TACO SALAD – MUY BUENO!

Taco Salad

Taco Salad

Taco Salad_Printable Recipe

We all eat & it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly ~ Anna Thomas

Now before I say anything else I want to go on record stating that I AM NOT A SALAD IS A MEAL PERSON.  Anytime I sit down for a meal I require satisfaction.  This doesn’t mean I don’t eat healthy, I just prefer salad as PART of my meal.  But a salad like this?  I have had this for many meals and I am sure I will for many more.  This is actually my own version of a taco salad my grandmother has been making for years.  It’s an old family favorite that I have taken, added some of my own touches and a few healthier substitutes.  I make this a lot in the summer especially.

This is one of those recipes that hits every craving, taste, texture you could ever want and all at the same time.  It’s fresh and crisp, sweet, crunchy, salty, it can be as spicy as you want, and creamy & cool.  You can add or omit anything you want!  A few years ago I entered the recipe into a calorie calculator and a HUGE (we’re talking like 2 1/2 to 3 cups) was like 250 calories.  CLUTCH!

I want to get cooking with you but I have a couple of things I want to mention before we start.  First of all, I didn’t add cheese to the ingredients list but by all means add it if you like.  I love cheese in this salad but you know, swimsuit season and all….so I left it out of mine.  You will notice in the pics that I added chicken on top of the salad but also didn’t add to the ingredients list.  I had leftover grilled chicken so I just sliced it and served it cold on top.  You can add any kind of meat you like if you want some.  Leftover steak (something that gets ruined if reheated) can be sliced cold and is my personal favorite topper to this salad.  Shrimp, salmon, chicken, whatever you want!  Like most of my recipes if you don’t like something I put in then just leave it out.  If you want more or less of something then do it that way.  Want more beans, do it!  Don’t like avocados, skip them!This salad, especially this salad, is a blank canvas.  Get creative!  If you have an idea to add then please try it!

SALAD INGREDIENTS:

• 10 oz. mixed greens or chopped romaine lettuce, washed

I just buy the bags or boxes of mixed greens that are already washed, ready to serve.  You can truly use any kind of lettuce you want.  I prefer mixed greens or romaine because they can stand up to the other flavors.
• 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
• 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed

Make sure you rinse the beans.  The liquid they come in is not tasty.  You can use any beans you enjoy.  I use these because my family & I love them. 
• 1 15 oz. can black olives, drained

You can use fresh black olives too.
• 2 cups corn

Defrosted frozen or canned corn is totally acceptable.  I also love to grill my corn on the cob for this salad.  I will add some instructions on grilling the corn and tomatoes near the end of the blog.
• 1 10 oz. bag Chili Cheese Fritos

This is the kind my grandma always uses so this is what I use.  Any kind of tortilla chip is fine – blue corn would be fantastic.  You could even make your own if you are feeling ambitious.
• 2 avocados, peeled, seeded & sliced

Confession:  I cannot stand avocados!  But I know I am in the minority on this so I am adding them in.
• 3 tomatoes, chopped

Some other toppings could be meat, some cheddar, Monterrey Jack, queso fresco cheese, sliced jalapeno or pablano.  I had some sweet bell peppers so I sliced them up and added them to mine.  They add a great flavor and crunch.

DRESSING INGREDIENTS:

These amounts are all eyeballed in my house.  If you aren’t used to doing that feel free to measure them out.  This dressing is creamy but very light.  I like it a little thinner than most. 
• ¾ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

I like to use the yogurt because its healthier and very similar in flavor & texture to the sour cream my grandma uses. Use what you want.
• ¼ cup mayonnaise

I prefer olive oil mayonnaise.  Use what you have.
• 1 small pinch kosher salt
• 4 green onions (scallions)

These will add a nice background spice to your creamy dressing.  If you don’t have them on hand don’t worry about it.  You could also put the avocado in the dressing instead of on top of the salad.
• 2 tablespoons chili powder

I know this seems like a lot of chili powder but we need it to be so it can compliment the creamy tang of the yogurt.  Believe me they compliment each other beautifully.
• ¼ – ½ cup milk

Whatever kind of milk you have in the fridge is fine.  This is added to make the dressing less thick which is why I gave a range amount.  You can make it as thin or as thick as you like.  I don’t like huge gobs of creamy dressing – I want it thinly distributed all over my salad.

NOTE:  If you are not a fan of creamy dressing or for some reason stay away from dairy – not to worry.  My mom makes this salad all the time but just used a quality French dressing.  That’s the name – French.  It may sound like a weird type to put on a taco salad but it totally works!

DRESSING DIRECTIONS:

Put all the ingredients (start with ¼ cup milk) into blender and blend on high until smooth. Do a taste test. Add any needed salt or chili powder. If dressing is too thick add more milk and blend a couple of tablespoons at a time until desired thickness.

If you are omitting the onions you can do this whole thing without a blender.  Just put it in a jar, screw the lid on tight and shake away.  My daughter loves to help doing it that way. Make sure you cut off the dry ends of the green onions as well as the tip with the roots!

Just throw it all in.

Just throw it all in.

Blend until smooth.

Blend until smooth.

Pour into seal-able container & refrigerate until ready to use.

This will last about a week in the fridge.

SALAD DIRECTIONS:

In a large serving bowl pour about 2/3 of the dressing on the bottom. Top with the greens, tomatoes and Fritos. Toss until dressing is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients evenly over the top and serve.

Putting the dressing on the bottom is a great way to make sure it doesn’t end up in random gobs.  When you toss the salad it will distribute evenly so every bite has the right amount.  I like to add all the stuff on top because #1 it looks beautiful and #2 if you toss the salad with all those things they kind of sink to the bottom.  When I am making an individual plate I just drizzle it on top like this.

YUMMER

YUMMER

Easy peasy, right?  If I am not planning to serve all of this at once, I just keep the greens in their own bag and all the beans, corn & olives in a Tupperware container together in the fridge.  Then when I want to eat just my own serving I assemble a single serving in a bowl, add the chips & dressing and go to town.

All in one container, ready to use!

All in one container, ready to use!

