Watermelon-Jalapeno Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

Summer Watermelon-Jalapeño Margarita

It’s hot outside and what goes better with a hot summer afternoon than watermelon. Well, there are more than a few ways to enjoy your watermelons. We recently bought a large watermelon that was bigger than we expected. Our housekeeper suggested that we make watermelon water, which we did.

Once we tried the watermelon water, we knew we had to try it in an adult beverage so we tried our hand at a margarita and we both think it turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon diced
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (you can substitute honey)
  • 1 cup tequila,
  • 1/4 cup triple sec.
  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 jalapeno, cut into 1/4 inch licked
  • 12 to 15 fresh mint leaves (you can substitute fresh basil)

Instructions

Mix the watermelon, lime juice, water, agave, tequila and triple sec in a blender and blend until super smooth. Stir in the ice, half the jalapeno slices and half of the mint leaves. (Do not blend the jalapeno slices, just stir them in with the ice) The remaining jalapeno slices and mint leaves are to garnish your drinking glasses. Stir very well and serve.

If you want your drink a little sweeter you can stir in some additional agave or some sugar. You can also taste your watermelon before you start mixing it. If the watermelon isn’t very sweet, you can throw in a few pieces of cantaloupe to add some natural sweet flavor.

Texas BBQ seasoning rub

Our pantry has over a dozen containers of mixes for meat runb but we’re still always on the lookout for something different. One of our go-to runs is the Ring of Fire rub. We recently had a brisket that we wanted to try something different with. When we looked online, we found a recipe that looked like a great starting point.

Most of the meat rubs we have lean towards the sweet side but this one has some noticeable heat. It’s not going to burn your mouth but it’s definitely going to tingle your tongue.

When we mixed this the first time, the recipe didn’t specify whether to use regular paprika or smoked paprika so we used 5 teaspoons of smoked paprika. That was WAY too much. Cutting it in half with regular paprika gives this mixture a better balance. I’ll also admit we increased the cayenne from 2 teaspoons because we like the heat. If you don’t want it as hot, cut it back to 2 teaspoons.

A final note, the original recipe says 1/2 cup of brown sugar is optional. I think it really needs the sweetness to be authentic to the flavors of Texas and to balance out the mixture. However, that was too much so we cut it in half. As you can see, this is all very subjective and you can play around with the ingredients to find the mix that’s right for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions

Mix everything except for the brown sugar very well. Then add your broken sugar. You can use a spoon or whisk but, if you have trouble feeling it mixed well, try putting it into a mixer or coffee grinder.

You can store this is a cool dry place with you other spices and it will last for months.

New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black eyed pea soup simmering

If you live in the south, you probably have some sort of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. These little peas are supposed to bring you good luck in the coming year. Legend has it that this tradition comes from the Civil War era when the Northern army didn’t burn the fields of peas as they swept through the South.

I hope you don’t just eat these peas on New Year’s Day because they are really good and should eat them year-round. I have another recipe for black-eyed pea soup but it’s a lot more complicated. For this one, I wanted to make a soup with less steps and just a lot easier to make. I basically start with our favorite soffritto mixture of onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Yes, these are more items than in a traditional soffritto but we like the flavors.

As for the meat in this dish, we happened to find a spiral sliced ham at our local HEB grocery store that was on sale after Christmas so we had to get it. We parted the ham up and used the bone from the ham. The last half or so of the ham wasn’t sliced so we cut up these pieces into bite sized chunks and used these. Without this ham, I would have used sausage and some bacon.

Now, let’s talk about spicy, as in heat. We like it hot! I think a spicy soup is perfect all year round, but especially on a cold winter day (like New Year’s Day). Therefore, we put in 2 jalapenos and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You can definitely cut back or even eliminate both ingredients if you don’t want it spicy. However, I’d at least put in 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. we buy jalapenos by the dozen and grow our own during the summer so we always have plenty on hand.

To start, get all your vegetables ready.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black eyed pea soup.

Vegetables for the soffritto to go into the black-eyed pea soup.

Cook your vegetables in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Vegetable cooking for black eyed pea soup.

Vegetable cooking for black-eyed pea soup.

Once cooked, add your black-eyed peas, liquid, ham bone and ham chunks.

Black eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Black-eyed pea soup starting to cook.

Let it simmer for a couple of hours and then it’s ready for you and your family!

Black eyed pea soup simmering

Black-eyed pea soup simmering

It’s become our tradition to make a black-eyed pea soup on New Year’s Day afternoon while we’re watching college bowl games.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of black-eyed peas, sorted and soaked overnight
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (you can cut back on this if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 cup ham pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (reduce the amount if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

The night before you want to make this, rinse your black-eyed peas and then place in a large pot and cover with an inch of water.

