Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fennel Apple Bisque with Crispy Shallots

Do you like fennel?
I really love it and I think it's one of the most underused veggies out there. It's always in season and not very expensive either. Shaved super thinly in a salad, roasted with Parmesan, caramelized and added to bolognese...I could think of a million ways where fennel just adds a certain subtle sweetness that can bring a dish a notch up instantly.
When I saw the call for Simply Wholesome Foods Applesauce Contest I knew I wanted to try my hand at savory dishes to use up their delicious applesauce, and this was the first entry I came up with. It is the most silky smooth soup ever and even though the ingredient list is short, the flavor this bisque packs is massive! Roasting the fennel creates this amazing caramelized deep flavor and if you're pressed for time, this step can totally be done ahead.
This Bisque is Beignet approved
My little kitchen helper is always ready for clean up duty!
Fennel Apple Bisque with Crispy Shallots
1 large fennel bulb 
3 ½ Tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
¾ cup Simply Wholesome Foods Touch of Honey Applesauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup half and half

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the fennel bulb into 1 inch cubes and reserve the leafy fennel fronds for later use. Toss the cubed fennel in 1 ½ Tablespoons of the oil and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot and sauté until brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the browned shallot from the oil and set aside.
Add the roasted fennel, applesauce, salt, pepper and half and half to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture back in the pan with the remaining oil used to crisp the shallots and turn the heat to medium. Stir constantly until soup is heated through, about 5 minutes. 
Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with fennel fronds and crisp shallots and serve immediately. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Greek Garden Zucchini Spiral Salad with Shepherd’s Sumac Salsa

Look how pretty those noodles are! 
A few months back we were asked to join in on a couple’s trip to Mexico at an all-inclusive adult only resort.  Within hours Louis had booked our room, booked our flights, joined a gym and hasn’t touched a carb since. I’m totally serious. 

Luckily, my kids eat anything, and I’ve gotten really creative lately with all sorts of carb free meals and vegetable based swaps. Of all the cauliflower rice, cauliflower mash and spaghetti squash dishes I’ve made my favorite swap of all is zucchini noodles.

This version is a mash up of all my favorite Greek and Israeli flavors and bonus points for being vegan. The hummus vinaigrette and sumac salsa are amazing all on their own, but tossed on the zucchini noodles the combo makes such a satisfying light meal perfect for a summer night with a glass of Rose’!
Now, if you’ve never heard of Sumac don’t be intimidated. It’s a citrusy unique spice popular in Israeli dishes and I’ve been able to find it in the bulk spice section of my grocery store with no problem. If you can’t find it, no worries, the dish will be amazing even without it!
Greek Garden Zucchini Spiral Salad with Shepherd’s Sumac Salsa
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into half inch cubes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Greek herb seasoning

1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced English cucumber
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon sumac 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

¼ cup vegan hummus
3 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Stir together the cubed eggplant, olive oil, salt, pepper and Greek seasoning in a medium mixing bowl until evenly coated. Place the seasoned eggplant on a large cookie sheet that has been liberally sprayed with olive oil cooking spray and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the eggplant around and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. 

While the eggplant roasts, stir together the diced tomato, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, sumac, salt, pepper, parsley and mint in a small mixing bowl. Set in the fridge and allow to chill.

In the same bowl used for the eggplant, whisk together the hummus, olive oil, salt, red wine vinegar and sugar until smooth. 

Add the zucchini noodles and roasted eggplant to the dressing and toss until the mixture is evenly coated. 

To serve, divide the zucchini noodles into 4 serving bowls, top each with sumac salsa and serve immediately. 

