Monday, February 27, 2012

Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Yeah, I know.... not everyone is a brussels sprout fan.  I hear it all the time... someone's mother forced them to eat their brussels sprouts before they could leave the dinner table, therefore, leaving an everlasting fear and disgust of these little buggers in their mind. I have to ask, is that really true? Were there that many mother's out there that did this or is it an old wives tale? 

Either way, I am here to tell you... GET OVER IT! They are crispy, crunchy, and are a wonderful vegetable side dish. In fact, of all the vegetable side dishes that I cook this one is the LEAST boring. There is so much you can do with brussels sprouts and their flavor is divine! I am here as an advocate on their behalf... they deserve another chance.

Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Serves: Two

1 package pancetta (about 2 -3 ounces)
18-25 medium brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/4 Cup  extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion; chopped 
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat a large saute pan and then add the oil and pancetta. Cook until it is lightly crispy, about ten minutes. Remove from and set aside.

Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add butter and swirl to melt. Add brussels sprouts and 2 tablespoons of water.

Saute over medium heat until brussels sprouts are tender and bright green, about six to eight minutes.  

Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Fold in the reserved pancetta and toss to coat.

Serve immediately.

Look at that scrumptious color! If this recipe doesn't make a believer out of you, then fine. Go on without loving these little green goddesses... but, if by chance, you tried this and it changed your opinion of them then please let me know!

Have a great week!
Kristen @ The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

My mother-in-law-to -be bravely battles the frigid temperatures of Alaska each year and has been begging me to post about a creamy tomato soup as it is her "comfort" food for cold winters. (Side note: Why is it considered crazy to live through MN winters but "cool" to live in extreme AK winters? ) Any who... tomato soup is a basic staple that everyone should have a recipe for no matter where it is you spend your winter months.

I must admit, I debated back and forth on whether to make a creamy version or make a chunky brothy version. I first found Barefoot Contessa's recipe and used it as a base. I immediately found my vision and decided a classic cream version was where I was headed... but it wouldn't be an ordinary version. I wanted heat, lots of heat and big bold deep flavors.... and I accomplished it.

Now, the only thing I will say about this soup is that to acquire the right texture you must put it in a food processor and let it go... for quite awhile. An emulsion blender won't handle this the way I wanted it to, so keep that in mind. In all honesty, Todd told me that this was the "best soup he had every had" and that was BEFORE I blended it, so for those of you daring... leave it without the cream and food processing for a chunky vegetable tomato soup. (I may post this version later as it was quite good!) 

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
Serves: 10-12

3 tablespoons good olive oil
This is what the chunky broth like version looked like prior to
being pureed. Todd insisted this, as it was, was a perfect tomato soup.
 I disagreed and kept going..
1 1/2 cups chopped white onions (2 onions)
3 celery stocks, chopped
 2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
2 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 Lb Canned Whole Peeled Tomatoes
2 large jalapenos; chopped (optional)
3 14.5 ounce cans of Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves,
3 cups chicken stock, or chicken flavored vegetable stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2-3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Julienned basil leaves, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery, jalapenos, and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken /vegetable stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

Add the cream to the soup and process it in the food processor. (This may take some time.) Then, pour through mesh strainer for that ultimate texture. Reheat the soup over low heat just until hot and serve with julienned basil leaves and/or Parmesan cheese.

*Note: Ms. Ina Garten recommends using fresh tomatoes and processing through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds from the base. I don't have a food mill, and I didn't have skin on tomatoes... but I do recommend using a food mill or strainer for this soup if an ultra smooth texture if what you desire. If tomatoes were in season, I definitely would have used fresh but at this time of the year... why bother? Canned are almost better.

This is the final spicy, creamy version...and it was so GOOD!
I served it with a Fontina grilled cheese on 9 grain bread and topped it with Bacon,
Arugula,Tomato, and a dallop of spciy mayo.
That's it! How easy, right?
Enjoy... we are in the final 5 weeks of winter!