The next day, drain your peas and rinse them again in a colander to get out any remaining grit from the peas. They should have swelled up over night.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and then put in your onions. After 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Next, add the carrots, celery, bell peppers and jalapenos. Stir well and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables are tender.

Add your beans and chicken broth and water. Then add your ham bone and ham pieces.  Next add the cumin, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce. If all your ingredients aren’t covered with the broth and water, add additional water until fully covered. Then bring to a boil. After it starts boiling, reduce your heat to low, put the lid on your Dutch oven, and allow the pot to simmer for at least 2 hours, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. If the water starts to evaporate to the point that it no longer covers the peas, simply add enough water to the pot to cover the peas while they simmer.

Persillade Relish

We saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen and it sounded great. We knew we had to try it and used it for some steaks we cooked on the grill. We don’t usually put any sauce on our grilled steaks but we just really wanted to try this recipe out and see how it was.

The main thing we did differently is we used homemade dill pickles rather than the cornichons that the recipe called for. I don’t know if it would make a difference but we liked the way it turned out. So, I wouldn’t go out and buy a bottle of cornichons if you have a supply of dill pickles in your refrigerator.

As a side note, this is the only version I found online that includes the pickles and capers. I thought they were the star of the show, but I love capers so that’s what appealed to me at first. One article from Canada says this Persillade Relish (or sauce) is a distant cousin to the Argentine Chimichurri, Spanish Salsa Verde, German Gruene Sosse and Mexican Salsa Verde. I could definitely see the similarity to chimichurri and Spanish salsa verde but not to Mexican salsa verde. We make the Mexican version all the time and it’s got a lot more liquid to it. I’ve never made the Spanish salsa verde but it is something I’m adding to my list of things to try.

My final thought is that without the pickles and capers this relish/salsa is very similar in ingredients and texture to an Italian pesto. We’ve made pestos from basil, of course, but also with parsley, arugula (one of my favorites) and cilantro. I think you can definitely play around with this and come up with your favorite combination for your family.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced dill pickles (or cornichons)
  • 1 teaspoon of the brine from the dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and chopped coarse
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

You can put this into a food processor and give it a few pulses but we just mixed it all by hand.

You can put this relish over any meat or even use it on crackers. It’s really tasty and simple to make.

Beef stew for a winter day

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

We’re sitting at the end of 2018 with a day to go before New Year’s Eve and I’ve been craving a stew. It really hasn’t been that cold in Austin to warrant making a stew, but the past couple days have been grey and chilly and I really started thinking a stew would be perfect.

You should know by now that we don’t follow recipes step by step and luckily it always turns out well. We’ve realised most measurements are only suggestions since when grandmothers would make the recipes they didn’t pull out a measuring spoon to get exactly 1/4 tablespoon of sugar or 1 teaspoon of thyme.

So, with that in mind, we set out to find a stew recipe that we wanted to loosely base our creation on. This is our second attempt at documenting our stew making process. A couple of years ago we made a pot roast stew with beer and paprika and many more vegetables. To be honest, almost all of them were so similar that I think it just comes down to using good meat, vegetables and simmering for a long time. The proportions of the different ingredients will change the ultimate flavor but I was pretty sure it would turn out great regardless of how you combined them. In the end, we selected a recipe from Once Upon a Chef as our primary source for inspiration into this afternoon project.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 cubes
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • 2 cubs of beef broth (we used beef bullion)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices on the diagonal
  • 1 pound potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Freshly chopped parsley (optional)

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 325 F and put a rack in the middle.

Pat your beef dry with a paper towel and generously season with the salt and pepper. Using a large Dutch Oven, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Then in 3 batches, brown the beef in the olive oil for about 5 minutes per batch. Turn the beef while browning with tongs and don’t crowd the beef while it’s browning. You can add a tablespoon of oil between batches if there isn’t enough grease in the Dutch oven. Once each batch is brown, transfer to a separate dish and place aside.

Once you finish your last batch of beef, put the onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar into the Dutch oven. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape off the brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add your tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Add the beef and juices back to the Dutch oven with the onions and garlic mixture and sprinkle with the flour. Mix this together until the flour is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the beef broth, water, wine, bay leaves, thyme and sugar to the mixture and stir it all together. Bring to a boil then cover the Dutch oven with a lid and transfer to your preheated oven. Let it cook in the oven for 2 hours.

At the end of two hours, take the Dutch oven out of the oven and add your carrots, potatoes and celery. Stir in the vegetables and then put the lid back on the pot and place simmer for at least one hour over low heat. Cook for an additional hour, until the vegetables are tender and the meat is fall apart tender. You can place the Dutch oven back in the oven as it was done in our source recipe, however, we needed the oven to make bake some bread so we finished it on the stove top. It turned out fine.

Serve warm.

Here are a few pictures of our process along the way.

For best results, cut your beef into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cube pieces.

