Monday, February 29, 2016

Street Corn Mashed Potato Poppers with Ancho-cado Dip

I'm not sure how or why, but 2016 has been unbelievably kind to me! 
I really have never been one to make new years resolutions, but this year I decided to really buckle down and try as hard as I could to bring my contesting to a whole 'nother level. To keep a schedule, enter as many quality recipes as I could and work on my photography to have my pictures really sell my dish. I guess hard work and prayer really does pay off, because for the second time this year I've won an amazing trip to New York!
I literally could not believe when I received this email and I have re-read it roughly 1,376 times just to make sure I wasn't dreaming:
Hi Lauren,
 On behalf of Food Network Magazine and the US Potato Board, I would like to congratulate you on being the WINNER of The Ordinary Extraordinary Potato Recipe Contest. Please confirm receipt of this email ASAP so we can coordinate prize details!

You and a guest will be flown to NYC for a Food Network Magazine’s Small Bites Event on Tuesday 3/15 at Butter Restaurant where your dish – Street Corn Mashed Potato Poppers with Ancho-cado Dip – will be served to attendees. 

In addition, US Potato Board would like to feature your recipe on their

Looking forward to hearing from you! Be sure to reach out with any questions.

Steven & The Food Network Magazine Team 
PS – Your recipe was by far the favorite – I can’t wait to try it at the event J

 Street Corn Mashed Potato Poppers with Ancho-cado Dip
Street Corn Mashed Potato Poppers:
3 pounds russet potatoes
4 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 ears corn
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Mexican crema
1 cup crumbled cotija cheese

Ancho-cado Dip:
1 large avocado, skin and pit removed
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Mexican crema
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder

6 cups vegetable oil
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

Peel and cut potatoes into ½ inch cubes and add to a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Season the water with 2 teaspoons of the salt, and cook until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to hot pot to dry.  
While the potatoes are cooking, grill the corn and jalapeno. Heat a large grill pan over high heat. Brush the oil all over the corn and jalapeno, place on the hot grill pan, and cook turning frequently until charred on all sides. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. 
In a large bowl, scrape the corn kernels off of the cob with a sharp knife and using the back of the knife, scrape all the corn milk into the bowl as well. Remove the stem and seeds from the jalapeno, dice it and add it to the corn. Add the cilantro, cheese, eggs, flour, pepper, garlic powder, crema, cotija and remaining 2 ½ teaspoons of salt. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the potatoes and stir, slightly mashing, until the mixture is evenly blended. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes. 
While the potato mixture is chilling, make the dip. Add the avocado, cayenne, salt, mayonnaise, crema and chili powder to a small food processor. Blend until smooth and set in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a large, high sided pot over medium-high heat, fitted with a candy thermometer.  
While the oil is heating, use a small cookie scoop to spoon 2 Tablespoons of the potato mixture out. Roll into panko until well coated on all sides. Working in batches, fry for 3-5 minutes, until deeply golden brown and crisp. Remove poppers from the oil and place on a large paper towel lined cookie sheet to drain. 
Place the poppers on a serving platter, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges and dip. 
Mixture makes 70 poppers.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cajun Fish Taco Tostadas with Mardi Gras Slaw and Remoulade Sauce

Last year, I was lucky enough to win with my Greek Style Baked Turkey Taquitos with Tzatziki Drizzle and I'm really hoping to keep the winning streak going. 
I wanted to use a different rub this year, so I chose the Cajun Seafood Seasoning and created something that is delicious, colorful and healthy!
My Cajun Fish Taco Tostadas feel like a splurge even when they're not. I chose to broil corn tortillas to make them nice and crispy. Swapping corn tortillas for flour tortillas is an easy way to cut fat and sugar all while bumping up the fiber in your diet. The slaw is colorful and gives the perfect crunchy texture to the tostadas. For the fish, I used striped bass because that's what my boys caught on their fishing trip but feel free to use tilapia, cod or any other white flaky fish in the market.
While Remoulade is a delicious sauce served with seafood in Louisiana, it's typically loaded with fat and salt. My version packs a ton of flavor without all the unnecessary calories by mixing a bit of greek yogurt in with a low fat mayonnaise to make it creamy and using the Cajun Seafood Seasoning to give it spice and flavor.
My kids devoured these- I hope you try them and love them as much as we did!
Cajun Fish Taco Tostadas with Mardi Gras Slaw and Remoulade Sauce
 8 soft 6-inch corn tortillas
3 Tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons fat free plain Greek yogurt
The zest of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon creole or course grain mustard
1 Tablespoon ketchup
3 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage
1 ½ cups thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
6 green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pound flaky white fish
Preheat the broiler on high. Lightly mist the corn tortillas on both sides with olive oil spray and place on a large cookie sheet. Broil the tortillas for about 2 minutes per side, watching closely to prevent burning. Once the tortillas are crisp set aside to cool slightly.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, Cajun Seafood Seasoning, zest, creole mustard and ketchup.

In a separate small mixing bowl, combine the sliced purple cabbage, yellow bell pepper, green onions, olive oil and lemon juice. Stir until the slaw is evenly coated.

