Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Twice-Baked Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

If you're bored with sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, here's an interesting twist on the classic sweet potato side dish for Thanksgiving.  I personally like sweet potatoes that are seasoned more on the salty side; so you get that sweet and salty combo.  Like sweet potato fries, I feel there's no need to add cinnamon or sugar or marshmallows.  So when I came across this recipe 5 years ago, I knew I had to try it.  It's been very yummy and I've brought it to my family's Thanksgiving twice now.

I came across this recipe of all places in the Bryan, TX electric's quarterly mailer, the "Texas Co-Op Power" November 2010 edition.

Twice-Baked Chipotle Sweet Potaotes
  • 6 medium sweet potatoes (try picking rounder shaped sweet potatoes of similar sizes)
  • olive oil
  • 8 oz. goat cheese, softened (cream cheese may be substituted)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 c. cilantro, minced
  • 2 tbs. butter, softened
  • 1 chipotle pepper from can, minced
  • 1/4 c. adobe sauce from canned chipotle

  1. Scrub sweet potatoes and dry thoroughly.  Rub skins with olive oil.  Wrap individually and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until soft.  Allow to cool before handling.
  2. Mix rest of ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Cut potatoes in half and carefully remove inner flesh, reserving about 1/4" border from the skins.  The skin is much more delicate than a regular potato, so be careful not to tear the skin!  Using a masher or mixer, combine the goat cheese and sweet potatoes.
  3. Fill each potato with the mixture with a spoon, or for a fancier presentation, use a pastry bag with a star tip.
  4. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until tops browned and potatoes warmed through.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pork Chops with Crispy Sweet Potatoes with Apple Cider Reduction

So I got a little overzealous with my fall enthusiasm and had about 2 pounds of apples to use before they got all mushy this week.  Bust out the sweet potatoes, and sage, and pork chops!

This was an easy and deliciously filling weeknight meal and it made our house smell really good.

Pork Chops with Crispy Sweet Potatoes and Apple Cider Reduction
Recipe inspired by Curtis Stone's Cider-Dijon Pork Chops

  • 4 thin-cut bone-in pork chops
  • 3 tbs. olive oi
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4" long slices
  • 1 onion, sliced into wedges
  • 2 small Fuji apples, sliced in wedges
  • about 10 sage leaves
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1 tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat a sheet pan in the oven at 450 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes, onion, apples, and sage leaves in 2 tbs. olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread mixture on pre-heated sheet pan and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, turning ingredients over once during cooking time.  The preheated sheet pan allows the sweet potatoes to get really crispy on all sides.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Pat pork chops dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Cook in skillet for about 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through (internal temperature of 145 F).
  3. Remove pork chops and keep warm on a plate under a foil tent.  Add butter and Dijon mustard to the remaining pan juices over medium-high heat.  De-glaze pan with apple cider vinegar and cook until volume reduced to about half.
  4. Plate pork chops.  Drizzle sauce over pork and serve with side of roasted vegetables.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fettuccine Carbonara

Although the weather has failed to reflect it here in Texas, fall is here!  That means I get to start hiding under layered clothes.  Bye bye, bikinis!  I'm already starting to crave the hearty meals; stews, pastas, casseroles, chilis; that accompany the change of seasons.  That being said, we recently came back from a trip out-of-town and I had to pull something together from the pantry/deep recesses of my freezer because my lazy butt didn't want to go grocery shopping after sitting on an airplane and at airports for the last 5 hours.  So here comes dinner's savior: Fettucine Carbonara!

I almost always keep some bacon and shredded parmesan in the freezer, some eggs in the fridge, and some type of pasta in the pantry.  Picked off some of the last leaves of Italian parsley from my herb garden and, Voila! Dinner! This recipe comes courtesy from my friend Laura's parents.  In a bind, I replaced white wine with sherry and subbed fettuccine for rigatoni and it turned out great!

Fettuccine Carbonara
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 glass white wine or sherry
  • 4 tbs. butter
  • 3/4. lb pasta (ex: rigatoni, fettuccine, spaghetti, linguine, bucatini)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt and lots of pepper to taste
  • 3/4 c. good quality Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. whole milk (cream if you want to be indulgent)
  • 1 tbs. chopped Italian parsley for garnish
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add bacon and onion and cook until bacon almost crisp.  Add wine/sherry and deglaze/scrape up all the good bits from the bottom.  Take off heat and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.  Drain pasta but reserve about 1/4 c. pasta water.  While pasta and pasta water still hot, quickly add Parmesan cheese, bacon mixture, salt and pepper, eggs and milk/cream.   Mix well.  The remaining heat should help cook the eggs.  If still too runny, can heat mixture a little.  Serve with garnish of parsley.  

