Strawberry Agua Fresca

Summer is definitely upon us here in the Southwest, and that’s the best excuse to have refreshing drinks available at all times. Usually my go-to summer drink is lemonade, but this year things are different. A few weeks ago, Gaby over at What’s Gaby Cooking posted about one of her favorite summer memories — drinking refreshing agua fresca with her friends on weekend trips to Mexico. Just thinking about the possibilities of this popular Mexican drink made my mouth water.

During a recent BBQ we hosted, I decided I would try my hand at this traditional fruity and refreshing Mexican water. Agua fresca, which translates to fresh water, is basically just a fruity flavored water. It’s a lovely refreshing drink for the hot summer months that lie ahead, not to mention a break from the norms of ice water and lemonade. It’s hard to believe that something so simple can be so good!

Strawberry Agua Fresca

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Makes: about 6 cups
Note: all of these measurements can be easily altered to suit your taste
– 4 cups fresh strawberries, tips trimmed off
– 6 cups water
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
– 1/2 cup sparkling water (optional)

Instructions:
Combine half of the strawberries, half of the water and half of the sugar in a blender and blend on high speed until the the strawberries are all pureed and the water is a nice pink color. Strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher to separate all the seeds from the liquid. Repeat the process until all of the strawberries, water and sugar have been blended together and strained.

Add the lime juice and sparkling water (if using) to the blended and strained water and stir to mix well. Refrigerate and serve cold over ice.

For something so simple, this is probably one of the most delicious drinks ever. It’s fruity and refreshing — perfect for a hot summer day — and totally easy to throw together in no time. The fresh strawberries really give the water a distinct fruity flavor, and drinking it ice cold really intensifies that flavor. The addition of lime juice adds just enough tang to counter the sweetness of the berries and sugar. I think you could easy leave out both the sugar (and even the lime) and still get the same effect and make a healthier version.

This agua fresca is also really easy to adapt to anything you like. You can use any fruit you like as long as it will puree up and strain easily and you can adjust all the measurements to adapt it to your tastes.

This is a drink that I plan to make over and over again this summer (we’ve already made it twice!) with different fruits. Just the thought of sitting out on a hot summer afternoon drinking a cold, fruity drink is interrupting my work flow! Must. Have. Agua. Fresca.

Check out Gaby’s watermelon version and get yourself some inspiration for fruity summer drinks!

Finger Lickin’ Good BBQ Sauce

I haven’t always been a huge barbecue sauce fan, but I obviously was going about the whole thing wrong. For the first time ever (!) we (I say we as if I had anything to do with it, but the truth is, I was getting my hair done and Billy was busting his ass in the kitchen. I can only take credit for forwarding him this recipe.) made homemade sauce and slathered it on some fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs. Oh. My. GOSH. I have never been so fond of BBQ sauce my entire life. I literally licked my fingers clean. After each rib. That’s right, I’m not afraid to admit it.

Conveniently, at the exact time our ribs were slow cooking in the oven Georgia from The Comfort of Cooking posted about her awesome experience creating BBQ sauce (and also slathering it on ribs). I sent the link to the hubs, who was holding down the fort for the day, and we both immediately knew that we’d be whipping up a BBQ sauce that night. While we didn’t follow Georgia’s recipe exactly, we did use it as a basis for what we ended up with. And let me tell you, we ended up with the absolute best barbecue sauce we’ve ever had. It was sweet, spicy, tangy and sticky. This sauce was the very definition of finger lickin’ good.

Finger Lickin’ Good BBQ Sauce

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Makes: about 1 cup (enough for a full rack of ribs, plus a little extra)
– olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tsp dried minced onions
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp dry mustard
– 1/3 cup ketchup
– 1/4 cup soy sauce
– 2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
– 2 tbsp Sriracha
– 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 2 tbsp white wine
– salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Everyone brace yourself, I don’t know if you’ll be able to handle the intense directions that lie ahead!

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic and onions until the garlic becomes fragrant, about two minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and stir well to make sure everything is combined. Bring the mixture to a bubble (not quite a boil, but make sure there’s some bubbles forming around the edges of the pan) and let it simmer away for about 15 minutes, or until nice and thick and flavorful.

Yes, it’s literally that easy. I’m sure you’re wondering, much like we were in between delicious bites of homemade BBQ sauce slathered ribs, why you’ve never made barbecue sauce before.

Billy’s saucy creation was sweet, spicy and tangy all at the same time. All the familiar flavors of a traditional barbecue sauce were great, but the hint of Asian flavor really made this sauce something special. The sweetness from the brown sugar really lent itself to the kick from the Sriracha. Move over Pat and Gina Neely, here comes a new pit master!

We slathered our new favorite BBQ sauce on a nice rack of slow cooked, quick grilled ribs and chowed down. I don’t know if there’s a better vehicle for BBQ sauce than ribs, but I definitely think this sauce was best suited for that fall-off-the-bone kind of meat that comes from slow cooking.

I’m no barbecue sauce expert or anything, but I do know what tastes good — and this sauce definitely tasted good. All the ingredients are subjective, so feel free to play around with the measurements or add or take out anything you like. But please give BBQ sauce a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

P.S. Thanks, Georgia, for the inspiration!

