Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Caramel Banana Pudding

 Yes, please.

In the Chevy BBQ Hunt post from June, we sampled an incredible banana pudding dessert at the final restaurant destination, Smoke. When I was searching through for my dinner night-in with Sarah, I saw this and was immediately taken back to the blissful bites of that velvety banana pudding, laced with caramel. All the signs pointed to "duh" so the dessert was an easy decision. Here is the final installment of our night!

Grocery List:
For Pudding
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 1/2 cup milk (we used skim, recipe suggested whole. We like skim, do what you think is best)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
For Wafer Crumble
  • 30 vanilla wafers
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter 
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir well to combine until the sugar is melted, about three minutes. This is you "caramel". Scoop into a bowl and set aside.

Slice your bananas into 1/2 inch "coins".

In your small sauce pan, add your banana slices, 2 cups of the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat until it starts to steam, then strain the mixture in a colander.

Though the recipe instructs you to discard, we kept the vanilla-infused bananas for additional topping later!

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Add the mixture in with the rest of the pudding into the sauce pan, stirring to incorporate. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and starts to boil, about 5 minutes.

Remember that "caramel" mix?

Add it to the pudding combo in the sauce pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about another five minutes.

Take your pudding and either pour into one dish or individual cups/ramekins. We were feeling sassy so we used martini glasses. Place plastic wrap over the top of the pudding to prevent a layer of "skin" from forming over the pudding. The directions said to refridgerate anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. We started making this as we made our dinner so that as we ate, the pudding would being to congeal. The total time we let it cool was about 1.15 hours.

After eating our meal on the roof, we came back downstairs to finish off the food coma. The last step, and optional depending on your tastes, is making the vanilla wafer topping. Start this quick process by pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees.

Taking about thirty vanilla wafers (approximately equivalent to one box), place in a plastic bag and smash them up using the throw-down-on-the-ground-and-stomp method, or the less violent and perhaps preferred unless in need of aggressive release, the rolling-of-the-glass-or-measuring-cup over top. I suppose if you are really practical, a baker's pin would be nice to get the job done. I love that you put up with my nonsensical ramblings.

Melt the butter and add to the crushed wafers in a large bowl, followed by the sugar, cardamom and salt.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with the crumble topping. Toast in the oven until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes.

Let cool. At this time, we mixed our reserved bananas from earlier with the crumbles and topped our pudding for a tasty treat! Grab a spoon and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caprese Salad

For our homemade gourmet dinner, Sarah and I made this caprese salad as an accomplice to the rest of our meal. You will only need a few ingredients for this one. I like to make this classic dish "my own" by reducing the balsamic vin over heat into a glaze and grilling the slices of tomatoes for added taste and texture. This was the first time I've used heirloom tomatoes and as a girl who gets easily squeemish about tomatoes in general, this is my new favorite kind to use.

Recipe made enough for three people, for more, increase your tomato use.

Grocery List:
  • 1 heirloom tomato
  • 1 red, round tomato
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil

Go ahead and chiffonade your basil by stacking 3-5 leaves of similar size on top of one another and creating a tight roll, then cut thin strips vertically across the roll of basil.

Now cut thick slices of tomato - the thicker the slice, the better they'll be on the grill, they will shrink a bit in the heat so don't be afraid of the thick chop. Such beautiful coloring!

Add your tomatoes to a grilling surface and let cook for about three minutes per side, until those handsome grill marks appear. We lost some good slices out there, this is why the thicker the slice, the better.

Now slice your mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices.

While your tomatoes are grilling, add the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan on medium heat. Let thicken for about 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful not to burn or overheat or your vinegar will stick to the sides. And... I know about this from experience....

As the tomatoes finish, begin to place them on a plate with the mozzarella slices in between, then top with basil. The mozzarella will slightly soften and melt just a tad to your tomatoes. This is called heaven.

Drizzle just a tad of olive oil and then spoon your balsamic glaze over the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil for a beautiful and sumptuous outcome. Serve as an appetizer or a side dish!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Balsamic-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

I had the pleasure of spending an evening with one of my favorite people, Miss Sarah from Kittens and Pittbulls. Sarah and I met 3.5 years ago through our jobs on the same team at work. Our friendship grew outside of just coworkers, and she soon became a work-out buddy, mani/pedi friend, random shopping trip companion, painting pals and now tonight, we mark our first culinary creation together!

Sarah and I on her rooftop patio with Downtown Dallas in the background
Thanks to Mr. Max's family for the chef's hats!

