Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Egg Recycling: Chipotle Cilantro Deviled Eggs

Oh spring, so close yet so far.  Here in Colorado winter could be over tomorrow or last another couple of months.   To show her wicked sense of humor, Mother Nature often teases us this time of year with several bright warm days in row, only to suddenly smack us across the face with 10 inches of snow just to remind us who's the boss.  OK girl, we get it.

It is usually about this time of year that my heart begins to ache for the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and delicate pink evening primroses that so beautifully blanket the highway verges and pastures of my beloved Texas.  This is one of the most breathtaking sights that you'll see anywhere.  Even if you are lucky enough to be a native and have seen this spectacular site your whole life, it feels new every year.

Field of Texas bluebonnets; photo by bombay2austin

Bluebonnet time means Easter, and Easter means shiny new patent leather shoes, crisp frilly dresses, fancy Sunday brunches and lots of hard boiled and decorated eggs.  My children are big now and it has been years since I have dyed eggs for anyone, but every Easter I still boil half a dozen or so for our other tradition, deviled eggs. 

When I was a kid, after the eggs were boiled, dyed, hidden, hunted and found, and we managed to choke a couple of them down, we would gladly hand over the remainder to our mom so she could work her magic.  She would peel and cut them in half, pop out the yolks and mash them together with a dollop of Miracle Whip and a teaspoon or two of sweet pickle relish.  What she produced was a hand held, two bite morsel so good that the kids in our family would choose to eat them first, even over the ears of our chocolate Easter bunnies.

Now I can in no way claim to make deviled eggs as good as my mother's, but I can make some pretty good ones.  While I really love Mom's classics, the more special the occasion, the fancier I like to get with them.  In addition to the sweet pickle/Miracle Whip version, I love to make them with curry powder, sun-dried tomato and/or basil pesto, or my favorite variation which is a nod to the spicy south Texas food I love so much, chipotle cilantro.  Spicy, smoky with just a faint hint of sweet, these are definitely the most requested of them all.

Chipotle Cilantro Deviled Eggs

6 large eggs (out of the fridge or your kids' Easter baskets, your choice)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon very finely minced canned chipotle pepper*
1 - 2 teaspoons adobo sauce form the canned chipotle peppers (2 tsps. will produce a pretty spicy egg and be forewarned, the longer they sit, the spicier they will get)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons finely minced onion
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch white pepper

Place eggs in a large sauce pan.  Cover with cool water and place on stove over medium high heat.  Bring water to a slow boil and cook eggs for 5 minutes.  Remove pot from the heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

While the eggs are boiling, combine mayonnaise, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and sugar in a small bowl, stir well to combine; set aside.

Remove eggs from the water and peel.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Gently pop out the hard cooked yolks into the bowl containing the mayonnaise mixture. Add the onion, garlic powder and white pepper Stir well.  Spoon equal amounts into the egg white halves or transfer egg yolk mixture to a pastry bag that has been fitted with a star tip.  Pipe yolk mixture into the whites.  Chill.  Garnish with cilantro leaves before serving.

Makes 12 deviled eggs.

*For my English followers who might not be able to find chipotle peppers in adobo, try playing with a combination of smoked paprika, hot chili powder with a touch of tomato puree until you get a taste that you like.

Ok, one last time before it's all over but the crying.  Please, please, please click HERE to cast a quick vote for my Pillsbury Bake-Off semifinalist recipe for Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream.  You will have to do a quick registration, but Pillsbury is a class act and won't sell your info or bombard you with e-mails, I promise.  Voting ends this coming Thursday, March 28th at 12 noon central time.  This year finalists are decided solely upon popular vote so your vote could make all the difference.  Thanks so much for your support for my journey to Las Vegas, the $1 million dollar prize and my place in Pillsbury history.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Creative Culinary Guest Post: Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Horseradish Grits and Sweet and Sour Porter Sauce

I'm changing things up just a bit here today.  My friend Barb over at CREATIVE CULINARY asked me if I'd help her out and write a guest post.  There's a lot going on with her these days so she just needed a leg up, and I'm very flattered that she thought of me.  True to its name, she has a very creative site with gorgeous photos, delicious recipes, and if you are looking for a cocktail, this is the place.  So I invite you to join us over at her blog for our little party.  I promise there is some great food as always and valuable information about where you can get some of the best Colorado beef that I have ever eaten.

Hellooooo, gorgeous.  Short ribs from 5280 BEEF.  

Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Horseradish Grits and Sweet and Sour Porter Sauce.  For the recipe, CLICK HERE.

By the way, in case you missed it . . .

After you visit Creative Culinary, please be sure and head on over to the voting gallery at the PILLSBURY BAKE-OFF CONTEST'S SITE and vote for my recipe for Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream.  For the first time in its long history, the finalists heading for Vegas in November will be determined by you.  Voting ends on Thursday, March 28th at 12 noon central time.  Thank you so much for your help!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Semi-Finals: Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream

The last couple of weeks I have been bursting at the seams to share something with you, but fearing I'd say the wrong thing and blow it, I've kept quiet up until now.  Well I am pleased to announce that a recipe creation of mine has made it to the semi-finalist voting round of the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, which will be held November 10 - 12, 2013 in Las Vegas.

