August 20, 2011

Bourbon Ribs & Creamed Corn

It's been really hot so we haven't been grilling out as much as we like.  Plus my husband and I have both been super busy and working late at work the last few weeks.  (I can't wait to get a fancy stove one day that has a grill top on one side.  I think it would be used a lot.)  I decided to bear the heat and make some delicious ribs.  And I decided homemade creamed corn would be a great side.  It was my first time to make homemade creamed corn and I feel it turned out just like I had hoped.   I added bacon because it makes everything taste better and my husband loves bacon.  That's just how amazing I am as a wife. 

Everytime I think of ribs, it reminds me of our good friend, Zeus, who left us for the sunny state of California a few years ago. His rib recipe is amazing!  I think he uses Jack Daniel's or some other tasty whiskey.  It's the type of recipe that you crave.  I know it's easy but some things just taste better when someone else makes it.   When he's in town, we all plan a get together at someone's house just so we have an excuse to ask him to make his ribs.  My recipe isn't the same but it's a good alternative until he comes to visit again.  

Bourbon Ribs
1 rack of baby back pork ribs
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c bourbon
1/2 c BBQ sauce (to brush them with before you throw them on the grill)

Rinse the rack of ribs and pat dry with paper towels.  Lay out a big sheet of aluminum foil and place the ribs on it.  Rub down both sides of your rack with the salt and pepper.  Then pour the olive oil over the top and then the bourbon.  Rub everything in on both sides.  Lay the meaty side down and wrap them up carefully in the aluminum foil.  Adding more foil as needed to cover completely.  Place wrapped ribs on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge. (I like to use the cookie sheet just in case the juices drip out.) Let them sit over night.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Place ribs and cookie sheet in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until you can pull a piece of the tender meat off with a fork easily.  When cooked to desired tenderness, remove from oven.  If you like a charred or crispy finish, heat up the grill.   Brush both sides with your favorite BBQ sauce.  Place rack of ribs directly on the grill.  Cook until a nice grilled finished on both sides.  About 3-5 minutes per side.

Creamed Corn with Bacon
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tbsp butter
4 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1/4 c water
1/2 c heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
freshly ground nutmeg (approx. 10-15 strokes over the microplane)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter and shallots and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the corn niblets and water and bring to a boil.  Then turn down heat, cover and cook about 10 minutes until corn is tender.   Then add heavy cream, 1/2 of the crumbled bacon, salt and pepper to taste.   Then grind the nutmeg straight into the skillet.   Stir and cook until warmed through.   Sprinkle the remaining crumbled bacon on top just before serving.  Serves 4-6.

August 11, 2011

Alfredo Pasta Bake

Pasta.  It is such a versatile ingredient.  You can make so many simple dishes.  This is why I love it.   You can simply add a little olive oil, your favorite fresh herb, salt and pepper for a super light no-sauce spaghetti.  When I’m in a hurry I like to melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and let it brown just a little until I smell that nuttiness.  Then I stir in a splash or two of balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper and taste.  That’s what I call a BBB Sauce. (Brown Butter Balsamic sauce) 
Just because you’re on a diet or trying to eat healthier, doesn’t mean you can’t have pasta every now and then, especially if you use the whole-wheat version.   We’re all human so we crave these delicious carbs.  It’s okay.   You should give in and enjoy.   It’s also a great way to get kids to eat their veggies.  Mix veggies in with pasta together with a light sauce and it will all taste good to them.   The tasty sauce will coat the veggies adding flavor.
I made this dish when we had a friend over to watch a TV show one night.   I wanted something creamy but not too heavy.   I’m all about cream sauces of any kind.  I love alfredo sauce but it’s always so rich and filling.    So I tried not to make so much of it to mix with our pasta and veggies.   You don’t want the pasta to be swimming in sauce but you also don’t want it to be dry.   I love how this turned out.   A small portion of this gave me the fix I needed for the creaminess I was craving. 
Alfredo Pasta Bake
1lb penne (or other fun pasta shape such as bowties)
2 c frozen peas
3-4 slices cooked bacon, diced or crumbled into bite-size pieces
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
¼ c heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp parmesan cheese, shredded (plus 4 tbsp for top)
salt & pepper to taste
fresh grated nutmeg (optional but adds a nice flavor – just run the seed over a micro plane about 4-5 times.  You don’t need much just the hint.)

Cook the pasta according to directions on package.   Drain pasta, reserving ¼ c of the water to set aside.  Then stir pasta in a large bowl with the peas (this helps defrost the peas).   Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.   Prepare a 3- quart casserole dish with butter or spray with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in the flour and let it soak up all the butter until it’s like a paste.   Then whisk in the whipping cream until there are not clumps.    Whisk in the parmesan cheese until melted. Whisk occasionally while it cooks and thickens.  Don’t let it boil.   Season with salt and pepper to taste and the nutmeg if you choose.    Once it’s warmed through and thickened up just a bit, pour the sauce in the large bowl over the pasta and peas.  Stir in half the bacon.   If it gets too thick or glue-like, pour in some of the reserved pasta water to help thin it out.  It should be creamy.  Pour the pasta mix into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle the remaining bacon pieces over the top and the remaining parmesan cheese.   Bake about 25 minutes.  Serve with your favorite salad.  Serves 6-8 generous portions.

August 9, 2011

Strawberry Scones

I don’t know about you but I love when strawberries are in season!  It’s even better that they are on sale most of the time.  Double bonus!! I buy several packages at a time of these fresh ruby red gems and then come up with tasty ways to use them in recipes.  As I hull and clean them, I can’t deny that I steal a few nibbles for myself.  There’s nothing like biting into a ripe and juicy strawberry.  This fruit definitely says summer to me and it is officially here in Texas!

For a quick treat, hull and clean your preferred amount of strawberries.  Fill a piping bag with homemade or store-bought no bake cheesecake filling.  Pipe the filling into the middle of the strawberries and you have Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.  Enjoy as many as you want for breakfast or a snack!

I decided to make scones one evening to take to work the next day for breakfast.  I thought it would start everyone’s Friday off right.  I’ve made scones in the past but these have been the best by far in my humble opinion.  Each one was fluffy and perfectly golden just the way a scone should be.  It helps that it has a lot of butter.  Please disregard that last little fact and enjoy them.  You deserve it!

Strawberry Scones
1 c hulled and finely diced fresh strawberries
4 c flour
¼ c sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
¾ c (3 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold heavy cream
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

Place diced strawberries on several sheets of paper towels to absorb their juice.  Meanwhile, mix 4 cups of flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.   Using your fingers or a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the flour-coated pieces are about the size of peas. 

Add the strawberries, tossing them gently to coat them.   Make a well in the mixture.   Stir the eggs, heavy cream and vanilla in a measuring cup until the eggs are lightly beaten.    Add the wet mixture to the well of the dry mixture.  With as few strokes as possible, gently stir the dough until just blended.  You should still see lumps of butter in the dough. 

Flour your hands and turn dough onto a lightly floured counter or a large cutting board.   Roll out the dough to a 3/4-inch thick rectangle.   Cut with a sharp knife into squares.  Then cut the squares in half diagonally to make triangles. (Or whatever shape you desire) 

Carefully place scones on the lined baking sheets about 2-3 inches apart.  Brush the tops with egg wash.  Sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes about 16 large scones.  **They are best served warm.  If cold, zap them in the microwave about 15 seconds.