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As some of you may know, I had the opportunity to go to California this year and try out for MasterChef. Though I did not make it onto the show, I did make the Top 100 home cooks in the country. I am pretty proud of that accomplishment!

MasterChef just celebrated it’s 100th episode! How exciting! So, to celebrate this momentous occasion, the Top 14 home cooks were given the challenge to create a birthday cake worthy of the MasterChef kitchen. Each cook had a different point of view and, sadly, two cooks went home. Christina Tosi’s birthday cake was absolutely beautiful! It was her bakery’s version of a funfetti cake. It looked moist and delicious!

After the episode, I was inspired to create my own version of birthday cake. It was my father-in-law’s birthday on July 3rd, and we were all going to celebrate Independence Day and his birthday on the 4th of July. I asked him what he wanted and all he said was Vanilla. I asked him if a creamy orange sounded good to him. He said YES! So, the dreamsicle cake came into my mind and onto the cake plate. It is creamy with a delicious citrus flavor. There is orange zest, juice, and even a little Orange essential oil. There’s a whole vanilla bean, butter, and cream cheese. It’s everything you look for when you think dreamsicle, except it isn’t frozen. I hope you enjoy making this cake for your loved ones!

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Dreamsicle Cake Sponge:

4 cups of Cake Flour
1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt
2/3 c grapeseed oil
3 tsp baking powder
4 tsp vanilla
1 c buttermilk
1/2 vanilla bean, just the caviar
2 1/2 c granulated sugar
2/3 c shortening (butter flavored)
1 stick of butter, room temperature
6 TBSP brown sugar
6 eggs
1 orange, zest plus 2 TBSP of juice
3 drops of Young Living Orange Essential Oil (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Rub three 9″ round baking pans with shortening and then flour the pans
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, vanilla caviar, orange juice, zest, and orange oil. Whisk together. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer on medium-high, beat granulated sugar, shortening, butter, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. This is important. If you add the eggs at one time, it won’t incorporate the way they should.
  • Continue to beat mixture, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, until almost doubled in volume and very light, airy, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.
  • With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture until incorporated.
  • Slowly add the dry mixture, scraping the bowl as needed. Do not overmix or you will end up with a dry cake.
  • Add an even amount of batter to each pan, smooth the tops of each one, and gently drop each pan on the top of your counter to get rid of air bubbles.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The edges should have some elasticity to them and the middle should no longer jiggle.
  • Allow cakes to cool on a wire rack.

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Orange-Cream Frosting

2 stick of butter, room temperature
16 oz (2 blocks) of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup of shortening
4 TBSP light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
TSP kosher salt
2 TBSP vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean, caviar
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/2 tsp baking powder

  • In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, shortening, and cream cheese. Beat on medium-high until smooth. 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  • In a small bowl, combine the corn syrup, orange juice, zest, vanilla bean, and vanilla. With the mixer still on medium-high, slowly stream this mixture into the mixer bowl until silky and glossy. Scrape down sides.
  • With mixer on low, slowly add the powdered sugar, salt, and baking soda. Once combined, raise the speed to medium-high and mix until fluffy and smooth, about 4 minutes.

Cake Soak:

1/4 c whole milk
1 TBSP vanilla
2 TBSP orange juice

  • Whisk these together and brush on each cake layer as you assemble the cake.

Assembly:

  • Trim each layer of cake to get rid of the golden brown skin. This will allow you to brush the soak on each layer and add some moisture and extra citrus flavor.
  • Add a layer of frosting between each cake layer. You can add some Orange food coloring to make your Dreamsicle cake pop. Frost the rest of your cake. Decorate as you wish.
  • Serve!

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So, I entered a Bacon contest with Central Market a couple months ago and got a phone call at the beginning of this month that I was a finalist! Yay! I totally entered on a whim and didn’t think much of it, until I got the phone call.

I have made bacon caramel brownies before, but someone mentioned that it needed to be taken to the next indulgent level. I had recently seen bourbon caramel being made and decided to go ahead and try adding a little to the bacon caramel tosee where it would go.

