Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Picture preview of Bandolero, Mike Isabella's new Mexican restaurant

Thank You, LivingSocial Gourmet Deals!

Because of you, Jarrett and I got a preview of Mike Isabella's new Mexican restaurant, Bandolero, set to open in Georgetown in April.  It was A-MAZ-ING!  I was expecting a completely fixed menu, and was pleasantly surprised that all of the courses, save for the first one, had options.  And our waitress encouraged us to order different things in order to try more.  Don't have to tell us twice.

Instead of blabbering on like I normally do, I'll walk you though our dinner using pictures.  Reviews won't be necessary since everything that passed my lips was incredible.

First Course:  Warm chips & chicharrones with guacamole, sikil pak (pumpkin seeds, jalapeno orange), and salsa roja
Paired With:  Michelada (milagro blanco, tomato, lime, mole bitters, corona)

Second Course:  Sopes (lamb picadillo, chipotle goat cheese) and Taquitos (blue crab, coconut, red chile, lime)
Paired With:  Margarita (milagro blanco, patron citronage, agave, grand marnier, lime, blood orange)

Sorry, I dropped the ball on this one, no pictures:(  I went to the bathroom to make the food come faster, and it worked, and when I got back to the table, we dove right in.

Third Course:  Tacos!  Mahi Mahi with chipotle, avocado, lime and Skirt Steak with refried beans and crispy onions
Paired With:  City of Gold (milagro resposado, cardamaro, st. germain, lemon)

Fourth Course:  Tamal (wild mushrooms, epazote) and Mole Negro (pork ribs, sesame seeds)
Paired With:  Malverde (sombra mezcal, cucumber, cilantro, agave, hellfire bitters)

Fifth Course:  Flan (canella, orange) and Mexican Chocolate Pudding (mezcal crema)
Paired With:  Sparkling Cocktail (el jimador blanco, prickly pear, sparkling wine)

And although I've met him once before, the high point of the evening was chatting and getting a picture with Mike Isabella.  I was way less nervous this time since I had just had all those cocktails though!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Hello again, all!

I know I promised to be better about posting consistently, but my big project at work is just about to come to fruition so I’ve been too dead to write when I get home:(  And although today was just as busy, my valentine is spending the next five weeks working in Texas (but back on the weekends, thank goodness!) so I have no one to talk to but my cat when I’m at home during the week so today I decided to sit down and blog as my outlet for my urge to communicate:)

As I’m sure you gathered from the title, this post is all about food to make when you’re entertaining!  I recently played hostess TWICE in one week; once for one of my book clubs and then for a small-ish Superbowl party (is 15 people small-ish?).  So there’s more than a few recipes in this post; the first three are munchies while the last three are the main dishes and accompaniments.  (I’m sure you can figure out which main dish was for book club and which was for Superbowl.)  And so you don’t think I’m a bad hostess, this was not my all-inclusive menu for both gatherings… I just picked out the recipes I thought were best.  (But if you need me to tell you how to make queso or Key Lime Pie following the recipe on the lime juice bottle, I’m your girl.)  And of course, my friends are classy and gracious guests so much food was present at both gatherings!

Pretzel Kisses
Hershey’s kisses
M&Ms (any kind you like)

1.      Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lay out as many pretzels as you have Hershey’s kisses (as the kisses are usually the limiting ingredient).
2.      Unwrap the kisses and place one in the center of each pretzel.
3.      Bake for 5-6 minutes (until kisses are shiny, but haven’t yet lost their shape.
4.      After removing from oven, wait about 30 seconds, then press an M&M into the center of each kiss.
5.      Place baking sheet in refrigerator until kisses reharden.
6.      Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
*Note:  You can also use hugs instead of kisses, but bake them for about 4-5 minutes instead.

Spiced Roasted Nuts
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
12 ounces pecans

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2.      In a microwave-safe bowl, combine all ingredients except the pecans.  Microwave just until the butter is melted (about 30 seconds to 1 minute).  Stir to combine.
3.      Add the pecans to the butter-spice mixture and using a spatula, toss until coated.
4.      Spread the nuts on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 15 minutes.
*Original recipe can be found in the Williams-Sonoma Food Make Fast series cookbook, Small Plates.

Baked Brie
1 8 ounce round of Brie
1 package of crescent roll dough
2-4 Tablespoons raspberry jelly (or whatever flavor your prefer)
1 egg, beaten

1.      Preheat oven (also works well in toaster oven!) to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam.
2.      Form 4 of the individual sections of crescent roll dough into a square by pressing the seams together (doesn’t have to be perfect) and lay on the baking sheet.
3.      Cut the brie in half cross-wise to get two circles.  Lay the bottom circle on the crescent roll square.  Spoon out and spread 2-4 tablespoons of jelly onto the bottom circle of Brie and cover with the top circle of Brie.
4.      Form the remaining 4 individual sections of crescent roll into a square and lay on top of the Brie.
5.      Fold over/seal the corners of the squares until the Brie is completely encased.
6.      Brush with the beaten egg.
7.      Bake for 20-25 minutes.
8.      Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

My book club appetizer spread... note the three recipes above!

