Purple Kitchen Treats

Over the past few years, I have been working on a cookbook. During this time, I took time off to finish my Master's Degree. Now that I have accomplished that, I am working again on my cookbook, slowly but surely.

However, over the past few months, something interesting has happened...I have received multiple requests for baked goods, particularly my cookies. I am also receiving multiple requests for granola. So, with all these requests in mind, I have started to make my cookies for sale, along with my granola.

My official web site is available, but will be undergoing a significant redesign. Be sure to visit my "official" web site at: http://www.susanshonk.com and watch for some exciting changes.

From the heart of my purple kitchen to you,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Have not cooked or thought about recipes since getting sick over the past couple of days.   Upper respiratory infections can really knock you for a loop or 2.

I left work not feeling well on Wednesday.  By the time Thursday morning rolled around, I was miserable. I went in late to do some work the HAD to get done and left 3 hours later.  Today, I stayed home...fever, coughing, sore throat...and I start back to school to finish my MBA in the morning.   This is not a good time to be sick.....the only good time to be sick is NEVER!!!!!

Tonite, I baked a Sam's Club ready made meat pizza for my husband for dinner and longingly looked at the bottle of Silver Tequila thinking that enough of it might kill the germs inhabiting my head.....but I am too miserable to enjoy it.  So, it stays on the counter and waits patiently until I get better.

Will most likely be having an opportunity to make a fruit compote this year with a Mexican flair.....interesting combinations floating through my fuzzy little head right now...WAIT...it's visions of sugarplums...Christmas is right around the corner...YIKES......and I need to get planning the holiday trays and meals.  

Lets see....pumpkin cake, applesauce cake, applesauce, picadillo stuffed poblanos with red ranchero sauce, Mexican Wedding cookies, Mexican sugar cookies, churros, hot chocolate, Mexican coffee with cream, cinnamon, vanilla and raw sugar, my special holiday tamales, and maybe something new....mole` - YES!  I have the best recipe for mole`....deep, dark spicy, nutty with roasted turkey and / or chicken.....simply luscious.

Tapas is also on the table to be made for a party....fired manchego cheese with a great roasted red pepper and tomato sauce, serrano peppers stuffed with something and wrapped in bacon, mini flans, mini potato and serrano ham omelets, cuban sliders with sweet red pepper relish, fried plantains with lime mayo.

I'm running out of steam and need to get to bed...type with y'all soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


The following sounds more like a 4th of July meal and as I consider the menu, I cannot think of what a better day than today to celebrate being an American....9/11, the anniversary of the day we, as a society, were forever changed.

In remembrance of our brothers and sisters that were lost on that fateful day, I will bow my head in prayer for their families and will stand firm as a proud American.

May God bless us and guide us with His light.

I have been looking at a watermelon for over a week trying to decide what to do with it....and have finally decided.  I am going to make watermelon water and pickle the rind.  I know that sounds weird, but watermelon rind pickles are sweet and full of the flavor of cloves.  The finished product has a kind of "moonstone" look.  The watermelon water has simple syrup, mint and lime juice in it and is simply a very refreshing drink....oh my goodness....I may have to add a shot of tequila to that.

The next item that I will make is a broccoli salad that my mother-in-law introduced me to.  It has currants, bacon and onion in it with a cream cheese dressing that is simply out of this world.

So, for dinner tonite we are having fried chicken, broccoli salad and watermelon water.  Dessert is the dark chocolate pie that I referenced in an earlier post.....it has not been made, at least not yet.  I expect that it will be done tonite.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Another day of cooking and working on new recipes

I started today at 8:30 am by charring poblano peppers in preparation for stuffing them with a picadillo that is meaty, sweet and savory.  I made the picadillo, chorizo verde, poached eggs and am now working on candied jalapenos.  The next item that I need to make is a deep red ranchero sauce for the stuffed poblanos while the picadillo cools enough for me to handle it.

I love working with my hands.  There is something so very satisfying about the feel of the food.  Like working with bread dough...I do not use any kind of machine when I make bread.  I mix everything with a wooden spoon to start with and then move directly from the bowl on to the granite countertop and use my hands.