Well…apparently it works really great. Bacon-contest-winning great!baconbrowniespicture

Brownies:

1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 c. brown sugar
8 oz (1 c.) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4 eggs
8 oz butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Caramel:
4 slices of thick bacon
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 TBSP bourbon (optional)
4 TBSP unsalted butter


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  • In a frying pan, crisp your bacon. Place the bacon on paper towels to cool.

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  • Drain off the fat, leaving only 2 TBSP of fat in the pan.
  • Add your bourbon and butter to the pan and deglaze. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the sugar and bring to a high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.caramel
  • Chop the bacon and stir into the caramel and set aside. baconcaramel
  • Preheat your oven to 300.
  • In a mixer, beat eggs until fluffy. Add the sugar to the bowl and combine.
  • Add your remaining ingredients until just combined, do not over mix.
  • In a buttered and floured 8-inch square pan, add half of the brownie batter.
  • Pour 3/4 of the caramel into the pan and then cover with the remaining batter.
  • Pour the remaining caramel on top and swirl into the batter.
  • Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes (Depends on your oven and weather, it took me an hour yesterday)intheoven
  • Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
    * I like to make extra caramel for a garnish

Get messy…. don’t worry about pretty plating…. I plated this dish in about 5 seconds, as I was about 15 minutes late to the contest…. my phone died (had to run into Verizon to get a charger so I could use my GPS), a guy pulled out a pipe and threatened a driver behind me, got stuck in traffic in the Galleria area, got stuck behind a looooooong train about 700 yards away from my destination…. whew….it was an adventure. But the result was winning a $350 gift card to Central Market/H-E-B! It was awesome!!!!!

plated

Here in Texas, first day of Fall means BAKE ALL THE THINGS!

There’s something about that first drop in the temperature that sets off some sort of culinary instinct. One must start building up stores of fat to get through the winter months…. HA!

So, I was thinking about a certain coffee shop that sells a certain chocolate bread that I came to obsess over and copy every year. However, I decided to start tweaking the recipe up a bit and eventually came to my own little delicious creation.

I spent last weekend in San Antonio and went to a popular Mexican restaurant. They have a pretty lovely bakery and serve some amazing Mexican Hot Chocolate. DIVINE!

So, listening to my gut…. *grumble* feeeeeeed me *gurgle* I came up with this Mexican Hot Chocolate Bread!

So, here is where we start…

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My beloved KitchenAid, 3 sticks of softened butter, 3 cups of sugar, homemade buttermilk, cinnamon stick, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda/powder, 5 eggs at room temperature, vanilla, salt, coffee, and… chile de arbol….

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That’s right! We’re getting a little spiced up here today! Don’t worry… I am going to cool this bread down with some orange cream and candied orange peel.

I take a coffee grinder and put a whole stick of cinnamon, two chile de arbol peppers, and a few coffee beans. Grind grind grind…into a fine powder.

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Chile, coffee, spice…and everything nice. That’s the Texas way!

So, it all came together and I poured the batter into these molds.

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I then baked them at 350 for about 45-50 minutes.

Allowed them to cool down….

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Oh yummy! I wish that you could have been in my kitchen when I pulled these out. Goodness gracious! The spice combinations with chocolate…. drool!

Now, I am sad to say that once I cooled these down and made my orange cream…. I didn’t take pictures… It basically went from plate to mouth very quickly. I have no recollection of what happened between then…. honest.

Maybe it’s for the best… that just means you have to create this dish and see how it looks when you pretty up a few slices with some delicious orange cream!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Bread
Makes 2 large loaves or 4 small loaves

3 sticks (1½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ cup dutch-processed cocoa
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp coffee beans
2 chile de arbol peppers
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and sugar your loaf pans of choice.

2. In a coffee grinder, grind together a stick of cinnamon, coffee beans, cloves, and chiles until it becomes a fine powder. Add ground ginger and place to the side.

3. Sift together flour, cocoa, spice mixture, baking powder and soda, and salt.

4. In a mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time.

5. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk, water, and vanilla. Set aside.

6. Incorporate the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, little by little, until everything is mixed together.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans.

8. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean, after inserting it into the bread.

9. Remove bread from the oven and allow to sit for about 15 minutes to cool.

10. Serve with fresh orange whipped cream or with your choice of garnish.

Orange Whipped Cream

1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream
Zest of half an orange
2 tsp powdered sugar

1. In a mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks.

2. Add your sugar and orange zest.

3. Continue to whip until the cream reaches high peaks.

4. Cannelle and add freshly candied orange peel for garnish

In Texas, we love to to coordinate. When the first day of Fall hits, we are all usually ready to put away the swimsuits and pull out our Autumn garb. It’s not like we’re pulling out mittens, sweaters, or exactly throwing out our flip-flops. It’s Texas, y’all. It’s still H-O-T. However, the first day of Fall, this year, turned out to be pretty wonderful. Low to mid 70s. SHUT UP!

I decided to run into my closet and pull out my 70s orange blouse and go all out!

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HOWDY, FALL!

Whenever the weather first gets that little crisp feeling, every single Texan has ONE thing on their mind. Chili! So, why go against the norm? Wait… why not go against the norm?

Time to do a new spin on chili, people! Get a little healthy…. add some bold flavors… get adventurous!

So, after going through my refrigerator, I decided to use up some kale, a poblano, zucchini, red onion, and some vibrant red bell peppers.

Roughly diced, charbroiled for a few minutes with a little garlic and EVOO…. YUMMY!

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Hello, semi-burned, roasty, sweet, yumminess!

I seriously could eat that tray all day, everyday. *Hint* This combo of veggies, minus the poblano, also go into my Quinoa Salad with Lemon-Herb Dressing… I haven’t shared that yet…and that is coming :)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! Let’s keep going with this chili. So, I go ahead and brown some lean ground beef with plenty of salt, pepper, a little garlic, and a little red pepper flake. I like to add a little splash of chicken stock to the pot in order to get those stuck little brown bits… those bits are sacred! FLAVOR!

Those charred veggies go into the pot and then I add my tomatoes (diced and tomato sauce), a pinch of sugar (cuts down acidity), chili seasoning (chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper) and my beans. I love black beans. So, here I added about three cups of prepared black beans.

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In the picture, see that cute little cup and saucer. I found a set of these at a cute antique store in Mobile. Sadly, I lost 6/8 of the plates during our move…. *sigh*. But I have two left and they are pretty! I do have all of the cups though. Perfect for healthy portions of this yummy chili!

You may start to wonder what’s in that measuring cup…. we’ll it’s time to tell you! I placed 2 cups of chicken broth into a blender and added a jalapeno and a whole bunch of cilantro. I blended that and it’s about to go into the pot to add a fresh pop of flavor. Makes a HUGE difference to this chili! Everyone always asks “What is that?!” and I get a huge sneaky smile on my face. Cilantro is a wonderful thing.

So, then I add the rest of my chicken stock and toss in a few handfuls of kale to the mix and allow that to simmer for hours until everything marries together.

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So, while that simmers… I made some yummy Texas cornbread to go with my chili. I was going to do some jalapeno cornbread, but decided to use up some green onions I had instead. Don’t want to kill people with spice…we love it, but I think the less-spicy version of the cornbread would be appreciated here. Not sharing that recipe…gotta keep some secrets. It is gluten-free though, by default. That’s all I will say there and I will post a picture….

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See what I did there? Literal Texas cornbread.

Grab a piece, throw into your chili bowl, ladle on that delicious chili, add about a pound of cheese, and you’re golden.

Charbroiled Chili with Kale

2 pounds of lean ground beef
3 cups of black beans, prepared
16 oz of diced tomatoes
10 oz of tomato sauce
3 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of chicken stock
1 zucchini diced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 poblano pepper diced
1/2 red onion diced
EVOO
1 jalapeno
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups kale
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Pinch of red chili flake (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. On a baking sheet, arrange diced veggies, drizzle EVOO, and sprinkle a tsp of garlic powder and salt and pepper. Place under broiler until veggies char nicely, but do not burn.
2. In a pot, add ground beef and brown with a little salt and pepper. Add your minced garlic, veggies, and splash about 1/4 cup of your chicken stock to deglaze the pan.
3. Add the remainder of the seasoning (minus sugar), and add tomatoes. Now add the sugar.
4. In a blender, add 2 cups of chicken broth, cilantro, and jalapeno. Blend until smooth. Add to the pot.
5. Add beans, kale, and remaining liquid. Simmer until ready to serve.

