March 2012

Backyard Dinner Party

One of the worst things about living in Texas is being far away from family. One of the best things, however, is having them visit – particularly when it is 75 and sunny in Dallas, and mid-30s where they’re from.  John’s parents came to visit last weekend, and we had the best time. We ate a lot of amazing dinners out, but on the last night we decided to have everyone over to our house for a relaxing backyard dinner party. 
Here they are, don’t they look fun? John’s dad Hank is missing from the photo, but he was there and he’s fun too.
John and his mom Jane went hard to work on our yard that afternoon and added about 20 new plants. I’m getting into the whole yard thing a little more slowly, but have decided this year I might start trimming the roses. For now, I’m more into the cooking.
For dinner, I served my Honey BBQ Chicken, only I added a couple scoops of apricot jelly.
It was an easy, fun, relaxing dinner. Dallas has had a beautiful Spring, and it was fun to share our new home and life with our family.

Caramel Chocolate Bars

I have been a lazy blogger lately. I would like to say that I have been super busy doing really important things, but really I have been completely engulfed in The Hunger Games. I never did Harry Potter, never got into Twilight, I was sure I wasn’t going to get in to The Hunger Games. Boy was I wrong – eeeeexxxcellent book, I highly recommend you all read it. On Sunday morning, when Katniss Everdeen was roasting up a rabbit that she had caught in her snare, I was thinking about my next meal too. Caramel Chocolate Bars. Homemade. Katniss and I like to live off the land.
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Semisweet chocolate chips
  • Caramel Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add in the egg, then the vanilla, flour and salt. Press the dough into a slightly greased 8×8 glass baking dish, and bake for about 20-25 minutes,  or until a toothpick comes out clean. Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, and drizzle with caramel sauce. Yum.

Baked Ham Sandwiches

I’m about to introduce you to something that will change life as you know it.  Your previous life with typical, mundane ham sandwiches is over.  Thanks to Sarah Foster’s Southern Kitchen, (my favorite cookbook now that I indeed have a southern kitchen)…we now have ‘Ham and Cheese Rolls’ available to us.  They contain all the ingredients that I believe are great 100% of the time: ham … cheese … mustard … butter … worcestershire. They also involve ‘marinating’ and ‘baking’…..sold?
Luckily, this discovery coincided with planning our annual St. Patrick’s Day party. I was looking for a perfect party food that was super easy to make in large quantities, super delicious, and looked good with these balloons that my husband ordered a week in advance.
So I made the ham sandwiches. And let me tell you, they were a party hit. I made a few modifications to Sarah’s recipe….I took out the garlic (I don’t know why you would add garlic to all these other wonderful ingredients)…I took out the grated onion (same reason)…I added brown sugar (because it seemed natural, and WOW)…and I bought Hawaiian rolls from the store rather than made my own (I’m an underachiever).
Recipe (makes 12 small sandwiches)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 T Dijon Mustard
  • 1 T Worcestershire
  • 2 T Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 lb smoked ham, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb Swiss or Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
  • 12 Hawaiian rolls (or other slider bun of choice)
In a saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the dijon, worcestershire, and brown sugar. Bring to a low boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
In a baking dish (or aluminum foil pan for ease of cleanup, which is what I did)….assemble the Hawaiian rolls with the ham and cheese.
Pour the sauce over the sandwiches, cover and MARINATE for several hours or overnight.
The next day, or however long you were able to wait, place the sandwiches in a 350 degree oven and bake, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover the sandwiches and bake for another 10 minutes.
I made 48 sandwiches for the party. There were 6 left, and we ate the rest of them over the course of the next few days. I even caught myself lying to the neighbor on Sunday when he asked if we had any of those ham sandwiches left. Sorry, I said, we ate the last of them last night. Not my proudest moment.

