Spiced Meatballs with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

I know I can’t be the only person out there with an ingredient or condiment that they put on everything, right? You guys know what I’m talking about. You love it SO much, its flavors are SO awesome that you just always have to have it (sometimes huge quantities of it) in the house. You search for excuses to somehow incorporate it into every meal. The love you have for it is just that strong.

I mean, I’m a foodie so it should probably go without saying that I’ve got more than one contender.

There must, at all times, be a bottle of Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce in my house. Preferably, the big one. You know why? Cause I really do put that stuff on everything:

Pizza, eggs, chips, salsa, salad, vegetables, french fries, chicken wings. I’ll shake some of it into stews or braises to give it an extra ‘zip’. Heck, I even mix it in with strawberry jelly to smear on my biscuits or toast because I love the contrast of the sweet with the spicy (Look, don’t knock it til you try it!).

Caramelized onions are another one for me. I could eat them completely on their own as a side dish to be honest, but I can put them in just about anything. For that reason, I’ll usually always pick up at least one or two yellow or red onions from the grocery every week so I can always have some in the kitchen to caramelize for anything I might be in the mood for. If you guys haven’t hopped on the caramelized onions bandwagon, please do. Like Frank’s Red Hot, they can and will elevate just about any dish. This is also where having a recipe that is impossible to screw up, like these Foolproof  Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions, will really come in handy.  Just saying.

Right up there with caramelized onions for me are roasted red peppers. God, I love roasted red peppers so much. Any slow roasted pepper is delicious, but there’s just always been something about the red ones that had me hooked from that very first taste. Like Frank’s Red Hot and caramelized onions, I will look for excuses to put roasted red peppers in anything. I am convinced there is no savory dish that they would not taste good in and enhance. None.

I really don’t care how good your favorite pizza is. That pizza game is weak until you start eating pizza with roasted red peppers on top.

You’re really outchea trying to eat tacos with no roasted red peppers? Fix your life.

Trying to eat healthy by eating a salad? Fantastic. Slice a roasted red pepper in there and give it a pop of color and a pop of deliciousness.

Psst. Come here. Closer. Closer.  *whisper voice* Hummus tastes 1000x better with roasted red peppers blended in it. Believe me. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Try it sometime.

This dish ended up happening for two reasons: first, I wanted to try to make a roasted red pepper romesco sauce to go with some meatballs. Second, I didn’t have an almonds. Romesco sauce is one that is primarily made of red peppers and almonds, so not having almonds on hand was…kinda putting a damper on my plans. But I improvised and came up with something else that I’m actually very pleased with.

So check this sauce y’all. It’s not a tomato sauce. It not only has quite a few roasted red peppers in it, it also has roasted sweet onions AND a whole head of roasted garlic. I know. That seems like a lot, but trust me. It all works. Roasting the veggies gives them a richer, sweeter flavor that melds well with the spices that pack a punch of their own.

I decided to try and up the ante of the roasted flavor in the veggies by pairing them with smoked paprika and ras el hanout. Both are intensely smoky and slightly spicy with woodsy undertones that leave a sweet aftertaste on the tongue. Combining them together with all those veggies and garlic that were roasted is going to result in a sauce that you’re probably going to be tempted to slurp up on a spoon all on its own. But don’t do it! Cause, meatballs.

I used a lot of the same spices in the ground meat that I did the sauce. I prefer to bake mine rather than saute them in a skillet as I’ve found that they hold together better that way. Another suggestion-kinda-not-suggestion I have is to finish cooking your meatballs IN the sauce itself, as that meaty flavor can literally cook inside the sauce and give it even more flavor.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: yes. I DID sprinkle some Frank’s Red Hot on top of these when I sat down to eat. Not because they ‘needed it; I just really do put that stuff one everything. Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #185, co-hosted by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

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Spiced Meatballs with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

For Meatballs

  • 4 lbs ground beef (or turkey, if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (up to 1 cup more, if needed)

For Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions

For Meatballs: combine the ground beef in a large bowl with all of the dry spices. Add the soy and Worcestershire sauce, then the eggs. Pour in the breadcrumbs and mix together with your hand; don’t knead it too much though, or the meatballs may be tough. If the mixture seems too wet, you can always add more breadcrumbs to tighten it up.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shape into meatballs (about 2 tablespoonfuls each). Place 1 1/2 inches apart on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until browned.