Sprinkle the fish evenly with the Cajun Seafood Seasoning.

Heat a large non-stick skillet sprayed with olive oil cooking spray over medium high heat and working in batches, cook the fish about 3-5 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily.
To assemble, top each crispy corn tortilla with the slaw mixture, pieces of the fish and then drizzle with the Remoulade sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4, serving size: 2 tostadas

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Suggestions and Smoothies

While having the time of my life chatting it up in NYC with Chef Jeffery Saad for the Bush's Chili Cook-off he suggested once we were back in Austin to try out Barlata since he knew the chef and had been there numerous times before. I was super excited when I found out that Louis had booked reservations for us to go there for brunch on Valentine's Day!
It did not disappoint! We tried a little bit of everything, and I would definitely go back. The cocktails were amazing and here were some of our favorite dishes:
The Lola's Cooler was absolutely delicious, I could have had a pitcher of that alone. The garlic shrimp were divine, and the best part was the butter in the bottom of the pan soaked up with the warm bread they kept bringing to the table. Totally delicious!
Torrijas- Castilian Toast, Seasonal Berries, Almonds, Whipped Cream
House cured salmon- Pickled​ red onions, capers, crème fraiche
Gambas Ajillo- Shrimp Garlic/Olive Oil
Pulpo- 2 hours cooked octopus with fingerling potatoes and adobo oil
Barlata Paella- Spanish​ saffron rice, mixed seafood, chicken, chorizo and veggies
Lola's Cooler- StGermain, Dolin Blanc, Pear, Yellow Chartreuse, Honey, Citrus and Cava

In more exciting contest news, I had two wins in the same week that I am pretty proud of!
My Blood Orange Coconut Lava Flow Smoothie won me a $500 WholeFoods gift card 

And my Southwest Sackin' Stackers won the runner up prize for Pepsi's Game Day Grub Match challenge!! I took Cheddar Jalapeño cheetos and pressed them on the outside of crescent roll swirls with bacon, mexi-corn and pepper jack cheese. Topped with FritoLay hot bean dip and a creamy Lay's Smooth Ranch Dip Salsa for the win! 

Runner-up prizes:  Check in the amount of $500,  PepsiCo party pack including a mix of PepsiCo food and beverage products, a signed cookbook from Anne Burrell and a Wilson Super Bowl 50 Football.  

It's been a great week so far!

Friday, February 5, 2016

New Win in New York!

Remember a while ago when I posted my Mushroom Chicken Marsala Chili for the Bush's Beans Chili Cook-off? Well, guess what? I WON!! I almost fell over when I got the email and probably re-read it a thousand times just to be sure I wasn't dreaming!

