FREE counter and Web statistics from

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

starch substitute

When Kaytie and I first moved in together, we made a lifestyle change. We went low-carb.

(This lasted for a while, we lost weight, and then we went back to eating like normal people. We occasionally go back to the low-carb lifestyle when necessary.)

This was the beginning of our cooking escapades, and one of our favorite sides that we discovered was mashed cauliflower. This turned out to be a great substitute for grits and felt starchy, even though it was a vegetable. We could eat the mashed cauliflower for dinner one night, and then the next morning, the leftovers were great with fried eggs.

I'm pretty sure the recipe for these came from the South Beach cookbook, but I've made them so many times that I don't remember the original.

Mashed Cauliflower 'Grits'

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

4 oz fat-free cream cheese

1/2 c 'Italian-mix' grated cheese (or good Parmesan, if you'd rather)

1/4 c butter

garlic salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 while you are cutting up the cauliflower.

Spread the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on the cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Combine everything in the food processor and puree until the cauliflower is the texture of grits.

Easy as pie.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

pb & cake

Yesterday, I attended a lunch presentation about the state of obesity in Mississippi. (Basically, it's a problem.)

The yogurt parfait served as dessert, while good, did not satisfy my sweet tooth, even after I ate an extra one. So, last night, I made a cake.

It wasn't really my idea. After dinner, Kaytie said she wanted some cake. I always want cake, but I was feeling a bit lazy, so I wasn't really sold on making a cake until Kaytie started talking about peanut butter icing. That got me motivated, and since we are not obese, I looked up a Cook's Illustrated chocolate cake recipe. They suggested serving the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar, which I'm sure is nice.

But powdered sugar ain't got nothin' on this peanut butter icing.

(Because this is thick, it may be more accurately labeled as frosting, not icing, but when I was growing up, if it was spread on a cake, it was icing, no matter the consistency. Besides, who cares about semantics? It's delicious.)

Peanut Butter Icing

makes enough to ice a 2-layer 9-inch cake

1 stick room temperature butter

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

Cream the butter and peanut butter until smooth. (Note: if you decided to make this cake at the last minute, like I did, cold butter out of the fridge will do fine. It'll just take a little longer to get the mixture smooth.)

Beat in the powdered sugar. This may be easier and less dusty if you do it a cup at a time.

Finally, add the milk. Mix it all together until it is smoothly combined.

Ice your cake.

(Because of the milk, I'm keeping this cake in the fridge.)

Monday, August 8, 2011

fresh mex

Last night, I grilled a flank steak and served it with asparagus, corn salad, and sauteed mushrooms. Tonight, we decided to use the leftover steak for tacos.

To go alongside, I made pinto beans. They were beautiful. I started with dried beans, soaked them, and started them simmering in plenty of time for a dinner at seven thirty. They had five different kinds of peppers in them, including jalapenos from my garden and banana pepper from Daniel's. Fresh tomatoes from the farmer's market. Kaytie walked in after work and immediately asked about the wonderful smell that filled the house.

"Beans," I said as I dumped half a beer into the pot. We went out to the back deck to have a beer and to admire the lights I'd spent the day hanging. One beer turned into two, and when we finally went back in, the beans were burned.

So, instead of beans, I'm offering a recipe for guacamole. Growing up in Texas, I heard lots of recipes for guacamole. Some use sour cream, some marshmallow fluff, some start with store-bought guacamole. This recipe is simple, fresh, and delicious. And not burned.


2 avocados
1 tomato, peeled & diced
1/4 c diced red onion
1 jalapeno
2 cloves garlic, roasted & minced
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste
(cilantro to taste, optional)
(1/4 red bell pepper, diced & optional)
(1 tomatillo, diced & optional)

Start with roasting your garlic cloves. I toss mine in some olive oil and roast it in the toaster oven for about ten minutes at 450.

While the garlic is roasting, get the meat out of the avocados. Run your knife around the equator of the avocado, penetrating to the pit. Unlock the magic by pulling and twisting the two halves apart. Set the pit aside. (I have not experimented to prove this, but I was raised to believe that if you put the pit back into the guacamole when you put it in the fridge, your guac won't turn brown.) Use a spoon to scrape out the flesh of the avocado into a medium bowl.

