Sausage Fajitas with Red Beans and Sage Sour Cream

Sausage Fajitas

Y’all, 2013 was an incredible year; I learned a lot. But I have such high expectations for 2014 to be even better!

One of my resolutions for LuvCooks is to focus on the incredible culinary talent, resources, and ingredients we have around us. There are so many inspiring people in this world, and I want you to meet them and their recipes.

Granted, some of these people I do not personally know, but I want to (and may or may not have stalked them on the internet). Ree Drummond, Maggie (my former high school lunch lady who opened her own diner in my hometown and makes cinnamon rolls that are as big as your face) and John T. Edge, here we come! These are the people- new friends, old acquaintances, and like they say in the South- “your momma and them”- that I want you to know about.  My goal is to showcase their recipes, talent, and heart for the food we love.

Also (I will miiissss youuuu Oreoooooos) for the next three months, I am trying to eat as little processed food as possible. This stems from feeling a bit like I am spiting Mother Nature with the amount of wonderful produce we have in the South. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t think of a more fitting way to begin this culinary journey than to start with Deramus Family Sausage in Booth, Alabama. I have been eating Deramus sausage since I was a wee girl, dancing to Paula Abdul and waking up to the smell of savory sausage browning on the weekends. I will never forget the hand-written thank-you notes we received in the mail from Mrs. Deramus after ordering their product. The flavor and ingredients the Deramus family uses is unparalleled in the sausage business, and if you talk with the head of production, Herb Murray, he will tell you that their secret ingredient- the force that makes their sausage delicious, prevents heart burn and all around makes the sausage-eating wonderful- is a specially-grown sage that only they know about. In fact, when Mr. Deramus (Herb’s stepfather) first started making sausage, he was sent to Germany during World War II and put in charge of livestock. While there he discovered the secret ingredient to delicious German sausage (their blend of sage) and came back to the Southern States on a mission to find that herb and recreate it for himself.

Since Herb’s favorite way to eat his sausage is sautéed with bell peppers and onions, below is my own spin on the Deramus family tradition. Using Creole seasoning and liquid smoke instead of fajita seasoning ups the flavor ante to accompany the hot sausage. Red beans round out the Creole flavor line up, and the sage sour cream offers a welcome cool-down, using the Deramus’ signature ingredient to finish it off.

These fajitas are perfect for a warm night in, and while you are eating them, I suggest you go on over to Deramus’ website and order more. You will be greeted by Herb’s voice on the telephone- he handles all calls and customers- and I promise that you won’t be able to help but fall in love with him and his product (and a hand-written thank-you note or two).

Sausage Fajitas with Sage Sour Cream

What You Will Need

  • 2 links Deramus Family hot sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2 inch half-moons
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 corn tortillas

What You Will Do

1. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat for a minute or so.

2. In the cast iron skillet, add your sausage slices and brown sausage about one to two minutes each side, until they are lightly browned on each side. Make sure and watch these as they cook quickly and you want to keep them just a bit crisp.

3. Once your sausage is cooked, use a slotted spoon to place the pieces on a paper-towel lined plate. Pour out all but about 1 tablespoon of the sausage drippings. (Save the extra grease; this stuff is gold! I put mine in a container to use for future cornbread.)

4. Place your skillet with one tablespoon drippings back onto the heat and turn up to medium-high. Add sliced onion and pepper and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally; you want the veggies a bit softer than raw. Add creole seasoning and liquid smoke; cook about five minutes more. Watch your veggies to make sure they stay on the crisp-and not limp-side.

5. Once the veggies are cooked, transfer them to a plate and heat your tortillas. I prefer to put each tortilla back into the cast iron skillet for a minute or so on each side until they are warmed through and light brown on the edges. Or, you can spray cooking spray between each tortilla, pile them up, wrap them in aluminum foil, and heat them up in a 300 degree oven until warmed through.

6. Top each warmed tortilla with sausage, fajita mixture, red beans, and sage sour cream. Wrap up and dig-in!

For the Red Beans (This recipe is adapted from My Daily Moment) I always like homemade beans better than the canned variety.

What You Will Need

  • 1 lb. dry red beans
  • 2 qt. water
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. garlic, chopped (about 6-7 large cloves)
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • Creole seasoning, to taste

What You Will Do

1. Pick through beans to remove the ones that look funky or broken.

2. Rinse the beans rinse thoroughly, and put them in a large Dutch oven pot with enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring them to a rolling boil for ten minutes, then drain and rinse the beans again.

3. Pour the old bean water out of your Dutch oven, rinse it, then add boiled beans, water, onion, celery, and bay leaves to the pan. Bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir.

5. Mash some of the hot beans against the side of your pan. Add green pepper, garlic, thyme, salt, and black pepper.

6. Cook uncovered over low heat until creamy, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.  Add a large dash of Creole seasoning to taste.