GRILLING CORN & TOMATOES

One added touch I like to do is to grill my corn (on the cob) and tomatoes.  It’s really easy.  Just drizzle with olive or vegetable oil, sprinkle with kosher salt & pepper.  Grill for about 5 minutes or until grill marks appear.  Just watch them closely.   If you are nervous about the corn then wrap each cob in foil first.  It will steam on the grill.

Seasoned & ready to grill!

Seasoned & ready to grill!

Check them often

Check them often

This is how you get the kernels off

This is how you get the kernels off

Oh yeahhhh

Oh yeahhhh

Thanks for stopping by BradyMunch! All feedback is welcome! I hope you try this recipe because I know you will love it!
See you on the flip side folks!
Don’t forget to email questions & feedback to bradymunchblog@yahoo.com &
to like this blog on Facebook!

Taco Salad

Taco Salad

DISCLAIMER: All recipes are just a jumping off point – unless I specify otherwise all ingredients or amounts are changeable. If you don’t like it then don’t use it! If you don’t have it then check your cupboard for a good dub. Remember – if you buy junk ingredients your end result will taste like junk! That being said, quality doesn’t always mean more expensive!! And most important of all, bring some pleasure into your kitchen – have some fun while cooking! Put on music, get the family involved (family time doesn’t just have to be at the table!), find things you like and enjoy the adventure. If I can do it, you can definitely do it! Like I said before – IT’S NOT THAT HARD! And if you mess up then make some PB&J and try again tomorrow. Mistakes and disasters are part of the journey. Don’t let a mistake or the possibility of one stop you!

Risotto Primavera by Erin Brady

My weekly recipe on Eating For Our Futures – Risotto Primavera. Check out the rest of the EFF blog while you’re there – Adria has some great stuff!

Eating for our Future

I picked Risotto Primavera as this week’s EFF recipe. Primavera means the season of Spring in Italian, but in food language it usually means lots of vegetables. For those of you not familiar, risotto is an Italian rice dish, commonly seen in higher end restaurants. It originates from Northern Italy and is a creamy, luxurious dish. There are about as many types of risotto as there are stars in the sky. You can pretty much use the basic recipe and then go from there. I will add suggestions and ideas as we go. I can also promise you that this will not be the last risotto you see from me. Risotto and where you can go with it has become a staple here at the Brady compound.
It’s creamy, it’s rich, and it’s comforting. It can be cheesy, brimming with freshness, or meaty. And it can be all of that…

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Leek & Gruyere Souffle

LEEK & GRUYERE SOUFFLE

Spinach & Cheddar Souffle I made

Spinach & Cheddar Souffle I made

“The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you’re afraid of it” ~ James Beard

Hello fellow foodies and aspiring cooks.  It is “Carpe Diem Day”  in the kitchen.  Put on those aprons and gather your courage because today….today we conquer that elusive and mysterious dish – the souffle.  So souffles are pretty impressive.  They are puffy and rich and light all at the same time.  They can be sweet or savory and you only usually see them at restaurants where they don’t put prices on the menus.  They’ve gotten quite a rep in the food world.  But here’s the thing: yes they are very impressive, yes they are “easy” to mess up but only if you don’t know what you are doing.  It’s all about the chemistry being right.  I love making savory souffles, especially in the spring or summer with a nice astringent salad.  Dessert ones are good anytime frankly. 

Today, my friend Melissa is coming for lunch.  We have been friends since we were 6 months old and I love her very much.  I wanted to do something special for her so I chose a Gruyère & Leek souffle.  I am a huge fan of a leek.  They are like giant green onions but with a more mild & subtle flavor.  They are fantastic in soups & stews.  And Gruyère?  Where do I start?  Gruyère is a Swiss cow’s milk cheese.  Forget that stuff with the holes in it and grab Gruyère.  It’s flavor is similar to Parmesan but much creamier, nuttier with a hint of sweetness.  It melts just beautifully. I am such a freak – my favorite part of Gruyère is the rind which I love to eat as a snack.  Say what you want cause that stuff is GOOD!

So Wikipedia describes souffles as lightly baked cakes with egg yolks and beaten egg whites.  It really doesn’t do it justice but close enough.  Souffle comes from the French word souffler which means “to blow up” or “puff up”.  The base is essentially a bechamel (classic French white sauce) with beaten egg whites folded in.  You add whatever flavorings to the base (bechamel) and the egg whites are what keep it light and help it puff up.

Yes, it’s true they can be intimidating but I will debunk some of those mysteries for you today.  With the right knowledge you can GREATLY increase your success rate.  First of all, the weather can actually affect your souffle.  Never make one on a rainy or damp day.  I’m not sure why but it seems to do something to the egg whites  and keeps them from rising.    Souffles are traditionally baked in dishes called ramekins.  This is what I am using today and it is what I recommend.  Normally I don’t really like to say go out and buy specialized equipment but for souffles you do need a dish with depth.  I use mine as extra casserole dishes so they definitely get used more than just for this. They are really easy to find at Target or Wal-Mart and are not expensive.  Ramekins come in all shapes and sizes from large family-style to individual servings.  You can use 6 individual for this recipe or a larger one with a 6 1/2″ to 7 1/2″ diameter.  Another tip is make sure your eggs are at room temperature.  This just helps get them where they are going faster and easier.  The eggs (all parts) will be much easier to work with and again, increase the success rate.  Souffles fall under my “cooking” title but really they are a “baking” thing.  Follow directions and measurements EXACTLY.  Remember we are creating a chemical reaction in the oven – change the chemicals or their amounts and the reaction will change too.  The last thing is this is not a make-ahead dish.  The souffle, no matter how puffed up, will start to deflate a bit immediately after taking it out of the oven (I have pictures).  You need to make it all the way through and serve right when it comes out of the oven.    And the old wives tale is true – don’t open the oven while its baking it will deflate your souffle!

After a little over 5 minutes deflation.  Still gorgeous though!

After a little over 5 minutes deflation. Still gorgeous though!

Just remember, you can do this!