Cajun Fried Wings

We love chicken wings, so when I saw Des from Life’s Ambrosia’s post on her Aunt’s famous wings (with a kick, of course), I starred it in my Google Reader and put it on my ever-growing list of recipes to try. Well, we finally tried them and they were amazing.

It’s basically a crime (well, at least to all you chicken wing lovers out there) to have sauceless wings, but I’m here to tell you that these wings don’t need any sauce. That’s right, I said it. We made sauceless wings and we loved them. When it comes to flavor, these wings get a huge boost from a two hour marinade in cajun seasoning, honey and olive oil .

Cajun Fried Chicken Wings

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4
– 1 1/2 lbs chicken wings, tips trimmed
– 3 tbsp cajun seasoning
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 tsp honey
– 1 tbsp corn starch
– 1 cup flour
– 2 tsp salt
– oil for frying (anything that holds hear well will do, but something on the healthier side is our favorite)

Instructions:
Prepare your chicken wings by trimming the tips and separating the drumette from the…other part of the wing thing that I don’t know the name of. (You don’t have to do this, but it makes them more like restaurant style wings.) Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.

In a large Ziploc bag, combine the cajun seasoning, olive oil and honey. Throw the chicken in the bag, seal and mix everything around so the wings are nice and coated with the mixture. Refrigerate for two hours.

After the chicken has been marinading, combine the corn starch, flour and salt in another Ziploc bag. Transfer the chicken from the marinading bag to the flour bag and toss around to coat all the wings with a nice layer of flour. Remove the wings from the bag and let them sit out on a plate for about 15 minutes before frying (this is a good time to start heating your oil).

Heat about two inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (or you can use a deep fryer) over medium-high heat. Bring the oil to 350 degrees and start frying the chicken, in batches to hold a constant temperature, until golden brown and cooked through, five to seven minutes. Transfer the fried chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to cool and drain off the excess oil.

I can’t lie when I say that these are probably the best homemade chicken wings I’ve ever had. Sauceless or not, these were the bomb. They were crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and packed with a ton of flavor from the cajun marinade. I’m a dipper, so we decided to make a little cajun aioli to dip in, which was awesome (thanks to Billy) and complimented the wings perfectly.

I think this is a pretty versatile recipe, so I’m excited to try these again with different flavor bases. Thanks, Des, for an awesome wing recipe! Make sure to check out Des over at Life’s Ambrosia for this and other awesome recipes!

Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce

After being glued to the TV every Friday night to watch Jamie Oliver work his magic on Food Revolution, Billy and I decided it was time to go pick up his latest book and get some new British inspiration. Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook is full of simple, flavorful and (most of all) healthful meals that are accessible to any home cook in America. Much like the show did for public schools, Jamie’s Food Revolution helps the average American rediscover what healthy, home-cooked eating is all about, without skimping on flavor.

The first recipe we tried from the food revolution cookbook was this pasta with bacon and peas in a creamy sauce. I think this recipe is proof that you don’t have to cut out things you love (like carbs and creamy goodness) to eat healthy — everything is acceptable in moderation.

Pasta with Creamy Bacon and Pea Sauce

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Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4
– 1 pound small shaped pasta
– 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 to 2 tbsp butter
– 10 slices bacon or pancetta, cut into short, thin slices
– 2 cups frozen peas
– 2 heaping tbsp creme fraiche
– small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
– salt and pepper
– juice of 1 lemon
– 6 oz. Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
This is another recipe with a really simple sauce, so before you start any really cooking you want to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop your pasta. Make sure to reserve a cup or so of the cooking water. We started cooking the sauce as the water began to boil and the timing seemed to work out perfectly.

In a large, high-sided pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Toss the bacon into the pan with some pepper and cook until crispy and golden brown, about five minutes. Add the peas to the pan, stirring to combine. Give the peas a minute or two to defrost, then add the creme friache and mint. Stir until the creme friache has melted and coated everything nicely. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and add it directly to the sauce pan. Pour the lemon juice over the pasta and stir everything to combine well, making sure the sauce coats each piece of pasta nicely. Finally, mix in the Parmesan cheese. Add some of the cooking liquid to thin out the sauce if desired (this is based totally on personal preference…we didn’t add any water).

This is really a great recipe — something different, yet familiar. The combination of the creme friache and Parmesan made for an extra creamy sauce that wasn’t too heavy. The mint brought a great springy, fresh flavor to the pasta without overpowering it, and the peas burst in your mouth in every bite. The bacon gave the whole dish a light smokey flavor, but I think next time I’d opt for pancetta in place of it (Billy disagrees). This is a great creamy pasta dish for those who fine traditional cream sauces too heavy, and a great dish for spring and summer months. I think it would also be great with some grilled Italian sausage.

Check out this (and other!) recipes from Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook on his website. Jamie’s recipes never disappoint, and with all the new healthy ones, you can’t go wrong!

Spring Green Risotto

As I’ve probably mentioned before (and if not, it might be apparent from this post, or this one), we love risotto. It’s a great “work for your food” kind of meal. It’s not difficult to make, per se, it just requires a lot of attention and love. But in the end, it’s more than worth it. Possibly one of my favorite things about risotto (besides the creamy deliciousness) is that it can take on so many different variations. It’s easy to create different flavors and add different meats or veggies to make it different every time.

That’s exactly what we did with this spring green risotto that came across on my Google Reader from Annie’s Eats. Risotto is typically a pretty heavy dish, but this spring version made it seem light as a feather.

