October 31, 2012

Southwestern Chicken Mac and Cheese

Y'all, nothing says comfort like

And cheese is only made better by
Mexicany things,
(like peppers and onions and cumin and chile powder)

Here's the math I did to get this pot of gold*:

-Some butter
-Cream of Chicken Soup Yuck
-Velveeta Double Yuck
+Lighter Dairy
+More (Not Light) Cheese
Creamy Comfort with Flair and Just Enough Richness
Worth Making Once for Monday Night Girls with Leftovers for Roommates
And then again for Family with Twin Newborns
With Enough for Weeknight Surprise for My Parents

*I really think most Southern Living recipes need to be lighted up and rid of processed junk Cooking Light style and most Cooking Light recipes need to simplified and given a little more sinfuless Southern Living style so that you end up with beauties like this.

October 25, 2012

Arugula-Sweet Potato Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette

October for me meant stopping, a reprieve from travels or otherwise packing a weekend full of activity. It meant going into Saturday with no agenda, which for a planner is kind of scary for some odd reason, and discovering the riches of down time and spontaneity: going for an impromptu Saturday hike, listening to my roommate animate the characters of a children's novel as she read it aloud,  actually sitting down and watching a movie I have been meaning to see since I got it for Christmas last year, creating invitations for a neighbor potluck, reading (oh reading books!), returning to the simple pleasures of cooking for fun.

One particular weekend, this meal evolved with fall favorites sweet potatoes and pork tenderloin, with a lingering taste of summer (frozen blackberries) in a balsamic vinaigrette and bitter arugula, which I paired with my first experimentation with the fig (Sourdough Toasts with Goat Cheese, Figs and Honey --> delightful).

Best of all, it was shared on the porch with a friend, and then continued as fancy food leftovers for yours truly later in the week.

October 15, 2012

Why to amend a chef's recipe [Citrus Beet Salad]

To the rest of the food world who turns on cable television more than once every six months, Chris Hastings is a big deal. Key words: Iron Chef.

To the world of critical food snobbery, he is also a big deal. Key words: James Beard.

And while I am certain he lives up to his fame as Best Chef in the South, I do know one thing: he crafts restaurant recipes, not so much friendly-for-the-home kitchen recipes. Or such was the case in my experience.

The "Chef's Garden Beet Salad" trouble started at the grocery store when I was executing the first step of Project Make-a-Recipe-to-in-the-Name-of-Needing-a-Photo-for-the-Paper. Three kinds of beets? Surely one will do. Arugula and frisee? I see mixed baby greens!

Photos for Village Living
And then when I got to the kitchen, it was two kids of olive oil? Why in the world when you can just have one? Fresh orange juice? I have carton of oj in the fridge that surely will do just fine. Fresh thyme? Umm, let's do dried. Lemon and lime juice? I have lemons; they'll do. Individually plate each salad with all ingredients? Salads taste pretty swell tossed en mass in my book.

And then came the necessary evil: reducing 1 cup of orange juice to 3 tablespoons. Is this what chefs do all day --> wait for-e-ver for juice to reduce to a tiny fraction of its volume?  I just roasted beets for more than an hour, and I thought that was my time splurge. I did in fact wait and wait and wait for the oj to reduce to a thick, dark and delicious syrup. I do not know that I would have the patience for it again when surely just juice would taste good enough for a citrus dressing.

I don't mind spending time in the kitchen on a special project, but this project required cutting corners to avoid spending literally all night to make a salad. Power to chefs, but on this here blog you will find home kitchen recipes. And that is why I dumbed down poor Chris Hastings' recipe.

Disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to belittle the awesome work of Chef Hastings and Hot and Hot. I just felt the need to simplify his recipe when I was making it for personal consumption. His recipe is indeed tasty my way and would probably be all the more so with his much more complex method.

October 8, 2012

Killer Salty-Expresso-Chocolate Blondies

Other blondie dough tastes like butter and sugar with a touch of saltiness good but in my book is better eaten with chocolate chips.

This blondie batter is a candy bar in itself. You cook together butter and brown sugar, ergo caramel, and then add instant expresso powder. It's salty like caramel with a hint of coffee, and then of course you must add chocolate chips to complete the soft, thick bar of decadence.

So if you are feeling lugubrious and torpid, bringing down your physiognomy to those around you, these will make you jocose, a reprieve from the phantasmagoria of life.* And you might not be able to resist eating a huge chunk straight out of the oven; evidence of why I should not be allowed to engage in late night baking alone is pictured. (That missing chunk? All eaten by yours truly.)

The recipe I based it off of also calls for adding more chocolate and caramel on top of the cooked blondies. I skipped that step the second time I made these; it wasn't worth the effort for that much more uber-richness but it does add flair to the top.

*Remember in school when you had to write sentences with vocab words? The nerd in me just took over, because that happened with the words I looked from reading Les Miserables, getting ready for the movie (!!).