Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spicy Pickled Jalapenos & Carrots

You can find them just about anywhere in California that sells Mexican food and they became a fast favorite when I moved out here.  The tangy spicy kick is a great accompaniment to the rich flavors of Mexican cuisine.  These are super easy to make and last for what seems like forever when refrigerated.

Serves 8 to 10


10 jalapenos, halved, seeds removed
10 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces on a diagonal
2 onions, thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
10 black peppercorns
8 bay leaves
1 to 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups hot water

On a medium flame, lightly saute the carrots and jalapenos until they start to get tender.  Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper corns and bay leaves and allow to cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until you can just start to smell the spices.  The point of this step is to par cook the vegetables and bloom the spices, you are not looking to brown any of the ingredients.

Next, add the vinegar and bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover pot and allow to cook for 10 minutes.  The carrots should be soft with crunchy centers and the jalapenos should hold their shape without falling apart or becoming mushy.  Stir in the hot water, bring to a boil then turn off heat and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled, store in a jar or air tight container and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  The longer these sit the better they taste!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Roasted Chicken, Tomatoes & Artichokes

There are probably a thousand chicken recipes out there and being one of the most versatile proteins bringing on new flavor variations can sometimes be a challenge.  When making chicken at home I almost always turn to roasting.  Keeping the bone in while cooking and adding lots of flavorful ingredients provides a tasty, juicy chicken every time no fail.  Here is one of my favorite variations using bone in chicken breasts, grape tomatoes and marinated artichokes.

Compound butter; if you haven't already explored the benefits of using this in your recipes I highly recommend experimenting with your favorite flavors, sweet and savory.  Whether making it fresh, or always having it on hand in the freezer, this is a sure fire way of adding a burst of flavor to any dish.  For desserts, try using vanilla bean paste or cinnamon and sugar to make deliciously sweet compound butters.  For savory dishes the combinations you can make using herb and spice blends are endless.

375 degrees
Serves 4


4 skin on, bone in chicken breasts
1 65oz jar of marinated artichokes (I prefer using the Kirkland brand)
3 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes left whole
1 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 gloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp pimenton
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper to taste

Combine thyme, rosemary, garlic, red pepper, salt, pepper and pimenton into the softened butter.  Create a pocket under the skin of each chicken breast and using a spoon evenly distributed under the skin.  Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of pimenton.  Roast chicken in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes then add whole grape or cherry tomatoes and artichokes.  Allow chicken to roast for another 20 to 30 or until thoroughly cooked.  Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ropa Vieja - Cuban Shredded Steak with Onions and Peppers

This is my version of a Cuban classic traditionally served with crusty bread but, excellent as a filling for enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, burrito bowls....

I usually eyeball most of the ingredients in this recipe with the exception of those that are canned.  Following are my estimates for a serving enough to feed 4 to 6 people.  The flank steak is most tender when cooked low and slow for 10 hours in a slow cooker so, because I prefer this method I allow it to cook over night.

2 pounds flank steak
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 oz can of tomato paste
16 oz can of diced tomatoes
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 4 oz can of diced green chilies
1 cup beef stock (water can also be used)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat slow cooker on high for 30 to 45 minutes.

Start by seasoning the flank steak with salt and pepper, then browning on both sides.  Lightly saute onions and peppers in preheated slow cooker, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, season with salt.  Once vegetables are slightly tender add diced tomatoes, green chilies and tomato paste, mix thoroughly.  When the tomato paste is incorporated mix in the cilantro and beef stock then add browned flank steaks ensuring they are covered with the tomato vegetable mixture.

Turn slow cooker to low and allow to cook for 10 hours.  Remove flank steak and shred with forks then return shredded meat to the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste.

The shredded meat can be easily reheated by simmering on the stove top adding a little more stock for moisture.    

Friday, August 12, 2011

Banana Bread & Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins

This a super simple, moist and delicious Banana Bread recipe that is easily turned into Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins.  Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Fineger definitely hit a home run with this one!


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 c chopped walnut or pecans
  • 1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chunks or chips (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan or line 2 muffin tins.  If making muffins recipe yields 18.
Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes for loaf, and 20 to 25 minutes for muffins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pineapple Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

350 degrees
Cake 60 minutes
Cupcakes 20 to 25 minutes
Mini Cupcakes 10 to 15 minutes

Cake Batter Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup toasted macadamia nuts (optional)

Frosting Ingredients
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp pineapple juice
5 cups confectioners' sugar

For cake divide batter into two 9 inch round pans.  Using this recipe will yield 8 to 10 servings.

For regular and mini cupcakes it is best to use liners, not only are the decorative aspects a bonus but, I believe, the cupcakes hold up better.  Using this recipe to make regular sized cupcakes will yield 24 and when using for mini cupcakes will yield 60.

I prefer using fresh pineapple for this recipe because it allows me to control the texture as well as the amount of additional sugar added to my recipe the syrup from canned crushed pineapple would not.

Prepare the crushed pineapple by cutting into chunks then pulsing in a food processor until evenly crushed leaving a good amount of texture.  The consistency should be measure by your preferences.  I prefer a chunkier texture for the cake and a lighter texture for the frosting.

Tip: Allow the pineapple to drain after being crushed to avoid watering down the frosting.

For the batter; start by creaming together the butter and sugar, then slowly add the eggs one by one until thoroughly combined.  Mix in the vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt then add the flour 1 cup at a time.  When batter is combined fold in the crushed pineapple and macadamia nuts if adding them.

Evenly distribute into cake or cupcake pans and bake as specified.  When a toothpick inserted into the center  comes out clean the cake is finished cooking.  Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes.

For the Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting it is important all of the ingredients are room temperature to get a smooth, fluffy frosting.

Mix together the cream cheese and butter until thoroughly combined.  Next add the pineapple juice and mix in the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time until completely incorporated.  Last, slowly mix in the crushed pineapple.  

Frost cake or cupcakes and sprinkle with toasted chopped macadamia nuts.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Red Pepper Marinara

This is an amped up version of my classic marinara.  By adding fresh red bell pepper the flavor combination when served over sausage is out of this world.  I like to serve this over cheese tortellini with chicken artichoke and mozzarella sausages.

2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cups stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 4 1/2 oz can tomato paste
1 6n oz can diced tomato
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 to 1 tsp crush red pepper flakes
olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil ribbons
salt & pepper to taste

Lightly brown carrot and onions in olive oil, add garlic and tomato paste, mix thoroughly.  Once tomato paste has melted into the veggies, add the rest of the canned tomatoes, seasoning, stock and wine.  Simmer on low 2 hours then mix in fresh basil.