Look, I will be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for anything fried, chocolatey, or bacony; so, Ida Claire already had a leg up on the “OMG! Love!” list with me, but I’m no sell-out. Just because you say you’re deep fried and delicious doesn’t mean I’m taking the bait.
I’ve been a little bored lately, as seen by the blatant, “Hi – she’s lost it – someone please take her,” expression on Cat’s face in this photo.
Bear’s out of town. (clearly) I had just wrapped up an assignment, missed a family hang by minutes and had already cashed in all my “fine, I’ll humor you” cards with Cat.
As you can imagine, the stale late afternoon only poked at my boredom, teasing it into a whirlwind of creative energy demanding to be utilized. After writing a song, cleaning our place, finishing a painting and walking with a friend, there was only one other thing to do – make chocolate cake.
But, the only problem was I had just cleaned the kitchen. (see earlier energy outlet activities) So, I needed an easy, no frills cake that would not ruin my freshly sanitized Fortress of Solitude. I needed a cake in a mug recipe.
So, I found this quick and easy recipe on the Food Network and molded it into what I needed. Recently, I’ve been trying to eat better so I don’t feel like I’m dying when I’m tying my shoes. So, I had to figure out how to tweak this bad boy without removing any of its decadence and delight, two things absolutely necessary for an enjoyable chocolate cake experience.
Here’s the original as I wrote down from their site – the parenthesis was my scribble-scrabble for myself. I’ll explain in the revised version.
Side note: the day before I’d made an easy cherry almond crumble – seen here:
And, I had some leftover cherry filling I’d made.
Super Easy “Sugar-Free” Cherry Filling
1 Cup – Fresh Pitted Black Cherries
2 tsp – Unsalted Butter
2 tsp – Stevia powder
1 tsp – Cornstarch
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Salt
Good Splash of water
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat on medium until thickened.
So, I had about 1/2 cup of refrigerated cherry filling left since my crumble was an individual portion. I knew I could make a killer Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake in a Mug with what I had left.
Here’s my healthier, cherried-up version of the cake:
Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake in a Mug
¼ Cup Flour
3 tsp Stevia Powder
2 TBS Cocoa Powder
3 TBS Almond Milk
3 TBS Melted Coconut Oil
1 tsp Mexican Vanilla Extract
Dash of Salt
Dash of Chipotle Chile Powder (substitute or add a dash of cinnamon for more depth)
Super Easy “Sugar-Free” Cherry Filling
Whisk all but the cherry filling together in a medium sized bowl until well combined. Add cherry filling into the bottom of a large mug. Pour combined cake batter over cherries. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. I like mine gooey, but you can microwave for another minute if you want yours without the muddy goodness.
My substitutions are the healthier alternatives and don’t take away any of the decadence or flavor. The addition of the chipotle chile powder is also just another layer of depth that adds to the cake. It’s that extra “something” that tickles the throat without creating a burn. Since the cherries already had nutmeg in them, I didn’t add more cinnamon. If you wanted to remove the cherry filling altogether and just add cinnamon, you’d have a wicked Mexican Chocolate Cake in a Mug! Plus, you probably won’t need that additional minute in the micro to avoid the gooey. And, you could add some sweetened condensed milk or cajeta (caramelized condensed milk) over it to really take it to another level!
Enjoy whatever version you decide to make!
I know I enjoyed mine, especially with my cafecito!
Today has been a pretty awesome day. A few days ago, I was notified that I was chosen as one of the top five finalists for Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant “The Mentorship” contest. And, today, they posted my video submission to their YouTube page. On March 9th, we shall see who gets to spend the day with Chef and Restaurant Entrepreneur, Tom Colicchio. He will be mentoring one very lucky individual, and my friend Mary has advised me to “start packing my bags” because I’ve already won. I love the positive thinking, and I couldn’t agree more with having a winning vision. While I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and Best New Restaurant, this opportunity is way more than just being a fan. It’s an incredible chance to change dreams to reality, as my Bear and I have long dreamed of owning our own restaurant.
At the very same time, the DFW area has been blasted with snow, frozen pellets of ice and other cold weather phenomenons that require copious amounts of hot chocolate and warm food to be consumed. So, this morning, I got the cast iron skillet out, heated up some butter tortillas from Central Market, got some bacon in the pan, and took my already-created Borracho Beans (drunk beans) to task with a masher to make refried beans!
The combination of bacon, beans and Bravo TV’s finalist news was the absolute perfect combination to celebrate while staying nice and toasty inside. I’m also posting today because my friend, Kerrie, has been asking about this Borracho Bean recipe for months now and will hunt me down to kill me if I don’t post sometime soon. So, here we go!
