I’m in Austin. It’s a million degrees out here, on this second to last day of September. But I’m continuing in my quest to will it to be Autumn. Visiting a friend for a party tonight, I decided to bring a pumpkin cake. I like pumpkin bread, but tonight I wanted something more, yet light. This recipe has no oil or butter in it and makes for an ultra moist, but not too sweet dessert that’s great for company, coffee, or a night playing Beatles Rock Band. Breaking out my bundt pan and whipping together a brown sugar cream cheese filling, I set to work making an easy, but flavorful Fall cake.
Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 box Spice Cake Mix
1 15oz can pumpkin
1.5 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 3.4oz butterscotch Instant Pudding Mix
2 TBSP Greek Yogurt
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Filling
12 oz. room temperature Cream Cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake ingredients. The cake batter will be sticky and thick, but fluffy, almost like icing. If it’s seems too thick, sticky, or dense to stir of manipulate add another big tablespoon of yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream cheese filling ingredients and place in the fridge for a few minutes.On a side note, I tend to not like things overly sweet and to me the pumpkin cake with cream cheese brown sugar mixture is more than enough. That being said, add 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the cake mixture if you like it as sweet as usual cakes.
Grease or spray non-stick spray in a bundt cake pan and sprinkle with flour. Scoop in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into the pan and spread evenly, making a little indenture in the center while doing it. The cream cheese will sit in this like a circular river of deliciousness. Next remove the cream cheese mixture from the fridge and dollop it in the indentation around the cake batter as evenly as possible. Next, top the cream cheese with the remaining cake batter, being careful to cover all the exposed cream cheese. Smooth the top as best you can.
Bake for 45-55 degrees or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before flipping out of the bundt pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve. It’s moist, it’s delicious, it’s low fat, low sugar, and it screams Autumn comfort!
The last couple of things I’ve posted here have been on the healthier side of delicious. Tonight’s contribution is also delicious, but also needless on the scale of “Healthy”. Exhausted by a million things going on that I’m going to generalize under the catch-all phrase “Life”, I decided on a summery dinner of grilled London Broil and Tomato salad filled with herbs, easy and super flavorful. But, alas, the meat was not thawed come dinner time. Or an hour after dinner time. And by the time we were actually able to start making dinner we were ravenous. Which is how I wonder up ruining our healthy protein and veggie packed dinner with buttery, cheesy biscuits.
Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
2 TBSP minced sun dried tomatoes
1 TBSP grated or shaved parmesan
1 TBSP grated mozzarella
2 cups flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 cup milk
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, diced
1 1/2 tsp freshly chopped basil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack for the upper third of the oven. Mix everything together in a bowl until a stick mass forms.
When I make biscuits, I make serious biscuits, which is the over dramatic way of saying I make them way too large. They are the Big Gulp of biscuits. I usually make 6 large biscuits, but you can make 8 or even 10. I wouldn’t go much smaller than that, though, and cooking time is affected by size. Bake 6 large biscuits for 20 minutes, 8 medium for 15 minutes, or 10 small for 10-12 minutes. The bottoms of the biscuits should be evenly golden brown and the tips of the various points on top crisp and golden as well.
This are fluffy, flavorful, moist, and a super tasty and easy addition to any meal, whether or not they have any health benefits. They are also excellent with a poached egg for breakfast!
On Sundays I always look to something special for dinner, which comes from my upbringing. Huge family dinners filled with love and hours of cooking and food – food – So Much Food! Now, my numerous cousins are scattered amongst different states, different countries. I’m not sure what many of them do for their Sunday dinners now, but I know that we do still all love food, sharing, nurturing. Which brings me to what I call The Absentee Dinner. I make something simple, but a little more involved than the other days of the week, something with protein, something that’s going to be delicious and worth savoring. I make something special. I do it in honor of my family, my upbringing, and I invite dear friends over whenever possible, just so we can eat in each others’ company. And maybe watch a little Doctor Who.
With the reminiscence complete, let me say that while I like the depth and complexity of Asian flavors – sweet yet sour, spicy yet cool and crisp, you don’t have to follow this style. A great alternative to this, perfect for Game Day at your house is RECIPE RECOMMENDATION MISSING. Hmmm. I’ll tell you what: if you want that full recipe from me you’re going to have to wait until next week.
