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While we were in Colorado over Christmas, Billy’s grandma invited everyone over for an Arabic feast. It was one of the highlights of our trip, but for me the best part was getting to taste the real version of all the things we’ve cooked at home. As much as I love Billy’s cooking, nothing will ever be as good as when his grandma makes it.

During our feast, I got to try some new things. From that day forward, I had a new favorite Arabic dish — chicken and rice (and cauliflower, but for some reason everyone always leaves that out…I haven’t quite figured out why yet). It’s the perfect blend of rice, fried cauliflower, chicken and spices. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups water
– 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and dried
– 1 onion, cut into strips and 1/2 onion, cubed
– 2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
– oil (enough to fry the cauliflower)
– cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste
– salt and pepper

Bring the water, the cubed 1/2 onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to a boil in a large pot. Once the water starts to boil, add the chicken and boil until completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a high-sided frying pan, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Fry the cauliflower (in batches, if necessary) until golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a paper towel. In the same oil, fry the strips of onion until they just begin to turn brown. Remove from the pan and drain on a separate paper towel.

Once the chicken has cooked through, drain the water into a bowl and remove from the pot. Layer the ingredients, starting with the onion, then cauliflower and finally chicken, in the same pot. You should use all of the ingredients in one set of layers. Cover the chicken with the rice, then pour the water that was used to boil the chicken over everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rice

While we were eating this, I told Billy that I’m always shocked at the way Arabic food is prepared. The meat is almost always boiled (sometimes twice, as is with this dish), but it never gets overcooked or dried out and it’s definitely never short on flavor. I think the flavor combination created with the different spices used in most dishes infuses each bite with the distinct flavors of Arabic food.

I know I’ve said this just about every time we’ve made Arabic food, but chicken and rice is by far my favorite dish (so far, of course). I had never had fried cauliflower before, but after eating this I might have to try it in other applications. The flavor of the cauliflower totally changes when it’s fried, and it’s delicious. It adds a great flavor and texture to this dish. Since I’ve already had the real version of this, I know what it’s supposed to taste like and I can actually say that Billy’s version is pretty dead on. The biggest different we noticed was that his grandma’s was much darker. I think she fries her cauliflower and onions until they are pretty dark and we stopped ours before they turned completely brown, so that may have been part of the reason.

You can serve the chicken and rice with yogurt, but this is actually one application where I don’t think it’s necessary. Using yogurt will make everything really creamy (which is delicious), but everything stands perfectly well on it’s own, too.

After last night’s bearnaise sauce disaster, I thought I’d post a success story about something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. When I was a kid, the women in my family made everything from scratch, including our family staple — pasta. My mom still does it from time to time, but definitely not on a regular basis. For Christmas Billy and I asked for the pasta attachments for our KitchenAid and we finally put them to the test over the weekend.

I was surprised at how easy it was to make pasta dough. I knew from watching my family make it that it was a pretty simple mixture, but I had no clue it was literally just flour and eggs. I have to admit that Billy did the majority of the work while I took pictures and watched in amazement, but it was still a team effort. Besides, Billy has become one of the first men in my family to actually enjoy being in the kitchen, so I take advantage of it! Anyway, I digress. So the pasta dough was so simple that we’re planning on doing it again soon to make some type of filled pasta. Not to mention that the results were absolutely delicious!

Here’s what you’ll need:
(for 3/4 pound of pasta, as directed by Marcella Hazan)
– 1 cup flour
– 2 eggs

Yes, that’s really all you need. On a large counter or flat workspace, form the flour into a mound with a hole in the center. Make sure there are no openings, otherwise egg will sneak through (this really does work, I promise). Crack the eggs into the center of the mound and beat them gently with a fork.

Flour Mound and Beaten Eggs

Draw some of the flour over onto the eggs, mixing with the fork, until the eggs are no longer runny. Because you may not need to use all of the flour, push some to the side before mixing completely. Draw the sides of the mound together and begin to work the eggs and flour together using your fingers and the palms of your hand. Work the eggs and flour together until you have a smooth mixture. If it’s still moist, add some of the flour you set aside. Test the dough by pressing your finger into the center, if it comes out clean and it doesn’t feel sticky, no more flour is needed. Clean your work surface and begin kneading the dough.

Marcella, whom I trust with any Italian cooking that doesn’t come from my own family, makes a big deal about the “proper way” to knead. There’s no better way to put it than in her words, so here’s what she has to say: “Push forward against the dough using the heel of your palm, keeping your fingers bent. Fold the mass in half, give it a half turn, press hard against it with the heel of your palm again, and repeat the operation. Make sure that you keep turning the ball of dough always in the same direction. When you have kneaded it thus for eight full minutes and the dough is as smoother as baby skin, it is ready for the machine.”