Later, I plan on sitting down with my mom's recipes and working on the book.  A nice cup of chocolate raspberry coffee, going through the recipes and reminiscing about my childhood with my husband.

I almost forgot, I have one more thing to make.....I promised Jason a dark chocolate cream pie later today.

Happy Labor Day!!!

Sunday night adventures

Today, I decided that I was not going to work on the book.  Instead, I played in my kitchen.  I began with a great pot of coffee then went thru the items that I had in the house.  Onions, poblanos, cheese, tortillas, chicken thighs, salsa and cilantro.  I ended up making braised chicken thighs with quesadillas.

Then, I made cilantro rice with black beans to make burritos with.  Just add some cheese to the warm rice and beans and it makes a great burrito.

Then...at 9pm, I got the urge to make biscuits.  So I made the most tender, melt in your mouth buttermilk biscuits that anyone has ever had.  One really huge bit of advice when making biscuits....do not knead the dough, even if the recipe tells you to do so.  Just mix the biscuits enough to bring the dough together.  If you spend too much time on the biscuit dough, the gluten develops and that is why they get tough.  I do not use a rolling pin either, I bring the dough together with my hands and then use the biscuit cutter.  Your hands are the best tools that you have in the kitchen.  So, at 10:30pm, my husband was having biscuits...one with honey and one with peach jalapeno jam.  I could hear him make the "mmmm" sound as he took his first bite.....

Tomorrow morning, I'll make poached eggs and maple bacon and use the biscuits for breakfast sandwiches.  Then, I need to write down the cilantro rice with black beans recipe for the cookbook along with the braised chicken thighs...this was actually very good.

The next big recipe that I have to actually make while writing it down, is my turkey tamale recipe.  I make these every year for Thanksgiving.  These are a huge hit and are very different from traditional tamales.  Each time I make these, I have to make extra for family and friends.  

I also make pumpkin flan for Thanksgiving each year along with my mom's pumpkin cake.  Being from New England, pumpkin is the prominent vegetable for the fall.  I also make pumpkin soup, muffins, bread, sauce (great on poultry) and baked pumpkin (sweet and savory varieties).  This is a very versatile vegetable.

I almost forgot....the Build A Better Burger contest finalists were announced and I was not among them.  When I read the recipes that made it to the finals, they were very complex with multiple ingredients.  My burgers were very simple, my sauce only had 6 ingredients (including salt and pepper), sauteed mushrooms and cheese.  I believe in the KISS method.....keep it simple sweetheart.  My reward was when I made the burgers for the 4th of July and not one guest talked while they were eating them.  There is always next year.....

Friday, September 3, 2010

A view into my world

The point to this post is to get to how my cooking style was influenced by Mexican, New Mexican and Spanish cultures and my love of those flavors.  Once the book is done, my family and friends will see these influences in almost everything I make.

My friends and family know that I love anything Southwestern / Mexican / South American and Spanish.  The food and culture have been great influences in my later life.  This began when I was hired as a Medicare Reimbursement Specialist for, what was, one of the largest healthcare providers in the US.  One of my first assignments was to travel to Albuquerque for training.  This was where the home office of the company was.  Remember, that I was from the Boston area at the time and had only travelled in New England, New York state and eastern Canada.

Back in the early 1990's, I flew from Boston to Dallas and then on to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  When I got off the plane in Albuquerque, I knew that I was home and my life was forever changed.  This was one of 3 experiences that, for lack of a better term, rocked my world in a very positive way.  I spent several completely glorious days in a place that became what I call the "home of my heart".   I travelled back to Albuquerque every month for 18 months with this job.  I eventually moved to Dallas, it was the only place I would agree to move to that my boss suggested.  Unfortunately, after those 18 months, my division was dissolved and we were all laid off.  So, there I was with only 2 friends in Dallas.  I could have moved back to New England, but I did not call Boston home any more.  So, I stayed in Dallas and met my husband a few months after I stopped traveling.

