Blogs, Recipes

Homemade Mac & Cheese

As many of you know, I joined the initiative #EducateYourself. I knew some but I am learning so much more. As a foodie, I wanted to learn more about the Black Culinary community, this is where I learned about James Hemings and his brother. 

The story of James Hemings is  fascinating, here’s a little taste. 

In the 18th century, James Hemings was one of America’s most accomplished chefs. He was also Thomas Jefferson’s slave. Hemings grew up as a household slave in Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia estate. He could read and write and Jefferson trusted him. So when Jefferson sailed to France in 1784 to become America’s trade minister, he brought Hemings with him. While in Paris, Hemings was trained in the art of French cooking. He studied first with the caterer and restaurateur, Monsieur Combeaux, apprenticing with pastry chefs. After three years of study he became the head chef at the Hôtel de Langeac, Jefferson’s residence that functioned also as the American embassy. Here his dishes were served to international guests, statesmen, authors, scientists, and European aristocrats.

In 1796, James Hemings was freed by Jefferson on the condition that James would train his younger brother to replace him as chef in the Jefferson household. In 1802, Jefferson served a “macaroni pie” at a state dinner, more than likely prepared from a recipe by James and cooked by his brother. Since that time, the dish has been associated with the United States. Unfortunately, no written record of the Hemingway’s mac and cheese survives.

Enslaved chefs played a huge role in refining some of America’s current staple foods, like mac and cheese.

If you want to learn more about James Hemings. Check out: Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America written by Thomas J. Craughwell . There’s even a children’s picture book, My Name Is James Madison Hemings written by Jonah Winter. 

Here is my Mac & Cheese recipe, inspired by the 1824 cookbook “The Virginia Housewife” written by Mary Randolph. It is believed that  Randolph’s recipe may have been one of James Hemings creations.

Pair this Mac and Cheese with Scout & Cellar 2019 Fiddleneck Chardonnay, Lake County, California

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter, to grease the dish
  • 16 ounces large elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 cups Half and Half
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Italian cheese blend. shredded
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Smoked paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder

Topping:

  • 1 sleeve Ritz Crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • ¼ tsp Smoked paprika

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and butter a 3 qt baking dish (9×13″). Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add the dried pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package directs for al dente.  

While pasta is cooking, mix all 3 cheeses in a large bowl. Remove ½ cup of the mixed cheese and set aside, you will use this for the topping. 

Drain the pasta and drizzle olive oil over the pasta and combine to keep from sticking.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine.  Mixture will look like very wet sand. Cook for approximately 1 minute, whisking often.  

Slowly pour in the 2 cups of the milk, while whisking constantly, until smooth.  

Next, slowly pour in the 2 cups of half and half, while whisking constantly, until combined and smooth.

Continue to heat over medium heat, whisking often, until thickened. 

Lower the heat and stir in seasonings and whisk together. 

Stir in 1 ½ cups of the cheeses, stirring to melt and combine.  

Stir in the rest of the cheese, and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta with cheese sauce, stirring to combine fully.  

Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.  

For the topping, mix the 1/4 remaining cup melted butter, remaining cheese and crushed crackers together in a bowl; scatter the cracker mixture evenly over the macaroni.

Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the top is lightly golden brown for about 15 minutes.  

Blogs, Recipes

Fish with a White Wine Key Lime Butter Sauce

Fish with White Wine & Key Lime Butter

The Keys  is one of my favorite vacation spots. It tugs at my inner pirate and pulls me in with its beautiful sunsets, fun bars, and good times. After I leave, I can’t wait to get back. It’s my to-go destination for a laid-back and adventurous vacation. The Keys are a state of mind as much as a place. So there’s no surprise the Keys has its own unique cuisine too.

This recipe is inspired by one of my boyfriend, Brian’s favorite Keys dishes from Lazy Days on Islamorada. It has all the fresh flavors of the Keys. Fresh fish crusted with panko bread crumbs, sautéed, topped with fresh diced tomatoes, roasted red peppers, scallions, and fresh grated parmesan cheese with a drizzle of key lime butter. 

Fish Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) fish fillets, such as snapper, flounder or cod. 
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ripe tomato, seeded, chopped small
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced (green and white parts)
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced 
  • ½ lime
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper to taste. 

