Tag Archives: comfort food

August 14 – One Year Blog Anniversary

14 Aug

Today is a very special day!  It marks one year since I began Sweet Southern Comfort!  This blog was originally started as a way for me to keep track of my favorite recipes and try out new ones for D, but it’s definitely evolved into something much more special to me.  I’ve learned so much from the other bloggers I follow on Word Press and have been inspired by each and every one of you!  So much so, that my stack of recipes to try/adapt/create has probably tripled in size from a year ago!  Here is a link to my very first post: Sunday Supper-Lemon Spaghetti.  This recipe remains one of my go-to comfort foods and I encourage you to try it out sometime.  It’s very easy!  While I may not always have been the most consistent blogger, I did manage to publish 48 posts during my first year of blogging!  Next year, I hope to become more consistent about blogging and bring you all more Southern-focused content.  Here’s a little blog-related re-cap for you:

Top Posts
1. Caramel Cake – My ultimate favorite dessert.  I haven’t tried to make this again since last February as it took me HOURS to make the caramel icing, and I’m still not sure I perfected it.  This might be one of those treats I will stick with having when I’m home with my family and we can buy it from Cindy Lou.
2. Christmas Treat: Peppermint White Chocolate Macarons – Another dessert that was a true labor of love.  I want to take a macaron pastry class at the ICE sometime this year so keep an eye out for future macaron recipes!
3. Fried Red Tomatoes? – My first attempt at frying and a big hit!  Hopefully this year, I can tackle fried chicken!
4. Sunday Supper: Low Sodium Chicken Tortilla Soup – My go-to weekday winter dinner.  Healthy and delicious!
5. Special Valentine’s Day Steak Dinner – Filet Mignon with Cognac Cream Sauce – Hands down the yummiest sauce for your filet.  Great for special occasions (or just any occasion)!  D and I learned how to make this on our first Valentine’s Day together and try to make it a couple of times every year since.

Least Popular Posts – They’re all still awesome so what are you waiting for, check one of these pages out! 🙂
1. Christmas Dinner: Christmas Crostini – This is a really cute, festive and easy appetizer to make at your next holiday get-together.  I would serve it with the Pear Bellinis (better known as Christmas in a Cup)!
2. Oregon Coast Fresh Vegetable Salad – The key to this recipe is having super fresh vegetables and dicing everything immediately before serving.  My pictures definitely did not do our meal at Anna’s by the Sea justice.
3. Sunday Supper: End of Winter Pasta with Cabbage, Speck and Grappa – I make this recipe once a year at the tail-end of winter.  That one meal leaves me with lunches/dinners for a few days and is rich and hearty enough that I’m more than satisfied not to make it again until the next year.

My Personal Favorite Posts – it was hard to pick just three, but here are my favorite recipes I’ve made over the past year
1. Christmas Dinner: Dad’s Cream of Chestnut Soup – This recipe always reminds me of family and the holidays.  It’s so unique and different.  And delicious!
2. Sunday Supper: Hearty & Healthy Borscht – Soups are easy weeknight meals and this one is low-sodium and it’s main ingredient is beets, which are really good for you!
3. Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie – It’s always flattering when people compliment your cooking/baking, but I was especially flattered when someone told me that this was better than the original!  The best part is the ingredients that go into this pie are quite cheap and it is incredibly easy to make.

Thank you for reading during the past year!  Looking forward to many more years to come!

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Outdoor Dining: Campari Citrus Popsicles

5 Aug

It feels like a million degrees in NYC right now.  The only way to beat the heat is to stay inside blasting my AC (which is already on it’s last legs) or toughing it out in the heat outside.  I’ve been opting for the latter recently and having a lot of ice water and popsicles/ice cream/etc. on hand has helped me survive.  The only thing I like more than an icy cold popsicle is an icy cold popsicle that also has my favorite apertif Campari in it!  I found this recipe at The Kitchn.  If you have any leftover from the mix, you can combine it with club soda and lots of ice and enjoy an afternoon cocktail while your popsicles are freezing.  Instant gratification never tasted so good!