Crispy Pork Tacos, Asian Style
1-1.5 pounds Boneless Pork Loin Center Chops
2 TBSP minced garlic, divided
1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
1/2 TBSP Hoisin sauce
1/2 tsp chile oil
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp black pepper (or red pepper flakes if you like it spicy)
Juice of one lemon
1 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder
1 Napa cabbage, leaves cleaned. Cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each leaf.
1/2 corn starch (if making “extra crispy”, see below)
2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
Pre-shredded Broccoli slaw
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 red wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
1. 5 tsp black pepper
3 tsp sugar
About an hour or two prior to cooking, marinate the pork. Slice the pork in large bite sized pieces, I like strips, and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together half of the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chile oil sriracha, pepper, lemon juice, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Add the pork to the bowl and tossed making sure each piece is coated. Let marinate for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
While marinating, make the crispy slaw topping. You can swap the slaw for kimchi. Toss the pre-shredded slaw mix, bean sprouts, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl, and set aside. This can sit some time and the flavors will just continue to marry while staying bright. Toss periodically in the time prior to serving.
Once the pork is marinated you have the option of sauteing or pan frying. On this night Chip and I made our Crispy Pork Tacos extra crispy, but you certainly simply dump the entire marinade mixture into a sauce pan heated with with the oil over medium high heat, cooking about 7-9 minutes. For extra crispy, however, remove the pork from the marinade and toss in the corn starch until evenly, but lightly coated. Discard the marinade, and heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Pan fry the pork about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a paper toweled plate to drain for a minute or two.
Taking one of the napa cabbage leaves, we set to work assembling our “Tacos”. We topped our pork with a sprinkling of slaw, a bit of the remaining minced garlic, a little chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and even some fresh diced mango. Serving with a wedge of lime, this would be perfect with a side of tropical quinoa or rice. Of course, we ate ours with squash, though, because I’m trying to will it to be Autumn here in Austin.
I love Autumn. There’s not much Fall to be had in Austin, but each and every year I try to will this season to occur. The leaves don’t chain color, unless you count the grass dying, the weather barely cools, but I still make my house smell like synthetic pumpkin, I wear layers in earth tones, and I make squash. Lots and lots of squash.
In an attempt to make squash more than a side dish, I decided to make a Spaghetti Squash Alfredo. Creamy without being heavy, filling without being packed with carbs. To lighten the sauce, I skipped the usual heavy cream, cut back on the butter, and made a roux instead.
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
1 Spaghetti Squash
3 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all purpose flour
1/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 half lemon
1/2 TBSP dried parsley flakes or 1 TBSP freshly chopped parsley
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. In a 4 sided cookie pan or large pyrex fill with enough water to fill about 1/4-1/2 inch up the sides. Place the squash (which at this point will look nothing like spaghetti) face down into the water. Roast the spaghetti squash for 35-45 minutes or until tender. I like my pasta al dente, so I took the squash out at 35 minutes.
The sauce comes together quickly, so make this no more than 10 minutes before the squash needs to come out. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until you make a paste of even consistency. Add the milk and chicken stock or wine, whisking to incorporate. Add the garlic and let simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking periodically. Sprinkle in the parm and the garlic powder, whisking to combine. If the alfredo sauce seems to thick, add chicken stock or white wine a TBSP at a time. As it sits and simmers it will thicken, so be sure to whisk periodically. It is best, however, to make the sauce a little thick because the squash does contain a lot of liquid naturally and that will moisten the sauce once tossed together. Just before serving, whisk in the lemon juice for brightness. You can also sprinkle the lemon juice directly over the squash prior to topping with sauce if preferred.
Getting back to the squash, once done roasting, remove from cookie sheet or pyrex and let cool about 5 minutes. Wrapping the back of the squash in a tea towel (the side with the skin on it) lightly separate the innards of the squash with a fork. I stuck the tines of the fork into the squash meat and gentle twisted, revealing the meat to be spaghetti-like.