If you'll recall a couple of months ago I posted a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe for Dilly Casserole Bread.  I mentioned at that time that the qualifying ingredients and categories had just been announced for the upcoming contest, but I was a bit worried because for the first time finalists would be determined by public voting.  Never having ever won a popularity contest in my life, I was (and still am) really skeptical if I could pull this one off, but after much consideration and a little bit of "what the heck", I bought some ingredients and got cooking.

I first got started in cooking contests back in 2004 when I got the call to participate in the 41st Bake-Off Contest.  I knew that I wanted to go, but I had no idea how much fun I was going to have.  The contest is well run and exciting and you are treated like a superstar, and to top it all off the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow is a check for $1 million dollars.  I landed up winning the Dinner Made Easy Category, $10,000 and was in the final four to win the million.  I didn't win the big prize but wasn't worried because I had no doubt that the next one belonged to me. 

The next contest I bought my qualifying ingredients and mixed and baked and stirred until I started to look like the dough boy, but there was no call for me that year.  Notification day I watched the forum of the cooking contest site I belong to light up with excitement. It seemed like everyone got the call but me.  I spent the next two days at the back of a dark closet with a bottle of vodka and a box of tissues nursing my wounds.  As the years and contests passed the rejection never did get any easier, but I never gave up.  It became painfully obvious to me that I had lost my Pillsbury mojo.  I was humbled in this same manner for the next three contests.

When this year's contest was announced I did my best but prepared for the worst yet again, and despite this fatalistic attitude, I came up with something that finally got me noticed.  Today the semi-finalist recipes have been posted on the Pillsbury site for voting and mine is up there vying for  attention and votes with the rest of them. 

There are 60 recipes in all for this first category called Amazing Doable Dinners, and only the top 33 will move on to finalist status.  So I bet you think this is where I ask you to pop on over to their site and vote for my recipe, and you are right.  I really hope you look over the 60 recipes and vote for my brilliant, clever, awesome and delicious breakfast for dinner recipe for Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream. 

While you're there be sure and look over the other recipes too.  You can vote for as many recipes as you'd like, but you can only vote for each recipe once per e-mail address from 12 noon, March 14th to the 28th.  I'm warning you now though, if my recipe doesn't make it, it is back to that dark closet with those tissues and that bottle of vodka.  Oh yeah, and you will have to hear lots and lots of whining and crying for months and months about what went wrong.

Breakfast for dinner was the theme of my entry into the Amazing Doable Dinners category of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest with these Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream.  To see the recipe and cast your vote, CLICK HERE

After seeing the category names for this contest, I knew that I wanted to think out of the box and go for something unexpected and fun, kind of like the pancake suppers my mom used to make.  Remembering in the past that one of the qualifying ingredients was flour, and hoping that it would be the same this year, I set my eye on a pancake supper. 

When the ingredient list was published, thankfully there was my flour.  Knowing that I needed to use at least 1 more qualifying ingredient (this is where it really gets tough), and with a 7 ingredient limit I only had 6 more to play with, I needed to choose carefully and choose ingredients with flavor.  Then I had to figure out how to use one or more of them in a couple of important ways to stretch my ingredients to the max.


As I looked down the list further I knew from eating my grandmother's southern cooking that I could put corn in my pancakes and they would be good.  I then added a bit of bacon and some of the drippings for flavor and moisture, a touch of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk for hydration and sweetness, and an egg for fluffiness and texture.  What developed was a simply delicious corn cake with a sweet and slightly salty flavor that everyone (including my super picky son and his best bud) couldn't get enough of, and good thing because this turned out to be the Harris family's official dish of the 2012 - 2013 school holiday break.

Believe it or not after I perfected these simple pancakes I had two ingredients and the majority of a can of Eagle Brand left.  So, instead of topping them with plain old maple flavored syrup, I decided to blend the two together, coming up with what I believe is the perfect compliment to these pancakes.  The creaminess of the Eagle Brand seems to almost mellow the sweetness of the maple flavored syrup and really produces something special, which is exactly what this dish deserves.

If you'd like to see my entry, the recipe and hopefully vote for it,  CLICK HERE.  You never know you just might get inspired and decide to enter yourself.  There are two more categories to go.

Thank you so much for your support.  Finalists will be announced April 4th, and good or bad, you know you'll hear all about it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Better Than Bouillon Tasting and Giveaway: Spanish-Style Toasted Pasta and Shrimp

Congratulations to my two giveaway winners, Angela and Velva!  Please contact me with your flavor requests and address and we'll get them out to you. 

I've talked before about how much I love my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  At risk of repeating myself, which it has been pointed out by my children that I frequently do, I must say that I have never made a recipe from this book or the PBS show of the same name that hasn't been really great.

The other day I happened to catch an episode of the TV show, and on this particular day they were preparing a recipe for Spanish-Style Toasted Pasta and Shrimp.  This dish is a combination of toasted pasta (known as fideo in Spanish cooking), tomatoes, smoked paprika, and shrimp all cooked in a flavorful broth.  Not only was it mouthwatering, but it so happened that this was just the type of recipe that I had been searching for.