INGREDIENTS:

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Always use unsalted butter with any cooking or baking.  Not only can you control how much salt is going in but how salty everything tastes.
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Sorry guys – no sub for this one.  It’s gotta be all-purpose.
• 1 cup whole milk

We need the fat in whole milk for the bechamel.
• 1 pinch cayenne pepper

This is an optional ingredient.  I just like a touch of background heat.  Also adding a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg is a classic French step in bechamel sauces.  I left it off this one as sometimes people are weird about nutmeg although I find it delicious.  Add it if you would like just be careful to not go to heavy.  Nutmeg is strong and can be very overpowering.

• Kosher salt & pepper
• 4 egg yolks @ room temperature

If I know I am making a souffle I take my eggs out in the morning so they are sure to be room temperature by lunchtime or dinner.  People are so freaky about eggs these days.  I promise you they will not go bad if left on your kitchen counter all day whether they have been pasteurized or not.  Unless its 100 degree weather and you left them on your patio for a few days just RELAX!
• ¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese
• 1 leek

Gruyère and the leek are the flavorings I chose today.  Spinach and cheddar would be awesome.  I love to do Gorgonzola cheese with lardons (small rectangles) of bacon.  The possibilities are endless.  If you want to change the flavor go right ahead using the amounts I put.  I am only doing one leek because if I add any more it may weigh down the souffle.

• 5 egg whites @ room temperature
• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

The cream of tartar is for keeping the egg whites stiff after being beaten and to help the souffle rise.  I have heard people claim this can be omitted but no.  I have tried it.  The souffle just doesn’t rise to its glory potential.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a tablespoon of the butter, grease souffle ramekin completely on the inside. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ of the grated Gruyère.

Just roll the dish around so the cheese distributes evenly.  You can also use grated Parmesan for this part.

Roll the cheese

Roll the cheese

Chop up and rinse the leek. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a skillet. Toss in the leek; add a pinch of kosher salt and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside off the heat.

They should look like this when ready.

They should look like this when ready.

Leeks grow in sand so rinsing them is crucial.  I chop them first then toss them in a colander to rinse.  We want to cook the leeks through because they won’t cook much more in the oven.  We aren’t trying to brown or caramelize them.  We add the pinch of salt because flavoring food is about layers – seasoning at each step makes it easier for those flavors to come together and shine.  This is one of the reasons I rant about kosher or sea salt instead of table salt.  Over salting is unlikely with kosher and it just highlights the food it is put on.  If we used table salt to season at each step it’s be pretty salty at the end and we’d be no better off than if we added nothing.

Pour milk into a small sauce pan or skillet and warm over low heat.

We warm the milk slowly and delicately because we want to avoid a skin forming on top.  A good rule of thumb with heating milk is to watch for small bubbles to form around the edges of the pan.  That means its warm enough but not too hot or cooked.  We heat the milk at this step because we want all parts of the souffle base to be near the same temp as they get added together.

Over low heat melt the remaining butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and with a whisk stir until rue is formed. Stir over heat another 2 minutes.

Before...

Before…

We've got rue...

We’ve got rue…

Even though the rue is formed we want to cook while stirring another 2 minutes to cook the flour.  We don’t want our base to taste like kindergarten paste.

Turn the heat off the pan with the rue in it and slowly add the milk while whisking. Keep whisking until smooth and thick. Add a pinch of salt, pepper & cayenne pepper to taste.

Milk just added

Milk just added

We don’t want any lumps.  Don’t panic if it instantly doesn’t blend in nicely.  Sometimes you have to stir it for a minute.  Have faith my friend, if you stir it it will come!

After a minute of whisking it's a sauce!

After a minute of whisking it’s a sauce!

Still off the heat, add egg yolks one-at-a-time. Stir until each one is incorporated before adding next one. Stir in cheese and leek.

One at a time

One at a time

Look at the color the eggs gave our base!

Look at the color the eggs gave our base!

With cheese and leek.

With cheese and leek.

Now if you are not used to separating egg yolks and whites here is a trick.  When you crack the shell pour its contents onto your fingers like in the below picture.  The white will naturally fall off (make sure you have a bowl under your hand!) and the yolk will stay. 

White/yolk separate trick

White/yolk separate trick

Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl add in egg whites, a pinch of kosher salt and cream of tartar. Beat with electric beaters at a low-speed for about a minute then raise speed every 30 seconds or so until you get to high until firm glossy peaks are formed.

You can also use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or even a blender for this part.  If you are really ambitious or drunk you can always do this with a whisk by hand. I don’t know why you would if you didn’t have to but shine on you crazy diamond! You want the whites to be stiff enough they don’t move off the whisk.

Stiff stiff peaks

Stiff stiff peaks

Add 1/3 of whipped egg whites at a time to the cheese sauce, gently folding the two mixtures together. Fold gently until fully incorporated and then add another third until fully mixed.

1/3 at a time

1/3 at a time

Now “folding” is to get those two pieces of the puzzle (the base and the whipped egg whites) fully incorporated while deflating the egg whites as little as possible. 

The traditional or formal way to fold is to carefully pour the whipped egg whites on top of the latter in a deep mixing bowl. Using a dry flat spoon or rubber spatula and starting at one side of the bowl, push the implement along the bottom of the bowl; in one fluid motion, lift the batter and place it on top, just like you would fold a piece of cloth. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat.  This works great.  Do it VERY VERY GENTLY.  If you feel like it needs a little help coming together gently stir a figure 8 shape in the bowl – I have found this helps in between folds.  All those formerly trained cooks on Food Network would probably say not to do what I just wrote but then again maybe they shouldn’t do the same thing on Iron Chef.  People in glass houses and all that. Haha.

Not even baked yet and so pretty!

Not even baked yet and so pretty!

Pour into souffle ramekin and smooth the top. Place dish on a baking sheet.

Smooth out the top.

Smooth out the top.

Place into the 400 degree oven on a lower level rack. Make sure no racks are above it. Close the over door, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 to 35 minutes without opening the oven door. Serve immediately.

Seriously DON’T open that oven door or you’ll deflate your souffle!  It’s going to rise quite a bit but you’ll have to wait for that timer to beep!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

It's deflated a little already but look how excited Melissa is!  Victory is mine!

