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

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

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

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.

Blogs, Recipes

French Onion Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

If you love French Onion soup, you will LOVE this French Onion Stuffed Pork tenderloin! This smothered pork tenderloin has all the great flavors of a French onion soup, plus juicy pork, and it’s made in one pan! 

Seriously! Brian, my boyfriend said this meal made the Top Ten! It’s savory, it’s gooey, it’s rich, it’s easy, and it’s all done in one pan, which makes for easy clean up! I personally love cast iron so my 10 inch cast iron skillet is my go-to for one pan meals! 

Grab your favorite oven-safe skillet, and let’s get started! 

Preheat the oven to 350°F while you brown the onions and garlic. This will take about 20 minutes. You will use two onions, which may seem like a lot but trust me the onions will reduce as they cook. Cook the onions and garlic in an oven-safe, large skillet. The pork tenderloin will be going back in there. Be sure to keep the cooked onions warm by putting an aluminum tent over them while you prepare the pork loin.

Before butterflying the tenderloin, mix the oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a bowl. You will rub this oil mixture on both sides of the tenderloin. To butterfly the pork tenderloin, use a sharp knife to make a horizontal cut about one-third of the way up from the bottom of the tenderloin. Flip open the thicker, top flap (like opening a book). Then, take the knife and cut another horizontal line through the thicker part of the tenderloin to open it up even more (like a trifold). You should now have a flat surface of meat that will hold the flavor of the French Onion Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the laid out pork and pound it out to about a 1/3 inch thickness, be careful not to tear it. Once the pork has been butterflied, rub both sides with the oil mixture.

Top the pork tenderloin with half of the cooked onions and half of the shredded cheese. Roll up the pork tenderloin, making sure you wrap up all that goodness inside! Then, using cooking twine, tie the rolled pork tenderloin up to hold in all the ingredients. Heat the same skillet that you used for the onions, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Next, sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, rotate it about four times to get as much of the pork seared as possible.

Next, cook the pork tenderloin for about 15-20 minutes, making sure the internal temperature is at 145°F. Take the tenderloin out of the oven. Don’t worry, I did not forget about the rest of the onions and cheese. Top the tenderloin with both and broil for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and Enjoy!

This recipe pairs great with my french onion risotto and a glass of Scout & Cellar’s 2018 LITTLE JANE PINOT NOIR. Little Jane Pinot Noir is elegant and complex with red plum, black cherry and fresh raspberry balanced by garrigue, Asian spice, and a hint of coffee bean with soft tannins and a lingering finish.

Risotto recipe is at the bottom of this post. 

Ingredients

ONIONS

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • ½ cup beef broth

PORK TENDERLOIN

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Chopped Parsley 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

ONIONS

In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.

Add onions, drizzle EVOO over top, stir and saute for 5 minutes.

Add garlic, stir to combine and saute for 2-5 minutes

Add beef broth, stir and cook until the onions are browned and tender (approximately 15-20 minutes). 

Transfer cooked onions to a bowl and tent to keep warm.

PORK LOIN

Butterfly the pork tenderloin. 

Cover the entire cut of meat with plastic wrap and pound to an even 1/3 inch thickness.

In a small bowl, combine oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Rub over both sides of pork tenderloin.

Top the pork tenderloin with half of the cooked onions and half of the shredded cheese.

Tightly roll the pork tenderloin to completely enclose all of the fillings.

Using cooking twine, tightly secure the roll.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add the pork tenderloin to the pan and sear on all sides (about 3-5 minutes on each side). Turning the pork tenderloin a total of 4 times.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pork tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 145 °F. 

Remove pork tenderloin from the oven. 

Increase oven temperature to broil. 

Top pork tenderloin with remaining cheese and onions and cook for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Slice and serve warm.

Sprinkle with parsley for garnish.

Risotto Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5½ cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups Aborio rice
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Instructions

First, heat your stock in a pot until warm, and keep over low heat to make sure it is warm while you work – this helps the rice to better absorb the liquid.

Heat your butter in a large pot  over medium heat. Add in your onions and cook for 15-20 minutes or so, stirring often, until they are golden brown and caramelized. Add in your rice and garlic, stir to combine, and then add in your ½ cup of stock. Stir often, you want to make sure that the rice doesn’t burn, stir until the liquid has been absorbed, then add in another ½ cup, stir, and when that liquid has also been absorbed, add in another ½ cup of stock. Continue to do this for another 18-20 minutes, until the rice is tender.

When your rice is ready, stir in the Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot.

Blogs, Recipes

Honey Garlic Salmon

I love salmon! This is one of my go to salmon recipes.  It’s garlic, sweet and sticky with simple ingredients. 

This salmon recipe pairs great with Scout & Cellar’s 2018 LITTLE JANE PINOT NOIR. Little Jane Pinot Noir is elegant and complex with red plum, black cherry and fresh raspberry balanced by garrigue, Asian spice, and a hint of coffee bean with soft tannins and a lingering finish.

Ingredients:

Sauce: 

  • 4 tbsp honey 
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar, distilled 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Salmon

  • 2 salmon filets 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper 

Instructions 

Take salmon out of the fridge, 20 minutes before cooking. 

Pat dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

In a bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. 

In a skillet, drizzle olive oil and gear over medium high heat. 

Place salmon in a hot pan and cook the first side for 3-4 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. 

Pour sauce over salmon. Cook for 1 minute until the sauce starts to thicken. If the sauce thickens too much before the salmon has cooked to your temperature then just add 1 tablespoon of water to the pan and stir. 

Remove to plates & drizzle with sauce and serve. 

Tip: 

To determine the wellness of the salmon, check the side of the salmon to tell how cooked the salmon is- I like my salmon medium rare inside, if it’s coral inside (rare to medium rare). You can use a thermometer too. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the salmon- 120 F for medium rare and 130 degrees for medium

Remember the salmon will continue cooking for a minute after removing it from the skillet

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Cocktails

Homemade Strawberry & Citrus Shrubs

Have you made shrubs before? 

They are a beautiful sweet and tangy combination of fruit and vinegar. 

Shrubs add sweetness and tang to cocktails and mocktails. Splash some in ice-cold seltzer to make a mocktail or make a boozy beverage with vodka. 

Well having brunch at the C House in Seminole Heights, I learned about shrubs. I tried one of their signature cocktails that uses their homemade Strawberry shrub. It was delicious! I was inspired to try my hand at making my own shrub. 

Ingredients

Strawberry Shrub

  • 1 cup strawberries, halved  
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (1 inch) strip lemon zest

Citrus Shrub

  • I cup lemon, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup orange, peel and chopped 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Directions

Strawberry Shrub

  1. Combine strawberries, sugar, vinegar and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. 
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  3. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. 
  4. Pour into a mason jar.
  5. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Citrus Shrub

  1. Place all the fruit flesh into a blender and pulse until smooth. 
  2. Pour puree mixture, sugar and vinegar into a saucepan. 
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  4. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes. 
  5. Pour into a mason jar.
  6. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours or up to 1 week.

For the cocktails

In a cocktail shaker, add 1 ounce of vodka, ¾ ounce of Shrub, and ice. Cover and shake until cold, about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass of ice and top with Prosecco. Garnish with mint.

For a mocktail, serve Shrubs over Seltzer water and ice.