Campari Citrus Popsicles 
Recipe found here

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 cups grapefruit juice
1/2 cup Campari

Directions
1. Mix water and sugar together in a small pan over low heat.  Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.  Now you have made “simple syrup”!
2. Allow the simple syrup to boil for 4 minutes then remove from heat and cool.
3. Combine the citrus juice and Campari and 1 cup of the cooled simple syrup (you might have a little extra, keep this in case you want to sweeten).  Adjust to taste.  The mixture will be VERY sweet – it will get less sweet in popsicle form.  If you want a LESS tart popsicles, add 1-2 more tbsp of simple syrup.  If you want LESS sweet popsicles, add 1-2 tbsp of PLAIN water to the mix.
4. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze at least 8 hours to overnight.  Enjoy your grapefruit-Campari-club soda cocktail while you are waiting. 🙂

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

30 Jun

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

Earlier this summer, I made my first trip to Momofuku Milk Bar.  This place is RIDICULOUSLY good.  Naturally, I had to try (almost) everything on the menu in case I never made the 12 block trek again.  Here’s a review of everything we tried:

  • Cereal Milk – The cereal milk was ice cold milk with crushed cereal powder mixed in.  The texture was really strange to me and it was a little too sweet.
  • Cookies – We tried a compost cookie, a cornflake marshmallow cookie and a corn cookie.  The compost cookie was hands down the best; made with pretzels, chocolate chips, coffee grounds (it works!) and potato chips, the compost cookie contained literally everything but the kitchen sink!  one word or warning though: the cookies are served in plastic wrap which tends to make them a little greasy over the course of the day.
  • Dill Bagel Bomb – A bagel roll with dill cream cheese inside.  Probably would have tasted better eaten immediately instead of waiting until the next morning.  Pretty carb-heavy and not enough cream cheese.
  • Pistachio Croissant – YUM.  We heated this up for breakfast and it was delicious.  It was the perfect pistachio flavor and not too heavy, although I did have a bit of a sugar high heading into work that morning.
  • Birthday Cake Truffles – This was like eating a ball of cookie dough.  Super rich – we shared three truffles between six people and we were all satisfied.
  • Crack Pie – I read an article about “crack” foods in NY Mag last month which initially sparked my interest in checking out Momofuku Milk Bar.  If I could eat a slice of this pie every day, I would.  Each bite melts in your mouth and it the perfect combination of salty and sweet (much like the compost cookie).  It reminds me of chess pie, a Southern dessert from my childhood.  However, at $5.25 a slice and $44 a pie, adding a slice a day wasn’t exactly in my budget.  I did some searching and found a recipe from Bon Appetit for Crack Pie that I used to make my own “crack” pie.  I was a little shocked at just how much butter and sugar goes into this recipe (and not much else!), but was pleasantly surprised to discover the crust is made of oatmeal cookies.  We can consider this a “healthy” food then, right? 😉
Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie

Homemade Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie
Recipe from Bon Appetit
Serves 12+ (this cake is very rich; you can make slices 1/2 the size of what you would normally do for pies)

Ingredients
For the Oatmeal Cookie Crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Directions
For the Oatmeal Cookie Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray.
2. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl.
3. Using electric mixer (if you have one), beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.
4. Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan.
5. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
6. Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together.
7. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

For the Filling
1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
2. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.
3. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble).
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20-25 minutes longer.
5. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
6. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.  (NOTE: Don’t add the powdered sugar until the pie is completely cool and right before serving.  I got excited and added mine pretty soon after taking the pie from the oven and it absorbed into the pie.  Whoops!)

Lone Star Chili Cook-off

13 May
Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club

Lone Star Chili Cook-Off – beautiful day for chili, beer and the “beach”!

Yesterday, D and I went with some friends to the Lone Star Chili Cook-Off at the Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club at the South Street Seaport.  This annual event is sponsored by the NYC Texas Exes (UT Alumni Association) and the NYC A&M Club (Texas A&M Alumni Association).  Thirty-six amateur teams compete against each other for bragging rights of “best chili” and “best team presentation.”  Alongside the amateur chefs is a restaurant category with all of the usual suspects in NYC that have chili on their menu: Hill Country, Southern Hospitality (aka Justin Timberlake’s BBQ joint), Manhattan Chili Co., Sidebar (seemed extremely random they were there), etc.  You can bet your hat that I am going to sign up to cook in this event next year!  The idea of making five gallons of chili all the while coming up with a clever team name and fun presentation may seem daunting but at least I’ve got a year to prepare myself to meet the challenge!

After a cold and rainy week with weather that was WAY too cold for NYC in mid-May, we were finally in store for some beautiful weather and couldn’t wait to relax out side while tasting a bunch of homemade chili and drinking cold beers.  While we weren’t able to sample all 40+ chilis on tap, I’d say we tasted at least 25 of them, and yes, we left completely stuffed.  They ran the range of being pretty bland and basic to being so spicy that we had to take a 20 minute break before eating, drinking or even talking (I’m talking about you, Asses of Fire).  But on the whole, I was amazed that these chilis were all made by amateur chefs just like you and me!  The biggest differential among chilis was the type of beef used.  Most used ground beef but a few used brisket which was a nice touch.  When tasting a bunch of chilis side by side, you could definitely tell who had used higher quality meat in their dish.  The other thing that stood out was teams who offered sides (cornbread, desserts) and garnishes (cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, onion crunch, Fritos, etc.).  According to D, when you serve Fritos with chili, it’s called a pepperbelly.  Who knew?  Thanks hun!