For Sauce: Lower heat down to 350°. Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily).

Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes. You may add a few of the meatballs inside to give additional beefy flavor.

Spoon sauce on top of the meatballs or dip meatballs in sauce, eating with rice, quinoa or couscous. 

Sweet Cornmeal Scones

Sweet Cornmeal Scones5

Smoked paprika. Onion powder. Worcestershire sauce.  Hoisin sauce. Onion soup mix.

This seems like a random list, I know. But in my private little world of cooking and baking, it totally makes sense.

There are certain ingredients that I have a slight obsession with. If you’re a cook, you’ll know what I mean. No matter what, you always have to have them in your house/kitchen. You search for excuses to put them to use. You’ll swap them in recipes that don’t necessarily call for them, because YOU know from experience that they serve their own unique purpose. I’ve certainly found that to be the case for me with the above mentioned ingredients.

I used to think paprika was pointless. It gave dishes a reddish hue but I never could distinguish a prominent flavor in regular paprika. I still can’t. But the day I discovered smoked paprika? Whooooo. I was hooked. The earthy smokiness is a flavor that will work with just about ANY savory dish, especially Latin and Middle Eastern ones. I freely admit to dumping entire tablespoonfuls of smoked paprika in braises and spice rubs. The tastebuds of the people I’m feeding always thank me later–and if you start using it generously in your food I promise that the tastebuds of the people you feed will thank you as well.

I’m gonna keep it 100 with you guys: I depend on onion powder in seasoning my food even more than I do salt and pepper. Yes. It’s that serious. I’m really sitting here trying to think if there is ANY savory dish that I make where I don’t use onion powder…….yeah, no. There’s not, and that’s because onion powder makes everything taste better. Worcestershire sauce and Hoisin sauce kinda go hand in hand. If you’re making a beef or pork dish and you want to add a deeper, richer layer of flavor to your sauce, then I highly recommend you keep them handy. A tablespoon of hoisin  and few shakes of Worcestershire sauce in a beef stew will REALLY give it that extra boost: trust me on this. lastly, If you think you’re really bad at making gravy–or you’re not bad at it, but you need to make some fast in a pinch, then using dry onion soup mix combined with beef broth is a quick & easy way to get good results.

I left one ingredient off that list on purpose, because it’s largely centered on today’s recipe.  Here’s the thing, guys: I have a slight obsession with cornmeal. I love it. I search for ways to put the stuff in everything, in both sweet and savory applications. I’ve shared two cornbread recipes on the blog already (my grandma’s recipe included which is made of more cornmeal than flour). The fried chicken recipe I shared a few weeks ago was posted alongside a recipe for biscuits that had cornmeal in them. I’ve made several yeast breads that have cornmeal in the dough–heck, I just made one yesterday that I’ll be sharing soon. There’s even a cookie recipe I tried with cornmeal that I really liked. I even sometimes put a sprinkle of cornmeal in my stews, chilis or braises to both thicken the liquid, and give it a subtle corny flavor.

And now, just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be yet another cornmeal recipe I could throw at y’all, here I am… throwing another cornmeal recipe at you.

You only have to take a brief glance at the Recipe Index to figure out that I’m kinda fond of scones.Every so often I get a crazy craving for one that I just have to appease, whether it means finding a coffee shop with a good selection or just making them myself. This time, I went with the latter and decided to see what would happen if I made my favored breakfast pastry with one of my favored ingredients.

