American, Bakery, Baking Recipes, bread, Uncategorized

Pretzel Focaccia

Wow, it has been awhile! Hey hey readers, thanks for showing up to this blog post today! It’s a special one…I made bread! I’ve never worked with active dry yeast before, never baked bread before so it was all a learning curve!

This Pretzel Focaccia from Bon Appétit came out just in time for the Super Bowl earlier this month. Focaccia is a type of Italian flat bread that uses a lot of olive oil and is flavored with different herbs. If you’re a Samin Nosrat fan then you probably have heard about her focaccia recipe that involves a salt water brine that you splash on top of the bread. Highly recommend this focaccia video of Samin with my personal favorite Brad Leone from the BA Test Kitchen!

This focaccia by editor at large Amiel Stanek is everything you expect from a basic focaccia with the addition of a baking soda solution instead of salt water. This chemical reaction creates that super browned exterior and “bitter twang” that you get from a pretzel.

The dough was really easy to work with and this was a great first bread experience. It’s not overly complicated, you just bake it in one sheet and don’t have to worry about shaping the dough or anything. My first mistake was using crappy plastic wrap! When I left the dough to proof the plastic didn’t cling well so a bit of a crust formed when I started to work with it. It wasn’t awful and didn’t ruin anything, but be sure you have good plastic wrap!

The dough was fun to work with and even more fun to bake! When you add the baking soda solution, DO NOT BE ALARMED. It’ll start to bubble when first creating the solution and when you go to brush it on the bread it’ll start bubbling and hissing in the oven. Do not worry, this is part of the reaction, nothing bad is happening!

My only complaint with the final product is that I didn’t bake it enough. I did that thing where you think it’s brown on the bottom, so you take it out and then realize it isn’t done so you try to put it back in but then that doesn’t really work either. Be sure to really let the bottom brown and pry the bottom a little to check. The top will deceive you because it gets so crispy and brown from the “pretzel” part of the recipe, but don’t allow for any soggy, underdone bottoms. The time to bake from the recipe is what I baked it for, so I would go a little extra next time rather than just 10 minutes as it said!

If you’re new to bread baking and find it slightly daunting, this is a great beginners recipe! The proofing is easy, the assembly is easy, and the baking is easy. Even with the underdone bottom, this focaccia was still delicious and had plenty of air bubbles and chew to it. The pretzel aspect was fun and different too! Give it a go, you’ll have so much fun getting your hands dirty with this pretzel focaccia!

American, Baking Recipes, Fort Worth, Ice Cream, Italian, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

The Ultimate Dinner Party

Hiya followers!

It has been a minute, I’ve been super busy- life got pretty hectic. One of the reason was because I have been very busy preparing for my biggest cooking moment to date.

I recently got injured at work which has taken quite the toll on me mentally. If you’re new to the blog I’m a professional ballet dancer (#dancerseattoo). My friends have been by my side throughout the last few weeks; each person has played a different role in my recovery and helping me to maintain my sanity. As a thank you I wanted to do something super special for as many of them as I could accommodate.

The menu for this adult, fancy AF dinner party came to me in the middle of the night a couple days after I got hurt. All of a sudden I was ready to take on the challenge and do this for my friends and, ultimately, for myself. Last night’s dinner party truly was a healing experience for me and seeing all of my friends enjoy the food, laughing and drinking the night away, made my heart incredibly happy.

So here it is: the menu. Usually for a dinner party you stick with what you know, cooking dishes you’ve done before and you know are good. I completely threw that philosophy out the door; every dish was a new dish for me (except the Fall Chicken which made its debut a few years ago on the blog). Thankfully each dish came out great, despite feeling like a chicken with my head cut off most of the day!

First Course- Arugula and Fig Salad: this was so easy to put together and was tangy and delightful. It will definitely be a dish I make again!

Second Course- Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup: perhaps my favorite dish of the evening. I bought a Dutch oven just for this recipe. It was the easiest and most perfect tomato soup. Six ingredients, that’s it. I opted for whole milk in the recipe (no heavy cream here!) which was great because it didn’t make it too thick. Truly one of my new fall favorites!

Third Course- Mushroom Carbonara: Is it a dinner party without a Bon Appetit recipe on the menu? This carbonara was super delicious and the recipe was perfect as a pasta dish. Read the recipe beforehand and get yourself all set up and prepped- it all happens pretty fast and you’ll want your ducks in a row before starting. Molly Baz is my pasta spirit animal.