It’s deflated a little already but look how excited Melissa is! Victory is mine!

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

As always here is a printable link to the recipe without my clever commentary.

GruyerLeekSouffle_Printable Recipe

Thanks for stopping by BradyMunch! All feedback is welcome! I hope you try this recipe because I know you will love it!
See you on the flip side folks!
Don’t forget to email questions & feedback to bradymunchblog@yahoo.com &
to like this blog on Facebook!

DISCLAIMER: All recipes are just a jumping off point – unless I specify otherwise all ingredients or amounts are changeable. If you don’t like it then don’t use it! If you don’t have it then check your cupboard for a good dub. Remember – if you buy junk ingredients your end result will taste like junk! That being said, quality doesn’t always mean more expensive!! And most important of all, bring some pleasure into your kitchen – have some fun while cooking! Put on music, get the family involved (family time doesn’t just have to be at the table!), find things you like and enjoy the adventure. If I can do it, you can definitely do it! Like I said before – IT’S NOT THAT HARD! And if you mess up then make some PB&J and try again tomorrow. Mistakes and disasters are part of the journey. Don’t let a mistake or the possibility of one stop you!

A Recipe for “It’s been one of those weeks!” by Erin Brady

Here’s my weekly recipe post for my friend Adria’s amazing blog Eating For Our Future! Check it out & lurk around her other posts – she’s got some amazing ideas & insights!

Eating for our Future


WHAT A WEEK! Has anyone else had their busy-ness put into overdrive lately?  Between the end of McKenna’s softball season activities plus the games, my work encounters with crazy humans, family shiiii…stuff, and my normal wife/mother job duties…oh did I mention BOTH my dogs got sprayed by a skunk?  I love my life, but this week I feel more inclined to fix myself a Big Gulp-sized cocktail rather than dinner.  It happens to all of us.  It’s been a long day/week and I feel like a toddler who is screaming “I AM NOT TIRED!” while rubbing his eyes. 

We all have these days.  I LOVE to cook but there are definitely times when I want to be in and out of the kitchen ASAP so I can get on with my day.  This is one of those times. I have those thoughts of picking up take out or going through…

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The Possibilities of Pesto

 

“Food should be a carefully balanced reflection of all things good of the earth”~Jean & Pierre Troisgros

 

When I think of this time of year, that gradual yet seemingly instant transition between Spring & Summer I think of a lot of things – sunshine and the heat from it, flowers blooming, longer days and warmer nights.  More importantly though, I think of Basil.  Fresh, piney, minty, lemony Basil.  And usually when I think of Basil my mind jumps right to Pesto, that cheesy, nutty, bright and fresh all at the same time sauce.  And it’s not just for pasta.  The possibilities are endless and I will elaborate on some later on.  Yes, its something you can easily buy pre-made in the store but….why?  It literally takes a few minutes to make a lot of it and comparing the taste of fresh homemade to store-bought who knows how long its sat there is like comparing an Aston Martin to a Ford Taurus.  Pesto is a very simple dish to make.  But if your ingredients are sub-par it will be much more obvious in something this simple.  The quality of what you cook has great impact on the finished product.  This doesn’t always mean more expensive though.  So are you ready?  I’m hungry so let’s go!

Pesto Sace

INGREDIENTS:

• 3 cups fresh Basil, stems removed

We grow our own basil in our garden but it’s an ingredient that can be found in any store.   One or two bunches should get you by.  Trader Joe’s always has fresh basil that they sell in bulk too.

• 1/3 cup pine nuts (aka pinoles)

This is the most traditional nut used to make pesto but many people use walnuts or some combination of the two.  I say use whatever nuts you like.  Like today I was out of both so I used almonds and it turned out AWESOME!  I always buy nuts, raw and unsalted (Trader Joe’s has great prices and most natural foods co-ops do too) and then I toast & season as I use them while controlling the salt contentStore your nuts in the freezer to preserve their oils so they won’t spoil.

• 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated

I usually buy this in chunks and grate this myself or with a food processor when I am feeling lazy (which is always).  I recommend real Pecorino Romano, not just Pecorino or whatever.  The flavor is unmatched.  There are many brands and at the risk of sounding like a walking, talking Trader Joe’s billboard they always have very high quality cheeses at low prices.

• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Although it can be served on warm or hot things, Pesto is not a cooked sauce.  It is raw.  Because of that we want the best quality most flavorful olive oil we can use.  Extra Virgin is the way to go.  I really wouldn’t sub any other oil unless it was like a walnut oil or something. 

• 1 whole garlic clove, peeled
• 1 small pinch kosher salt

Have you started using kosher salt yet?  Awesome right?  Use only a tiny pinch for this recipe.  The cheese will add a lot of the saltiness we want so thins pinch is just about bringing it all home.  If you only have table salt then skip it.

DIRECTIONS:

Put the pine nuts in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes or until they darken or become slightly more golden in color. Set aside off the heat to cool for 5 minutes.

My rule of thumb on dry toasting nuts is if you can smell them they are done.  They won’t turn super golden but you will notice their color darkens slightly.  They can burn easily so keep an eye on them and give the pan an occasional shake.

In a blender or food processor, add the basil, garlic clove and pine nuts. Pulse until roughly minced. Add cheese and salt, and then pulse until finely minced.

Rough mince

It should look pretty close to this when you’re ready for the next step. If you notice stuff sticking to the sides just push it back into the line of fire with a spatula between pulses.

Turn the blender on and then through the removable top of the blender cap pour in the olive oil. Let it go another few seconds then turn off.

Now thickness of pesto really comes down to preference.  I make mine pretty thick because I can do more things with it and I can always thin it out.  If you want yours thinner then add a bit more oil.

Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Pesto Resistance!

If you want to make the pesto really was spoon it into ice trays, cover and freeze.  Pop out however many cubes at a time that you need.  This trick is fantastic because it will make your pesto last forever, where it only has about a week’s lifespan in the fridge.  Although I must admit I don’t use this trick much as if its made it gets used up in a flash – YUM!