After kneading for eight full minutes, it’s time to thin out the dough and cut it into the desired shape. Set up an area near your machine with clean, dry cloths to place the dough on once it’s gone through the machine. Cut the dough into six equal parts and flatten them with the palm of your hand (if making more pasta, the dough should be divided into three times the amount of eggs). Using the widest opening of the thinning rollers on your machine, begin feeding the flattened pieces of dough through the machine one at a time. Once a piece has been fed through once, fold the dough twice into a third of it’s length and feed it by the narrow end through the machine again. Repeat this process two or three times on the widest setting, then lay the flattened strips on the towel. Once each ball of dough has been flattened on the widest setting, close down the opening to the very next setting. Taking the first pasta strip you flattened, run it through on the lower setting one time, return it to the towel and run the next strip in the sequence. Continue this process, lowering the setting by one notch each time, until you reach the desired thickness. Once all the strips have been flattened to the desired thickness, let them dry for at least 10 minutes before cutting. The strips are ready to be cut when they’re still moist enough so they won’t crack, but dry enough so they won’t stick together.

Pasta Dough Being Flattened

Pasta Strips Being Cut

Once all the pasta is cut it’s ready to be cooked (or dried for storage). Place it all in one cloth and carefully slide it into a large pot of salted, boiling water. Fresh pasta will cook in five minutes or less, so make sure to keep a close eye on it. My suggestion for homemade pasta is to pair it with a light sauce, such as a scampi or fresh tomato sauce, but really anything will do.

Homemade Pasta with Shrimp Scampi

I’m in the process of writing this blog and I think it has tired me out more than actually making the pasta did. It’s a lot to explain, but it really is an easy thing to do — and the results are worth the little effort it takes. The dough came together easily, and using the KitchenAid attachments made flattening and cutting the dough really simple since there was no manual cranking of the machine. I was amazed at how much the final product resembled dried, packaged pasta. The fresh pasta tasted much…fresher…but the texture was pretty much the same as any dried pasta I’ve had. Overall, I think this was a great experience and I wish I had done it sooner. We’ll definitely be making fresh pasta again, and hopefully doing lots of experiments!

Have you ever tried a new recipe thinking it’s going to be the best thing ever, then failed miserably at it? It happened to me for the first time in a while last night, and for some reason I was super disappointed.

We were making salmon in parchment paper with a bearnaise sauce (yes, we’ve been making a lot of French food lately), which sounded really good. I had never made a bearnaise sauce, but it didn’t seem that difficult…it just needed a lot of attention. So, I was in charge of whisking the sauce to death, adding just one piece of a huge amount of butter at a time. Other than my arm getting tired halfway through the butter, everything was going fine.

The salmon had just come out of the oven and I was whisking in the last of the butter. Then all of the sudden the sauce got really thin and poof…the fat and solids separated from the oil. The sauce was ruined within seconds. We took the sauce off the heat and whisked it to death, hoping it would cool off and come back together. It didn’t.

I don’t know why I was so disappointed about this. I mean, I’ve had plenty of non-successful attempts at things in the kitchen in the past, right? I guess I’ve just never ruined something to the point of inedible before. That’s pretty disappointing. Not to mention that I felt like my arm was about to fall off by the end of the whole thing. But…whatever I suppose. Pick up the pieces, get over myself and carry on with the rest of this weeks meals, right? Right.

On the plus side, the salmon was really good — even without the sauce!

I think this is probably one of the first “normal” weeks we’ve had since the holidays. Between all the different holiday celebrations we had going on, our trip to Durango and Billy’s birthday, it seemed each week our menu was getting smaller and smaller. Hopefully this week will be the start to a regular routine again!

Here’s what we’ve got going this week:
– Homemade Pasta with Shrimp Scampi
– Cranberry Chicken with Quinoa
Sausage, Potato and Cabbage Casserole (at least one more time before winter is over!)
– Jenni Pork with Papitos (and homemade tortillas!)
– Cornish Game Hens with Honey Roasted Parsnips, Apples and Sweet Potatoes
– Salmon en Papillote with Rice and Asparagus

We’re trying a few new things this week and sticking with a few old standbys. I spent a good part of the weekend looking through some cookbooks that have just been sitting on the shelf as of late, and it really got me back into the “let’s try new stuff” mode. So, until next time, happy eating! Ciao.

We love sriracha hot sauce. Until we made these chicken wings, though, I never really thought of using it any application other than for Asian food. This simple recipe proves that this Asian-style sauce has many more uses, and sriracha is definitely going to be showing up in our kitchen more often from now on!