This is what happened, and I gotta say: I like it. Cornmeal does admittedly add a coarser, grittier texture to ANY dough you make so if you’re searching for a light and fluffy scone, this may not be the one for you. However, these still do have layers and a flakiness to them that I think the cornmeal adds an interesting and different texture to. They’re somehow flaky and bready at the same time. Flavor-wise, you taste the sweetness from the light brown sugar then the subtle sweetness of the corn-y flavor and somehow, the two just really work together. Oh, and did I mention these were made even better smeared with butter and jam? Cause they were.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #184, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Sweet Cornmeal Scones

Recipe Adapted from Food.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal salt, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the scones to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size scones you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut scones on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the scones with melted butter and the turbinado sugar, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Serve warm, spread with butter or jam.

 

Jamaican Beef Patty

One of the very earliest recipes I did on the blog was one for meat pies that I make for my sister. (Don’t go back in the archives to look for it, I beg of you. My photography was abysmal in those days.) I started out with meat pies because for quite some time, I’ve had somewhat of a minor obsession with them, in just about any form. I don’t know why. Carbs and meat are perfectly fine all on their own. But for me, when you out them together they can get elevated to something even better.

The pretty cool thing about the meat pie is that practically EVERY cuisine, culture & region has their own rendition of it. In Latin American cuisine, they have empanadas. In Canada they have Tourtiere. In Lebanese cooking they’re called sfeeha. Back where I come from in Michigan they’re called pasties. In Louisiana they’re Natchitoches.

For so many different people in so many different places to all find a way to work the meat pie in their cuisines means that there’s really gotta be ‘something’ to it worth trying out at least once. And frankly, once you’ve had a delicious meat pie, you’re not just going to want to make it a one time deal. You’ll keep coming back for more whether you’re buying or making them–that’s my experience anyway.

I left one very important type of meat pie off the list above on purpose. Jamaican Beef Patty are the subject of today’s post and (if you can believe it) making these was the first time I’d ever even tasted them before. I know, right? And I call myself a foodie. But better late than ever. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit more pleased with my results than those I’ve seen in take out joints. I’ve had Caribbean food before, though not as often as now when we’re in the Bay area. But even at the occasions when I had it, beef patty was something that somehow always ended up getting left off the order. I’ll admit that may have been because when it comes to how I like MY meat pies, I can be tough to please.

For me, there are three components that you have to nail in order to make a good meat pie: first, the pie crust has to be buttery and flaky. No one wants to be chewing something that tastes like bland, dried up cardboard. Also, don’t be afraid to season the crust itself. Second, make sure there is enough moisture in the filling. I understand that we’re not making pot pie here, but it shouldn’t be dry as a bone on the inside either. Third, SEASONSEASONSEASOOOOOON that filling. I can’t tell you how disappointed I’ve been to try someone else’s meat pie (of several different kinds of cuisines) only to be disappointed because literally the only thing I can taste is browned, bland ground beef. Do better. Season with authority and make that filling pack an Ali-worthy punch.

Having said all of that, I can safely say that this recipe checks off all those boxes. The pie crust is not only flaky and buttery by using a combination of butter and shortening, there’s curry powder in the dough that not only gives it wonderful flavor, but a pleasant golden brown color when it’s finished baking. The filling is cooked with more than enough spices to be anything but bland. It’s obviously got a kick from the Scotch bonnet pepper, but it’s also got an aromatic, earthy beef flavor that only gets better the longer it sits–so, I do recommend you follow the instructions to refrigerate it overnight to allow the flavors in the filling to develop. You won’t regret it. Andand! The addition of Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce and beef broth also ensures that it won’t be too dry.

Try these guys. It’s a nice little project to do that will get you a lot of rave reviews. Linking it up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #183, co-hosted this week by Sarah @ Sarah’s Little Kitchen and Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life.

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Jamaican Beef Patty

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored vegetable shortening, frozen
  • 3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon cold water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Filling

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and finely minced
  • 1 1/4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix (or cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten

 

Directions

For Dough: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and curry powder with a fork. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate butter directly into dry ingredients. Slice the shortening into small chunks and sprinkle into the flour. Mix together with a fork or a rubber spatula. (Mixture should resemble coarse bread crumbs, with chunks of butter/shortening throughout) Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the water, beaten egg and vinegar. Mix together until just combined, then turn out onto a cutting board or pastry mat dusted with flour. Working quickly, pat and press with your hands until you have a mass of dough that holds together. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour, but preferably overnight.