You see a week or so ago the folks at Better Than Bouillon asked if I'd like to review a couple of their products and give some away to my readers.  Having been fond of their premium and organic  products for years now, I of course said yes, so the search was on for a brothy recipe to showcase their products.

Up until this communication with them I thought that they made only chicken, beef, ham and vegetable bases.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they make 26 soup bases in all with flavors like au jus, chili, mushroom, turkey and fish, to name just a few.  Many of these flavors are also available in vegan, organic, low-sodium, and kosher.  To learn more about this line of products, click here to access their site.

When they asked me what flavors I'd like to try, I decided to step out of my box and cook with some of the ones I wouldn't normally have in my pantry like the fish and no chicken.  It is not that I don't like fish, I just don't like fishy fish and have been burned so many times that I am really quite shy, and if I'm being quite honest, I would probably never buy it.  As for the no chicken, I was really anxious to just check out the flavor and report to my vegetarian friends that there is a new (to me) product that they can play with.

So this is where the ATK recipe comes in.  This recipe claimed to have an easy preparation, just a few ingredients, rich Spanish flavors and almost 4 cups of broth.   The original recipe calls for the broth to be made from shrimp shells cooked in chicken stock, but I'm letting the Better Than Bouillon fish base stand in in its place because besides the fact I wanted to try it, I really didn't want my house smelling like shrimp all night.

Well, preparing this recipe looked pretty fast and easy on television.  In reality, it does take a little time to clean the shrimp and get them ready to go, but once that is done things do take shape pretty quickly.  On the show they claimed that this would be a great Tuesday night dinner, which is true if you are an experienced and organized cook.  Otherwise, save this one for a time when you aren't tired from a day's work and have a few extra minutes to spare, but do yourself a favor, make it, and make it soon because it is delicious.

As for the Better Than Bouillon, the fish base receives two enthusiastic thumbs up, even from a fish shy girl like me.  It has a pleasant and subtle flavor that is really the perfect base for dishes like this or soups and chowders.  I love it and will be keeping it on hand from now on.  This just might be a whole new beginning for fish and me. 

I'm sad to say that my jar of no chicken was a casualty of the United States Postal Service and a replacement didn't make it in time for this post, but when it does arrive I'll be sure and let you know what I think.


Spanish- Style Toasted Pasta and Shrimp (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced (1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds extra large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 3/4 cups water
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used 3 teaspoons BTB fish base and 1 teaspoon chicken base since I wasn't making stock from the shrimp shells)
1 bay leaf
8 ounces spaghetti or thin spaghetti, broken into 1- to 2-inch lengths
1 onion, chopped fine
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and chopped fine (I used petite diced)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (I omitted this)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I substituted chopped green onion tops)
Lemon wedges

Combine 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/4 salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium size bowl.  Add the shrimp, toss to coat, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

At this point I deviated from ATK and added 3 teaspoons BTB fish base and 1 teaspoon BTB chicken base to the water called for to steep the shrimp shells, with 1 large bay leaf.  I brought this mixture to a simmer, covered and let it cook until I was ready to use it, removing the bay leaf before adding the broth to the pasta.

Toss spaghetti and 2 teaspoons oil in broiler-safe 12-inch skillet until spaghetti is evenly coated. Toast spaghetti over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and nutty in aroma (spaghetti  should be color of peanut butter), 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer spaghetti to bowl. Wipe out skillet with paper towel.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened and beginning to brown around edges, 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, dry, and slightly darkened in color, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining garlic, and paprikas.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add spaghetti and stir to combine.

Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer (if boiling the shrimp shells, if not add the broth) into skillet. Add wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is slightly thickened and spaghetti is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Preheat broiler about halfway through cooking time.

Scatter shrimp over spaghetti and stir shrimp into spaghetti to partially submerge. Transfer skillet to oven and broil about 6 inches under broiler element until shrimp are opaque and surface of spaghetti is dry with crisped, browned spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

On the TV show, they served this with a homemade aioli which I plan on trying next time.  In the print version they suggest serving it with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.  I didn't have either but found it to be great with some chopped green onion tops.

Serves 6

*To see America's Test Kitchen's original recipe and their simple technique for breaking spaghetti into spaghettini (or fideo), please click here.

And now for the giveaway.  Better Than Bouillon will provide two of my lucky U.S. readers with four assorted jars each of their soup base.  To be entered all you have to do is leave a comment stating what you'd make with a jar of their soup base.  You can earn an extra entry by signing up to receive my posts by e-mail.  To do this just type your address into the field at the top right hand corner of this page under the Foodgawker badge.  Be sure to leave your contact information in your comment.  My winning readers will have 48 hours after notification to respond or a new winner will be drawn.  I will draw my lucky winners on Friday, March 15th around noon mountain time.  Good luck!

**The folks at Better Than Bouillon provided me with samples of their products to review and give to two of my readers.  No payment of any kind was received in return for this post and all opinions stated here are my own.