Main Course- Fall Harvest Chicken with a Fennel and Apple Salad: This chicken recipe was the main component and overall inspo for the evening. It even ended up being a cool evening in Texas to feel extra fall like. When looking for a side to go with it I stumbled upon this salad recipe from (duh) Bon Appetit and was intrigued by it. I had never worked with fennel before but loved the idea of pairing it with apples, serranos, and limes. It ended up being really good, those peppers were hot! It all meshed and ended up being a well balanced. I will certainly revisit this recipe again in the future.

Dessert- Chocolate Lava Cakes: My mom makes these lava cakes for holidays and they are always a crowd pleaser. They are so simple to put together too and only need to bake for seventeen minutes (that was the sweet spot for my oven anyways!) They are rich and gooey and are a chocolate lovers heaven! I was excited to be able to use my Guittard Dutch processed cocoa rouge (a brand that the Bon Appetit chefs love working with!) This cocoa is such a rich, dark color it is what really drives the dish home! And what’s a chocolate dessert in Texas without Blue Bell ice cream?!

That is it. My Ultimate Dinner Party. #wifeme.

Each recipe has been created by some great chefs and bloggers and each recipe has thorough, well written instructions- some videos even for visuals! Home chefs like me certainly appreciate that! Now it’s your turn: challenge yourself to find new recipes that push you. If you’re a lover of cooking or baking I urge you to do some research and have a fun night with friends like I did. Food is so special; it’s a universal language that brings people together and it is one of the best ways to say thank you and I love you.

I appreciate you, reader, for following my blog (check out the Instagram @critiquingcarnivore) Happy cooking! Cheers!

*major shoutout to my friend Hannah who took ALL the photos used in this blog post! This #wifeme chef was so busy in the kitchen photos completely escaped her. I greatly appreciate you, girl! 💕

American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

Broccoli Bolognese

Hey readers!

This Critiquing Carnivore has been busy! Not to worry though, I blocked out an entire evening to whip up a spectacular dish that was created by none other than Adam Rapoport, editor in chief at Bon Appétit! Shall I remind you that I’m obsessed with Bon Appétit and their test kitchen?

So this recipe was actually published almost two years ago, but it resurfaced recently when Rapoport and chef Molly Baz made the dish for the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. Aside from the recipe itself, the energy and whit between these two in the kitchen was hysterical and electrifying! So naturally I was inspired to make this “Brocco Bolo”.

Now I’m sure you’re all thinking of the red meat sauce that is typically seen when you order a bolognese. Rapoport’s reasoning for calling it a bolognese? Because it sounds better for a magazine…well he isn’t wrong. Let’s say that in the case of this recipe we consider it to be a bolognese because the base is still a creamy, meat sauce. Then with the addition of your steamed and chopped broccoli it really starts to thicken up, add that butter and cheese and it resembles a bolognese!

This recipe is right on point when it gives cooking times. I steamed the broccoli for exactly three minutes, as written, and it was perfect. With the end result the broccoli wasn’t overdone or super mushy. Same with the pasta, for that perfect al dente I cooked it for only nine minutes in the heavily salted water (my new favorite ingredient is pasta water- watch Bon Appétit pasta videos to understand!) because when you throw it in the pan at the end it still continues to cook and you don’t want over cooked pasta.

I probably could’ve broken up my sausage more like they did in the video and as shown in the photograph on the recipe’s website, but I definitely prefer bigger chunks of my sausage- literally just a personal preference; you do you!

When I was looking for the orecchiette pasta, at first I couldn’t find it. To compromise I was going to go with a fusilli or bow tie pasta for looks. Then I found the orecchiette and I’m so happy I did! As explained in the video, this “little ear” pasta is fantastic for a recipe like this because the pasta picks up some of the broccoli bolognese base in its tiny cup; you aren’t having to fight to get a good mix of everything in one bite. I did find this pasta in my standard grocery store, Barilla brand pasta to be exact so you should be able to find it. Let me know if you don’t and what shape you ended up trying this recipe with!

I tried to cook everything simultaneously and, while I am obviously not a professional chef with a lot of the tools they suggest to use, I wish I had done it all more in separated steps: handle steaming the broccoli, let it cool, then it chop it. Then go over to the skillet with the garlic and handle the sausage. I was close to burning myself and was running from station to station trying to accomplish everything while each ingredient was cooking faster than I was actually prepared for. It still, obviously, worked out and tasted amazing, but if you get frazzled in the kitchen easily you may be better off doing everything in its exact step.

