Wednesday, October 31

MAKE IT: Mandarin Pineapple Salsa

Fruit salsas are all the rage these days. You see them being used in cooking contests, cooking shows use them as garnish, most restaurants feature one these days, and even sine grocery stores carry them. But what exactly is a fruit salsa? And what can it be used for?

Fruit salsas are a delicate balance between sweet and spicy. This combination allows you to play off traditional flavor combinations, while adding a unique spin. Most fruit salsas are a combination of two fruits which play off each other. One being partial tart and one being partial sweet. For example Peach-Mango, or my favorite Mandarin-Pineapple.

Fruit salsas are the perfect accompaniment to overly sweet desserts as a way to balance them out or a nice grilled protein as a way to jazz it up! Include a fruit salsa at your next get together or use as a topping on fajitas/burritos as a wow factor.

Full time: 10 minute prep/ 30 minute chill time.
Serves 4-6

You will need:

6 mandarins, peeled
1 shallot
1 bunch cilantro
15 oz. jar pineapple chunks in juice, or tidbits
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper or cayenne pepper

Let us begin:

Drain pineapple chunks reserving 1/4 cup of the juice.

Place juice in a large mixing bowl. Stir in honey, pepper and salt.

Dice pineapple into small 1/4" pieces (if using tidbits skip this step)

Dice shallot into small 1/4" pieces.

Dice Mandarins into small 1/4" pieces

Chop cilantro as fine as you can.

Fold pineapple, shallot, mandarin, and cilantro into juice mixture.

Cover tight with cling film and place in refrigerator 30 minutes to 3 days.

Transfer to serving bowl or plate as garnish, enjoy!

Great dishes for salsa include:

Grilled Lemon Pepper Salmon
Grilled Flank Steak
Seared Scallops
Glazed Grilled Ribs
Fish or Shrimp Tacos
Tandoori Chicken

Monday, October 29

BAKE IT: Monkey Bread

Yes! Monkey Bread! I am not sure why it is called monkey bread and honestly I do not think anyone does. Maybe it is because we get to pull this apart and eat the sticky goodness with our fingers? Or maybe it is because you would have to be bananas not to enjoy it? Either way, this is a sure fire morning taste bud pleaser!

Full time: 35-45 minutes (does not include cool time)
Serves 4-6

You will need:

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed (or 3 can biscuits)
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp water

* 1 cup chopped nuts optional

Let us begin:

Coat a bunt pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350.

If using the nuts, place them in the pan evenly spread out.

In a zip top bag place the white sugar and cinnamon.

Carefully cut bread loaf or biscuits into 1" chunks.

Working in batches place chunks into bag and zip closed.

Shake bag to coat pieces.

Remove pieces and place in pan.

Continue until all pieces are coated and in pan.

Mix brown sugar and water together in small pot.

Add butter to pot and place on stove top over medium heat.

Heat until it comes to a low boil and brown sugar is completely dissolved, 8-10 minutes.

Pour mixture evenly over bread surface.

Bake in oven 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and let set 2-3 minutes.

Flip out of pan.

You may want to flip it back over and serve the carmel side down, Serve once it hits a nice touchable temperature or cover and store in refrigerator.

To reheat place in 350 oven for 10 minutes, enjoy!

Saturday, October 27

Fish Tacos

I will have up admit at first I did not understand this one. Fish tacos? Wait what, fish tacos? But they are seriously moving up in the culinary world, so why not. It took a little research and some very scary spice excitements but, I have to say I do love a fish taco now!

If your looking for something new to try or a great spin on fish give this a whirl, trust me you will not regret it!

Full time: 20-30 minutes
Serves 4

You will need:

1 lbs. salmon or halibut
2 limes
1  tsp cumin
1  tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic power
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Flour tortillas
Fruit salsa (try my Mandarin Pineapple it goes great with this) or diced avocado
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Lime wedges

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment.

Place fish on parchment.

Squeeze limes over fish to moisten.

Season with salt and pepper, to your liking.

Season with remaining spices.

Place salmon in oven for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit 2-3 minutes.

Using two forks shred salmon carefully into 1" pieces.

You will want to have warm tortillas to serve this on, you can either heat them on stove top or in microwave.

Lay down a tortilla and spread a thin layer of sour cream along the middle.

Top with a small amount of lettuce/cabbage.

Place salmon onto lettuce.

Top with fruit salsa or avocado.

Serve with lime wedge to enhance flavor and enjoy!