Spring Green Risotto

{Print this Recipe}
Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4
– about 5 cups chicken broth/stock
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 2 shallots, minced
– 2 leeks, chopped
– 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
– 2/3 cup white wine
– 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
– 10 oz. frozen peas, thawed
– 1 tbsp lemon zest
– salt and pepper
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
– 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Like all risotto, you want to start by heating the broth — bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and let it hang out while you’re cooking. This will ensure that all liquid additions during the cooking process are already hot so the rice cooks correctly.

In a pot large enough to cook all the rice (remember, it’s going to grow as you cook it), heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute the shallots and leeks with a little salt and pepper until tender, about five minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat all the grains with butter, cook for about one minute. Next, begin adding liquid, starting with the wine. Stirring constantly, let the wine simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes. After the wine has evaporated, begin adding the broth, a half cup at a time, letting it evaporate almost completely before each addition (this should take three to five minutes per addition). Make sure to stir constantly throughout the cooking process.

After the third liquid addition, add the asparagus and continue cooking like normal. Once the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir in the peas, lemon zest and more salt and pepper. Continue adding liquid and stirring until the rice is tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes after the first liquid addition.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the lemon juice, mascarpone and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.

This was really a great variation of one of our favorite dishes. It was light and fresh and reminded me of spring with each bite (I guess that’s why it’s called spring green risotto, huh?). There were a ton of vegetables, so each bite was full of something green — which I loved. The lemon zest really came through throughout, which added another element of fresh, light flavor. And finally, the mascarpone. It really added a whole other level of creamyess to this already creamy dish, which we both really liked. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was anything about this risotto that we didn’t like.

I found out after the fact that the original recipe also called for fennel, which is an ingredient that I’ve become very fond of recently. Next time we make this, I’ll definitely try it with the fennel and see how that changes it up. If you’re a risotto fan, I strongly recommend that you give this one a try…it’s something totally different and really tasty. I guarantee you’ll love it. 🙂

Mugrabidi

It’s been a while since I posed about Arabic food (actually, it’s been a while since we made Arabic food), so I thought I’d share something before we get rolling on all the Christmas goodies (yay!). Mugrabidi is a sort of soupy dish with tiny pasta, garbanzo beans and chicken. This is a perfect dish for a cold winter night — I promise it will hit the spot and warm you up instantly!

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 8 cups water
– 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
– 1/2 to 1 pound acini de pepe pasta (amount depends on what kind of pasta to bean/chicken/liquid ratio you want)
– salt and pepper to taste

This is a really simple recipe, but the end result is nothing but! First, add the cut chicken pieces to a pot of boiling water. Let the chicken begin to cook and when the water returns to a rolling boil, add the garbanzo beans. Meanwhile, saute the onion until it begins to turn brown then add it to the boiling water. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through. Finally, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 15 more minutes. At this point the chicken and pasta should be done. Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to serve! (There will be quite a bit of liquid left, the consistency of the dish is supposed to be soupy.)

Of all the Arabic dishes I’ve had, I would say this is the least Arabic tasting…if that makes sense. It doesn’t have any of the flavorings and spices found in most Arabic dishes. Nevertheless, this is a great dish and it’s one of my favorites. I love the soupy consistency and the flavor the beans give to the liquid. I think the best way to eat mugrabidi is to get a little of everything in each bite — you really get a great flavor and texture combination that way.

Sticky Lemon Chicken

Whether you care to admit it or not, Gordon Ramsay is bad ass. Hell’s Kitchen may make him seem like a total ass (sans bad), but deep down all he really cares about is food. He’s passionate about food and it’s evident in his recipes — as Billy and I have learned testing some of the recipes from his book Fast Food.

We’re always looking for new ways to cook chicken since it can sometimes get boring, and this recipe is definitely a keeper. Unlike a lot of sauces and glazes, Ramsay’s lemon sauce really penetrates the meat and flavors all of the chicken, not just the skin.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces (we used only wings)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 head of garlic, sliced in half horizontally
– 2 to 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
– 1 lemon, cut into slices, plus the juice of a half a lemon
– a “good splash” of water (about 1/3 cup)
– 1 bunch fresh thyme, minced
– 2 tbsp honey
– salt and pepper
– fresh parsley, chopped

In a large, high-sided pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. With a paper towel, pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides — two to three minutes per side.

Once the chicken has browned, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Place the head of garlic, cut side down, in the pan, top everything with the lemon slices and drizzle the lemon juice over the top.

Carefully and slowly begin adding the water to the pan. You don’t want to cover the chicken in water, but you want enough to create a thick sauce and help the chicken to cook through. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer, turning the chicken pieces every few minutes, until the water is mostly evaporated or the chicken is cooked through, about six to seven minutes.

Add the thyme to the pan and drizzle the honey over each piece of chicken. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve!

I don’t think I’ve ever had such flavorful chicken. What was different about this recipe was that the flavors really penetrated the meat of the chicken. (I always hate biting into juicy chicken and the flavor is only on the skin…don’t you?) The lemon wasn’t overpowering and it paired perfectly with the thyme. The chicken was so juicy and delicious, it tasted as if it had been marinading and cooking all day. This was also a good alternative to making some kind of lemon rub or sauce and cooking chicken in the oven or on the grill.

