My recipes are meant to be shared and enjoyed. I welcome you to re-post my recipes and text. I ask only that you credit me and include a link to my blog if you post any of my content.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Very Merry WHITE Christmas

Okay, so I'm 45 years old and I've lived in the DFW Metroplex or not too far from it my entire life. Around here we're more likely to have shorts-and-short-sleeve weather at Christmas time than cold weather. Well, this year I experienced my first ever white Christmas!!! It started snowing here on Christmas Eve afternoon and the weather was cold enough that the snow was still on the ground on Christmas Day. It was such a beautiful experience, and since I'm statistically probably halfway through my life it's not really likely that I'll experience another White Christmas, so I cherish this amazing holiday.

Due to the weather we were "snowbound" for the night at the home of my beloved Mami-y-Papi-in-law after our Christmas Eve celebration, so I had another fun experience for the first time of waking up with my "extended family" and enjoying Christmas morning with all of TLOML's family, my stepdaughters, and my son. I'll treasure this day for the rest of my life.

So now on to the food. For Christmas Eve with my second family and for Christmas Day with my first family we prepared Roasted Rosemary Walnuts, courtesy of a recipe from,

Roasted Rosemary Walnuts Recipe
Total: 25 mins
Active: 5 mins
Makes: 8 to 10 servings (5 cups)

Roasted Rosemary Walnuts
By Amy Wisniewski

Nuts and booze are a tried-and-true combination for any happy hour or cocktail party. Here the addition of rosemary and black pepper classes up the combo without getting too fussy.

Game plan: These nuts will last up to 10 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

This recipe was featured as part of both our Academy Awards Cocktail Party menu and our Bar Snacks photo gallery.

5 cups walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Place nuts on a baking sheet. Add remaining ingredients and mix with your hands to evenly coat.
Bake until nuts are browned and toasted, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet, transfer to a bowl, and serve.

These incredible tidbits and also the following wonderful Kahlua Spiked Pecans (recipe from were big hits.

I think the rosemary walnuts were slightly too oily and I'll decrease the amount of olive oil next time I make them. However, both of these treats were like holiday crack to me and I think to both of our families, absolutely fabulous recipes.

Kahlua Spiked Pecans (Adapted from Stop and Smell the Rosemary)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons Kahlua
4 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 325

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and Kahlua. Add pecans and stir well to combine.

Sprinkle half the sugar mixture on top - mix well. Pour the rest of the sugar on top and stir until completely combined. Scoop the mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with foil and coated with nonstick spray. Spread the pecans to an even single layer.

Bake until pecans are lightly toasted and browned, stirring every 10 minutes - about 20 to 25 minutes total. Remove from the oven and scoop the hot pecans onto wax or parchment paper to cool completely.

Note: I used half white sugar and half brown sugar because I had a dab of brown sugar that needed to be used up and it worked perfectly.

We prepared the black bean dip we've made before, recipe courtesy of Erica at, . Everyone loves this stuff!

Black Bean Dip (Dip De Frijoles Negros)

Although it doesn’t look very pretty, this creamy black bean dip tastes absolutely delicious and is very easy to make. You can serve it with tortilla chips or Patacones.

Ingredients(About 2 cups)
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
¼ teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo
½ tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Place all the ingredients in food processor until the dip is smooth and creamy, scraping the down the bowl as needed.
2. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

This dip is so, so good, and so healthy! As Erica says, it's not so pretty, but damn, it's tasty! I made it again with dried beans that I soaked and cooked, just because that's very inexpensive and we really enjoy preparing food from scratch as much as possible.

We also made a wonderful white bean-roasted red pepper dip, recipe also courtesy of

White Bean -Roasted Pepper Dip

I love beans! In Colombia we may eat beans two or three times a day. I never get tired of eating beans so I have a long list of bean recipes. This one is a delicious white bean –roasted pepper dip. It is great as a light and healthy snack with pita chips, as an appetizer for your next party or for that unannounced visit, as it is quick and simple to prepare!

1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans
1 roasted red bell pepper
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped onion
Chives for garnish

1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and mix until well combined and smooth.
2. Transfer the dip to a serving dish and top with the fresh chives. Serve with pita chips on the side

I used a can of rosada beans for this dip because I had one on hand, and it was really good.

We made the Cook's Illustrated hummus recipe again, with a few modifications, This time we made a double recipe and used a little more garlic, a little more olive oil, a little less sesame tahini, and 2 cubes of Knorr chicken bouillon. It turned out really good.

Also made the stuffed mushrooms that I've been making for 25 years that everyone seems to like. Recipe to be posted later.