2 lb Pork Loin
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 420º

In a bowl, combine all ingredients, minus pork loin, whisk until combined

Using a knife, poke holes in the pork loin to allow the marinade to soak through. Add the loin to the bowl and allow the marinade to coat it evenly.

Place the loin in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pork is at least 145°.

You may reserve the remaining marinade and simmer it until it is safe to use as a glaze.

Slice into medallions and serve over quinoa.

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Garlic-Thyme Quinoa

 

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 c water (or broth)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa and place in a sauce pan with the water or stock.

Add your seasonings.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. 

Using a fork, fluff the quinoa. Serve under your sliced pork loin.

Spicy Fiesta Beans

I’ve been giving myself a challenge of making really cheap meals and make our food budget stretch out. I have been busting our food budget every month and couldn’t figure out why. So, this month I actually sat down, looked at the specials and sales, clipped coupons, and meal planned down to the last dollar. I was able to spend only a $100 for two weeks of food.

Funny thing though, I didn’t plan on making this meal… it just happened. I was watching Pioneer Woman (really dangerous to do if you’re hungry) and saw her make these Fiesta Beans…. yummy. I didn’t have all the ingredients she had and I wanted to try out the 75 minute bean recipe that some friends posted. So I did my own thing.

Best. Beans. Ever!!!!!

In a dutch oven, throw in a 2 lb bag of beans you have sifted through and rinsed. Cover with water and allow to soak overnight, if you remember to do it. If not, you will probably need to add 15 more minutes to the cooking time, if using pinto beans.

If you soaked the beans overnight, then drain, rinse, and cover with water once more.

Preheat your oven to 250.

To your beans, nestle in a ham bone, ham hock, or even just a couple strips of bacon.

Add the following:
1 cup of sliced fresh hot peppers (I used jalapeno, serrano, and one yellow hot pepper)
2 Tbsp Chili powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Cumin
3 Bay leaves (remove after cooking)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Stir and bring to a boil, on the stove top.

Place the dutch oven, with lid on, into the oven and allow to cook for 75 minutes or until beans are tender

Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh cilantro, cheese, and corn bread.

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Peach Habanero Ribs

Yesterday was Labor Day! I hope that you all enjoyed spending time with your families and relaxed. It’s a little difficult to do that here, with a baby, but he’s still quite enjoyable and we had a good time snuggling and playing.

We were in the mood for good ole’ BBQ. We had four slabs in the deep freezer that needed to be used. So, I took out a slab and decided to get creative.

We looooove spicy food. If you don’t, then you probably should skip ahead to another post. This recipe is all about kick!

Now, we have only attempted smoking ribs once before and it was….okay. So, we’re novices in this department. However, with a little experimentation, I think we about have it down!

Peach Habanero Ribs!

First, you need to trim, rinse, and pat your ribs dry. Take the membrane off the back and trim the fat. It helps the flavor to really get into that meat!

Dry rub:
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp smoked Paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Chile Powder

Mix and rub that goodness into your meat! Allow to sit for 10 minutes before your put it on the grill

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We found the 3-2-1 method worked best for us. At 225°, 3 hours on indirect heat, 2 hours wrapped in foil with a little liquid of choice (I was bad and used cola), and 1 hour, out of the foil, being basted with bbq sauce and cooked on indirect heat again to get a good crust.

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Peach Habanero BBQ Sauce
1 can Peach halves in heavy syrup
2 cups Ketchup
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Habanero hot sauce (not like salsa)
1 habanero
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 yellow onion

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth. Place in a heavy pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. Use to baste ribs and serve on the side.

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ENJOY!!!!!

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