Once the squash meat is cleaned out of the skin, place your “spaghetti” into a paper towel lined colander in the sink. The one draw back to this dish is that the squash contains a lot of moisture and you want to try to remove some of that prior to serving, just so the meal doesn’t get watery. Once the sauce is done or the squash has drained a bit in the colander for 5 or so minutes, which ever comes first, place the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and toss with the sauce, reserving about 1/4 of alfredo for topping if desired. Plate topping each serving with a little extra sauce and a small sprinkling of parsley. I also topped mine with a shredded slice of prosciutto, but sautéed chicken or shrimp would also be perfect as well to add a healthy and light punch of protein. I really couldn’t detect much of a difference in flavor between the squash and regular spaghetti at all. It was a wonderfully flavorful Autumn dinner, without weighing us down, whether or not Fall was actually happening outside.
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp Worcester sauce
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp anchovy paste (Optional…or, in my house, Non-existent)
Caramelize the shallots. While those are working on their golden brown deliciousness, whisk everything else in a small bowl. Once caramelized, remove the shallots to cool a bit. You want to add them to the dressing when they’re warm so they don’t cook the egg, but do help thicken the dressing; letting them sit about 4-5 minutes should be fine.
Preheat your grill to high, clean the grates, and rub them down with vegetable or olive oil. Place the cut halves of Romaine flat/cut side down and don’t touch for 1-2 minutes. They char quick and you don’t want them completely blackened.
Remove from heat, and plate grilled side up. Drizzle the Caesar-ish dressing over the grilled side, allowing the dressing to drip in between the layers of lettuce. Top with a little more Parm if you’re so inclined. Served with chicken or a grilled steak makes a memorably delicious meal.
I prefer I high protein diet. Fat makes you fat, sure, but glucose makes you fatter. I tend to have fun coming up with replacements for pizza, bread, and potatoes. Looking for a new protein, I decided to try my hand at Lamb T-Bones. Lamb is under-rated. People tend to turn their nose up to it, thinking it’s a gamey outdated meat, but that’s just not accurate. It doesn’t have to be gamey, it doesn’t have to be anything but delicate and delicious, and it’s perfect when grilled. A simple marinade goes a long way, and a grilled Summer Caesar is a light and flavorful compliment to the charred medium rare meat.
I decided on 2 to 3 lamb t-bones per person. They’re about an inch to 1 1/2 inches thick, but we had one side to this dish, and that seemed to be the right amount to keep people full without feeling heavy after dinner.
Marinated Grilled Lamb T-Bones (Serves 2-3)
1.5 – 2lb. package of Lamb T-Bones, about 6 “steaks”
2 TBSP freshly chopped parsley
2 TBSP freshly chopped tops of fennel (the thin greenness that looks almost like dill), optional.
2 TBSP (about 6 cloves) minced garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 TBSP salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all ingredients in a plastic zip lock baggie. It’s best to marinate the lamb for a couple of hours at least, but you can do it for as long as over night if you’d like.
Take your lamb out of the fridge an hour prior to grilling and let come to room temperature in its marinade bag on the counter or in your sink. Heat your grill to high and clean your grates (which you do prior to to every time you grill, right?). Place the marinated lamb on the hot grill, close the lid, and turn the heat down to medium high. Grill for 3 minutes and then turn the lamb 1/4 turn and grill for another three minutes with the lid closed. That’s you’re “pretty” side. Flip the lamp t-bones over and grill for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140-145 F. That’s for medium rare lamb. Keep in mind that lamb, like salmon, has a more delicate flavor the less it’s cooked, so stay away from gamey by staying away from medium to well done. We served ours with a hunk of rustic bread and the aforementioned Caesar Salad, recipe here.
Pink and delicious – no gamey-ness! So good for summer that you’ll miss it come winter!
In the ever constant search for something new and exciting in the kitchen, I’ve decided to start making that which I crave from restaurants. The below recipe is very similar in flavor to P.F.Chang’s/Pei Wei’s Thai Coconut Curry sauce. I made this with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of chip oil and the heat is barely noticeable, just a hint, which is nice. And my heat tolerance is not very hot at all. Filled with veggies, lean protein, and quinoa instead of rice, this is a flavorful, healthy dinner that comes together relatively quickly and is super tasty! This makes enough for 4 people. You can also use shrimp instead of chicken for extra awesomeness.
