Friday, October 24, 2014

Restaurant-Style Mexican Black Beans

Tacos for dinner? Enchiladas? Carne Asada? Well, you might be looking for a side to go with that deliciousness and black beans are a delicious and healthy option. I love ordering black beans at Mexican restaurants. This recipe brings that restaurant feel to the home. 

Time to Make It: <15 minutes
Yield: Serves 4


1 TB olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, undrained
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped


1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the olive oil and let heat briefly.

2. Add in onions and saute for 5 to 7 minutes until soft. 

3. Add in minced garlic, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper (optional) and saute another 60 seconds.

4. Add in black beans and juices. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot topped with fresh cilantro. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Authentic Carne Asada

I've lived in Southern California for a good 1/3 of my life. Being so close to Mexico you get spoiled with a lot of really great Baja Mexican style food. We've been in Utah long enough that I needed to pay homage to our close-to-Mexico roots with some authentic carne asada. When I realized I have never shared the recipe....well, you are welcome. Carne Asada is all about the marinade. Take a nice piece of steak, marinate it with some delicious flavors, and then plop that sucker on the grill for a flavorful piece of beef you can eat plain, on a taco, burrito, or anything else you can think of. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Marinade Time: 2 to 10 hours
Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 6


2 limes, juiced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno, minced
2 TB white vinegar
1 (2 lb) flank steak, trimmed of excess fat


1. In a gallon size resealable bag, combine lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze it around to mix it up.

2.  Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squishing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. 

3. Heat an outdoor grill to high heat. 

4. Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.

5. Once done, remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve. 

What if I don't have an outdoor grill?


What if it is freezing outside and I don't want to go out there to grill?

Most ovens have a feature called a broiler. It is usually found at the top of your oven. If you have a gas oven (not stove, oven) it may be accessed from a drawer under you oven. I've had both. Think of it as an upside down grill. If you have an electric oven, it's even a flameless grill. Nice, right? The heating element gets super hot and cooks your food from above. So, for the above recipe, you can simply put your flank steak under a broiler for 7 to 10 minutes per side. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fresh Dragon Fruit Strawberry-Acai Smoothie Bowl

Dragon Fruit. Also known as Pitaya. You've probably heard about it, and maybe even seen it around. It's a funky looking fruit that comes from a species of cactus. It has a mild taste, somewhere between a kiwi and a melon. It's got a ton of fiber and very few calories and comes with lots of antioxidants and vitamins and all that other good stuff. Simply put, it's healthy for you and it's making its way into all sorts of smoothie shops and healthy eats places. I found a bunch of dragon fruit at a huge chain supermarket in Utah. Yes, I stood there holding a dragon fruit and could see clothes for sale on one side of me, and tvs on the other. It was weird. I've had dragon fruit bowls plenty of times at a little smoothie shop on the beaches of SoCal so I knew exactly where I was going to go with this recipe. Behold, a super hippie good-for-you breakfast bowl. This breakfast will have you raring and ready to go for anything your day might throw at you.

Time to Make It: 5 minutes
Yield: 2 servings


1 1/4 cup acai juice
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 TB honey
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup granola
1 banana, sliced
1 dragon fruit, diced


1. Place acai juice, greek yogurt, honey, and strawberries into a Blendtec or other high powered blender. Blend until smooth. The mixture will be like a very thick smoothie. 

2. Scrape strawberry mixture into a bowl. Top with granola, sliced banana, and dragon fruit

How to Cut a Dragon Fruit

When picking out a dragon fruit, look for one with bright, even skin. Blotchy spots are a sign that the fruit is overripe. It should be soft, but not mushy, kind of like an avocado. 

Step 1 - Cut the fruit in half, lengthwise.

Step 2 - Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh.

Step 3 - Cut it into desired shape for eating. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cajun Fried Chicken Strips

I've been working on this recipe for a couple of months, testing and retesting to make sure it was perfect. Funny, because it's really quite a simple recipe. Maybe I just loved them so much I had to keep remaking them. No matter what

the case, I'm in love with these chicken strips. You can eat them plain with a little honey mustard for dipping, or you can throw them on top of a cajun chicken pasta. Toss it on top of a salad for a cajun chicken salad. Lots of uses for these tasty bites.

Time to Make It: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 6


Vegetable Oil for Frying
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 lb chicken tenders, trimmed
1 cup buttermilk


1. Cover the bottom of a large heavy skillet with about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat oil to 350 degrees (see cooking lesson below).

