The Comeback Recipe

One of my most requested recipes is honestly not mine.  Shameful I know but you cannot mess with perfection and Kelsey has perfected this one.  Creamy cheeses perfectly paired and melted slowly together making the best mac and cheese you have ever had.  Bold statement right?  It’s a bold recipe.

Kelsey Nixon’s Skillet Bacon Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

1 pound of pasta, your choice

1 tsp.  dry mustard

1/4 tsp.  ground cayenne pepper

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

1 cup grated gruyere cheese

1 cup, plus 1/2 cup grated parmesan

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

2 tbsp.  flat leaf parsley

6 slices bacon, cooked reserved 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat

Béchamel sauce ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups hot milk

1/4 tsp.  nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil water for pasta, once boiling please cook until almost al dente and drain.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make béchamel sauce, melt butter in 12 inch oven proof skillet.  Whisk in flour and stir constantly until it starts to bubble, around 2 minute (don’t let it brown).  Gradually add the hot milk and stir constantly until thickened.  Add nutmeg, salt, pepper, reduce heat and cook for a couple more minutes.  Remove from heat.

On a low heat add the dry mustard and cayenne pepper to the béchamel sauce.  Either take the skillet off the heat or on the lowest setting you have and add cheese, stir quickly until smooth (this is key to avoiding that gritty cheese texture).  Add the milk and cream to the sauce to thin it out a bit.

In another skillet brown bacon until crispy, reserve 1/4 cup bacon fat.  Add cooked pasta to béchamel sauce. In a separate bowl mix bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and bacon fat, sprinkle this mixture over the pasta mixture.  Sprinkle another 1/2 cup parmesan on top of the pasta as well.  Bake until top is browned between 20-25 minutes depending on your ovens heat.  Enjoy!

20141212-223545.jpg

20141212-223642.jpg

20141212-223725.jpg

The perfect easy side dish

I’m pleased to share with you one of my families favorite go-to weeknight side dish recipes, sweet potato fries!  The good news is these are quick and they go with almost any main dish you can think of.

Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

5 medium size white sweet potatoes

1/4- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

teaspoon cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:  First preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a standard size cookie sheet with parchment and set aside.  Peel and cut each potato long ways in the shape of fries (or use your über fancy fries cutter).  Toss the fries in the oil and sprinkle them with the cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

I love to serve mine with archer farms mango jalapeno ketchup from Target (it is amazing).  Dinner is served!

IMG_4848

IMG_4846

From our home to yours, happy eats!

 

Must Eats Houston

As anyone who knows me knows, I am always looking for the hottest new restaurants.  Being that I have completely embraced my new home, I wanted to share my picks for must eat if you’re visiting the great city of Houston for the holidays.

These are in no particular order so feel free to pick the ones that suit you best

1.  Coltivare:  This fabulous restaurant was opened by the same owners as the community beloved Revival Market.  All who know Revival and all of their wonderful local groceries are not surprised at Coltivare’s success.  Opening the beginning of last year Houstonians have embraced this local gem.  It has already been named Houstonia magazine’s top new restaurant of the year and was nominated in Bon Appetit magazine’s top 50 new restaurants in America for 2014.  Foodies and normal folk alike are enjoying truly local ingredients, house made fresh pasta, veggies from the restaurants garden, seasonal menu changes, and the best pizza this side of Italy.  I cannot stress enough if you eat one meal in Houston, it should be here.  Come prepared to wait because they are pulling a April Bloomfield on us all, no reservations…  The secret is out and it is completely worth your wait!

2.  Punks Simple Southern Food:  For those of you raised in the South and imported to the big city, you will be pleasantly surprised by this new foodie spot.  Think back to your hometown, the local dive that cut the entire chicken apart, hand breaded, and fried it, the way it is supposed to be.  When I say all pieces, I mean even the coveted “pully bone”, and if you don’t know what that is google it.  Growing up after church on Sundays we would hurry to lunch and fight over the pully bones in the buffet.  My favorite item on the menu is obviously the fried chick, you can order it for 1-2 people or 3-4 people.  Everything comes out family style, served with one of their fabulous made from scratch biscuits, and a new take on your grandma’s mashed potatoes, mashed horseradish (trust me on this one).  The restaurant is plays old country (think Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash), has a fabulous rustic feel, a neon “Southern” sign, and the ceiling is covered with an eclectic mix of chandeliers.  For this Houston import its like taking a more upscale trip back to the dinner I grew up with in small town Arkansas.