1 lb dried pinto beans
1/2 medium white onion chopped
1 large tomato (or 1/2 package of cherry tomatoes will do)
3-4 uncooked bacon strips chopped
1 bottle of Mexican beer (Negro Modelo or Dos Equis preferably)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste
6 quart pot (cast iron enamel preferred but not required – the pot will be roomy for the beans)
Separate then discard any broken or unappealing dry beans, as well as possible rocks or inedible pieces from the dry beans. Rinse the beans in a 6 quart pot with warm water, slush around and discard the water, leaving the beans in the pot. Add water to the pot to cover the rinsed beans, then place the pot on a stove top and boil rapidly for 45 minutes. Be sure to watch the pot and add water if it reduces too much. The beans must stay completely covered during this process.
Once the beans have boiled for 45 minutes, remove from the stove top, carefully discard the water only and gently rinse the beans again. (You can use a sieve, but I find that covering the top with the pot cover and being careful over the sink with pot holders usually does the trick.) Add the chopped onion, tomato, bacon strips, and beer to the pot, then cover the rest with warm water until the beans are completely covered with about an inch of water above bean level. Return the beans to the stove at medium heat.
In a separate skillet pan on medium heat, lightly toast the cumin seeds and black peppercorns until they become aromatic. Add the toasted cumin seeds and peppercorns to a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and add them to the molcajete. Crush the cumin seeds, peppercorns and garlic together until they become a paste. You can add a little water to make it easier once the peppercorns are broken up. Add the mixture to the beans, adding more water to the molcajete to help motivate the paste to leave the surface. Gently stir the simmering beans and leave to cook for another hour.
Towards the mid-end of the cooking process, add salt to taste. This is a controversial thing, as some say adding salt at the start makes the beans hard and others say you can’t add salt at the end because it doesn’t flavor anything. Well, I add right towards the middle of the end and it usually does the trick – happy medium. I’m positive there is a scientific reason for each method out there, but my way works. And, if it ain’t broke…
At this point, if you’d like to add salsa, jalapeños or additional seasonings like garlic powder, cumin powder or onion powder, you can. You can even add roasted green chiles which make a flavorful addition. However, I have found that simple really is best, especially if you want to make refried beans with the borracho beans. And, let them simmer but don’t boil to mush. The flavors must develop but the beans will get too soft if you keep them simmering for too long. Just keep an eye out and a spoon handy for tasting.
To make refried beans (the right way, in my opinion), fry up some bacon in a cast iron skillet. Remove the bacon, leave the drippings in the pan and add the borracho beans, liquid and all, to the pan and let out all your aggression with a potato masher, creating a creamy, textured, bacony bean to eat with tortillas. The longer they sit on the heat, the thicker the beans will become, and that’s what you want. Don’t serve the beans too runny. That’s never fun for anyone. Add bacon to the bean-smeared tortilla, and you have my very favorite breakfast celebration taquito in your hands, my friend.
Here’s to hoping there’s another celebration taquito in my future. I’ll keep you posted!
My friends and family rock – mostly because they tolerate me and encourage (sometimes enable) my addiction to bacon. But, they also rock because they all love food and are pretty much geniuses in the kitchen. And, those who opt not to cook or bake, happily serve as taste testers and provide honest and thoughtful opinions. So, all around, these folks are pretty much the best group to provide some killer (as in good, not lethal) cooking and baking tips.
I sent a shout out to my peeps and asked them to offer up their best cooking or baking advice, and boy, did they deliver! And, they covered the gamut. From basics like knives and equipment, to things I didn’t even have on my radar (see #3), this top six list is a culinary quick-stop resource for anyone who ventures into the kitchen.
Along with my own advice, I’ve combined some of the feedback into topics since some of us hit on the same subject – great minds think alike and all. So, here is my inner culinary circle’s gift to you…
Have you ever been watching a cooking show and thought to yourself, “I could totally rock that out”???
A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell on the Food Network, and she made this amazing fish stew called… (now, I’m going to provide the link to her recipe, but you have to promise you’ll check out what I did FIRST before you hop over there… mine is a little different… promise???!??) Okay… she made this amazing fish stew called Pacific Cod and Clam Cacciucco. (I’ll know if you clicked over there before reading all of this – just sayin’.)
Of all the chefs on FN, I think I have been inspired the most by dishes Chef Anne creates on her show. Now, although I did not follow her recipe and didn’t even look it up before making my own, to be honest, I was truly inspired and decided to create my own version of a Cacciucco (a Tuscan Fish Stew).
There are three main components to this dish: the fish stock, the searing of the seafood, the building of the stew. It’s best to do all your prep, per the norm. If you’re a “do as you go” cook, this stew will take you forever. So, mise en place, people! Mise En Place!