@cecesveggieco #TwistingUpCostco #SimpleButTwisted

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Ruby 75

If you're still stumped as to what to do or get for your mom for Mother's Day, I am here to help! Make her a cute basket filled with ingredients to make this gorgeous brunch cocktail. Throw in a few pretty champagne flutes and pre-chill the prosecco so there's no wait time and you're golden.
Have you ever had a French 75? 
Prosecco, lemon, gin and sugar is the typical line up for this classic cocktail but recently, I decided to give it a little twist. Grapefruit was never something I was into until I tried a Texas Ruby Red a few years ago. They are so naturally sweet, gorgeously pink and thankfully don't pack the bitterness I was used to dealing with when trying them in the past. When I swapped the lemon for a dash of Ruby Red grapefruit juice and added fresh basil leaves as a garnish I think I hit it out of the park!
The Ruby 75
6 basil leaves
3 ounces freshly squeezed Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
1 ounce gin
1 ounce simple syrup
16 ounces champagne or prosecco, well chilled

Roughly tear apart 2 large basil leaves and place them in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the grapefruit juice, gin and simple syrup and stir to combine.
Strain into 4 champagne flutes. 
Top with champagne, garnish with remaining basil leaves and serve immediately. 
Makes 4 cocktails.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Founders Day BBQ Cookoff

 This past weekend was Dripping Spring's Founders Day Festival; a 3 day event complete with a parade, carnival, live music, tons of local vendors to shop from and BBQ cookoff right in the heart of town. Last year we had applied to be part of the cookoff but we never got a spot. We applied again and this year and were finally won a space!
We packed and shopped and prepped as much as we could early in the week and drove our gigantic rig out at noon on Friday to begin set up. It really is amazing to see the process of all the teams setting up on a small street in such a short amount of time. Louis built two bar sections to put in front of the pit area, we put some bar stools up and we started unpacking and organizing immediately.
After settling in, we started to chat with the teams on either side of us. Both of them had twice the space that we did and had been competing int his cookoff for 15 and 18 years. Also, each team had matching uniforms and at least 12 people (if not more) in their crew working the whole time. It was definitely intimidating to be sandwiched in between these two, but luckily one of the teams was super friendly, partied the whole time, was serving us drinks and gave me the nickname "NOLA girl"
Before we knew it, the parade was starting and friends were coming by to see the set up and say hi! The first entries to turn in were due at 7:30 for the Margarita round. I made 2 entries; a Pineapple Habanero Margarita with a Sweet and Spicy Sugar Rim (recipe at the bottom) and a Mango Serrano Margarita with a Smoked Salt Rim
After turn in we were able to relax and hang out with friends. It was a blast, but by 11 I was exhausted so we headed home to be ready for the next day 
Louis got back to our spot at 4 am on Saturday to begin the brisket and I met him later with the kids at 6 am. We knew Saturday would be the busiest day for us with Chicken, Ribs and Brisket due at different times of the day. All meat had to be served off the bone (even the ribs) which I thought was strange, but our ribs and chicken came out great!
Turn in time is always stressful!
Luckily, we had awesome friends taking pictures all weekend for us since we were too busy to do it ourselves. Thanks again DJ!!

Although the brisket had a great smoke ring and was seasoned perfectly, it stalled way too long for us to recover from, so it wasn't as tender as we would have liked.
Our other awesome neighbors gave us a huge batch of Smoked Venison Sausage and Cheese and Jalapeno Venison Sausage. We grilled batches of it all weekend long and set it out as samples. Brianna really loved helping with that part. Thanks again Derrick and Amber!
Apparently I make a ton of faces while cooking.... 
Smoke Ring
Ahhh the life of a competition kid
Gotta get a funnel cake at least once!
Sunday morning started bright and early again, this time for Chili and Salsa turn-ins. Me, my mom, Louis and a few friends judged the salsa round which was fun. We tasted and judged 16 salsas. Most of them were good, but some of them were pretty awful
After judging we started on Bloody Marys to share, and the chili

In the end, we made final table for our chicken and ribs and placed 7th overall out of 120 entries for ribs! For our first time, competing against teams that have been doing this for almost 20 years, I guess we didn't do too badly.
I'm sunburned, hoarse and everything we had out there smells like smoke now, but I learned a lot through the process and look forward to doing even better next year!
Pineapple Habanero Margarita with a Sweet and Spicy Sugar Rim
2 cups silver tequila
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/4 - 1/2 habanero pepper 
1 Tablespoon tajin seasoning
1/3 cup turbinado sugar

In a high powered blender puree the tequila, pineapple chunks and depending on how spicy you want it, use 1/4 to 1/2 of the pepper habanero pepper. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Combine the tajin seasoning and sugar in a shallow dish. Dampen the rim of your glass with some of the strained tequila and dip into the sugar mixture.

