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New York Style Jalapeno Pretzels

One thing I can’t resist when I go to the mall are those soft, buttery, pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. You know the ones, the smell hits you way before the pretzels come into view. They’re not the healthiest and covered in butter but they’re my little indulgence to get me through the next couple of hours of shopping. My favorite are the jalapeno pretzels so naturally I had to try my own version!

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These are more “New York style” pretzels rather than the chain’s version and much healthier too. No greasy, oily film covering them. I like the mall pretzels but something about making your own feels so much better eating!

pretzel-dough

These pretzels are soft and chewy and have just enough heat to keeps things interesting. They’re best when they’re fresh out of the oven and even better with spicy mustard!

soft-pretzel

You’re probably thinking “oh, I have no time for this”, but really, you do! With just a few simple ingredients to mix, a little time for the dough to rise and another few minutes for baking and voila, a New York style pretzel you didn’t have to travel all the way to city to get! That simple.

Jalapeno Soft Pretzel
makes 6-8 pretzels

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 tsp of dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter, salted
1 jalapeno, stem removed & chopped
2 tbsp baking soda
sea salt

1. Mix the first three ingredients and add warm water until mixture dissolves. Set aside until yeast mixture gets foamy.

2. In separate bowl mix flour and nutmeg then mix butter in with fork until mixture appears like crumble. Use fingers to mix if that’s easier.

3. Slowly add yeast mixture into flour and stir. Add chopped jalapeno peppers and mix with hands until you form a dough. Knead the dough until smooth and not sticky. Cover with plastic and let the dough rise for an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Cut dough into 6- 8 pieces and roll out each into a long log. Shape each into your desired shape and place on a oiled baking sheet. Let the dough rise again for another 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 45o. Add baking soda to a pot of water over high heat and let boil. Boil each pretzel, a couple at a time and set a rack to drain.

6. Sprinkle pretzels with sea salt and place back on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown.

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St Patrick’s Day Jalapeno and Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

Happy pre – St. Patrick’s Day!! Celebrate with these jalapeno and cheddar cornbread muffins for a spiced up morning. They’re playful, fun, easy to make and would look cute on your breakfast table. During the baking process the jalapeno slices transform into little shamrocks!

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Just slice an extra jalapeno and top each muffin before baking.

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The cornbread muffins will be just a little spicy since the fat in the cheese helps balance the heat.

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Perfect with a mug of coffee!

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I used regular cornbread mix which works for me! Its quick, it’s easy but if you have your own special corn muffin recipe go ahead and just mix in the jalapenos and the cheddar. Adjust your recipe if you add salt since the cheddar adds it’s own saltiness. Also, adding the cheese makes this recipe much more moist than a traditional cornbread recipe.

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and may the road always rise up to meet you!!

St Patrick’s Day Jalapeno & Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
2 jalapenos, 1 diced & the other sliced
1/4 cup white cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix all ingredients except the sliced jalapeno.

2. Grease a muffin pan and pour cornbread mix into molds. Top each muffin with a jalapeno slice and bake for 20-25 minutes.

3. For a sweeter option, drizzle a little honey over the tops as they’re cooling.

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Comfort Foods: Spicy Soups from Around the World

Five spicy soups I’ve been wanting to make and now is the time! The weather here has been a little strange which has become the norm these days. One day its in the 20’s then it shoots up to 60 then back down to the 30s! Who can dress for this weather? Well one thing is for sure, Winter is here to stay for a while so stock up on your veggies and spices and let’s take a world soup journey. First up is an American nod to Mexico, then a tour of Asia and finally a pit stop in the sunny Caribbean…we can dream can’ t we? So get comfy in your over-sized sweater and thick wool socks and curl up to these awesome spicy soup recipes.

1. Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup from A Beautiful Mess. I can just taste the silky smooth sweet potato balanced with the spicy, smokey chipotle and looks so easy to make!

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

2. Indian Spiced Chicken Turmeric Soup from Spicie Foodie. I love Indian spice flavors and this soup is healthy and good for you. Studies show that turmeric has cancer fighting properties so get your fill here.

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3. Yunnan Beef Stew from Lady and Pups. Just look at it, how can you resist this delicious bowl of short ribs, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and mint? Soul soothing!

4. Korean Spicy Green Onion Beef Soup, Yuk Gae Jahng from Week of Menus. This is my go to soup when ever I go to little Korea in NYC. This soup is peppery, bold and heart warming.

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5. Jamaican Pepper Pot Stew from My Wooden Spoons. This soup is gorgeous and just waiting to be devoured! Add a scotch bonnet pepper to the pot for extra heat!