This recipe can be found in Ramsay’s book Fast Food (which we love). I wasn’t able to find his exact recipe online, but I did find Brandon Eats version — along with a video of Ramsay at work.

Honey Rolls

Last year Billy and I hosted our first holiday. I was determined to find the perfect bread/roll recipe since it’s such an important part of every holiday table (especially with a bunch of hungry Italians). I can’t even remember where I found the recipe for these honey rolls, but we won’t ever go another holiday without them.

Here’s what you’ll need: (for three dozen rolls)
– 3 packages active dry yeast
– 2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
– 1/4 cup honey
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 1 tbsp salt
– 2 eggs, plus 1 egg, separated
– about 8 cups bread flour
– 1/2 tsp cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Once all the yeast has dissolved and the mixture has become frothy, about two minutes, add the honey, oil, salt, two eggs, the yolk of the separated egg, and five cups of the bread flour. Mix on low to medium speed until smooth. The dough will still be pretty sticky at this point, but you’re just trying to get everything combined. Begin adding the remainder of the flour, one half-cup at a time, until a stiff dough is formed. You may not end up using the entire eight cups of flour, but just base it on how the dough looks and feels. When you poke it, it should hold the form of your finger but shouldn’t be sticky enough to stick to your fingers.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about six to eight minutes. You’ll know when the dough is ready based on the way it looks and feels — you’ll also notice a difference from the time you took it out of the mixing bowl and the time you started kneading. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a large greased bowl, turning once to cover the entire surface of the dough with grease. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.

Punch the dough down (it’s perfectly normal to picture someone’s head while doing this :)) and begin dividing and forming the dough into desired sizes and shapes — we usually form 2-inch balls since the dough will rise again before baking. Place on a greased baking sheet, one to two inches apart, and cover. Let the divided pieces rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the white of the separated egg with the 1/2 teaspoon of cold water and brush over dough. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet immediately and let cool on a wire rack.

Sorry for the horrible picture…but it’s the best I could get in the midst of all the Thanksgiving madness. Regardless, I guarantee these will be some of the best rolls you’ve ever had. They’re perfectly fluffy (yet substantial) on the inside and have a nice firm crust. The hint of honey really makes these rolls stand out in comparison to a regular bread dough, but it definitely doesn’t give them an overwhelmingly sweetness. They’re full of flavor, with or without butter, and they make a great Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. This is most definitely our go-to recipe for rolls, any time of the year (and it should be yours, too!).

Pumpkin-Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

This is the first holiday season that I’ve actually been excited about baking. I’ve never been much of a baker, and for the most part I still leave most of the baking up to Billy, but the results are always so darn tasty that it’s hard to resist. And what better time to bake and try new recipes than the holidays, right?

I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie (I know what you’re thinking…who doesn’t love pumpkin pie?) and Billy doesn’t eat it at all. So this year I decided I’d find a new pumpkin-related dessert and give it a shot. Turns out it only took one try to find a success — Better Homes and Garden’s pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake bars were a huge hit at both families Thanksgivings. They’re definitely worth the time they take, so I encourage you to give them a try for Christmas or keep them in mind for next year!

Here’s what you’ll need:
Crust
– 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup butter, melted
Pumpkin
– 2 (8 oz.) packs cream cheese
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 cup canned pumpkin
– 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of cinnamon, cloves and ginger)
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 tsp salt
Chocolate
– 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
– 2 tbsp butter
Topping
– 1 1/4 cup sour cream
– 1/4 sugar
– chocolate pieces and nutmeg (for garnish)

This recipe is done in phases, so at first glance it seems like its going to be a beast. In actuality it’s really pretty easy, it just takes time and there’s a lot of waiting in between steps. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

The first step in the process is to make the “crust.” In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the first 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir in the 1/2 cup melted butter and press evenly into a greased 13×9 pan. Set aside.

Next, combine the cream cheese and 1 3/4 cups sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on low speed until completely combined before adding the next egg. Once combined, add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and salt. Beat on low speed until completely combined. Remove 1 1/4 cups of the mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Over low heat, stir constantly until completely melted. Whisk the 1 1/4 cups of the pumpkin mixture into the melted chocolate and butter. Once combined, pour over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly across. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour the remainder of the pumpkin mixture over the baked chocolate layer. Return to the oven and bake (still at 325) for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin has puffed up and the center has set. Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Finally, combine the sour cream and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Carefully spread over the pumpkin layer and continue to cool. Once the bars are completely cool, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving. Cut into bars (24 to 36, depending on size) and garnish with chocolate pieces and ground nutmeg.

I will probably get yelled at by some people for saying this, but these bars were way better than pumpkin pie. Every single day since Thanksgiving I’ve been craving these stupid bars. They’ve got so many different layers of flavor and texture, but they all work together to form an overall great dessert. The texture of the pumpkin and cream cheese layer is so smooth and creamy and the graham cracker and chocolate layers give it a little crunch. Pumpkin is definitely the star of the show here, but each layer really adds to the flavor of the bars. These bars will most definitely be a Martin family tradition from now on!

I got this recipe from the 2009 Holiday Recipe Collection edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere online. Hopefully you can trust my rendition enough to try them anyway. 🙂

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Cannoli

I’m late, I’m late…for a very important date! With all the Thanksgiving shenanigans, I completely spaced what day it was and didn’t have time to post about every Italian’s nightmare — horrible cannoli.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100 percent verbatim from either book.

