March 3, 2013

Spicy Drinking Chocolate

A few weeks ago I was in Charleston for a work conference.  I hit up Market Street one day after the meetings were done  - I had to pick up some stuff for The Husband's birthday.  While down there, I caved and bought a few things for myself, including a packet of habenero sugar.  Being a complete chili-head, I figured this was right up my alley.  Of course, then I needed ways to use this spicy-sweet delicacy.  Stacey to the rescue!  "You could make drinking chocolate and sweeten it with that," she said.  This is why we are friends.  Drinking chocolate!  She even sent me her favorite recipe: John Scharffenberger's Drinking Chocolate.  Here it is, edited slightly for the habenero sugar.  Don't be afraid, this doesn't kick all that much more than the version with cayenne powder, but the heat does linger more.  Yummy!


1/2 c milk
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 T habenero sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t vanilla

Heat the milk in a saucepan until lukewarm.  Stir in the chocolate and sugar, whisking until fully combined.  Add the cinnamon and vanilla, and whisk another 2 minutes.  Serve warm!

January 6, 2013

Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup

I admit it, I've been on a bit of a soup kick lately.  I don't usually make soups, but I've realized this is because The Husband and I largely do not agree on soup styles.  He's big on stews and the like, and while I can eat a bowl of those, I cannot eat the leftovers.  Well, with him gone, I can make whatever soups I want! When I was home for the holidays, my mom made a batch of this and I fell in love.  It's delicious, thick enough to suit my taste, thin enough to drink from a mug, and oh so healthy, with no cream.  What's not to love?


3 T butter
5 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, diced
5 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
14 oz whole tomatoes (canned works well enough)
8 c stock (I used turkey, veggie or chicken would also be fine)
1 c cream sherry
splash bourbon
1/2 c fresh basil leaves
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
dash cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and butternut squash in the butter for about 10 minutes.  Add stock, sherry, and bourbon.  Boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and puree with an immersion blender.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

January 2, 2013

Pumpkin Soup

This fall I tried my hand at roasting and pureeing my own pumpkins.  It was a smashing success!  I'd intended it to make some pie, but ended up in a savory mood.  Immediately, my 2011 trip to Sedona came to mind.  At the Wildflower Bread Company I had the most fantastic pumpkin soup.  I needed more.  Sedona's now a few thousand miles away, so I had to make my own, based off of this.  It was perfect.  So tasty and delicious, the perfect end to a fall day.  Spicy, too - I'm a chili head.  If you aren't, I'd cut back on the spice.


1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 bay leaf
2 sticks celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 T flour
2 t poultry seasoning
2 t hot sauce
5 cayenne peppers, diced
6 c chicken stock
Puree from 2 pumpkins (or 1 28 oz can)
dash nutmeg
swirl of cream (optional)

Heat the butter and oil over medium heat until melted and bubbly.  Add the celery, onion, cayenne, and bay leaf, saute until vegetables are cooked.  Add the flour, seasoning, and hot sauce, then add the stock.  Puree with an immersion blender, then heat again until nearly boiling.  Stir in the pumpkin puree and season with nutmeg.  Add cream if desired.

December 13, 2012

Natalie's Mushroom Tartlets

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm always looking for new recipes to add to the meal.  Recipes from family are even more special.  This one comes to me from my cousin, with a little spicy tweaking on my part. I think next year I will try making my own shells, but the pre-packaged ones are easy when you're cooking a full meal and working full time!  Play around a bit with the herbs until you find the perfect combination for you!


2 T butter
1/2 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1lb mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t oregano
¼ c thyme, chopped
8 oz goat cheese
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 to 1/4 t cayenne, to taste
60 phyllo-pastry tartlet shells

Melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant. Add the chopped mushrooms, nutmeg, oregano and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor and add the goat cheese. Add the oil and parsley. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne, pulse again.
Spoon mushroom filling into tartlet shells and place on a baking sheet (or freeze to bake later). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

September 11, 2012

Diablo Tequila

So, work's started up, which means less blogging for me!  On the other hand, The Husband will be deploying soon, which means more blogging, so it will average out, right?  We'll see!  In other news, my BlogMommy Stacey has resurrected her food blog and can now be found at Om-nom sauce!

Last weekend I was hanging out at our favorite restaurant, chatting with the bartender.  I was enjoying my favorite Diablo martini, and the conversation turned to the epic amount of cayennes I've been harvesting this summer (seriously, anyone want a foot or three of dried cayennes?).  He showed me the tequila he uses for the margarita, home-infused with a whole mess of spicy peppers and chilis, and I decided that I simply HAD to try this at home!

Two days ago I sliced about a dozen small cayennes and dumped them, seeds and all, into about 300ml of tequila.  Today the tequila already has a fine bite and I think that in a few days it will be ready for margarita time!

August 18, 2012

Frogmore Stew

Disclaimer: No frogs were harmed in the making of this stew.

