jalapeno Poppers

I just spent the last week eating and hiking with my favorite person in one of my favorite places, Grand Teton National Park. My love for the West runs deep. The same history of grit, exploration, and adventure it was founded on still remain. Much of the West demands you get out of your car, lace up your shoes, and explore on foot. And explore we did.

What's not to like about that view?

Grand Teton National Park marks the fourth national park we have visited this year and it's one of our favorites. In fact, we both ranked it number 2 behind our beloved Rocky Mountain National Park. You could stare at those jagged peaks for hours and each minute feel as wowed by the view as the previous. They rise straight from the ground. They are immense. The hiking is breathtaking. I suggest you all stop working, cleaning the house, or whatever activity you might be doing and go to the Tetons now.

Our routine on trip consisted of hiking all day, cocktail hour, and dinner. For cocktail hour each day, one of us was responsible for making an appetizer and pairing it with a beverage. One night of the trip we made a 3 course meal pairing beer with each course. Course one was these western jalapeno poppers with homemade bread crumbs, which we paired with a maibock. Hoppy beers tend to hold up to spicy foods well and this maibock did the job. The poppers are embarrassingly easy to make but delicious. I'm calling the spices mixed into the cream cheese my western spice mix: onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, and salt. Add some homemade bread crumbs for crunch and you have yourself a delicious appetizer in about 20 minutes.

Western Jalapeno Poppers
Serves 2

1 cup of cubed crusty bread (I did asiago and onion bread)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup cream cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 jalapenos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss bread crumbs with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Once cooled, pulse in a food processor or blender until coarse bread crumb consistency.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Whisk onion powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, chili powder, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Mix spices with cream cheese and cheddar.

Half jalapenos lengthwise, remove seeds, and spread cream cheese mixture down the center. Dip cream cheese side into bread crumbs and place on a greased baking sheet (cream cheese side up). Bake 10-12 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Farmer's Market Beet, Goat Cheese, and Pistachio Pizza

In 4 days, we leave for Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I couldn't be more excited. Blake and I LOVE road trips. In fact, we decided the other day that our most favorite trips have been road trips. Even over our spectacular international trips. We will take to the road any day. On the road you can really get a sense of a place. You can stop and experience places you might never see otherwise. With so much hustle in this life the road slows you down and makes you take it all in. And personally I want to take it all in.

We have road tripped over 7,000 miles together. From Colorado to the Canadian border. Our road trips are beginning to have traditions. A new mix tape dominated by classic rock. Finding the best places to eat in middle of nowhere towns. Like Green River, Utah, where we ate at a burger place with a rather lengthy wine list. Surprising? Yes, until we realized the wine list was comprised of 15 different varieties of Franzia. Every college students' favorite boxed wine. But when on the road, you embrace a place for what it offers, especially when what it offers is different from your typical experience of life. When in Green River you revel in a decent burger and a glass of Franzia. It's a heck of a good time to have these adventures.

Since we are going out of town next week, we are making a valiant effort to eat up all our farm share food. This week that consisted of chard, potatoes, beets, green beans, onions, and lettuce. So I made nicoise salads and this beet pizza. Does beets on pizza sound a little suspect to you? Maybe but when you add some caramelized onions, goat cheese, garlic olive oil, and pistachios you will be none too disappointed. Like the Franzia in Green River this is nothing to be scared of, only an adventure to be had and a delicious one at that.

Farmer's Market Beet, Goat Cheese, and Pistachio Pizza 
Serves 4

5 medium sized beets, roasted and chopped into bite sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of chard, rough chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar + more to drizzle over the top
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
4-5 ounces of goat cheese
1 recipe pizza dough which can be found here or premade pizza dough (Whole Foods makes good dough), leave the dough on the counter about 30 minutes before you want to use it

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and let roast 45-50 minutes until softened. Pull beets out of the oven and increase heat to 500 degrees. Peel off skin and chop into bite sized pizza.