Despite the fact that I’m Italian, I have never made cannoli. I’ve eaten plenty of them, though, so I know exactly what they’re supposed to be like. Mine definitely did not turn out like “true” cannoli.

The dough, though easy enough to make, was so difficult to work with. In order to get perfect cannoli shells, the dough was to be rolled paper thin. No matter how hard I tried or how long I worked at it, I could not get that stuff to roll out! I’m not sure if it was something I did wrong (added too much liquid, maybe not enough?) or if it’s just a difficult dough. Either way, I decided to try frying them anyway and they just didn’t turn out right. They were too fat and didn’t blister at all. From what I could tell, the taste was right on, but the texture definitely wasn’t (too fat, not crunchy enough, etc.).

I made a traditional ricotta filling (with a little mascarpone to help the texture) and mini chocolate chips. The filling was awesome. So good, in fact, that I was eating it with a spoon in between filling the shells. I guess that made up for the shells being not-so-perfect, but it still wasn’t goon enough for me.

I fully intend to give the cannoli another try, but I think I’ll use a pasta roller to try and get the dough extra thin. Any tips from other Daring Bakers or cannoli makers would be greatly appreciated!

Recipe Link: Cannoli

Green Chili Risotto

I’ve lived in New Mexico all my life, so green chili is pretty much a staple to me. Since Billy is a transplant, he seems to think that New Mexican’s use green chili for way too many things (like pizza and beer). Never the less, when we were out to eat a few weeks ago and he saw Parmesan risotto with a green chili white wine sauce, he had to order it. He cleaned his plate and was determined to recreate the dish at home…I think it’s probably safe to say that he’s turning in to a true New Mexican.

We pretty much made just a basic risotto and created a sauce to put on top, and it was amazing. It was one of the easiest risottos I’ve done in a while, but also one of the most flavorful.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Risotto
– 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
– 3 tablespoons butter
– olive oil
– 1 onion, chopped
– salt and pepper
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/4 Parmesan cheese
Sauce
– olive oil
– 1/2 of an onion, chopped
– 3 to 4 ounces green chili, chopped (2 or 3 fresh green chilies or 1 small can)
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup white wine

Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer and let it sit throughout the cooking process — the idea here is that all liquid additions to the rice are warm. In a separate pot (or high-sided pan large enough to hold the rice once it’s cooked), heat two tablespoons of the butter and a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper (and a few red pepper flakes, if you like). Add the rice and stir to coat each grain with butter. Next, begin adding liquid, one half cup at a time, starting with the wine. Stirring constantly, let the liquid simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes per addition. Continue adding liquid, stirring and evaporating until thre rice is cooked through and creamy, about 20 minutes after the first addition of liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for the green chili sauce. Saute the onion until translucent, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the green chili and continue to saute for another two or three minutes. Add the white wine and let simmer until reduced by half, or until there is a good amount of liquid to create a sauce for the rice.

Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and remaining tablespoon of butter and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon onto a plate and cover with the green chili and white wine sauce.

Considering we had really no idea what we were doing when going into this, it turned out awesome. Billy was in charge of make the sauce since he was the one that devoured the version we had at the restaurant. It was spot on, let me tell you. The flavors from both the green chili and the wine really went well together and added a ton of flavor to the risotto. The green chili wasn’t overpowering, but it added so much flavor to the dish as a whole. I think the sauce would go great on any type of plain rice (or other grain, like quinoa) as a flavor enhancer. Plus…if you live in New Mexico, green chili has to be a part of every meal and this is certainly a new way to do it!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the things I’ve loved most since becoming a part of the blogging community is meeting other foodies and getting great ideas from all you wonderful cooks out there. Carrie over at Our Life in Food posted a few weeks ago about an Indian dish her and her husband tried. Her picture literally made my mouth water and I put it on our menu the very next week. Chicken Tikka Masala will most definitely be a frequent rotation in our weekly menu from now on…thanks Carrie!

Before trying this, I don’t think I had ever had “real” Indian food. I pretty much knew what kind of spices go into Indian dishes, and this tasted pretty much exactly like what I would imagine an Indian curry dish tasting like — only minus curry powder. It was thick and creamy and made for a perfect sauce to serve over rice.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
– 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (this is for garnish only, we left it out)
Marinade
– 6 oz. yogurt
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
– salt and pepper
Sauce
– Olive Oil
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 2 tsp paprika
– salt and pepper
– 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
– 3/4 cup heavy cream

Keep in mind that the chicken should marinade for about an hour, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about preparing this dish.

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, combine the yogurt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ginger and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and mix well, making sure to coat each piece of chicken with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or high sided skillet and saute, over medium-high heat, the garlic and jalapeno for about one minute. Add the cumin, paprika and salt and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute. Next, add the tomato sauce and cream. Stir well to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the marinade, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken until browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken to the simmering sauce and stir to coat. Serve over rice.

This was amazingly delicious. Although, it was pretty dang spicy (yes, even for two New Mexican’s), but so, so good. It was creamy, spicy and extremely flavorful. It was perfect over rice and paired really well with cauliflower. All the different spices and flavors came out in every bite, but didn’t overpower the flavor of the tomato-based sauce. This will for sure be something we make often…and will hopefully inspire us to try other Indian dishes.