Dinner in a snap

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Caribbean Shrimp Salad

In August, my family went to Turks and Caicos for my parent's (1 year) belated 35th anniversary.  It was a beautiful time.  Thanks to my brother-in-law and sister, we stayed at an amazing resort where we had two personal chefs and two attendants.  Our meals were prepared to our liking each day, and though we gorged ourselves on food, it was all rather healthy and tasty.  Reid and I were sure we'd come back 10 lbs heavier, but he actually lost weight and I stayed the same.  We've both been trying to be more conscious about living healthier, working out and eating better so this was a delightful reminder that we can eat really well, but still be pretty healthy.  It inspired me to make some lighter, but flavor-filled foods when we got back, nice and tan ;)

In Turks and Caicos, we enjoyed a lot of conch salad, as it was conch season.  The chewy, salty conch was complimented well with a lemon juice and oil dressing and lots of fresh veggies.  Upon returning, I found out it's near impossible to get fresh conch in the US, so I substituted shrimp for a yummy seafood salad.  I think squid would also make a great alternative.  This came together so easily and was really satisfying on a hot day.  This recipe is from Epicurious

Caribbean Shrimp Salad
Source: Epicurious
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled, tails removed, and cooked
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Haas avocado, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

    1. In a large bowl, combine shrimp, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, jalepeno, cilantro, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and olive oil.   Allow flavors to come together in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
    2. Fold in avocado and tomatoes.  Serve in chilled bowls!

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    Chả Cá (Vietnamese Tumeric Fish with Dill)

    Chả Cá is a fish dish originating from north Vietnam.  Tumeric marinated fish is grilled table-side, which was always fun for me as a kid.  The fish is served with rice noodles, peanuts, and plenty of dill!  All these great flavors combine to make a delicious, yet light, bowl of savory, crunchy, satisfying goodness!  For our last visit to Houston, I had my mom teach me how to make this dish.  Here's her version:

    4 catfish fillets, cut in 1" pieces
    1 tbs. rice flour
    2 tbs Greek yogurt
    1-2 tsp ground tumeric
    1 inch galangal, ground in a mortar and pestel 
    1 tbs vegetable oil
    1/2 tsp. shrimp paste (mam tom)

    Marinated for at least 4 hrs. 
    Bake at 400 for 5-8 minutes or until browned. 

    Fry in oil with 
    1 cup fresh dill
    1 cup green onion, cut in 1" long slices
    until fish is crisp, about 2-3 minutes. 

    Serve with:
    Black sesame chips (banh trang)
    Vermicelli noodles
    Roasted peanuts
    Nước mắm 
    Mam tom (shrimp paste mixed with lime juice and equal portions sugar and rice whiskey)
    Lettuce and herbs (IE: garlic chives, purple Thai basil, mint , cilantro)

    Joelle getting ready for the feast

    Sunday, July 12, 2015

    Caprese Pasta

    I have basil overload in my garden right now.  After making a bunch of pesto, we've been making caprese salad almost every other night.  This caprese pasta was a way to incorporate the basil, tomato, mozzarella and balsamic tastes of the salad into a dinner meal.  The sauce was a little sweet, so it is a bit different than what I would typically make.  This is great warm, or as a cold pasta salad (chop the mozzarella and toss with rest of cooled ingredients instead of melting).

    Caprese Pasta
  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 pint baby bella mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4  cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced in 1/4" slices

  • Directions:
    1. Boil pasta according to package directions.
    2. While pasta is cooking, combine balsamic vinegar and brown sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced about a half, about 6-8 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.
    3. In straight-sided pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes.  Add pasta, tomatoes, and balsamic reduction.  Toss to combine.  Place mozzerella slices on top and allow residual heat to melt.  Top with basil leaves.  Alternatively, all ingredients can be combined once refrigerated for a pasta salad.

