Appetizers, Main course, Salads

Spicy grilled shrimp skewers with black bean and corn slaw

Happy 2012!

Honestly, when I look at the number 2012, I feel like I’m in one of those ’90s futuristic sci-fi movies, where everyone should be driving flying cars and wearing white skin-hugging bodysuits. Saying “2012” just conjures up those images in my head. I guess I’m weird that way.

Its interesting how when you’re young you have this idea in your mind of how your life will turn out in the future. And yet life is such an uncontrollable force. It throws change at you, usually in the most unexpected and unpredictable ways. At least thats been my experience. Maybe ya’ll had your 10, 20, 30 year plans all mapped out when you were 21, and actually saw them come to pass. But the story of my life has been filed with… not “twists and turns”, but rather upside down 360 degree flips… thats a better way to describe it. Some wonderfully unexpected, like my widowed mother-in-laws recent whirlwind romance to the most fabulous guy (see picture below),

but a few really unwelcome ones as well, like my husbands debilitating illness this past year. Lets skip that photo.

Rather, here is a picture I took of him last week, enjoying the sunset. He’s been feeling so much better this past month.


“So God, I know you’re listening, please send me a few more of those unexpectedly awesome 360 degree life flips, I’d be really happy with just one or two. amen.”

Feel free to click on over to one of those super-happy-funny-blogs that write about their perfect life, funny pets, and the new cookbook they’re coming out with this spring! I won’t hold it against ya.

ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…


On to what you really came here to read… these spicy (but not overly so), bursting with flavor bbq shrimp skewers, and a corn and black bean slaw-salad that I know sounds like it belongs on a summer menu, but in my defense, it was freakishly hot here in L.A. on wednesday when I made this, a whopping 82 degrees.
So though I try to cook seasonally, us Californians can run into a bit of a problem with that, since it feels like summer here 75% of the year.

This recipe is super easy and really healthy as well. The shrimp come off the grill with this incredible smokey flavor, intensified by the brown sugar, cumin, serrano chili and garlic that’s in the marinade. They’re kind of addictive, so make a bunch. They’d be great for a Superbowl party, as one of your non-fried items, and will keep the salad-lovin ladies happy.

*slaw disclaimer: some would call this a black bean and corn relish (ahem, that would be Emeril) but to me, this is more like a salad, but the sweet, vinegary tang reminds me of a slaw, minus the shredded cabbage of course. I’m taking some creative license here, so call it what you want, either way its delish!

I usually give step by step instructions, but this is just so simple. Just combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl, toss in your shrimp, skewer and grill. But for old habits’ sake, here are a few steps.

Soak your wooden skewers in hot hot water, while you’re prepping, so they don’t burn on the grill.

garlic
Chop the garlic


and the serrano chili


Chop some cillantro (shhh… this is actually parsley, forgot to take this photo so I used parsley as my stand-in).

I don’t pick apart my cillantro leaves, I do the ‘lazy chop’ method, basically just chopping off the end of the bunch, stems and all.  If I see any large stems, I’ll pick them out.  Its just a marinade after all, but I have to confess this is the only way I chop cillantro. I have no patience for picking apart little leaves, none whatsoever.


measure out the rest of the spices for the marinade, and add the lime and olive oil.


Marinade your shrimp for 5 minutes, and then thread them on your soaked wooden skewers.

Meanwhile grill your corn on high heat for 3 minutes or so per side. You can keep the corn husks on, and when they look a bit wilty and brown they’re done.

Cut the kernels off the cob and add to the rest of the slaw ingredients.


Season with salt and pepper, add more lime if you like it a bit more acidic like me.


Grill shrimp 3 minutes per side, for large shrimp (12 count per Lb)


Lay your shrimp skewers on top of your black bean corn slaw, and drizzle with extra marinade. I added brown rice to make this a health conscious dinner portion.