For best results, cut your beef into 1 to 1-1/2 inch cube pieces.

Brown the beef cubes on each side.

Brown the beef cubes on each side.

Here are the beef cubes browning.

Here are the beef cubes browning.

Here is the picture of right after we added the beef and it's juices to the onions and garlic.

Here is the picture of right after we added the beef and it’s juices to the onions and garlic.

Here is the stew right after we added the beef broth, wine and water to the pot.

Here is the stew right after we added the beef broth, wine and water to the pot.

This is what it looks like after 2 hours in the oven braising.

This is what it looks like after 2 hours in the oven braising.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

Beef stew simmering on the stove.

 

Bacon-Maple-Bourbon-Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners deserve a grown-up dessert. That’s why we knew we had to try this recipe when we found it in the monthly newsletter that our realtors send to us. Of course, it wasn’t as fantastic as it could be so we modified it for some extra wow factor. The original recipe is for a Bacon-Maple-Walnut pie. The first thing we did was added the bourbon. We got this idea after watching a cooking show where bourbon was included in a couple different ways into desserts. The pie was great but we couldn’t help comparing it to a pecan pie, so we knew that was the next upgrade for this recipe. We are in Texas after all, so the pecan is always our nut of choice when it’s an option.

Since I mentioned them above and they’re the inspiration for this recipe, here’s the shout out to our realtors, Doug Jacobs & Jeff Mikeska, who sold us our house 18 years ago and still send us their newsletters and calendars. The newsletter they sent back in 2016 had this recipe in the holiday section. Of course, it caught our attention and we had to try it. I’ll also add that they’re great guys that we highly recommend them if you need a realtor in Austin.

Ingredients

Ingredients for the Pie Crust

  • 4 ounces of thin cut bacon strips
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of very cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of dark maple syrup (grade B or 2)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of bourbon (go for the good stuff here!)
  • 2 cups of pecans – crushed or halves

Instructions

Instructions for the Crust

NOTE: we usually don’t get as much bacon fat from the bacon used for this recipe as the original recipe calls for. Therefore, we usually use some bacon fat that we have left over from earlier. In case you’re wondering, yes, we have a little container like my Granny used to have where we collect bacon fat anytime we cook bacon. If you don’t have as much as the recipe calls for and you don’t have your own backup reserve, go ahead and substitute with additional shortening.

  1. Fry your bacon in a skillet on medium heat until the bacon is crisp (about 3 to 5 minutes). Transfer the fried bacon to a paper towel.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan (you’ll put this into the filling), then measure the rest of the left over bacon fat and put it into a heat-safe measuring cup. Let the bacon fat cool for 10 minutes. Then add enough shortening so that you get a total volume of 6 tablespoons (this is also 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons).
  3. Pour flour into a bowl and add the bacon fat from the measuring cup, cutting it in with a fork until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
  4. Mix the 2 tablespoons of cold water and the vinegar and then add it to the flour mixture until it forms a soft, non-sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball, dust with flour and roll into an 11 inch circle. Place the dough in a pie plate.

If you want an easy method to roll out your pie dough, check out this method using a recycled plastic bag: How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper
Instructions for the Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Beat the eggs, maple syrup, sugars and vanilla extra into a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Mix in the reserved 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
  2. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and put the crumbled bacon into the bowl. Stir in the pecans until incorporated and pour into the pie crust.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, until puffy and brown. There should only be a slight jiggle in the center of the pie when it’s finished cooking. Let pie cool before slicing.

How to roll out pie dough using a plastic bag or wax paper

Here’s a tip for a practical and easy way to roll out you pie dough. We’ve seen this used on cooking shows where they use two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. It was a great idea but it seemed like a waste of wax paper or plastic wrap so we thought, why can’t you just re-use a plastic grocery bag? It turns out, you can and it’s a perfect way to re-use these bags.

Now, you want to make sure the bag is clean. For this reason, we don’t use the plastic bags they give you at the check-out counter. You can use these bags but make sure it’s really clean. Instead, we use the clear bags that you bring home your produce in. You know, the kind in the produce section that you use to hold your vegetables while you shop.

  • First, clean the bag and let it dry completely.
  • Lay the bag out flat and then cut down the two long sides of the bag and the bottom side. You’ll have two plastic sheets of the same size.
  • Place the pie dough in the center of one of the sheets.
  • Place the other sheet over of the dough ball.
  • Use your hands to start flattening the dough ball and then roll out the dough.
  • Place your pie pan over the dough to confirm the dough has been rolled out enough to fill your pan.
  • Check to see if your dough is sticking to the plastic sheets. If it’s sticking, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to make it stiffer and less sticky.
  • Remove the top layer of plastic.
  • Turn the dough over and place into the pie pan.
  • Gently, pull back the last layer of plastic and you’re ready to fill your pie.