Well, it’s time to say peace out 2011. This year has been quite a ride for me. Let me catch you up to speed. Well, I kinda, sorta started my year off slow after graduating from college in December 2010.
You’d think I’d just have a job and all cause I is a college graduate, ya know? Think again. It actually took me a freaking while (almost 6 months a while) to actually find a job, which wasn’t really along the lines of my profession anyhow. So, I pretty much stuck with my barista job and then moved back home with the rents’ for the summer. Living rent-free is never a bad idea, lesson learned: don’t ever think you are a failure cuz ya gotta move back home with the parents. Never.
This past summer was all about this chica, right here…the bff (so blessed to have such gorgeous friends)
She went to the chapel (or eh…church) and got married
So, we spent 12 months planning the wedding and all. When I say “we” I mean her momma and company because seriously I don’t think I (the maid of honor) could handle that much stress excitement! Nevertheless, I did help plan a bomb-dizzle bridal shower, where I made my first huge cake. Turned out pretty good, despite my emotional breakdown during the baking process. Haha! Anyway, the wedding was absolutely fairy-tale and I might have even shed a tear…or five…in between glasses of champagne.
Anyway, by the time the reception was on, I was pretty freakin’ hungry (after a diet of champagne and all)
Are you ready for New Year’s weekend? I am sooooo ready it’s not even funny. You see, to me New Year’s not only means that I get to start the year off with a fresh outlook, new goals, etc., but it also means that I get to do it in style. To me, New Year’s just screams glitter, which for me means a fantastic glitter-y mini dress, glitter heels, and glitter nail polish. I am fist pumping hard right now, you have no idea. That’s just New Year’s Eve though, New Year’s Day is almost always spent with the family. Whether its spent with my immediate family or extended family I am always guaranteed some delicious eats. That being said, today I would love to talk about my Top Ten New Years Recipes. Get ready, black eyed peas are a staple for this day and round’ these here parts we know how to do them justice.
I warned you, round’ these here parts Texas Caviar is a staple, especially for New Year’s. It’s like the Southern fried chicken of Texas, it will always be an essential at the kitchen table, you just can’t live without it. My uncle makes by far the best Texas Caviar in the world. We had a preview on Christmas Day and it was fabulous, as usual. Just think a hearty dip, with meaty black-eyed peas, chopped onion, cilantro, jalapenos for a bit of heat, juicy diced tomatoes, bell pepper, and garlic, all tossed with a olive oil and lime juice and seasoned with a bit of cumin and ground pepper. Now that is my kind of dip. We serve ours with tortilla strips but I love my with Frito’s. I have also tried rolling some of this dip up into a fresh, warm corn tortilla and it is the bomb.com. If you haven’t tried this dip, you need to, like NOW!
Anything that starts with the word “queso” is a must have in my book. Now, if you are wondering what queso compuesto is, its basically a fancy name for melted cheese with the works in it. And by “the works” I mean lots of really, really, ridiculously yummy things in it. This recipe gets turned up a notch with spicy Mexican chorizo, collard greens, and of course, black-eyed peas. I warned you. Anyway, that all gets mixed together and then comes the good stuff, a cream cheese/Muenster mixture gets dotted on top along with a good pour of half-and-half. Then you have to sit back and lick your lips for about 20 minutes while you watch this thing bake off in the oven. Cheesy, bubbly goodness. Serve this up with some tortilla chips, stat!
Just when you thought the black-eyed pea recipes were over…think again. Now, if you are not a fan of black-eyed peas I totally understand. But I think I have pretty awesome persuasive powers when it comes to getting people to eat black-eyed peas, especially if they are combined with spicy red salsa, covered in cheddar cheese, and baked off in the oven until golden brown and bubbly. Are you convinced yet? I sure am.
Still not done yet. Now, this is definitely a little out of the ordinary compared to the previous three b.e.p. recipes. For one, this recipe is not covered in some sort of ooey, gooey, cheesy perfection. In this recipe, b.e.p.’s sit in a stew along with carrots, sweet potatoes (my fave), and some collard greens (cuz we just can’t get more Southern round’ these here parts). Then comes the best part, for some out of this world flavor we add a good ole’ healthy dose of ham hock. Classic.