For the Sage Sour Cream

What You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp dried sage (or to taste, depending on how sage-y you like things)

What You Will Do

1. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream with dried sage until combined.

Homemade Nutella and Gratitude

Chocolate and hazelnuts, beautifully blended

Chocolate and hazelnuts, beautifully blended

I am overwhelmingly grateful when anyone visits LuvCooks. I am blown away when someone sees a recipe and makes it (shout out to @laurietindol!) and astounded when another blogger mentions the site in one of their posts.

Recently Rachel at Derivative Dishes nominated LuvCooks for a Liebster award. Having no idea what a Liebster award was, I embarrassingly asked her about the stipulations for this prize. It turns out it’s a great way to welcome and highlight other blogs in our Creative world. As part of the process, I was also asked to respond to a list of questions Rachel sent, then nominate other blogs I follow that should recieve the award.

I have so many talented friends, I wish that I could gather them all up and introduce you; my friend Melissa, who loves cats and can bake like nobody’s business. Or Stephen, whose ability to light and capture food astounds me. Or my boyfriend Jake whose Creative talent truly knows no bounds. But alas, the inter webs separate us, and this will have to do for now (unless someone comes up with the aforementioned posted magic carpet).

And, you should follow all of these wonderful people! Feeling Full, Jacob Blount, Stephen Devries Photography, Kinora Films,  Emily Cooks Vegan, Twin Days, Chew Out Loud, Create and Place, The Dreamery

Rachel’s questions:

  1.  What inspires you? Beauty! In all of it’s forms. And fun, and dancing. Lots of it.
  2.  Anthony Bourdain or Mario Batali? I am obsessed with Anthony Bourdain. As in, a day without No Reservations/The Layover/Parts Unknown is no way to live.
  3. What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had? I have a complete inability to hide the face I make when things taste bad. So more than likely I have blocked this meal out of my mind.
  4. What’s your favorite cookbook of all time? I adore cookbooks! My top three: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook , The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farms, and for her hilarious story-telling and all-around fabulousness Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen
  5. What are you looking forward to right now? A Mexican fiesta tonight at Señor Taco with my sister.
  6. What do you think about when you’re cooking? I think about the people I am cooking for. I love anticipating how they will respond to the food, and the simple joy of spending time with them.
  7. What is your favorite thing to cook? Baking. Brownies. Chocolate anything.
  8. What is the last great meal you had? I had a fantastic six-course meal and wine-pairing at Veranda in Birmingham‎, hosted by their sommelier and head chef. Braised shot ribs, quail- it was a dream.
  9. What have you not tried to cook but think you need to make? I need to figure out how to make Ossobuco. Because it sounds both fancy and delicious.
  10. What about the kitchen intimidates you? Other people’s kitchens intimidate me. As weird as that sounds, I feel so at home in my own, I always feel a bit unnerved in another persons’ space.
  11. What’s the most embarrassing kitchen moment you’ve ever had? Oh gracious, there are too many to count! Probably the time I was making boxed macaroni and cheese and caught a dish towel on fire.

Questions for my blogger pals:

1. What is your go-to comfort food?

2. French roast, Keurig, Chemex, pour-over, Nespresso, or drip (coffee)?

3. Your favorite kitchen condiment, go!

4. If you could have dinner with three people dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

5. Bizarre Foods or Chopped?

6. Number #1 reason why Alton Brown would help you make better life choices.

7. Your favorite holiday movie?

8. What is your biggest challenge in food-blogging?

9. What are four of your favorite online recipe resources?

10. Name your favorite season and it’s accompanying ingredient.

And finally, back to gratefulness: I am also consistently grateful for food, friends, and family, and this homemade chocolate hazelnut spread (aka Nutella) recipe encompasses all of these things. Nutella is one of life’s pleasures, and this recipe by Giada at Food Network is SO delicious. By roasting the hazelnuts in the skins before you blend them, it adds a whole new dimension to the roasted flavor of the spread, and the addition of quality melted chocolate and honey sweetens the deal. I made this for a friend of mine and could not keep my spoon out of the food processor (don’t worry Court, #nodoubledipping).  This is also a great addition to any New Year’s Eve spread. Serve it with chocolate or honey graham crackers, apple slices, or hot chocolate, or blend it into a post- New Year’s bash smoothie.

Cheers to the best year yet, and to more amazing tastes, friendships, and adventures in the year to come.

Homemade Nutella (taken from Giada’s version here)

What You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup skinned hazelnuts, toasted (about 4 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

What You Will Do

1. To toast your hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the hazelnuts (skins on) in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Bake them for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly toasted. (Just watch these; I baked mine for a little less time because they got toasted pretty quickly.) Cool completely, then rub the skins off with your fingers.

3. Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Put the bowl back in for 10-15 second intervals, stirring after every trip in the microwave, until smooth. Be careful to not overheat your chocolate; it can get angry and seize up on ya. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature.