So most us are familiar with pesto going on pasta.  Yes that’s great but there is so much more!  I took about 1/3 of a cup shook it up in a jar with 2 tablespoons olive oil mayo & about 1/4 cup milk and what I got was the most delicious creamy pesto salad dressing I’ve ever had.  Anyone had the Creamy Pesto dressing at The Old Spaghetti Factory?  Yeah like that but better!  I also use pesto as a sandwich spread instead of the usual mayo/mustard.  I am grilling chicken for dinner tonight and you can bet it will be on top of it.  You can drizzle it on salads or veggies raw or cooked. It can go on meat, fish, seafood, potatoes, bread, omelets, pizza – get the picture? Here is  what I used it for to make an Heirloom Tomato “tart” for Mother’s Day.  I saw a commercial for Giada At Home that featured this and I just made up my own.

Heirloom Tomato "Tart"

Here is the printable recipe minus all the witty banter from me!

Pesto_Printable Recipe

So I hope you enjoyed reading this recipe enough to try it.  Questions? Comments?  Email me at bradymunchblog@yahoo.com!  Thanks for stopping by & come back soon!

See you on the flip side ~ Erin Brady

DISCLAIMER:

All recipes are just a jumping off point – unless I specify otherwise all ingredients or amounts are changeable. If you don’t like it then don’t use it! If you don’t have it then check your cupboard for a good dub. Remember – if you buy junk ingredients your end result will taste like junk! That being said, quality doesn’t always mean more expensive!! And most important of all, bring some pleasure into your kitchen – have some fun while cooking! Put on music, get the family involved (family time doesn’t just have to be at the table!), find things you like and enjoy the adventure. If I can do it, you can definitely do it! Like I said before – IT’S NOT THAT HARD! And if you mess up then make some PB&J and try again tomorrow. Mistakes and disasters are part of the journey. Don’t let a mistake or the possibility of one stop you!

Tuesday Chili & Cornbread with Honey Butter by Erin Brady

Here’s my recipe for this week featured on Eating For Our Futures, an amazing blog by my friend Adria. Check it out – you won’t be disappointed!

PS – New BradyMunch post coming up this week!

Eating for our Future

20130513-101928.jpg

Chili has become a new obsession in my house that my daughter and husband request weekly. I love it because it’s easy and I always have the ingredients on hand. I call it Tuesday Chili because it’s fast and easy enough for a weekday dinner, but because of my little tricks it tastes like it has been simmering all day. My daughter (who never suffers in silence when she doesn’t care for a dish) says I should make this chili for restaurants!

This recipe is fantastic when you are running out of fresh stuff in the fridge. I’m not a fan of canned veggies in general – they just seem so gross to me. But beans (and tomatoes) I go for. They don’t seem to be altered as much as other vegetables. Of course, if you want to re-hydrate some dried beans or use fresh tomatoes PLEASE do! It’ll be delish!

This chili is…

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My Food Philosophy Interview on Eating for Our Futures

Keep an eye on this blog by Adria Banihashemi called Eating for Our Futures! She is fantastic – well obviously because she has asked me to submit a weekly recipe to her blog. I will be using meals I actually make that week. Adria really knows her stuff – don’t miss out on her blogs!

http://eatingforourfutures.com/2013/04/30/voices-for-our-future-erin/” title=”My interview on Eating for Our Futures” target=”_blank”>

Cream Puffs Like You’ve Never Had Before

Billye's Cream Puffs

Billye’s Cream Puffs

This week’s blog recipe is homage to my late grandmother Billye. She was an amazing cook, definitely not afraid to try anything in the kitchen. This recipe was a family favorite but unfortunately the original recipe was lost when she passed away. I worked hard to recapture the original flavor and I really think I have hit the nail on the head. These cream puffs are not only delicious and sinful but when I taste them it brings me right back to being a kid in her house, sneaking one of these out of the fridge when she wasn’t looking. I can clearly remember seeing her coming down the hall and me trying to look like I didn’t have a mouth full of cream puff. That’s one of the greatest things about cooking and food – one bite can transport you back to happy memories. In fact that’s exactly how most comfort foods became known as comfort foods. I miss her dearly but when I cook her recipes I can still be connected to her.

I am trying out the new format on this post. I want to be able to walk you through step by step but am also trying to make it easier to follow (and type for that matter). Feedback on this would be much appreciated!!

So when I think of cream puffs I think of the ones in my grocery store that are giant, filled with unflavored “whipped cream” (who knows what it really is, probably oil) and topped with a super thick over-sweetened chocolate sauce. I don’t know about you but this is really not my idea of appetizing. In theory the flavors and textures sound good but when put to the test it really isn’t all that good. Some finer bakeries have definitely improved and even mastered the general idea of the cream puff but none of them have come close to this flavor combo like my grandma did.

The shells for cream puffs are pretty much all the same – a basic pate a choux profiterole (which I will elaborate on later). The shells are almost like a combo between a popover and puff pastry – light and airy on the inside and slightly chewy on the outside. The filling is just fresh whipped cream, slightly sweetened, and exploding with creamy coffee and vanilla flavors. It’s not unlike the flavor in Tiramisu. Then drizzled on top like a delicious liquid gold is a maple icing and crunchy toasty bits of walnuts bring it all home. When you first bite into one (or like me cram it entirely into your mouth at once) you feel the light, yet chewy sensation of the profiterole shell while you instantly feel the cool, slightly sweet vanilla coffee whipped cream as it squeezes out of the shell. Then the icing’s intense maple sweetness hits your tongue as you start to crunch down on the walnuts. These cream puffs are like a really good band that’s chemistry allows each player to compliment the others while standing out at the same time.

PATE A CHOUX PROFITEROLES:
Pate a Choux (PAT-Ah-SHOO) literally means “little cabbages” in French because, well, profiteroles look like little cabbages. Profiteroles can be sweet or savory. They can have filling, topping, or be flavored. Pate a Choux is used to make eclairs, cheese puffs, beignets, etc. Profiteroles are served in many fancy pants restaurants. Commonly they are served with ice cream in the middle and chocolate sauce on top. At a restaurant that used to be really good here in Nor Cal, you get charged $9 for 3 bite sized ones. Now you will be able to make them yourself and get 19 for that price. At the bottom of this blog I will have a printable Pate a Choux recipe that you can use as a blank canvas for many many delicious things. 