Here are some pictures from the event as well as my thoughts on a few favorites that really stood out from the crowd.

Most Creative Name and Side: King County Cretaceous Chili.  These guys totally went overboard with the dinosaur theme, and I loved it!  The chili was made from “tyrannosaurus rex meat” (aka ground beef) and the side was a “pterodactyl egg” (aka a sweet potato fritter).  I’ve never had sweet potato fritters before and they reminded me a little bit of hush puppies or fried cornbread.  Very clever, guys!

Chili Samples

Team Red Hot Chili Peppers (L) and Team King County Cretaceous Chili (R)

Spiciest Chili: Asses of Fire.  I am all for a little heat and think I have pretty high spice tolerance, but I met my match here.  I’d be curious to know what kind of spices this team put in their chili because we were all dying after trying this chili!

Best First Impression: Chili Bombers.  This was the first chili we tried when we walked in the venue.  It was piping hot, had just the right amount of spice and was just a good basic chili to start the day.  The small serving of cornbread was just the right size for a chili tasting.  (Other teams overloaded you with garnishes and you could barely taste the chili!)  This goes to show that sometimes less is more.

Chili Samples

Team Asses of Fire (L) and Team Chili Bombers (R)

Best Overall: Chili Con Blarney.  These guys were hands down the best of the best.  The quality of the brisket  was top notch and  you could tell they didn’t scrimp on ingredients.  It wasn’t too spicy, but after some of the other chilis we tried, it was a nice respite.  The sour cream was homemade (yum!) and the cheese was “Irish” to go along with their theme.  They were also the only team I noticed who served dessert.  The bite-size chipotle brownies were awesome and a great way to finish off the chili.    I also gave these guys bonus points for handing out green mardis gras beads and going all out on the Irish theme in their table decoration.  Nice work guys!  This was the only team where we went back for seconds, and I wish we had gone back for thirds.  If anyone on the team is reading this, I would LOVE to get your recipe. 🙂

Chili Sample

The Winner! Team Chili Con Blarney

Team Chili Con Blarney

Team Chili Con Blarney

Runner Up and Best Use of Veggies: Chill-ayyyy Bro.  This was a meaty chili but they also used tons of fresh veggies in their chili when many chilis only contained beef.  It tasted great and made me feel like I was getting my recommended serving of veggies.

Third Place: T. Love and Special Sauce.  2nd Place in the 2011 Cook-Off.  We can’t remember why we liked this one, but clearly they are doing something right to place last year and stand out in our minds this year too!

Last year’s winner was WildER Turkey.  We didn’t see them at this years event and I hope we didn’t miss them!  We had to leave before the winner was announced but I have my fingers crossed for Chili Con Blarney and can’t wait to join in the fun next year!

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

3 May

Chocolate caramel oatmeal bars are one of my favorite desserts to make for a party or to bring when visiting friends.  They are very easy to make and are super rich, gooey and decadent.  The best part is, because they contain oatmeal, you can claim they are healthy! 🙂  You can find my recipe below.  Be careful with this dessert – they are so addictive that my friend Marc who runs a fitness company and has the best diet and self-restraint on the planet can’t even resist them!

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal
2 cups milk chocolate candies with soft caramel centers*
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

* I prefer to go the decadent route and use Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate & Caramel Squares cut into quarters, but mini Rolos or Rolos cut in half also work.  If you are going to use full size Rolos or Ghiradelli squares, refrigerate the candy before trying to cut each piece.  This way will be significantly less messy.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9″x13″ banking pan with parchment paper.
2. In a small size bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
3. In a medium size bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy.
4.  Add flour mixture to medium size bowl.  When mixed, add oatmeal and mix until incorporated.
5. Using floured hands, press about 2/3 of the mixture evenly into the baking pan.  Bake until deep golden brown around edges, about 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, add 1/2 the chocolate-caramel candies to the bowl with the remainder of the oatmeal mixture.  Mix well with floured hands.
7. When the bottom layer is finished, remove from oven.  Evenly drizzle condensed milk over hot base.  Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining chocolate-caramel candies over condensed milk.  Finally, add oatmeal mixture containing the chocolate-caramel over this.  Note: This top layer will not fully cover the pan.
8. Bake until topping is deep golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 25-27 minutes.
9. Cool in a pan on a wire rack.  When cooled, cut into small bars.
10. Serve warm with ice cream or alone at room temperature.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Southern-Style Chicken Cordon Bleu

26 Apr

One of my good friends Kristin is an editor at the fabulous blog A Woman’s Paris.  I would highly recommend this site for anyone interested in French style, culture, cooking and more.  In addition, the creator of the site is a talented artist and sells her whimsical drawings as iPhone and iPad covers at the following site.  I love them all but I think the Avenue Montaigne drawing is my favorite.

