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

Advertisements

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.

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!

Sweet memories and the easiest truffle you’ll ever make

All my memories are attached to food. Eating those foods can transport me right back to that moment. Although I have cooked and shared many a fabulous gourmet dish, there is always something about Oreos that I can’t get over. Yes I know it is processed sugar, shortening, and more processed sugar….. I believe the only people who can really say they don’t have a secret love for Oreos are those who have never had the some-what guilty pleasure of downing a package of them.

So I have many memories attached to these cookies, lunch in my elementary school cafeteria, coming home from college knowing mom would have them waiting, and late night trips to the store with the hubby to get our Oreo fix. I’ll never forget my first Oreo ball experience. The Christmas my husband and I were engaged, he made the drive from Alabama to Arkansas on the 27th of December. What to my surprise had his sweet sister and mama sent with him…… Oreo balls. I had never had such a thing, it was the most familiar flavor but it looked like a fancy truffle. My mom and I quickly devoured the majority before the rest of the family even knew they existed. When I wanted to make something wonderful for a Holiday gathering this year, needless to say I thought I’d try a hand at the dessert I remember so fondly.

To my pleasant surprise these were super easy and they tasted even better than I remembered.

Oreo Balls
This recipes makes about 32 truffles

Ingredients:

1 package softened 8 oz cream cheese
36 Oreos finely crushed (use the food processed if you can, so much quicker)
2 packages of Ghirardelli Whit melting chocolates

20140104-234359.jpg

Take your finely crushed Oreos…

20140104-234611.jpg

Reserve about a 1/4 cup of crumbs and set them aside, then fold the cream cheese into the main bowl of crumbs and roll into balls about an inch thick, place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Then leave in the fridge for at least an hour, so they will hold their shape when their dipped in the chocolate.

20140104-235440.jpg

Melt the chocolate according to the package directions. Dip the balls and sprinkle reserved crumbs on top.

20140104-235531.jpg

It is that easy… Seriously, so for all of you snowed in this week you probably actually have the stuff for this treat at home now. You could even put these in pretty gift box and give the perfect homemade Valentine’s gift this year! From my home to yours, happy eats!

20140104-235733.jpg

A Mad Hatter Tea

As many people know I have hosted a yearly Halloween party since my senior year of high school.  Ever since I was little I have loved Halloween, it must have been the costume contest I entered as the Little Mermaid at age three.  I won of course beating out what I can only imagine was thousands of children…or maybe more like fifty… Then again all of the candy in high dosages could have helped moving it into position as one of my favorite holidays.

Halloween is just one day of the year, but daily sweets and scares are always a part of our little home.  I am the girl that DVRs all ghost shows that exist to my knowledge and relish in scaring myself episode after episode.   These, paired with whatever sweet I have been craving for the week, make for a pretty good night off.

I do have another obsession though and it is tea parties.  These parties I have surely been hosting since long before my award winning Mermaid costume.  I will always love all things girlie and a tea party is the ultimate ladies event.  Now I have been to a good tea time or two (even once at the Ritz in London) but they are all nothing compared to an actual party.  The petite pastries, delicate dishware, and of course a fabulous tea dress, all make a tea party so much better.

It was a mad combination of my obsessions, between food, Halloween, and tea parties that came to mind when my husband asked about my annual holiday bash this year.  “An Un-Birthday Bash it shall be”, I thought, and the Mad Hatter rose to life.  While my husband may have been the one dressed in the correct costume, it was I, the Queen of Hearts, that was in full planning mode the month before.

The set up….

Other than the necessary tea pouring from my favorite Tea Pot drink dispenser, this was the most perfect party for a very quirky menu.  The lady like salad…

To make it easy on myself I featured one unique and maybe mad dessert for those brave enough to taste it.  The reward for the fierce tasters was simple and wonderful.

Chocolate Dipped Figs sprinkled with Fluer De Sel

Half a bag or Good Quality 60% or higher cacoa chocolate chips

Washed Fresh Figs

Fluer de Sel or sea salt

To save time I actually heat the chips in the microwave for about a minute, taking them out half way through to stir, and then heating the rest of the way through.  Do not, I repeat do not, over heat your chocolate.  I am trying to save you time so do not heat these chips over a minute, continue to stir, I promise it will smooth out.  You need it just silky to dip the Figs into, one at a time, and carefully rotating around in the chocolate to get a good coating on them.  I always set mine on a parchment lined pan to cool.  Then after you dip the figs (I did about sixteen for this amount of chocolate), quickly sprinkle the salt over the top of them.  Voila! you have a unique simple sweet that will intrigue even your “Maddest” guest.  I’m leaving you with a few fabulous pictures from the tea…

 

From our tiny apartment kitchen to yours have a Happy Halloween!