Spicy Bbq Shrimp Skewers
1/4 olive oil
6 cloves minced garlic or 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, plus more, for garnish
1 jalapeno or serrano chili, (serranos are a bit spicier) seeded and minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lime, juiced
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1. Soak wooden skewers in boiling hot water for 10 minutes. Light your grill to high.
2. Combine all your marinade ingredients. Set a little aside to drizzle over shrimp after grilling. Add shrimp and marinade 5-10 minutes tops.
3. Thread onto wooden skewers.
4. Grill 3 minutes per side, until shrimp is pink.

Black Bean and Corn Slaw
4 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked corn kernels, cut from the cob, or canned if you must
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 jalapeno or 1 1/2 serrano chilis, seeded and finely minced
1/2 bunch scallions (green onions), minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all Slaw ingredients
2. Season with salt, pepper.
3. Spread on large platter, top with Shrimp skewers, drizzle a little extra marinade over skewers and garnish with some more chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

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Uncategorized

Banana Bread Heaven

banana bread slice

Hi friends and readers, I’m back. Finally.

I had to take a break from posting for a while there, due to the intensity of life and more specifically, my husband’s illness. But now I’m so happy to say that I’m back, and I’ll be posting regularly again. My husband is doing so much better, so life is a little more normal again!

So despite the pressure to post something Christmas-y, I have to write to you about a simple pleasure of mine… something we all can throw together with ingredients most of us have on hand… banana bread.

I’ve been on a search for a reeeeeeally long time for the perfect banana bread recipe. Now I know that what I consider “perfect” is purely subjective and might not be what ya’ll consider perfect. BUT in my defense, I have tried a plethora of banana breads, and to me, this one has earned a #1 spot

banana bread loaf whole

So what do I think qualifies for great banana bread you ask?

Well, for one thing, it has to have a dense banana-y texture. I don’t like my banana bread crumb being lite as cake. But I also don’t want it gummy or undercooked… doesn’t sound too good does it? This banana bread strikes the perfect balance, dense but still lite enough to have a nice crumbly texture.

And of course, I have to take it over the top by adding a crumbly crispy streusel topping. Its my opinion that everything tastes better with streusel!

My son who hates bananas was quickly converted to the banana bread lover camp.
Ahhh… it makes a mother smile!

Now if you want it to be less of a guilty pleasure, substitute most of the butter for no sugar added applesauce. (1/3 cup + 1 tbs applesauce + 2 tbs butter, instead of ½ cup of butter). I’m going to sneak this healthy version in to my family on Sunday (Christmas) and see if they notice the difference.

Have I conviced you to try it yet? Don’t throw away those spotty brown bananas next time! Make this and the people around you will thank you with lots of oohhs, aahhs, and can you make this again-s.

Merry Christmas!
…………….

melted butter
browned butter

I love using browned butter in my baking recipes wherever I can. It adds this nutty, distinct flavor that I adore. So to do this just melt your stick of butter in a pan, on medium heat, until the little milk solids turn an amber brown color, about 4 minutes.

sugar
browned butter

Add the browned butter to 3/4 cup sugar. I used organic white sugar here, you could use brown sugar as well if you like. Just use what you have on hand. Whisk together for 30 seconds or so.

bananas
bananas eggs etc

With a fork, mash 5 medium bananas (about 2 cups), add 2 large eggs, 2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt, and the sugar-butter mixture. Stir until combined.

flour and eggs

batter in loaf

Mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Pour into your buttered loaf pan.



To make the struesal, mix together 1/3 cup sugar + 1/2 cup flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp ground cinamon, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Using the back of your fork, or even your fingertips, work 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter into the mixture, until its nice and sandy, but still a bit clumpy. Sprinkle over the batter.

I also sprinkle a bit of raw sugar over the top as well… to give it some sparkle, a little more crunch, and of course…. some more calories.
Just know, you’ve officially committed diet suicide if you do this!
Well actually, that was probably around step 1 when we melted a whole stick of butter, LOL.



Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Banana Bread
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt (non-fat works fine)
2 eggs
2 cups extra ripe mashed bananas (aprox. 5 medium)

For Streusel
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Lower fat alternative: Use 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon no-sugar-added applesauce, and 2 tablespoons melted butter, in place of the 1/2 cup butter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter your loaf pan.

1. Melt butter in pan on medium heat, it will take around 4-5 minutes until milk solids turn amber brown, add to a small bowl with sugar, stir.

2. Mash bananas with a fork, add yogurt and eggs, and sugar-butter mixture

3. stir together remaining dry ingredients, add to wet ingredients. Stir until just combined.  Pour batter into buttered loaf pan.

4. Make struesal by combining all ingredients and rubbing together with your fingertips until combined.  Sprinkle streusel over batter

5. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

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Breads

Flaky, Irresistible, French Butter Croissants

So about 2 weeks or so ago, I accepted a croissant challenge from Heavenly Housewife to make the oh-so-delicious (and oh-so-laborious) Parisian butter croissant. I had made them once before, years back when I was trudging away in Paris, studying (or rather cooking/baking/sweating) at my culinary alma mater Le Cordon Bleu. So yes, I had some instruction on how to make them once-upon-a-time looooong ago. But believe you me, I was still taking deep lamaze-ish breaths, and trying to psych myself up mentally for this challenge. I was a bit nervous! As simple as croissants are on one hand (butter-flour-egg-yeast), they’re kind of like a long-winded dance, with multiple steps that you have to get just right. They take time and practice to master. And even though I knew this, and recognized the resistance I felt towards making them, I still had all these grandiose plans of the different variations I would make. “Oh,” I thought, “I could make an almond pastry cream filling, and a ham and cheese version.”  And then I got really excited when I though of my all-time favorite croissant: the German pretzel
croissant. Its a combination of two of my favorite things in this world, deep colored bavarian pretzels and flaky buttery croissants.

But….

As usual I totally underestimated my available time. Lets see, I have 2 young children and a husband who need to eat (more than just cereal and buttered toast in between my blog posts unfortunately). And I haven’t really gotten too personal on this blog yet, but my husband has been seriously ill for the past 6 months, so that’s been a big strain on our family. I’m not complaining, really. I love to cook, bake, and blog and its been almost therapeutic for me. I find myself thinking of ideas and recipes at night when I’m lying awake, or in the car while I’m stuck in traffic. The kitchen has always been a place where I unwind and get to create. Even if afterwards I’m left with a heap of unwashed dishes and think to myself “how is this relaxing?”

So all that to say… I sadly had to put my pretzel croissant, almond filling and ham and cheese fantasies to rest. The butter croissants were fabulous though.  Nerves aside, I never back down from a culinary challenge.  I live for it!  I have a subscription to finecooking.com and they had a really helpful audio-photo walkthrough of the whole croissant-making process, just like I was watching my chef instructor back at Le Cordon Bleu. I made a few chocolate filled croissants which my kids were sooo happy to take off of my hands. And my little 4 year old daughter, who helped roll all the chocolate croissants, was so excited to take a warm buttery basketful to her preschool teachers this morning. So in the end, all were happy.

Except I’m still dreaming of those pretzel croissants *sigh*.

Don’t worry, I’ll get over it! I’m going to sneak over to Rockenwagner bakery today and grab a few…. and beg for some pretzel lye to indulge my fantasy of making it sometime soon. Hey I still have one more batch of dough in my fridge!

So, yes, after all that unnecessary fretting they turned out faaaaa-bulous daaaahlings! (H.H. shout out, lol). We ate them with the the last of the glorious
white peach butter I made last week. Its been sinful, absolutely sinful!

