Sunday Barbecue

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Sundays are always a bittersweet day. Especially when you get gorgeous Spring days like we did yesterday.  Sundays always mean the weekend is almost over, but sometimes, a Sunday afternoon can feel like it goes on forever. We had our first true day of Spring yesterday, almost 70F outside, crystal clear skies, and our first bbq of the season!

Sundays are a day for family, and since right now our little family is just James and I and Kuda girl, we like to spend Sunday afternoons with our extended “family” – our friends. I am always a social person, but when the weather is nice, I love having people over for bbq and good times. Yesterday, we invited a few of our favorite people in CT and had a great classic backyard barbecue!

I made barbecue ribs, chicken, and sausage, charro beans, a salad, and some grilled peppers. It was so filling, but with two light veggie side options, we didn’t need to feel too guilty.  I also made a really yummy berry cobbler for dessert with vanilla ice cream, but I will share that recipe with you tomorrow. For now, I am just going to share with you my special rib recipe! Don’t forget I am a native Texan, so this is a big deal!!!

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What you need:

  • Two racks of baby back ribs
  • 1 full flavor beer
  • 1/3 cup bbq dry rub (I used Salt Lick, but a homemade recipe is below)
  • 1/3 cup of good bbq sauce

Heat your oven to 200F.

Rub your dry rub all over the ribs and let sit for a few minutes.

Pour beer into the dish holding the ribs and cover with foil.

Cook ribs in the low heat oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Remove ribs from the oven and brush with your bbq sauce.

Finish on a medium high grill for about 4 min per side.  You should get a good char on the outside, and your ribs will fall off of the bone!

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Serve with some extra barbecue sauce on the side, and make sure you get your hands good and dirty!

I used the same rub and bbq sauce on the chicken thighs as well, and just used a simple kielbasa sausage grilled for a little more variety.

Home Made Dry Rub:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Mix it all together and rub all over any meat you want to bbq!

Pork Tenderloin

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s Orzo Pasta post, we enjoyed that dish with a really nice roasted pork tenderloin.  We got all of these ingredients at Mike’s Organic Delivery, so everything is super fresh, organic, and humanely sourced. I love when we can support local businesses, especially those whose goals line up so closely with ours.

Anyway, things have been really getting busy over here, and slowly but surely, Spring is trying to creep in. Back home in Texas it is already in the mid to upper 80s, so as you might imagine, I am very ready for warmer weather. Right now the cooler temperatures are making me crave carbs and other filling things. Salads are just so unsatisfying this time of year and I could eat one almost every day in the summer!

This dish was a really nice solution to a warm carby option without being too unhealthy! The fresh spinach in the pasta added some great nutrients, and the wheat orzo felt a little healthier than regular pasta.  The pork was so lean too, so over all this is a nicely balanced dish to satisfy our cold weather cravings.

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What you need:

  • 1 medium pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

In a ziplock bag or glass baking dish, season your pork tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Add in all of the rest of the ingredients, including the oregano.

Score the pork a few times and insert the smashed garlic pieces.

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Let marinate for 1-4 hours.

Heat your oven to 400F.

Cook pork tenderloin for 20-25min.

Let it rest for about 10min before your cut into it.

Then serve over the orzo pasta or over any other side dish you’d like.

Enjoy!

 

Sausage Marinara

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Well we are back from our glorious vacation in Hawaii, and majorly back to reality.  We were away for about 9 days, and it was so nice to get away to somewhere warm and not stress about anything for a few days.  Don’t get me wrong, we are very blessed people, but we do have things come up from time to time.  Since being home, I have not stopped moving: running errands, doing laundry, networking, going to meetings, and James has become insanely busy with work.

He has worked late every night so far this week, and today we have already gotten about 8 inches of snow and are expected to get up to another 5.  So as busy as he is, he is working from home, which is inevitably a bit more inefficient, but lucky for me as I get to distract him every so often.

Given the winter storm Niko, yesterday I made sure to run out and get plenty of food and snacks to get through today and potentially tomorrow.  Lots of fresh fruit, and yummy dinner and lunch options.  When I know I have James home, he is usually my guinea pig! Thankfully he will eat anything, so I do recipe testing usually on weekends and he gives me his honest opinions. This recipe was one of my experiments, and James really enjoyed it! I’ve got a few more tests up my sleeve for our snow day and weekend, and will share those recipes as I perfect them.

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What you need:

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1lb hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup basil plus 1 tbsp, chiffonade
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, warm about a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add in your minced onion and cook until translucent, about 8 min.