Source: Barefoot Contessa "Back to Basics" and also found here at

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chubby Hubby Cookies

I am going to assume that everyone knows about Ben and Jerry's wonderful Chubby Hubby ice cream. I know what they say about assuming, but seriously... if you haven't tried this stuff you haven't lived. It is the best and that is where the inspiration for these cookies originally came from.

In my world, the only thing better than a sweet treat is a salty snack. You put together both and magic happens. Yes, MAGIC! You might be thinking, "salty and sweet in a cookie?" Don't question it... just do it!

That being said, this cookie beautifully exemplifies the best of both worlds. The pretzels add that salty crunchy texture while the chocolate chips balance the sweetness and make for a wonderful treat. The pretzels don't get mushy... if that's what you're thinking. Don't question the ingredients... just whip them together and question later!

Chubby Hubby Cookies
Makes: 3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar 

1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 white chocolate OR peanut butter chips (I had white chocolate on hand and they turned out great!)
3/4 cup crushed pretzel sticks 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer attached with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Sift flour and baking soda together. Beat into batter on low speed. Stir in peanut butter and mix until incorporated. Next, stir in chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and crushed pretzels.

Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a small scoop) onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 11 to 13 minutes until golden on the bottom and just set in the middle. Cool on wire racks. 

While in the middle of  making these Todd walked up to me and asked me if I would stop putting his jeans in the dryer because he noticed they have been shrinking. It struck me as ironic being that I was baking "Chubby Hubby" cookies. Todd is no-where near chubby, but inside it made me giggle a bit. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I never put his jeans in the I just smiled and re-reassuringly told him I would.

I wish you all a wonderful week!

Source: Adapted from Food Buzz

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Here it is again.... the weekend! I just love, love, love my weekends! 

During the week, I am like everyone else in the fact that I want a tasty yet simple meal that can be put together in 20 to 30 minutes. On weekends though, my life is quite different. When Todd and I are at home with no plans, we both love to find a delectable recipe that takes all day to make and get to "work." A lot of these recipes don't require a ton of work or effort, but do require a long slow roast, such as this pork recipe. In no way is this recipe complicated, but the long slow cooking process makes this recipe tender, moist, and all around a great pulled pork recipe. It is now going to most likely be our staple "go to" pulled pork.

Okay, here we go...

Start off by getting yourself a NICE cut of pork butt. It's not really butt, but they call it butt. It's actually a pork shoulder roast and it may also be called that on the package. This recipe is great for a crowd, so I would go with a 6 Lb. roast or cut the entire recipe in half if you're planning to serve two and have a bunch of left overs. 

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork
Serves: A bunch

2-3 large yellow onions (adjust accordingly if you don't love onions)
1/2 Jalapeno; chopped
1 whole pork "butt" (also called pork shoulder roast; approx. 6-7 Lbs.)
3 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 ( 7 oz.) cans of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce. 
2 cans of regular Dr. Pepper
2 Tablespoons brown sugar 

Preheat the oven to 300°F

Peel the onion into large wedges and spread them on the bottom of your dutch oven. Add chopped jalapeno on top of the onions.

Pour both cans of Dr. Pepper over the onions and chopped jalapenos.

There it is... my big ole' red pot (and Todd's hands!)
Generously season all sides of the pork butt roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and set on top of the onions.

Pour both cans of the chipotle peppers over the pork (including the sauce from the cans.) 

Place lid on top of dutch oven and set in the oven. Let cook for about six hours, turning the roast two times during the cooking process. Remove from oven and pull apart with fork. It will easily fall into pieces. 

Remove pork from dutch oven and on a cutting board, shred the pork, removing the excess fat as you go. Strain as much fat off the top of the cooking liquid as well.  Return the pork to the liquid and let it soak up those wonderful flavors until you're ready to serve.

 If you're making this the night before, you can refrigerate the meat and liquid SEPARATELY. The following morning, remove fat from the cooking liquid as it will be hardened on top top after refrigerating. Slowly heat the remaining juices and add pork back in. Let warm for about an hour before you plan to serve. 