And in other important Christmas Eve news, SMU defeated Nevada 45-10 in the Hawaii Bowl!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Lunch

The court reporting firms I contract with had their annual holiday lunch on Monday. It was so great to see everyone, our office manager, the other court reporters, our videographer, and the owner of the Spanish translation service we use. Following are the recipes I prepared for the lunch:


Brussels Sprouts

1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, rinsed and bottoms trimmed off
1/4 lb. thin-sliced pancetta, finely diced (can substitute bacon)
½ cup finely diced shallots

Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes and set aside. Using a steamer basket placed inside a medium saucepan with a lid or an Asian-style bamboo steamer, steam Brussels sprouts for approximately 10 minutes. They should still be a pretty green color and should still have slight resistance to a fork pressed into the base or into the middle of the sprouts. Remove from steamer and drop into the ice water to stop the cooking and maintain the pretty green color. Drain sprouts and place in serving bowl.

In a skillet over low to medium low heat, slowly cook pancetta. Cook until it renders its fat and becomes slightly crispy. Increase heat to medium low to medium and add shallots. Cook slowly until shallots are tender. Pour pancetta-shallot mixture over Brussels sprouts and mix well. Serve with sundried tomato aioli.

Sundried Tomato Aioli

¼ cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop sundried tomatoes in food processor. Add egg yolk, garlic, mustard, and lemon juice and blend well. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube in slow, steady stream. Blend until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper. Blend for a few more seconds.


I also added a little squeeze of anchovy paste to this recipe, about 1 teaspoon. It adds more flavor depth. If you have anchovy paste handy and like it, give it a try. If not, no problem.

Next time I make this aioli I’ll use only half the amount of sundried tomatoes so that the aioli will be a bit more subtle.


1 lb. medium (about 25 per pound) shrimp, rinsed, shells removed except for tail section, and de-veined
1 head of garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Italian seasoning
Salt (if needed)

Separate the head of garlic into individual cloves. Remove root end and skin from garlic cloves. Divide the garlic cloves in half. Slice half of the garlic cloves very thin. Finely dice the remaining half of the garlic cloves.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over low to medium low heat. Add the olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and cook very slowly until browned. You want the garlic to give a nice toasty garlic flavor to the oil without burning. When browned, remove garlic slices. Add lemon zest.

Keep temperature at low to medium low. Add the diced garlic and slowly cook until garlic is soft. You don’t want to brown this garlic. Sprinkle the butter/olive oil/garlic combination liberally with your favorite Italian seasoning, 1-2 teaspoons.

Add the shrimp to the skillet in a single layer and keep the heat low. Shrimp cook very fast and you want to give them a chance to absorb all the great garlic flavor, so cook them very low and slow. After a few minutes, flip the shrimp over and continue to cook them in a single layer. When all shrimp have turned pink and curled up a bit they’re done. Taste a shrimp and the buttery sauce for seasoning. If needed, add a sprinkle of salt.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mexican Market Fruit Salad

I’ve always loved foods that feature combinations of the basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami. For instance, a sprinkling of salt is a great enhancement to the sweetness of cantaloupe. Years ago I was introduced to jicama by my now ex-father-in-law. He had discovered jicama and served it to the family with lime juice and chile powder, which to my understanding is a common Mexican snack. I think it’s a great flavor combination.

If you shop at the larger of our fabulous local Mexican supermarkets in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you’ll find taqueria counters; islands serving aguas frescas (fresh waters), the wonderfully refreshing Mexican fresh fruit drinks; sometimes crema bars featuring cremas (similar to sour cream) from all regions of Latin America; and refrigerated cases featuring an assortment of fresh fruits and/or vegetables in single-serving sizes with chile powder and lime halves to squeeze over them.

The combination of fruits, cucumber, chile, and lime that you can find in the Mexican market is one of my favorite snacks. Those snacks were the inspiration for this tasty salad. I hope you enjoy this lively combination of flavors as much as I do:


1 small to medium cantaloupe, cut into balls with a melon baller*
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced
2 medium to large cucumbers, peeled, cut in half long ways, seeds scooped out, and sliced
1 large or 2 medium jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 2 limes
Chipotle chile powder to taste (careful, it’s yummy but spicy)
A couple teaspoons pomegranate vinegar to taste (can substitute apple cider vinegar)
A couple teaspoons agave nectar to taste (can substitute honey)
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients, refrigerate, and allow flavors to mix for a couple of hours before serving

* Honeydew melon would probably be really good in this salad as well. I don’t include it because I don’t really care for it, but if you like it feel free to add some.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guilty Pleasure ... Soaps!

In the category of things that make life splendid, I love, love, love All My Children and General Hospital. I've followed both shows since I was a pre-teen.

The Love Of My Life and I have a happy, peaceful life together. I much prefer soap opera angst to real life angst.