4. Grind the nuts in a food processor until pasty (the nuts will be stuck to the sides of work bowl), 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.

5. Add the condensed milk, honey and salt. Blend well, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the cooled chocolate and pulse until combined. Transfer the spread to a small bowl.

6. Now try not to eat all of this in one sitting. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

 

 

Chocolate Spice Cake with White Wine Berry Glaze

White Wine Cake

It’s holiday time! And you know what that means. Dust off that Kool and the Gang record, put on a Christmas scarf, and sing it with me, “Ce-le-brate good times, come on!” Now in your deepest Alto, “It’s a Celebration!”

And really, is there anything better than sparkly Christmas lights, fur trees loaded with ornaments, Elvis singing “Blue Christmas,” and drinking egg nog and/or hot chocolate like it’s your job? Truly, one of the most special times of the year.

And in that state of Christmas joy, I wanted to bake a chocolate cake that tasted like all of those wonderful Christmas feelings: warm and rich, with an unexpected flavor gift in the mix. And who better to parter with in this creative endeavor than uproot? Their Sauvignon Blanc is so versatile, it gave a bright flavor profile to chicken soup and this dessert. Especially perfect for the cinnamon-laced cake is the element of passion fruit the Sauvignon Blanc features- a perfect compliment to the blueberries and raspberries in the berry glaze.

Alright everybody, raise your eggnog-or uproot-glasses high to the best time of the year!

A slice of Christmas cheer

A slice of Christmas cheer

Chocolate Spice Cake with White Wine Berry Glaze

Another great thing about uproot wines is their partnership with Food52– one of my favorite recipe resources- where I went for inspiration in the cake realm. I just added a Christmas spin with a few extra holiday ingredients.

For the Glaze (I listed this first because I suggest you make it first, due to the double-glazing effect we use on this cake.)

What You Will Need

3/4 cup uproot Sauvignon Blanc 

6 ounces fresh blueberries

6 ounces fresh raspberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

What You Will Do

1. In a medium saucepan (make sure you use a larger one than you think you need- your liquid mixture will expand like an over-stuffed Santa when it boils), combine white wine, blueberries, raspberries, vanilla extract, and sugar.

2. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and let it cook at high heat for at most five minutes. Watch the mixture to make sure it doesn’t overflow the pan. If things get too crazy and you are afraid it is going to bubble over, just go ahead and turn the heat back down to medium or medium-low.

3. Cook on medium heat for about 24 minutes. Make sure and watch your mixture towards the end, stirring frequently to make sure the sugar and berries don’t burn.*

4. Let your glaze cool as you bake the cake.

* To be honest, this cooking time really depends on how thick you would like your glaze to be. I like mine a bit more like jelly so it gives the cake texture and shine; but, if you would like for it to be thinner, cook it on medium-low heat for up to 45 minutes. I also cooked this twice and had different cooking times for the glaze, so really just watch your mixture to see that it cooks to where you want it to be. When it comes to working with liquid sugar, it’s always better to go slowly so you don’t burn off your holiday fingers, as these are vital to your continued recipe success.

For the Cake

  • 1  1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon, but up to your preference)
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used this brand)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (optional, for dusting)

What You Will Do

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F and spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
  3. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk the mixture until it is smooth.
  4. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate. Whisk together to combine.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the floor several times to pop air bubbles. Please do not miss this step, as it is really entertaining and will hopefully make your cake hole-less! Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until the top springs back when pressed gently.
  6. Your cake may have a darker brown ring around the edges; that’s ok. That’s what we have that gorgeous glaze for!
  7. Once the cake is removed from the oven, place it on a cooling rack. Poke tiny holes throughout the cake with a toothpick or fork, going about 3/4 of the way to the bottom.
  8. Spread a thin glaze of white wine berry mixture over the cake, making sure to cover the entire cake surface. This will help infuse some of the berry flavor inside of the cake as it cools.
  9. Once your cake has cooled completely, turn it out onto your serving platter.
  10. Spread the rest of your berry glaze on the top of the cake, working from the center out. Sift confectioners sugar on top if desired for extra celebratory pizazz.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Comfort Food Cookies

Some weeks, you just need to bake.

And this week, the pull has been especially strong. The weather in the South has been unusually frigid-rain battered against my roof all day yesterday- and cold air continues to seep through the frames of gray, foggy windows.  It’s at this point that my mind wanders to what my kitchen might smell like if I turned on the oven and let the heat do its work on something sweet.

Also, did I mention- it’s the week of THANKSGIVING? And if you don’t want to bake this week, then the likelihood is that you never will. Unless, of course, it’s World Nutella Day and that is an exception to every rule.

But back to baking. There is a coffee shop and book store that I absolutely adore whose chocolate chip break-up cookies are not to be missed. On cold fall days, they are the baking remedy to whatever life looks like. They are buttery; dense but chewy; with chunks of semisweet chocolate that melt in your mouth before you get a slight hit of the salt that is artfully placed on top.

