January 25, 2011

Spinach and Shrimp Quesadilla

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

My Mom always says the impromptu, unwritten recipes always turn out the best. The kinds of dishes that are inspired by your personal palette and a dire need to use up the last of the leftovers and not a finished product of someone elses taste preferences. And like more often than not, Mom is right again.

I had a few tortillas left in a the cupboard, half a box of frozen spinach, a couple spoonfuls of sour cream and a bag of frozen shrimp taking up space in my freezer for the past several months. So in other words, I had the ingredients for some spinach and shrimp quesadillas, alhamdulillah.

That being said, I urge not to follow this recipe step by step (unless you want to, that is), rather use it as a spring board to experiment in the kitchen. Hide the measuring spoons, rely purely on taste-testing and what you can find in your fridge right now and have a go. The most important thing is trusting yourself as the cook and having the confidence to whip up something on your own and having it turn out fabulous, insha'allah!

Oh, and when it come to quesadillas there are a couple things to remember: don't over do it on the cheese, just sprinkle a light layer of your favorite and most-melty cheese on half of the tortilla, lay your filling on top and another light sprinkle of cheese on top of that. In this way, the cheese will melt and act as a glue keeping the quesadilla in one piece. You don't need a grill pan (but you'll get pretty grill marks if you use one!), any large skillet will do...the key here is to have it nice and hot before you throw the quesdilla in it. And the most important tip is to not flip too soon. If you attempt to turn it over and it begins to open up or is still floppy, then it's too early to flip. If you pan is nice and hot and the cheese melts, then the quesadilla will feel firm and crisp on the underside, making the flip very easy and smooth.

Shrimp and Spinach Quesadilla
1 lb wild caught, peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 box of frozen spinach, thawed
4 tortillas
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice
1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
1/2 onion diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, more for garnish
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp adobo seasoning (optional)
1 jalapeno, chopped (adjust to your heat level)
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
sour cream and tomatoes to serve
Jalapeno Poppers (optional)

1. In a bowl, combine shrimp with adobo and cajun seasoning. Set aside.

2. In a pan on medium heat, saute onions and garlic and ginger paste. Cook for one minute, add spinach (squeeze out as much water as you can before this) and jalapeno slices. Cook until there is no liquid left in the pan. Add shrimp, garlic and ginger paste and lemon juice. Cook until shrimp have curled up, about 4 - 5 minutes, depending on size. Remove from heat.

3. Begin pre-heating a large skillet or grill pan on medium high heat.

4. Assemble tortillas by layer cheese, filling and a little more cheese on half of the tortilla. Fold the top over and carefully place in lightly oiled skillet/grill pan. Allow to cook fully on one side before filling (refer to notes in post), about 2 - 3 minutes.

5.  Remove and cut in to wedges. Serve with optional cilantro, sour cream and tomatoes.

January 21, 2011

BBQ Sandwiches (aka Pot Roast Leftovers)

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

I've been hesitating even posting this because, well, pot roast is just so boring. I was afraid I'd fall asleep in the middle of typing of this up, or even worse, that you would fall asleep as you read this! There's only so much one can say about pot roast: it's an enormously big hunk of meat and you cook it in a pot. If you want to be super efficient, you stick it in a crock-pot when you wake up in the morning and don't look at it until dinner time, and there you have it, dinner. Are you still awake?

But what we can talk about is the left overs, oh my the possibilities! Fajitas, puff pastry turn overs, on top of pizza or a killer bbq sandwich. Or what I like to call "How to Finish the Last Bits of all the Sauce bottles in the Fridge". This sandwich was oh so incredibly good that I had to make it a second time, except that I had no left overs. So I cooked beef and then shredded it up for the sole of purpose of this sandwich, forget leftovers!

For the sake of the recipe, I'll give you a quick run down of pot roast and since this was my first time cooking a hunk of meat this big, some things I learned along the way. First, try and get a bone-in roast. Our meat store didn't have any when I needed it, so I when for a 5 - 6 pounder of boneless beef. In all honesty, it was a little dry by the end but thats what those pot juices are for, I guess.

Make sure you sear all sides before putting in a warmed slow cooker. This will give you a nice crust and lock in the flavor and juices. Every few hours, baste the meat with its own juices. Do this quickly though, as every time you open the lid of a crock pot so much heat escapes that you substantially add to the overall cooking time. And finally, use whatever spices you prefer, there really isn't a right or wrong way. I like a lot of garlic, black pepper, paprika, cumin and ground cloves.And as always, the longer you marinate, the better.

Now on to the star of the show: the sandwich. This is so incredibly easy y'all, and I'm pretty sure you already have these ingredients sitting in your fridge door as we speak. You can just as easily make my quick BBQ sauce or take the easy route and finish off those bottles of condiments in your fridge. Cook it on a long and slow simmer, plop on to some crusty bread and top with some good cheese (we like smoked gouda). Stick it under the broiler for just a couple minutes to get all nice and bubbly, and dinner is done!

January 14, 2011

Chili and Corn Bread

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

There are few dishes that can perfectly compliment a cold winter's night like a steaming bowl of chili. And with the kind of weather that most of the country has been having lately, you'll find yourself with many a cold night to serve this dinner.


Chili is by no means a complicated dish and can be made a number of ways: substitute the traditional kidney beans for black beans (like I did), or use ground chicken or turkey in place of ground beef, or skip the meat and go for a vegetarian version using a couple different varieties of beans. As usual, I like to dial up the spice a bit so I added an extra jalapeno and several healthy dashes of hot sauce to my chili. Whatever your preference of ingredients or spice, the key is to let your pot of chili simmer on a low heat for as long as you can, thirty minutes at the least and 1 1/2 hour at the most.

