Week 7, Recipe 3: Pollo Tropical

When I went to Stace's house she made this AWESOME pollo tropical! This is the recipe she gave me.

Whole chicken season with s & p, lemon pepper, garlic salt, and cilantro, olive oil; salsa to top, voila!

Results: Just okay.  Hers was better.  I hate lemon pepper.  Don't own it, won't own it.  I also used chicken quarters.  I had this with roasted garlic salsa (Publix & AWESOME), rice, black beans and chipotle corn.  Everything else was delightful!


Week 7, Recipes 1 & 2: Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Sausage & Rapini and Garlic

The first is my NYT recipe premiere

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 good-quality sweet Italian sausages
1 cup medium-to-coarse cornmeal
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with 1 cup water and whisk well to make a slurry; continue whisking mixture to eliminate any lumps. Put pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking frequently and adding water as needed to keep mixture loose and free of lumps, between 3 and 4 more cups. If mixture becomes too thick, simply add a bit more water; consistency should be similar to sour cream’s.
3. Polenta will be done in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on grind. Add cheese and butter. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and lots of pepper; serve topped with sausages.
Yield: 4 servings.

Results: I halved this recipe.  It was pretty yummy but IDK if I'll ever make polenta again even though I did find it less high maintenance than expected.

And my side dish is courtesy of Rachael Ray
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches rapini, about 2 pounds, bottom 3 or 4 inches of stems trimmed away
  • 1 cup low sodium, no-fat chicken broth
Heat garlic in oil over medium heat in a large skillet until garlic sizzles in oil. Add the rapini, as much as you can fit in pan at a time. Turn and coat with oil as you wilt the greens. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 to 12 minutes to soften the bitterness of the greens. 

Results: Not bad.  I cooked it a little too long but it had none of the bitterness people say these greens can have.  It definitely needed salt, though so I added a generous amount.


Week 6 Recipes 1 & 2: Blackened Tilapia & Chipotle Corn

Both recipes from Aaron McCargo, Jr.


Blackening spice:

  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For Fish:

  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
In a small bowl combine all of the spices. Press a heaping tablespoon of the spice mix onto each fillet so that both sides are liberally coated. Allow the fish to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature prior to cooking.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is almost smoking, add the fillets and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with lemon juice and transfer the fillets to serving platter. 

Results: I didn't have grapeseed oil, paprika or garlic powder so I winged it adding more cayenne (too much for me) and some cumin.  I subbed EVOO and butter for the grapeseed oil.  I didn't love this.  It looked good but I was not delighted by the flavor.  Probably would've helped if I'd measured the ingredients I DID have... just a guess.

  • 8 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onion
  • 2 chipotle peppers, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat the grill to medium.
Arrange the corn on the grill and cook, turning frequently, until the corn is slightly charred, about 12 to 15 minutes
Remove the corn from the grill to a cutting board and let cool. Cut the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife and transfer to a serving bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. 

Results: I don't have a grill and it's not summer so no fresh corn.  Instead I boiled frozen corn and the last few minutes pulsed in the food processor the onion, garlic, salt and chipotle then added it to the corn to knock off some of that raw onion & garlic flavor.  AWE.SOME!!!  I will definitely make this again!  The lime juice kicked it up a notch!  I have a new go to dish!  Easy and delicious!!  (And I left out the green onion & bell pepper.) 


Week 5, Recipe 3: Creamy Strawberry Bars

1 1/4 c. Quick oats
1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. soft butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 c. raspberry jam
Mix oats, flour, 1/2 cup sugar, butter, coconut, nuts and brown sugar in a large bowl until crumbly.Put 1 1/2 cups of mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Pat the rest into a 13 x 9 inch pan to form crust. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool 5 minutes. Spread jam on top of crust.

In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup sugar, egg and cream cheese until creamy. Spoon and spread on top of the jam. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool before cutting.
Makes 36 bars.

Result: YUM-O!  I heart these and will definitely make them again!