Cookies Up Close

I have wanted to recreate these cookies for a while, and this week, I needed to bake them. This recipe from Joy the Baker is as close as I have gotten to date. Her version tastes and smells like warmth; the browned butter and flaky sea salt roll comfort food into a simply, incredibly delicious form.

I know this aren’t the typical Thanksgiving dessert- we’ll leave that to pumpkin/pecan/cranberry jelly pies- but I am pretty sure that the smell of these warm out of the oven will make any holiday guest feel instantly at home. Even on a cold, rainy, almost wintry fall day.

Cookies from Above

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from the super talented and fabulous Joy the Baker. I made a few changes from her original recipe, and they are noted in italics.

What You Will Need

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (I used honey, but I think molasses would be delicious)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (I prefer my cookies without nuts, unless it is peanut butter, which is a different story)
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or semisweet chocolate chunks)
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

What You Will Do

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

2. Start by browning 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter.  In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted completely, it will begin to foam and froth as it cooks.  The butter will also crackle and pop.  That’s the water cooking out of the butter.  Swirl the pan occasionally, and keep an eye on the melted butter.  The butter will become very fragrant and brown bits will begin to form at the bottom of the pan.

3. Once the bits are an amber brown (they are about the color of this wood), immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour browned butter (bits and all) into a small bowl.  Leaving the butter in the pan will burn it.  Allow the butter to cool for 20 minutes.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the  remaining 1/2 cup of butter with brown sugar.  Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes (this will be a very light, beige color).  Add the vanilla extract and molasses (or honey) and beat until incorporated.

5. Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, pour the butter (brown bits and all) into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Add the granulated sugar and cream for 2 minutes, until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 1 minute more.

6. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything is evenly mixed (this is important; I had some unmixed bits in my bowl).  Add the flour mixture all at once to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in pecans (optional) and chocolate chips.

7. Spoon batter onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and wrap into a disk or cylinder and seal at both ends.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

8. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or a Silpat).  Scoop dough by the two tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets (or cut your dough log into 24 slices and make dough balls from each slice with your hands).  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Be sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie.

9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.  Remove them from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely.

Chicken Soup with White Wine, Kale and Tomatoes

Kale Soup with White Wine

Sometimes in life, creative inspiration and writing about food comes easily. Other times, one might prefer to bang one’s head against the wall while using a rolling pin to make mad stabs at the keyboard, hoping that something along the lines of creative thought (maybe in the form of a surprise Microsoft Word spell-check rewrite) appears.

And, we’ve all had chicken soup. Your typical recipe is predictable and comforting, and that’s good; but is anyone else out there bored with the standard version? What if we turned the typical method on its head and did something creative and ahem, fun?

Now, to be honest, my sudden zeal for revamping the chicken soup scene did not happen on it’s own. The inspiration actually came from my friends at uproot wines in Napa Valley. Greg and Jay are self-described “renegade wine makers” with a passion for looking to the future to inspire a better, more modern way of creating delicious wine. They are using the best-of-the-best equipment, ingredients, and techniques to create innovative wine like you’ve never tasted before.

And, in a side note, for a novice wine drinker like myself, I appreciate the fact that they label their bottles-how cool is this-by color, with each bar on the bottle representing the wine’s flavor profile. So, the purple stripe represents passion fruit, light green is melon, yellow is grapefruit. Genius.

I will always be grateful to Jay and Greg because, after following their example, there is no better way for me to express my love for this new recipe for chicken soup. Frying the chicken skins in olive oil at the start gives deep, chicken-y richness to the broth, and the de-glazing work done by the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc creates a mellow sweetness, while kale and tomatoes round out the umami punch.

The final result is deliciously inviting on a crisp fall day, smells like roasted chicken with garlic, and is as full-bodied and flavored a soup as I’ve made (the complete opposite of the overly salted, condensed versions lurking in your canned goods pantry).  In fact, this soup is so good that if I could afford a magic carpet, I would find you and bring you a batch of mine (and I don’t play when referring to world travel).

On a final note, you know what makes this soup taste even better? Drinking it with the uproot Sauvignon Blanc. The lively, sweet-but-smooth white is dynamite with the hearty chicken and potatoes in the soup. I can not wait for you to try this. So put a little pre-Thanksgiving vinyl on your record player, visit the uproot site to get inspired, and make some deliciousness this week.

Yes, that's my awesome boyfriend photographer in the spoon.

Yes, that’s my awesome boyfriend photographer in the spoon.

Chicken Soup with White Wine, Kale, and Tomatoes

What You Will Need:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded and skins removed (set the skins aside for the frying process)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup uproot 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 white onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups onion)
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced (don’t forget to include the leafy tops here too!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 red potatoes, diced
  • 1 Parmesan rind (about one to two inches in width and height)
  • 1 15-oz can canned, diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups kale, shredded and ribs removed (I used bag kale for mine)
  • 3 cups white beans (I prefer to make mine from dried using the method below*, but you are more than welcome to used canned white beans too! Just rinse them ahead of time.)

