Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baklava

The wonderful Bread Lady is at it again, teaching me how to make more delicious Lebanese food. Today I'm learning how to make Lebanese baklava. Yes, there are different variations of baklava. Some have honey, some have cinnamon, some have a rose water. We'll be making baklava with an orange flower water.

What you need:
  • 3 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups rendered butter
  • 1 pound filo/phyllo dough (1 box)
  • 1  1/2 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
What you do:

Combine chopped pecans, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Set mixture aside.

Brush a layer of rendered butter in rectangular baking dish.

Lay one sheet of filo in the baking dish.

Brush rendered butter over filo sheet. Continue layering filo and brushing with butter until half of the filo dough box has been used.

Sprinkle the pecan/sugar mixture over the layers of buttered filo. Gently pat the nut mixture in the pan.

Lay one sheet of filo on top of the nut layer. Carefully brush rendered butter over the filo sheet. Continue layering filo and brushing with butter until all of the filo dough has been used.

Carefully cut the baklava into diamonds with a sharp thin knife. That's right, cut it before it goes into the oven.

Bake baklava in a 275 degree oven for about 1 hour or until lightly browned. (Bread Lady usually bakes it about 15-20 minutes longer depending on what her oven is doing. She also turns the oven down to 250 if she thinks it's browning too fast.)

While the baklava is baking, combine water and 3 cups sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.

Add lemon juice and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add 3 tablespoons orange blossom water. Allow syrup to cool. Pour syrup over freshly baked, pipping hot baklava.

Allow baklava to cool.
 Isn't it just beautiful?!
Thank you again, Bread Lady, for sharing your kitchen, recipes and delicious food with me!


PS- Here's a picture of the orange blossom water, if you were wondering what it looked like.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

As I've said, Mr. Perfect has a green thumb... and I don't. He's always growing something delicious in the garden.  Our winter garden is in full swing. We have lettuce, swiss chard, arugula, peppers and lots of broccoli. As soon as I saw Mr.Perfect's beautiful broccoli I knew it was destined to be roasted.

What you need:
  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 cup ritz cracker crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
What you do:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. (Don't waste the stalk! Peel and slice it.)
  3. Put the broccoli in a mixing bowl and combine with olive oil, salt, pepper and cracker crumbs.
  4. Spread the mixture on a foil lined cookie sheet and put in the oven. Roast until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from the oven. Add cheese and serve immediately.
So good, even Trouble likes it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pralines

There's a fantastic little Cajun restaurant in my town. Every once in a while a friend and I have one of their delectable pralines after a po' boy lunch. Every time I have one I think... I bet I can make these. So recently I found a few recipes that looked good and gave praline making a try. I must admit there's kind of an art to it.

What you need:
  • 1 ½ cups pecans (I used pecans and almonds)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  •  ¾ cup brown sugar
  •  6 tablespoons butter
  •  ½ cup milk
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  salt, pinch
What you do:
In large saucepan over medium heat, lightly toast pecans. Watch carefully, you don't want them to burn.

Add sugar, butter, brown sugar and milk to the pecans.

Slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Don't stir the mixture once it starts to boil! Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees. I use a thermometer to get the temperature just right.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt. Stir well and allow to cool (a minute or two) just enough to thicken a bit. Continue to stir while it's cooling. It should start to lose its sheen.

Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let cool completely.
Confection Perfection!
This batch of pralines was made for my special friend's Birthday.  Happy Birthday Friend!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Live Oak Brewing Company

I recently had the most delicious pint of Live Oak HefeWeizen at a beer garden. As crazy as it sounds a glass of beer swept me off my feet. It inspired me to look into taking a tour of  Live Oak Brewing Company, a home-grown East Austin brewery. Turns out they give tours twice a month and take reservations a few days before the tour date.
The brewery is located in a little hole in the wall of a place that lacks air-conditioning or heat, in other words it's not fancy. But what they lack in fancy they make up in special beer and brewers who are truly passionate about their craft. My favorite part of our visit was the very generous samplings of their Live Oak brews. We sampled the Pilz, Big Bark, Liberation Ale, Primus, and my favorite the HefeWeizen. Oh and did I mention that the tour and all of the tasty beer is completely free. Yes you heard me, Free Beer!
 If you happen to spot Live Oak brew on tap at a watering hole in Texas give it a try. Or better yet if you're in the Austin area I recommend you stop by Live Oak Brewing Company for a tour.
Cheers!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

You know what jack-o-lantern carving time means... roasted pumpkin seeds! Mr.Perfect is a big pumpkin seed fan. He's also quite particular about them. Every October he reminds me that he likes them crispy not chewy. And every year my eye twitch gets a little worse.

What you need:
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, clean and dry
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • salt, to taste
What to do:
Toss seeds in a baking pan with butter and salt, coating seeds completely.

Bake in a oven preheated to 300 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Stir and check seeds occasionally.
 Crispy, just like Mr.Perfect requested.
 Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rosemary Sweet Potato Fries

I'm not crazy about french fries. I could totally live without them and never give it another thought. That being said I absolutely adore sweet potato fries. They're sweet, salty and so good they don't need ketchup to be eaten.
What you need:
  • sweet potato (1 large potato per 2 people)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil per potato
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary, fresh or dried
What you do:
Peel sweet potato and cut into your favorite fry shape.

Put cut potatoes into a zip-lock bag. Pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil in bag and toss around to completely cover potatoes in oil.

Add salt, pepper and rosemary to the bag and toss again, distributing the spices evenly.

Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet.

The trick to getting these fry guys crispy is to make sure they don't touch each other. So line them up neatly with out letting them touch.

Place potatoes in an oven preheated to 450 degrees. Bake for about 15 minutes then flip fries making sure they still are NOT TOUCHING each other. Bake for another 15 minutes or until they are crispy and have some caramelized edges.
 Sweet Potato Perfection!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crock-Pot Baked Potatoes


Have I ever mentioned how much I adore crock-pot meals? I do! I live in Texas where it's HOT and any device that keeps me from using the stove or oven is a big winner. When I learned that baked potatoes could be made in the crock-pot I had to give it a try. Sure enough it's a super easy and convenient way to make baked potatoes.

What you need:
  • baking potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • aluminum foil
What you do:
Rub olive oil all over the potatoes.


Sprinkle salt all over the potatoes.

Prick the potatoes several times with a fork.

Wrap each potato in foil. 

Place the potatoes in your crock-pot, cover and cook on high for 4 1/2 to 5 hours or low for 7 1/2 to 8 hours.
 Done!!
 Ready for toppings galore!