Squeeze the lime juice over the avocado and use two knives to cut the avocado into small pieces. Mush it around a little.

Slice the top off your jalapeno and throw it away. Slice it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the white ribs and seeds and get rid of them. Dice the rest of the jalapeno very small and add it to the avocado.

Add all of the other ingredients. (I recommend all of the optional ingredients.) Mix well. Eat with chips.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

baked pasta 2

I have a tendency to get interested in one thing and go a little overboard. (You may have noticed a string of cookie posts about a year ago.) Well, I did it again. I only made two baked pastas, but it was within one week, which was too much baked pasta for Kaytie.

This was a good recipe, too, but it might be good to space your baked pastas out!

Baked Veggie Pasta

1 stick butter
1/2 c + 2 Tbs flour
4 c whole milk
6 slices bacon
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 c fresh basil, sliced
1/2 c roasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 onion, diced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
10 oz spinach
4 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 lb pasta (choose your favorite shape)
2 Tbs butter
1-2 c grated Parmesan

First, make the bechamel. Melt the stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Mix in the flour. Add the milk. Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast the garlic. I do this in the toaster oven - about 15 minutes at 400. Chop it up.

Chop up the bacon and saute it until just browned. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned. Set mushrooms and bacon aside.

Saute the onion until translucent. Add spinach and saute until wilted.

Stir the basil, nuts, bacon, and all veggies together in a medium bowl.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, but stop cooking a minute or two early. (I used radiatore because it looked awesome.) You want the pasta to be be just tender, but still firm. Drain, return to the pot, and toss to coat with 2 Tbs butter. Mix in the veggies.

Preheat oven to 400.

Dump the pasta mixture in a greased casserole dish. Spread the bechamel over it, and top with grated Parmesan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

baked pasta 1

In March, Bon Appetit had an issue with several recipes for baked pastas. Seemed like a great idea - make one dish and eat it for a few days. When Kaytie and I are busy, leftovers are a quick and easy dinner. (This, by the way, is being posted months after I actually made it. I was too busy to post.) I, however, am not very good at sticking to a recipe. (Unless it is a baked good.)

According to the writers, all you need for a baked pasta is pasta (of course), some interesting fillings, and a bechamel. I decided that bacon is also an essential ingredient. In the recipe I chose, the bechamel was replaced with a parsnip puree. I figured this was healthier, and, with a few modifications, it ended up tasting great.

Baked Tortellini

4 medium parsnips, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 1/2 c whole milk, divided

1 c grated Parmesan cheese, divided

6-8 slices bacon

5 oz spinach, sauteed

1 large onion, diced

1 can tomatoes, drained

1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 20-oz pkg cheese-filled fresh tortellini

2 Tbs butter

1 c Naked Goat cheese, grated

Boil parsnips in salted water for about 20 minutes, until they are tender. Drain.

Put the parsnips in a food processor. Add 1 1/2 cups milk, and blend until smooth. Keep the food processor running, and slowly add the remaining 1 cup milk. Blend in 3/4 cup of Parmesan.

In a medium saucepan, simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, whisking often. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and saute it until crispy. Remove the bacon. Add the onion and saute until translucent - about 5 minutes. Remove the onion and saute the mushrooms until they are browned. Add the onions, garlic, and rosemary. Saute until fragrant.

Preheat oven to 400 and grease a baking dish.

Cook the pasta. Follow the package directions, but stop cooking when the pasta is just tender but still firm. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Toss the pasta with 2 Tbs butter. Mix in the sauteed veggies and bacon.

Spread the pasta mixture in the baking dish. Cover it with the parsnip sauce and top the entire dish with the Naked Goat cheese and the remaining Parmesan.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes until the sauce is heated through and bubbling. If you want, broil 1-2 minutes to brown the top.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 29, 2011

who needs phyllo?