2 cups strained infused tequila
1/4 cup agave
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup passion fruit juice

In a pitcher stir together the tequila, agave, lime juice and passion fruit juice. Fill the rimmed glasses with ice and margarita mixture. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Matador

As I mentioned before, the Grilled Cheese Academy Contest is open now and I'm working on new entries to hopefully take first place this year. Because of the way contesting works, most companies require that your recipe be kept a secret allowing them to make the big reveal and announce their favorites. Even after you win there are so many times I have been legally required to not utter a word of my excitement for weeks or even months at a time, until the "official reveal" is released. Let me tell you, when you win an amazing trip or a big huge cash prize it is SO freaking hard to keep it under wraps! 
I'll never forget sitting in New York City after just winning the Away from Home Cooking Contest with the the entire crew and fellow contestants for our celebration dinner at The Marrow. I was on such a high from winning and my phone was going crazy with friends and family asking me who won. It was non-stop facebook notifications and I was told I couldn't post anything or let anyone know until they posted the reveal the next day. I just had to ignore all of the messages, phone calls and texts while I really just wanted to look for the nearest mountain to shout it from!
Soooo since I'm not allowed to publish any of my entries before the contest is over I thought I'd share with you one of the submissions I entered last year. It didn't place with the judges, but man is it delicious! All the exotic flavors of Spain are highlighted in this melty masterpiece. A bright piquillo pepper spread, crunchy garlic chips and garlic sautéed shrimp with chorizo will make you think you’re at your favorite Tapas restaurant. Gooey Wisconsin Gouda and Butterkase are the star of the show in this delicious grilled cheese sandwich!
The Matador
¼ cup olive oil
3 very large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 (12 ounce) jar whole roasted piquillo peppers, drained
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces Spanish style smoked chorizo, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
3 Tablespoons room temperature butter
8 slices bakery crusty bread
4 ounces Wisconsin Gouda cheese, sliced
4 ounces Wisconsin Butterkase cheese, sliced

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat until warm. Add the garlic slices and fry them for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. 
Place 2 Tablespoons of the garlic oil in a small food processor along with the piquillo peppers, sherry vinegar and kosher salt and blend until smooth.

In a large cast iron pan, warm 2 Tablespoons of the garlic oil over medium high heat. Cook the chorizo until the edges begin to brown, about 3 minutes. In a small bowl toss the smoked paprika, salt and shrimp together until the shrimp are evenly coated. Add the seasoned shrimp to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. Add the lemon juice and parsley to the pan and remove from heat. 

Butter each slice of bread on one side only. Spread the piquillo mixture evenly on the unbuttered side of each bread slice.
Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle pan over medium-low heat. Place 4 bread slices in skillet, buttered-side-down. Top with remaining ingredients in this order: crispy garlic chips, gouda, chorizo and shrimp and Butterkase. Top with 4 remaining bread slices, buttered-side-up. 
Grill sandwiches until bottoms are lightly browned, and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the sandwiches over. Cook other sides until bread is golden and the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes per side.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

National Grilled Cheese Day

It's National Grilled Cheese Day y'all! 
I can't think of a better thing to celebrate right now than toasty buttery bread and loads of cheese. It also happens to be smack dab in the middle of testing time for me as I dream up new entries for the Grilled Cheese Academy Contest. The contest closes May 15th and I will be submitting as many recipes as I can before the deadline. This year may be tricky though, since I can't seem to say the word cheese without Roux and Beignet tearing through the kitchen looking around desperately for a snack. If there wasn't anything dropped this is the pitiful look I'll be getting until I finally give in and share. She's really got a rough life, huh?
If you want to follow along as I test out recipes for this contest be sure to hop over to instagram and follow me @fleurdelectable 
In 2015 I was lucky enough to win $5,000 with my Tex-Mex twist on a grilled cheese and I want to see if this year I can take first place!
This was the gorgeous shot they took of my winning dish! Looks amazing, right?!