2. In a small dredging bowl combine panko bread crumbs with onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, peppers, paprika, and salt. Small cake pans make great for dredging.

3. Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl. 

4. Working one at a time, dip the chicken into buttermilk and then into bread crumbs to coat. Place carefully into the hot oil. Cook the chicken in batches as the skillet shouldn't get too crowded.

5. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and then flip, cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Chicken should have a golden brown exterior and should be cooked all the way through.

6. Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Pan Frying 101

Your oil should be right in the 350 degree area. You will have to adjust the heating element on your stovetop throughout the frying process in order to maintain this temperature. If you are working on a glass top cooking stove, remember that those elements take longer to cool, meaning your oil will also take longer to cool if you over heat it. Use a thermometer to maintain temperature.

To cool oil fast, add in cold oil Genius, huh?

When you add something into the oil to fry, it lowers the temperature of the oil. That means you may need time in between frying batches to get the oil back up to temperature. Frying too many items at a time can lower the temperature to a point that you don't get a nice crispy exterior and end up with a soggy, oily product, instead of a nice crispy one. 

Remember, should a grease fire occur, cover the pan with a lid or dose it with baking soda. Never use water on a grease fire. You will get severely burned. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Truffle Eyeballs

This wasn't in my original line up of recipes, but I figured I better share it before Halloween! Does your neighborhood get "boo'ed?" Ya know, where they door bell ditch a treat on your doorstep and leave a cutesy little poem about Halloween and how you've been boo'ed? And then you have to "boo" two more people and hang a ghost on your door so everyone knows you've already been boo'ed? Okay, well, I'm living in a place now that is known for this kind of 1950s family friendly fun and I love it. If you want to get in on the booing action then you should check out THIS blog where she gives 16 different version of it. Obviously you know where I'm going with this because we got "boo'ed" and I decided I needed to make something very Halloween-esque to pass it on. Usually I focus just on taste and don't do a lot of cutesy stuff, but at least my regular readers know that even though this one is cutesy, it tastes pretty dang good too. These eyeballs are just the right amount of grotesque, and they are filled with pumpkin goodness. Sure, you could do it with an oreo truffle, cookie dough truffle, or gingersnap truffle, but for Halloween you can't go wrong with pumpkin. 

Hands On Time: 30 to 45 minutes 
Ready In: 3 hours
Yield: About 2 to 3 dozen truffles


8 whole graham crackers
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 TB brown sugar
6 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cups white chocolate chips
24 blue, green, and brown M&M candies
1 tube red writing icing


1. Place graham crackers in a food processor and process until completely crushed. Add in pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Process until smooth. Refrigerate 2 hours until truffle dough is thick and easy to shape into balls.

2. Shape the dough into round balls, around 2 to 3 dozen. Put on a wax-paper lined tray in the freezer until ready to coat with chocolate.

3. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl (see cooking lesson below).

4. Dip the pumpkin truffles into the melted white chocolate to coat. Put an M&M on top of each truffle while still wet. Set on a wax paper lined baking sheet to harden. 

5. Use the red writing icing to draw veins on the eyeballs, about 5 vein lines per truffle. 

Melting chocolate is super easy, yet it can end quite poorly if done wrong. Burnt chocolate just isn't good. When melting chocolate in a microwave you should only microwave for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. Use a rubber scraper to scrape the bowl, and then repeat until the chocolate is mostly melted. When there are only a couple of bumps left, just keep stirring until the chocolate is smooth as the heat of the rest of the melted chocolate should be enough to melt it completely. 

If your chocolate begins to harden at all as you dip, simply pop it back in the microwave for 10 seconds, and stir. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie

The post "Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie" first appeared on The Stay At Home Chef on November 16, 2012

I love chicken pot pie. It is one of those comfort foods that just makes you feel at home. I'm also a lover of anything buffalo. So one day, years ago, I combined the two and came up with Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie. Bite sized pieces of buffalo chicken are layered in with traditional pot pie vegetables to create yummy little bites of flavory goodness. You can use leftover cooked chicken in this recipe, or perhaps even leftover Thanksgiving turkey for a delicious Buffalo Turkey Pot Pie!

