Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.


On 12:14 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in ,    No comments

This week I’m looking forward to Easter. Every year of my life, we have the same meal: ham, lamb, potato salad, green beans and rolls. Except this year. Easter is my favorite holiday. I get Easter baskets from my mom and she has even started giving them to my boyfriend, too.

While social distancing is going to prevent me from enjoying my traditional meal, I plan to make a new tradition. We’re going to have pernil, coleslaw, roasted carrots and Parker House rolls. I’m also going to attempt making hot cross buns and maybe a carrot cake too (with coconut cream cheese frosting!)

How will you be celebrating Easter?

I get inspiration from many places. Sometimes it's the internet, a tv show, a cookbook and more often than not, people.

Gumbo is one of those dishes that is easy to make fresh or from bits and pieces of leftovers. I'm mixing the best of both worlds this week. I've got leftover pork from last week's pork souvlaki, stock from beans and potatoes from 2 weeks ago. It's about to go DOWN!

I could eat 4 egg rolls in one sitting and not blink an eye. Even these aren't safe from my egg-roll-eating soul. A good friend makes this dish in a bowl for her kids all of the time. They have discriminating palates, so if they can enjoy them, so can I!

Enjoy your week. See y'all...
On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    No comments

I really enjoy deviled eggs. They're SO VERY LABOR INTENSIVE and yet they're gone in 5 minutes if you turn your back. While they're deceptively delicious (adding mayo to an already rich egg yolk is the epitome of decadence, in my opinion), they're also very easy to mess up.

They're easy to mess up because most of the time, everyone is eyeballing the ingredients and hoping to get it right. And that's what you have to do sometimes. Sometimes you're doing 30 eggs. Sometimes it's only 6 (which is what this recipe is for).

Believe it or not, I've only made them twice in my life. I love to eat them, but I always wait until potlucks and parties to eat other people's versions. More often than not, they're really terrible. Too much vinegar or weird ingredients (raisins? WTF?!) are the usual culprits. Mine? PERFECT. 

Yes, raisins. I've seen them. They were currants (teeny, tiny seedless grapes) but there were raisins in the proverbial potato salad. 

A little dusting of regular, smoked or hot paprika turns these otherwise bland-looking egg halves into magic. Deviled eggs are so special, there is a plate made especially for them and nothing else. The deviled egg has a special place in the hearts and minds of many a Southern lady. Present company included. But I don't actually own a deviled egg plate! My birthday is coming up soon, so many someone will gift me one and we can have this conversation again in a month.

Now I've seen all kinds of garnishes outside of the red brick hue of paprika, like jalapeno slices, roasted shrimp, country ham and even caviar and chicken skin cracklings grace the tops of deviled eggs to make them appear more important than they really are. 

But trust me. After you make these, you and these eggs will be the most important things in the room. Pomp and circumstance not needed.

Classic Deviled Eggs 
Yield: 12 deviled eggs 
NOTE: No instructions on how to hard-boil eggs. There are many ways to make perfect eggs with creamy yolks and peelable shells. I'll let you decide your preferred method.

Add to 6-8 hard-cooked yolks:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pickle relish (sweet or dill, optional) NOTE: Adds texture, contrast and sharp bits of flavor
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dill (optional)
1 tsp paprika (for garnish, optional)

Mash the yolks into a fine paste with a fork or a spoon. Mix in all ingredients ecept garnish. Use a piping bag with a wide tip or a resealable plastic bag with a hole cut out of one bottom tip of the bag to add filling to the empty egg whites. If using a plastic bag, snip one corner off with a pair of scissors. Press the bag with your hands to push all the filling to one corner and press any air out of the top. Alternatively, scoop the filling into the egg whites with a spoon. Sprinkle with paprika and fresh dill to serve.
On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , , , , ,    No comments
Cooking fish en papillote or in parchment paper, is one of the simplest, easiest and most impressive things you can do in a kitchen. No matter what, the fish comes out of the pouch tender and flaky. If you don't believe in the power of cooking in paper, look at this pie.

En papillote means “in paper” in French. Cooking in paper, parchment paper specifically, is easy. The clean up is a snap and it’s something anybody at any cooking level can accomplish. Any combination of fish, herbs, spices and vegetables can personalize each packet of fish. The recipe and the dish are also very forgiving. Don't have parchment? Use foil. Don't have foil? Use a baking bag. Don't have either of those? Simply put it in a pot with a lid in the oven. It will all turn out okay.

