Friday, March 4, 2016

Best Ever Brussels Sprout Recipe

Cold weather signals brussel sprout season in our house. We've cooked them every possible way, fried (the leaves), steamed, stir fried, and sautéed but our favorite is recipe is from Bobby Flay.

What: Bobby Flay's Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

Recipe: see the link below

Why They Are The Best: The saltiness of the pancetta combined with the creaminess of the potatoes and sweetness of the camelized and brussel sprouts brings this dish to the next level.

How We Know Its the Best: it converts brussels sprout haters (like me) into raving fans. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Since we are sharing favorite Fall Recipes, here is another that you should enjoy.  This one is a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Cake, and unfortunately, I can not claim it as my own.  Every now and then, just to save a little time I will go to a "cheat" recipe -- one that is quick, easy, and absolutely delicious.  This one is no exception, and has been shared with many of my friends.  It is from a cookbook called the Cake Mix Doctor, and I hope you enjoy this one as much as my friends and family have over the years.

What:  Pumpkin Spice Cake

  • 1 package plain spice cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 oz) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree (use the rest for my pumpkin pancake recipe already posted on our blog)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, walnuts, or almonds, toasted (for sprinkling of cake once frosted) -- Optional

*Option: not in the original recipe, I add a 1/4 cup of sour cream for a little extra moisture.

Frosting: I make an a basic cream cheese frosting(1 8oz package softened cream cheese -- not low fat or fat free -- 8 tablespoons softened butter, 3 cups confectioners' sugar -- a little less so it's easier to pipe, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla), or a delicious orange cream cheese frosting for this cake (take the cream cheese icing recipe, and add 1 tablespoon of orange zest and 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice).  I use a little extra liquid to that I can squeeze the icing onto the cake using an icing piping bag (or freezer bag with a small hole cut in the corner) in an up and down motion.  The orange flavor really works well with the pumpkin spice.

Preheat the oven to 350 bake, and lightly mist a Bundt pan with baker's spray (oil/flour) -- you can also use a 13 by 9 inch pan is you chose.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl or mixer, and mix at low speed for one minute.  Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula, and mix at medium speed for another 2 minutes.  Batter should look thick and well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake on center rack in preheated oven until cake springs back with you lightly press your finger, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.  If you are using a 13 by 9 it's about 32 to 35 minutes, if a Bundt, about 50 minutes (I start checking at 45/48 minutes, and then keep a close watch, checking again every few minutes so cake doesn't over cook).

Remove cake from oven let cool for twenty minutes before you remove from Bundt pan.  If you used the 13 x 9, you can just frost it and serve right from the pan, as the book instructs.  I have never done it this way, however,  the presentation of the cake when cooked in a Bundt pan, with the icing drizzled on it, and put on a pretty platter looks so much more appeealing (sorry Cake Doctor author, Anne Byrn).

Why It's the Best: it's very moist and flavorful, but it's the orange cream cheese frosting that makes it unique and delicious.

How We Know: every time I serve this cake, a request for the recipe is sure to follow...especially during the holidays.

Best Ever Pumpkin Pancakes

When the leaves begin to change, and Autumn is in the air, we always pull out some of our favorite pumpkin themed recipes (some of you may have tried our pumpkin chocolate chip muffins!).  Our family has a hands down favorite for breakfast, and that is my Pumpkin Pancakes.  They are airy, light, festive, and full of the flavors of Fall…cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and pumpkin.  They take a little longer to prepare than the basic pancake recipe, but they are so worth the time.  Hope you will give them a try…

What:  Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk (I tried with vanilla coconut milk recently, and it was delicious!)
  • ¾ cup of pure pumpkin puree – not pumpkin pie filling (I like Libby’s)
  • 4 large eggs (separated)
  • ½ stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*mini semi-sweet chocolate chips are a delicious option (just sprinkle a few on the batter when you pour on to griddle)

Whisk the first 6 ingredients in large bowl to combine.  In another bowl whisk milk, pumpkin, egg yolk, and butter – then add to dry ingredients.  Beat egg whites until stiff, and then fold into pumpkin mixture in two separate additions, being careful not to over mix, as you do not want to take the air out of the whipped whites.  (Batter will be a little thicker than a basic pancake recipe.)  Drop on to a hot griddle lightly brushed with vegetable oil.  When golden on “down” side, and air bubbles appear, gently flip.

We like to eat breakfast as a family, so here’s a tip in how to keep the pancakes nice and moist, and warm while you are making a few batches:  Set oven to 150 – 170 degrees, and put a metal cookie cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.  Then, as the pancakes come off of the griddle, lay them on the rack (slight overlapping but not stacking) and keep in the oven on the low heat until done with all of the batter.             

Why They Are The Best:  Try the recipe, and you will see!  They are so light and airy, they literally melt in your mouth – it’s kind of like eating a little desert soufflĂ© for breakfast.  The flavors from the pumpkin and spices are a wonderful surprise to the classic breakfast staple of pancakes for breakfast.

How We Know:  What started out as a special holiday season recipe, quickly became a year round treat.  I have made these for most of our children’s friends, and usually have to double the recipe!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best Ever Guacamole

Years ago we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary at the Paraiso del la Bonita in Rivera Maya, Mexico. The resort is incredibly beautiful, the service and food - outstanding!  In particular, the Guacamole which we enjoyed served poolside everyday.   Given their over the top service we decided to ask them for the recipe, and to our surprise, they printed and gave it to us...what a great anniversary gift!  It's a recipe we continue to share over and over again with friends and family -- most saying, "this is the best guacamole I have ever tasted!"