For Filling: In a large skillet or Dutch oven, pour and heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the beef until no longer pink. Remove and drain the fat.  Don’t wipe out the skillet. Saute the onions until translucent, about 7 minutes, then add the pepper and garlic and cook until just fragrant, 1-2 minutes more. Add the beef back into the skillet, then Pour in the beef broth , sauces, spices, bay leaves and thyme leaves. Stir to combine, then allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off and evaporated, about 20 minutes. Taste & adjust for seasoning. Remove from heat and stir in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate filling overnight to allow flavor to improve.

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove the  dough from the fridge and sprinkle a clean surface with flour. Roll dough out with  floured rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4-5 inch circles and place two heaping tablespoons of filling on each. Brush the bottom edge with water or egg wash, then pull the top edge over the filling and press down to fuse the two edges together. You may crimp the outer edges afterwards with a fork if you like. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough, keeping unused rounds AND filled patties in the fridge as you work to keep the dough cold as possible.

Once finished, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil, and lightly spray with cooking spray. Place pies on pan. Brush the tops with the beaten egg, then bake on the middle rack until dough is cooked through & golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Roast Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Red Onions

Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Onions2

When I still lived back in Michigan, there were two places that I lived without that have now become a rather significant part of my grocery shopping/cooking experience:

Trader Joe’s, and the Whole Foods Market.

My hometown doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s and up until a few MONTHS before I moved, it didn’t have a Whole Foods either. Now that I’ve lived on the West coast for nearly a year (whoa, canNOT believe it’s been that long already),  I really don’t know how I did without them–especially Trader Joe’s.

In the first place TJ’s brand of foods is pretty awesome; I highly recommend their hummus, cauliflower rice, ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, and of course, the friggin cookie butter. In the second, the produce you get from there (even when it’s non-organic) I’ve just found to taste A LOT better than the produce you can get in regular grocery stores. The difference is absolutely worth splitting our grocery runs into multiple places to get the produce there and everything else at Target or the like.

My newfound love of Whole Foods has come because of my discovery that they sell certain ingredients that I previously had never seen in grocery stores in the Mitten. I know that the ‘Whole Foods Whole Paycheck’ jokes are gonna flow, but I will also say that they have a bulk spice assortment that is pretty inexpensive; especially when you’ve walked down a spice aisle and seen a 4 oz jar of a spice that can run anywhere between $6-14. (I wish I was kidding, but my fellow cooks know I’m dead serious).

One of the ingredients that I’ve since found in Whole Foods, and is extremely relevant to today’s post is the blood orange.

Don’t freak out. This has nothing to do with blood. The blood orange is a variety of the orange citrus fruit and is so called because whereas the inner flesh/pulp of the orange is…orange, blood orange inner flesh is a dark crimson red–y’know, like blood. The flavor is also far more intense; I would describe the taste like a VERY tart raspberry or an extremely sweet, slightly less bitter grapefruit. I first heard of blood orange from watching an episode of Iron Chef America several years ago, and the mystery ingredient(s) used in the battle were an assortment of conventional and unconventional citrus fruits. One of the chefs used blood oranges in their dishes and I was intrigued as to how the sweet fruit would work in a savory dish.

That curiosity stuck with me up until the day I was picking up some spices from Whole Foods and suddenly noticed that they had blood oranges in their produce section (because, of course they did). I remembered how I had always wanted to try them and decided to just go ahead and take a chance.

Pork loin is a very inexpensive cut of meat, and I know from past experience, including from other recipes on the blog, that quite a bit of fruits (like apples and peaches) pair wonderfully with it. For that reason I decided to let a pork loin roast with blood orange as the main flavor be my introduction to not only cooking with blood orange, but tasting it in general.

I love when my cooking curiosity pays off–especially when it means I get to share with you all.