Instructions

Prepare and keep warm white wine Key lime sauce before cooking fish.

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels.

Spread bread crumbs in a baking pan or pie plate. Press fish into crumbs on both sides to coat well. Place fish in a baking pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

In a bowl, stir together the chopped tomatoes, roast peppers, scallions. Squeeze half of a lime, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Refrigerate until right before serving.  

Heat a nonstick griddle or cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Once hot, add oil. 

When oil is heated, add fillets, cooking in two batches. Cook each fillet 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of fish.

Sprinkle each fillet with chopped tomato, scallions and roasted red pepper salsa; sprinkle grated cheese over top. Spoon white wine-Key lime sauce over and serve hot with white rice.

White Wine Key lime sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped roughly or green garden onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (note we tried it without the chicken stock and it was still good)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest 
  • 1/3 cup Key lime juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add shallot and saute for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add white wine and bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes or until reduced by half. Spoon shallot from pan and discard. Add chicken stock and cook for 2 minutes.

Add butter and cook over medium-low for 3 minutes, swirling pan or whisking gently to combine. Remove from heat and whisk in lime zest and Key lime juice. Keep warm over low heat while the fish is cooking. Serve warm.

This recipe pairs great with Scout & Cellar 2018 CHE FICO PINOT GRIGIO RISERVA. 

Blogs, Recipes

3 Habanero Sauces

I don’t like to waste food so whenever possible I try to find ways to use different ingredients.

In this case, I had an abundance of orange Habaneros and Basil. My dad and brother love spicy foods, actually they like to say the SPICIER the better! 

So I created three different Habanero sauces. 

  1. Habanero, Lime & Basil Hot Sauce
  2. Habanero, Lime & Basil Vinaigrette
  3. Habanero Avocado Basil Cream sauce

Remember, I told you I had a LOT of habaneros so I basically created a base sauce and then switched things up for each sauce, added a little here, and a little there. You may be wondering, why carrots? Carrots have a natural sweetness so I wanted to up the sweetness (and the flavor) without having to add too much sugar. The instructions for each sauce are the same, saute the carrots, onion and garlic, then drop all into a blender with all the other ingredients. Three habaneros was enough heat for me, but when I made my dad and brother’s jars I added two more. I’m serious when I say they like it HOT!

PLEASE make sure to wear gloves when handling the habaneros! I learned this the hard way. LOL. 

Hot Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 habanero peppers, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 cup Basil, packed
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup Apple cider vineg
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 habanero peppers, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 cup Basil, packed
  • ½ cup Apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½  cup water
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ⅓ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cream Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 habanero peppers, stem and seeds removed
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup Basil, packed
  • ½ cup Apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½  cup water
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ⅓ cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
Cook and stir the carrots, oil, onion, and garlic in the hot oil until soft, about 5 minutes; transfer to a blender. 

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender; blend until smooth. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You may need to add more water by the tablespoonful, until the sauce reaches the consistency you like. 

Pour into the container of your choice and refrigerate.

Blogs, Recipes

MOJO PORK

Every Christmas, my family has a smorgasbord of Italian and Spanish dishes. And Mojo pork is always on the table.  This recipe has become my go to for easy slow cooker meals..

This recipe is juicy, succulent with garlic and citrus  and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The pork is SO tender and juicy on the inside, while deliciously crisp and golden on the edges! I love it over yellow rice, in tacos or used to make a Cuban sandwich. And the best part is, you make this in the slow cooker so it cooks all day and will be ready when you get home from work. 

I have to admit, it has taken me many failed attempts and trying a variety of different recipes before finally creating this one and falling in love. It was all worth it! My secret little ingredient is Coca Cola! It really lifts the pork to bolder and better flavors! The orange juice and lime juice combo tenderizes the pork, while the natural sugars in the juices and the coke combined turn what would be just another pulled pork recipe, into heaven in your mouth! The trick to getting crispy edges, after shredding the pork, pop it in the oven on boil for 5-10 minutes until the meat is gold brown and crispy!

Pair this with Scout & Cellar Clean-Crafted™ 2018 L’ORIGINAL SPARKLING ROSÉ. 

