Rustic Blackberry Crisp

Crisped Serving l Scarletta Bakes

When do you change up your eating routine?

Personally I find that my dietary habits vary most dramatically during the summer months.

Get me away from the heavy, the saturated, the towering and the stuffed. Bring on the juicy, the puffy and the wafer-thin.

In addition, my already minimalistic approach to plate design becomes even more basic:  we’re talking an aggressively perceptible shift from ‘make that look pretty’ to ‘it’s simply too hot for me to care especially since it all ends up in the same place’.

Which would explain why literal hot messes such as crisps, crumbles and cobblers make regular appearances at my summer dessert table.

Blackberries are abundant in this part of the country, and when they’re plump and ripe and practically perfect such as they are right now, I rarely pass them by. But the cool thing about a dessert like this is that you can adapt it to feature the berry or even stone fruit of your choosing.

Just be sure to remember the vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped stuff. And brace for a mess. Or don’t! It’s summer, and you’re having too much fun to care.

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My King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken l Scarletta Bakes

I confess that, even as the outdoor thermostat rises, I still crave casseroles; this week will be solidly in the 90s here in the Valley of the Sun, but for the past few days I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a certain cheesy, flavorful, bubbling casserole…

King Ranch Chicken (also known as King Ranch Casserole) is a Tex-Mex heirloom dish that has been around for almost as long as its namesake, although the recipe likely did not actually originate from King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas (King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, is, after all, known for its beef).

The truth is that no one knows for sure where the original recipe for King Ranch Chicken came from, but it most certainly gained traction in popular culture right around the middle of the twentieth century while canned and condensed soups were also quickly becoming mainstays in pantries throughout the United States. Which is probably why, lineage or no lineage, there is very little question about the ingredients that typically make up a traditional King Ranch Chicken Casserole:  canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes, and canned roasted green chiles. Other ingredients are common -bell peppers, chicken, tortillas and cheese- but the cans stand out.

So I suppose, both in my abandonment of the can (I didn’t kick them all to the curb!), as well as my craving of the comfort-wielding casserole just as the mercury inches dangerously close to 100º F, I am committing some type of dual heresy.

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Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

Arroz Verde

If you were to ask, I would not claim spring as my favorite season. In fact, it would probably be last on my preferred list, with one exception:  what is means for produce.

Ironically, as many of you are no doubt encountering, although spring has technically already sprung, prime growing season has yet to show its pretty little face. I think that, for some of you, unsnowcapped-ground has yet to show its pretty little face. So it must be the anticipation of things to come that has such an impact on fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of the year…  they just taste better.

A good example is this rice. Yes, rice.

I started preparing this dish several years ago during the spring after I walked by a stand of poblano chiles that were so good looking that I threw a wink their way. Next to a crate full of Mexican limes that were an irresistible shade of bright, bright green. And a stack of leafy parsley that smelled so tempting that I simply could not walk away.

I decided that mixing my finds in with some luscious rice would be perfect; the flavor of my new fresh friends mixed up with plump rice filling enough to respect the fact that spring doesn’t yet feel like it’s entirely in full effect.

So…  arroz verde.

Sticky, satisfying, tasting like sweet promise:  spring is (almost) here. We can taste it.

Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

3 large shallots, peeled and ends removed
4 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt for roasting and seasoning to taste
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded
6 stems parsley
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. medium-grain rice
4 c. vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the shallots and garlic together with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt, wrap tightly in foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes or until shallots are slightly shrunken and garlic is golden and fragrant. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the poblano chiles, parsley, and lime juice and process to a uniform paste.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are opaque. Add the processed chile mixture and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, season with salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the moisture has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff and stir before serving.

YIELD:  approximately 6 servings

Best Chili For Your Week

Bowl Of Best Chili l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t know exactly what your week will entail.

I don’t know if you’ll have a couple of bonkers work deadlines to meet.

Or maybe you have some Spring Break stuff to be breaking.

Perhaps you’ll need to be reminded of Daylight Savings? Or maybe you’ll do some reminding yourself…

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Smashed Garbanzo Breakfast Quesadillas

Smashed Garbanzo Breakfast Quesadillas l Scarletta Bakes

Wakey, wakey! It’s time to get up! You’ve got places to go! People to see!

Ugh. Gaw. Don’t you hate being woken up?!?

I mean, I get it…  the whole places to go and people to see thing. But, seriously, unless you’re 10 years old or the house is on fire, it just feels so undignified.

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Perfect Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies l Scarletta Bakes

I confess that I’ve sampled my fair share of prepared chocolate chip cookie dough throughout the years. I purchase the dough, I eat the dough, I bake the dough, I eat the baked dough. So, actually, probably a bit more than my fair share.