So, I hear lentils are a really, really, ridiculously lucky food. So, I should eat it on New Year’s, right? In my opinion, lentils are the new black, and they just might be my new bff, so yes I plan on eating them. However, finding them on New Year’s Day in my family’s kitchen is going to be pretty much impossible. Never gonna happen. Not unless there is a slab of butter involved. Maybe I could get them to try this hearty bowl of lentils with chicken sausage and an array of spices. Plus, there is a generous helping of Parmesan cheese on top which is a sacred vessel in my family. Served with a loaf of crusty, hot, buttered bread, this dish is a winner. Remember, lentils…the new black.
Donuts are lucky. Looks like I will be eating here for the New Year. Just give me a glazed cake donut and I am set. You already know how I feel about coffee, so you can just imagine my excitement as I tried to wrap my brain around a donut actually glazed with coffee. O mah be-jeezus! I have died and gone to heaven. Serve these on New Years morning with your fave cup of Joe. It is the best way to begin the New Year. I promise.
Champagne is by far my drink of choice. And I am not just talking about one New Year’s. Hell, I drink champagne every chance I get. Every day is a celebration for me so why not celebrate with a glass of champagne. Not only is there champagne in the cupcakes, but it is in the frosting too! No way! Butter + champagne =double win!
Buttermilk Soaked Baked Parmesan Pork Chops. Say that three times fast. Haha! I hear pork is lucky and while I just don’t live to eat and breathe pork, there are times where I crave me a pork chop wrapped in bacon and sizzled on the grill until crisp perfection. And then there are times such as these when I come across a pork chop soaked in a sea of tangy buttermilk, and gently breaded in panko, flour, and my all-time fave condiment…Parmesan cheese! These babies are browned off in a hot skillet and transferred to your plate in a hot second. Top these with additional Parmesan before selfishly eating each pork chop by yourself sharing with your friends!
It’s that simple. Do I need to say more? I think so. This jam definitely needs to be talked up. Holy bacon on toast is all I have to say. Or in this case, Lard + carbs, say no more. Just pass the bread.
Grapes are lucky. I love grapes. This “bread” is gluten free, so naturally you know how I feel. This recipe is definitely what’s up. My advice: eat some grapes, embedded in some warm bread, feel lucky, and sleep well at night. Amen.
I know I talked a bit about Christmas Day festivities, but let me go a little more in depth. You see, somewhere in all the hullabaloo that was going on, and by hullabaloo I mean some low-down good ole’ fashioned sitting on my butt, I got extra bored. You know that feeling that you get after sitting in one place for too long? Well, yea, I sat on the couch for way too long, which eventually led to what I like to call the “itch,” the itch to get the hell up and do something. I guess sitting on the couch also leads to talking about food because my sister and I got into an in-depth conversation about desserts, in particular, cookies. You see, my sis had this bright idea to make some gluten free/dairy free chocolate chip cookies with coconut flour, meaning they would therefore be gf/df coconut chocolate chip cookies. I thought it was a pretty fantastic idea and my sis assured me that we had coconut flour on hand. However, we were out of a couple of things so a grocery trip was definitely in the cards.
Now came the tricky part, actually finding a grocery store open on Christmas Day. After about 30 minutes of google-ing and calling local stores who were obviously closed, Randall’s came through. Win! So, off to the store my dad and I went. Now, while seester had claimed we had coconut flour that she had seen months ago in my parents’ kitchen cabinet, I decided to grab some extra coconut flour at the store just to be safe. Well, just my luck, Randall’s is not gluten free friendly. Not only did they not have coconut flour, but they were out of almond flour as well. CRISIS! So, I finally settled on a all-purpose gluten free flour that I had never used and would only use in this sort of situation. What can I say? I was desperate. When I got home I began whipping up the cookie concoction and could already foresee the consequences of purchasing the flour blend. I believe my Dad described the batter as “tasting like acid.” It was a definite flop. I ran to the kitchen sink and spit the mouthful of rancid tasting gf cookie batter into the sink. Yuck.
