Archive for the ‘Dinner Divas’ Category

Texas caviar

For my second selection for Dinner Divas (see below for my first), I chose this Texas caviar recipe. If you are not familiar with Texas caviar, it is essentially a black-eyed pea salsa. I thought it was very appropriate to make these black-eyed peas during the first week of the new year, since they’re supposed to be eaten on New Year’s Day for luck. This dip is so delicious! We could not stop eating it. I will definitely be making this again as a side or appetizer in the future. I made a few changes from the original, so feel free to check the link if you want to see the recipe that claims to be from the “Cowgirl Hall of Fame.” Note that this recipe is one that definitely needs to sit in the fridge overnight for the flavors to marry. I couldn’t believe how different it tasted when we went to eat it than it had when I made it and tasted to check the seasoning the day before.

Texas caviar

Adapted from: Epicurious



1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

3 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced, green part only

½ Tbsp. hot sauce (I use Cholula)

½ Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

6 pickled jalapeño chile slices, finely chopped

1 firm, ripe, chopped tomato

Vinaigrette (the original recipe just called for this without specifying, so I whisked together about 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, salt, and a generous dash of ground cumin with 3-4 Tbsp. of olive oil)

½ fresh red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced



Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and fold together with a spatula until well combined. Refrigerate overnight, in a covered container. Serve with saltine crackers or corn tortilla chips.


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Chicken sausage stew

For December, I was selected to choose the recipes for Dinner Divas. The only problem was, between finals, finishing up work, and being out of town for 11 days, it took me until early Jan. to actually cook the recipes I’d chosen! However, I have made them both now, and I am happy to report that they were both very good (Texas caviar to be posted shortly). The people choosing the recipes each month are supposed to choose one Food Network recipe and one non-FN recipe. For my FN recipe, I chose this stew from Dan and Steve (the original Next Food Network Star winners).

This stew is very smooth and velvety from all the flour. I used only 1/3 the amount of butter the original recipe called for (a ridiculous 10 Tbsp.!) and found it to be plenty rich. The most interesting thing about this stew, however, was the addition of fresh fennel and orange zest. These ingredients gave it a flavor much different from the average stew and also very different from what you’d think it would taste like just looking at it. It was very tasty and we both enjoyed it. Rather than mixing in the oven-roasted potatoes from the recipe as they suggest, I topped it with oven fries, resting them on top to keep them crispy. The potatoes were a great addition, but the stew would also be very good with a scoop of basmati rice. I’ll definitely keep this recipe around.

Dan and Steve’s Chicken and Sausage Stew

Adapted from: The Hearty Boys, Food Network


3 tablespoons butter (I reduced this from the original 10!)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 2 -inch chunks (I used 1.65 pounds)

Salt and pepper

8 ounces andouille sausage, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced

½ Tbsp. dried thyme

5 cups chicken stock

Zest of one orange (I did a lazy job of getting all the zest and it was still plenty orange-y)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white wine

Oven roasted potatoes (see below)




1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Just before the butter begins to brown, add the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the andouille and cook 2 more minutes. Remove the meat to a plate and reserve.

2. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in the same pot (do not drain meat juices from pot). Add the onion, garlic, carrot, fennel, and thyme and cook over medium heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.

3. As the vegetables cook, pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.

4. When the vegetable mixture is ready, add the orange zest to the pot along with the reserved meat and any accumulated juices. Mix well. Sprinkle in the flour in batches and stir to coat the vegetables and meat. Cook 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir.  Add the warm chicken stock to the pot 1 cup at a time, stirring as the stock is added. Once all of the stock has been added, bring the stew to a simmer for 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with potatoes, and serve.


Oven potato wedges

Preheat oven to 425. Cut one small Yukon gold potato per person into 8 wedges. On a lightly greased baking sheet, toss potatoes with enough olive oil to coat, plus salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Arrange in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping wedges over after 20 minutes.

Thanks to Ashlee at “A Year in the Kitchen” for providing the proper potato wedge cooking temperature and time in her blog.

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The next Dinner Divas recipe is a Giada recipe for vegetable bolognese. I really enjoyed this sauce. You have to be a mushroom lover to enjoy it, though, which my husband and I both are. It’s really quick, too – you could easily make this on a weeknight. The main change I made was to use creme fraiche instead of mascarpone. I think mascarpone can be too sweet at times, plus I probably wouldn’t have found a use for the second half of the tub and it would have gone to waste. At first, I thought of substituting heavy cream, but when I saw that there was a substantial amount of wine in the sauce, I figured it would curdle. Luckily, the stars aligned and the week I decided to make this was also the week that my regular grocery store decided to start carrying creme fraiche. If you don’t know what creme fraiche is, it’s not as fancy as it sounds. It’s a slightly soured cream, kind of like sour cream, but not nearly as sour and not quite as firm. The awesome advantage of it is that you can add it cold to a hot sauce, even one containing an acid like wine, and it won’t curdle. I thought it made for a perfect substitution in this dish.

Other changes: I used fresh tri-colored linguine instead of dried rigatoni. I used dried thyme and oregano in place of fresh, simply because I can’t ever use up a whole package of those fresh herbs (maybe next year when I have a garden), and I added sliced basil for extra freshness.

This dish was a great way to transition into fall cooking on a day that was cold and rainy from the remnants of Hurricane Faye.

Adapted from: Giada deLaurentiis, Food Network

Tri-Colored Pasta with Vegetable Bolognese


1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 cups hot water

2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

½ large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced into pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½  teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

3 oz. crème fraiche

12 oz. package fresh tri-colored pasta (a pound would be a better fit for the amount of sauce, but the fresh pasta never seems to come in 1 lb. packages)

Large handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin

1/4 cup parmesan



1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 ½ cups very hot tap water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften for 30 minutes.

2. Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Process the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.

3. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Slice any porcinis that are too large. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced somewhat, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in crème fraiche and half of the sliced basil and stir to incorporate.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and serve in shallow bowls topped with sauce. Garnish with remaining basil and parmesan.


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bacon, gorgonzola-stuffed chicken burger, avocado, tomato, spinach w/ homemade dressing

For those who don’t know, I frequent a cooking message board. Recently, two of the other women on there came up with a cooking group. Their concept was that the group would select 2 recipes a month and people participating could adapt them as much or as little as they liked and then blog them to share the experience. The group is called Dinner Divas. The first recipe came out last week and I was excited to try it – Bobby Flay’s Cobb Chicken Burger from Food Network. The recipe is pretty straightforward, so I won’t list it here – I will just talk about the changes I made. I personally hate when gourmet burgers fall apart because they are so loaded up, so most of my changes went towards making it easier to eat.

– I stuffed the burgers with the cheese (I used gorgonzola) rather than trying to melt it on top. I think this was an improvement for sure – it made it easier to eat, and the cheese was meltier :).

– I used spinach instead of romaine, but I did still shred it because shredded is best on a burger.

– I made the vinaigrette a little creamy by adding a combination of mayo and olive oil for the fat rather than just the olive oil it calls for. I did this for 2 reasons – first, my husband and I both like mayo on our burgers, and second, I think something cobb salad-inspired should have a creamy dressing.

– I smashed the avocado just a little bit so that it would stay on the burger better.

– I toasted the buns – that’s always a must.

These came out so great. They were still a little hard to eat, but the flavors were awesome. They took a lot more than 10 minutes to cook on my indoor grill, though (more like 18), so that’s something for the other city apartment-dwellers to keep in mind. Luckily, the cheese inside helped keep the chicken super juicy until it was done. This one is a keeper – thanks Dinner Divas!

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