Any other GH fans out there finding the new James Franco character very intriguing in a dark and mysterious way?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Braised Beef Shank

1.5 to 2 lbs. bone-in beef shanks (also called bone-in beef hindshank)
2 large shallots, sliced
2 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally and kept intact
2 cups thick-sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon dry or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dry basil
1 bay leaf
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cubes beef bouillon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup Port wine or Marsala

Heat veggie stock to near boiling in microwave or on stove top, add bouillon cubes, and stir until dissolved. Season all sides of beef shanks with lots of freshly ground black pepper and a light sprinkling of salt. Heat Dutch oven over medium-high until hot, add olive oil and heat for about 30 seconds. Add beef shanks and cook 2 to 4 minutes on each side until well-browned and crusty. Add the thyme, basil, and bay leaf. Sprinkle the shallots evenly around the pan. Add 1/3 cup of the Port or Marsala and gently shake pan. Carefully add the garlic halves and press down a bit so they stay intact. Pour veggie-beef bouillon stock over all. Cover pan, reduce to low or medium-low and simmer for 2 hours.

After 2 hours add mushrooms, then cook for 1 more hour, until meat is falling apart tender.

Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Add remaining 1/3 cup Port or Marsala and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes to reduce liquid slightly. Serve and enjoy!

Don’t forget to put the veggie trimmings in your zip-top freezer bag to make veggie stock!

If you don't make homemade veggie stock from your veggie scraps, well, first of all, you're missing out. But seriously, if you don't have homemade veggie stock, you can use any combination of water/broth/stock with bouillon cubes that you like to make 3 cups of flavorful broth for this recipe.

Note: If you're like me (and of course I'm sure you're not, gentle reader) and you fell asleep while you were simmering your homemade turkey broth on the first try and you permanently burned the broth into the bottom of your favorite Dutch oven, you can use your favorite stockpot for this recipe, just be careful to keep the temperature plenty low so as to avoid scorching.

Nuoc Cham Vinaigrette

Cooking is my creative outlet. I love to read cookbooks, cooking blogs, and watch cooking shows to learn techniques and find inspiration. The Love Of My Life and I get to talking about some of our favorite foods and ingredients and come up with some really fun recipe ideas when we say "What if …"

We both love the quintessential Vietnamese dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham. In fact, I love it so much that I'm always trying to figure out what else I can do with it besides using it for dipping Vietnamese rice paper rolls.

So I had some shredded green papaya from one of our local Asian markets and wanted to use it as the base for an Asian-style salad to serve alongside Beef "Carpaccio" Imperial Rolls

I was thinking, wouldn't Nuoc Cham make a fabulous salad dressing?

This salad is ridiculously easy to prepare and ridiculously good! Choose any of the following ingredients that you like or have on hand and combine proportions to your taste.

Green papaya, shredded
Carrots, shredded or grated
Jicama, julienned
Cabbage, shredded
Snow peas, julienned
Soy bean or mung bean sprouts
Red bell pepper, julienned

For the dressing, prepare Nuoc Cham. I use the following fabulous recipe from Viet World Kitchen. Adjust to taste. Don't be afraid of the fish sauce. Your sauce/salad dressing won't taste fishy. It's a wonderful umami ingredient that gives a great depth of flavor and enhances the other flavors, similar to using soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. To the Nuoc Cham add about 1/4 cup of sesame oil, more or less to taste. Whisk together and pour over salad.

Basic Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Makes ¾ cup

3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fat, thin skin lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

Optional additions:
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 Thai chilis, thinly sliced or 1 teaspoon homemade chili garlic sauce or store bought (tuong ot toi)

1. Make limeade. Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and ask yourself this question: Does this limeade taste good? Adjust the flavors to balance out the sweet and sour.

2. Finish with fish sauce. Add the fish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Aim for a bold, forward finish -- perhaps a little stronger than what you'd normally like. This sauce is likely to be used to add final flavor to foods wrapped in lettuce or herbs, which are not salted and therefore need a little lift to heighten the overall eating experience. My mother looks for color to gauge her dipping sauce. When it's a light honey or amber, she knows she's close.

Streusel Topped Sweet Potato Casserole


4 sweet potatoes (3.5 to 4.5 pounds total)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
¼ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cognac (can substitute brandy or bourbon whiskey)
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub sweet potatoes well to remove dirt. Prick each one several times with a fork. Place on a foil lined sheet pan. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the largest sweet potato goes through easily, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Gently peel the skins away from the potatoes, or cut the potatoes in half and carefully scoop out all the flesh. Discard skins.

While still warm, mash the potatoes until smooth, add butter and stir to melt. Add remaining ingredients and stir until very well combined.

Butter an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the casserole dish and top with the streusel topping.

Streusel Topping

¾ cup butter at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Mix butter, brown sugar, and flour with a pastry blender or two forks until it's crumbly-looking. Add cinnamon, salt, pecans, and marshmallows. Fold together to mix well. Sprinkle evenly over the sweet potato casserole.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for around 30 minutes, until casserole is hot and topping is beautifully golden brown.

This is a great holiday casserole because it's very forgiving when multiple dishes are fighting for oven time. It "plays well with others" and can be cooked at a temperature of anywhere from 350 to 400, just keep a closer eye on it if you cook it at the higher temperature so the topping doesn't burn. After the first 15 minutes be sure to take a peek every 5 minutes.