I really enjoyed this. First, blood oranges are very tasty. I think I may even like their flavor a tad bit better than regular oranges. Second, combined with the right flavors, they absolutely do work in a savory dish, much like this one. The seasoning on the pork itself is balanced with the addition of fresh rosemary, sweet paprika, garlic and coriander to cut some of the sweetness of the blood orange. The sauce is my favorite part: it manages to still have that noticeable tartness from the blood orange, but also has a sweet and tangy flavor from the addition of white wine, Dijon mustard, among other ingredients. Put them together and you have an easy meal that you can brag about to your friends who til now may have never even heard of blood orange before themselves.

Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #181, co-hosted this week by CH @ Cooking From My Heart and Nimmi @ Adorable Life.

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Roast Pork Loin with Blood Orange and Red Onions

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Pork

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless pork loin
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive, vegetable or canola oil
  • Zest and juice of 4 blood oranges
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 3 red onions, quartered into large chunks

For Blood Orange Sauce

  • Juice of 8 blood oranges (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 honey
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Seasoned salt and pepper

 

Directions

In a small bowl combine the oil, zest, juice, garlic, rosemary, coriander, sweet paprika, onion powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Mix until it forms a loose paste, then rub the paste over the pork loin evenly on both sides. Place in a Ziploc bag or a sealable plastic container and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the pork from the fridge and allow to sit for 1 hour to come to room temp. Heat about one tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Sear the pork on both sides about 3-5 minutes per side until a browned crust forms.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a roasting pan or sheet tray, then place a wire rack over that. Spray lightly with cooking spray then place the pork on top of the rack. Roast in the oven on the lower rack until a thermometer inserted into the middle reads 145°, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: combine the juice, white wine, golden raisins, sugar, honey, rosemary, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the Dijon mustard in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to reduce until syrupy and slightly thickened, about 30-35 minutes. Take off the heat and add the remaining mustard and the vinegar. Set aside until pork is ready.

Line another sheet pan with aluminum foil. Toss the onions with about 2 tablespoons of the sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Roast on the top rack until softened and just about to char, about 25 minutes. Set aside until pork is finished.

Allow the pork to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the sauce and red onions.

Cookies n’ Cream Layer Cake

There is a tangible difference in food that’s been made with care and love versus food that’s been made without them and don’t you let anyone tell you there isn’t. Anyone who says there isn’t has never had food made for them with love, and that’s truly unfortunate. When I was younger, I thought it just boiled down to some people were good cooks and some people weren’t–now that I’m older and that I’ve learned how to cook and bake rather well myself I understand that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve eaten in swank restaurants where the food was both expensive and undoubtedly delicious, but given the choice I still would’ve rather been in my grandma’s house eating a dish of her smothered steak and gravy.  I would take her Lemon Pound Cake over the most pricey, fancy souffle from the best pastry chef in the world ANY DAY.

Know why? Because regardless of whether or not the fancy food tastes delicious, I know for a fact that there is more love for ME personally in her dishes than anything a chef that doesn’t know me from Eve can put into his food, no matter how technically flawless it is. It may sound corny, but for me, food made with love tastes like home; the taste that gives you the ‘itis’ where you’re full, satisfied, and want to take a nap afterwards, then wake up and have a little bit more.

The only thing more gratifying for me than eating food made with love is being the one to make it for my loved ones, especially when it’s a special request/favorite of theirs. Because I know them, I know exactly what they want and how they’re going to want the food to taste and that knowledge makes me all the more determined to put as much care and consideration into what I’m doing to make sure the food meets their anticipation for it. My fellow food bloggers/cooks out there will know the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching someone you love eat and rave over their favorite food and know that YOU were the one to make it for them. It’s a wonderful thing.

My twin sister came out to visit us a few months ago. There’s little to nothing that I don’t know about her, including the fact that she loves practically ANYTHING cookies and cream flavored. The Cookies and Cream flavor is best described as that of the Oreo sandwich cookie: a sweet vanilla base mixed with chocolate. She mostly eats ice cream, and we very well could’ve just got a pint of it to keep in the freezer but when she booked her flight to come out here I decided to make something that was bit more special than ice cream to surprise her with.