You can find basic Pate Choux recipes online. Sometimes they have milk in them. I have tried it and it really doesn’t make much of a taste difference and too be honest it’s much easier and easy to cook just using the basic water version.
Now although I am not usually a baker, this part is technically in the baking area. The profiterole recipe IS something you want to follow as far as amounts and ingredients EXACTLY. Baking is all about chemistry. Changing the amount changes the chemical reaction. Having said that I will say that doubling this recipe works perfectly well as long as you double each amount correctly.
And sidebar – you can make these up to a week in advance as long as you store them correctly! Just store them in an air tight container or zip lock bag.
• 1 cup water
• 1 pinch kosher salt
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
I recommend only using unsalted butter in all cooking. This way you control the salt content and salty flavor of the dishes you make no matter what.
• ¾ cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 5 eggs (4 for dough & one for egg wash)
• 6 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large sauce pan bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough is formed and it pulls away from the pan into a ball.

Keep stirring

Keep stirring

You don’t actually have to cut up the butter but if you do it melts a lot easier. You can just dump the flour right in the pan and start stirring. The dough that forms will be quite sticky at first but will quickly pull away from the pan and form a ball. Keep stirring for about another minute after this as we want to make sure the flour is cooked. Nothing worse than that raw flour taste in a dish!

It's ready

It’s ready

Transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl. Add one egg and stir vigorously until fully absorbed by the dough. Repeat this step with the other 3 eggs.

Keep stirring and it will all pull together.

Keep stirring and it will all pull together.

I like to add one egg at a time but if you dump all 4 eggs in (don’t forget to save the 5th one!) it won’t hurt it. Stir with force at this point as we are wanting each egg to get fully incorporated. A couple of eggs in, the dough might look like it is separating into ribbons – don’t worry – keep on stirring and it will reincorporate. You need to stir very fast when adding the eggs. If you let them just sit on that warm dough it might just cook them. No scrambled eggs in the Pate a Choux please!

Like this

Like this

The dough should be slightly thicker than a pudding consistency.

On a baking sheet lined with wax paper and using a tablespoon scooper, place scoops of dough leaving about ½ an inch space between them.

IMG_3435

I am using my handy dandy little tablespoon scooper for this. It makes it so much easier but a regular spoon works just as well. The dough can be sticky and it helps to dip your scooper/spoon in a glass of water in-between dispenses. Again on the sticky dough using wax paper to line the baking sheet really helps. Don’t grease the pan. If it does stick the wax paper just peels right off and you won’t deflate your shells. Leave about a ½ in in-between them. Although they puff UP they don’t really puff OUT.

Crack the remaining egg into a small bowl and beat well. Using a pastry brush (or fingers), lightly brush onto the tops of each scoop of dough.

Brush lightly

Brush lightly

What we are doing here with the remaining egg is making an egg wash. It can just be a beaten egg all by itself or a drop of milk or water. It creates a shine and a golden brown color on top. You know those beautiful, mouth-watering pastries, breads and treats that literally shine in fancy bakeries? Yep egg wash, that’s all it is. If you don’t have a pastry brush then just use your fingers to gently rub it on the tops. Don’t go to heavy, just a light coat.

Bake for 25 minutes without opening the oven door until time is up.

See the shine from the egg wash?

See the shine from the egg wash?

Pate a Choux is like soufflés and popovers and Dutch Babies – if you open the oven before they are ready you will either deflate them or prevent them from rising. As much as you are dying to open that oven door – DON’T!! Only open when the timer beeps that the 25 minutes are up.
When they are out of the oven let them cool a sec before trying to transport them to another pan. They will deflate slightly when coming out of the oven – it’s natural, don’t worry about it. You can let them finish cooling on a rack or any dish.
Let them cool completely to room temperature!! If you are going straight to cream puffs they will melt the filling if they are still at all warm and if you are storing them they will steam themselves locked in a container or bag.

FILLING:

• 1 ½ cups heavy cream, cold
The cream MUST be cold or its going to be hard to whip. You are basically filling the cream with air.
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon coffee extract
Coffee extract, although easy when making this, isn’t common enough that I can guarantee you will find it at your grocery store. I also love to use instant espresso for this part. Just toss it in. I would go with about a ½ tablespoon for the same strength as the extract.
• 2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
You can substitute granulated sugar if you need to but I have found it doesn’t mix in quite as easily. Also, add as much as you like of the sugar (this is my amount that I like – sweet but not super sweet). If you want more by all means get to it! Same thing with the extracts – use more or less depending on how strong you want that flavor.

Add all ingredients into a large bowl. Beat until very firm using electric beaters. Start at the lowest speed and then increase to the highest after sugar is fully incorporated.

Be careful on how long you whip the cream as you can turn it into butter if you whip it too long. It actually has to go quite awhile to do this but you have to watch it. We’re going for stiff whipped cream here. You want it to look almost like butter cream frosting. We don’t want it to deflate after a few minutes.

Like this

Like this

TOPPING:

• 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Powdered sugar is a must for the icing. Granulated just won’t dissolve correctly. Powdered sugar is just regular sugar with cornstarch. This is what will make it thicker and like a glaze.
• 1 teaspoon pure maple extract
You can also use REAL maple syrup instead of the extract. I would up the mount though to at least a tablespoon.
• 3 tablespoons milk
This is going to seem like way too little liquid for the amount of sugar. It’s not, I promise. Just keep stirring.
• ½ cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
To toast the nuts yourself just toss them in a 400 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes or in a dry skillet on low to medium heat. As soon as you smell them they are ready. Keep a careful eye on them as they will burn quickly. Nuts have tons of oils in them. Store them in the freezer so they won’t get rancid.

Combine the powdered sugar, maple extract and milk into a bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Keep walnuts set aside.

The icing should be perfectly smooth. Make sure you whisk out all the lumps of sugar. Add extra powdered sugar to thicken it and add an extra drop of the milk to thin it out. It should coat the spoon but also run right off of it.
The icing can be done in advance as well. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. If it’s too thick when coming out of the fridge add a drop of hot water and whisk.