Look at those juices! Mmmmm... Mouthwatering!

After years of working at a BBQ restaurant, there is no doubt in my house that a pork sandwich must be served "Memphis style" with coleslaw on top of it. The coleslaw can be any combination you desire...but that sweet acidity must be there. My two most recent favorites when it comes to coleslaw was this version of a spicy mustard style from or this apple pineapple one from All Recipes!

Serve on toasted hoagie buns and top with your favorite coleslaw for one of the most flavorful pork sandwiches you will ever have. Seriously... these are mouthwatering. Keep in mind though... they are SPICY!

I must say... I think this would also work well with any beef roast or chicken. Give it a try and let me know the results!

Have a great weekend!
Kristen and Todd @ The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: A slighly modified version of this original Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Peanut Butter Brownie Bars

I go back and forth with baking. I always love to do it but there are times, (after multiple failures,) that I feel I am just not very good at it. I must admit, I have WAY more failures while baking versus cooking and just when I think I am going to give it up completely I come across a gold mine of a recipe.

After completely under cooking an entire batch of cupboard cookies (Note to self: buy new cookie sheets because they were the problem. It was not my lack of enthusiasm of baking that day!) I was completely baffled that after almost 10 years baking I could under-cook cookies? But to be honest... these things just happen and mistakes are often made. I was 100% re-assured that I can bake after making these quite delicious, can't stop eating them peanut butter brownie bars.

Peanut Butter Brownie Bars
Makes: Approx. 24 small bars. 

1 19.5 ounce box of brownie mix
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola oil
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3/4 Cup chocolate covered peanuts
1/2 Cup Butterscotch chips
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 Cup crunchy peanut butter 

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 
13 x 9 x 2 baking pan and set aside
In the bowl of your electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine brownie mix, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Beat until combined. Stir in peanuts and butterscotch chips.

In a separate bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter in a medium bowl until smooth.

To assemble the bars, spoon half of the brownie mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Put in freezer to allow to set for about 5-10 minutes. Next, add the peanut butter/milk mixture to the top of the brownie mixture. Freeze for another 5-10 minutes to harden the layer of peanut butter filling. Top with the remaining mixture of brownies.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes until center of brownies are "set" and the edges are lightly browned. Cool completely in pan before removing. Cut into small or large sized bars and enjoy!

Happy baking!
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Inspired by My Baking Addiction's Peanut Butter Buckeye Bars

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Top Ten Food Picks for the Big Game

Even if you are not a lover of football, or don't have a team to route for, Superbowl Sunday is a great "holiday" to celebrate time with good friends and good food.

Here is a list of my top ten game day foods ranging from appetizers to meals. I hope you have a fantastic weekend cooking, baking, hosting, and enjoying your time however you see fit.

#1 - Tomato and Basil Baked Egg Cups
Okay, so we know the game doesn't start until the evening, but why not start the day off with a really good base. (After all, I am sure if your a die hard football fan, the coverage starts early enough!)

#2 - Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta
This oh so easy yet wonderfully packed with flavor brushcetta is my all-time go-to appetizer. It is a simple must on any get together menu.

#3 - Jalapeno Popper Dip
Nothing screams man food like jalapeno poppers and putting it all together in a dip makes it super easy! Make this for the boys... and you will soon realize there just isn't enough for them. Trust me, you won't want to share!

#4 - Chipotle Bacon Deviled Eggs
Let's face it, deviled eggs are good. No matter how many parties you see them at, you want to eat one. Now, the only thing to make any dish better? BACON! These will reign supreme on the big day and will be gone in a flash! If you like spice... add more for extra kick!

#5- Honey Glazed Prosciutto Wrapped Sea Scallops
Surprise your guests with individually skewered prosciutto wrapped scallops... or make a meal for you and your guests. This extremely light, healthy seafood option is surely not short on flavor.