This may be the easiest layer cake I’ve ever made. Unlike most others that have lengthy ingredients and complex instructions this cake is so simple it doesn’t even require a standing or hand held mixer. If you’ve got a large bowl, a whisk (or even a fork), you can make this cake and have it baking in the oven in less than ten minutes, no joke. The recipe that I included does give instructions for making whipped cream from scratch. However. In the case that you don’t have a standing or handheld mixer….lean in closer. A little bit closer. Little bit closer.

*whisper*  You can buy pre-made cool whip that you thaw and it will still work out fine.

The finished product is what is probably the most “Cookies and Cream”-y thing I’ve ever seen or tasted. Normally I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cake, but the combination of the cake with the cookies and cream whipped cream filling just really works. The cake texture itself is very moist, the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming and there’s a fluffiness in the whipped cream that adds lightness to the cake that cuts some of its richness. Then again, I DID make it with lots of love. That was bound to have an effect on the tastebuds.

Sharing this cake at this week’s Fiesta Friday #180  co-hosted this week by Tracey @ My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Cookies n' Cream Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream

  • 50 Oreo cookies
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line with wax or parchment paper; spray the paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork or wire whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and beat with a fork or a whisk. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place the pans on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven until cake separates from the sides of the pans and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about ten minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Take a knife and cut 10 of the Oreos in half and set aside. Put the rest of the cookies in a Ziploc plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass to crush into crumbs.

In a mixing bowl beat the heavy cream in 2 batches, 2 cups at a time until the cream has stiff peaks. Beat the vanilla and powdered sugar in with the second batch, then combine them together. Reserve about 3/4 cup of whipped cream in a small bowl in the fridge.  Gently fold in all but about 1 cup of the crushed Oreo cookie crumbs with a spatula.

Level both cakes so that they are flat on the tops. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter.  Spread about half of the Oreo whipped cream onto the cake, then place the second cake layer on top. Use a spatula to cover the tops and sides of the cakes with a thin layer of the cream, then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the layer is firm, to allow a crumb coat to form.

Place the rest of the cookie cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Take the reserved cookie crumbs and press evenly onto the sides of the cake with your fingers. (This may get a little messy so you can place a layer of foil or wax paper underneath the cake to pick up any of the spare crumbs.) Take the Oreos you’ve sliced in half and press onto the top of the cake. Remove the bottom strips of parchment paper. Take the reserved whipped cream and pipe small rosettes in between the sliced Oreos and along the bottom of the cake to form a border. You can also place one whole Oreo in the center of the cake and pipe rosettes around that, if you like.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour to allow whipped cream to set before slicing and serving. Keep cake refrigerated when not eating.

Five Spice Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

So. Apparently, yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day, and not a single one of you told me ahead of time so I could get this post up sooner.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, guys–VERY disappointed.

If you’ve been following me for a while then you KNOW how seriously I take fried chicken. There are few foods that I love more, I’m ALWAYS down for it, and as I’ve said in previous posts: I worked very hard and practiced quite a lot to become one of the cookers of fried chicken that I know. I wear it like a badge of honor. Everyone loves my fried chicken. Everyone.

For a long time, whenever I made it I mainly stuck to one recipe/technique that I shared a while ago on the blog. It’s definitely still a winner that I highly recommend, but I also recently decided to start experimenting with different flavors to see if I could put a different kind of twist to the standard ‘flavor’ of salty/peppery flour and egg mix that most fried chicken recipes have. The first experiment I did was with this Mexican rendition of fried chicken where the chicken was marinated in oregano-spiced buttermilk, then dipped in a flour mix containing cumin and chili powder; spices both used heavily in Mexican cuisine. Because I MUST eat biscuits with my fried chicken, I also included a recipe for drop biscuits that I flavored with mixed dried herbs.