IMG_3459

ASSEMBLY:

After the profiteroles have completely cooled, slice each one through the middle like and English muffin.

Add a dollop of the filling into each bottom shell and lay the top shell gently on top.

You can add as much filling and icing as you’d like. Go for it!!

With a spoon drizzle the icing and sprinkle the walnuts.

Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 8 hours.

They seem to get a tad soggy if you refrigerate fully assembled more than that.

Here are the printable links to this recipe and also a basic Pate a Choux!

Billyes Cream Puffs_Printable Recipe

Basic Pate A Choux

Thanks for traveling down memory lane with me on this post! All feedback is welcome! I hope you try this recipe because I know you will love it!
See you on the flipside folks!
Don’t forget to email questions & feedback to bradymunchblog@yahoo.com &
to like this blog on Facebook!

DISCLAIMER: All recipes are just a jumping off point – unless I specify otherwise all ingredients or amounts are changeable. If you don’t like it then don’t use it! If you don’t have it then check your cupboard for a good dub. Remember – if you buy junk ingredients your end result will taste like junk! That being said, quality doesn’t always mean more expensive!! And most important of all, bring some pleasure into your kitchen – have some fun while cooking! Put on music, get the family involved (family time doesn’t just have to be at the table!), find things you like and enjoy the adventure. If I can do it, you can definitely do it! Like I said before – IT’S NOT THAT HARD! And if you mess up then make some PB&J and try again tomorrow. Mistakes and disasters are part of the journey. Don’t let a mistake or the possibility of one stop you!

NOT LAME: How To Get Excited About Oatmeal

BAKED OATMEAL : IT’LL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Baked Oatmeal with Apricots & Almonds

Baked Oatmeal with Apricots & Almonds

Basic Baked Oatmeal – Click to Print

Okay – show of hands – who here thinks oatmeal is awesome?  Anyone?  Anyone? Bueller? Wow nobody, really?  What if I told you that oatmeal is NOT, in fact, lame?  What if I take it a step further by telling you oatmeal can be scrumptious (don’t you just love that word!) and taste almost sinful but can be as healthy as you want it to be?  Well believe it. Good Sir, because it is 100% true.  And I will prove it with this recipe.  Baked Oatmeal will become a new craving you must satisfy on a regular basis.  It is almost as easy as those bags of instant processed flavored oatmeal you probably have made, except flavor-wise it is hands down the best tasting thing with oatmeal in it you’ve ever had and I am including cookies in that statement.  Keep and open mind and an empty stomach and this recipe will change your life….if……..

You actually dare to try it.  Now I just need to take a minute and get something off my chest – STOP BEING SCARED TO COOK!! I hear all the time “I can’t do what you do” or “I could never make that” or whatever whining phrase is in vogue that day.  My friend Ben & I had a conversation about this last night as his mom (an amazing wizard in a Korean kitchen. I mean seriously, this woman’s food is out of this world amazing) feels the same why I do when she is whined to about cooking.  First of all, I am basically self-taught.  I baked with one of my grandmas as a child occasionally.  Both grandma’s were amazing cooks but they didn’t cook with me.  I didn’t grow up on a stool in the kitchen watching the magic happen.  I love food though.  And I refuse to not be excited about food on a regular basis especially when it comes to what I eat at home.  That’s all really.  I watched cooking shows and picked up tips and recipes.  I paid attention to ingredients, flavors and methods.  Most recipes for anything have within them a basic recipe in which can be your blank canvas. If I messed up I just started over or called the pizza man. IT’S NOT THE SPACE PROGRAM – IT’S DINNER! As I got more confident I tried more stuff.  You have to stop worrying that you’ll mess up – cause I guarantee you will.  I still mess up sometimes.  But because I keep trying I mess up less and less.  I succeed way more than I fail at cooking and I promise you will too.  Just TRY!  Get creative, try new things, go off the drawing board.  I almost never follow someone else recipes anymore.  I use them as a jumping off point.  Stop comparing yourself and see where you can go.  When I say “it’s not that hard” its not out of confidence or arrogance its because its NOT THAT HARD.  Just breathe and take it one step at a time.  I am always here to answer questions that come up.  And don’t hide from the glory – send me pics of your creations.  If I am of no help find someone who is.  The truth is you probably have more knowledge and skills in the kitchen than you think you do. You can do this if you stop being a pussy about it. Stepping off the soapbox now.  Alright – let’s bake some oatmeal!

The printable link above is a basic recipe. This means I didn’t tell you what flavors to use.  It is basically how to make to oatmeal and the custard.  That’s it.  There are a billion combinations you can use.  I will give you a few ideas but from there I want you to try to be creative.  You never know – you may kick my ass at this! I love to make it with different berries, nuts, sometimes when its for a special event I slice a couple bananas, coat them in brown sugar and then make a single layer on the bottom of the pan.  It comes out like a creme brulee topping.  You can do whatever you like.  If it sounds good then try it.  You may just discover your signature dish.  And if its not nobody is going to make you repeat it.  This dish is a great make ahead.  I usually bake it the night before then just warm it in the oven.  The recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled.  I first came up with this recipe this past Christmas.  I was so sick of holiday food that I wanted something healthier on Christmas morning when I hosted my family but I didn’t want to feel like I sacrificed any flavor or decadence.  Oh boy did this oatmeal deliver!  My step-dad had about 3 helpings, took home leftovers and sat in front of the fire talking about how good this oatmeal is.  Seriously, this man raved about oatmeal for an hour, its that good.  Everyone I have made this for has asked for the recipe.  It’s easy, can be made ahead, keeps well in the fridge and most of all tastes AMAZING!  You can go as healthy or as rich as you would like.  I rarely use sugar to sweeten it.  I use honey or agave nectar and, of course, fruit.  My husband has a sweet tooth that puts all others to shame and he doesn’t miss the sugar at all in this. But if you want sugar then by all means USE it!  Here’s a couple of examples of baked oatmeals I have made using the basic recipe I gave you.