I really hope you get the chance to try this recipe! It is definitely one that I’ll keep in my recipe book for future family dinner nights, it would be quite the crowd pleaser at any dinner party! Bon Appétit!

*Another tip: taste it before seasoning! Since you are heavily salting that broccoli/pasta water and using it as your secret ingredient, it does bring a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would say I maybe added a pinch more salt and then black pepper at the end.

American, Baking Recipes, Savory, Uncategorized

Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

Ever find yourself perusing Pinterest looking for a super simple, delicious, and healthy side dish? A side dish that isn’t just a salad or pasta or even green beans you threw in the microwave?

Well readers do I have a treat for you!

This Ramen Noodle Salad is an extremely refreshing take on “the side dish”. It is tangy and acidic while remaining cool and crunchy. It is the easiest side salad you could possibly put together and, guess what, it tastes better a day or two after it’s made. Yup, you can let this puppy sit for 24 hours before eating it giving you plenty of time to just throw it all into a bowl and not worry about it until later. Whoo hoo!

So here it is, my mom’s (and now our whole family’s) favorite side dish:

1 package of coleslaw mix

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup chopped scallion

1-2 packages of chicken ramen and seasoning packets

Sliced almonds

Sunflower seeds

3-4 shakes of soy sauce

Just dump it all into a large bowl, eyeball the scallions, almonds, and sunflower seeds adding as much or as little to suit you preference!

I’ve tried this recipe using one packet of the chicken seasoning and two- I’ll be honest that I didn’t notice a huge difference so depending on how much you’re making if it is a smaller portion go with one, larger then use two!

I also do a mixture of breaking up the “raw” ramen into small and large bits. I think the large bits soak up the olive oil and white vinegar while still giving the salad that awesome crunch! Experiment with it to see what ratios you like!

Seriously though, this recipe is delectable and it is great for family nights and parties!

Happy Cooking!

Baking Recipes, Sweets, Uncategorized

BA’s Best Cheesecake

Hey girl heyyy!

Followers, it has been a hot sec! I’ve been busy getting back into the swing of things (aka life) but I managed to squeeze in a little baking time! As you probably know from my last post and my Instagram (@critiquingcarnivore) I’m pretty obsessed with Bon Appétit Magazine. I had promised some friends a cheesecake a while back and where else was I going to go to look for a recipe?! Here it is: BA’s Best Cheesecake.

Aside from it being from BA, I fell in love with this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it. Firstly, it’s super simple. No water filled trays, no crazy additional ingredients. Simple, clean and elegant. I also loved being able to use fresh vanilla bean. It’s a little extra out of the pocket for this ingredient (World Market sells one pod for $7.99) but it really elevates the taste in contrast to plain old vanilla extract. It also made me feel like a badass chef cutting into it and scraping the vanilla seeds into the mixture!

Again this recipe was so easy to make and I highly recommend it! For the graham cracker crust the recipe says to use nine ounces. I don’t own a scale as of now so I did a bit of Googling and eyeballing and I roughly used nine sheets of graham crackers, or one sleeve from the box. I think next time I would use one and half sleeves as I didn’t have as much of a crust on the sides as I would have liked, however, if you’re not into that much crust, then stick with one sleeve!

This cheesecake was for a birthday so I wanted to decorate it and make it look extra pretty so I whipped up some basic cream cheese frosting with the last half of cream cheese and piped a cute design around the cake and accompanied it with blueberries for color. You could do strawberries, make a fruit sauce or jam, or leave it plain to shine on its own! Either way this recipe is fantastic as a clean canvas for whatever you’re feeling! Dress her up or down, either way she’s the best!

Baking Recipes, boston, Cape Cod, Savory, Seafood, Uncategorized

Seared Scallops with Corn Summer Salad

Hey there readers! It is summertime which means one thing for this Critiquing Carnivore…Cape Cod! That’s right, as per usual, I’m back on the glorious Cape and serving up some delicious local fare and eating at the best spots. With my newfound inspiration (and obsession) with Bon Appetit Magazine, I have been waiting for moments to recreate some of their seafood recipes. Today, we’re making scallops.

The day we made this recipe my mom and I were sitting on the beach and she mentioned getting seafood for dinner. I love scallops, like yum yes please, so I simply sat there and prayed to the scallop gods that they would be a reasonable price at the fish market. Obviously, it worked! Scallops were bought and I got myself on Bon Appetit’s website.