We found this recipe while searching the Internet for some ideas for homemade, healthier chicken wings. We wanted to make restaurant-style wings without frying them or drenching them in a ton of sauce, but we still wanted something with a lot of flavor. That’s where sriracha comes in. The makers of the intensely hot sauce, Huy Fong Foods, have two little recipes on their Web site, and this just happens to be one of them. And man, do I wish I would have found it sooner!

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 12 to 15 chicken wings (we just got two packages of wings)
– 1/4 cup (or more if you want them hotter) sriracha
– 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the wings, rinse well, split at the joint (discard the tips if you prefer) and pat dry. Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet and arrange the wings on the rack so they all have plenty of room to cook. Cook the wings in a 425 degree oven for one hour, or until cooked through and crispy (165 degree internal temperature, plus carryover), flipping them over halfway through the cooking.

For the sauce, combine the butter, sriracha and Worcestershire in a large mixing bowl. (You should wait to assemble the sauce until the wings are pretty much done cooking so the butter doesn’t start to harden and get too cold.) When the wings come out of the oven, toss them with the sauce to coat. Serve with ranch or blue cheese for dipping and celery sticks and it’s just like you’re in a restaurant — only healthier and a lot cheaper!

Sriracha Chicken Wings

I can’t overstate how awesome these were. I thought they were going to be super hot since it’s basically just sriracha (which is mega hot on it’s own) and butter, but they weren’t overly hot at all. They had a great flavor and the perfect amount of heat. And you would never know that the wings themselves weren’t friend because the outside was so crispy, but the inside still moist and juicy. These wings were so good that we’re planning to make them again for Super Bowl for everyone to try!

The original sriracha recipe can be found on Huy Fong’s Web site, and I highly recommend you try it!

I love brussels sprouts. Even as a kid, they were one of my favorite veggies. When I once suggested to Billy that we make them as a side dish, I got the weirdest, most disgusted look. Apparently he wasn’t a fan. Somehow I got him to try them anyway, and now he can’t get away from them! Our favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in the oven. It’s simple, but oh-so-delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 lb fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
– 2 tsp butter, melted
– salt and pepper
– garlic powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the brussles sprouts on the baking sheet and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour the melted butter over the brussels, making sure to get a little butter on each one. Toss everything together (it’s easiest if you use your hands, they get coated better that way) and throw in the oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I really wasn’t joking when I said these were super simple (yikes, Sandra Lee). Roasting the brussles sprouts in butter gives them a delicious caramelized, sweet flavor. They become tender, a bit crispy on the outside and totally mouthwatering. We usually end up making these a few times a month because we just can’t get enough of them. They’re great when roasted with potatoes, as well.

Ever since Julie and Julia became popular, it seems like French food products, including the lovely cookbook I picked up from Williams Sonoma have popped up everywhere. And I must admit…my love for Julie Powell’s way with words has sucked me into the whole thing. I can’t say that I’ve ever had true French food before, but I do know that a lot techniques and basic ideas of European food are similar. Anyway, I picked up this book and we’ve tried a few recipes so far, but this pork with apples was by far one of the best we’ve tried.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 pork tenderloins (1 to 1 1/2 pounds total)
– 1 tsp thyme leaves
– salt and pepper
– 2 tsp butter, plus extra
– 2 tsp olive oil
– 2 sweet apples (we used golden delicious), peeled, cored and sliced
– 1/2 cup hard apple cider or dry white wine
– 1/4 creme fraiche (sour cream would probably work just fine, too)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the pork with salt, pepper and thyme, making sure to massage it all in.

In an oven-proof saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloins on all sides until nicely browned, about six total minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers to 150 degrees. Remove the pork from the pan and keep warm by creating a tent of aluminum foil to trap the heat.

Heat the same pan (carefully, since it just came out of the oven) over medium-high heat and saute the apples in a little bit of butter until soft, about five minutes. Remove the apples from the pan and set aside. Add the cider/wine to the pan to degalze. Make sure to scrape any brown bits loose (because, in true Anne Burrell fashion, that’s where all the flavor is). Once the cider/wine has started to reduce, stir in the creme fraiche. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer away, stirring the apples back in to coat.

Cut the pork into 1/2 inch thick slices and top with the apple mixture.

Pork with Apples and Green Beans

I’m usually a little hesitant mixing meat and fruit, but this is one application where I really loved it. The apples paired perfectly with the pork, and the pan sauce really added a great depth of flavor. My one complaint was that there was too much of a creme fraiche flavor to the sauce…but that’s an easy fix. The pork was cooked perfectly (thanks to Billy!) and was nice and moist. Thanks to Julie Powell, I can now say that I’ve cooked French food!

I couldn’t find this recipe online, but Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of French Cooking really is a great cookbook at an affordable price. It’s taught us a lot and we intend to use it often!