James at Punks

The Hubby enjoying a fried chicken plate at Punks

3.  Ruggles Green:  I add this one to the list because I am still amazed at the number of people who have not been here.  Ruggles was originally started with money that was won from a recipe contest that the owner had submitted his fabulous white chocolate bread pudding recipe to.  You may hate bread pudding, but then you must have never had Ruggles bread pudding.  Trust me when I say they deserved the fund to start these local restaurants.  The original restaurant is in the Montrose area of town but then they have Ruggles Bakery, The Original Ruggles, and my favorite Ruggles Green.  They have several locations, so lucky for you whatever part of this massive growing city you visit you probably have a Ruggles Green with in 20 minute of you.  It is a certified organic restaurant  with the answer to any food allergy issue you may have.  I have literally tried almost everything on the menu and it is all good.  They have everything from burgers and sandwiches to pastas and pizzas.  They work with local  farmers and even for this veggie lover, their salads are probably the best in town.

4.  Americas:  It doesn’t get much more Houston than this except for my next recommendation.  This is a South American restaurant with possibly one of the best steaks you’ll ever eat.  Don’t let people lie to you, skip Taste of Texas, and Vallones, go to Americas.  Especially for the odd ball like me who still must have the have the steak well done.  The steak is always tender and full of flavor.  Do not leave this restaurant without ordering one of their wonderful tres leche cake.  Their tres leche cake is just as iconicity Houston as the Ruggles bread pudding in my opinion.  On a side note the same team runs Churrascos, Arista, and Amazon Grill, all also great restaurants.

Americas

On my Birthday a few years ago enjoying a tres leche cake at Americas.

5.  Hugos:  This is probably the most iconic Houston restaurant and it is a great example of excellent Tex Mex.  Chef Hugo Ortega actually has three fabulous restaurants.  All are equally good, the Tex Mex is just the best example of our local fare.  Backstreet café another of his restaurants has one of the best brunch in town and Caracol (the newest restaurant  of Chef Hugos) has a wonderful authentic Mexican take on seafood.

Backstreet Cafe

The hubby and I enjoying brunch at Backstreet Café .

I know I left many restaurants off including the best donut shop, see here.  So now I have technically given you six options (including my donut pic).  So many great Houston restaurants so little time.

Practicing Pecan Pie

Now say the title of this post three times fast….  Anytime I think of pecan pie I think of When Harry Met Sally and Billy Crystal getting Megan Ryan to say “Peeecan pie” in the most ridiculous voice..  Seriously, can’t you see him saying it to her?

When Harry met Sally

It’s that time again, time that we start practicing our new Thanksgiving recipes.  This year I have found a fabulously unique pecan pie recipe that will have all of your guest’s mouths watering before they even get through the door at Thanksgiving (this will also win over any new significant other’s fam, guaranteed).  I cannot take the credit for this one unfortunately, it is from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.  If you don’t have it, do not hesitate, click here now and buy this amazing pie book.  The book is written by two sisters who somewhat serendipitously fell into their careers as pie shop owners.  All owners of this cook book or patrons of their bakery, thank them for their decision.

I have adapted their Black Walnut recipe to be a Pecan Pie recipe due to what I had on hand.  I’m sure it would be equally as wonderful with whatever walnut or pecan you’d like to sub in.

Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

One single-crust partially prebaked

1 cup pecans

1 cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup apple cider

2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons stone-ground cornmeal

3 large eggs

Position one of the oven racks to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread the pecans out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes (depending on your oven’s heat).  Put aside in small bowl to cool.

Combine the sugar, butter, and water in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until deep golden brown or until candy thermometer reads 230 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn the heat off and slowly pour in the apple cider (the caramel will bubble).  Add the vinegar and whisk until smooth.  Pour the cider mixture into a mixing bowl and leave until cool to the touch.  Whisk in the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cornmeal.  Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl.  Slowly pour in 1/3 cup cider mixture into the eggs to temper.  Add cider-egg mixture to the bowl.  Stir the toasted walnuts in.

Place the partially prebaked crust on a rimmed cookie sheet and pour in the filling.  Bake on the middle rack for 30-35 minutes, rotate the pie about half way through to ensure even baking.  The pie is done when the edges are set and the center is still slightly wobbly (remember the filling will continue to cook after it is out of the oven).  Allow to cool for 1-2 hours, serve at any temperature you would like.  The pie will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

IMG_4842

IMG_4843

IMG_4844

From our home to yours, enjoy!

Your Next Saturday Morning Breakfast Run

I want to share a secret with you, there is a donut place in a strip center ten minutes away from everything in Richmond, Texas. To my good fortune this shop is ten minutes from my house (perfect Saturday morning breakfast to go). Stop in today to see a line of people on this important Saturday morning trek, you’ll smell the fresh made to order gourmet donuts, and you must pick up a truly unique local Vietnamese coffee.

WARNING!!!! The pictures below may be considered porn, food porn, pictures may cause viewers to completely ruin their diet…. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

20140620-230647.jpg

That’s right, the donut above is a Tres Leches Donut..it was wonderful! The next donut could put up a good fight against one of my most favorite donuts of all time, The Donut Planet PB&J donut.

20140620-231159.jpg

The next was voted as a favorite by me and the hubby, well a combo of the next two.. We voted that combination would be donut gold. Now for a donut dipped in maple creamy icing, and then covered in the most wonderful thick, crispy, salty bacon chucks… You can wipe the drool off now..