4 ounces fresh Mexican bulk chorizo sausage
1 large ear of corn, husks and silks removed
1 small to medium poblano pepper
¼ cup olive oil 
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
4 teaspoons lime juice
¼ plus 1/8 teaspoon salt 
½ teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons room temperature butter
8 slices bakery jalapeno cheddar cheese bread
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
1 small clove garlic
1 Tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
4 ounces Wisconsin pepper jack cheese, sliced
4 ounces Wisconsin aged cheddar, sliced
In a medium skillet, fry the chorizo, over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and set aside. 
Brush the corn and poblano pepper with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. In a large grill pan or on an outdoor grill set to high heat, char the poblano until the skin is black and blistering, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the grill, wrap it tightly in foil and set it aside allowing it to steam. Grill the corn, turning frequently, until all sides are evenly charred. Once cool enough to handle, cut the corn kernels away from the cob and peel the blackened skin off of the poblano. Place the corn kernels in a small bowl and stir together with the mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of the lime juice, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and the cumin. Remove the stem and seeds from the poblano and slice into strips. 
Butter each slice of bread on one side only. 
Place the cilantro, garlic, 1 Tablespoon of the lime juice, jalapeno, 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and ¼ teaspoon of the salt in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Spread mixture evenly on unbuttered side of each bread slice.
Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle pan over medium-low heat. Place 4 bread slices in skillet, buttered-side-down. Top with remaining ingredients in this order: pepper jack cheese, chorizo, poblano strips, corn, aged cheddar. Top with 4 remaining bread slices, buttered-side-up. 
Grill sandwiches until bottoms are lightly browned, and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the sandwiches over. Cook other sides until bread is golden and the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes per side.

What's your go-to thing to put on a grilled cheese sandwich? Better yet, what's the craziest ingredient you've added to one? I can't wait to hear!!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Chopped Jr Birthday Bash

Last weekend we threw my daughter a birthday party at the house. I tried to offer numerous other options and even attempted bribing her, but she wouldn't budge. She wanted a Chopped Birthday Party. I wondered about the state of my sanity while pulling it together and was really nervous at the thought of having 9 little girls over to my house for a Chopped competition, but to my surprise it went way better than I could have ever expected! The girls had an absolute blast and seeing them so excited made it all worth it!
I ordered the Invites, score sheets, banner and all of the cute printables here from Etsy
I also ordered kids plain aprons and some fabric markers so as the girls were arriving they could each decorate an apron to use while cooking. I was thinking instead of the usual bag of annoying noisemakers/stickers/candy that dyes their mouth green and gets left on the floor of your car after a party this was at least something they could keep and use at home too!
 We had the girls pick a number and then divided them into 3 teams of 3. I set up 3 small stations that they could cook and prep at and had a "pantry" table of extra ingredients they could use as well
The Pantry Table before it was raided is below
Afterwards it looked like a swarm of locusts had cleaned it out
For the entree round the secret ingredients were tomatoes, pizza dough and cheese (I had 5 types of cheese and they could pick the one they wanted)
I pre-cooked bacon and Italian sausage to give them some proteins to choose that didn't need to go on the stove and made sure I had a ton of veggies to choose from too.
For the most part I was really impressed with the final dishes. A few of the girls were worried and told me before we even started that they had never cooked anything before so my expectations weren't very high to begin with. 
Just in case you're wondering, yes that is a pizza surrounded by cool whip in the bottom shot. 
Yeah, it was rough...
They were so excited for the reveals! 
There was a lot of was LOUD y'all
Team 1 hard at work
 So stinking cute!
 I loved seeing how intense they were as the clock was running and had a great time teaching them a little bit of knife skills for those that were interested
Hands Up! Round 1 is over!
 For the dessert round, I had a whole dessert bar in the middle of the table so that served as decoration and their stash to work with plus the pantry table for them to pick from. For their secret ingredients they had to use any flavor cupcake, sprinkles and their choice of icing.
There were sprinkles EVERYWHERE
Overall, it was a blast and I hope the kids had as much fun as Brianna did!

Fennel Apple Bisque with Crispy Shallots

Do you like fennel? I really love it and I think it's one of the most underused veggies out there. It's always in season and ...