I’m happy to report back to you guys that I’ve found yet another twist to give to my precious meal of fried chicken and biscuits that’s every bit as delicious as it looks. This time it’s given an Asian flair, with several differences to both the flavors and techniques that I’m used to when making the dish.

First, whereas most chicken is soaked overnight in buttermilk before frying, here it’s instead marinaded in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger and Chinese five spice powder. I was skeptical of this at first for a couple reasons:  buttermilk is supposed to be what keeps the meat moist and since I strictly use chicken breasts, this is key to me. Second, sesame oil is a VERY potent ingredient where a little usually goes a long way.

The second change that I noticed was first that the wet wash contained not only rice flour (something I’ve previously only baked with and never for savory dishes) but a LOT of cornstarch. More cornstarch than I think I’ve ever used in a single dish, ever. I do know that some fried chicken recipes use cornstarch because it helps the breading stick to the chicken and not slide off. I’ve scooped a tablespoon or two into my dry flour mixes before myself. But this time, the rice flour and cornstarch are used in the wet wash, which I thought was different. However, I decided to go with the recipe and just…see what happened.

These biscuits are probably the most ‘out there’ biscuits I’ve ever made. I could’ve just made standard herb biscuits with this dish and it would’ve turned out fine. However, because I was giving the fried chicken an Asian twist, I wanted to see if I could successfully do the same thing with the biscuits. The first change to them is that there is a generous amount of cornmeal in the dough. The second modification I did was to add two spices to the dough which I thought would give it those Asian flavors I was looking for without being too overpowering: Chinese five spice powder and ground ginger.

This meal was so good, guys. In the first place, this is one of the best fried chicken batters, ever. The crust is sturdy and crunchy, and all that cornstarch is a godsend: the breading doesn’t go anywhere, not even when it’s cooled off. You can taste the flavor of the sesame oil marinade but it isn’t overpowering. The ginger and five spice gives it an aromatic spicy-sweet flavor that’s a good compliment to the saltiness of the breading. Because the biscuits have cornmeal in them, they have a slightly coarser texture, a darker color and (my favorite part) a crustier exterior that makes them have the texture of both biscuits AND cornbread (my other staple side with fried chicken). The ginger and five spice give it that same spicy-sweet flavor that’s in the aftertaste of the chicken.  The only thing that made this even better was when I sliced a biscuit, sandwiched the chicken between two halves, then drizzled the whole thing with honey and Sriracha. Yum.

I was VERY pleased with how this dish turned out and am amped to be able to share it with all of you here, and at Fiesta Friday #179, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Five Spice Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Ginger Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

For Chicken Marinade

  • About 3 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in halves
  • 6 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne or black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced or grated ginger 

For Assembly

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Lawry’s or other seasoning salt
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • Vegetable, Canola or Peanut oil for frying (4-6 cups)

For Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup buttermilk (plus more as needed)

 

Directions

For Chicken: Place the chicken in re-sealable Ziploc bag(s). In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, five spice powder, garlic powder, cayenne or black pepper and minced ginger. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag and massage the bag with your hands until chicken is thoroughly coated with marinade inside. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

In a medium size, shallow bowl/baking dish, combine the all purpose flour with the seasoning salt and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, rice flour, five spice, and water with a large whisk or flour until thoroughly combined (it’ll be thick, like tempura batter).

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or plastic wrap on the bottom, then place a wire rack on top.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard it. Dip each piece of chicken in the shallow dish of all purpose flour with a fork to get a light dusting on both sides, then dip it into batter, holding it up to allow some of the excess to drip off. Then, re dip it into the all purpose flour until the wet batter is sufficiently covered. Place the chicken on the wire rack to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.

Work in batches of no more than 3 pieces at a time, fry the chicken in the oil. Turn it occasionally and monitor the temperature of the oil (a instant read thermometer works GREAT for this) as you work until it is golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. When finished remove chicken to another sheet pan lined with paper towels and a wire rack to drain.

For Biscuits: Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, five spice powder and ginger with a fork. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the bowl . Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely.

