Friday, February 21, 2014

Weekend Wino: Wine-o-rita & Mexican Inspired Rice & Bean Casserole



Happy Friday everyone!  The sun is shining brightly here and the last few warm days allowed for me to wear flip-flops (in 35 degree weather-yes, this is normal in Illinois)!  While I think I'm one of the very few who actually enjoy winter-I've got to admit, I'm starting to get Spring Fever.  My mind keeps wandering to getting back on the motorcycle, cruising down Route 66 and stopping off in the little small towns to visit friends or grilling out. 

Mexican food is one of the many things I like to eat to try to relive and celebrate the heat of the sun and the spice of the food. In the wintertime its especially appreciated as it takes the mind off of the bitter cold and into a more relaxed mental state.  I mean, is there any other type of food instills celebration in the mind more than Mexican? 

While this is the Weekend Wino edition, I was sure to include wine in the menu, but as an ingredient to my new favorite margarita: The Wine-o-rita.  This margarita-inspired cocktail came about with the influence of restaurants putting the little Corona bottles in margaritas and due to the lack of sweet n sour in my apartment.  I will say it was quite delicious-even Levi had a couple with dinner!

The Wine-o-Rita

Salt a glass and fill with ice

Take a tumbler and add:
1 1/2oz tequila (we like Herradura Blanco)
3/4oz triple sec (we like Patron Citronage)
Splash of lime juice
4oz dry white wine
Shake and pour into glass
Top with OJ

For dinner I really wanted the stuffed poblano peppers from Destihl, a local gastropub.  So I thought I would put together a dish that would bring out similar flavors of that incredible dish.  Levi and I were thrilled with the results!  In addition, the dish came out fairly healthy since we restrained ourselves with the cheese.

Mexican Inspired Rice & Bean Casserole
Serves 10

1 16oz bag dried black beans
2 cups dried rice (6 servings)
2 medium onions-chopped
4 small (2 large) cloves of garlic-minced
1 12oz bag frozen green peppers-diced
1 12oz bag frozen corn
1 15oz can diced tomatoes-drained
1 6oz can salsa verde
2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese
4 Tablespoons Tony Cachere's Cerole Seasoning
1 Tablespoon ground cumin

Cook dried beans according to package.  When beans are almost done add onion, garlic, cumin and 3 tablespoons Tony Chachere's.  When beans are done, drain off 1/2 the liquid.

Cook rice according to package.

Take 9x13 and add the beans, rice, green peppers, corn and tomatoes and mix together.  Spread the mixture evenly across the casserole dish.  Heavily sprinkle the last tablespoon of Tony Chachere's over top.  Pour Salsa verde evenly over the casserole.  Top with colby-jack.

Bake, covered at 350 degree F for 45-55 minutes.
Serve with baked tilapia or another protein of your choice.

Enjoy!
~Carmen

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Highly Anticipated Homemade Limoncello Post!


Limoncello, the Italian digestive that is sure to allure you with its sweet, lemony goodness and then knock you on your butt with its strength of alcohol content.  Commonly made in Italian homes, each family perfects their own recipe to share as an after-dinner drink.

Truth be told, I started working on my limoncello a year and a half ago.  In the beginning it was a fun activity for Lisa and I to try out while we did one of our famous 24 hour cook-offs, since dubbed: GNI (girls night in).  It could have been ready sooner, but I wasn't ready to mess with it yet.  I was still perfecting how I wanted it to taste.

In addition, we are in the height of Meyer lemon season (Nov-March)-so now is the best time to buy your lemons and begin this project-as it will be ready just in time for Spring!  And there is nothing better than sipping the ice cold nectar on your front porch swinging on the swing.

Limoncello
Makes approx 2 gallons

1 750ml bottle Vodka (I recommend picking a mid-range vodka)
1 750 btl of Everclear (this helps prevent the Limoncello from freezing)
25 lemons (without the waxy shine is best)

What you need:
-vegetable scrubber
-vegetable peeler
-juicer or any kind (manual or electric)
-large airtight jug
-smaller jug for the lemon juice
-distilled white vinegar

Step 1:  soak lemons in sink of water with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar added.  Allow to soak for 1 hour.

Step 2: Scrub all lemons with vegetable peeler and dry (the goal is to remove as much wax as possible) and roll around on the counter, pressing down with your hand to soften the juices inside.