What You Will Do

For the Soup

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat to simmering in a large dutch oven.

2. Add about 1/2 cup chicken skin. Flash fry the skins in the oil for about 10-15 seconds, until dark brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan.

3. Using a slottted spoon, remove the chicken skins, and add 1 tablespoon more oil. Add the onion and celery and saute until translucent, stirring frequently. Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic, paprika, and chili powder and cook for about one more minute.

4. Add the Sauvignon Blanc and stir frequently, deglazing the pan and capturing all of those tasty brown bits that might be left. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about half.

5. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, Parmesan rind, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover for twenty minutes.

6.  Add the shredded chicken, 3 cups beans, and kale. Let everything warm through until the kale is slightly wilted. Remove the Parmesan rind if it hasn’t dissolved, and season with additional salt and pepper  to taste. Serve the soup, adding extra grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

*For the beans (if making from dried; this method was adapted from Whole Foods instructions):

What You Will Need

  • 1 lb dried white beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper

What You Will Do:

1. Sort through 1 pound of white beans, removing any stragglers or broken beans.

2. Rinse beans over a colander to remove any extra grit.

3. Put beans in a large dutch oven, and cover with water until you have about a two- inch margin of water above the beans (about six to eight cups of water). Put the beans in the fridge about eight hours or overnight.

4. Once ready, drain and rinse your beans one more time.

5. Bring your soaked white beans with enough water to cover them by about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, two bay leaves, and a generous dash of salt and pepper to boil in a large dutch oven. Once the beans are boiling, skim the beige foam that forms off of the top. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cover the beans for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until they are tender.

Blackberry Farm Griddle Cakes with Cinnamon Peach Syrup

Pancakes

I have a slight obsession with Blackberry Farm.

And by slight I mean I own both of their cookbooks (at one point I had two copies of The Foothills Cuisine),  and daydream regularly about living there. Oh, and they also recently did a beautiful spread-and are selling their homemade goodies-with Williams Sonoma. Which makes my food wanderlust even worse.

Located in the gorgeously green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Blackberry Farm is a foodie’s dream. Fueled by an on-location organic garden and supplied by their own sheep’s (as in, their own pasture full of) cheese, happy diners head back to their customized cabins at the end of a glorious day of eating to rest under the cool mountain stars, only to awake and do it all over again. Or at least, this is what I hear.**

**I did once drive to Blackberry Farms, illegally enter the gates, and scope out their dining room. I stayed under the radar until I attempted to drive my four-door sedan down a road clearly intended for a guests-only golf cart. I also may or may not have hit a large stump in my flustered attempt to back out of the tiny driveway.

I digress.

These Blackberry Farm recipe pancakes graced the cover of Bon Appetit, and I was immediately whisked away by an image of myself  in a rocking chair, overlooking the green scape of the farms, while a gentle gardener served me a plate of steaming pancakes that were gently  releasing their heavenly aroma into the air.

Reality returned, and I decided that the first step toward the dream would be actually cooking them. And in true LuvCooks style, when I made this recipe it was in the middle of a sweltering summer in the south and our syrup options did not include gracefully picking through the blackberries outside in the garden soil. Instead, I braved the 90+degree heat and nabbed some late-summer peaches from a local farmer’s market.

Below are the most delicious gluten-free pancakes you have ever tasted. And the most outstanding peach syrup I’ve ever had. Even if you aren’t eating them on top of a mountain, it will still feel peachy-keen.:)

Blackberry Farm Griddle Cakes (This recipe and its instructions are taken from bonappetit.com)

What You Will Need

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil (for skillet)

What You Will Do*

  • Whisk egg, buttermilk, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk oat flour, cornmeal, rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, then whisk in butter until no lumps remain.
  • Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4-cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bottoms are browned and bubbles form on top of griddle cakes, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until griddle cakes are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

*My incredible, gluten-free chef friend Annie cooked these pancakes, and they turned out beautifully. This batter is a bit thinner than your usual pancake batter, so just make sure you watch them since they cook a bit more quickly than normal.

LuvCooks Cinnamon-Peach Syrup

What You Will Need

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 peaches, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

What You Will Do

1.  Bring water, honey, and sugar to a boil.

2. Add the peaches, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, and let the mixture return to a boil.

3. Turn the heat back down to low and simmer until the peaches are soft, or about 15 mintues.

4. Continue to let the mixture simmer at medium to medium-low until it gets about the consistency you want. I watched mine for about 45 more minutes and had to head out to feed some hungry pancake eaters, so mine was a bit thinner. It was delicious, but if you like a thicker syrup, try to avert the hunger pangs by letting it cook for a bit longer.

Jalapeño Sausage Wheels

Sausage with a kick. Go team!