There are many reasons to like staying in a hotel. Room service, comfortable beds, fancy pillows. (Kaytie once found pillow that she liked so much, we paid the front desk 50 bucks for it. They thought we were nuts.) One of our favorite things to do when we stay in a hotel is to watch TV.

I know that sounds lame. What you should know is that Kaytie and I only pay 12 bucks a month for cable at home. This means that we only get about 18 channels, two of which are shopping networks, and two of which are CSPAN. So, when given the opportunity to surf through dozens of channels, we have a tendency to veg out. And I'm sure you can guess what we usually end up watching. Food Network, of course.

During one recent stay, we saw someone use tortillas & muffin tins to make crunchy cups for a migas-style brunch dish (which was delicious, by the way, but you'll have to find that recipe on their site). We're always looking for new ways to serve hand-held food (because of the Christmas party), so I was excited to try some smaller tortilla cups.

Spinach Cups

makes 24

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 c mayo

1 egg

5 oz fresh spinach

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 onion, diced

6 slices bacon

1/4 c finely grated parmesan

juice of 1/4 lemon

salt & pepper to taste

6 flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Set the bacon aside, and drain most of the grease from the frying pan. Turn off the stove.

Cut the tortillas into quarters. Briefly warm a quarter-tortilla in the frying pan, about 2-3 seconds per side. Press the tortilla into an oiled mini-muffin tin. This is dangerous, and you may burn yourself. (No pain, no gain. Stop whining.) Repeat the warming & pressing maneuvers 23 more times.

Bake the cups for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the stove back on to medium heat, and saute the onion until translucent.

Add the garlic & saute for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove the onions & garlic, and saute the spinach until wilted.

Crumble the bacon.

In a medium bowl, combine most of the crumbled bacon (reserve about 1/4 cup), cream cheese, mayo, and egg. Stir together, and then add the onion, garlic, spinach, and parmesan. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mix everything well. Season with salt & pepper. Stir some more.

Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into each tortilla cup.

Bake for 5 minutes.

Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning of the tortillas, and then bake about 5 more minutes.

Top with crumbled bacon.

These are best warm, but they're pretty good at room temperature, too. You'll see some variation of the tortilla cup at the 2011 Christmas party, I'm sure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

complex napoleons

I learned a lot in my first year of med school. For example, there is not quite enough time in the day to keep a food blog updated AND keep up with classwork.

But, now it's summer, and I have loads of free time. Kaytie's workload has recently lightened a bit, so we decided to have a small dinner party last weekend. Five courses with an Italian bent.

We started with prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. We followed with a caprese-inspired napoleon, but instead of just tomato, basil, & fresh mozzarella, we added some watermelon and mint. The seafood ceviche was served in ice bowls. The main course was roasted pork tenderloin in a picatta sauce with asparagus and easy Italian bread on the side. And for dessert, we made peach ice cream, topped it with caramel sauce, and served it with florentine cookies.

Everything was good (except for the squid in the ceviche - it got way too rubbery), but the napoleons were the prettiest.

Tomato & Watermelon Napoleons

good tomatoes from the farmer's market


fresh mozzarella

fresh basil

fresh mint

red onion, diced

balsamic vinaigrette

This is pretty easy, but it's delicious and looks very fancy.

Peel and slice the tomatoes. Season them with salt & pepper. (Note: if you want to add some more color to this, get some heirloom tomatoes.)

Cut the watermelon into slices that are approximately the same size as the tomato slices. If you're nice, and I am, remove the seeds. Not only will your guests appreciate your efforts, it will also reduce spitting at the dinner table.

Slice the fresh mozzarella.

For assembly, I started with a tomato slice. I put a couple basil leaves on it, and then added a slice of mozzarella. Next was a slice of watermelon topped with a couple mint leaves. Then, I just kept stacking.

Once the tower was an appropriate height, I sprinkled on some diced red onion and a little julienned basil.

These can be assembled before everyone arrives - just splash a little balsamic vinegar on top right before you serve them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

franks n beans

This is a recipe that I tried to have ready for Kaytie when she got home from the Coast. (She's been working weekends away from home. It's very lonely here, and I have no excuse not to study. It sucks.) I did not have it ready when she got home. It was ready an hour and a half after she arrived. But it was good.