Shrimp and Grits Casserole
3 cups water
2 ½ cups milk
2 cups fat-free half-and-half, divided (1 cup for the grits and 1 cup for the shrimp)
2 cups quick-cooking grits
1 (6-ounce) package shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 (6-ounce) package Canadian bacon
2 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced green onion
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ teaspoon Creole seasoning

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with Pam.
2.      In a large saucepan, bring water, milk, and 1 cup half-and-half to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add grits, reduce heat, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened.  Stir in cheese egg, salt, and pepper.  Spoon into prepared baking dish.  (You can do the recipe up to this point the night before if you like… I did!)
3.      Bake for 30 minutes, or until set.
4.      Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook Canadian bacon until crispy, turning as necessary.  Cut into very small pieces.
5.      In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add bell pepper and onion; cook for 3 minutes.  Add flour; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add broth, evaporated milk, and the other 1 cup of half-and-half, stirring until combined; cook for 5 minutes, or until thickened.  Add shrimp; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and firm.  Add Creole seasoning, stirring to combine.  Spoon mixture over grits.
*Recipe adapted from here.  Note that I made many revisions to the original in an attempt to cut fat and just generally make it healthier while still preserving flavor.  I’ve made this dish with and without the revisions and can tell you that my healthier version has just as much flavor.  Also, I can tell you that if you screw up and accidentally put in quadruple the amount of flour, it still turns out okay;)  Serves 12.

Baked Buffalo Wings
8 pounds chicken wings
8 Tablespoons cayenne pepper
8 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
8 Tablespoons salt
3 cups buffalo/barbeque sauce (or 1 ½ cups each)

1.      Add the first 4 ingredients to a large stockpot (or divide evenly between 2 stockpots, that’s what I had to do).  Cover with hot water.

2.      Bring to a boil and then continue boil for 15 minutes.

3.      Transfer wings to an foil covered baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake wings on "Broil" (high) for 15 minutes on each side.  (For crispier wings, you can cook longer on each side, but I found this timing to be perfect).
4.      Combine the buffalo/barbeque sauce with some butter (probably ½ to 1 Tablespoon per cup of sauce) in a microwave safe container and cook in microwave for 1 minute or until butter is melted. (You can cook the sauce longer for a thicker sauce).
5.      When wings are done, shake 'em up with the sauce and enjoy with blue cheese dip (below), carrots, and celery!

*Original, scaled-down recipe can be located here.  Serves 12-16.

Blue Cheese Dip
1 1/2 cups (2 6-ounce containers) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons skim milk
Juice of 1 lemon
5-ounce container crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper

1.      Combine the first 5 ingredients; mix well.
2.      Add the blue cheese; mix well.
3.      Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Recipe adapted from here.  Serves 12-16.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Holiday Treats, Part 1 of ??

As promised in my last post, FINALLY, here is a holiday baking post.  Well, “treats” actually, since two of the three recipes in here aren’t baked.  Yes, I know it’s February… a tad late, but hey, some people have a lot going on at the beginning of a new year/just aren’t punctual in general (like me!).  But my blog goal shall be to post more consistently and ramble on less:)

On that note, let’s get to the baking/treat-making!  This year, I decided to share my love of cooking with the fam.  All of the recipes in this blog were created as Christmas gifts to mine and Jarrett’s aunts/uncles/cousins.  (And ALL of them were made in paper bags!)  I changed all of the quantities from the original recipes to fit my needs (all recipes are in quantities to make six 2-cup gift baggies, maybe with a small amount of leftovers), but for the most part, maintained the ratios (except where I saw fit to alter them to my liking).  And I actually remembered to take pictures, too!

Puppy Chow
2/3 cup peanut butter
5 Tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 cups Crispix cereal (1 box)
3 cups powdered sugar

1.      Combine peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute.

2.      Stir to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Add vanilla. Stir again.

3.      Place the 12 cups of Crispix cereal (1 box) in a paper shopping bag.

4.      Pour the peanut butter-chocolate mixture over the cereal, firmly hold the bag shut, and shake, making sure all the cereal gets a good covering.

5.      Add the powdered sugar to the bag, and again, firmly hold the bag shut, and shake the bag vigorously to evenly coat each piece of the puppy chow with powdered sugar.

*Original recipe may be located here.

White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn (approximately 16 cups popped depending on your popcorn and popper)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
Dash of salt
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (approximately 6 canes)

1.      Pop the 1/2 cup of popcorn in the 2 tablespoons oil.  (If you don’t have a popcorn popper, you can do this in a big stock/soup pot on the stove, by heating the oil over medium high heat, covered, with one kernel of corn.  When the first kernel pops, remove the pot from the heat, add the remainder of the kernels, recover, wait 30 seconds, then put back over heat.  Continue to heat until popping slows down to 2-3 seconds between pops.)  Place popcorn in a paper grocery bag.  Drizzle with melted butter and the dash of salt, to taste.