Week 5, Recipe 2: Guacamole

Recipe from Rick Bayless' book Authentic Mexican
  • 2 medium ripe avocados
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro 
  • About 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Fresh hot green chile to taste (I like 1 serrano or ½ to 1 jalapeño), finely chopped ¼ small white onion, finely chopped
  1. Cut the avocados in half, running your knife around the pit from stem to blossom end and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to free the pits and pull the halves apart. Dislodge the pits, then scoop out the avocado flesh into a medium bowl. Mash the avocado with a large fork or potato masher. Stir in the garlic and about ½ teaspoon salt, plus onion and jalapeno.
  2. Rinse the white onion first under cold water, shake well to rid it of excess moisture, before adding to the avocado. (This reduces the risk of having onion flavor overwhelm the guacamole.) Taste and season with additional salt if appropriate. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate—preferably not more than a few hours.
 Results: YUMMMMMMM!!!  Thanks Rick!!  This was similar to other guacs I made but that didn't diminish my love for it!


Week 5, Recipe 1: Spinach Balls

Recipe from nola.com for the Super Bowl

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
3 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 eggs, well-beaten
¾ cup melted margarine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon pepper
1½ teaspoons garlic salt
½ teaspoon thyme

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain well and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Combine spinach and remaining ingredients. Mix well.
Shape mixture into three-quarter-inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Results: AWESOME.  Everyone loved these.  I will definitely make these again.  They'll probably become go-to party food since they're quick and easy and tasty.


Week 5, Recipe 4: Black Bean Burger

Recipe from Allrecipes.com
  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
  3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
  6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side.

Restaurant Review: Humperdink's

We know I don't eat beef, but when in Rome...

Walking distance from my hotel is a sports bar named Humperdink's. The patio is lined with Dallas Cowboy pennants so you already know I was feeling the place. I apparently walked in the back entrance, the restaurant and cafeteria (?) part. I walked thru and saw the bar...

1. It's Arlington's Tallest Bar. The ceiling went on forever. I think there's a loft where they brand Philly fans with lone stars...


3. If I was in a drinking mood, I would've been in heaven. The extensive bar was not only tall but wide. It.went.on.forever.

When I stopped gaping, the bartender asked what I wanted. I asked what does he recommend and that's where we start.

Extreme Dallas Burger

That thing was HUGE. I really think it was a pound of Texas beef that shrunk ever so slightly to 3/4 pound of medium well goodness. Kaiser bun, mayo, cheddar cheese slices, lettuce, bacon, and sauteed mushrooms.

I know you're reading and thinking, "Nothing special" but I had the bartender use Kobe beef accredited by the KBA on my joint.


Aside from Stamps in Mississippi, I've never had a burger so good. Only ONNNNNE thing would've made it better: BBQ sauce.

Also, my only qualm was the size. It was ignorant big. After taking a careful look at the menu, I should've ordered the Dallas Burger, not the much bigger extreme version. But the oz sizes weren't listed so I didn't know any better.

I plan on going back to order the rio grande burger with guac, pico de gallo, and pepperjack!

Atmosphere: A+ (It gets the plus for the Cowboy 'nalia)
Menu: B (way too much going on. no sizes or descriptions)
Food: A+ (best burger this side of the Mississippi!)
Portions: A (There is such thing as too much)

Week 4, Recipe 5: Greens Gumbo

For my Mardi Gras-themed Super Bowl party, I decided to bring out some New Orleans favorites.  Since I had a vegetarian coming, I made greens gumbo.  Recipe from nola.com.

1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch collards
1 bunch kale
1 carton (32 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth (or equivalent)
1 medium onion, chopped
½ clove garlic, minced
Salt, pepper and Creole seasoning
1 or 2 cans (16 ounces each) cream-style Blue Runner red beans
Smoked portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)

Wash greens well and chop them roughly. Put them in a large soup or gumbo pot with chicken broth, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, and, stirring occasionally, cook to the texture you desire. (Some people like them still crunchy; lots of people, including Core, like them well done, which will take about an hour.)
When greens are cooked down, add the red beans. Stir well to combine. (If using smoked mushrooms, add them at this point.) Cook another 15 minutes.

Results: Super easy!  I couldn't find those specific red beans so I used dark red kidney beans.  I also used regular baby 'bellos and spinach in place of mustard greens.  I added extra cayenne to give it a little more kick.  The broth had AMAZING flavor!  My classmate put the leftovers over pasta and said it was AWESOME!  Yay!