What: Authentic Mexican Guacamole

  • 4 Haas avocados (mashed, leaving some small chunks)
  • 1/4 cup onion diced (scallions will work, too, if you don't have onion)
  • 1-2 green chilis chopped or diced (serrano or jalapeno) 
  • Lemon juice (half a lemon, or a little more if you like lots of lemon)
  • Olive oil (1/2 to 1 tablespoon, depending on the size of the avocados)
  • 1 and 1/2 tomatoes (seeded and diced) 
  • Fresh chopped cilantro (to taste, we like a lot!) 
Dice and mix ingredients together, then add salt to taste.  Serve with corn chips and white mexican cheese (queso fresco or queso blanco).  If you really want to wow your friends, buys fresh tortilla shells, cut in strips, and fry in oil until crisp (season with salt and pepper), and serve along side your delicious guacamole.

Why it's The Best:  What's different and unique about this recipe is the olive oil.  The chef said (and he's right) it gives it a creaminess to the avacados -- also different is that the recipe using a lemon instead of limes.

How We Know:  From the numerous requests we've had for the recipe from our guests who have tasted it at our home.

Craving level: Weekly, especially in the summer.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best Ever Neighborhood Restaurant

Every neighborhood should have one, but they are hard to find.  A place to go when you don't feel like cooking, but it feels like home.  It's a place where they know you, your likes and dislikes, and as a result, a menu isn't necessary because they'll do the ordering for you.  For us, that place used to be a former gas station converted into a French/Italian restaurant by a husband and wife team with a shared passion for food.  

What:  Jennifer and I just took the kids to Tempo Restaurant.  Our neighborhood restaurant for close to 10 years before a move.  It had been a dozen years since we had been back and thankfully everything was the same as we remembered, especially the food.

Where: 4231 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304

Why It's the Best:  It's been 12 years and we've not been able to find another place like it.  The restaurant is small, the staff professional and friendly and the menu contains some of the "Best Ever" dishes.  The prices are fair and the kitchen is always dependable.  We have three favorites that no restaurant has been able to top. You can't go wrong ordering; the Oyster Rockfeller (not a oyster fan, get the Two Beans and Pasta, the Agnolotti (if it's not on the menu ask and they'll make it) and the Tiramasu.    

How We Know:  As Anthony Bourdain points out, 8 out of 10 restaurants fail.  Tempo has been around for 25 years and it's because it consistently delivers quality food and service for a fair price. What makes it special is that it's the kind of place that is always busy, but you rarely need a reservation. The kind of place that is so good you're afraid the word will get out and you want be able to get a seat when you decide to go out at the last minute rather than cook.  

Craving level: Every time we don't feel like cooking!  

Reviews:  Google,  Yelp

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Best Ever Book on the Restaurant Business

When I was younger I used to think that it might be nice to have a restaurant some day.  I now longer have that dream. The reason, I read a book that gave me a cold hard slap in the face about the reality of the restaurant buiness. The book, a New York Times Best Seller in 2000, has been reissued with new updates.  

What:  Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain.  The book that launched the chef to stardom.  Unlike other celebrity chiefs who gained fame because of their culinary skills, Anthony made his name because of his ability to tell stories.  As a result, his book is very entertaining and a quick read. It's a honest and somewhat crude (make that very crude, adults only) look at the restaurant business and himself, warts and all. 

Who: Anthony Bourdain, former Execute Chief of Les Halles, Host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, Monday at 9 pm.

Where:  It's Bourdain's life story so it follows his travels around the world, but most of it takes place in New York City.

Why It's the Bestyou'll learn things that any foodie needs to know such as; what day of the week is best to dine out (Tuesday) and why.  Why you never order fish on a Monday, and the real purpose of brunches.  I especially liked the section that disusses the difference between a chef's kitchen and your kitchen.  It lead to the purchase of a new knife and the reality that working in the restaurant business takes a special bred. 

How We Know:  If you like his TV show, you'll love his book. 

Reviews:  Amazon reviews

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best Ever Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary's were created in 1921 at Harry's New York Bar in Paris.   Over the years, bartenders have taken liberties with the original recipe.   We've grown accustomed to Bloodies being served with celery, a wedge of lemon, lime, or both, and in the DC area, they often come with Old Bay on the rim of the glass. But the original contained none of those accessories.

What:  Best Ever Bloody Mary, a proper one that comes with a spicy dill pickle, not celery.  

Where: Columbia Firehouse, in Old Town Alexandria.  Columbia's drink menu includes Historic Cocktails, favorites like Margaritas, Daiquiris, as well as, obscure drinks like The Avenue (circa 1938), and the Moscow Mule (Cock'n Bull Bar, California).  One thing is apparent from the menu...the roaring 20's were clearly the heyday of the highball.

Why It's the Best: It's the original recipe...and it's damn good.  Plenty of real horseradish, not hot sauce for the zip, and Tito's Vodka, not some overly marketed fad.  Also, try their onion rings.  The best we've had this side of Bermuda.

How We Know:  If you like the modern day version, you'll love the original.  Sometimes new isn't better, and less is more...this is one of those occasions.

Craving Level:  at least once a weekend.

Directions & Reviews:  Yelp, Open TableDirections