2.      Place peppermint candy canes into a ziplock bag and finely crush with a hammer, mallet, etc.  (I use the flat edge of a meat tenderizer!)
3.      In a heat proof bowl, carefully melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent scorching.  It took me 1 1/2 minutes, and be careful not to overheat!  (I burnt my first batch and thankfully, had extra chips.)

4.      Add the melted white chocolate to the paper bag, firmly hold the bag shut, and shake until the popcorn is coated.  (You may have to stir with a spatula a bit.)
5.      Quickly add the crushed candy canes, and again, firmly hold the bag shut, and shake until the popcorn is coated.

6.      When the popcorn is completely cool, break up into smaller pieces, as large hunks may have formed:)
*Original recipe may be located here.

Cherry Almond Cinnamon Granola
6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
3 cups sliced almonds
2 1/4 cups dried cherries
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.      Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and cherries together in a paper grocery bag.
3.      Pour the applesauce and honey over the oat mixture. Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the liquids.

4.      Pour and divide onto two sheet pans. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

5.      Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container (if not creating gifts).
*Adapted from this recipe.

FYI, I got rave reviews for the gift tins I created.  Yes, they were family, but it still counts!  So hopefully you'll be inspired to make your own gift treat bags next time the opportunity arises!

The fruits of my labor, neatly packaged

The final product (sans lid)!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Two Dinner Recipes for 1st 2012 Post!

Hey there long lost friends!

First of all, I apologize for my accidental 1 month+ hiatus.  I had all these great plans to write all about my Christmas baking (which I will soon!), but then the business of the holidays got away from me/I enjoyed being lazy.  And now that it’s been a few weeks since getting back into the swing of things, my curious fans (aka, the two people that read this blog) have been getting on my case to post something new.  So voila, TWO dinner recipes today since I’m so far behind:)

And now for my second apology… only the first recipe will have pictures:(  The second is a recipe I make on a somewhat consistent basis (once a quarter?) and I had made it a few months ago, taking pictures on my phone with the intent to post later.  And I made it again this past week knowing that I had taken pictures previously so I didn't take any new ones.  Too bad I didn’t realize they were phone pictures because, now for the good news, I got an iPhone two weeks ago!  And was inspired to write today and didn’t feel like making a trip to the Verizon store for pictures.  (It’s my birthday tomorrow… I’m enjoying my weekend!)

So now, onto the food.

Honestly, both of these dinners make excellent Sunday Night Suppers, but with a small amount of advance planning, are also quick enough to be included in my Weeknight Cooking Series (I’ll cite my tips for this in both recipe directions).

And without further ado…

Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Ingredients
1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds eggplant
1 egg, beaten
½ cup bread crumbs
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Sauce Ingredients
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
½ teaspoon crushed oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Black pepper to taste

Topping Ingredients
1 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan

1.      In a saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until onions are soft and slightly brown.
2.      Add the crushed tomatoes, ½ to full can of tomato paste (depending on your taste), oregano, and basil.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.

3.      Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  Slice eggplant crosswise into approximately 3/8 inch slices.  Dip the eggplant slices into the egg, then the bread crumbs.
4.      Lay the coated eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with half of the olive oil.
5.      Broil for a few minutes until golden brown (you’ll have to watch them).  Turn the slices over and drizzle with the other half of the olive oil.  Again, broil a few minutes until golden brown.

6.      When eggplant and sauce are both done, lay the eggplant in a 9 x 13 baking dish and cover with the sauce.  (If you’re doing this as a weeknight meal, you can follow the recipe up to this point the day before, cover with aluminum foil, and place in the refrigerator overnight. )

7.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
8.      Lay out the mozzarella slices on the casserole and sprinkle with Parmesan.
9.      Bake for 25-35 minutes until bubbly.  Finish it off with a few minutes under the broiler to brown the cheese.

Makes four very large pieces.  Sorry no pictures of the finished product:(  I made this the weeknight way so Jarrett was the one to finish it up.  And the one picture of my piece was taken on my old phone...
*Recipe adapted from The Weeknight Survival Cookbook by Dena Irwin, R.D.

Shrimp Curry
1 large onion, chopped
1 (2-inch-long) piece fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras)
1 to 2 fresh serrano chiles, halved lengthwise
1 cup water
1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk (full fat or low fat is fine)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 lb large shrimp in shell (21 to 30 per lb)

*If you're making this as a weeknight meal, feel free to chop the onions, mince the ginger, and peel and devein the shrimp a day ahead!
1.      Saute onions and ginger with salt and sugar in the oil in a large, heavy skillet or sauté pan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
2.      Stir in curry powder and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.
3.      Stir in water, coconut milk, and lime juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes.
4.      While sauce simmers, peel and devein shrimp. Add shrimp to sauce, season with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve over jasmine or basmati rice.  (I make my rice following the package directions… use 1 cup uncooked rice to go along with this dish!)
Makes four servings.
* Original recipe can be located here.

And I promise I won’t wait another month until posting again!