Once your onion is cooked, add in your minced garlic and cook for about a minute.

Then add in your sausage removed from the casing and cook until browned and cooked through, about 10min.

If your sausage is really oily, drain out some of the oil before adding in the red wine so that your sauce isn’t too greasy. Once you add in the wine, cook down for about 5 min.

Add in your crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of chiffonade basil. Save the extra tbsp for garnish at the end. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Chef’s tip: the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomato, and you only need a small amount to round out the flavor of your sauce.

Lower the temperature and partially cover the sauce.  Let simmer for at least 30min, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water and cook your pasta according to the package instructions .

Once its done, you can either add your pasta to the sauce for the final minute of cooking, or you can cook it longer in the water and top with sauce at the end. I prefer to toss the pasta in the sauce for the final minute, but its up to you.

Top with your fresh basil, and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

The beauty of this dish is that you don’t need too many ingredients, and because the sausage already has so much flavor, the sauce has this wonderful smokey, spicy flavor to it.

This is the perfect cold winter night pasta dish, and I highly recommend it!

 

Pork Chops with Apple Maple Sauce

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I really think pork chops are an under utilized meat.  I think they are so delicious and such a delicate meat that really takes to many different flavors. This time I made them with a maple syrup apple sauce that was really tasty and the right balance of sweet and savory.

Last night was James and my first night without any family around since  before Thanksgiving, and we were grateful to get an evening with just the two of us.  We had an amazing time over the holiday and were so lucky to have family around for almost two weeks. But as a young married couple in our new house, we really enjoy the nights we get to ourselves.

This time of year gearing towards the holidays is hectic! We have 2-3 events every week until Christmas, meaning we won’t be getting many evenings to ourselves for a while. We are so lucky to have so many great friends in a great community, but we are going to cherish the nights we get to spend just the two of us!

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What you need:

  • 1lb Pork Chops
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, cubed
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of white wine (dry)
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Season both sides of your pork chop with salt and pepper.

If your pork chops are particularly thick like these, heat your oven to 325F to finish cooking them in the oven.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot.  Once sizzling, add in your pork chops.

Cook your pork chops for about 7 minutes per side until nicely browned.

Remove the chops from the pan and add in your apple, syrup, wine, broth and rosemary.

Add in about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper to taste.

Let your sauce cook down for about 5 minutes before adding your pork chops back into the pan.

Put the pan with the chops and sauce in the oven for about 5-8min until cooked through.

Remove from the oven and enjoy!

We served ours with a tasty lemon roast potato, but you could serve it with anything you want. Make sure you have some wine left over to serve with dinner!

Buen Provecho!

El Bulli Sausage and Mash

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Sausage and Mash is a very stereotypically English dish, and on the face of it, it is a little meh… Unless there is a seriously good sausage on top, the dish can be a little boring.

I grow fresh herbs, and slowly, but surely, they are coming in. I admittedly have a brown thumb, so this is a feat! I also like to keep certain things in the freezer all the time: sausage, shrimp, picada and other sauces, tequila… you know, the important stuff! Anyway, the point is, on a night when I am trying to make something out of whatever we have, its nice to know we have sausage or shrimp or something as a good base for a dish and some fresh herbs.

I was flipping through the El Bulli cookbook that a friend of mine gave me for some inspiration, when I came across this sausage and mushroom dish, and decided to make it to top on mash.  This elevated version of sausage and mash is so tasty, easy to make, and warms you from the inside out!

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What you need:

  • 1lb of hot Italian sausage
  • 1lb of sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 cups of cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 4/5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/3 cup of sherry wine

Remove the sausage from the casing and form it into 1″ meatballs.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan over high heat, and when the oil is hot add in your sausage, garlic, and herbs.  You want to brown the sausage on all sides, so the pan needs to be nice and hot. Don’t worry about anything sticking, we will deglaze the pan later with the sherry.

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Once your sausage is browned on all sides, reduce heat to medium and add in the mushrooms.  Cook for 3-4 min.

Pour in your sherry carefully, and use a spoon to scrape off any bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 15min on medium heat for the wine to cook off and thicken, and for the sausage to cook through.

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Once done, serve over your creamy mashed potatoes and enjoy with a delicious glass of red wine.

This is a great winter dish because it is filling and really tasty, and really not unhealthy!

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween is the beginning of the most festive time of year. It really marks the beginning of Fall and the descent into the holiday season.  What is so fun about Halloween is that you get to dress up and go to/host a party or two and act like a kid again.