And since I’ve been doing this since high school, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in chocolate chip cookie dough assessment and consumption. I’ve recently been putting those skills to good use:  in search of easy, easy comfort I’ll hit up the market for a package, come home and force myself to bake off a few cookies, then get out my spoon and go to work on the rest. I know the package says not to. I know someone, somewhere is judging. But I just don’t care.

Thoroughly Creamed l Scarletta Bakes

Lately, however, I’ve noticed something troubling about store-bought cookie dough:  I’ve noticed a mild metallic flavor to the dough. I tried switching brands and I’ve even tried actually baking the dough into cookies (!!!), but that odd, off-putting flavor is still there.

Now please don’t think me a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I do believe that packaged foods, even ones from different brands, tend to reflect market trends; they’re very frequently made with ingredients that are sourced from the same places and are effected by the same economic conditions, so it’s not all together unlikely that cookie dough made by Pillsbury may have similar features, when all is said and done, to those of cookie dough made by, say, Toll House.

Or maybe my palate is just broke.

Either way, I needed to come up with my own chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, which brings us to this gem du jour.

Chopping Chocolate l Scarletta Bakes

Let me tell you a bit about my thinking behind these cookies:

1.  I personally prefer soft chocolate chip cookies (if you’re in the crispy or chewy camp this recipe is probably not for you), which means that you’re going to need to cream the puppies and rainbows out of your sugars and softened butter. You’re also going to want to make sure not to overbake these cookies.

2.  I like sweet cookies. Obviously. But I don’t like sickly sweet cookies that taste like biting into a sugar cube. For this reason, I used slightly less sugar that I think you’ll find in conventional chocolate chip cookie recipes.

3.  The chocolate…  the truth is that I strongly suspect the chocolate chips as the culprit of the metallic flavor in my store-bought cookie dough. Just like pre-grated cheese, I feel like I can almost taste that extra step of store-boughtness that goes into forming those chips. So I went with Mexican chocolate. Now I know what you’re thinking:  ‘M., Mexican chocolate is processed too, you seeeeelly, seeeeeeeelly goose.’ And you would be correct. But Mexican chocolate tastes both less processed than chocolate chips to me, and also tastes less like super-strong chocolate. It’s just a nice, flavored, sweet mild chocolate. So I went with it.

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Red Bean & Rice Burritos

Basket Of Burritos l Scarletta Bakes

Let’s celebrate Mardi Gras!

Sure, we’re a little early. And it’s true that we’re nowhere near New Orleans. But don’t you just feel like you want to let the good times roll right about now? Me too…

Red Beans + Rice l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t have a strong connection with New Orleans or its tradition, but I have often celebrated Mardi Gras over the years; it falls at a time on the calendar when most people are just about begging for the weather to warm up, dying to let loose and live a little, and after the first of the year’s health push, probably looking for a bit of indulgence.

Perfect.

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Making Dulce De Leche

One Ingredient Dulce De Leche l Scarletta Bakes

I confess to being a sucker for recipes that require less than five ingredients.

Sure, there’s the simplicity:  it’s a lock that you’re going to need to make just one trip to your pantry or fridge.

And, of course, unless you’re making something with black truffles, white truffles, jamón ibérico and fresh uni, you’re likely going to be saving some money by cooking with less.

But the truth is that the times that I’m able to cook with just a few ingredients are the rare times that I get to feel like a magician. And feeling like a magician in your own kitchen is fun. Let me show you…

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Green Chile Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo)

Green Chile Sopa De Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

Are you surviving this ugly, ugly winter? Just barely? Me too.

Hey! I see you rolling your eyes…

The truth is that the desert floor is a funny thing; it’s completely impervious to water of any kind, be it monsoon- or man-made, but after the sun goes down it seems to draw into itself every single degree of ambient heat.

The desert is a cold, cold place without the sun and temperatures can swing up to thirty degrees in a 24 hour period. Which means you’re going to need a sweater. Or some legwarmers. And for sure an enormous bowl of hot soup.

Cut Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

You may know fideos as Spanish noodles, specifically, semolina pasta commonly sold cut or coiled. Fideos, especially the cut variety, are most often served in soup, which is what we’ve done here. Because we’re freezing cold!

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Last Minute Blackberry & Anise Holiday Cake

Blackberry & Anise Coffee Cake l Scarletta Bakes

Let’s have some last minute fun, shall we? Of the delicious variety. Because, actually, it’s not big holiday meals that strike fear into my heart, but rather the stuff around the edges that terrifies me.

I mean, it’s not like your house guests/children/friends/spouse are going to show up, require one meal, and then not eat or drink a thing for the seven remaining days that they’re spending with you.

I guess it’s possible, but…  that doesn’t sound very festive.

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