Now that I’ve got the hang of of it, I’m definetly going to do a tutorial on how I made these delicious calorie bombs of butteriness.  However, today in order to make my monday challenge deadline I will only be able to leave you with these photos… happy drooling!





proofing

Check out all these fabulous bloggers who accepted the Heavenly Housewife Croissant Challenge:
Heavenly Housewife
An edible mosiac
Weird Combinations
keep it Luce
Taste Of Beirut
Glamorous Glutton

~Christina

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Main course

The best pork chop you’ll ever have…

Yes, I know I’ve made a pretty big claim. But I’m pretty convinced I can win you over.  Well, thats unless you’ve had a pork chop from, say, Thomas Keller, where he performed some type of laborious sous vide technique and then perhaps bathed the whole thing in butter. Even so, I still think this pork chop would be pretty tough competition!


(one of the photos in question)
About a month ago I wrote a post on a similar pork chop recipe, but I decided to redo it for 2 reasons. First I only had 2 grainy photographs taken in really low lighting.  I had made this dish and photographed it months back, before I started this blog. So I wasn’t prepared to show a step by step process in photos.  And second, I made this pork chop 2 days ago and after a few changes, tweaks and improvements to the recipe, I wanted to fill you in.  I added a rub that was just so delicious, the sauce was almost unnecesary.  But  I can’t help myself, I love sauces!! So one of my favorites is included below as well.

So here are my rules for the perfect pork chop:

1. Buy an extra thick 2 inch pork chop, on the bone. If your butchers has one, get a porterhouse chop, this has the tenderloin on one side of the bone and the traditional pork chop on the other. So delicious!!
porterhouse

2. Grill your pork porterhouse until the thickest part reaches 145 degrees or medium-well. This is a totally safe temperature to cook your pork. If you don’t have a good digital meat thermometer, gently pierce it with a knife in the thickest part of the chop towards the end of the cooking time. You should still see a bit of rosy pink in the center.

3.  Use wood chips in your grill.  The smokiness the wood chips add to the pork, make the crispy fatty edges of the chop taste like bacon. yum.

These three steps in themselves will give you a tender piece of pork, but if you want to take it to that next level of deliciousness…

3. Brine it for 6-24 hours. Brining adds moisture to your meat, and it also imparts the flavor of whatever aromatics you put in the brine.  Even if you overcook your meat a little, it will still turn out juicy.

But you know what… as much as I love to brine, I usually just do it for special occasions and not for my everyday dinners. Its just too much work for me, and I bet most of you agree with me. On a day to day basis, my food motto is keep it simple, or, uh, simpler (cause sometimes I just get carried away, and can’t quite do simple). So just to give you another quick option, try this incredible spice rub that I made a few nights ago.  Oh it was good!
pork rub

So here is my recipe for an incredible pork chop.  I’ve included a recipe for the brine, the rub, and one of my favorite sauces: Romesco.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of trying romesco before, its a delicious and unique sauce that originates from the Catalan region of Spain. Its really like nothing you’ve ever tasted.  The smokey, nutty, spicy flavors taste delicious spread on toast or with grilled vegetables, fish, seafood, poultry, pork, well just about anything! It has the consistency of pesto, and best of all it can keep in your fridge for up to two weeks, so you can experiment again and again.

Brined Pork Porterhouse Chops with 5 Spice Garlic rub and Romesco sauce

Start by preheating your gas grill on high or lighting the coals for your charcoal bbq. Soak your wood chips in water.

brine

To make the brine…

In a medium/large pot, add crushed juniper berries, crumbled bay leaves, red pepper flakes, salt and sugar to a cup of water.  Bring to a simmer and then let stoop for 10 minutes.  Add the remaining  4 cups cold water, onion and crushed garlic. Add pork chops and refrigerate for 24 hours. If I have less time (say 6 hours), I’ve made the solution more concentrated by adding another 3 Tb salt and another 4 Tb sugar.

Next, once your meat has run its full course in the brine.  Rinse it off, and pat dry.