Sausage with a kick. Go team!

In the South, it goes without saying that almost all of our traditions revolve around food. Having a baby? Let’s get together, open pink or blue gifts, and try Aunt Pat’s cream cheese ball. Getting married? Let’s have a glass of tea, peruse a spread of engagement presents, and eat pimento cheese (this is also known as a “Sip n’ See”). Your favorite football team having a ball game? Come on over, I’ll tell you about the time I spilled the contents of a salad bar into the cuff of our ’92 national championship coach’s pants leg. And, let’s eat!

As fall is upon us, football has once again become all-consuming. I was born and raised around a team of crimson and white jerseys that symbolized everything great about our state- hard work, commitment, heart, legacy. For me though- besides the game, the roar of the crowd and being in one of my favorite stadiums in the world- the best part of football season is the pre and post-game eating.

This recipe for sausage wheels has been passed down through my family; I remember waking up on Saturday mornings to the smell of them. But let’s be honest- there isn’t much you can to to sausage and pie crust to make it taste better. My version just gives it more of a spicy kick, and ends with a sweet, smoky flavor that is absolutely addictive. Plus, I’m hoping the aforementioned kick can somehow serve as good luck for our special teams this Saturday.

You can serve these hot out of the oven; be warned that the sausage fumes may make your mind cloudy and cause unexplained overconsumption of pastries. Or, let them cool to room temperature and take them to the game (or your sofa). They also make a delicious post-game-night breakfast.

I hope you enjoy a beautiful, winning weekend- and that this recipe is good luck for your own tailgating tradition.

Jalapeño Sausage Wheels

What You Will Need

1 package pre-made pie crust (containing 2 pie crusts)

1 pound ground sausage

2 jalapeños, deseeded and minced (Thanks for the peppers mom!)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Sweet Heat spice

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

What You Will Do

1. Let your pie crusts come to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, combine the ground sausage, jalepenos, garlic, Sweet Heat, onion powder, and cumin.

3. Lightly flour your countertop or surface of choice (I love my Silpat for this) and gently roll out both pie crusts until they form about a 11 by 11 inch rectangle. No need to measure; I just make sure the dough looks like a large rectangle and is a bit thinner than when I first unrolled the crust.

4.  Divide the sausage mixture in half, and spread it evenly on each pie crust.

5. Here comes the fun part. Starting at the top of your rectangle (the side facing you) gently roll the dough away from you, creating a tight roll. Pull the dough tight as you roll, making sure your sausage mixture stays inside the dough roll. A loose roll will spill it’s contents onto your counter, and why let that tastiness go to waste?

6. Repeat the process for the second pie crust.

7. Once you have your two rolls ready, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour to help them firm up.

8. Preheat oven to 450. Go ahead and find your broiler pan and spray it generously with cooking spray; you will need it at the ready.

9. Take your rolls out of the freezer, and slice them into thin wheels (about 1/4 an inch to 1/2 inch). Arrange the sausage pinwheels about a 1/2 inch away from each other on the pan.

10. Bake for 15 minutes, then take your pan out of the oven and flip the wheels over; bake for another 10 minutes. Go team!

Dark Chocolate S’mores with Salted Peanut Butter

Some more s'mores

Some more s’mores

It’s Labor Day weekend, and you know what that means? That’s right- it’s time for s’mores!

For those of you living below the Mason Dixon line, the idea of roasting a marshmallow on a 95-degree afternoon using a open flame is about as appealing standing on the asphalt in your driveway wearing a down vest–and drinking hot chocolate.

Maybe it is the unbearable humidity, or my recent nostalgia for summer camp, or the fact that any excuse to sandwich a toasted marshmallow between chocolate crackers smeared in salty peanut butter is motivation enough, but s’mores are an essentially summer food. Despite the fact that you might have to (currently) sweat when you make them.

That is why this recipe involves marshmallows toasted inside (hallelujah for A/C and a broiler!); homemade peanut butter (whirred together with buttery roasted peanuts and honey); and graham crackers that will make you want to jump outside and start a s’mores caravan. Y’all- these turned out so good. The rich, dense graham cracker with sweet, roasted peanut goodness and melty marshmallow- so worth the sweltering effort.

And besides their taste, one of the best things about s’mores is that they always remind me that fall is on it’s way. Next time I make these I will probably add some chocolate chips to that peanut butter then go online and order a fancy down vest. Fall may be three weeks away. Yes, it’s a sweltering haze of frizzy hair outside. But watch out autumn, here we come- chocolate peanut butter s’mores in tow.

Some assembly required

Some assembly required

 

Dark Chocolate S’mores with Salted Peanut Butter*

What You Will Need:

For the graham crackers: This recipe was taken from one of my favorites, King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (2 ounces)  unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) honey
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold milk

 What You Will Do:

1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Cut out two sheets of parchment as large as your cookie sheets.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cocoa, sugar, and baking powder.