This year, we hosted a party, and I had a field day making Halloween inspired snacks.  So many of what I found online were sweet snacks, and I am definitely more of a savory person. I found a few of these ideas online and created the others, and almost all of them only require assembly.

These are really fun to do with kids also, so if any of you are having a party tonight, you only need to make a quick trip to the groceries!

We started with black olive bat pizza bites! The frozen bagel pizza bites only require warming in the oven, and all you need to do is cut a few pitted black olives in half and slice one half leaving the other whole to make these little guys! They’re delicious and fun!

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We then went for the finger pigs in a blanket.  These are also in your frozen aisle at the  grocery store, and all we needed to do was attach a slivered almond to the front to make it look like finger nails! So creepy, but the perfect spooky snack! Feel free to use a little ketchup to make them look bloody!

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Halloween stores have so many fun little props, and we bought a few fake fingers and eye balls and different things to spread around the house. But first, we used them in our “human” meat platter with various salami, prosciutto, and other tasty meats. I did this meat platter on a cake dish so that we could have it hanging off the side a bit to make it even creepier!

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Cheese balls are also a great party snack, and can more or less be molded into anything.  This one is a little less scary, but really cute none the less.  I rolled goats cheese in black sesame seeds to make a large cheese spider! I didn’t have pipe cleaners for legs, so I took advantage of the fact that I had straws. It’s always great when you can utilize what you have to do these things, so you don’t have to make too many trips around town!

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And finally the pièce de résistance, were the devilishly deviled eggs! These are the only thing requiring any amount of cooking and the recipe will follow.  These are Sriracha deviled eggs with red pepper horns! Not only were they delicious, but once assembled I could not stop giggling at how cute they were!

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What you need:

  • 12 hard boiled eggs
  • 4 tsp of Sriracha
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 tsp mayonaise
  • 1 lime juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper

After you have hard boiled your eggs, let them cool, then peel and halve them. Remove the yolk and reserve the whites.

Smash your yolks in a bowl and mix in the Sriracha, dijon, mayo, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

Put the mixture in a plastic bag and cut the corner so you can squeeze it into each egg white half.

Take strips of your red pepper and cut out your devil horns and apply them to each egg.  It does take a few minutes to do this, but the result is so worth it!

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These eggs have a little kick to them, but were really tasty!

Needless to say, have fun with your Halloween plans.  We don’t get too many chances as adults to act like kids again, and it is so important we seize these opportunities when we get them! You and your whole family will enjoy these snacks, and this way you can keep your kids from eating too many sweet treats this Halloween season!

 

Brinner

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Breakfast is James’s favorite meal of the day, so every now and again a good brinner is just the thing.  Brinner you ask – breakfast for dinner! Tonight on the menu a Spanish Omelet aka Frittata or Tortilla. It’s egg and potato based and very yummy!

I make it loaded with lots of other things, because when feeding a hungry, rugby playing man, it’s important that each meal is hearty. All of the extra fillings add a lot of flavor too, so its a win win!

This is a great dish to serve at brunch with friends also, it’s easy to make, and everyone is always so impressed – especially if you can flip it out of the pan onto a platter seamlessly!

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What you will need:

  • 12 eggs
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 small new potatoes
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheddar
  • 1 jalapeño
  • splash of milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Wash all of your produce, and peel your potatoes. Using a mandolin thinly slice your potatoes.  If you don’t have a mandolin you can do it by hand, but take care to slice them as evenly as possible about 1/4″ thick.

Chop your spring onions taking care to separate the whites from the green tops.

Mince your jalapeño.

Chop up your bacon into 1/2″ pieces.

In an oven safe, non-stick pan begin cooking your bacon on medium heat. Once the bacon starts to change color add your potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then add the whites of the spring onions and the jalapeño and cook for a further 5 minutes. *If needed, use a paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil from the bacon, you don’t want too much liquid in the pan.*

In a medium bowl crack your eggs, add the splash of milk and beat until smooth. Add the cheese and greens of the spring onion to the egg mixture and give it a few more turns with the whisk.

Pour the egg mixture over the potato and bacon and let cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

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Put the pan into the oven for about 20 minutes until the eggs fluff up and there is no liquid movement in the pan when you move it around.

Remove it from the oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes before flipping it onto a platter or serving it up directly onto plates for dinner.

The best thing about this recipe is that you can actually bake it in muffin tins ahead of time and freeze it. Then during the week you can defrost a few at a time for your family breakfasts.

