Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Apple Chipotle Meatballs and Smoked Gouda Grits Bowls

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Did everyone have a good Memorial Day Weekend? My kids were off of school Friday and Monday, and we were super busy the whole time. A Crawfish Boil, a pizza party, swimming, we went and saw Solo and lots of sleeping in- it was fabulous. Until this meatball decided to overheat running around in the backyard and nearly gave me a heart attack. 
The meatballs I'm sharing with you today are a lot like Beignet- sweet and spicy, they take a little bit of time but are SO worth it. They were my second entry for the Simply Wholesome Foods Applesauce Contest. Creamy, smoky cheesy Gouda grits piled high with smoky sweet Apple Chipotle Meatballs. My kids went nuts for this meal!
The applesauce make these turkey meatballs so tender and the chipotle sauce gives a smoky kick that make these meatballs irresistible. They'd be fabulous on their own as an appetizer as well, but who doesn't want cheesy grits for every meal?!
 Apple Chipotle Meatballs and Smoked Gouda Grits Bowls

Sauce:
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup finely minced shallot
1 ½ cups Simply Wholesome Foods Touch of Honey Applesauce 
½ cup ketchup
4 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Meatballs:
1 large egg 
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs  
1 cup Simply Wholesome Foods Touch of Honey Applesauce  
1 large shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper 
2 pounds lean ground turkey

Grits:
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone ground grits or polenta
8 ounces shredded smoked gouda cheese
3 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley


To make the sauce, place the vegetable oil and minced shallot in a large sauté pan over low heat. Sauté until the shallot has softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Using a stick blender or food processor, puree until smooth.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and cover a large cookie sheet with foil. Liberally spray the foil with olive oil cooking spray. 

For the meatballs, stir together the egg, breadcrumbs, applesauce, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold the seasoning paste into the ground turkey, being careful not to overmix the meat. Using a medium ice cream scoop, make about 24 meatballs and lay them on the prepared cookie sheet. Spray the tops of the meatballs with olive oil cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

While the meatballs bake, bring the milk and chicken stock to a low boil over medium-high heat in a large sauce pot. When the liquid is bubbling, slowly whisk in the salt and grits and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes. Once the grits are tender and thickened, turn off the fire and stir in the cheese and butter. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Once the meatballs are fully cooked, place them in the sauté pan with the warm sauce and gently stir to coat evenly. 

To serve, ladle the cheesy grits into shallow bowls. Top with meatballs and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately. 

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fennel Apple Bisque with Crispy Shallots

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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

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Update: I'm happy to share that this entry won the Vegan Category of the #SimpleButTwisted contest!!


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

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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.
 Cheers!


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Founders Day BBQ Cookoff

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 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.



Roasted Red Bell Pepper Gazpacho with Garlic Tuna, Bacon and Avocado

Have you ever tried gazpacho before? It's one of my favorite things to make when the days start to get hotter especially when those...