For the original recipe, visit Carrie’s blog (and while you’re there, make sure to check out her other recipes!).

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

We love risotto. It’s a lot of work for a typical meal, but the results are always well worth it. One of the great things about risotto is that there are so many flavor options and Giada de Laurentiis’ variation is a perfect example. The natural sweetness of the squash combined with the vanilla gives the risotto a whole new flavor base that you wouldn’t expect for a normally (very) savory dish.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1 large vanilla bean
– 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 cup Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1/2 Parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper

This recipe is ultra easy because there’s no extra pots for cooking meat or anything else that you add to the actual rice. Like all risotto, you want to start by heating the broth — bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and let it hang out while you’re cooking.

You’ll want to add the vanilla bean to the broth right away. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds and put everything in the broth. The big difference here is that you’ll cook the squash in the broth, so once it comes to a boil add the squash and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the squash from the liquid and set aside. Leave the heat on the broth in order to keep it at a warm temperature.

Meanwhile, in a pot (or pan) large enough to cook all the rice in, heat two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion with salt and pepper until tender and see-through, about three minutes. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Next, add the first batch of liquid — the wine. Stirring constantly, let the wine simmer until it has evaporated almost completely, about three minutes. After the liquid has evaporated, begin adding the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, letting it evaporate almost completely before each addition. Make sure to continue stirring throughout the cooking process. Continue adding liquid and letting it evaporate until the rice is tender, but still a little firm, and creamy, about 20 minutes after adding the wine.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the Parmesan cheese, cubed squash and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

I absolutely loved this variation on risotto. Billy…not so much. The sweetness of the squash and vanilla added a hint of sweet to this normally savory dish, but Billy seemed to think it was overpowering. I thought it was perfect. It was a great meal for a fall day — not to mention that it made the house smell delicious. The one thing I didn’t like about the dish were the cubes of squash. I would have rather pureed them or just left them out completely because the flavor that was left in the broth was enough for the whole dish. An alternative to the over-sweetness that Billy tasted could be to leave out the vanilla…maybe that’s a test for the future.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site. Even though Billy wasn’t a huge fan of the dish, I highly recommend it for anyone who loves risotto!

Baked Stuffed Chicken Breast

I must have really been feeling sick when I decided to take tips from Rachel Ray (no offense to you Rachel lovers out there, but I just can’t stand the lady), but I followed through with it anyway. During the week I spent stuck to the couch, I saw a lot of Rachel Ray on Food TV and I have to admit…sometimes her food looks good.

In one of the 9 million episodes they air throughout the day, she made what she called “chicken cordon bleu” (but it so wasn’t) in which she stuffed a chicken breast with a blue cheese, spinach and arugula mixture, wrapped it in bacon and baked in the oven. I usually am not a fan of food wrapped in bacon, but I couldn’t get the idea of a cheese, spinach and arugula stuffing out of my head. So, I asked Billy his opinion and we decided to do a spin-off of Rachel’s chicken.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– about 1/2 cup goat cheese (or any crumbly-type cheese you prefer)
– 1/2 cup each spinach and arugula, chopped
– salt and pepper
– Panko (or regular) bread crumbs

Prepare the stuffing by combining the cheese, spinach and arugula. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a paring knife, cut a slit into the fat portion of the breast. Then, using your fingers, make the slit bigger without busting through the sides or bottom of the meat. Start stuffing the chicken, about one teaspoon at a time, until you get the desired amount of the cheese mixture in each breast. Finally, cover the outside of the chicken breast with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

This wasn’t the best chicken we’ve ever made, but it wasn’t bad for something we just threw together from an idea we had (thanks, Rachel). The stuffing mixture was interesting. The arugula really overpowered the spinach, and even the goat cheese — I think this would have been the case even in the original recipe. Aside from that, the filling was pretty good and paired well with the chicken. I love the texture of goat cheese, and it really held up through the cooking process. The crunchyness from the panko bread crumbs was a great addition to the dish as well. I’m not sure that we’d make it again, but it might be worth it to try a few other combinations.

Mother-in-Law Party Mix

There are few things that I will say someone makes better than my mom, but this is one of them. The first time I had the famous chex mix was the Christmas of 2005. I arrived at Billy’s parents house a few days after Christmas, not knowing his family that well, but I quickly learned that my mother-in-law makes the best chex mix ever. She makes it for pretty much every event, and it always disappears (usually eaten by me and my father-in-law). So, when we decided we were having a Halloween party, I knew I had to make it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups rice chex cereal
– 4 cups wheat chex cereal
– 2.5 to 3 cups Cheerios
– 1 can (16 oz.) peanuts
– pretzels
– 3 sticks butter, melted
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. You’ll want to use a large aluminum pan or a large turkey roasting type pan that will hold everything.

Combine the chex, Cheerios, peanuts and pretzels and mix together well. Next, add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt to the butter, stirring well to combine. Pour the butter mixture over the cereal mixture and stir to coat everything. Bake for one hour at 250 degrees, stirring well every 15 minutes.

For Halloween, we decided to replace the pretzels (our least favorite ingredient) with festive colored M&M’s — only we added them after the baking was done. I thought adding something sweet to the mix was pretty good, but definitely not the same. Billy didn’t like it. Either way…still the best party mix you’ll ever have. I’m not sure if it’s the butter, the Worcestershire sauce or the garlic salt, but something about this mix is amazing. Eating bagged chex mix isn’t even an option anymore…thanks Linda.