20140620-231735.jpg

Best surprise ever, this place will do any flavors on a Cronut! That’s right…. for a couple more dollars you can have the “Elvis” (banana, peanut butter, and bacon) on a Cronut. Honestly, there was nothing that could compare to the Cronut we ordered, crispy outside, flakey, buttery, soft inside… It was heaven..

20140620-232227.jpg

20140620-232745.jpg

Now what are you wanting on, get in your car and drive to The Grove in Richmond, Texas.

The Grove Do-Nutz & Deli
815 Plantation Dr, Richmond, TX 77406

Happy Saturday from our home to yours!

What’s for breakfast?

I have a confession to make, I get into different workout trends about every other month! Not that I’m super proud of it but I can tell you from experience, for the most part there is no one workout that will instantly melt the fat away (apparently it takes time). Although the latest, P90X, which is definitely passed its trendy time, actually seems to be making a difference. It could be because the friend that passed these DVDs over insisted on me taking the nutrition guide to follow along.

Now I would assume you all know me well enough to know I couldn’t bring myself to stick to the P90X recipes. I mean i will work for food, but good food. Ironically the book has inspired some better choices to fuel my body for the gruesome workouts. I have stayed within the amount of each food group I’m supposed to eat, but…. I foodied it up a bit (yes, I know I made that word up).

That being said, I have been missing baked goods terribly, prime example this week I paid 5 dollars just to get a brownie I could eat (gluten free and sweetened with agave), needless to say it was devoured in under 30 seconds.

My name is Ashley and I have a problem, I am addicted to sweets. They say that’s the first step, right? No….. I think the first step must be to make changes, I shall never give up sweets. For example, there is a recipe with banana and protein powder in a smoothie in the mornings that isn’t bad. So what I did was adapt a smoothie recipe to a Paleo friendly breakfast bread packed full of protein and fiber, but seriously good! You know I don’t joke about food, seriously it’s good!

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp coconut oil melted (plus additional to grease the pan)
4 eggs
3 Tbsps honey
1 Tbsp apple butter
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
2 Tbsps flaxseed meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup extra dark chocolate chips chopped

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Prepare loaf pan (9 by 4) by greasing with coconut oil

In a mixing bowl, mix wet ingredients (coconut oil, eggs, honey, apple butter) until smooth

In a separate bowl mix all dry ingredients (coconut flour, almond flour, protein powder, flaxseed meal, baking soda, sea salt), then add it to the dry mixture

In one last bowl mash up the bananas and coconut milk, then add the mash in with the batter. Once mixed smooth add the chocolate chips.

Now pop it in the oven and wait 50 minutes or until the bread springs back up when touched.

20140613-234709.jpg

20140613-234816.jpg

Hint! I have shopped for all kinds of baking ingredients and a lot of them have cost… Well… More than I’d ever like to admit. I have recently discovered the bins at Sprouts… Bins… Like by the candy bins. The prices are about half of the repackaged ones across the store. I knew I loved Sprouts grocery stores but this just pushed them to the top of my list!

20140613-235229.jpg

And…. Before you know it your house smells wonderful and the bread is ready! I recommend letting it cool but I mean seriously….. If your baking this you obviously practicing enough will power with your healthy lifestyle.. Plus when you smell this bread fresh out of the oven, waiting on it to cool could bring a entirely new meaning to practicing will power.

20140614-001128.jpg

20140614-001223.jpg

20140614-001339.jpg

20140614-001414.jpg

Last lather a slice in butter (cultured because that makes it healthy…right?) and enjoy!

20140614-001556.jpg

The best chocolate chip cookies….ever

I love chocolate chip cookies. When my husband and I were dating we’d try a different version of the classic cookie every weekend. One of my favorite memories is us slow dancing in the kitchen waiting on the cookies to finish baking with the smell of butter and sugar filling the room…. It was heaven…. at least thats how I think heaven will be.. Yes definitely.

This is one of our favorite recipes of all we have tried.. The recipe below was derived from the Jacques Torres’ secret chocolate cup cookie recipe but we’ve made it into our own!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients:
1 pound butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
3 cups pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp vanilla
12 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
12 oz milk chocolate

20140511-200918.jpg

20140511-201041.jpg

Make sure it’s real vanilla extract…. It makes a huge difference

20140511-201153.jpg

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use a electric mixer to mix the butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk the dry ingredients together. Slowly add the dry ingredients one cup at a time to the dry ingredients, until well blended. Last add the vanilla and chocolate into the mix. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the cookie dough out and place on the cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake the cookies until lightly browned, roughly 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

20140511-201950.jpg

20140511-202037.jpg

Don’t forget to share! Perfect for all ages, who doesn’t want a homage chocolate chip cookie… I mean seriously?

20140511-202322.jpg

20140511-202244.jpg

Happy Mother’s Day to all the fabulous mothers out there! Enjoy from our home to yours!