    Twix-Style Ice Cream

    Nothing goes hand-in-hand quite like hot summer days and ice cream.  I love ice cream.  I probably have an unhealthy addiction to ice cream.  But it's not like I can help it.  It's in my genes!  My dad's family used to own an ice cream shop in Vietnam.  I look back fondly to the moments my dad and I shared watching Tom and Jerry cartoons and eating ice cream after dinner when I was younger.

    One of my favorite things on ice cream is a nice, ooey-goeey melty salty caramel sauce.  So let's make some caramel chocolate ice-cream!  The sweetness of the ice cream and chocolate go well with the salty caramel flecks.  This recipe was inspired by this Tasting Table recipe for Snickers ice cream.

    Twix-Style Ice cream
    • 2/3 c. sugar
    • 3/4 c. heavy cream, heated but not boiling
    • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

    Ice cream base:
    • 1 c. whole milk
    • 3/4 c. sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 c. heavy cream
    • 5 large egg yolks
    • pinch of salt

    Mix ins:
    • 2 packages of Twix bars, chopped
    • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped
    1. Caramel: In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add the sugar.  Once the sugar starts to melt, fold over itself until sugar is evenly golden-brown.  Remove from heat and slowly add in heavy cream.  Cool in a glass bowl, then stir in salt.
    2. Ice Cream:  Have an ice bath ready to cool down the finished custard.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, sugar, and salt and simmer until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by pouring a little of the heated milk mixture into the yolks, a little slowly each time.  Don't scramble the egg yolks!  Then add the milk-yolk mixture into the rest of the milk.  Heat over medium, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 2-3 minutes.  Strain the custard into a bowl with heavy cream, set in the ice bath.  Add the vanilla extract.  Refrigerate until completely cool, 8 hours or overnight.  
    3. Freeze ice cream according to ice cream machine instructions.  Stir in Twix bars and chocolate chips.
    4. In a freezer-safe container, layer the caramel and ice cream.  Freeze until hardened, at least 4 hours.  Enjoy!

    Thursday, June 25, 2015

    Beet and Chickpea Galette

    My vegetable garden this year provided me with lots of beets and carrots! So beside roasting them, I found this Martha Stewart recipe for a beet and chickpea gallette.

    I love beets, but they can sometimes taste a too much like dirt.  This recipe was a great way to use lots of beets and has a freshness of flavor that is really nice.  I use a food processor to shred all the vegetables, but you could also use a box grater and get a great work-out!

    and warning, like this hilarious Portlandia skit, beets will make everything red.  Don't worry, it's not an emergency, it's not blood, it's just beets...

    Beet and Chickpea Gallette
    recipe from Martha Stewart 

    • 4 medium beets, peeled and grated
    • 1 russet potato, scrubbed and diced
    • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
    • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 c. flour
    • salad greens
    • goat cheese
    • 1 tbs. lemon juice
    • 2-3 tbs. olive oil
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    1. Boil potato in salted water until fork tender, about 5-10 minutes.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine beets, potato, carrots, chickpeas and flour.
    3. Heat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil over medium heat.  Press the vegetable mixture into the pan and pack down with a rubber spatula.  Allow to brown on one side and cook through for about 10 minutes.  Flip very carefully, using the assistance of a plate over the pan, then sliding back into the pan.  Cook for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to a large plate.
    4. Mix lemon juice and olive oil together and toss with salad greens.  Top galette with salad and goat cheese.  Enjoy!

    It's not blood...it's just beets

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

    Anniversary dinner at Counter 3. FIVE. VII

    It was our second anniversary this month and the husband treated us to a wonderful meal at Counter 3.five. VII.  The concept behind the restaurant is pretty awesome.  It's the diners sitting right there at a U shaped counter with chefs on the other side.  There is nothing separating you from the chef, diners can watch their meals being made and interact with the creators.  So that explains the counter part of the name.  The 3. five. VII refers to set course meals of 3, 5, or 7 focusing on what is in season.  The menu changes seasonally and there are options for wine pairings, as well.
    We had a really amazing time.  Reid and I had the seven course meal without pairings.  The food was refreshing, contemporary, and innovative.  The chefs were friendly and welcoming.  And the presentation was beautiful.  It was such a treat and a wonderful experience to be able to watch the chefs prepare the meals; watching how every little detail and component came together with such precision, attention to detail, and thought.  We will definitely have to come back for another special occasion!