Malinda Russell’s Washington Cake

Gather round guys. Hi(story) lesson time.

The ‘official’ independence day for the United States is July 4th, as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed by the colonists of the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. However, if we’re going to get down to brass tacks, the facts are these: freedom in the colonies was at that  time only extended to white men and women; the independence/emancipation of the sizable population of Africans who had been stolen from their homes & transported to the colonies through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were not included in the Constitution, nor were they granted their freedom after the Revolutionary War.

A widely held belief is that the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln authorized and put into effect in 1863 during the Civil War is what ultimately freed the slaves. This is somewhat inaccurate.  The official laws of the post-Civil War United States did not grant freedom to all African Americans until the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865, almost 90 years after the Revolutionary War (and even then, there was still a loophole to that amendment if the individual had committed a crime, see Ava Duvernay’s “13th” documentary on Netflix for more on that). Without getting too bogged down into historical details, I’ll just say this: the EP was a military tactic that specifically freed slaves in the Southern rebel Confederate states that had committed treason against the Union and were then considered enemy territory, but had been won and occupied by the Union Army during the war. It left out slaves within the border states as well as territory within 3 Confederate states that were under Union control.

Why am I saying all of this?

Well, next Monday will be June 19th.  Even though the Emancipation had taken effect on January 1st 1863, the slaves in the state of Texas, widely isolated from the North and Southern parts of the country did not even receive word of it until June 19th 1865, after the Civil War had ended and President Lincoln had been assassinated. Many of these freed people of Texas commemorated June 19th as the day of their emancipation and made it one of celebration and religious ceremonies. Like any other celebration, this included good food.

(There’s a point to all of this, and I’m getting to it now, I swear.)

Malinda Russell was an African American woman born in 1820 in the state of Tennessee. Because her grandmother was freed by her owner, her subsequent children and grandchildren were also freed. By her account, Malinda wanted to immigrate to Liberia where there was a colony of former African American slaves, but was robbed by one of her traveling companions & forced to stay in Virginia. She worked there and in Tennessee again as a washerwoman, nurse, cook, and later kept a pastry shop. After this, she moved to Michigan where she published “A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen ” in 1866. The pamphlet that Malinda published became the first cook book published by a Black woman in the United States.

As an African American, I am the descendant of slaves myself on both sides of my family, so the date/celebration of June 19th, holds a particular historical significance to me. Second, like Mrs. Russell,  I’m a Black woman from Michigan who loves to cook/bake, and can do it rather well. (I’d also love to write a cookbook of my own one day, knock on wood)

Her story resonates with me. Her food resonates with me. Therefore, I decided I would pay tribute to the lady, her story and her food in this post.

This is, hands down, one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The texture inside is SO tender and moist. When I first took it out of the oven, I was concerned that despite being the right temperature, I’d under-baked it because it seemed a little wet in the center of the tube. Nope. It wasn’t underdone in the slightest. It was just perfect.

I can’t claim to have altered this recipe too much; it’s practically perfect enough all on its own. My personal modification was to add orange zest and juice to the batter to give a citrus flavor to what’s already a dynamite butter cake, then add an icing also flavored with orange juice. If you’d like to try another citrus, like lemon, lime, (heck maybe even grapefruit), I think you’d get equally wonderful results.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #176, co-hosted this week by  Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Malinda Russell's Washington Cake

Recipe Adapted from “American Cake” by Anne Byrn

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy on medium speed, about 1 minute. With mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and salt beat until mixture becomes light and creamy again. Make sure to frequently scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds each. Turn mixer off.
In a small bowl combine the baking soda with the buttermilk. In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the cream of tartar. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter-egg mixture; start AND end with the flour and be sure to remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula to ensure even mixing. Fold in the orange juice and zest last, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with a spatula. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to help prevent air bubbles.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of around a 195-200°. Fahrenheit)
Allow to cool in pan for about 25-30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the orange juice and just enough of the milk to make a thick icing. Use the tines of a fork to drizzled on top of the cake, then allow icing to harden completely.