So on to the rub…

rub on chop

These spices are incredible on pork.  It has spanish smoked paprika, which I’m kinda obsessed with; think of bacon in a spice… that’s what it reminds me of! The cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and black pepper, just give it this sweet yet savory flavor. I looooove it! And honestly people, I know we’re still getting to know each other here, but I don’t say this about just anything. I’m a selective lover, so to say.

garlic spice thyme
Next you’re going to crush 3 cloves of garlic to a paste. Using my microplane for this makes it so easy; it grates the garlic with such little effort. Chop a few sprigs of thyme. Fresh or dried rosemary would also be wonderful. Now drizzle the chop with a little bit of olive oil, and rub it all over with the thyme and garlic.

I’ve used this rub on lamb and chicken as well, and its excellent. You can add 1 tsp or so of cumin if you like. It works well with these spices.

Back to the Pork chop…

Let it sit for 20 minutes or so if you’re going to grill it right away, or you can wrap it in saran wrap and chill if for up to a day in the fridge.  Just make sure you let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before you grill it.  This helps the pork chop cook more evenly.



Place your soaked wood chips in a metal dish or wood chip holder (pictured)on your grill grates. I always sprinkle a big handful on the coals as well. If you’re using a gas grill, you can place the metal dish under the grill grates by the flame. Then, on high heat, grill your pork chops on each side for 5 minutes, or until you get really nice grill marks. Turn off the burners on one side of your grill, and move the chops over to that side. You want to cook the chops over indirect heat, so that they cook evenly and don’t dry out. Grill for another 15-20 minutes depending on the interior temperature of your grill. Keep the lid closed.

*If you’re using your stovetop, heat a skillet (cast iron prefered) on high for a few minutes. Add a little olive oil and sear on both sides for 2 minutes. Sear the fatty edges as well until they start to crisp up. In a preheated 350 degree oven, roast the chops for another 25 minutes or so. This is for a 2-inch pork chop, if your pork chop is thinner, adjust the cooking time.

Remove the chops from the grill, or oven, when the temperature in the thickest part reads 145 degrees, or if you poke it with a knife, when the  thickest part is still a bit pink.  Let them rest on a plate or cutting board, covered loosely with foil for 5-10 minutes.  This helps the meat reabsorb the juices, so when you cut into it the juices don’t all run out.

For the Romesco

fried bun

Fry 2 slices of country white bread in 1/4 c olive oil.  Once browned, remove crusts and break into chunks.  I was out of bread, so I had some hamburger buns in the freezer and just used those… improvisation is 50% of what happens in my kitchen.


add the crushed garlic and fresh thyme to the hot pan. Add a little more oil if needed. Saute for 1 minute.



Soak the chilies in 2 cups of near boiling water for 10 minutes until soft. Remove and cut off stems, remove seeds and pat dry.


Meanwhile, toast almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees, for 4-6 minutes or until fragrant. Place the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel, and roll them around to rub off the bitter hazelnut skins.


Cut up 1 whole ripe tomato, you only need about 1/2 a cup.


Crush with your hands to break them up and help release some of their juices.


Add the chilies and the canned tomatoes to the sauteed garlic and thyme. Cook on medium until most of the juices have evaporated, 4-5 minutes. Add a little salt to season.



In the food processor, add the nuts and bread chunks, and pulse until finely chopped.


Add tomato-chili mixture and pulse several times, then blend on high until mixture is smooth.


Add 1 cup of olive oil in a slow stream. Don’t worry if the mixture separates from the oil, its kinda like a pesto.



Transfer to a bowl, and add chopped parsely, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika (I could write a whole post on smoked paprika,
don’t substitute with regular paprika, its totally different) and a few drops of lemon to season as desired. Smother the pork chops with the sauce. Enjoy!