So, two weeks later, after Kaytie's next weekend on the Coast, I made it again, with a few alterations. This confused Kaytie - "I'm not sure why you'd want to make the same thing twice in a month." Well, I was perfecting it. (By the way, it was not ready on time, either.)

Making this may make you feel like a French chef. Because instead of calling it a casserole, we can call it a cassoulet, which is a nice way of saying white bean stew. Now, traditionally, a cassoulet would use confit. This doesn't, which makes it easier. Anyway, here's a recipe for some fancy pork and beans. It's based on a recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Pork & White Bean 'Cassoulet'

1 lb dried white beans
2 ribs of celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 inches of fresh rosemary
1 lb fresh bratwurst
6 oz salt pork
1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs tomato paste
1/2 c dry white wine
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
4 c chicken broth
1 c cornbread crumbs
1/2 c chopped parsley
salt & pepper
a Dutch oven
some cheesecloth

Stir 2 1/2 Tbs salt into 10 cups warm water in a large pot. Dump the white beans in. Bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Cover, and let the beans soak for an hour. Drain & rinse the beans.

Move your oven rack to the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 300.

Make your bouquet garni: Wrap the celery, bay leaf, thyme, & rosemary in cheesecloth, and tie the bundle closed with string.

In a large saucepan, cover your sausages and salt pork with an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and let the sausages cool for a minute or two. (Save the salt pork!) Slice the sausage into 1-inch pieces.

In a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, brown the sausage on all sides in about a Tbs of olive oil. Set the sausage aside.

Brown the pork chunks on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes.

Add the onions & carrots. Stir constantly until the onion is translucent. This will take about 2-3 minutes.

Add the garlic & tomato paste. Stir for about a minute.

Add the sausage, and stir everything together. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook for a minute to reduce the wine a little.

Stir in the tomatoes, bouquet garni, and salt pork. Add the white beans and chicken broth. If any of the beans are above the level of the liquid, add a little water.

Increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover, and put it in the oven for an hour and a half.

Remove the bouquet garni and salt pork. Season the stew with salt and pepper.

Increase the oven temperature to 350, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cornbread crumbs and parlsey with a couple Tbs of olive oil. Season with a little salt & pepper.

Sprinkle about half a cup of the crumb mixture over the top of the cassoulet. Bake covered for 15 minutes.

Uncover, and bake for 15 more minutes.

Sprinkle the rest of the cumbs over the top, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the crumbs are a golden brown. (If you get impatient, or if your wife gets home earlier than you expected, you can turn on the broiler to brown the crumbs. Just keep an eye on it, so they don't burn.)

Let it rest for 15 minutes, and enjoy.

Friday, February 18, 2011


What's better than delicious chocolate cake?

A bigger chocolate cake! (Duh.)

So, here's the genesis of this post: Bon Appetit's Cocoa Layer Cake. A couple weeks ago, Kaytie said she wanted some cake, and since I suffer from a bona fide sugar addiction, I was happy to oblige her craving.

We'd just gotten our February Bon Appetit, and the cake on page 90 looked delicious. I followed the recipe, almost. And it was great. BUT, it was only about 3 inches tall. And because I'm a red-blooded American, I believe that bigger is better.

So, I doubled the recipe, moved some espresso powder around, and added some nuts. This is the best chocolate cake ever, and it looks like a cake that you could buy at a fancy bakery. Guaranteed to impress.

Chocolate Cake

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups warm water, divided
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
scant 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2 eggs, room temp & beaten slightly
1 cup toasted pecan pieces/chips

Note: You need 3 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides.

Position your oven racks so one is in the top third of your oven and the other is in the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut parchment paper rounds that fit into your cake pans. Butter (or spray with Pam) the pans. Press the parchment paper rounds into the pans, and grease the paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour. (Tilt the pan, dump a pinch or two of flour on the side, and rotate the pan so the flour lightly covers the inside of the walls of the pan.) This will give the batter something to grab, and your cakes will rise evenly, instead of rising more in the middle.