As it happens, the "Frogmore" appellation is derived from a location rather than amphibians.  So you can relax.  Frogmore stew is a classic lowcountry dish.  We firmly believe in learning about and enjoying local foods, which is how we were introduced to the stew in the first place.  We'd seen it on menus all over, but first tried it at Low Country Bistro.  LCB is, by the way, one of the best restaurants in Charleston, in my humble opinion.  The best thing about them is that they provide fantastic food at a reasonable price.  So, if you ever find yourself in Charleston, hit up LCB!

Saturday is Farmer's Market day in the town I work at, and the market is good enough that we're willing to make the 40 minute drive a few Saturdays a month.  It's also puppy-friendly and Kodi has many admirers there.  We picked up the usual tomatoes, goat cheese and lamb stew meat, but were also lured in by the fresh shrimp.  I'm starting to come around on shrimp and The Husband was about drooling over these huge, juicy bugs, so we got a bunch.  I asked what he wanted me to make out of them, and we came up with Frogmore stew (though we did just steam a few as an appetizer.  Amazing!).

This dish is fairly simple to make.  I do strongly recommend making your own stock and crab boil spice though.  The stock really makes or breaks the dish and if you use a commercial spice mix you'll risk having an overly salty stew.  Seriously, it will take you just over an hour to make the stock and it's so worth it.  The boil spice is a matter of moments to mix up!


1 leek (white parts), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
5 small red potatoes, cubed
2 c shellfish stock (recipe follows)
1 T crab boil spice (go find your own, I'm not sold on my recipe yet)
1/2 T Old Bay
1 andouille sausage, sliced
1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
Water as needed

Sautee the leek, garlic and celery in the evoo for 1 minute.  Add tomato, corn, potatoes, stock and spices.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, 5-10 minutes.  Add water as needed, probably a cup or two.  Add the sausage and shrimp and continue simmering until shrimp are just cooked, 3-5 minutes.  Serve with crusty bread or biscuits.

Shellfish Stock

5 c shells (from shrimp, crabs, lobsters, etc)
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat, with enough water to cover everything.  Stir once.  Do not boil.  Keep just below a simmer, not stirring.  As foam forms at the top, skim it off and discard.  Cook like this approximately 1 hour or until color and flavor are both rich.  Strain out solids.

August 10, 2012

Homemade S'mores

If you weren't aware (as I wasn't until about noon today), it is National S'mores Day!  I've been thinking about making my own graham crackers and marshmallows for about nine months now, so this was just the impetus I needed to get off my butt and go do it.  Of course, it helped that it's the very last day of summer vacation.  I'm a little stressed about starting the new job on Monday, and my usual reaction to stress is to cook!

I thought this was going to be horribly difficult but... no.  Really.  It took less than 45 minutes to finish the cracker dough and the marshmallows.  Of course, then you have to wait for the dough to chill before rolling out and backing the crackers, but it wasn't hard at all!

I used Smitten Kitchen for both recipes:  Marshmallows and Graham Crackers.  I did do a variation on the marshmallows - instead of vanilla, I used pecan liquor.  We just got this stuff down at Firefly distillery and I've been putting it into just about anything these days.  Pecan whipped cream?  Heck yeah!

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure I did the graham crackers right.  My dough was very soft and wet and difficult to handle, even with plenty of flour.  I made the small 2x2 squares because after  looking at it I figured there was no way I would be able to transfer larger pieces to the baking sheet!  In retrospect, my dough definitely did not look quite right - probably should have added more flour.  Next time!  The flavor is still fantastic, and so much better than what you buy in the store.

You know, I bet this is my problem: for all the "cracker" part of the name "graham cracker," they're really more like cookies, aren't they?  And cookies and I just don't get along.

Graham Crackers


3/5 T butter
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/6 c honey
2/5 T milk
1 T vanilla
cinnamon sugar to dust

Chop the butter into 12 or so pieces and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in your food processor.  Add the chilled butter and process until crumbly.  Add the liquids and process just until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, pat down, wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza cutter, slice your desired shapes: normal graham crackers are 4x4.5 inches.  I made 2x2 cute ones.  Use cookie cutters.  Whatever floats your boat!  Carefully transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and chill again for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Poke pretty holes in your crackers using the end of a wooden skewer.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for about 20 minutes or until browned and slightly firm.

Pecan Marshmallows


Powdered sugar for dusting
1 3/4 packets gelatin
1/4 c cold water
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 & 1 T cold water
Pinch salt
1 egg white
2 t pecan liquor or other flavoring

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  Dust with powdered sugar.

In your mixer bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/4 c water.

On the stove, heat water and sugar and salt together, stirring until dissolved.  Boil without stirring until you hit about 240 degrees.  Pour this mixture over the gelatin and turn on the mixer.  Mix on high for about six or so minutes, until fluffy and white.

Meanwhile, use a handheld mixer to beat the egg white to soft peaks.  Add to gelatin, along with the liquor, and mix just long enough to combine.  Pour into baking pan and dust with more powdered sugar.  Chill at least three hours.

Once firm and chilled, use a knife to carefully remove the whole thing from the pan.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the marshmallows to the desired size.