Ingredients

4 2-inch thick bone-in Pork Chops ~ if you can get Pork porterhouse chops even better.
Brine: (from Suzanne Goin)
1 tablespoon crushed Juniper berries
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
5 cups water

5 Spice Rub with Garlic and Thyme
1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp smoke paprika
1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ground black pepper
9 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp dried

Romesco Sauce (from Suzanne Goin)
1/2 ounce raw almonds (about 12 nuts)
1 ounce hazelnuts (about 32 nuts)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 cup
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 ounces (about 1 thick slice or so) thick slice chewy white peasant style bread, crusts cut off
5 ancho or pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed
1/2 cup canned peeled whole tomatoes, crushed in a large bowl with your hands
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon

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Uncategorized

White Peach Butter with Cardamom

peaches and knife
Ok, Ok, I’m on a bit of a white peach kick.
After making those white peach margaritas last week, I fell in love with their pure sweet peach flavor. To top it off, white peaches seemed to be on sale everywhere I looked, so I had to do something with them again!

Peach butter, or any fruit butter for that matter, is like a loose jam. There’s actually no butter in it whatsoever, but that gets me thinking… this would have been awfully good with a stick of butter thrown into it. I mean, what doesn’t taste better with butter, right?

So if you love peaches like me, you’d be missing out on something really special by not trying this for yourself! On toast, as a sauce with ice cream, mixed in with your morning yogurt, or my favorite, plain right out of the jar. Hey, Its my jar… mine! I can double dip if I want to. Sorry, I get a little possessive over my sweets.

Moving along…
I added a few pinches of ground cardamom to just give it that je ne sais quoi flavor. I was going for “whats that hint of spice I detect”, not “woe, these are some spiced peaches”.  Ground ginger would also work really well. Speaking of which, I have this ginger- vanilla creme brule that I must share soon. Its heavenly!

So here is what I did.

x peaches
Using your small pairing knife, score an x on the top of your peach. This will help you peel your peach in a few minutess.

water boiling

Bring a large pot of water to a boil…

…and drop in your peaches. Blanch them for 2 minutes. Then scoop them out, and reserve some of the liquid.

peeling peaches

In a few minutes, once they’re cool enough to handle, peel the skin off. I used the tip of my pairing knife at first. But the skin was so loose, I just started peeling them off with my fingers.

peeled peaches
quartered peaches
Cut them in half.

quartered peaches
And then cut them into quarters. Throw them in a large pot.
water
sugar
Add 1 cup of the water you set aside earlier, and 1 3/4 cup sugar…

mmmhhhhh…. Cardamom. To me it smells like a mix of lemon and ginger.  Not only can you use it in desserts, but its great in spicy rubs. Just a little goes a long way.



and 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, and some sea salt.



Add the juice of 1 lemon, to give it a bit of tartness. Now let it simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, lid on.



Remove it from heat, and scoop the peaches into your blender. Just the peaches, you don’t need to add the juice. Puree until its nice and smooth.


Return the puree to all the juices in the pot. Mix, and set it over low heat, lid off. You’ll need to give it a stir every 20 minutes or so, scraping up any pieces that stick to the bottom.


After 3 hours…


You can do a test to see if its done. Just drop a small spoonful on a cold plate, and if it spreads really wide, and a little puddle of water oozes around the edges then it needs some more time.


After 4 1/2 hours. Done!
To be honest, at 4 1/2 hours, when I did the test, it still had a bit of that water ring around the edge, but I tasted it and thought, hey, this tastes great, and if I cook it anymore, I think it might have more of a caramel flavor than a strong peach flavor, so I took it off of the heat.


I had these cute jars leftover from a batch of apple butter I botched last fall. It had waaaaay too much sugar in it. For that reason, I significantly decreased the sugar in this recipe compared to the other fruit butter recipes I saw online.

Stored in your fridge, they’ll keep for about 3 weeks. That’s if you can stop yourself from eating it all before then!

Here’s my recipe.

