Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Classic Cubano Sandwich

No, you aren't seeing things. And yes, I made something with ham in it. If you know me, then you know that I am a #1 ham hater. Can't. Do. It. But I love my husband even more than my distaste for the pink-ish deli meat, so I took one for the team. And I am so glad I did, because this sandwich may just convert me. If you haven't seen the movie, "Chef" then a) you may be living under a rock and b) if you have Netflix (and who doesn't these days?) you can watch it for free! But to sum it all up, the main character makes these incredible-looking cubano sandwiches that got us feeling all of the #hangry feels. 

So I set out on a quest to find the recipe from the movie, and to my pleasure, the recipe that popped up in my Google search literally read, "Cubanos from the Chef Movie". Can it get any closer than that? My next quest was to prepare them and serve them up for hubby's 1/2 birthday. Yes, I am a freak who obsesses over half birthdays. It's just so fun and unexpected. So we celebrated being 29 and one half while chowing down on some festive cubano sandwiches. Not a bad weekend if I do say so myself!

Cubanos from the movie "Chef"
Makes 6

  • 12 slices of baked ham
  • thinly sliced Roast Pork (I used this recipe)
  • 6 tbsp. butte
  • 6 Kaiser rolls, split
  • yellow mustard
  • 6 thin slices Swiss cheese
  • 12 thin slices dill pickles

Heat a Panini/sandwich press over medium. If you do not have a press, feel free to use a large cast iron skillet (using a pot or large baking sheet with cans in it for the "press"). Add ham and pork to cook, turning once until warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the press.

Generously butter the cut side of your rolls, and toast, cut side down, and press down until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a clean work surface.

On the bottom bun, place 2 slices of ham and 2 slices of pork, then a slice of cheese, and 2 pickle slices. Brush the cut side of the top buns with yellow mustard and close the sandwiches.

Generously butter the outside of the sandwiches and place back onto the press, close down and cook until the cheese melts and the outsides are gold brown, about 3 minutes. If using the skillet/pan method, cook for 3 minutes on each side.

Allow the cubanos to cool for a minute or so before slicing and serving hot.

Now turn on a sexy Miami playlist and get the party started.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Crispy Crockpot Carnitas Tacos with Mango Salsa

It's Taco Tuesday y'all! Is there any other reason that a day of the week starting with a "T" to share with you my BEST taco recipe to date? No joke. Crispy taco shells. Crunchy pulled pork. Sweet juicy mango salsa. Everything is right in the world. We had these three days in a row. No exaggeration. I am finding it hard to put full sentences together they are that good. Sooooo instead of rambling on and on. I'll just leave the recipe and some photos here for you and you can be the judge. 

Crispy Crockpot Carnitas Puffy Tacos with Mango Salsa

  • 3-4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
  • 2 tbsp. high heat oil (like canola)
  • 12-oz. vegetable broth (can substitute for beer if you prefer)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Mango Salsa:
  • 1 mango, peeled, seed removed, and chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 tbsp. red onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro
  • pinch of salt
  • canola oil (enough to fill pot 2-3 inches full)
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • shredded Monterey jack or cotija cheese

Heat the high-heat oil over high heat in a large heavy duty cast-iron skillet. Season the pork shoulder on both sides with just a bit of salt and pepper. Sear pork in the hot oil, about 3-4 minutes on each side, until slightly browned all over.

Meanwhile, add in the rest of the pork ingredients from the broth all the way to the pepper into a crockpot. Mix together and place the seared pork shoulder on top. Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours. I prefer to pop mine in right around dinnertime, and then when I wake up the next morning, like magic, the pork is cooked perfectly tender!

To make the mango salsa, simply mix together all of the listed ingredients until combined. Then place into the fridge until ready to use. Can be made up to 1 day ahead.

Once cooked, remove the pork from the crockpot and place into a tupperware container in the fridge if you are not using right away. Drain the liquid though a find mesh sieve, catching all of the onion, garlic, and any pork remains, then toss, reserving the liquid.

When ready to crisp up the carnitas, lay the shredded pork onto a single layer on a baking sheet. Pour about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid over the top and broil in the oven for a few minutes, until the edges are crispy.

To make the crispy tacos, heat the 2-3 inches of oil over medium heat. To test when the oil is ready, simply drop a small piece of tortilla into the oil and if it fries up right away, you know that it is ready. Careful not to turn the heat up too high, because the oil can easily burn.

Drop the first corn tortilla into the oil and wait for it rise back to the top and begin to puff slightly. Then with a pair of metal kitchen tongs, hold the sides of the tortilla down, creating a shell shape/fold, and hold there for 20-30 seconds until the tortilla holds the shape on its own. Remove to a paper towel to drain off the excess oil and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

To assemble the tacos, simply place the crispy carnitas in the center of the puffy tacos shells and top with mango salsa and shredded cheese.