While beats are roasting, mince garlic cloves and mix with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside until later. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, in a saute pan over medium high heat and add onion. Cook the onion 7-8 minutes stirring occasionally until golden brown. Place onion aside on a plate. In the same saute pan add a little more oil and throw in your chard. Drizzle 1 tsp balsamic over the chard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook down stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes.

If you have an 18" pizza pan use it, otherwise a baking sheet will work. Cover the bottom of you pan with cornmeal. Stretch the dough with your fists into your desired shape and length. Start in the center and work your way to edge. Once the dough is stretched place on you baking pan and curl over the edges for your crust. Bake the crust for 4 minutes on its own.

Once the crust has par baked, spread your garlic oil over the bottom of the crust with a spoon. Spread over the crust your greens, onion, pistachios, beets, and goat cheese. Bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and the crust in golden brown.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grilled Pork Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Onion

Tacos! Who doesn't love tacos. Especially in the summer on the grill with roasted tomatillo salsa. Tomatillo salsa is a thing of beauty. For this tomatillo salsa, I charred everything on the grill in a vegetable grill basket. Roasty tomatillos, jalapeno, red onion, and garlic all meld beautifully when processed with some lime juice and salt.

The pork is brined and then rubbed with my favorite universal grill rub: garlic powder, salt, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, lemon pepper, and onion powder. A few minutes each side on the grill and topped with feta, quick pickled onion, and avocado and you have yourself a meal worthy of a summer evening. These tacos were loved in our household and will be made again and again.

Grilled Pork Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Pickled Onion 

Pork brine and rub
1 1/2 pound bone in pork chops
2 tbs salt for brine + 1 tsp for rub
1 quart water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder

Mix together water, bay leaf, and 2 tbs salt in a large tupperware, until the salt dissolves. Place pork in the brine (salt water) and let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.

While the pork is brining prepare your tomatillo salsa (directions below) and spice rub.

Mix together remaining salt, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and onion powder. Once pork is done brining, pat dry with a paper towel, and cover both sides with the spice rub. Grill 6-7 minutes per side, while grilling the vegetables for the salsa.

Tomatillo salsa
1 lbs tomatillos, remove the husk
1/2 red onion
1 small head of garlic
1 jalapeno
Juice from half a lime
3 tablespoons cilantro
1/2 tsp salt

Heat grill to medium high. Wrap the garlic in foil and place straight on the grill. In a grill basket or on an oiled grill, roast the tomatillos, red onion, and jalapeno 8-10 minutes rotating every few minutes. You want them to get a little charred. Seed and remove the skin of the jalapeno once it has cooled.

Place roasted garlic cloves, jalapeno, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and salt in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Quick pickled onion
1/2 a red onion sliced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Place red onion, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once boiling remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

For serving
1 avocado

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cherry Almond Dutch Baby

You know how I love to start the day with a good quote. Today's inspiration comes from a wonderful book, "A Prayer for Owen Meany". This book is a must read. John Irving crafts the most lovable characters and makes you ponder the value of friendship, faith, and family. The important things, you know. Anyway, little Owen Meany gives us this gem, "If you care about something, you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it."

How bout them apples? Are you inspired? I am. This quote makes me want to climb mountains with my husband, embrace quiet nights at home with the people I love, road trip, revel in nights on the porch reading by lantern light. For this is the way of life I love. This quote makes me want to start my own little hobby business, a bakery, call it Crumble. And that is in fact what I did. Today marks the first day Crumble baked goods will be sold in the stores I manage. Pretty exciting. Because food is a large part of the life I love, I decided to do a little something with it. A new adventure, a new project. It's a good life. Especially when filled with bake goods.

My little bakery case

So to celebrate Crumble's opening day, I made you this cherry almond dutch baby. A dutch baby is a thick eggy delicious pancake you bake in the oven. No flipping necessary. That's good stuff. In the oven it gets all crumply and golden brown. Cherries were a must given that I can't get enough of them this time of year. Add a little almond extract because cherries and almonds are a good team and you have an easy breakfast worthy of a celebration.