1 TBSP Sharwood’s Mild Curry Powder (That’s what I used because it was easily found in my local grocery store, but you can use whatever you like or can find.)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp chili oil
2 tsp ginger
juice of one lime
1 cup coconut milk (You can use Lite if you’d prefer)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, whisk together, and let sit for flavors to marry. Set it aside.
1 20oz. can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve some liquid for the quinoa if making as below). You want to slice up a pineapple fresh? Go nuts.
1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small or 1/2 large white onion, diced
1 1/2 cups snow peas
1 8oz. can baby corn, cut or whole
6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast
2 TBSP coconut milk
3 cloves minced garlic
In a large sauté pan, caramelize or brown the pineapple chunks over medium high heat, about 10-12 minutes. Remove pineapple from pan and set aside in a bowl for later. Add a TBSP vegetable or olive oil in the same pan without cleaning the yummy residue left over from the pineapple. Add the chicken and brown, just cooking through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. In the same pan add another TBSP of oil and toss in the onion and red bell pepper. After about 2 minutes, turn the heat down to medium.
1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup chicken broth/stock
1 cup + 2 TBSP coconut milk
2 TBSP pineapple juice (bottled or from the can of pineapple chunks)
Place the quinoa and liquids into a sauce pan. Heat to a boil, cover, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and try not to immediately start gorging yourself on this. It’s super tasty, slightly sweet, and a little nutty. The perfect compliment to the Stir Fry.
We’ll start with dinner’s side, crispy un-fried “fries”.
I am not a huge fan of potato chips. I’m really not, can’t remember the last time I bought a bag, and will take a scoop of dressing-free coleslaw over them any day (I don’t like creamy coleslaw, either). I do occasionally like fries, though, especially sweet potato fries. Actually frying the perfect fries, though, is a multi-step process and a messy pain in the ass. Oh, and they’re SUPER unhealthy. Luckily, veggies can be easily manipulated to become something else.
Baked Veggie Fries
Carrots, zucchini, parsnips cut into wedged sticks. Figure 1-2 vegetables per person.
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
sprinkling of dried parsly
I took carrots, zucchini, and parsnips, but you can seriously do this with any fruit or veg. Halved Roma tomatoes would be bad ass done the same way. But I was searching for a fried sweet potato alternative. I cut the root veggies and the zucchini into somewhat evenly sized wedged sticks, equaling what was probably 4-5 cups of “fries”. It’s hard to measure sticks in bowl form. I used 1 zucchini, 2 large carrots, and 1 parsnip, and it was more than enough for 3 people.
Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a cookie sheet with Pam (or whatever cooking spray ya got). Toss the “fries” in olive oil and then toss them in the panko. The panko isn’t meant to completely coat the veggies; it’s just meant to make up for a little bit of the crunch missed from deep fried anything. Spread the sticks out on the cookie sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes if going for spicy fries. Roast at 450 for 20-25 minutes. The baked carrots are exactly like fried sweet potato. You know how people say Coke Zero tastes just like regular Coke, when, in fact, it tastes gross, plasticy, diety? Well, these actually taste JUST like sweet potato fries! You’ll be searching for ranch or honey mustard to dip them into. And they’re baked and delicious and a little crispy, too. I’m not going to say they’re “healthy” because I’m at a point where I feel like just eating at all is unhealthy (fat complex, leave it be), but they are a great alternative when you’re craving something that is truly not great for your system.
The chicken was a no-brainer dinner – I wanted flavorful, moist chicken tacos! Poaching is a great way to keep chicken breast tender and juicy, but visually it ain’t pretty. Everything looks delicious when it’s in a taco, though! So, I went for it, and it’s something I’m going to add to my usual weeknight dinner line up. This recipe is more than enough for two people.
Spicy Beer Poached Chicken Tacos
6 oz. boneless chicken breast or tenderloins
1 bottle beer (I used a brown ale)
2 TBSP Franks Hot Wing Sauce
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional
1 tsp kosher salt
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 cup orange or grapefruit juice
Dump everything, but the brown sugar and OJ into a saucepan together, stir, and bring to a simmer. You want the chicken to be mostly covered with liquid, so use a smaller sauce pan with tall sides. Once simmering, poach the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken breast with a slotted spoon and let rest five minutes. While the chicken is resting, add the brown sugar and orange juice to the poaching liquid in the sauce pan and bring to a boil, reducing the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2. You can add the orange juice right at the beginning, but adding it at the end and then reducing keeps its flavor bright. “Pull” the chicken apart using 2 forks, go with the grain, making it a very easy process. Once the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat and return the now pulled chicken to the sauce. Let the chicken absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes or so before making into tacos.