Starting today I have no more excuses for my lack of blogging anymore! Last week/weekend we took a short trip up to Durango, CO for some family time, fun in the snow and great food. We had a total blast, ate way too much and were sad to return home…but here I am, back to my computer. I’ve actually really missed blogging. Ever since the holidays I’ve really been slacking, and I promise (to you, and to myself) that I’m back for good!

This week is Billy’s birthday (happy birthday, babes!), so we’ve got a short menu due to all the celebrating we’ll be doing.
Here’s what we’ve got cookin this week:
– Pasta with Marinara and Salad
– Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Fries and Mixed Veggies
– Ribs with Mashed Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
– Chicken, Rice and Cauliflower (one of my all time favorite Arabic dishes)

So, hopefully I’ll be seeing a lot of you in the coming weeks and months — I truly can’t wait to get back to blogging! I hope everyone is having a great, food-filled New Year so far! Until next time, happy eating! Ciao.

I love a good alfredo (or any cream-based, really) sauce. Problem with that is, not all of them are good. Despite being Italian, my family doesn’t have a hand-me-down alfredo sauce recipe…so I had to create my own. A few years ago, Billy and I looked at multiple recipes and sort of combined the ones we thought looked good. Since then, we’ve moved away from the recipes and come up with a pretty fool-proof alfredo sauce. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easy as pie, either!

Here’s what you’ll need:
(these measurements are good for one pound of pasta)
– 4 tbsp butter
– about 5 garlic cloves, minced (you can adjust this, based on how much of a garlicy flavor you want)
– salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
– 1/2 cup basil, chiffonade (you can substitute dried basil, just use way less)

This sauce literally takes less time than it takes to cook pasta. Whenever we make this, we don’t even start the sauce until after we’ve dropped the pasta. Usually the timing works out well, but it all depends on the type of pasta you’re cooking.

In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and saute the garlic until it just begins to turn brown, two to three minutes. (If you’re using dry basil, add it to the pan at the same time as the garlic in order to release the flavors.) Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. When the garlic begins to turn, add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the pan and let melt. Once it has melted, pour the heavy cream in. Still over medium-high heat, continue stirring until the mixture just begins to boil. Reduce to simmer and, keeping a close eye on the mixture, continue stirring until the cream begins to thicken.

When the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, about five minutes, turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan and basil. Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Toss with freshly cooked pasta and serve with warm bread!

Bow Ties with Alfredo

I love, love, love this sauce. It’s not too heavy, but it’s got so much flavor. It’s garlic-y and basil-y and it really hits the spot when you’re craving something different than traditional pasta sauce. It’s so easy to make and really versatile — we add shrimp to it all the time, and it’s delicious. So…feel free to give this a shot and change it up to suit your tastes, it’s a perfect canvas for experimenting!

Never again will I buy tortillas from the store. I never knew that making flour tortillas could be so easy! We received a tortilla press (which is only used for corn tortillas — never knew that before) and a tortilla warmer for Christmas as we were dying to try them out. So as soon as we got back to town over the weekend, we put our tortilla-making skills to the test. What an easy test! If you are a fan of Mexican food (or any food that requires a tortilla) you have to give these tortillas a shot.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 cups flour
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 3 tbsp shortening
– about 3/4 cup hot (145 degrees or more) water

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Using a fork or butter knife, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients. Continue to mix until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Finally, add the water, a little at a time (important!), and mix until you get a soft — but not sticky — dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed, 10 to 15 times, until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 8 to 10 evenly-sized balls. Set the dough balls aside and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, begin heating a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Using a wooden rolling pin, roll out each dough ball fairly thin. Make sure to turn the dough as you roll it in order to get the right shape.

When all the dough has been rolled out at the skillet is hot, carefully place one of the dough rounds in the center of the skillet. Let it fry up for about 30 seconds, then flip, letting the second side fry for another 30 seconds. Make sure to keep an eye on each side, as they can burn fairly easily. Within 30 or 45 seconds, the tortillas should have brown speckles and be cooked to perfection!

Tortillas!

Seriously? These were so simple! I honestly don’t see a reason for buying tortillas ever again. And they were delicious! They were fluffy, yet light. They had a crisp outer “shell” but were light and airy inside. They had a great texture, and an even better taste. They tasted like a fresh-cooked tortilla you would get in a real Mexican restaurant. No store bought tortilla can match up to a hot, fresh, steamy tortilla fresh off the stove.

I encourage you to try making tortillas! It was fun and so exciting when they came out looking like the real thing. Not to mention the way the tasted!

We got this recipe from a book from the Santa Fe School of Cooking that we picked up during our anniversary last year. The book, Salsa and Tacos, has a lot of great recipes. Check it out if you like…well…salsa and tacos!