Asian Salmon with Sauteed Carrots and Leeks

Since we’ve been trying to eat healthier, we’ve found that making healthy foods doesn’t mean skimping on flavor. The recipe for Asian style salmon from The New American Plate is a perfect example. It’s got all the great flavors that you would find in many Asian dishes without frying or using other unhealthy cooking methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 cup soy sauce (the recipe calls for reduced sodium, but if you have “regular” on hand, that will work too)
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1 tbsp Chinese hot mustard
– 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
– 1 lb salmon (4 fillets)
– canola oil
– 2 small carrots, julienned
– 1 leek (white part only), julienned
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

This recipe is really easy, but be prepared to wait about an hour while the salmon marinades before you do any cooking. Combine 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, the lemon juice, mustard and five-spice powder in a resealable plastic bag. Mix together, then add the salmon fillets. Coat well and let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour, turning once.

Preheat the broiler (if your broiler is built in to your oven, make sure to put a baking sheet inside to warm it as well).

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on the oil over medium-high heat and saute the carrots and leeks until tender, about five minutes. Add the broth, the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 or 15 minutes. The salmon will take about 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so you can probably start it right after adding the liquid to the pan. Place the fillets on the heated baking sheet (or broiler pan) four inches from the heat and cook until it begins to flake apart, 10 to 15 minutes based on the thickness.

This was seriously one of the easiest meals to make. It only took 15 minutes (minus the marinading time) and you wouldn’t even know it…it tasted like we slaved over the stove for hours. All the flavors of the soy sauce, five-spice and mustard really penetrated the meat of the salmon. The veggies stayed nice a crunchy, but also had great Asian flavors. We also cooked up some plain white rice, which made it feel like we were really in a Chinese restaurant. This dish is for sure a do-over…especially for us since we love Chinese food.

You can find the recipe in The New American Plate Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Every recipe we have made from this book has been really tasty, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all really good for you!

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing

Do you ever grill chicken and think that it’s just missing some flavor? When it comes to grilling meats, sometimes it seems like there’s only a few flavor options. The first person that comes to mind when trying to solve a grilling dilemma is Bobby Flay. But that’s not where we turned for this delicious grilled chicken recipe. From now on, I think it’s going to be difficult to have grilled chicken without Tyler Florence’s garlic-herb dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 or 2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
– 2 whole thyme springs, plus the leaves from 6 sprigs
– the juice of 2 lemons
– 1 small bunch fresh parsley
– 1 whole chicken (or any combination of chicken pieces you prefer), cut into 10 pieces

Before you can do anything with this recipe, you have to roast the garlic. This is going to take at least 30 minutes, so make sure you account for the extra time it takes to get everything prepared. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To roast the garlic, place the halved head(s) face-up on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add two whole thyme sprigs to the top. Fold up the aluminum foil to make a little packet and throw in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the cloves are golden brown and soft.

Once the garlic is done, squeeze all the cloves out of the skin into a food processor. Also add the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, and parsley and puree until you get a smooth, thick vinaigrette-type dressing. Now you’re ready to grill! About halfway through the cooking (after about 20 minutes) start basting the chicken with the dressing. The outside of the chicken will caramelize a little and get a result in a great crusty, crispy skin.

This was seriously the best grilled chicken I have ever had in my life. Once we took it off the grill, we added a little more of the dressing for an added flavor boost. I’m not sure that it needed it, but it sure made it tasty! The flavors of the garlic, lemon and herbs really came through in every bite of chicken…not just the skin (although the skin was the best part). The skin was nice a crispy, but not burnt, and the meat was nice and tender and juicy. I said it last time we made a Tyler Florence recipe and I’ll say it again — it’s called Tyler’s Ultimate for a reason! The deliciousness of this chicken is unexplainable. Period.

You can find the recipe in Tyler’s latest book, Tyler’s Ultimate, or on the Food Network Web site. And I highly recommend you find the recipe and try it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Carrot Cinnamon Dog Treats

I’ve been in the baking mood lately and I’m not sure why…I’m typically not a baker. Never the less, I thought it was only right to let Kramer share in the goodness that is baking. I know you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts, but this isn’t the first time we’ve made our dog treats (I know, that makes me look even more nuts). He loves homemade treats — and they’re better for him than most anything we could get at the store. We get all our dog treat recipes from a nutritional guide and cookbook specifically for dogs called Better Food for Dogs. It’s a great book and has really helped us learn about the specific nutritional needs for dogs. On the plus side, Kramer loves the finished products of everything in this book (we haven’t tried the meals, just the treats).

One of Kramer’s favorite treats from the book are the carrot cinnamon“cookies.” (Sometimes they smell so good in the oven that I’ve thought about trying them myself — I’ve refrained though.)
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup cornmeal
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 cup chopped carrots
– 1/2 cup water
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 2 tbsp honey
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Baking dog treats isn’t any different than baking human cookies…believe it or not. First you’ll combine the dry ingredients — the flour, cornmeal and cinnamon — in a small bowl. Next, combine the carrots, water, oil, honey, egg and vanilla in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the carrot puree over the dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Leaving the mixture in the bowl, kneed with your hands until the dough starts to hold together on its own (you may need to add more water). Once a dry dough is formed, transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Use a fork to poke holes all over the dough, then cut into bite-sized pieces based on the size of your dog (you can either use cookie cutters or a pizza cutter). Place the pieces about 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet. Depending on the size of your dog, you’ll end up with a ton of treats.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until firm. Let cool completely (still on the baking sheet), lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until the treats are hard (you want them to be crunchy, just like you would find in the store). Transfer the treats to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving or storing.