Week 4, Recipe 4: Provençal Chicken Burgers with Pizzaladiere

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large onions, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup pitted chopped black olives, niçoise or kalamata
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 4 crusty rolls, split and lightly toasted
  • 4 red or green lettuce leaves
  • Potato chips, for serving
(Recipe from Rachael Ray)

Combine 1 tablespoon of the EVOO and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes to caramelize the onions. Stir in the olives and anchovy paste and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from stove.
While the onions cook, combine the chicken with the herbes de Provence, fennel seed, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Form four patties and cook for 6 minutes on each side. Melt the Swiss cheese on each burger during the last 2 minutes of cooking time (loosely tent the burgers under foil to melt the cheese).

Serve the burgers on buns topped with lettuce and caramelized onion topping. Serve with potato chips alongside.

Results: Pretty good.  I used parmesan instead of Swiss since I had it.  The fennel seed was a bit overpowering for my taste.  I used an English muffin as usual (I can't eat enough hamburger buns by myself but I can use English muffins for all kinds of stuff plus they freeze well).


Catfish & Grits w/Sauteed Spinach and Chardonnay Cream

Recipe from Darius at Everyday Cookin'

For the catfish:
2 catfish fillets
Sazon by Goya (2 packets)
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 cup of stone ground corn meal
Vegetable oil, for frying
Liberally season fish with Sazon, salt, pepper, and paprika. Allow to sit for up to 30 minutes to marinate. Preheat oil to 360 degrees. Dredge fish in corn meal and deep fry until golden brown. When done remove from oil and drain thoroughly on paper towels.

For the grits:
2 ½ cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups of stone ground grits or polenta
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of butter
Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add salt and grits and stir continuously. Once grits have thickened and cooked through add in butter, cheese, and cream. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook through until thick and creamy. Remember, you can’t rush this process – you will need about 30 minutes to cook grits properly.

For the sautéed spinach:
3 cups of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Combine everything in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Cook through until spinach has wilted to your desire. Be sure to mix well to ensure all seasonings have been thoroughly incorporated.

For the Chardonnay Cream Sauce:
1 medium shallot minced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of butter
½ cup of Chardonnay
½ cup of heavy cream
½ cup of Asiago cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a medium sauce pan sauté shallots and garlic cloves in the butter until soft. Start sauté on medium heat and be sure not to brown too much. Add Chardonnay and let reduce by half. Turn heat to low and add in cream, parsley, and cheese and stir until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spoon sauce over entire dish.

Results: OOOOOMMMMMMMGGGGGGGGG!!  This was soooo yummy!  I halved the recipe but I could eat that cream with EVERY meal.  Here are the modifications I made (you know I always have some).  I had sauvignon blanc instead of chardonnay so in the sauce I used that and parm in place of asiago cheese.  I went ahead and used my white pepper.  Mmmm. 

For the spinach I definitely should've used more spinach (per the recipe) but I regularly don't use enough spinach for the amount it wilts down.  I also was a tad heavy-handed on the red pepper but not too bad.  For the fish I had only giant packages of Goya & I (shockingly... what the heck??) didn't have paprika!!  So I used cumin, cayenne and turmeric in its place.  Instead of deep frying it, I pan sauteed it in olive oil, butter and a little bit of garlic.

 The grits had awesome flavor and I might make them like this forevahhhh!  I'm so impressed with myself.  Lol.  Definitely in my top 2 most impressive dishes and I will make this again!


Week 4, Recipe 2: Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Recipe from Lucullian Delights (I found it from reading Food Gawker)

2 servings

freshly cooked pasta
200 g/7 oz mushrooms, cremini, Portobello or common button mushrooms
1/2 clove of garlic
a small bunch of parsley
100 ml/0,42 cup fresh cream
white pepper
butter or extra-virgin olive oil

- Put mushrooms, garlic and parsley in a food processor and run for a minute or two until everything is chopped into small pieces. Or chop by hand, it's pretty quick that way too.
- Cook the mushrooms in butter or olive oil over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.
- Add cream, pepper and salt and continue to cook until creamy, then add to the freshly cooked and drained pasta.
- Serve as it is or with freshly grated parmesan.

Results: This was yummy but didn't taste drastically different than any other mushroom pasta I've ever had.  But it did give me an excuse to buy white pepper which the recipe INSISTED was so much better.  (I guess it was a slightly less strong pepper taste.)  Because I forgot this was for two servings and there were no measurements for pasta, I used a whole box where I probably should've used half of a box.