Chef Carla Lalli Music (@lallimusic) developed this Seared Scallops with Brown Butter and Lemon Pan Sauce recipe and it very quickly became our inspiration! There is a YouTube video on this recipe to follow Carla as she is making the dish, too!

Like I said, this recipe served as inspiration so we tweaked and added some things. First we seared the scallops, we used olive oil while the recipe suggests either that or vegetable. Scallops don’t take that long to cook so keep an eye on how they turn opaque as well as the sear on the top, flat side. Three to four minutes on the first side should do, you’ll only need two on the other.

In our version, we sautéed spinach in the delicious aftermath of the scallops to serve as our base. Spinach is awesome because it works with anything and is so healthy and good for you!

Then we started with the brown butter and lemon sauce. I highly recommend referring to the recipe video for how to cut the lemon membrane. It’s easy once you see it, but the wording can make it a little confusing. When you add it to the brown butter the lemon practically melts and the aroma is spectacular. As you swirl and stir the sauce I recommend lightly pressing the bottom of the spoon you’re using against the lemon bits. This really helped the lemon to dissolve fully in the pan. Instead of capers we used parsley, which Carla suggests as a substitute in the video. If you do go the capers route remember that capers are salty!

Paired with the scallops, we prepared a simple corn, tomato, onion, and cucumber salad. Fresh, light, summery, perfect.

This was a great summer dish, it was so light and bright, the lemon sauce giving so much flavor and acidity. After tasting the sauce, my mom and I immediately agreed this sauce would be fantastic on pork, chicken, anything! The lemon bits really heightened the lemon flavor and it was fun learning a new technique from Carla!

I highly recommend this recipe for the summer! the additions we made elevated the recipe and created more of a cohesive meal rather than just a main dish of scallops so it’s a great time to get inventive and creative in the kitchen yourself! If you’re a lemon fan like me, get to the kitchen and start cutting those lemons! Bon Appetit!

Bakery, Baking Recipes, Cookies, Sweets, Uncategorized

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hey readers! Today is a glorious day because the great Bon Appétit magazine has published and graced our kitchens with a new BA’s Best Recipe…the best chocolate chip cookies.

Chris Morocco who, if you have never watched any of Bon Appétit’s YouTube videos, is the man everyone turns to for advice and help and is the creator of this amazing recipe. When it came out, I knew I had to get in the kitchen and try them out!

I’ll start with this: chopped bittersweet chocolate versus chocolate chips. Both are great and the chips are the classic look, but the chopped up chocolate gives you chocolate in literally every bite and makes the cookie much more gooey, oozing with chocolate. Morocco is great and instructs that you can use chocolate chips, giving you all the options and measurements for both routes.

Another thing I like about this recipe is that you brown the majority of the butter, heating it in a saucepan and letting it bubble and, well, brown! Typically recipes call for room temp butter, but melting the butter gave it a really smooth texture right from the start. Along with the melted butter Chris Morocco calls for a lot of dark brown sugar compared to white sugar giving the batter a great, rich dark color. As you add the egg and egg yolks, the color softens and mellows out giving you that classic brown color.

If you are familiar with the BA Test Kitchen then you probably know that these chefs love their salt. Like the “pinch of salt” they use is like a mountain on my computer screen (even though it probably isn’t that much salt), so with that said when I saw this chocolate chip cookie recipe called for three quarters teaspoons of kosher salt (not your typical table salt folks) I was a little…😳. But y’all that salt in the end adds such a nice saltiness to the cookies that pairs perfectly with the sweetness and ratio of the chocolate. It really isn’t too much and I’m sure Chris Morocco spent time figuring out the perfect amount of salt for this recipe.

When it came to baking I usually start with the least amount of baking time to see how they do, how my oven is affecting them, etc. At the eight minute mark they were still a little too under-baked so I gave it nine minutes and thirty seconds. I think that ended up being a great time for the cookies…not over cooking them, but still giving you that gooey center. In the end I also got 27 cookies 🤷🏻‍♀️ some I made the big bakery style cookies that Morocco has been posting on his Instagram and others I did a more classic, smaller size hence the odd number. In any event, he says you get 16 cookies, but there is definitely enough batter to make much more than that! The cookies really expanded and grew out so that also helped with the size, getting bigger cookies!

This really is one of the perfect recipes (I am still biased towards the classic Hershey recipe) and this is definitely going to become a staple, go to recipe. Chris Morocco is a saint and I love Bon Appétit and all the chefs, but Morocco has my heart because of this fantastic cookie recipe. Go and try it out and enjoy the gooey goodness that Chris Morocco has graced us with.