Kramer would do anything for one of these “cookies.” He loves them and we love giving them to him because we know they’re healthy and we know exactly what goes into them. Baking for a dog sounds like a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it — and it’s also kind of fun! If you love your four-legged friends as much as we love ours, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Better Food for Dogs and try out one of the cookie recipes yourself. If you’re a dog-treat baker, drop a line and let me know about some of your favorite recipes!

P.S. For a lower-fat version of this recipe, substitute the 2 tbsp. oil for 2 extra tablespoons water. Also, if you have a small dog you might want to consider cutting the recipe in half. The finished treats only last about a month and the recipe makes a lot of cookies. Another option is to freeze half the dough and bake it off another time.

Chicken with Saffron Cream Sauce

Saffron is an expensive spice, but it’s worth the price because it lasts forever (and it’s flavor, of course). Giada De Laurentiis’ chicken scallopine with saffron cream sauce is, in my opinion, a perfect way to showcase the great flavor of saffron without overpowering the whole dish. We’ve made this dish many times, and I think it gets better every single time.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb chicken cutlets (we usually use two boneless, skinless breasts and pound them out so they’re nice and thin)
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
– 2 shallots, chopped
– 1 clove garlic, minced (we almost always use more than a clove, but that’s just personal preference)
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
– 1/4 tsp (a generous pinch) saffron threads
– 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

This is jokingly called “10 minute chicken” in our house because each step takes about 10 minutes, but apparently Billy doesn’t know how to read ahead and realize that there’s more than one step that takes 10 minutes and decides to tell me to start the side dishes 20 minutes too early. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

The first thing you’re going to do is cook the chicken. Heat the olive oil (enough to keep the chicken from sticking) in a skillet over high heat. While the pan is heating, season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot drop the chicken as quickly as you can, using a spatter guard to keep the oil from getting everywhere (including all over you). Cook the chicken until golden brown on each side and cooked completely through — 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic to the pan (you might need to add a bit more oil) and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits of the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a simmer and cook until it’s almost evaporated completely, about (you guessed it) 10 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth and saffron threads. Bring to a simmer again and let reduce for (another) 10 minutes — it will reduce by at least half. Add the cream, season with salt a pepper and let simmer for a minute or two in order for the flavors to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley and you’re done!

We usually serve the chicken over rice because the rice soaks up the extra sauce and makes it extra delicious. Cooking the chicken over high heat gives it a little bit of a crust but helps lock all the moisture in. The sauce soaks into the chicken (and the rice) and all the wonderful flavors of the shallots, garlic and saffron permeate throughout the dish. Yum.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site.

Blue Corn Pancakes

I’m pretty sure blue corn pancakes are a Navajo tradition (at least certainly a New Mexico/southwestern thing). I’ve never tried them, but I’ve always been intrigued. There’s supposedly a restaurant in Santa Fe that has really great blue corn pancakes — they’ve even been featured on Food Network. Well, over the weekend I decided to try my luck at this Navajo tradition.

My go to guy for all things Southwestern (at least the one’s I’ve never tried) is Bobby Flay. I used his recipe for blue corn pancakes from his Mesa Grill cookbook, making a few minor changes. Bobby’s recipe includes an orange honey butter and cinnamon maple syrup, but I decided to make the pancakes only.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup blue corn (meal)
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp salt
– 1/4 sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 2 tbsp butter, melted

Bobby’s recipe calls for blueberries, but I left them out (I did add some pine nuts to a few of the pancakes, though). If you’re going to use blueberries, or another kind of berry, fold one cup into the batter just before cooking.

Like almost all baking, combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, adding the milk and melted butter and whisk until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Make sure not to over mix the batter, otherwise you’ll end up with flat pancakes (there should be some lumps in the batter).

Heat a non-stick griddle or large pan over medium-high heat and melt a small amount of butter before ladling the first pancake. Each pancake should be about 1/4 of a cup (or one ladle full) and will cook about one or two minutes on the first side and 30 seconds to one minute on the second side. You’ll know when they’re done based on the color (I’m sure you’ve all made pancakes before…). Keep the finished pancakes warm while continuing to cook by placing them in a 200 degree oven.

Blue corn pancakes…seriously? Amazing. While the taste wasn’t really very different from regular pancakes, you notice it in the texture. They’re still fluffy, but they’re a bit more dense and they have larger grains of corn meal (sort of like a corn muffin). I am a huge fan of pine nuts, but this is one dish I really didn’t like them in. Next time I would either add berries (I knew Bobby called for them for a reason!) or leave them plain. Other than that, no complaints here! I will most definitely be making these again and again, and I would suggest you try them too! As a plus, you can freeze the extra pancakes and they heat up pretty well.

I was able to find a recipe for Bobby’s blue corn pancakes on the Food Network Web site, but it’s a little different from the one in his Mesa Grill cookbook. Whatever recipe you use, I’m sure they’ll turn out delicious!