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Meatless Monday: Buttery Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts! They used to be the vegetable I avoided until a friend of mine made me try them years ago. I always thought they would taste like cabbage, which I’m not a fan of, but they were surprisingly different and only resemble cabbage in appearance. Brussel sprouts are nutty, buttery, nutritious and so filling. They are the perfect accompaniment to grilled meats and seafood but can also be enjoyed alone. They are also one of the healthiest of vegetables, packed with all sorts of nutrients.

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Brussel sprouts are high in protein and fiber, low in calories and loaded with anti-oxidants to help protect against heart disease and cancers. Also, according to doctors and nutritionist, adding a little extra kick from spices will also help rev up your metabolism.  Sometimes I will have these after getting home late from a good work out at the gym. They are light, and quick and easy to make. They are so tasty there is really no reason not to add them to your diet.

Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb brussel sprouts
1-2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
dash of salt & pepper

1. Rinse the brussel sprouts in water and peel off a layer or two and cut each in half. Heat up a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add butter. As butter is melting toss in brussel sprouts and stir.

2. Add the garlic, pepper flakes and the salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes until the brussel sprouts are tender and nicely browned.

Enjoy in a bowl with a glass of white wine!

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Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja: Spicy Shredded Beef Over Rice

We got over a foot of snow here in Jersey on Friday and heard the Connecticut area got it far worse than us with over three feet of snow! I can’t imagine having to dig out of all that snow! I went out to shovel during the storm just to get a head start so shoveling the next day wasn’t too bad. This is some serious back breaking work but the best part is coming back inside to warm up and relax to a warm and hearty meal. I have always loved snowy days for this, knowing my Mom would have a hot meal for us after a day of snow angels, igloos and snowmen. Today I still want to play in it but instead do the necessary clean up, clear the car, slush around the city in my comfy boots and puffy coat, watch my dog hop around like a little bunny (he hates the snow!), then come back inside for an awesome meal. And I can do all this with my awesome slow cooker without having to fuss too much in the kitchen.

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So while you’re out playing, shoveling, organizing your cupboards or what ever you do when you’re snowed in, make this wonderful spicy dish popular in many Latin American homes. Ropa Vieja, or old clothes, is a well spiced, boldly flavored shredded beef dish served over white rice. It’s the comfort food I crave during cold, snowy days like these. This isn’t a dish that’s high on the heat index and most restaurants will serve a hot sauce on the side but I like mine spicy and have turned up the heat in this recipe.

This is one easy recipe where you pretty much just toss everything in and let the slow cooker do its thing. Before you do that though add the onions first. Having the onions on the bottom helps “prop” up the beef and ensures it does not stick to the bottom of the cooker and burn.

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I used this older slow cooker because my roast was only two pounds but the more modern cookers may have a built-in rack. If that’s the case then you don’t need to add the onions first. Add the remaining ingredients and set the slow cooker on high until the meat is fork tender.

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The meat will release a lot of juices but will eventually burn off during the cooking process so if you are like me and like a saucier dish, just add a little water and tomato paste. Just make sure you taste it to ensure the seasoning is right for you.

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Once the beef has finished cooking, remove from the slow cooker and onto a cutting board for shredding. After you have shredded the meat with a fork just add it back to the slow cooker and stir well.

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You can serve the beef over rice, have it with plantains or make a sandwich, this is a dish that will pretty much go with anything. Any leftovers can be frozen if you are not planning on having it within a week.

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Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes) – Spicy Shredded Beef

2 lbs chuck roast or flank steak, cut in half
4 small onions, quartered
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1/2 cup cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 oz can tomato sauce
2 chipotles in Adobo sauce
1 tbsp Adobo
1 tsp oregano

1. Turn on your slow cooker and add the onions to the pot.

2. Rinse the chuck roast and add to slow cooker so it rests on top of onions. Cutting roast in half will speed up the cooking time. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover the slow cooker

3. Cook on high setting for 4-5 hours or until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

4. Transfer the roast to a shallow pan or cutting boarding and pull the meat apart with a fork.

5. Add the meat back to the slow cooker and mix well with the remaining juices. If meat isn’t saucy enough you can fill the 4oz can with water and add to meat. Add a little more Adobo seasoning if needed to adjust to your tastes.

6. Serve shredded beef over cooked white rice.

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Roasted Shishito Peppers With Habanero Infused Olive Oil

I love a good roasted chile pepper, especially one you can just pop in your mouth for a quick and easy snack! These Japanese Shishito peppers aren’t spicy but sometimes you bite into one that really surprises you. You might get a few out of a bunch that are spicy hot but that’s the interesting part, the flavors balance out and deliver a kick when you least expect it!

The Shishito pepper is bright green and is easily recognized by it’s wrinkled finger-like shape.

Roasted they’re great as an appetizer, just sprinkle a little sea salt! I drizzled a habanero infused olive oil just for more heat but not too much so as to not mask the flavor of the peppers. Pair it with an ice cold Pilsner or Lager for a game day snack.