Step 3: With the vegetable peeler, carefully peel the yellow peel off of the lemon in large chunks.  Avoid taking the pith (the white part) up with the peel as that will make your limoncello bitter.  All yellow peel
pieces should be put into the large jug.

Step 4 (optional): juice the remaining lemons for lemon curd or freeze for later use.

Step 5: pour contents of vodka and Everclear into large jug with the lemon peels.  Cap (be sure its airtight) and store out of direct sunlight for 3 months-shaking bottle to incorporate the ingredients every day.  You will see the liquid turn yellow and cloudy, thats ok-it will pass soon.

After 3 Months:

This is when your preference comes into play.  If you want a stronger, more bitter limoncello-you will want to make less simple syrup (sugar water).  If you want a sweeter limoncello, I recommend using more simple syrup.

Ingredients:
-boiling water
-Sugar

Materials:
-more airtight and freezer safe containers to store limoncello (wine bottles with screw-tops work great)
-funnel
-large stock pot

Step 1: take equal parts sugar and boiling water, mix together until sugar dissolves (Start with abt 64 oz of simple syrup).  Let the syrup cool completely

Step 2: Once syrup is dissolved, pour lemon mixture into a large stockpot, carefully removing any lemon pieces.

Step 3: Mix 1/2 of the syrup into limoncello.  Mix and take a very small sample (careful, this is pretty potent stuff!).  Keep adding syrup until you get the desired flavor.

Step 4: Once desired flavor is reached, bottle and keep in the freezer! 

I love giving limoncello to friends as a gift or breaking it out at a dinner party as a surprise after-dinner drink! 

Enjoy!
~Carmen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Foodigen Dabbles: Does Chilling or Freezing Cookie Dough Make a Better Cookie?



Dabbling with different cooking theories is a great way to learn how to cook.  Sometimes we come across these ways by accident and sometimes through practice.  Here at Foodigen, our insatiable need to learn (and have a chewy cookie) is frequently practiced in the kitchen.  Its great to have go-to recipes when your in a jam or hurry, but there is nothing like the new success of finding an amazing recipe or method-making your dish incredible. 

Fresh, refrigerated or frozen?  That was the question or questions brought up in my kitchen a couple weeks ago.  But this conversation was not about fish or veggies, but cookies.  Does chilling or freezing the cookie dough create a better cookie?  Foodigen dabbles with these theories.

To make the playing field easy for you to test at home, I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of a 12 oz bag of Nestle Morsels.  Which is also the reason I'm unable to share the exact recipe I used on this post.

The method: Using a commercially acceptable recipe, make one batch of cookies, cut into thirds.  Bake one dozen immediately, chill a dozen for an hour and freeze a dozen overnight.

The oven: gas, preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Result: I found no difference in quality between the different chilling methods.  Each method produced a rather thin cookie, but it was still chewy and delicious-even the next day.

Frozen Not Pictured, but looked identical.
Please let us know if you have had any successful or not-so successful experiences chilling or freezing cookie dough!  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Enjoy!
~Carmen


Monday, February 17, 2014

Ginger Beet Soup Starter



I love beets.  I always have.  My mother made pickled beets and I devoured them after school almost every day.  Until she made me stop.

So while I love beets-I tend to only eat them in one form, so I decided to break away from that and give beets some new life!

For this soup, I wanted something fresh tasting, but I didn't want it to be the primary dish.  This is a great starter to a meal and could be easily paired with steak or fish.

Ginger Beet Soup
Serves 4-6

2 12oz cans whole beets-drained & rinsed
1 med onion - diced
2 Tablespoons ginger root - chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
salt/pepper
sour cream for garnish
chives for garnish

Saute onion and ginger in olive oil over low heat until soft.  Add beets and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Use an immersion blender and puree soup until consistency is smooth and there are no chunks.  Season with salt & pepper.

Garnish with sour cream & chives.

Enjoy!
~Carmen 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekend Wino-Valentine's Day Edition: Paris Winery Syrah & Sirloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce




This week I have decided to feature a recent favorite of mine, the Paris Winery Syrah!




Levi's family is from Tennessee and a few years ago as a gift, we were given some wine from the Paris Winery.  We were delighted to learn of this little gem-tucked away about 15 minutes outside of town and upon our arrival we were mesmerized by the beauty of the grounds.  The main building is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa and the winding path lit with small lights leading us into the darkness of evening gave the illusion of romance and secrecy. 