Cardamom scented White Peach Butter
makes about 6 cups
6 lbs or 10 large white peaches
1 3/4 cup sugar (2 cups if you like it sweeter)
1 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom, or ground ginger would work well too
1/4 tsp salt

Note: if you use yellow peaches, you might want to decrease or omit the lemon.  You also might want to use 2 cups of sugar instead of 1 3/4 cup.  Yellow peaches are more acidic than white peaches, so they don’t need that kick from the lemon.  Just wait until the end, and if it tastes a little bland, then add a bit of lemon juice.

Hope you enjoy it!

~Christina

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Appetizers, Salads

fresh figs, grilled radicchio and beemster goat gouda salad

salad

This salad is as delicious as it is beautiful.

I made it a few weeks ago on a hot august night when I really didn’t want to do much cooking. I love figs and try, come august and september, to find as many ways to eat them as possible. Wrapping them with proscuitto and fresh mozzarella, folding them into creme fraiche tarts, or just eating them with a little honey and greek yogurt.
Uh-maze-ing!
When I’m buying them at the store i always look for figs that feel a bit heavy for their size, and know they’re especially sweet when they’re oozing a bit of their sugary juices from around their stems.

beemster and fig

This is a pretty simple low maintenance salad, if you don’t mind doing a bit of lite grilling. Grilling the radicchio really brings out its sweetness, and blanching them in cold water beforehand minimizes their often bitter flavor. And the cheese I use here, oh the cheese! Its a keeper and should be added to everyone’s list of fabulous cheeses (you don’t have such a list? What’s wrong with you!). Beemster goat gouda is one of my favorite cheeses. It has the unmistakable flavor of goat cheese, yet its a semi-firm cheese thats creamy and a bit salty. It goes perfectly with sweet fruits, and is particularly good with fig jam.

radicchio quartered

First you want to cut your head of radicchio in half, then in quarters, and finally into eight wedges. The stalk should still be in place so that it holds the wedge together.
Preheat your grill on high, keeping the lid closed.

in ice

Next you’re going to soak, or I used the fancy term “blanch” earlier, the radicchio in ice water for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. This removes some of its bitterness so that the focus is on the sweetness of the radicchio

radicchio with olive oil

Pat the radicchio dry and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, a little coarse salt and black pepper.

grilled radicchio
finished radicchio

Grill for about 3 minutes per side, until the outer leaves have a bit of charred color on them.

salad final

Using a potato peeler, cut thin curls of cheese, and then quarter your figs. I also had a little red onion on hand, that I decided to use. I then gently placed all the components on each plate: the radicchio, some mixed greens i had on hand to add a bit of green color, quartered figs, cheese shavings, and a few thin slices of red onion. I drizzled it all with a bit of balsamic glaze*, a little more olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.

* if you don’t have a thick balsamic glaze, you can reduce your balsamic vinegar to make a glaze. Start with 1/2 cup of the vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce on medium high heat, by about 1/2. Don’t push it too far, or it will taste more like molasses. I add a tiny bit of honey to it at the end. OR, you could also take 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and add 1 Tbsp of fig jam, and while whisking add 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and fresh pepper. That would make a really fabulous salad dressing as well!
Hope you’re able to try this!

~Christina

Fig, Beemster goat gouda and grilled radicchio salad (serves 4)

1 pint ripe black mission figs
2 heads radicchio
1 cup mixed greens, or baby romaine
1/2 small red onion
1 small wedge beemster goat gouda, or fresh goat cheese would work well too
balsamic glaze
olive oil
coarse salt and pepper

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Soups

The addictively delicious Mexican Chicken Soup


So let me just start this post by stating simply…

this soup is pretty damn delicious!

I stumbled upon it 6 years ago when I was in Puerto Vallarta with my husband. We had just found out that I was pregnant (baby #1) and wanted to enjoy one last mini-vacation before we were engulfed in full-blown pregnancy and the sleepless nights of baby feedings.

Only problem is, at 6 weeks pregnant, you kinda are full-blown pregnant.
Its called morning sickness.