So while that simmers away, what can you do? Whip up a super easy batch of corn bread! Since I'm a Southern gal I went with a more traditional recipe that leaves out flour and uses very little sugar. But I did add in some cheese and jalapenos because, well, I end up doing that often. If corn bread just isn't your thing, try out some biscuits or rolls instead. But make something on the side, you're gonna need something to mop up that last bit of chili in the bottom of your bowl!

Spicy Chili
1 lb lean ground beef
1 can black beans
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, or can of tomato paste (I used the paste and threw in a couple chopped tomatoes)
1 packet of your favorite brand of chili seasoning
1/4 cup hot sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot (you'll need a big one), saute onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Next, add in jalapeno.

2. Add the meat, breaking up with spoon. Throw in Worcestershire, hot sauce, chili seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until meat is evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and enough water cover all ingredients by an inch, breaking up tomato paste as you stir.

3. Cover and cook until it starts to slightly boil; reduce heat to a low and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hour. Serve hot, garnish with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Corn Bread
(very loosely based on this recipe)
I halved this recipe and had exactly enough for 24 mini-muffins

2 cups yellow cornmeal 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 cup milk 
2 eggs 
1 cup creamed corn 
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup shredded cheese
24 slices pickled jalapeno
1 Preheat oven to 425°F ; place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven or grease a muffin pan (I used a couple mini muffin pans)

2. In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together to combine well.In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the cheese. If the batter will not pour, add more milk to the batter.

4. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to the cast iron skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet. Alternatively, divide evenly into a muffin pan. Top with slices of jalapeno.Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes.

January 7, 2011

Soft Pretzels

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

As you may have noticed, I've been in the mood for updating a couple recipes. I realized that if there's a recipe I don't make often, it's probably because it isn't that good to begin with. Since updating both the hamburger buns and cinnamon rolls recipe, I've made them both at least half a dozen times, so that should be enough to tell you I'm happier with the newer recipes.

And speaking of updating, I also re-visited this soft pretzel recipe (almost a year to the date!). I love soft pretzels, especially during the season of bowl games and the upcoming Super Bowl, but I had pretty painful memories of making that original recipe. The dough was so hard to roll out, some were soft others too hard and chewy. So I set about researching some pretzel info and found a much better recipe. Don't believe me? I've made three batches since finding this recipe, and even wrapped half a batch around some hot dogs. They're that good.

Pretzel Tips:
1. Ditch the mixer! Mix this dough by hand, just enough until all ingredients are happily combined and then stop mixing! I mean it, step away from the dough. There is absolutely no need to knead (heh) and using a mixer will just end up over-mixing the dough, resulting in chewy pretzels instead of pillowy-soft ones.Your end dough may be sticky and thats a GOOD thing. Just flour your hands (not the counter) ever so slightly when its times to shape the dough, and you'll be set.

2. Dunk, don't cook. When it comes time to dunk the shaped pretzels into the baking soda solution, be sure not to leave them in there too long. This step is what gives pretzels and bagels that outer chewiness, but leaving them into there too long will produce cracked and hard pretzels. Just allow water to get very hot, dissolve the baking soda and then dunk the pretzel in. Do this step carefully so as not to unravel your twists. I use a slotted spoon, leave one side in the water for 3 seconds and flip and do the same for the other side. Remove and place immediately on your baking sheet. They are wet and therefor slippery and delicate at this point, so you don't want to move them around any longer than you have to.

Soft Pretzels
(loosely adapted from here)

  • 1 1/4 cups very warm (but not hot) water
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
Dipping Solution
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 2 cups hot water

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into warm water. Add sugar, then flour& mix well- do not knead, instead just mix until combined (you can turn out on the counter and use your hands to combine everything and then return to greased bowl).
  2. Let rise until doubled, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. Cut into 12 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a long snake, twist into pretzel shape (illustrations here)
  4. Dip into prepared dipping solution.
  5. Place on well-greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with pretzel salt or kosher salt.
  6. Bake at 450-500°F for 4-6 minutes until golden brown.

January 5, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls (Done Right)

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

I know what you're thinking, "doesn't she already have cinnamon rolls on her site?". I know, kinda wierd huh?
It's just that I've been hearing about The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls for years (literally!) and though I admit, hers look pretty darn good, I just figured a cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll. But boy, was I wrong. I mean, WRONG.

Then I saw my dear friend over at A Thousand and One Bites (I know! Isn't that the cutest blog name ever?!) try out the famous recipe and after hearing her rave over it, I knew it had to be good.

And I'm so glad I did. This is by far the best cinnamon roll recipe ever and don't make the same mistake I did by waiting around years (!) to make it. Go...go now. I mean it....go, make them !

 Recipe found here at The Pioneer Woman (I make half of this recipe. cut back on the butter by at least another half and use my cream cheese frosting)

Halved Recipe Amounts (refer to Pioneer Woman's link above for detailed directions)
makes about 24 rolls

2 C whole milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 C flour
1/2 C flour
1/2 heaping tsp baking powder
1/2 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp salt

Filling:(I use at least half, or less, of the butter)
1 C melted butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C cinnamon (or more depending on preference)

Frosting (I stick to traditional cream cheese frosting)
1/2 bag powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt

January 1, 2011

SWB's Best Food Blog 2010

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Thank you to all those who voted! Your constant support and feedback are what inspire me the most to continue sharing my favorite treats and meals with you all. I am flattered, and honored, to be considered your favorite of the year ... jazakallah khair!