Down-home comfort has caught fire in the last 10 years or so with the classic low-country dish Shrimp and Grits. It’s being served in white tablecloth restaurants from Savannah to Seattle. Perhaps the epicenter of the shrimp and grits phenomenon is Charleston, S.C. Charleston is one of the most-popular travel destinations in the United States, an absolute magnet for foodies and tourists, and home to some of the country’s finest restaurants. My friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree, who now resides in Charleston, has an entire cookbook devoted to shrimp and grits. She writes: “Shrimp and Grits, one of the South’s most beloved foods, leaves a lingering taste and a folkloric mystique that borders on the mythical. Each community and ethnic group along the region’s shorelines brings its own cultural influences to the dish.”
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I spent most of last week in Austin hanging out with my sister and her family. It was a trip I planned months ago, for no other reason than to see their new house and get a chance to spend many days playing trains with my 2-year-old nephew, Emmett.
One of Emmett’s favorite things to do is to pretend to make food (pizza and soup are two of his regulars). Because of that, I thought it would be fun to do a real food project with him. To maintain my sanity, I went in search of a no-bake cookie recipe and came up with Trisha Yearwood’s Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares.
You start by crushing up enough pretzels to make two cups of crumbs. I put them in a big zip-top bag and told Emmett to break them. He put the bag on the floor and jumped up and down on it. He enjoyed it greatly and it worked perfectly. Once they’re crushed, stir in melted butter, powdered sugar and peanut butter until fairly well integrated. I got it started so that the sugar wouldn’t explode everywhere and then let Emmett help with the stirring.
When that base layer is fully combined, pat it into a baking pan. This is another opportunity for a kiddo to help. I put a sheet of aluminum foil down and had him help me push it flat.
For a dish that requires just the two ingredients of its namesake, there are so many ways you can make mac and cheese happen. It can be stirred on the stove or baked till golden, donning breadcrumbs or done au naturel, filled with extras or made just with cheese, plain and simple. No matter your method, a meal of mac and cheese is sure to bring comfort.
1.Classic: With elbow macaroni, crispy breadcrumbs and the obligatory spike of powdered mustard, Alton’s top-rated Baked Macaroni and Cheese (pictured above) is probably the most iconic of them all.
2. Seasonal: For a dose of seasonal comfort, Rachael’s Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a different kind of creamy with just a touch of sweetness.
3. Spicy: Just because good ol’ mac is comforting on its own doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a little kick every now and then. Sunny’s Spicy Macaroni and Cheese is spiked with cayenne pepper and pepper jack cheese.
4. Easy: Nothing’s quite as heartening as knowing that dinner is taken care of. Whip out your slow cooker for Trisha’s Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese, which takes only 10 minutes of prep before coasting towards dinnertime.
The Chopped Dinner Challenge is a series of recipes showing you how easy it is to cook like a winning Chopped competitor. Every week, FN Dish will showcase a recipe created by Food Network Kitchens that uses at least one of the Chopped basket ingredients, plus basic grocery goods and simple staples. Consider it your very own Chopped challenge. Just take this frequent tip from the judges: Don’t forget to season!
For this week’s Chopped Dinner Challenge, the chefs of Food Network Kitchens chose to feature the basket ingredient piquillo peppers, which you’ve probably seen in jars on the supermarket shelf or in salad bars. These peppers have a pleasant sweet taste, so no heat, and even though they’re relatively small in size (the name means “little beak” in Spanish), they’re actually great for stuffing. Consider this recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers a great tapas-style appetizer or light meal. The quinoa is packed with protein and the raw zucchini salsa is full of flavor. But best of all, the dish is simple to prepare, taking only 30 minutes.
Just last week on an all-new episode of The Kitchen, the co-hosts took to FoodNetwork.com to find out which three ingredients were most searched by fans, and it turns out that when it comes to home cooking, simplicity and health reign supreme. Chicken, the ultimate family-friendly dinner, leads the way in searches, followed by good-for-you kale and quinoa, so Marcela combined these picks into one simple dish: Chile-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Kale, Quinoa and Brussels Sprouts Salad. Instead of featuring all three ingredients on one plate, FN Dish is breaking them down, showcasing three of the best recipes for each chicken, kale and quinoa on FoodNetwork.com; read on below to find must-try soups, salads and all-in-one suppers alike for these fan-favorite ingredients.
3. Chicken Piccata — Quickly coated in flour and cooked until tender, Giada’s easy chicken dinner is topped with a classically bold sauce of lemon and capers.
2. Easy Chicken Pot Pie — Thanks to Sunny’s shortcut of using store-bought dough as the pastry topping, this creamy, hearty pot pie can be on the table in less than 45 minutes.
1. Perfect Roast Chicken (pictured above) — Stick with Ina’s no-fail method of buttering the bird and roasting it with lemon and herbs to turn out a juicy, flavor-packed chicken every time.
Whether it’s because of hectic schedules or simply an undeniable craving, sometimes it’s tempting to pick up the phone and order delivery for dinner. But even on the busiest of weeknights, it’s possible to make some of your favorite takeout picks at home, and the results are often healthier and made with better ingredients. The secret to making supper in a flash is keeping a well-stocked pantry, so on the weekend — or when you find yourself with extra time — head to the supermarket to pick up some essentials like dried pasta and rice, cans of beans and basic condiments. It’s far simpler to recreate classic Asian takeout dishes, for instance, when you already have items like soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar on hand.