I started with the fish stock.
When I went to the fishmonger to pick up my Halibut, Littleneck Clams, Scallops and Gulf Shrimp, I also asked for fish bones to build a stock. He said he didn’t have any on hand but pointed me in the direction of Bar Harbor fish stock in the stock aisle, saying it was the best out there. It’s a canned stock (don’t judge – I tweaked it, foodies – put the shrimp forks down). I knew I would have to build a ton of flavor in order for my Cacciucco to remotely taste as good as what I imagined Chef Anne’s version tasted like; so, I made sure to add tons of herbs to create a bouquet, as well as used some bay leaves, carrots and onions for the fish stock base.
1 TB Olive Oil
4 Smashed Garlic Cloves, skins removed
½ Huge Carrot, roughly chopped (nobody cares, it’s stock base)
½ Onion, roughly chopped (again, save the knife skills for the stew itself)
3 Bay Leaves
1 Bouquet, including fresh oregano, marjoram, thyme, tarragon
Shrimp Shells from prepping the shrimp
1 Can Bar Harbor Fish Stock
Juice from ½ a Lemon
Salt / Pepper for Seasoning
On medium-high heat, add olive oil, garlic, carrot and onion and sauté until the onion starts to create that heavenly smell in combination with the garlic and barely starts to turn translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the bay leaves, bouquet and shrimp shells and continue to sauté until you can see that the shrimp are turning pink, approximately 4 minutes or so. Add in the can of fish stock and allow to simmer on medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes and then add the lemon juice and additional salt and pepper to taste. Leave on a low, rolling simmer while you cook the rest of the dish, as you will want to fortify the flavors prior to adding it to your Cacciucco base.
Next up was the Cacciucco base, and I knew this was going to be fun. Part of the fun was knowing what was already in my refrigerator that I could add to my own version. Chef Anne used tomato broth she created from pureeing whole peeled tomatoes, and I used fire roasted tomatoes that had some chunk to them. There are no mushrooms in hers, but I used oyster mushrooms as part of my Cacciucco base (not authentic, I know… but I didn’t say I followed the rules, now did I?) And, for my version, I added more herbs like flat leaf parsley and also capers to the mix… just because. Here’s the base:
1 TB Olive Oil
5 Minced Garlic Cloves
½ Huge Carrot, medium dice (this is where your knife skills matter; cooking evenly is muy importante or molto importante in this case)
½ Onion, medium dice
1 Shallot, medium dice
1 Oyster Mushroom Bunch, medium dice (these will not look perfect – it’s okay; don’t waste time trying to make squares out of spongy irregularly shaped objects – just make
them the same general size)
1 ½ tsp Capers, drained
½ Cup White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc – you can use any good white wine – something you’d drink)
2 TB Flat Leaf Parsley, roughly chopped
1 TB Fresh Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Tarragon combined, roughly chopped
1 tsp Saffron Threads
1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic
Juice from ½ a Lemon
Salt / Pepper for Seasoning
On medium-high heat, add olive oil, garlic, carrot, onion and shallot and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the oyster mushrooms and capers and continue to sauté until you can see that everything is starting to cook down, approximately 4 minutes or so. Add in the white wine to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up any fond (yummy goodness that may stick to the pan while sautéing) and then allow to simmer on medium-high heat until the wine starts to cook down, approximately 3 minutes.
Add in the herbs and the saffron and cook for another 2 minutes or so. The sauce may start to turn a bright yellow/orange/red color. That’s the saffron at work! Then add the fire roasted tomatoes and stir. Gradually add the fish stock (ladle in the broth only) and then add lemon juice and additional salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down to low-medium and get ready to start adding the seafood.
Things to Remember When Prepping Your Seafood:
Nobody wants to eat shrimp poo; so, clean and devein your shrimp after you unshell them.
Nobody wants to eat tough scallop muscle; so, remove that odd little tough piece that may be holding on to the scallop.
Nobody wants to eat scales and bones; even though the filet of Halibut from the fishmonger shouldn’t have either of these, just run over your Halibut closely to remove any unfriendlies.
Nobody wants to eat sand or grit; so, wash your tightly sealed clams to scrub off any debris.
Clams should be completely closed with no “give”. If they are already open or have “give”, throw them away. This is a killer Cacciucco recipe, but let’s not take that literally, shall we???
Okay, so after you’ve made sure people will be happy and more importantly, not dead, after eating your seafood, the next part is to do a quick sear. You don’t want to cook the seafood all the way through because you want it to finish off in your stew. What you do want is beautiful color on the seafood prior to placing into the Cacciucco base.