Fresh berries

Fresh berries

Defrosted frozen berries & nuts on top

Defrosted frozen berries & nuts on top

I’ve also done apples & pear with extra cinnamon.  For the sake of this blog tonight I made it with almonds and dried apricots.  You can use fresh, dried or frozen fruit, nuts or no nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, raisins (I guess that falls under dried fruit though).  Seriously – whatever you want!  You can eat it plain out of the oven, top with milk or cream, whipped cream, ala mode, endless possibilities and each one mouth watering.  Did I mention this is the easiest recipe ever?  If you get intimidated by cooking easily this is the thing to get your feet wet.

Measure & combine dry ingredients.  Mix well.

Measure & combine dry ingredients. Mix well.

Add in your fruit/nuts/etc.  Mix gently to combine.

Add in your fruit/nuts/etc. Mix gently to combine.

So get a bowl and add all your dry ingredients except your “filling” (by that I mean fruit or whatever your them is).  Dry ingredients are the oats, baking powder (which helps the custard form in the oven), cinnamon, a pinch of kosher salt (this will bring out the flavor of the food not make it salty.  If you don’t have kosher then skip it.  But its a great desert/sweet trick – adding a pinch of kosher salt will make your food taste more like what it is.  This is also the time to add any other dry spices you’d care to sample in this oatmeal. I must admit I am more of an eye-baller than a measure but in this case I would measure all your dry & wet stuff out.  We want the right oats to custard ratio.  I am using dried apricots tonight.  Don’t worry about them being dry when its done because the wet ingredients will hydrate them in the oven.  They will be plump and flavorful when its time to eat.  I eyeballed about 2 cups of them and gave them a rough chop just so they’d be bite-sized.  Just go rustic.  It does not need to be perfect – in fact I forbid it.  Half the point of this dish is to be relaxed while you make it and enjoy it just as much as something you’d slave over.

About 2 cups I'd say for fillings.

About 2 cups I’d say for fillings.

My version of a rough chop.  Imperfect bite size.

My version of a rough chop. Imperfect bite size.

Now you can toss them into the bowl of dry ingredients and give it a stir so the fruit is evenly distributed.  If you are using fresh or frozen fruit this is the point you’d toss it in too.  If you are using frozen I would make sure it has defrosted and I would also drain out the excess juice.  If you don’t your custard might not set or end up runny.  As for nuts, I prefer to put them on top of the dish.  If you do that just sprinkle them on top raw and the oven will toast them while it bakes the oatmeal.  If you want them all throughout the dish I would dry-toast them beforehand.  To toast nuts just put them in a dry skillet and heat over medium to medium high heat tossing them around often.  Once you smell them or see a light golden color appear they are ready.  Just watch them carefully – they burn quick.  You can also toast them in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Sidebar – store your nuts in the freezer to get the most flavor out of them. Nuts DO go bad as they are full of oil.  Bring those oils out of hibernation with the toasting methods.

Mix it all up but gently!

Mix it all up but gently!

Add dry ingredients to greased baking dish.

Add dry ingredients to greased baking dish.

And now onto wet ingredients.  They are called wet because they are.  Wet ingredients are anything liquid or liquidish.  I also add anything that needs to be mixed well into wet usually.

I am using honey for my sweetener today – about 1/3 of a cup.  If you want agave or sugar go for it.  Maple syrup would be good too.  Now I have found this amount of sweetener keeps the dish right down the middle of home-plate between a breakfast and a dessert.  If you like stuff less sweet add less or none at all.  If you want cavities then add as much as you like!  Now honey is sticky.  Measuring it can be a pain in the ass.  Getting to from one container to another is its own battle.  So to make my life easier this is one ingredient I do eyeball – right into a pan on the stove that is melting the butter.  This will do a couple of things – #1 it will mix the butter and honey together which will make it easier to mix into the other wet ingredients and #2 it heats the honey so it gets much thinner and easier to work with.  Just let it sit a couple minutes before adding it to the other wet ingredients so it doesn’t cook the egg.  In about the time it takes to mix the other wet ingredients together it will be cool enough to add.  This trick will work for agave nectar & maple syrup as well.

Melt the honey with the butter.

Melt the honey with the butter.

It'll pour right out for you.

It’ll pour right out for you.

I like to add vanilla and tonight since it is apricot & almost themed a bit of Amaretto.  Amaretto is almond flavored liquor.  It is very very sweet.  I’m adding about a tablespoon.  I don’t want it to be a center flavor, more like a stagehand one that makes the stars look good.  Plus its fun to add booze.  Am I right?

Yeah...

Yeah…

Whisk all the wet ingredients well.

Whisk all the wet ingredients well.

You could add any kind you like.  Bourbon or whiskey would be brilliant with some vanilla extract or bean; you could add framboise (raspberry liquor) or any fruit flavored stuff.  Cognac would be amazing too with vanilla.

Pour gently and make sure it is evenly distributed.

Pour gently and make sure it is evenly distributed.

It should look like this.

It should look like this.

You are almost done.  Gently pour the wet mixture over the dry one.  Make sure it’s evenly distributed.  If it seems off just give it a gently shake.  If you plan to be awesome and top it with nuts this is when you add them.  Just sprinkle an even layer by hand.

Ready to get baked!

Ready to get baked!

Toss that mother in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes.  During this time the oatmeal absorbs the liquid and a custard oatmeal is formed.  When you pull it out let it rest for about 5 minutes, just to let it set while it cools.  Then serve it up with any other toppings and enjoy!

The finished product.

The finished product.

Close Up

Close Up

My husbands bestie, Ben, enjoying the very oatmeal I made for this blog while he sits in the garage with Kris talking about golf and other boring things. ;)

My husbands bestie, Ben, enjoying the very oatmeal I made for this blog while he sits in the garage with Kris talking about golf and other boring things. 😉

I hope you enjoyed reading this entry.  Even more I hope you try the recipe because I know you will love it.  And even more than that I hope that if you want to cook but fear is holding you back that you decide to try anyway.  I am happy to help in any way I can!  I love comments, complaints, and requests – so please keep them coming.  Leave me a comment on here or send an email to bradymunchblog@yahoo.com.

Peace out Foodies!  See you on the flip side! \m/