Whisk the cocoa and espresso powder into 1 cup of water in a small bowl.

Whisk buttermilk and 1 cup of water together in another small bowl.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and both sugars in a large bowl for about 5 minutes.

With the mixer running, add the eggs, and beat about 15-30 seconds, until smooth.

Add the cocoa mixture. Beat to blend.

Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture and beating to blend with each addition.

Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans. (About 3 1/4 cups each)

Bake cakes about 20 minutes, reversing the pans about halfway through. The cakes will be done when a tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes (in pans) completely on racks.


10 Tbs unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Stir in the sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt.

Gradually stir in the cream. Keep stirring until the mixture just begins to simmer at the edges.

Reduce heat to low, and stir for about a minute.

Dump the mixture in a medium bowl, and stir in the vanilla.

Stick the icing in the fridge, and let it cool for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Then, let it stand at room temperature.

Now, it's time to assemble the cake. To get the cakes out of the pan, run a knife around the sides of the cake. Carefully, invert one cake onto a plate. (Please note, these cakes are fragile and very moist, almost sticky. Handle with care.) Peel off the paper, and spread about 1/2 cup of icing on top. Invert the second cake onto your palm, and carefully slide it onto the first layer. Peel off the parchment, and spread about 1/2 cup of icing on that layer. Repeat with the third layer. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake.

And finally, it's time for fun. To get the nuts on the cake, I literally threw small handfuls of pecans at it. And they stick. (This is the dogs' favorite step, because some nuts inevitably end up on the floor, which means the dogs get to eat them.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

put this on your pork & smoke it

Well, another Christmas party has come and gone. We don't have a lot of new recipes because (1) we wanted to make sure the food was great, so we went with some old favorties, and (2) we were too rushed to write down what we were doing. (My last exam was on the 21st, and the party was on the 23rd.)

But, rushed as were were to get everything out on time, it was a great party, and the food was excellent. Lots of recipes are already on the blog. We served peanut butter balls, white chocolate-cranberry cookies, boiled shrimp with my cocktail sauce, mushrooms stuffed with duck sausage, and cured salmon.

There were quesadillas filled with the stuffing from our sausage & smoked gouda poppers. The corn, crab, & brie dip was, as always, a hit. We filled phyllo cups with mashed sweet potatoes and topped them with candied bacon.

There were little bowls of roasted walnuts scattered throughout the house for easy snacking. Kaytie made a punch with citron vodka, creme de cassis, pomegranate juice, and prosecco. We always serve mulled wine, and of course, we served med-rare venison tenderloin slices on toast with gorgonzola-horseradish butter. (It's one of the party standards.)

My favorite thing this year was an open-faced Cuban-inspired sandwich. Smoked pork, garlic aioli, and homemade pickles on toast, topped with dill Havarti cheese.

That pork was damn fine, if I do say so myself. It tasted even better than it looked. Here's the rub I used:

Garlic Pork Rub

5 dried chipotle peppers
1 dried habanero (dump the seeds out)
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 Tbs cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbs coriander seeds
1/4 tsp white peppercorns
1/4 tsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 Tbs paprika
2 Tbs onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
8-10 garlic cloves, diced ultra-fine

I have a reformed coffee grinder that we use to grind dried peppers, seeds, and peppercorns. If you're a traditionalist, I suppose you can use an old-fashioned mortar and pestle. Either way, once you get everything ground down to a powder, the instructions are pretty simple: mix everything together.

Rinse your pork shoulder, and pat it dry. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork. I usually put it on a rack over a baking sheet so I can pick up any rub that falls off and rub it back on the meat. (Tip - if you wear rubber gloves, less rub will stick to your fingers. Plus, once you take the gloves off, you can rub your eyes or pick your nose without fear of pepper residue under your fingernails.)

I smoked the pork, but you could definitely roast it in the oven. I'm not going to get into specifics of cooking it because I haven't made careful enough notes about time & heat, but you can get good information from a google search. I will tell you that I normally cook a pork shoulder to an internal temperature of 150-155 degrees, which is lower than many sites will recommend. Use your own discretion.