Honey Barbecue Chicken

I’ve been waking up most mornings lately with food ideas in my head.  Usually they are inspired by something, and this one was no exception.
Whataburger Honey BBQ chicken sandwich. Please don’t judge me. The advertisements are everywhere and I can’t get it out of my head. Don’t worry – I’m not making the chicken strip sandwich. But the HONEY BBQ CHICKEN…yes please.  I woke up and I wanted to eat it…so, that’s what we did. And let me tell you – you will LOVE this. It moved into my #1 slot…it is gooooood.
  • Mix of bone-in chicken breasts & drumsticks, skin removed by butcher(~2lb)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 bottle (16 oz) sweet barbecue sauce (recco: Rufus Teague)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • S P
  • 2 large appetites
Start by preheating the oven to 300. That, right there, is the key to this delicious, fall-off-the-bone chicken – cooking it low and slow in a pot full of flavorful liquid. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry, salt and pepper.   Brown each side of chicken, about 3-4 minutes each side.
Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the chopped onion to the pot, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine (this is optional…you can use a little chicken broth or nothing at all)…I just happened to have an open bottle of red wine next to me and I love the smell of cooking onions in red wine.
And the best part, here comes the BBQ.  I usually use my trusted Austin’s Own BBQ sauce, but I was horrified when I went to Central Market and they were totally sold out. Central Market never lets me down, and I have to admit I felt really hurt and betrayed. But, when bad things happen, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going. So I asked the friendly CM man what he recommended, and without batting an eye he gave me this:
and OH MY GOD. I could eat this with a spoon. Or through a funnel. It is sooo good. Pour in the whole bottle.
Next comes the honey.
I dumped in the whole cute little thing. I think it’s probably about a half cup. Next, throw in a couple dashed of worcestershire.
Mix it alllll together, inhale the amazing aroma, and feel like everything is right in the world.  When you’ve come to, put the chicken back in the pot.
Make sure all the chicken is good and coated (add up to a cup of water if necessary), then put the cover on and bake at 300 for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the meat is literally falling off the bone (it will be done after 1 1/2 hours, it will be more tender after 2…).  Now, the next part is optional – but highly recommended. I transferred all the chicken in a glass baking dish, scooped a bunch of sauce over them, and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.
See that? The sauce gets kind of caramelized/crispy on the outside.
You won’t believe the tenderness and flavor of this chicken – I beg you to make this for your next dinner party.

Banana Graham Cookies

I love the flavor combination of bananas, graham crackers, and chocolate. I often make modified s’mores at home where I substitute sliced bananas for the marshmallows, and when I woke up this morning I decided I wanted to make that into a cookie. They taste exactly as you would expect, so if you love all three of those ingredients, these cookies will be a hit for you.
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package graham crackers, crushed (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 375.  Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, then the vanilla. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add it to the butter mixture. Pour in the graham cracker crumbs (a food processor does a fabulous job of crushing FYI) and mix until combined.  Slice the bananas in fourths, then throw into the cookie dough. Mix well enough to mash the bananas, but you want to keep some large chunks too. Add chocolate chips to taste (I like to overdoes on these, so I won’t make a recommendation here).  This might be the best cookie dough I have ever eaten.
Drop the cookie dough in rounded spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet (yes, you need to grease it). Bake for about 8 minutes and eat immediately.  Just kidding, let them cool for a minute first.
We’re McDonald’s people. It’s not like we eat there 5 times a week or anything, but I am a huge advocate of McDonald’s products. McFlurries, are you kidding me? Nothing is tastier. And I love the Happy Meals, I love the plain ol’ burger, I love the fries, and I loooove the grilled chicken snack wraps with honey mustard. But I think what I love most of all about McDonald’s is that the experience of going to get a Happy Meal is as special for my 4 year old niece as it was for me when I was her age. McDonald’s is a company that continues to evolve with the market space, and yet it has remained so classic at the same time.
So, inspired by the McDonald’s snack wrap, we decided to start making our own at home. Nothing about this post is particularly innovative or special or unique. But, it was tasty so I feel obligated to share it with you.  All you need is chicken, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, tortillas, and honey mustard.
I started by rubbing my boneless, skinless chicken breasts with this amazing stuff:
I grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes on each side, then sliced it into little bitty pieces.
I used Mission whole wheat tortillas, which were delicious.  I piled it high with chicken, lettuce, tomato, and chopped avocado.  Then I took this honey mustard:
And mixed about a tablespoon of it with about a teaspoon of honey mustard vinaigrette to thin it out a bit. Yum. I could eat honey mustard by the spoonful. Then, drizzle it all over the top:
Doesn’t that look wonderful and delicious? It was. Of course if I were at McDonald’s I would have ordered two….the McBraley’s aren’t at that level of efficiency quite yet, so we had to settle for one.