A vibrant raspberry in color with fine, fizzy bubbles and notes of candied cherry, macerated strawberry, blood orange and cantaloupe on a full-bodied frame with a mouth-coating finish.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Coke
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 7 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
  • 1 medium sweet onion , sliced thin
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 3 pound pork shoulder roast
  • Limes and Cilantro for garnish

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, lime juice, salt, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, pepper, and garlic.

Make slits in the pork with a paring knife and rub liberally all over with the oil mixture.

Place pork in the slow cooker, along with the onion and bay leaf. Pour the remaining juices from the bowl over the pork.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Transfer pork to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using two forks, shred into thick chunks.

Transfer the pork to a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking oil spray (or lined with aluminium foil or parchment paper).

Pour 1 ladle full (about 1 cup) of the liquid from the slow cooker over the pork to season. 

Broil for 5-10 minutes on high heat until the meat becomes golden browned and crispy on the edges.

Season with a little extra salt and pepper if desired. Pour over more of the slow cooker juices once the meat has crisped for added flavor, just before serving!

Serve over rice or as tacos.

Blogs, Recipes

Blue Cheese Burgers with Red Wine-Onion Jam and Crispy Beer Battered Onion Rings

Are you looking for a delicious Memorial Day recipe? Look no more!

Burgers are one of summer’s classic dishes and an ever-popular pick at backyard barbecues everywhere! Not only are these burgers a cinch to make but they are the tastiest burgers you will ever eat! 

I love using Italian sausage in my burgers! It is a  smart shortcut, because the meat is already seasoned. Caramelized red onions are tasty in their own right, but simmered in a sweet/spicy mix of red wine, honey and herbs, they turn into the most delicious jam ever. And it is a perfect addition to these Blue Cheese Burgers!

Brian and I love to top these burgers with homemade Beer Battered Onion Rings! I included our recipe below. It’s delicious! Not a beer fan? Sub in any other carbonated beverage, including ginger ale, club soda or your favorite soft drink.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½  pound ground Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 hamburger buns, split

Red Wine-Onion Jam Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat your grill to high heat.

Mix the meat and blue cheese in a large bowl until combined. 

Shape the meat into four burgers, each about 1 inch thick.

Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place the burgers on the grill and grill until golden brown, three to four minutes. 

Turn the burgers over and continue grilling to medium, about three minutes longer. 

Remove the burgers to a plate and let rest while you grill the buns.

Butter the cut sides of the buns and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, butter side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Place the burgers on top of the bun and spoon some onion jam on each burger. Top with the buns and serve immediately.

Red Wine-Onion Jam

– makes 3/4 cup –

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan on the grates of the grill or on a stovetop over medium-low heat.

Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, vinegar, honey, and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, five to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. 

The jam can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Crispy Beer Battered Onion Rings Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pale ale beer 
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour with the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk in the beer until the mixture is well combined. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

While the batter rests, cut the tip off of the stem side of the onions then remove the peel. Slice the onions horizontally into 1/2-inch-thick rings and toss them with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.

Add the vegetable oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (Dutch oven) to a depth of 2 inches and heat it over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 375°F.

Working in batches, dip the onion rings into the prepared batter, shaking off any excess, then immediately drop them into the hot oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Allow the onions to cook in the oil, flipping them once to guarantee even browning, for a total of about 3 minutes. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.

Immediately season them with salt. Repeat the coating and frying process, returning the oil to 375°F between batches, with the remaining onions.

TIPS: 

When measuring beer, don’t include the foamy head in your measurement. 

Shake off as much of the excess batter as possible when coating the onion rings in order to get the best ratio of onion to batter.

Blogs, Recipes

PAN FRIED WHITEFISH WITH ARTICHOKES, OLIVES, AND CHERRY TOMATOES

It’s almost summer and what goes with summer. FISH, well at least here in Florida! Light and flavorful pan fried fish always reminds me of summer. 

The sauce is what defines this recipe. Prepare the sauce first and allow it to simmer as you pan fry the fish. And, if you don’t like Black olives or even artichokes, no worries leave them out. Just add one tablespoon sea salt and ¼ cup lemon juice!

A tip, I have learned along the way is to add the SALT later in the dish. So you will notice salt is not on the ingredients list. The artichokes and olives give this dish enough salt, but if you feel you need salt, taste and add a pinch as needed. 