Food Network Magazine puts all three of those Asian products to work in Soba Noodles with Shiitakes and Edamame (pictured above), its spin on a traditional Asian noodle dish. Ready to eat in only 35 minutes, this recipe comes together simply thanks to frozen, preshelled edamame and quick-cooking soba noodles, which take only 5-6 minutes to become al dente. This dinner gets it heft from tender, earthy shiitake mushrooms, and boasts a light, fresh finish from a dressing featuring blended cilantro and mint, plus soy sauce and sesame oil. For subtle spice and added flavor, add a bit of Sriracha to the food processor when making the dressing and balance the heat with a sprinkling more of cilantro before serving.
One of the things I’ve learned in my years as a home cook is that you can never have too many reliable chili recipes. When I’m cooking for my sister, I go with a recipe for white turkey chili. Whenever my husband does a low-carb stint, my go-to is a batch made with ground beef and lots of vegetables. And when the weather turns frigid (like it has this week), I need a meaty, rich version that will keep us warm and comforted.
One such hearty recipe is Nancy Fuller’s Two-Meat Chili. Served with her Scallion Cornbread, it’s a good meal for days when the mercury drops. You start by crisping a few strips of minced bacon. Once it’s brown and rendered, you pull out the bacon to use in the cornbread. Then you brown your onions and peppers in all that good bacon fat. After that, the spices, tomatoes, beef, pork, beans and broth join the party.
It simmers for nearly an hour, until it has thickened and filled your house with the heady scent of meat, peppers and spices. Topped with shredded cheese and sour cream, it is the perfect thing for parties, tailgates and your next Weekender.
I’d like to commit to having a salad a day this year. Who is with me?
Perhaps I should back up and start with a confession: I’m not a naturally disciplined person. Left to my devices, I will sleep until 10am, lounge about in sweats all day, never work out and order in spicy Thai food until my palate finally forces me to switch to a day of pizza(!). Yes, natural me is an ugly scene. That’s the bad news. The good news is I know this about me. And I also know how to create a life I really want, despite my human imperfections. What is the secret? It all comes down to one thing: creating habits that support the life I truly want to live that will circumvent my natural (read: lazier) tendencies. And what better time to start a new habit than now, amidst all the belly-gazing the new year inspires?
Why a salad a day? Why not an apple, as the saying goes? I’ve already done an apple a day for a year. It was brilliant and I still have an apple most days — proof that habits, even good ones, die hard, which is why it is doubly wise to choose our habits purposefully. Back to our salad, I feel better when I eat raw vegetables. I have more energy, my skin is clearer, my body feels leaner and I feel generally healthier. Committing simply to “eat more raw veggies” in the new year would be to trust my whims to lead me to a crudite plate night after night. As I mentioned before, I know myself. The first week, I would be making a gorgeous platter with elegant zucchini spears, cutely bulbous tiny heirloom tomatoes and mini sweet peppers perfect for scooping up a low-fat yogurt dip. But by the end of the month, I’d be pulling a baby carrot from the leftover dregs of my daughter’s lunchbox, mentally checking off the veggie resolution box. Not good.
In the early morning hours, there’s nothing better than cracking an egg into a sizzling hot pan. Unless, that is, breakfast is fixed before you even throw off the covers. Whether you’re looking for a prework meal that beats cereal or a lazy Sunday-morning brunch, these make-ahead breakfast recipes are comforting, easy and perfect for any kind of frosty morning. All you need is some foresight — and maybe a good casserole dish.
Even at the start of the day, some like it sweet. And since French toast generally gets better the longer it soaks, it works as the perfect make-ahead casserole. Do more than add maple syrup with creations like Blueberry French Toast Casserole with Whipped Cream and Strawberries, a decadent recipe best made with day-old challah bread. Or look to a Coconut-Almond French Toast Casserole that’s crunchy on the top but creamy and fluffy on the inside.
With raisins, brown sugar and a hint of rosemary, Alton’s Overnight Monkey Bread melds together for hours on end. Just stick it in the oven when the alarm goes off for a rich morning meal.
The new year is full of uncertain futures and vast possibilities, and often with those come predictions for what will be especially hot topics and what will be old news over the next 12 months. Mere days into 2014, Jeff Mauro revealed on last week’s premiere episode of The Kitchen that among the year’s food trends, he thinks chicken thighs will gain huge popularity — and perhaps even replace the ever-present bacon.
While few eat an entire plate of bacon for supper, chicken thighs are indeed a meal in and of themselves, and, best of all, they’re simple to cook and easy on the wallet. Since thighs tend to be a bit fattier than chicken breasts, they’re far more flavorful, and can be prepared in any number of ways. Try roasting them with garlic, grilling them with fresh herbs and citrus, or braising them in a rich sauce. No matter how you cook chicken thighs, you can be sure you’ll end up with juicy, tender meat that the whole family will enjoy.
Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite chicken thigh recipes after the jump, then tell FN Dish in the comments below what food trends you’re hoping to see in 2014.