#6 - White Chicken Chili 
Shy away from traditional tomato-based beef chili and give this lighter version of chicken chili a try. You won't disappoint your guests... or your waist line.

#7 - Beef Brisked with Slow-Cooked Vegetables
A one pot meal sure to light up your guests eyes. Although this doesn't serve a large crowd, it's a perfect dish for a low key evening. 

#8 -Tangy Glazed Chicken
Deterred by the game being a late one? No problem. Stay in, snuggled up, and make yourself a nice and healthy but filling meal. In fact, this chicken is so good you will not be sorry you stayed in!

#9 - Oven Roasted Vegetables
Need an incredibly healthy and to die for side to dish to accompany the above chicken? Stay on your diet track with roasted vegetables. 

#10 - Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Have a big crock full of slow-cooker pork, beef, or chicken? I can't blame you because it's a game day staple to make slow-cooker sandwiches.  Instead of serving chips this year, serve "fries" on the side!

I hope you all have a fantastic day cheering for your team, watching commercials, and throwin back a few beers. Happy tailgating!

Please, please let me know what you are making! I would LOVE to hear it! 

-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Beef Brisket with Slow-Roasted Vegetables

Having been a server for many years at a range of restaurants through my twenties, I learned all about the serving AND cooking part of the industry. I worked at a kaleidoscope of restaurants ranging from American, fine Italian dining and classic barbecue. It was all of those places that made me fall in love with beef brisket. This super moist, tender, and flavorful cut of beef is also one of the leanest available. What is there not to love?

Although I had seen this beautiful cut of beef prepared multiple times, I had never dared to re-create this wonderfulness at home. Why? Well... because as Todd says, "Meat is HIS thing." Although I really love to cook anything... he takes sincere pride in all things meaty. So... I let him have it and the end result was WONDERFUL!

Make sure to have enough time. I don't recommend trying to speed up the cooking process as the slower it cooks, the better the more tender the meat is. On that not, read below and give it a shot some Saturday or Sunday afternoon and then come tell me all your thoughts about it!

Beef Brisket with Slow-Roasted Vegetables
Serves: Four to Six

1 (3 pound) beef brisket, first-cut
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon of Herbes de Provence from Golden Fig (*See note)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 large carrots, cut in 4-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, cut in 4-inch chunks
6 new potatoes, quartered
1 julienned yellow pepper
1 julienned red pepper, diced
3 large yellow onions, halved
2 cups dry red wine
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, hand-crushed

A good close up of the fresh ingredients he started with.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 

On a cutting board, mash the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, garlic powder, and onion powder together with the flat-side of a knife into a paste. Add the Herbes de Provence seasoning and continue to mash until incorporated. Put the garlic-seasoning paste in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; stir to combine.

Season both sides of the brisket with a fair amount of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Place a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-high flame and coat with the remaining olive oil. Put the brisket in the roasting pan and sear to form a nice brown crust on both sides.

Lay the vegetables all around the brisket and pour the rosemary paste over the whole thing.

Add the wine and tomatoes. Cover the pan tightly with cover and transfer to the oven.

I even let him use the good wine.

Bake for about 3 to 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes. Scoop the vegetables out of the roasting pan and onto a platter, cover to keep warm. Pour out some of the excess fat, and put the roasting pan with the pan juices on the stove over medium-high heat. Boil and stir for 5 minutes until the sauce is reduced by 1/2. (If you want a thicker sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of wine or water and blend into the gravy).

Look at that pan of roasted deliciousness!!

Slice the brisket across the grain (the muscle lines) at a slight diagonal.

*Note: I am in no way affiliated with Golden Fig but do frequently purchase their spice blends at Macy's and really like them. If you can not find this, please substitute 1/4 teaspoon of each of the following:
lavender, rosemary, fennel, marjoram, green peppercorns, basil, tarragon, orange peel & crushed bay leaves

Happy slow-roasting! 
-The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: A modified version of  Tyler Florence's version on Food Network