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!

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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 Most Simple.. Most Wonderful Pie Crust… Ever

Leftovers, my favorite blanket, and lots of movie watching on the couch……. All signs Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday has been survived, and we’re moving into Christmas full swing. Before I start my Christmas Posts I’m sharing a Thanksgiving recap, a fabulous pie crust, and decor ideas you can use for all your holiday entertaining.

As you all know we hosted our first Thanksgiving this year and we pulled out all the stops. Due to the overwhelming response to the pics of my home decor on Pinterest I’m starting to share some of my favorite buys and tips.

1. Start with the dishes, my favorite step to planning any get together is choosing the glassware and dishes I’ll use. For my first Thanksgiving there was no better excuse to buy enough additional plates of my wedding china to fill my new table for ten. As well as these fabulous gold chargers… The more sparkle the better in my opinion, nothing more festive than sparkle!

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Plates. Gold Chargers, Glasses

2. Now for my table scape….
Always use a fresh item (pumpkins for this look), think flowers, tree limbs, or fresh fruit….

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I borrowed Mercury Mason Jars from my Mom’s massive party supply room.
I was so excited to purchase my first Candelabra ! It was the perfect touch to pull in the gold of the chargers!

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The ombré antique bowl in the center of the table brings me to my next necessity to all table settings, an hierloom piece gives any set up character, and makes it uniquely yours. Plus it was perfect filled with home made bread

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3. Great food and some fabulous platters/ plates to place them in…. Prepare for the food porn…

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Mom’s Scalloped Potatoes… Recipe to come soon!!!!

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Cranberry Bacon Brussel Sprouts

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Nana’s Candied Sweet Potatoes

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Not my Mama’s Dressing (Bacon and Bourbon Dressing)

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James’s Country Rosemary and Sea salt Bread

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White Truffle Mashed Potatoes

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Martha’s Dry Brined Turkey…. It’s almost a tradition at our house for James to try a new Turkey recipe every year… This one was especially simple and wonderful. I plated it on my favorite Platter

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My wonderful Thanksgiving Plate…Yumm!

Now for the best part of any meal…….dessert

My pies this year were truly ridiculous all because of my recent purchase….

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For the first time ever I’m sharing a recipe from somebody outside of my family’s collection…. I hope you all realize how much this must mean I think of this recipe… I give you the best pie crust recipe ever from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery Cookbook

Single Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
11/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup of ice

Stir flour, salt, and sugar in large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces, making sure each is coated in the dry mix so it won’t all stick together. Use pastry blender to work quickly into a mix until there are pea size pieces of butter remaining.

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Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a measuring cup.

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Sprinkle two tablespoons of the ice mixture over the flour mixture and cut it in with a bench scraper. Add more of the ice mixture, 1 or 2 Tablespoons at a time, using the scraper or your hands (as I recommend) to mix until the dough comes to a ball.

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Sprinkle the dry bits with more small drops of water mixture if necessary to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably over night to give the crust time to “mellow”.

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The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days. When ready roll out about two inches larger than the pie pan your using or 1/8 inch thick.

I made three beautiful pies with the dough that are all also in the cook book…. All of which were magical… Cheesy yes but do true.. I’m not even a pie person but on bite of one of these pies and you too will be a convert….

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Browned Butter Pumpkin Pie (with a creme brûlée topping I added to the recipe), the over all favorite

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Black Bottom Oatmeal (the hubby’s favorite)

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Salted Carmel Apple Pie (by far my favorite)

Thanksgiving is all about appreciating the details…

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The Cake Plate my hubby bought my for our first hosting of a family holiday. Which turned out the be perfect to place my favorite pie on..

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It’s the bitters that flavored the sugar perfectly to coat the apples in my new favorite pie, a well placed heirloom bowl, it’s the recipe cards worn from age being used to recreate favorite childhood recipes, and the company of course….. Good company

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Happy Holidays from our home to yours!