I topped my tacos with a little spring mix, diced tomatoes and onion, freshly cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lime. A little sour cream goes perfect to quell the sweet heat as well. Served with the veggie fries this was a filling dinner on the lighter side of the usual American taco meal!
I recently made a crispy baked Escolar filet with coconut. I really liked this bright, sweet, and oh-so-summery punch of flavor. As I had a bit of coconut leftover, I began to think of other foods that incorporate similar flavors that I love.
Years ago something I became addicted to (shamefully) was Outback’s Coconut shrimp. I’ve noticed a number of restaurants have picked up a similar recipe, but the last few times I’ve tried this dish, it’s been disappointing. The coating was too much or soggy, and the shrimp were small and sometimes not even cleaned.
The great thing about perfecting a recipe at home is that you control what does and does not go into it; the bad thing is once you have it down pat you find it’s harder and harder to eat out. …Maybe that’s a good thing.
The interesting part of the coconut shrimp was creating the spicy citrus marmalade that compliments the sweet coconut perfectly, and it was super easy. I fried my shrimp, thinking of this offering as an appetizer and not an entree. Frying the shrimp of course insures crispiness, but it also keeps the shrimp from shrinking as they so often do during cooking. You can bake the shrimp instead – it honestly comes out JUST as good – and directions for doing so are below.
Take the time to clean your shrimp. It’s really not that bad and you can pretend you’re a rugged chef who hunted the wilds for the bottom feeders you’re about to devour. I tend to butterfly the shrimp about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the way up the back of the shrimp because it helps it cook evenly, makes them seem larger for a more effective appetizer, and they have more surface area for the awesome dip. You don’t have to do that, but be sure to “devein” the shrimp in the very least. Surprise: It’s not a vein. It’s the poop shoot. So devein away.
1 pound “Collosal” shrimp, deveined
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
vegetable oil for frying (or an oven for baking!)
Spicy Citrus Mint Marmalade:
3 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade
1/2 TSBP chiffoned mint leaves
2+ tsp red pepper flakes or wasabi powder based on your heat preference
1 tsp chili oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp curry powder (IF you’re not allergic to it!…I mean, it’s optional.)
Frying directions: Fill a heavy, deep pan or stock pot with about 3 inches of oil and heat to roughly 375 degrees. The shrimp are going to cook quick and you want them to brown, but not burn. Combine the panko and coconut shreds in a bowl. While the oil is heating up, dredge your cleaned shrimp – lightly coat in flour, shaking off excess, followed by a dip in the beaten eggs, ending with a coat in the panko & coconut mixture. Fry in the oil for about 3-4 minutes per shrimp. They should start to get golden pretty quickly, and they will continue cooking a bit after you take them out of the oil, so if it’s been 3 minutes and they’re brown, pull them out and move to a paper towel coated plate to drain.
While the fried shrimp are resting, make your dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adjusting the heat with more or less red pepper flakes or wasabi to fit your own preference. Remember that as it sits it will get a little spicier if you’re using red pepper flakes.
If you’d rather bake the shrimp, preheat your oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray (Pam works), prepare the shrimp the same as if you were going to fry them, and layout the shrimp on a single layer on the pan. Spray the tops of the shrimp with a bit of the olive oil spray. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping half way through. Seriously, I was surprised that these came out just as tasty as their fried counter parts, there was less mess and less calories. The only difference was there was slightly less browning as well.
Serve with slices of lime and make sure you put a few shrimp to the side for yourself because these will disappear entirely too fast. Ridiculously too fast. I recommend a pound of shrimp as an appetizer for four people who like shrimp. People seem to have a tendency to eat far more than they expect of these, like really good pizza. You may have to double the marmalade as well depending on heavy handed dippers. So freakin’ good.