First, however, you will add your cleaned and tightly sealed clams to the stew and then cover the pot. Clams will take a bit longer to open and incorporate their beautiful flavors into the base. So, add those in first, cover and move on to the searing of the seafood. I had six of them in mine, as my recipe is just for 2-3 servings.
2 Halibut Filets, thick
4 Scallops, large
3 Gulf Shrimp, large
Take a touch of olive oil (and a bit of butter if you wish) to a frying pan and add the Halibut, Scallops and Shrimp to the pan without crowding them. You want to add “beautiful brown food” to your base, as Chef Anne would say, not steamed seafood. Crowding the pan won’t get anything brown. Once everything is quickly browned but not cooked through, transfer to the Cacciucco base which should now have some clams opening up. Allow everything to cook through, approximately 5 minutes, and then it’s time to serve up!
Grab a nice, deep bowl and add the base, ladling the seafood into the bowl but reserving the clams. Once you’ve loaded the bowl, take the clams and top everything off, arranging the seafood to feature all of their glory. Add just a touch more of roughly chopped parsley to the party and serve with toasted, crusty bread that’s been drizzled with olive oil or butter and topped with parmesan cheese if you wish!
I have to tell you that this is probably one of my very favorite dishes I’ve ever made. It was definitely inspired by what Chef Anne did but completely my own, and it was awesome. I hope you make this at home. I know I will definitely be making this again!
This morning, as I was staring at the “end of the week” pantry contents with coffee in hand, trying to pep up and think of what to make for breakfast, I distinctly heard (okay, maybe imagined) Elvis talking to me…
“Listen here, little lady… what you need here is a peanut butter’n nana sandwich with bacon. Uh-huh-huh…………uh-huh-huh… ooooooohhhhh, yeeaaah.”
I love my Bear, as seen here unwilling to wait for the camera to click before diving into a Gray’s Papaya hot dog in NYC. Whether we’re on the road together, enjoying a fun trip, or relaxing at home during his time off from work, my husband, Bear, and I are always thinking up new creations for meals or thinking of new places to try! I was rummaging through all my food pics to decide what to write about next, and I discovered a theme… things we cook when Bear comes home!
So, I wanted to share a few of our latest kitchen concoctions. Bear works on the road a majority of the time and gets to come home for blocks of time, and he is an avid eater of my food, as well as an excellent Sous Chef and Executive Chef from time to time in our tiny kitchen. You guys saw how we make a great New Mexico Green Chile Won Ton. Now, here are some other adventures From the Kitchen…
First up, Bear’s Cola BBQ Dinner… now, I know what you’re thinking. Cola BBQ Dinner: this implies an entire meal made from cola products, correct??? Yeah… initially, I wasn’t all that excited about this meal either. :-\
Last year a very good friend of mine who owns a cooking school in Colorado asked me for my Pulled Pork in Roasted Tomatillo Poblano Sauce recipe to share with her students / customers. I quickly wrote everything out and forwarded it on its way. Recently, I ran across my email, and I decided it fit perfectly with what I’m doing now and decided to share. Below is the email I sent to Katy – the recipe is a work of love, and I’m inspired to make it again… maybe I’ll post some pics.
2 or 3 pounds of pork (tenderloin or pork roast – whatever tickles your fancy)
12 Tomatillos (medium)
4 Tomatoes (large)
4 Poblano Peppers (large)
2 Red Bell Peppers (large)
2 Onions (large)
This is a “From the Kitchen” and “On the Road” combined posting since the home cooking was inspired by a restaurant we visited during our recent trip to New Mexico. As you know, my husband is from New Mexico, and when we travel to visit his family, I’m treated to various introductions of New Mexican regional cuisine. One of the favorite hang outs in Las Cruces and Roswell is a pub called Farley’s. It’s like a burger joint / New Mexican bar cuisine / beer hang out – think local diner food with beer and pool.
Visiting my husband’s family in New Mexico has become a two fold experience. Not only do I adore his family and sincerely love the fun we have while there, but I also get to experience the local food of Las Cruces, New Mexico and surrounding areas… translation… I get my green chile on.
One of the local favorites is Si Señor, located in central Las Cruces and definitely a “must eat” while visiting. The first time my husband took me there, I didn’t want to leave. I insisted we stay
and snack our way from lunchtime through dinnertime and take sopapillas (fried bread dessert) with us on the road back to Texas when we left. (Note photo of me eating said sopapilla while husband drives). So, during this last visit, we went TWICE! The first time I forgot to take photos. I know, bad blogger. However, I did manage to tear myself away from the food to take photos and introduce this place to you during the second visit. Continue reading “The Land of Enchanted Green Chilies – Si Señor!”