Cherry Almond Dutch Baby 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 2

3 large eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sweet pitted cherries
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, flour, milk, salt, and almond extract.

In a 12 inch ovenproof fry pan, melt the butter. Add cherries and cook two minutes. Pour batter over the top and transfer to the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. I had mine with maple syrup because I love maple syrup. And today we are having the courage to do what we love.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spiced Vanilla Bean Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles

It's hot! We need popsicles and we need them now. Popsicles are fun. You can stick almost anything in a popsicle mold and freeze it. Thus far I have made chocolate raspberry pudding popsicles and these spiced vanilla bean strawberry yogurt popsicles.

I considered making blueberry, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream popsicles for the 4th of July but instead I made an American flag cake. I impressed myself, when I cut into the vanilla bean cake and it did indeed look like a flag. Hopefully I impressed the friends we had over too because I baked layer upon layer of that cake on a ninety degree day. So that too was hot. Hence we come back to the need for popsicles. I just took us in a great big circle.

A slightly offset American flag

These popsicles are inspired by the spiced strawberry rhubarb compote I posted here a few months ago. Spiced strawberry syrup is mixed with honey and greek yogurt then frozen for a supremely satisfying creamy break from the heat. It's easy, as making popsicles should be. You could make them with any berry. You could make them with ice cream. You could add some chocolate. Nothing is off limits when it comes to the popsicle.

Spiced Vanilla Bean Strawberry Yogurt Popsicle
Makes 5 popsicles

For the spiced vanilla bean strawberry syrup
2 cups strawberries (could be frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup water
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp nutmeg

In a medium sauce pan over high heat, mix together all ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat medium to simmer. Cook down for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half. Let cool to room temperature.

Greek yogurt and honey
1 1/2 cups greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey

Whisk together honey and greek yogurt. Mix in cooled strawberry syrup. Pour into popsicle molds and place in the freezer for 4 hours or until frozen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

Last week we ate pizza twice. Then we had some pasta baked with a creamy garlicky white sauce, sun dried tomatoes, and lemony roasted broccoli. Then we thought maybe we would top that off with a rather large meal out and some fried foods. Somewhere along the way a dozen cookies were consumed. What a good week. I promise we had salads for lunch, most days, okay maybe twice. Someone had to draw the line. At least for one night.

Thus I made chicken souvlaki, a wonderful lemony grilled chicken Greek dish. Remember we make nothing in this kitchen that does not taste awesome. Well sometimes we do but every kitchen has its failures. But bland food will not be made in the name of health. Luckily it doesn't have to be.

The secret to keeping grilled chicken breasts and pork chops, loins etc. from drying out on the grill is to brine them. Brining is effortless. A quart of water and 2 tablespoon of salt. Let your meat soak for at least 30 minutes. You will get all the char and none of the jerky like texture people often fall victim to on the grill. This meal was loved in our house for both its ease and bright flavors. You can eat it to be a little healthier or you can eat it because it's delicious. My reasons for eating are always the later.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, serves 4

Tzatziki Sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 a cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tbs fresh mint, minced
2 tbs dried dill

Whisk together all the ingredients. Cover and set aside.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried parsley
Zest of 1 lemon plus 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 yellow onion, halved and each half cut into 4 chunks

Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt into 1 quart cold water. Place chicken breasts in the salt water, cover, refrigerate, and let brine for at least 30 minutes.

While the chicken is brining, mix together olive oil, parsley, lemon zest and juice, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towel. Toss chicken with 1/2 the oil mixture and thread onto skewers alternating with onion chunks. This should make about 6 skewers.

Turn all the burners on the grill to hot and let heat. Oil you grate with nonstick spray. Grill skewers 15-20 minutes, rotating every few minutes. Make sure the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and onions from the skewers and toss with remaining oil mixture. Serve over couscous.

To serve
1 package of prepared couscous