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 to 6


2 prepared pie crusts (top and bottom)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce , divided
2 TB butter
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cups flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly grease a small baking dish. Put chicken breast in dish and smother with 1/3 cup Frank's Hot Sauce. Bake in the 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and chop into bite sized pieces. Cover with additional 2 TB Frank's Hot Sauce. 

3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat.  Saute the onion in the melted butter for about 5 minutes. Add in the flour and stir until all combined. Whisk in chicken broth and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.

4. Fill another medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Once boiling add carrots and celery and simmer for about 8 minutes. Add in peas and continue boiling for another 2 minutes. Drain.

5. Add the vegetable mixture to the onion sauce mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

7. Line a pie plate with the prepared bottom crust. Place half of the chicken onto the bottom crust. Cover with vegetable sauce. Place remaining chicken on top of the vegetable sauce. Cover with top crust and seal the edges. Using a sharp knife, slice a fancy or not-so-fancy design in the top to allow the steam to escape while baking. 

8. Bake pie in a 425 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until the top crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. 

This is really a basic recipe for a pot pie. You could use the same concept to make a beef pot pie by using beef instead of chicken, and beef broth instead of chicken broth. Use it to make a plain old chicken pot pie by simply not using the Frank's Hot Sauce. 

Many recipes call for cubed, cooked chicken. This can sometimes be a hassle because it calls for a huge additional step of cooking a chicken breast. Jennifer over at The Craft Patch offers a great solution to make your cooking a little bit easier by pre-cooking a bunch of chicken and freezing it for later use.You can view all the details HERE

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Comfort Corn Chowder

The post "Comfort Corn Chowder" first appeared on The Stay At Home Chef on February 18, 2013

My friend Megan makes Mimi's Cafe Corn Chowder as one of her go-to comfort soups for a cold day. It's absolutely delicious. We were having a bit of a cold spell and my kids were sick so I knew it was time for some comfort soup. I came up with my own version of Corn Chowder that is slightly different than the Mimi's Cafe recipe. I use chicken stock instead of water to add another level of flavor. I omitted the celery as a personal preference. I altered the recipe to replace the can creamed corn because that is never something I have on hand and used a mixture of heavy cream and milk rather than half and half (see the cooking lesson below for information for milk, heavy cream, and half and half substitutions and comparisons). Great soup for a cold day and perfect for a cold Fall or Winter day!


4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 small white onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups corn kernels
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper*
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)


1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. The entire soup will be made in this pot so make sure it is big enough.

2. Add in the onions and sautee for about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the flour until a paste forms. Some of the onions will mix into the paste and that is fine. You just don't want any visible, stray white flour.

4. Whisk in the chicken stock until smooth and bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes, corn, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes (cooking time will depend on how large you cut your potatoes). 

5. When the potatoes are tender, add in the milk and cream and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and white pepper as desired. 

*white pepper is used in this recipe so that the black flakes are not visible for a more appealing dish. However, if you don't have white pepper you could always use black pepper, you'll just have a speckled soup. 

Chowders are basically just creamy soups with chunks of vegetables, sometimes meat, and often seafood. When a soup calls for heavy cream it will be rich, creamy, and decadent, but high in calories and fat. A way to reduce calories and fat in a cream-based soup is to substitute half-and-half or milk. 

Half-and-Half is literally half cream, half milk. Using half & half in place of cream will lighten the texture and change the flavor, but it is an option that I use frequently. Shoot, I love cream and I'll tell you the above recipe is better with straight cream, BUT my thighs really love cream too so I try and minimize it. To substitute, simple use half heavy cream, and half milk in the amounts the recipe calls for. 

Using milk in place of cream is even more drastic. It will work, but your soup won't be anywhere near rich, creamy or decadent. But, hey, if you are on a diet then it will work. In fact, it might even still taste good. It just isn't the same. 

What if you don't have heavy cream on hand? The standard substitute for heavy cream is 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup melted butter, thoroughly mixed. 

What is the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream? The simple answer is that they have different fat contents. Heavy cream has a 36%+ fat content. Whipping cream ranges from 30-36%. For the vast majority of purposes (especially in home cooking) it can be used interchangeably. 

Now for some disclaimers: These kind of substitutes should not be made in candy making, baking, or confections without thorough skill and knowledge in those areas. Candy making is very chemistry oriented and it is hard to make substitutions. Baking is also chemistry oriented and substitutions may or may not greatly alter your outcome. When making homemade whipped cream, you cannot use a substitution. Milk will not whip into cream without being heavily doctored.