Inside the quaint shop was packed full of wine displays, wine-inspired trinkets and a small bar for tastings.  The girls manning the tasting are pleasant and knowledgeable, but initially I was concerned over the quality of the wine I was about to consume-as the wine list contained the phonetic spelling of quite a few of their vintages.  I understand rural Tennessee may not be over-saturated with wine-snobs, but the condescension in the menu in addition to the amateur quality of the website left me suspect as to the quality of the wine.

The wines labeled 'sweet' are exactly that, meant to convert the non-wine drinker by the sugary liquid. 

The reds are less of a gamble as I found many of them to be delightful.  Not every wine Paris Winery carries is on the menu-so you have to ask whats not listed (this you should do at any winery).  But I will say the Syrah on the menu is the stand-out wine for me.  It has a surprisingly low tannin for a Syrah, minimal acidity and can be enjoyed with your dinner or on its own.  I find there to be a playful element to this wine-as your taste buds fight over the vanilla and caramel.

THE WINE: Paris Winery Syrah $20/btl
Fun Fact: Syrah wine in Australia is called Shiraz.
 
Other types of dishes that would work with the Syrah: Duck or pork would be excellent matches!

Sirloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce and Mashed Cauliflower
Serves 2

This recipe is meant to be done all together and the steps are put together to make the most efficient use of your time so each element are ready at the same time.  Perfect for a romantic date at home! 

2 Sirloin Steaks
3 cups fresh or frozen broccoli 
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms-sliced
1 head of cauliflower-broken into pieces
1 stick butter-unsalted
 1/2 cup white wine or light beer
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
2-4 cloves (depending on size) of garlic-peeled
1 beef bouillon cube
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt & pepper

Step 1: Put garlic in ramekin and top with olive oil.  Place in toaster oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 2: In a medium/large pot, fill 2/3rds full with water, add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Once boiling add the cauliflower.

Step 3: In small bowl place the beef bouillon cube, balsamic vinegar, sugar and Worcestershire.  Set aside.

Step 4: In small microwavable dish place broccoli, add enough water to cover bottom of dish.  Then add salt and pepper and 1 tab of butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in microwave, setting microwave timer to 6-7 minutes.  Do not start microwave yet.

Step 5: Season steaks with salt and pepper on each side.  Set aside.

Step 6: In small non-stick skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter on low heat.  Once melted, add mushrooms and the white wine/beer.  Stirring occasionally.

Step 7: In large skillet, turn heat to med-high and allow the skillet to get hot.  Once hot (you can test this by flicking a drop of water on the skillet-its ready when the water sizzles), add the steaks.  For a rare steak, cook on this side for 3 minutes.

Step 8: Hit START on the microwave to begin cooking the broccoli.  Once mushrooms are cooked through, turn off their heat-allow them to sit on stove for now. Remove garlic from toaster oven-take a spoon, removing the cloves from the oil and adding them to the mixer.

Step 9: as the steak cooks, the cauliflower should be done.  You can tell by taking a fork and being able to easily pierce the cauliflower.  Drain the cauliflower and then put cauliflower in the mixer with, garlic (do not add the olive oil), 4 tablespoons of butter and salt (to taste)-mix to a mashed potato consistency.  Season to taste.

Step 10: Flip steaks and cook for 3 minutes (for a rare steak).  Begin getting your dinner plates ready.

Step 11: Spoon out desired amount of garlic mashed cauliflower to plates.  Remove steaks from skillet and add to the plates.  Add mushrooms over the steaks and add remaining mushroom liquid to steak skillet.  Take Worcestershire mixture and add to skillet, bring to medium heat. Stirring occasionally and scraping up the bits of steak that stuck to the bottom of skillet. 

Step 12: Add broccoli to plates.  Once red wine sauce has reduced by 1/2, drizzle over steaks and serve.

Enjoy!
~Carmen





 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday: Levi's Buffalo Chicken Dip

When Levi and I started talking about our Super Bowl plans, one of the first things he said was, 'I'm gonna make my dip!'.  Fine by me!  I knew healthy eating was taking a back seat today-and the more he cooks, the less I have too.  As much as I love it-a break is nice! 

This recipe is incredibly simple and takes less than 5 minutes to assemble.  Perfect when you need to throw something together at the last minute! 




Levi's Buffalo Chicken Dip

1-8oz package cream cheese
2-10oz cans of diced chicken
1/2 cup Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Pour all ingredients into crockpot.  Set crockpot to Low.  Mix every few minutes until well blended.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Enjoy!
~Carmen (& Levi)