Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mom's Bourbon Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole

I'm really bad at posting great holiday recipes until it's too late.  I'm just not that good of a food blogger.  But posting ON THE ACTUAL DAY? Does that count? HEB is open until 2pm so if you're still looking for a last minute Thanksgiving dish to bring to a dinner or add to yours, here it is!

Mom's Bourbon Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole

  • 4 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 6 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 c.dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 &1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. bourbon
  • 1 c. toasted pecans or chestnuts
  • optional: 1 bag mini marshmallows

  1. Roast and peel sweet potatoes in a 375*F oven for about 30-45 minutes.  Slice in 1/4" thick rounds.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Lower heat to a simmer and add vanilla, maple syrup, and bourbon.  Simmer until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Preheat oven to 375*F.  In a large bowl, mix together sweet potatoes, apples, and sauce.  In a large casserole dish, layer sweet potatoes, apples, and pecans.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 50 minutes.  Uncover foil and bake an additional 20 minutes.
  4. Optional (if you're a fan of traditional marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole like me): Top with marshmallows and bake at 500*F for 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows golden brown and not burnt.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fully Loaded Mashed Cauliflower

In my quest to find lower carb substitutes, I learned that cauliflower can be made into ANYTHING. Although whether it should or not remains to be questioned.  You want to eat rice? Make cauliflower rice! You want to eat pizza? Make cauliflower pizza crust! You want to eat mashed potatoes? Make mashed cauliflower!  You want to eat crackers and hummus? Just eat cauliflowers.  So basically, since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I've bought a head of cauliflower every week at the grocery store.  I love that cauliflower is super cheap

I'd posted this on my Instagram account a few weeks ago, and I hadn't planned on posting about it since it is so stupid simple, but lots of people were interested in it so here goes:

Fully Loaded Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheese
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbs. ranch dressing mix (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 green onion, sliced

    *really, all the additions are optional.  I just happen to like my fully loaded potatoes with all the above, so that's what I put in the mashed cauliflower.  Feel free to change the measurements, too.  I'm not really sure if these are accurate because I just eyeballed stuff.


    1. Fill a large pot with water and about 2 tsp. salt and boil over high.  Add cauliflower florets and simmer covered over medium-low until soft, about 5-10 minutes.  Drain well!  Like shake all the water out of those suckers as you can.  Dry them in paper towels or a kitchen towel if needed.  I think I spun them in a salad spinner to get as much water out of them as possible.
    2. Preheat oven to 375*F
    3. In a large bowl, mash the cauliflower with a potato masher.  Mix in butter, Greek yogurt, ranch dressing, cheese, and bacon, salt and pepper; reserving about 1/4 c. of cheese and 1 tbs. bacon for later.  Transfer mixture to an oven-proof casserole dish (or if you hate dishes like me, do the mixing and mashing in the casserole dish too).  Top with reserved cheese and bacon and bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese melted.
    4. Top with green onions and if desired, an additional dollop of Greek yogurt

    Maybe not the prettiest thing to photgraph but pretty tasty!

    Baby Back Pork Ribs, Fully Loaded Mashed Cauliflower, and Shish-kabobs

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Shortcut 'Nem Nuong': Vietnamese Meatball Spring Rolls

    Nem Nuong are traditionally Vietnamese grilled pork meatballs or patties.  They can be eaten over a bowl of vermicelli noodles or rice, over a simple salad of greens and herbs, or rolled up in rice paper wrappers.  Basically you have the meatballs + some format of rice (vermicelli noodles, rice, rice paper wrappers) + lettuce + herbs + some kind of crunchies.  When making the spring rolls in rice paper wrappers, they are dipped in a savory peanut/hoisin sauce.  Nem nuong cuon (rolls) are super refreshing and tasty and a great alternative to anyone tired of shrimp filled spring rolls. 

    Because making them actually does require a lot of different components, I learned a trick from my mom to get dinner on the table on a weeknight, after work, on time, and....I use store bought chicken teriyaki and pineapple meatballs from Costco! Ok, I admitted it! I didn't actually make the main part of this dish.  But that's what makes this so great! It's so delicious and you still have to prep all the other components so I don't feel all that guilty.  And Costco teriyaki meatballs are delicious.  Haha.  These are the ones they sell:  By using this shortcut, we actually got to eat dinner within 1 hour of me getting off of work.  And that included the time it takes me to shower and change into PJ's, feed our pets, and check Instagram.  You know, all those things that are necessary when you get home before you can even THINK about dinner.