I was lucky not to have it too bad, just the occasional nauseous bathroom run.  But for the most part I mainly just had really bad food cravings.  Spicy Top Ramen was my favorite.  So when we went to mexico, and I was searching on the room service menu for choices I could stomach, a light mexican chicken soup sounded perfect.

And it was… perfect.

Its not creamy or thick like the many tortilla chicken soups you find at restaurants. It tastes refreshing and lite, but its also filling and the ancho chili gives it a really great depth of flavor with only a tiny amount of heat.  I usually triple it to feed a crowd and set it up like a soup bar, with the brothy chicken soup ladled into each bowl, and then the different garnishes set up so that everyone can pick and choose what they like best.

Fresh avocado, jack cheese, brown rice, chopped cilantro, diced red onion, lime wedges, jalapeno peppers for those who like it spicy hot, and tortilla chips.

Or, if you’re like my busy sister-in-law Kristy, who’s in love with this too, you’ll make an x-large batch and eat it all week long!

So here is how you make it… its really easy.


Cut your carrots in half lengthwise.


Then again into quarters. Chop across to get a small dice.  You could also cut it into thin rounds.

broth

Bring 2 quarts of good homemade or store bought chicken broth to a simmer in a deep pot.  Add the 2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste, diced carrots and the whole can of diced tomatoes. While that’s simmering away on medium/low heat with the lid on…



In a small bowl, ladle a little of the hot chicken broth over the three whole dried ancho chilies until just covered and cover the bowl with some foil, or i just set a plate on top. Let them soak for 10 minutes. Then remove the stems, cut open and gently rinse the seeds out with a little water.


Place the chillies in your food processor or blender with a half a cup of the soaking liquid, and blend on high until its a smooth thin paste. Add 3 tablespoons of the chili puree to the soup, more if you’re like me and like the chili flavor strong.


Now chop up your garnishes. First slice the avocado in half and whack the pit of the avocado with your knife. Twist and the pit will pop out with the knife.


Make criss-crossing slices into the avocado halves with your knife, cutting down to the avocado skin, but not through. Use your spoon to scoop out the flesh, and voila  its cut in cubes.


For the red onion, cut in half from one end to the other, chop off the non-root end, and leave the root end intact.

Make vertical slices down the onion, stopping just short of the root end, so that the onion stays intact.
Now make horizontal slices across the onion, also stopping short of the root end. This step isn’t totally necessary because the natural grain of the onion already seperates the onion horizontally here, but its a good technique to learn when wanting to chop or mince other round/oval vegetables or fruits: tomatoes, shallots, garlic, round fruits etc..


Slice down against the grain to dice your onion.

So now for the easiest part… you can just buy a cooked rotisserie chicken at your local grocery store instead of cooking the chicken yourself.  If you do, just use both the dark and white meat from all parts of the chicken. You don’t have to put all of it into the soup.  You could reserve some in a bowl for those guests that like a little more protein in their soup.



If you’re using uncooked chicken breasts, butterfly each breast open so that you have two thin breasts instead of one. I always do this when cooking chicken breast so that they cook quickly and more evenly.


Sprinkle with some dried oregano (optional), salt and pepper and saute on medium/high heat for 3 or so minutes per side. Slice into thin strips. Add some of chicken breast directly to the soup right before serving.

Season the soup with a little more salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lime.

Serve the soup in individual bowls, with the garnishes placed on the table family style.

Happy eating!

~Christina

Mexican Chicken Soup
For the soup base serves 4
4 small chicken breasts OR 1 cooked rotisserie chicken, (use both the white and dark meat)
2 quarts chicken broth
2 carrots, chopped into thin rounds or quarters
1-2 small cloves garlic, pounded to a paste, or minced finely
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 lime
3 dried ancho chilies
salt and pepper

Garnishes
2 cups cooked brown or white rice
2 fresh avocadoes
1 cup shredded jack cheese
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper (for those that like it spicy)
1 small red onion
1 lime
tortilla chips for crumbling on top


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