Scout and Cellar Sauvginon Blanc is the perfect pairing for this recipe! Oh and GO BUCS! Definitely need a Bucs wine glass for this dish! LOL

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 grouper filets
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • I can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 can (6 ounces) Large Black Olives
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ¼ cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Parsley Leaves, for garnish
  • Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
  • DON’T LIKE OLIVES OR ARTICHOKES:
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt 
  • ¼ cup lemon juice!

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the olive in a heavy skillet until lightly smoking, then add the onions, sautei for 1 to 2 minutes. 

Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and pepper, stirring to combine. Saute for 2-5 minutes until fragrant. 

Add the chopped artichokes and whole cherry tomatoes. Slowly add the chicken broth and stir. 

Place lid on for 5 minutes, liquid to reduce. 

Once liquid is reduced, add the white wine, stir and place the lid back on. Tomatoes should start to burst. 

Add the olives and stir to mix. Place the lid back on and cook for 5- 1 minutes. 

Add butter, stir and melt on low heat. 

Heat a separate pan, add a drizzle of olive, then add the fillets to the pan. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. 

Place the filets  in the tomato mixture pan and cover with the sauce, cook for 2-4 minutes. 

Serve the fillets topped with the tomato mixture, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and parsley. 

You can serve this on its own or with a side of cauliflower rice/white rice. 

Blogs, Recipes

Ropa Vieja

One of the things I love about cooking is how the flavors can take you back to a specific time or memory. This recipe reminds me of my family whether it was dinner at La Teresita or the smells of my grandmother’s house. La Teresita is a Spanish restaurant in Tampa. My family have shared many meals together here. Every time we would go to dinner at Le Teresita, my dad would order Ropa Vieja, which means “old clothes” in Spanish. We would laugh as he made a joke that he liked the taste of old clothes then he would shake the bread basket, and ask “Más pan!” It became a family joke!

You’ll love this dish if you’re into big, bold flavors! It is delicious served with black beans, white rice, and sweet plantains. Typically this dish is made with flank steak, which is lean and has long, shreddy fibers, and is how the dish earned the name “old clothes.” It’s the traditional choice, but you can also use chuck roast. 

Brian and I love to use our Le Creuset braiser. So naturally, I used the braiser for this recipe. However you can also make this in a slow cooker. I included instructions for both below. 

I can not think of a better wine to pair with this dish other than Scout and Cellar’s 2018 OSO PARDO TEMPRANILLO. This wine is deep purple-red in color with notes of cherry, blood orange and leather lifted by a hint of violets on a textured frame with a bright finish. I love the story of where this wine comes from, La Mancha, Spain. The winery was founded over 30 years ago, when 28 wine growing families decided to join and work together, creating something larger than any of them could have done on their own. To this day, the estate operates as a cooperative, with over 6,000 acres of vineyard with about 60 viticulturists and vintners. Click the link to learn more and order a bottle.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds flank steak
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt or more to taste
  • 15 ounces can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup Spanish green olives, pitted (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • white rice steamed
  • 1 lime quartered
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

Pat roast dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a large heatproof pot over high. Cook chuck roast, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, 5–7 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 250°. Cook onion, bell peppers, and salt (plus 2 Tbsp. oil if using flank steak), stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 12–14 minutes. 

Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pan, until vegetables are golden brown, 3–5 minutes. 

Stir in wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Stir in paprika, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne until vegetables are coated; continue to cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. 

Add tomatoes and stir. 

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Nestle the meat into the tomato mixture and tuck in bay leaves on either side. Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise until meat is very tender and shreds easily, 2½–3 hours. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Skim excess fat from sauce; discard bay leaves. Using 2 forks, tear and smash beef into sauce until it’s shredded and covered with sauce. 

Stir in olives and vinegar.

Top with cilantro. Serve with white rice, black beans and sweet plantains.

SLOW COOKER INSTRUCTIONS

Add the wine, vinegar, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and spices to the slow cooker and stir. Add the flank steak and flip it around in the sauce.

Add on top of the meat the onion, bell peppers, olives, and garlic cloves.

Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 9 hours or high for 5 hours.