So, what did I do with this mess? I made the real stuff. When I say the “real” stuff I mean those chocolate chip cookies that are chock full of butter and sugar with actual milk chocolate chips. You know, one of those recipes that yields 40-45 cookies but only made 20 because the cookie dough was so irresistible that you just couldn’t help yourself to half the bowl. Now, these aren’t your every day chocolate chip cookies. You know I had to add my own personal touch, so I dumped in half a cup of chopped walnuts. So, that would make them Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. However, my dad is a connoisseur of coconut so at the very end, he added some coconut on top of the cookies for a little bit of toasted coconut heaven. I must say, that no matter how many healthy recipes that I make, everything is better with butter. These cookies are no exception. Plus, they are mondo-sized, I mean, just look at them.
Pure perfection. Of course we brought these to my aunt’s on Christmas Day evening and they were a hit. Little did my family members know that they were completely impromptu and never meant to happen. Haha!
Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (with a bit of coconut):
2 c. of all-purpose flour
1 t. of salt
3/4 t. of baking soda
8 oz. of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. of brown sugar
2 t. of pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
11.5 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
sprinkle of shredded, sweetened coconut (optional)
1. Center a rack in your oven and preheat to 375 F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on a medium speed until well blended before adding the vanilla.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Reduce the mixer speed and add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, only adding the next when the previous addition is well combined.
6. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
7. Spoon the mixture into slightly rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between the cookies as they will flatten out during baking. Optional: sprinkle the top of each cookies with a bit of shredded coconut.
8. Bake, one tray at a time, alternating trays so that each tray has a chance to cool in between batches, for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden in the middle and brown at the edges. Leave the cookies to rest on the tray for a minute or so before moving onto a cooling rack.
F.Y.I.: The cookies can be stored for approximately 4 days in an airtight container.
Makes 40-45 cookies (depending on how big you like your cookies).
How was your Christmas? Mine was pretty freaking awesome if I may say so myself. Yesterday I basically lounged around in my Christmas robe and pajamas with my mom, dad, and sis until my dad and I went stir crazy and ran to the grocery store for chocolate chip cookie supplies (recipe to follow at a later date). After a day spent making cookies, eating some bomb smoked brisket that my dad’s co-worker gave him as a gift, sleeping, and eating more brisket, it was finally time to head to my aunt’s house for the Christmas evening festivities.
Now, with my dad’s side of the family you can always expect some sort of excitement at each family gathering. And by excitement I mean drama, but I have decided it would just not be a family get together without some excitement. This may have to do with the fact that you can’t put 30+ opinionated, stubborn, and might I add, loud American/Italians in a room together and expect not one of them to but heads. Not gonna happen. This is how family Christmas gatherings usually occur in my family: On the way over we usually end up talking about how the night is going to go, who is going to be missing from the party, etc. Then, when we arrive, we see who is there, huddle in a small conversational crowd and talk about the people that are not there and start coming up with reasons why they should be there. When the “missing links” finally do show up, it is then our job to continue heckling them about their tardiness.
That’s not even the best part. Super exciting things happen when any one of my cousins brings their girlfriend or boyfriend of the month to Christmas. It is always fun to pick and choose the said boyfriend or girlfriend that actually has a chance of surviving in the family. This usually does not end well, yet there was a particular cousin whose girlfriend has really really great potential, plus she has some tenure with the family so she is pretty much the “bees knees”. While family gatherings can be somewhat of a headache at times, last night was one of the best family gatherings I have ever experienced. Of course, there may have been a few heckles here and there, but it was all in genuine, good fun. At the end of the day, we are all family. Love is definitely the reason for the season and there was plenty of it last night.
Dad and brothers and sisters (took them 15 minutes to actually get this photo)
F.Y.I. That is totally not my tree. Today I will be lounging around in my Christmas robe and fuzzy house boots until I force myself to get up off the couch tonight for some family fun at my aunt’s house.