Moving to Dallas.....I was 37 when I moved to Dallas.  I didn't know anyone, but I had to be in Dallas, so I packed up all my belongings, hired a mover, got in my car and drove.  As I crossed the Massachusetts border into Conneticut, I spoke these words out loud, "My new life is starting and my husband is waiting for me".  I believed that with all of my heart and soul.  So, with that thought tucked neatly away, I arrived in Dallas 33 1/2 hours later.  Once I moved, I became who I was meant to be....this is a very long story for another time.

Anyway, I worked as a consultant for another 18 months.  Once I was laid off, I found a job with a pharmacy and worked for a couple of months with them.  This proved to be a very dissatisfying position for me and I went to work at a local hospital.  In October of 1997, I got an urge to pick up a free local news paper.  I had not picked up this particular paper for about 6 months, but I had to have that week's edition.  I had to go to 4 stores to find a paper.  When I did find one, it was the last one in the rack.  I took it home on a Wednesday, and didn't read it until Friday, this happened to be Halloween.  Now, I have to say up front that I read the personals, but I read them for fun.....really....awe, come on, give a girl a break!

I started reading and there was this one ad the kept getting my attention.  I tried to read beyond the ad, but it kept jumping up off the page at me.  So I gave in and read it again...and again...and again...and - you get the point.  I called the ad.  My first reaction was, oh yeah, this is real.  So I went back to reading the ads and it still would not leave me alone.  I ended up calling the ad and leaving a message on Halloween night.  It was Jason....sweet sigh...

He called me back 2 days later, we met face to face 2 days after that.  Jason had 6 responses to his ad, had 6 dates set up, but I was the first woman that he met.  We met face to face on Tuesday, November 4, 1997 and have been together ever since.  He cancelled the 5 other dates that he had set up.  We dated for 2 years and got married on October 30, 1999 in Sedona, Arizona.

Jason is an artist.  His work is incredible, as you will see.  He had been traveling with his family to Sedona and the southwest for years and had a love of that area.  Jason is one of those men that has an "old soul".  He probably could have lived very comfortably as a cowboy in the 1800's who would come in from the range for a drink, a bath and a lay.  He loves southwestern and Mexican food.  If it is spicy, he will eat it.

He was the one that I began to stretch my culinary skills for.  But in that process, I discovered an incredible affinity for cooking and being creative in the kitchen.  I found myself changing and growing again.

So, here are a few images from my home.  This is the corner of the kitchen where the cook-top resides and where my culinary adventures occur.

This is my purple kitchen....yes, it is purple.  This is the corner opposite from the cook-top.  The cabinets are yellow, the counter tops are a jade green granite, the walls and ceiling are purple, and the tile on the backsplash ties the saltillo tile floor, the cabinets and the green counter top together.  The purple is just because I can.

This is a picture of Jason with one of his paintings at a local art show.

So, now you know where my main influences for cooking come from.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chili Peppers, red hot and otherwise

Well....the Hatch chile festival is just about over.  I have stocked up on enough chiles to use until next year.  I typically purchase these in the mild and the hot version.  My husband is the one who like hot peppers.  I make several recipes with them, but his favorite is the variety of stuffed peppers that I make.  I stuff them with several things: meats, plantains, rice & beans, cheese, eggs, cornbread and make home-made ranchero sauce or salsa (red and green) to bake them in.  For the cornbread stuffed peppers, I make a sweetened red salsa.  I think this year, I may use the peppers for Thanksgiving and make some sort of turkey stuffed pepper.....hmm, now I'm thinking.  

The other pepper that I like to use to stuff, is a poblano.  These are a very dark green and look gorgeous with the red salsa or ranchero sauce on them.  These are dipped in a very light batter and deep fried until golden brown.  

Candied jalapenos.....this is a food group all of it's own.  I make these by the potful for my husband and friends and use the excess syrup for a surprise "kick" in several other recipes.  All I can say right now is chocolate and "the spicy"......YUM!!!!

I also love to make tamales.  I make these each year for the holidays and typically get orders for them.  For fun, I make sweet dessert tamales with some sort of decadent sauce to go over them.  The sauce will most likely involve a bottle of tequila, which is one of my favorite liquors.....ole`!!!!