Thursday, October 25

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

True creativity sometimes leads to magical marriages. The Oreo cookie is the perfect blend of cookie and frosting cream center. These days there is an Oreo for everyone. Chocolate lover's get chocolate cookies with chocolate cream. Vanilla lover's get vanilla cookies with chocolate cream. There are all sorts of blend of the two. Don't forget the new fancy ones that include mint, peanut butter, birthday cake, cookie crumbles, double layers, and double stuffed. And still the old Purest Traditional Oreo.

But what is there about an Oreo that drives us to do all sorts of things to it? Have you tried a fried Oreo? Or how about an Oreo cream pie? Oreo ice cream? Chocolate covered Oreos. And of course my specialty baking them into things such as cookies, cupcakes, and the all important brownie.

Want a sure fire bake sale seller? Want to put any other baked goods in their place? Try this one out and watch the amazing look of people in heaven. I should also note, if you have ever eaten mine, i actually use homemade brownie mix, but store bought works the same.

Full time: 1 hour (includes cool time to frost)
Makes 12-15 brownies

You will need:

12-15 Oreos
1 egg
1 box family size brownie mix (19.5 oz)
1 1/2 cups chocolate frosting
*ingredients called for on brownie box

Let us begin:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper liners, have a second tray ready to use just in case with 3 liners.

Mix brownie mix according to package and add in the one egg.

Here us the fun finger part. Dip an Oreo into the brownie mix and coat it.

Place the dipped brownie into a paper liner and continue with remaining Oreos.

After you finish 12, you should see that the brownie mix has pooled slightly around the Oreo.

Cap off each one and make sure they are 2/3 full with brownie mix.

If you have left over mix, continue one at a time into the second tray. Making sure you can cap off each one with extra mix.

Bake in oven for 12 minutes. To test if done gently insert toothpick trying not to pierce Oreo.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Top with a thin layer of chocolate frosting, this adds a tiny bit of needed moisture and covers any Oreos peeking out.


Monday, October 22

Baby Zucchini with Spanish Vinaigrette

I love baby zucchini. They are cute, tender, and very flavorful. Most grocery stores sell them in bunches or packages by the pound. If you have trouble finding baby zucchini you can always use green zucchini, just be sure to cut into long thin spears.

Highlighting the zucchini with a Spanish style vinaigrette is a great way to add flavor and depth to them.

Full time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

You will need:

1 bunch (1 pound) baby zucchini
1 hard boiled egg
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried chopped onion
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Let us begin:

In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.

Slice baby zucchini in half length-wise.

Add zucchini into hot pan and dust with 1 tsp salt, ground pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Allow to slowly cook and turn golden. While this cooks we can make the sauce.

In a food processor or blender pour remaining olive oil, white vinegar, chopped onion, tarragon, and parsley.

Whirl on medium for a few minutes to create a nice emulsion.

Chop hard boiled egg roughly.

Add egg into food processor and whirl until not egg chunks can be scene.

By now you zucchini should be golden and ready to go, approximately 5-8 minutes.

Plate zucchini in a nice little stack and drizzle vinaigrette over them, enjoy!

Thursday, October 18

Pollo al Ajillo con Tomates Secos (Garlic Chicken with Sun driedTomatoes)

Pollo al Ajillo con Tomates Secos is one of the quickest prep dishes I know. This seemingly simple dish boasts full flavors, amazing textures, and marvelous aromas. If you looking for an easy fix one night, give this a try.

Pairs great with: Albariño

Full time: 30-60 minutes based on cut of meat (thinner boneless cooks faster)
Serves 2-4

You will need:

2 lbs. chicken (I am using thighs but boneless breasts work really good too)
1/2 cup sundries tomatoes in olive oil
1/2 cup basil
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp minced chopped garlic
Ground black pepper

Let us begin:

Heat oven to 350.

In a cast iron or oven safe pan pour olive oil, add in the minced garlic and sun dried tomatoes.

Cook for 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat until garlic begins to turn translucent.

While this cooks season chicken with salt and pepper to your liking.

Add chicken into hot pan, top side down. I like to bunch all the tomatoes into a pile in the middle to help.

Then just place the pile onto the chicken to get last piece into pan.

Cook for 5-8 minutes to brown off. Flip over allowing the sun dried tomatoes to end up under the chicken as much as possible.

Cook additional 5-8 minutes.

Move to oven to finish off cooking. The breasts should be done in about 10-15 minutes, thighs will take about 30.

Once chicken reaches 160 on thermometer, slice basil as thin as you can.

Spread basil over the chicken and return to oven until it reaches proper serving temperature.

Remove from oven and serve immediately, enjoy!