I still can't believe it myself. Nothing beats getting those kind of emails. I will never get tired of it!
 So, I got the email that I had won and literally was supposed to be in New York within a week. I was nervous about getting everything squared away with the kids, but I am super lucky that my dad (who lives 8 hours away from me) is retired and dropped everything to drive in and stay at my house to take care of the kids and dogs while Louis and I were whisked away and spoiled in NYC!
We got to the Ace hotel and there was the cutest saying painted right on the wall and the Empire State Building was right outside our window.
The welcome bag was an unexpected nice touch! Bottled water, t-shirts, postcards, snacks and $1,000 in Visa gift cards! They really know how to spoil a person!
Once we dropped off our bags in the room I couldn't wait to get downstairs to eat. Lucky for us, the hotel's restaurant is The Breslin.  I've seen it featured on Food Network and in magazines for years and couldn't wait to try it. I had a glass of prosecco, Louis had an Old Fashioned- perfect way to start our trip and calm my nerves from flying! For an appetizer we split the Seafood Sausage with Beurre Blanc & Chives. It was delicious, and we were both starving, so no picture of that. I peer pressured Louis into getting the Chargrilled Lamb Burger with cumin mayo, feta and thrice cooked chips and I got the BLT with Lamb Bacon, Guajillo, Fermented Green Tomatoes and Gaufrettes. We split both of them, and while they were absolutely delicious, if I had to choose, the BLT was the better.
 That night we had tickets to see The Book of Mormon so we wanted to have an early dinner within walking distance of the theater. We ended up at The Paramount Bar and Grill. The hotel and restaurant is beautiful! We started with the Tuna Poke with Tarro Chips and Avocado. I was still pretty full from lunch so I got the Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes and Grilled Bread and Louis got the Pan Seared Scallops with Pureed Carrots, Blistered Tomatoes and Crispy Shallots. Everything we tried was absolutely delicious but the service was painfully slow and the few questions I asked the waitress about the menu she just made up answers for so not sure I'd ever go back there.
After dinner we walked to the theater, I got my sippy cup of wine and we had great seats! After the show we went to The John Dory Oyster Bar, had a few snacks and then went to bed. I was exhausted and I knew the next day would be a long one!
Bright and early we headed over to The Daily Meal offices for taping! I was SO nervous. Like can't eat, sweating in 15 degree weather, pacing the floor nervous. The kitchen was gorgeous, and when I got there everything was prepped and ready to go for me. I was excited to meet and cook with Chef Jeffrey Saad and luckily he was such a pleasure to work with! He's just a down to earth friendly guy that really made taping the video easy and fun. I quizzed him all about his experience on The Next Food Network Star and loved picking his brain!
The thing that took us the longest was figuring out how to turn on the burners! 
We taped one shot and all of the production people were really happy with the way it went, so I felt very relieved. They brought in lunch from Mario Batali's Otto- pizzas, salads, brussels sprouts, marinated olives, pasta. They had a ton of food, and since I was too nervous to eat breakfast earlier, I tried almost everything! On the schedule it was planned for me to be there for the taping until 6pm, but I was done by 2. They told us they were happy with what I did and for us to go enjoy the city, so we headed down the street to Eataly. I just love walking through that place! It's like a culinary Ikea- filled with everything you didn't know you needed and very hard to find your way out of. We had a drink at Manzo before walking back to the hotel
For our last night in town we made reservations at Scarpetta
The dining room is so pretty, warmly lit and feels very romantic. We got seated right by the front window and it was nice to watch the world go by outside while we ate. The only downfall was that we felt really rushed while there. We ordered a cocktail to start the night and the 3 course tasting with the wine pairing. Before we could finish anything they were attempting to take our plates away and bringing us the new wine pairings. Other than that, the night was perfect. The bread basket alone is worth going for! Since we were rushed I didn't even get to take as many pictures as I would have liked. For starters I got the Creamy Polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms- totally decadent and delicious, and Louis had the Raw Yellowtail with pickled red onion. As our mains, I had to get the Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil. It's what Scott Conant is known for and it is the most comforting bowl of pasta ever. You can tell it's hand made and I cleaned my plate with no problem! Louis had the Black Cod with braised fennel and concentrated tomato- delicious, but I liked my pasta more. Even though we had ordered the 3 course tasting menu, I had heard so much raving about the Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli with marsala reduction, we ordered that as well. If there is Foie Gras written on a menu, Louis wants it. Unfortunately, he wasn't as thrilled with dish like the rest of yelp is and I thought it was just OK. For dessert, I chose the Coconut Pana Cotta- my least favorite dish of the night and Louis got the Valrhona Chocolate Cake. If you ever get a chance to go to Scarpetta, get the spaghetti and skip the dessert!
As you can see so far, we had an absolutely amazing time through  this whole experience. I didn't realize that once I was home Bush's would have another surprise delivered to me! 
I was totally blown away and I've already used the beans and the Le Creuset!
Now, to end the longest blog post ever, here's the link of the video we shot! I hope you like it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Citrus Roasted Beet and Ricotta Toast

Hi there! Things have been super busy lately, and I have a lot of exciting news to share!
My entry for Nordic Ware's photo contest won third place!
Not a huge win, but exciting none the less. This one was purely decided by votes, not recipe, and I entered late but I'm still grateful to everyone that took the time to give me a vote and help me out!
Congratulations, Lauren! You are one of our 3rd Prize Winners with 132 votes! Your photo looked absolutely delicious! We will be sending you an amazing  package of Honestly Cranberry Dried Cranberries, Seven Sunday’s Original Cinnamon Currant Muesli, a 12 Cavity Muffin Pan, and a Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet.
I can't wait for it to get here!

Citrus Roasted Beet and Ricotta Toast
1 pound fresh beets
3 Tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces reduced fat feta cheese
1 ½ teaspoons chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons orange juice
4 slices 12 Grain Bread
1 cup baby arugula leaves
4 teaspoons chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the tops and bottoms of the beets off, place them on a large sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly, place on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a knife can easily pierce the beets. 
While the beets are roasting, make the feta spread. Place the feta, garlic, milk, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, orange zest, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth. Place the cheese mixture in a small mixing bowl and stir in the mint. 
Once the beets are tender, remove them from the oven, peel and cut them into ¼ inch slices. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the orange juice, 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Place the sliced beets in the bowl, and stir gently to coat them evenly.
Toast the bread slices until evenly browned. Spread the feta cheese mixture evenly over each piece of toast, top with arugula and then layer the beet slices evenly over that. Sprinkle chopped pistachios over each sandwich and serve immediately. 
Serves 4.

And, since I don't know when to stop, here's another chance to vote for me! 
I entered the Guac 'n Roll contest last year and didn't place, but as soon as the contest was over I knew what I would enter if they ever had this contest again! You only can enter one recipe, so narrowing it down to only one idea was hard! 
It was right around the time I went to Nashville for the Pillsbury Bake Off and I was introduced to Hot Chicken. I had that on my mind ever since and knew exactly how I'd make it my own!
Nashville, Hot Chicken and Johnny Cash all inspired my Ring of Fire-mole! 
My entry for the#guacnroll2016 contest put on by @chefsroll &@avocadosfrommexico Fresh buttermilk guacamole paired with Hot Chicken spiced chips and crispy crunchy chicken skin. 
Love is a burning thing Mr. Cash!
If you'd follow this link and vote for me it would be very appreciated!

Pickle Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Chili Honey Sauce

Thanks to Hellmann’s 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles and the “Real Taste, Less Waste” challenge I get to share with you a kitchen hack that...