Then invite me over so we can share!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Potato Chip Popcorn Chicken Bites

Can anyone tell me why they call it popcorn chicken? Like, I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation...does it resemble the look of popcorn? Did they use to serve chicken instead of popcorn at the movies? It's a fun name? Well, actually I don't really care why it's called popcorn chicken, I'm just glad that it exists. And even more glad that you can make it at home anytime that you like. With any type of chips that you like. 

For today's instance, Pepperoncini-flavored Kettle Chips. And no, this recipe is not sponsored in any way, I just reallyyyyyyy love them. Tangy, crunchy, salty. All the good characteristics of a perfect chip. Then crushed and coated all over mini bites of chicken? Heaven. Plus, my secret sauce is reason enough to make these. I think I found your weekend plans...

Potato Chip Popcorn Chicken Bites

Popcorn Chicken:
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups crushed potato chips (crispy kettle-style chips work best)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Honey Mustard Secret Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup dijon
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients to make the secret sauce and then place in the fridge until dinner time. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, basil, oregano, thyme, cayenne, and salt. Add the mixture to a large ziplock bag or shallow dish and then add in the chicken. Allow the chicken to marinate for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse together the chips and flour in a food processor (or smash into tiny pieces in a sturdy bag with a rolling pin) until chips are small pieces, but not ground like a powder (this is necessary for that crunch that we LOVE).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Drain the excess marinade from the chicken and dredge the chicken in the potato chip flour mixture. Place all of the chicken pieces on your prepared wire rack and place into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through and crispy.

Remove from the heat and serve with your secret sauce!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sapporo's Summertime Menu

If you're like me, then you're always looking for things to do in AZ to stay out of the heat during the summertime. So when Sapporo reached out to me to introduce their new Summer Menu, 3-courses for only $35 I jumped at the chance to meet with Executive Chef Mark McLaughlin and Sushi Chef Michael Tam; who opened Sapporo 15 years ago, to talk about his inspirations in the kitchen and also get to taste-test the menu, there was nothing to say but a big fat HELL YES!

All of the menu options are inspired by Chef Mark's favorite summertime dishes then fused with Sapporo's signature Pacific Rim flavors. So be prepared to feast on a variety of seasonal favorites from your choice from 3 different dim sum options to your selection of a main course, and don't forget to leave room for dessert, all prepared with the season's freshest ingredients.

We were even lucky enough to taste some dishes not on the summer menu, so I just had to grab some shots of those as well, so if you're looking to feast outside of the box, there are plenty of options as well. And yes, that is a rose made out of tuna that you see!

Let's begin with the Dim Sum course. Your choice of Tasty Roll (grilled tuna, tempura shrimp, asparagus, and avocado), Hoisin BBQ Ribs (tender pork ribs with a hoisin BBQ glaze; and my personal favorite), or the Wonton Poke Taco (ahi tuna inside of a wonton "taco" shell, with wakame salad and wasabi cream).

And hopefully that first course warms up your decision making skills because you choice of entrees, the Izakaya course, is downright impossible to choose from. First there's the Grilled New York Strip with melty blue-cheese, demi-glaze and seared vegetables. Then there's the Grilled Salmon with a teriyaki glaze, coconut basmati rice, and asparagus. Or your third option is the Panang Curry Shrimp with crispy egg noodles and habachi grilled summer vegetables.

But don't think you're done just yet, because then the friendliest staff in town asks you if you are ready for dessert, which you will excitedly answer "yes" to, and then you get to choose from the Oolong-Poached Asian Pear, served with a side of vanilla ice cream in a cinnamon sugar tuile, or the Banana Spring Roll; a banana wrapped in a wonton wrapper and fried until nice and crispy, served with a side of vanilla ice cream and a caramel raspberry drizzle.

Oookay, so I am just recovered from my food coma, and now writing about it has me itching to go back for more! And the best part about my trip to Sapporo was getting to learn the recipe for their Coconut Basmati Rice; perfect to make at home and pair with chicken, fish, or even grilled vegetables. So run, don't walk to Sapporo to get in on the Summertime Menu while you can, and for those of you not local to the Phoenix area, be sure to try your hand at their Coconut Jasmine Rice!

Coconut Jasmine Rice:

  • 2 cups Jasmine Rice
  • 1/2 cup dry sweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
Wash the rice wall with water in a large fine mesh sieve and drain. In a bowl, mis together the coconut milk with the water. 

Add the rinsed rice and the coconut milk/water to a large 4 quart pot, bring to a simmer, and cover with the pot lid. Cool until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring every few minutes to keep the bottom from sticking.

While the rice is cooking, toast the coconut flakes in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 450 degree F oven, or in a large skillet on your stovetop. Toast for about 5-10 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from burning. Remove from the heat. 

When the rice is done cooking, stir in the toasted coconut flakes and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before serving. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rigatoni with Mini Turkey Meatballs

I am welcoming Friday with open arms. And what better way than with arms full of cheesy pasta goodness? And I can't decide what's cuter; the mini meatballs, mini mozzarella, or the mini rigatoni? But there's nothing "mini" about the flavors of this dish. Creamy tomato sauce, al dente pasta, flavorful meatballs, and fresh crisp basil. That's just what the weekend ordered.