Avenue Montaigne, Paris

Avenue Montaigne, Paris
Photo Credit: A Woman's Paris

After my successful (but tiring!) attempt creating French macarons last year and talking with Kristin about French cooking, I was inspired to try and create a classic French dish but to add a Southern twist to it.  Below is my adaptation of the famous French entree Chicken Cordon Bleu.  This recipe has its roots in a Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals episode that I watched years ago in college but never wrote down.  The thick, hearty mushroom-gravy is what really makes this a “Southern” dish.  Bring your appetite to the table when you make this dish – it’s rich and very filling!

Southern-Style Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken)
4 chicken breasts, butterflied (you can have the butcher do this for you)
Fresh sage
Prosciutto
Fontina cheese
Flour
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

*You also need: Toothpicks 

Directions (for the chicken)
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place small amount of cheese, sage and prosciutto in each chicken breast.  (Note: I overstuffed the chicken breasts and put way too much filling in the pictures below.  They are included so you can see the layout only.)


3. Starting at one of the narrow ends of the chicken breast, roll each chicken breast up and secure with a couple of toothpicks.  Coat each roll up in flour.


4. Heat a skillet using medium heat and add extra virgin olive oil.  When heated, add the chicken breasts and brown.
5. When browned, place chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until fully cooked.
6. Remove from oven and place one breast on each plate.  Remove toothpicks immediately before adding gravy and serving.

Ingredients (for the gravy)
1 package crimini or button mushrooms
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. flour
Dry white wine
Chicken Broth (low sodium stock)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions (for the gravy)
1.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add butter.  When butter is melted, add mushrooms to skillet and cook until browned and soft.
2. Add flour and 1/4 cup wine and 1/4 cup chicken broth to skillet.  Mix until incorporated and warm.
3.  Season with salt & pepper.  If you want more acidic sauce, add more wine.  If you want thicker sauce, add more flour.  I usually wing it here so apologies I can’t give more specific directions!

Serve With…

Sauteed Green Beans or Spinach

and

Cheesy Risotto with Peas
Serves 4

Ingredients
Arborio Rice (4 servings according to rice package)
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 32 oz. container low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. In a saucepan, heat chicken stock until warm but not boiling.  Keep warm while you prepare the risotto.
2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add butter.  When melted, add garlic, rice and 1 cup chicken stock, stirring frequently.
3. When the chicken stock cooks off, ladle another cup of broth into the pot.  Continue doing so until the rice is cooked, which should take about 20 minutes.
4. About halfway through cooking the risotto, try out the rice.  If it is TOO chicken-y, substitute 1 cup of water instead of chicken broth when the liquid runs out for the next cycle.
5. When the rice is cooked, add the peas and Parmesan cheese to the pot, stirring rapidly to incorporate.
6. Serve immediately and top with freshly ground black pepper and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Nanaimo Bars

20 Apr

Nanaimo Bars

Earlier this year, I attended a Pacific Northwest cooking class at The Institute of Culinary Eduation in NYC.  D is from Seattle so I wanted to learn how to make some of the foods he loved growing up.  We learned how to make cedar-planked salmon, venison, butternut squash soup and fire-roasted oysters, among other things.  Nanaimo Bars were one of my favorite dishes we learned how to make, and, interestingly, D had never heard of them before!  Nanaimo Bars are a no-bake three-layer cookie bar with origins in Vancouver.  You can learn more about Nanaimo Bars on its very on Wikipedia page.  This dessert is extremely rich, so even though the yield is a small 8″x8″ pan, you can easily make 60+ bars from one pan because a serving size is so small.  Below is my recipe adapted from the ICE Pacific Northwest Cooking Class.  Enjoy!

Nanaimo Bars
Adapted from ICE Recipe

Bottom Layer:
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cup graham crackers, crumbled (measured after crumbling)
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Directions
1. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a double boiler.
2. Add beaten egg and stir to cook and thicken.  When mixed, remove pan from heat.
3. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, almonds and coconut.
4. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″x8″ pan.

Middle Layer:
Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder (such as Birds, or substitute instant vanilla pudding powder)
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions
1. Cream butter, heavy cream, custard powder and powdered sugar together well.  Beat until light.
2. Spread over bottom layer.

Top Layer:
Ingredients
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions
1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a double boiler.
2. COOL.  (Don’t skip this step or the top layer will melt into the bottom layers.)
3. When cool, but still liquid, pour over middle layer.
4. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.  Serve cold or slightly cooler than room temperature.

Nanaimo Bars