    Nem Nuong Cuon Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Meatballs
    4 servings

    • 12 oz package of Aidells teriyaki and pineapple chicken meatballs
    • 4 egg roll wrappers
    • 1 package spring roll wrappers, bahn trang
    • 1 flat of vermicelli rice noodles, bun
    • 1 cucumber, cut in half and made into long wedges
    • romaine or red leaf lettuce
    • herbs such as Thai basil, mint, cilantro
    • roasted peanuts
    • 2 tbs. Hoisin sauce
    • 2 tbs. peanut (or other nut) butter

    1. Prepare a deep fryer or pot with about 1" of oil over medium-high heat.  Cut egg roll wrappers in half.  Roll each piece up like an unfilled burrito or egg roll.   Fry until golden brown on all sides and drain on paper towels.
    2. Boil vermicelli noodles according to directions and drain well.  Cook meatballs according to directions.  Cut meatballs in half.
    3. Wash and dry cucumber, lettuce, and herbs and place on a plate.  
    4. Make the dipping sauce by mixing Hoisin sauce and nut butter and adding about 1 tsp. of water to thin out.
    5. To assemble rolls: Dip 1 spring roll wrapper in a bowl of warm water. Gently shake or "squeegee" off any excess water with your fingers.  Place on a clean plate.  Place a small amount of each component as desired.  Starting about 1/4 the way up from the bottom, I like to layer the lettuce, then herbs, cucumber, then  vermicelli noodles, fried egg roll wrapper, meatballs, top with peanuts (or skip if you're allergic like me), and a small dab of the dipping sauce in my roll.  Roll up the bottom, then sides, and continue rolling until done.  Enjoy with the dipping sauce!
    • Alternatives: Skip the spring roll and make a bowl up over some vermicelli noodles or rice.  Or skip all the carbs and make a salad!

    Tuesday, November 8, 2016

    Butchery 101 at Austin's Sustainable Food Center

    The other night Reid and I did something a little different for date night.  We attended a butchery class held by the Sustainable Food Center! It was a lot of fun.  I've been trying to get Reid to go to a cooking class with me and so I sent him a list of different classes around town.  If you are interested in a cooking class in Austin, I'd definitely recommend the following resources:

    The Sustainable Food Center The SFC building is really nice! and the class was great! Class prices can range from free to $70/person depending on the class.  I think we paid about $40 each to take the butchery class.  They have an adjacent community/teaching garden on the east side.  Class topics range from bee keeping, gardening classes, knife skills, tamale making classes, etc!
    Kitchen Undergound  I want to try a class out here.  A few of my fellow AFBA bloggers teach classes with Kitchen Underground and they have a variety of interesting and unique classes. I like that they offer Indian and Chinese cooking classes. Prices range from $45-75.
    Central Market I have not attended a class here yet, but have heard lots of good things.  There is a wide variety of classes offered and times. 

    There are also a lot of free classes/resources such as those at:
    Whole Foods  I haven't done a cooking/food class here, but I foresee taking future kiddos here to do some hands-on kids classes/healthy eating learning.  I have done the free yoga here and it was awesome.  I'm not sure if they still offer it, but they used to offer free yoga classes on Sundays at the Domain location.    
    Williams-Sonoma  Reid and I attended a past-making class in the past here and it was great! You also get 10% off any merchandise you purchase after attending the class.  So yea...$150 of pasta-making gadgets later I walked out of there ready to make homemade pasta...You got me W-S. You got me.  Good thing at the time I had lots of gift cards from our wedding registry!
    and farmer's markets demos

    As far as the butchery class, I felt like a learned a lot about different meat cuts, how to appreciate flavor, how to respect and patronize good meat suppliers and a few new cooking techniques.  Reid chose this class because of that silly How I Met Your Mother episode where they have an extra room and when imagining possibilities: home-butchery room.  Since then we've always imagined doing something like that.  

    We did not actually do any butchering ourselves, as this was mostly a hands-off/demo class.  It was a 4 part series on butchery and we only did this class, so there may have been more hands-on action in the other classes.  We did learn about all the different meat cuts in a cow and which cuts were most suitable for what type of cooking.  I think one of the most useful things I learned was how to prepare meat cuts for the best outcome.  We also got to sample lots of meat/results from the cooking demos!  The class was taught by a local butcher, Julia, who has just left Dai Due to start on some of her own butchery adventures.

    Key Points I learned/took away from the class:
    • salt meats overnight uncovered in fridge the night before
    • brine poultry and pork
    • make sure meat has come to room temperature for 1-2 hours prior to cooking
    • properly rest the meat afterwards
    • always cut against the grain
    • use a super hot sizzling pan-there's no way to avoid smoking out your house!
    • roasting low and slow great for tougher cuts
    • reverse sear: this is like it sounds.  Instead of searing and then cooking through, cook through and then finish off with a sear