Sarah often jokingly complains to me about how much effort it takes to cook. I wanted to show Sarah that even though something can look or sound complicated, it can really be so easy! Sarah and her husband Paul are foodies - they share a passion for finding and tasting some amazing food. I wanted to show her that she can make that right here in her own home without the expense of restaurants or the mystery of how they prepared it.

I confided in again to look at some of the recipes that I had bookmarked try. I came across the perfect recipe to make for her, this incredible balsamic-rosemary pork tenderloin, paired with a caprese salad and haricot verts. When I gave her the run down, she looked at me like I was crazy, which is exactly what I was expecting.

Tonight, you can create some simple elegance with tastes that are absolutely divine. Stay tuned for the rest of our meal, a grilled caprese salad and a caramel-banana pudding!

Grocery List:
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. olie oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Start by pre-heating your oven to 450 degrees and seasoning your pork with salt and pepper. Combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, brown sugar and ginger in a measuring cup or small bowl.
In a large plastic bag, place the pork tenderloin inside and pour the marinade contents in and add the fresh rosemary sprigs. Move the contents around in the bag to coat the pork and let sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Put the pork in an oven safe dish, with the juice from the bag, reserving about 1/4-1/2 cup to make a glaze. Bake the pork in the oven for at least 25 minutes.

While the pork is in the oven, take the reserved marinade and heat over medium in a sauce pan for about 5 to 8 minutes or until it has started to thicken and forming a glaze. This is going to be a perfect finishing touch to your pork!

Once the pork is done, take out of the oven, slice it up, top with glaze and enjoy!
 Served with simple haricot vert green beans, lightly sauteed in olive oil, seasoned in salt and pepper.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Honey - Soy Glazed Salmon

I was craving salmon. So salmon is what I had and now, it's what I give to you.

Searching through my marked favorites on, I debated between this recipe and a Miso-Glaze recipe for about 17.5 minutes. In the end, thinking about the sweet from the honey and the one-two punch of salt and tang from the soy sauce won me over. After a long day/night at work, this was a quick and easy answer to a delicious and nutritious dinner!

I accidentally left my camera at my parent's house after the apple crisp evening from Sunday, so I do not have the step-by-step. However, this is a recipe that is so simple, we can do without this time.

Grocery List:
  • 2 fresh salmon fillets
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger (I used the kind from the jar)
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed     
I've been complaining about this Droid phone but I am honestly impressed with this photo quality right about now

Because there isn't a play-by-play with the pictures, I'm going to make this really short and sweet. There are just four simple steps to it:

1) Mix the soy sauce, honey, lemon and ginger until the honey is dissolved
2) In a sauce pan, heat on medium until it thickens slightly, spoon this glaze over top the salmon
3) Bake salmon at 450 degrees for approximately 15 minutes (could  be longer depending on thickness)
4) Serve and savor each bite! (sides: roasted broccoli and brown rice)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apple Crisp

At our first Central Market cooking class, we made this little bit of heaven for dessert. I have never been a big fan of anything apple so I was skeptical at first. After seeing how easy it was to make, not only did I go out and get my first cast iron skillet, but I absolutely loved the end result. It was love at first bite.

In August, I made this for the first time since that class while at a friend's house for dinner. Unfortunately, we were camera-less, so I wasn't able to capture the process for you at that time. For Max Man's birthday, we ended his weekend of celebration at my parent's house for dinner with the family. We made his requested birthday dinner from last year, and I decided to surprise him with this for dessert.

Grocery List:
For the topping
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 3/4 flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
For the apple crisp
  • 6 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced into thin slivers
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. lime
The longest part of this process is the peeling and slicing of the apples. It is much easier if you have at least one other set of hands helping you; if not, be prepared to spend at least 15-20 minutes on that part. Go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.

After you finish peeling your apples, add them to a large mixing bowl and add the brown sugar, sugar, lime juice and cinnamon. Using a large spoon, gently mix the contents together and let marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Now we make our topping. Using a food processor, blend together the brown sugar, flour, almonds and the butter. The mixture will feel like wet sand. Make sure you stop and use a spatula to help scrape the bottom a little, this will help the flour from sticking to the bottom.

Grease a cast iron skillet (or a casserole dish) and add your apples...

Then top with your crumbles....

Stick it in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Keep checking to make sure the top doesn't get too brown, but a nice golden color. When the apples are slightly bubbling from below the crust, take out and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Scoop into a bowl and add vanilla ice cream for the finishing touch... and maybe a candle. Happy birthday to Max! 

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