Whether enjoying it for brinner, brunch, or breakfast – this frittata is delicious, flavorful and so easy!

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken and Ratatouille

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You might remember last week we made grown up cheeseburgers with roquefort cheese, and one of our philosophies at The Gourmet Cocina is to let nothing go to waste.  We throw out so much food a year, and my goal is to minimize wastage as much as possible.

So this week when I was planning meals I realized we still had some of the roquefort cheese left. This is a more mild and creamy blue cheese, so it can stand up to a lot of different foods. I decided on roquefort stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto. The prosciutto helped make these into perfect little packages for baking so the cheese stayed inside and didn’t ooze out until we cut into the chicken.

As for the ratatouille, well this was a personal challenge.  James had said to me he didn’t like it very much, so obviously, I had to prove him wrong… I am happy to report, I succeeded and he did like my spicy ratatouille. Sadly no animated mouse helped me make it, though if Kuda had thumbs, I am sure she would have helped!

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What you need for this dish:

  • 2-4 chicken breasts (depends on family size)
  • 1 package of prosciutto
  • wedge of roquefort cheese
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 squash
  • 1 small yellow onion minced
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 1 box or small can of chopped tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Pre-heat your oven to 375F.

Take a knife and slice your chicken in half butterflying, but not cutting it into two separate pieces.

Put the cheese inside of each butterflied chicken breast and wrap them in 2-3 slices of prosciutto each.  Making sure to put the middle of the prosciutto slice on the edge with the cut sealing off the slice. *If blue cheese isn’t your thing, you could use feta, mozzarella, or a goats cheese as an alternative – or skip the cheese all together.*

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Season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, and I highly recommend cutting through it to make sure its done.

While your chicken bakes, slice up your zucchini into 1/8″ thick slices.  Thinner slices make it faster to cook through.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat and add your minced onion to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Then add your garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add your chopped tomato and season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.

After 2-3 minutes add your zucchini on top.

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Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Place in the oven with the chicken breast on a lower shelf, and cook for about 15 minutes.

The chicken and ratatouille should finish around the same time, and you are ready to eat. If you noticed the ratatouille is a little thick, add a bit of chicken stock to make it a bit saucier without diluting the flavor.

This dish is delicious and if you cut out the cheese quite healthy. The best part about it, is that we bought all of the veggies and chicken from local sources at farmers markets! I seriously never want summer to end!

The Other White Meat

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If I relied on James to tell me what he wanted for dinner every night we would oscillate between steak, burgers, and chicken enchiladas verdes – throw in the occasional Indian, Thai, or Sushi delivery and he would be happy! Though this takes away all of the pressure of coming up with new recipes, it also takes all the fun out of cooking.

I love pork chops, but more often than not, they are over cooked and dry. You have to cook them through, but not necessarily to a point of approaching jerky! I mean as a Texan I definitely love my  jerky, but not in pork chop form…

This dish is a really tasty option with a really spectacular rich sauce with NO dairy. It is a pan cooked pork chop with a white wine dijon pan sauce served this time with sweet potato mash and green beans.

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One of our best wedding gifts was a cast iron pan.  I have to say it has been one of the most useful pans and the more you use it, the better everything tastes! Than pan is key to this dish as it retains heat really well and cooks the pork evenly.

For pork chops with white wine dijon sauce you need:

  • 1 inch thick cut pork chops 3-4 total
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh sage
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Season your pork chops with salt and pepper while heating your cast iron pan on medium high with about a teaspoon of olive oil.

Place your pork chops in the pan and cook 5-7 minutes per side.  Each side should brown nicely.

Once your pork chops are cooked, remove them and let them rest on a plate or cutting board.

Meanwhile, if there is too much oil or fat in your pan, soak up some of it in a paper towel or pour it into an empty jar for disposal. You want a small amount of the fat left in the pan along with any fond (cooked bits of pork) for the sauce, but not too much.

Reduce your heat to medium low, and add in your wine, chicken stock, mustard, and fresh herbs and cook down for 2-3 minutes until reduced. Season with salt and pepper.

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Add the pork chops back to the pan of sauce and cook for an additional couple of minutes spooning sauce over the chops during this time.

Finally plate your dish with your sides of choice and enjoy with the wine used in the sauce. It is so important to use a wine that you drink in sauces. Don’t buy cheap cooking wines as these really do affect the flavor. Honestly, do you really need an excuse to buy a nice bottle of white wine?… I didn’t think so!

Buen Provecho!