Rigatoni with Mini Turkey Meatballs

  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. finely minced onion
  • 1 tbsp. minced parsley
  • 1 tbsp. plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I used my homemade)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mini mozzarella balls
  • fresh basil leaves for garnish

Preheat broiler to high. Place a sheet of tin foil on a large baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and milk and allow if the bread crumbs to soak up some of the milk mixture; about 3 minutes. Then add in the turkey, egg, onion, parsley, yogurt, parmesan, salt & pepper. Mix well.

Using a small cookie scoop, form as many small meatballs as you can, placing them about 1/2-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Broil for 3-4 minutes, careful not to burn, until just cooked (they will finish cooking in the sauce).

Cook the pasta according to the package directions and save 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water. 

In a large pot, or deep-sided skillet, heat the tomato sauce over medium heat. Once simmering, add in the cream and the meatballs. Add in the reserved pasta water and continue to simmer until thickened slightly. Allow to cook for 3 minutes before adding in the mozzarella balls. Stir once again. Garish with basil leaves and serve hot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spicy Shrimp & Avocado Lettuce Cups

Well hello there! I have missed this here blogosphere over the past week. But in all honesty, I just couldn't pull myself away from watching the Olympics, that blogging took a back seat. And you know what? It felt really good! I got my hubby to watch some sports (that's a feat in itself), and he LIKED it!! We have had so much fun cheering on the red, white, and blue, and there is nothing more motivating to get our butts in the gym than looking at the most insanely fit humans on the planet for hours a day. So needless to say we have been hitting the weights and trimming our plates if you will! Case in point, these spicy shrimp lettuce cups. This recipe is perfect to serve 2 people, but easily doubled for a family of 4. Green, clean, and lean, this is a simple dinner that can be thrown together in under 10 minutes, giving you more time to cheer on this weeks track and fields stars, volleyball, and more swimming (our fave!). 

Spicy Shrimp & Avocado Lettuce Cups
Makes 8 Cups

  • 1 cup slaw mix
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Spicy Shrimp:
  • 1/2 lb. wild caught peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
Lettuce Cups:
  • 8 leaves of butter lettuce
  • 1 avocado, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • freshly chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, toss together all of the ingredients for the slaw. Place in the fridge to let the flavors merry until ready to serve. 

In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and salt. Sprinkle the mixture over the shrimp, covering both sides of the shrimp. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until just cooked through and an opaque pink color.

To assemble the cups, place a spoonful of slaw in the middle of each butter lettuce leaf. Top with 2-3 slices of avocado, and 2-3 pieces of spiced shrimp. Top with sliced jalapeno and more cilantro if you prefer. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer Fruit Chicken Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese

This salad can stay. 

When you receive a fit bump from your husband after dinner, you know you've scored big time. Plus this salad really works better with a partner, since one of you can man the grill while the other fries the goat cheese. Yes. Fried. Goat. Cheese. So perfectly crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside, there's nothing better. Mix that with fresh mango and blackberries, and you've got yourself a KILLER salad. Plus, you can easily make this with your favorite combinations, or whatever is in season. I'm already dreaming about replacing the blackberries in my vinaigrette with strawberry, pineapple, and even mango! So grab a friend or two and get busy before the summer fruit is gone!

so pretty. can't handle.

Summer Fruit Chicken Salad

Blackberry Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. peach white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fried Goat Cheese
  • 8 oz. log honey-flavored goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp. high-heat oil (such as peanut or avocado)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 mango, sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • butter lettuce leaves

In a food processor, whip together all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette until smooth. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Add the chicken breast to a large zip lock bag and pour in 1/3 of the vinaigrette to marinate the chicken with. Keep in the fridge for 30 minutes, up to overnight.

Slice the goat cheese log into 1/4-inch thick medallions, place into a cutting board and pop into the freezer for about 10 minutes, allowing them to keep their shape when fried. While they are chilling, set up your assembly line. Line up 3 bowls, and add the flour to the first one, your whisked egg to the second bowl, and your panko to the 3rd bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium-high and grill the chicken until cooked through; a few minutes on each side, until an instant read thermometer reads between 160 and 106 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest.

Add oil to a large frying pan or skillet and heat to high. Cover frozen goat cheese medallions in flour, then egg, then panko, repeating until all medallions are covered. Lower heat to medium-high and fry the breaded goat cheese, for 1-2 minutes on each side, until both sides are crispy golden brown. Remove from the oil and allow to rest on a paper towel, absorbing the excess grease.

Once the chicken has rested, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices, and prepare to plate the salad. Add butter lettuce to the bottom of the plate, top with sliced chicken, fried goat cheese medallions, avocado, mango, onions, blackberries, and top with the blackberry vinaigrette. Serve.


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