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)!