    Leather Bound menu for that night
    Swordfish and Succotash

    Sunday, May 31, 2015

    Asian mini meatballs in lettuce cups

    I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart and it turned out really well.  I've made it a few times since and it's really simple and delicious.

    Mini Asian Meatballs in Lettuce Cups
    from Martha Stewart


    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 12 cloves garlic
    • 3 tbs. peeled ginger
    • 3 scallions, chopped
    • 1 tsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 tbs. sesame oil
    • 1/4 c. Greek yogurt
    • 1 tbs. lime juice
    • lettuce cups, chopped roasted peanuts or almonds, sprigs of cilantro, sliced Thai chilies for garnish

    1. Place garlic, ginger, and scallions in a food processor and pulse until chopped.
    2. Combine beef, garlic/ginger/scallion mix, and fish cause in a medium bowl.  Form into mini meatballs.
    3. In a large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium high heat.  Cook meatballs about 5 minutes each batch.
    4. In a small bowl, mix yogurt and lime juice.  Serve meatballs in lettuce cups with yogurt sauce and garnishes.

    Sausage and Plantains

    I learned about this dish from one of my veterinary school friends, Christina.  She brought it as lunch one day and all the rest on the rotation smelled how amazing it smelled and had to know what it was.  Sausage and plantains!  It is a very popular Central American or Caribbean dish.  I even had the girl checking me out at the grocery store tell me her grandma makes the same thing when she saw I was buying plantains.  It certainly a super easy weeknight meal, as it takes about 10 miinutes and involves two ingredients.

    If you use yellow plantains, they will taste more like potatoes when cooked.  The more ripe the plantains, the more sweet they will be.

    Sausage and Plantains
    Serves 2
    • 3 plantains, sliced at a bias
    • 3-4 links of sausage, any variety of choice, sliced at a bias
    • 1 tbs. coconut oil
    1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat
    2. Add sausage and cook for about 5 minutes.
    3. Add in plantains and cook for 2-3 minutes per side.

    Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    Paris part deux

    Some more pictures of us doing tourist-y things and eating more good food.  One day we went to visit Reid's co-worker out about 40 mintues outside of Paris. His wife owns a fromagerie (cheese shop) and we got to visit the shop, eat a giant cheese plate out of my dreams, followed by a delicious home-cooked meal of roast lamb, carrots, whipped potatoes and strawberries with gruyere whipped cream.  Then we went on a quick hike in the woods by their house.  I wish my French had been better so I could've gotten a description of all the different cheeses a little more detailed than 'goat cheese' or 'cow cheese' or cheese with truffles.

    We also spent almost every day eating macarons.  We visited La Duree (our favorite) multiple times and also Piere Herme.  I think I could eat French macarons in Paris all day, everyday. 

    In front of Eiffel Tower
    Notre Dame again
    Pierre Herme macarons
    Sacre Coeur
    Palais Versailes
    So many amazing cheeses!
    The fromagerie
    Store front of the fromagerie

    Thursday, April 23, 2015


    Reid and I went to Paris in April to visit my grandmother and for my grandfather's death anniversary.  It was a good visit.  My grandmother was very happy to see everyone.  Of course, we ate lots of great food.  My cousin, Celia, her cousins own a microbraiserie called Le Triangle.  We visited it one night and it was very good.  One cousin is the chef, and we ate a very creative tasting menu.  The other cousin's husband brews beer.  The girl cousin runs front of house.  The three of them make up the 'triangle'.  Microbreweries are pretty new and uncommon in Paris, and their restaurant is the first to serve food.  

    Of course, we visited lots of patisseries and also visited the farmer's market by my grandmother's apartment in mouffetard.

    Front of Le Triangle
    Sable Breton avec fraise (French butter cookie with strawberries)
    I don't remember what exactly this was, but it was some delicious combo of hazelnuts, chocolate, and mouse
    Dacquoise au chocolat was the name
    The menu changes almost daily
    Filet mignon with baked cheese puffs

    Beer menu, all European microbreweries
    Reid and me
    My cousin Celia, and her aunt Christine
    Foie Gras
    Boat cruise on the Seine
    Passing Notre Dame
    Tour Eiffel
    Mouffetard market
    Beautiful and delicious eclaires
    More delicious pastries

    Reid in front of Mouffetard
    Fresh cheeses and cured meats
    They're like pieces of artwork!