You can also chop these up and toss with a salad, top a pizza, add to your omelet, so many options!

Roasted Shishito Peppers

Dozen Shishito peppers
Habanero infused olive oil
Sea salt

Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and toss around. Place peppers on aluminum foil or a cookie sheet and broil for a couple minutes each side. Make sure you keep an eye on them since they roast fairly quickly. Sprinkle a dash or two of sea salt and eat right away.

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Spicy Dishes To Warm You Up This Fall

Here are a few hearty, spicy recipes to keep you nice and toasty this Fall. These are all in queue once I get back from vacation. What are your favorite Fall dishes?

1. Chicken and Brisket Brunswick Stew from My Recipes

2. Short-Rib Beef Stew with Ale from Simply Recipes

3. Gobi Manchurian – Fried Cauliflower from Sinfully Spicy

4. Spicy Moroccan Shrimp from Yum Sugar

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Easy Weekday Dinner: Spicy Kale with Turkey Kielbasa

I started working out again about a month ago to try and shed a few pounds packed on in the last six months. I’m not a big fan of working out but it’s a necessary evil if you love to eat like me! Actually, its the gyms and treadmills that I don’t like and prefer any outdoor activities. Also my trip to Argentina and Chile is fast approaching so that’s even more motivation to get in shape! Yes, I’m taking a trip soon so let me know if there are any great food places to try in Buenos Aires, or in the Santiago, Chile area.

So part of the plan is to make more low or no-carb dishes for dinner. Low carb meals are so much better for your digestive system if you’re going to eat late. Try to have heavier meals during the day so you’ll have the rest of the day to use those carbs for energy. Besides, who wants to go to bed feeling full and bloated anyway?

I made this spicy kale dish with turkey kielbasa because I knew it was quick and easy to make. I’m usually starving after a good workout so anything I can make under 30 minutes is fine by me. This dish may not look like much but its so filling. Kale is a hearty, leafy green that’s got a nice crunch even when cooked down a bit and the kielbasa will add the much needed protein after a tough workout.

Kale and Kielbasa

The kielbasa gives this kale a nice smokey flavor similar to what ham-hocks do for collard greens but this is a little healthier with the turkey kielbasa.

Kale and kielbasa in broth

The extra added spices will help boost your metabolism as well which is another benefit of spicy foods. This dish is healthy, gluten free and the kale provides disease fighting antioxidants too. Kale also packs a healthy dose of fiber, vitamin A, calcium and beta-carotene, it’s up there with broccoli as one of the super foods!! If you’ve never had it before give it a try with this easy dish.

spicy kale and kielbasa in a bowl

Spicy Kale and Turkey Kielbasa

1/2 lb of Kale, or half of 16oz bag
1 link of kielbasa, sliced thick
2 cherry chile peppers, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp chile pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Add washed and rinsed kale to an enamel pot and turn heat up to medium. Let kale sweat for a couple of minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Let kielbasa and kale cook for about 10-15 minutes.

You can serve this as a side dish as well, just serve a little less. Enjoy!

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Wordless Wednesday: Spicy Shrimp Dishes

I’m starting my Wordless Wednesday series with a few words… Every so often I come across amazing recipes, meals or styled feasts that just leave me, well speechless. These are the ones that inspire and make you want to pull out that mixer you haven’t used in ages, buy ingredients you normally wouldn’t stock or just simply make you drool! You know, the ones that just make you say *sigh*.

So every Wednesday I’ll be posting recipes from other great home cooks or professional chefs that inspire me to pull out my apron…yes, I have one, or two and hope you’re inspired too!

Shrimp Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce from Closet Cooking

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Crostini from Whipped Baking

Bloody Mary Shrimp Cocktail from Kitchen Runway

Shrimp Ceviche from Muy Bueno

Spicy Firecracker Shrimp from Picture the Recipe

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Spicy Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich made with Slowcooker Pork Roast

This is another dish I made with the pernil (pork roast) I made the other day. The thing about making roasts is either you better have several people around to help eat it all or be prepared to have it for days. I ate it for about 3 days straight then I froze some and gave some away. I still have some in the freezer for a pozole that I want to make. A couple of days ago I showed you the spicy pork tacos I made and here is the spicy pulled pork BBQ hero. I was so excited I forgot to take a nice picture for you so here it is after I bit into it! Newbie blogger mistake but you get the picture, right?

Once you make the roast, everything else is so easy. I basically took a fork to a nice chunk of meat and shredded it. I added my favorite BBQ sauce, Brothers Gold BBQ sauce, added a little extra hot sauce and that was it! This would make a great weekday dinner with a side salad, actually, it would be great anytime!

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
Pork Roast, pulled apart
Brothers Gold BBQ sauce
2 tsp Cholula hot sauce

Mix pork, BBQ sauce, hot sauce and pile on a crusty roll, done.

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