3. With a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until evenly crumbly.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and milk, stirring until the honey dissolves.

5. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and toss lightly with a fork until the dough comes together. (This took me a while, and for a bit I thought my dough would remain a shaggy mess. But just keep on stirring with a fork and it will come together! ) Add additional milk, if necessary (I thought I would need this at first but it ended up fine; stir for a bit to make sure you need it before you add it).

6. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and fold it over gently 10 to 12 times, until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time.

7. Transfer one piece of dough to a piece of parchment. Roll it into a rectangle a bit larger than 10 x 14 inches; the dough will be about 1/16-inch thick (Ok, my dough looked a bit more like a misshapen heart rectange. That’s fine! Just make sure you roll the dough out pretty thin- thinner than you will think you need. It should feel like if you lift it, it will tear). Trim the edges and prick the dough evenly with a fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and parchment. Place the rolled-out dough pieces, on their parchment, onto baking sheets. (Ok, let’s be honest- parchment paper is frustrating as mess if you don’t cut it perfectly. I cut mine long, put my cocoa container on the edge to weigh it down and rolled it out. This was also frustrating because it didn’t work that great either. So just work through it and I promise it’s worth it.)

8. Bake the crackers for 15 minutes, or until you begin to smell chocolate. Remove them from the oven, and immediately cut them into rectangles with a pizza wheel or knife. Transfer them to a rack to cool. The longer you let them cool, the crispier they get.

For the peanut butter: The recipe was adapted from the amazing Alton Brown and the Food Network

What You Will Need

2 cups shelled and skinned roasted peanuts (I had an incredible friend who gave me roasted peanuts as a gift that I used here)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

What You Will Do:

1. Place the peanuts, salt, and all of the honey into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

2. Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Process it until it smells roasted and when you look into the food processor the edges of the mixture are smooth. You also might have to scrape down the bottom of the bowl again and blend it for a bit longer to make sure it’s smooth.

3. Place the peanut butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. I made a sandwich/distributed this/used it on the s’mores in one night. I mourned it’s passing.

For the marshmallows: These were provided by the wonderful people at the Jet-Puffed factory.

*For the final product:  This recipe requires a very simple assembly, but I found it helpful to make the following elements in the following order: 1. Bake graham crackers. 2. Make peanut butter. 3. Set oven to broil. 4. Put marshmallows in oven, and while they are broasting (roasting in the broiler), spread peanut butter on graham crackers. 5. Take hot mallows out of the oven, use a spatula to gently place them on the prepped crackers, then sandwich between two grahams. Let the s’mores party begin!! 

Duck Fried Rice

Duck Fried Rice

The first time I ate duck, I ended up with a bullet in my lower molar.

After biting into a freshly sauteed slice, I chomped down on a silver piece of ammunition. The metallic taste rang through the back of my mouth, towards my tongue and up through my nose until I felt like the inside of my cheeks were lined with the barrel of a shot gun. My first thought was that I had broken a tooth. My second thought was that the small fowl my father had so eloquently shot in the backwoods of Alabama and/or Louisiana had not been sufficiently cleaned, leaving me with a very real reminder of the cause of its demise.

Not one to hide my disgust at an instance such as this, and acting in direct violation of my momma’s “Eat at least a scout bite of everything on your plate honey- its ruuude not to” I promptly spit the metal ball onto my plate; threw my elbows down on the table; and drank copious amounts of tea until my taste buds calmed and I came back to my senses.

For those of you giving me more credit than I deserve in the maturity realm, this happened while in the same age group I am currently (20’s), and thank-the-Lord only stopped me from eating duck for ohhh, about three months, until football season rolled around and dad was grilling bacon-wrapped cream cheese-and-jalepeno-stuffed meat kabobs.

What this experience did teach me, however, was that it’s ok to make mistakes in food- even when you are diligent and cooking for the ones you love. Hopefully, this fried rice recipe below almost 100% ensures that you will not be left with any culinary surprises.

These duck breasts are gently fried in coconut oil until the fat from their skin renders, then cut into thin strips and quick-fried again until crispy. The remaining fat magically seasons the fried rice and renders the onions soft and pliable admist bright peas and genlty wilted carrots. And in true LuvCooks style, a generous dollop of hot sauce is added to ensure the utmost interest and all-around spiciness.

So take a risk on duck- even better if it’s wild and shot by someone you love. Just make sure and check for lead projectiles beforehand. Your enamel will thank you.

Rice from above

Rice from above

Duck Fried Rice

What You Need:

2 large duck breasts (if your duck breasts are wild, marinate them for at least six hours and up to overnight in this)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 1/2 tablespoons duck fat (a result of the above rendering process)

3/4 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 package frozen peas

1 package frozen corn

2 carrots, skins peeled with a vegetable peeler until in thin strips

2 teaspoons chili paste

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

3 cups cooked jasmine rice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or several rounds on a pepper mill)

Generous squirt of honey, or to taste

Generous sprinkle of ginger powder, or to taste

What You Will Do:

1. Score each duck breast with a sharp knife, creating a criss-cross pattern on the outer skin. Apply salt and pepper liberally on both sides after scoring.*

2. Heat a pan on medium-low, then add 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Allow your duck to cook about eight minutes on one side, then flip them and cook for about seven more on the other, depending on how thick your cuts are. It’s perfectly ok if your duck is almost purple-red on the inside at this point. It’s always better to undercook duck than over cook (it gets rubbery), and we are going to slice it and cook it again, so no worries on a bit of an undercooked breast here.

3. Once your duck breasts are done, place them on a plate and tent with foil. Pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons of your gorgeous rendered  fat into a small bowl and put aside. Save the rest! Duck fat is incredible for many other uses- sautéing  vegetables, working into a gumbo, used as a base for fried potatoes. I might even make hot fudge out of it.

4. While the duck is under foil, bring a wok to high heat.

5. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons saved duck fat and chopped onion to the wok. Sautee for about three minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add garlic, and stir for about a minute, or until the garlic is barely light yellow.  Add corn, peas, and rice, quickly stirring to ensure even cooking of your veggies.

6. While your veggies are cooking, take your duck out of the foil and slice the meat off of the breasts into thin strips. It is very helpful to have a friend help you here, as I might have chopped my finger off if I had to do both of these things at once. But more than likely you have ninja-like knife skills and are more adept at multitasking than me.

6. Add the chili paste, soy and fish sauces, black pepper, and honey and ginger powder to taste. Good fried rice takes some tweaking, so taste and add as you like here. Pour the finished fried rice into bowls.

7. After you scoop out your rice, add about 1 tablespoon of duck fat into the wok, and throw duck strips back into the pan. Stir fry them for about 2 minutes, or until the strips are crispy and mid-to-dark brown on the edges.

8. Top the rice bowls with the duck and serve with Sriracha and extra soy sauce on the side.  Mr. Miyagi eat your heart out!

*If you are cooking wild-game style duck, first take your duck breasts out of the above marinade and dry them off well with a paper towel. Then proceed to the rest of step 1.

Bulletproof Iced Coffee

Nature's gift to early-risers

Nature’s gift to early-risers

I would by no means classify myself as a health nut. This is why my first “health food recipe” on LuvCooks involves coffee, butter, and oil, thank ya very much.

With the rising amounts of vega-fruitra-grain-free-atarians, recipes these days are getting more and more green, leafy, and nutritious- which is great!  If you love greens, leaves, and nutrients. Personally, I have never been drawn to a bunch of kale over a bunch of tater tots. I’ve also recently felt a twinge of responsiblity to present a more balanced food perspective on LuvCooks.

So, in that spirit, I present to you the best iced coffee ever.  Considering that my past attempts at iced coffee have resulted in a) dumping an entire plastic bowl of ice water on my floor, strewn with coffee grounds puddling at my ankles, b) liquid that turned the color of iced tea, and c) had the flavor profile of raw peanuts soaked in day-old espresso, I consider this recipe a serious blessing.

The melted butter in this hot, dark-roast goodness tastes like a heavenly latte, and the addition of healthy coconut oil (that is essentially what MCT oil is; I find myself struggling to actually say this ingredient because it sounds a bit like what you put in your windshield wiper dispensers) is imperceptible, even to the most nutrient-sensitive palate . Combine the liquid gold with ice, a bit of honey or stevia, and viola! Morning, afternoon, or midnight (if you are one of those Creative-night-owl types) refreshment.

And one last health tidbit. I duly promise NOT to bother you with nutrition facts, calorie counts, or diet ads. These annoy the stew out of me and take the joy out of eating. So let’s consume our iced coffee (with a side of brownie) in peace people. We promise to eat a salad tomorrow.

Bulletproof Iced Coffee

What You Will Need

2 heaping tablespoons freshly ground dark-roast coffee  (I like my coffee strong; like, it could scare a cowboy.)

1 cup (8 oz) filtered water

1 tablespoon unsalted grass-fed butter

1 tablespoon MCT oil

Plenty of ice

French press (or preferred coffee brewing method); blender

What You Will Do

1. Put your freshly ground coffee into a french press, then pour 8 ounces boiling water over it. Let steep for five minutes. Or, use whatever method you prefer to make your coffee delicious.

2. Once your hot coffee is pressed, pour it into a blender.  Add the butter and MCT oil.

3. Blend until your coffee looks like an amber milkshake. Taste it and see if you need to add honey or stevia; the sweeteners melt better at this stage than adding them in later.

4. Refrigerate the coffee for four hours to overnight.

5. Put plenty of crushed ice in the cup or mug of your choice (I prefer one with a Batman or Mason label). Pour your brew over the ice.  And if you aren’t into coffee that puts lighting into your veins, you can definitely add more water here.