A rule of thumb: cook the packet for 10-12 minutes per inch of fish. Not length-wise, but thickness. Fish is usually cut in pieces less than 1 inch, so 10 minutes in the oven will have you eating in less than 30 minutes. But I understand that people like different degrees of doneness depending on the variety of fish.

You may prefer a well-done salmon as opposed to a mendium-well.
You may prefer your firm-fleshed white wish to be just barely cooked, but cooked enough that the vegetables aren't hard.

Either way, parchment paper is still the way to go to cook your fish.If you're concerned with the vegetables not cooking, saute them first, before adding them to the parchment. Things like potatoes and carrots do take longer to cook, so stick to thin, small vegetables like asparagus, broccoli florets, bell peppers, squash, zucchini and scallions.

I put onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, frozen corn as my vegetables and I got a little creative in the flavor department. Lemon slices on top not only add a little acid and flavor, but they taste excellently tart and savory with each bite.

Fish en Papillote
2 4-6 oz. fish fillets, (firm-fleshed fish, pin bones removed)
1 cup julienned bell peppers (cut into strips)
1/3 cup julienned leeks, white part only
1/3 cup julienned carrots
1/3 cup corn kernels
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Mix together salt, pepper and sprinkle on vegetables.
2. Lay fish on top of vegetables and season with more salt, pepper. Sprinkle all with white wine.
3. Fold other side of paper over fish and starting at top of heart shape, fold up both edges of parchment, overlapping folds as you move along. Once you reach the end tip, twist several times to secure tightly.
4. Place parchment packages on baking sheet. Bake until packets are puffed and fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

On 11:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , ,    No comments
I love pork. Pork chops, pork steaks, BBQ pulled pork, pit-cooked pork, oven-roasted pork, bacon...

I’m into it.

Yesterday I binge-watched a few hours of Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoons from back in the day on Boomerang. While Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote are the stars, it's Porky Pig who's my favorite. With his stutter and prancing around with only a shirt on and no pants, his little round face brought me much comfort and joy.

What a fitting way to celebrate a good time!

Mesquite Grilled Pork Chops
YIELD: 1 chop per person. 

For chops less than 1" thick: 

1. Make a dry rub. In a bowl or resealable bag, mix together equal parts salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar. 

2. Pat the pork chops dry and place in the bowl or resealable plastic bag with the rub. Cover. Let rest on the counter for 1 hour. 

3. Heat grill to medium/medium-high heat. Remove the pork chops from the bag and lightly brush or drizzle with oil. 

4. Place on the grill and cook until the pork chop releases from the grill, about 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes. 

More than 1" thick? Increase cooking time per side. Be sure that the internal temp reaches 145°F for safety. To make sure the juices don't run out when you poke the chop with your thermometer, cut a small slit in the side before cooking and stick the thermometer tip in it when checking the temperature.

On 9:30 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , , , , , ,    No comments
The past week I've been able to keep calm and reinvest my free time into this blog. I've rediscovered recipes, I've rediscovered my love for creating menus (which is part of the reason why I became a culinary professional) and really relished slowing down 90% to enjoy my house, my family and my joy of cooking. Cooking releases tension in me and facilitates a soothing balmy effect in this upside down world.

Due to the current mobility restrictions and limited funds for eating out at restaurants, I am happily ready to cook every meal at home and share the fruits of my labor with you. If you need help figuring out what to buy when you order or pick up your groceries, here is a comprehensive well-stocked pantry list. It includes non-perishables, refrigerated and frozen food columns.

This week's menu is a mix of simple, easily customizable dishes and leaves a little wiggle room for me to plan for myself.

Many retail grocery stores have pre-seasoned, pre-mixed packages of beef, pork and poultry in the meat section. I bought these chops pre-seasoned with a mesquite spice blend that regional market, Food Lion, sells. There was a BOGO special and I couldn't pass that up. There was also pork butt (aka pork shoulder or picnic) on sale for 99 cents and I scored a 10-pounder. More on THAT next week.

I've put burrito bowls on the menu before and to be perfectly honest, taco bowls are the same thing. Are you a crunchy or a soft taco person? Are you into corn or flour tortillas?

My mother took a Greek cooking class when she was in college and this is one of the very few recipes she remembers from that time period, but she'spassed it on to me. Well, actually, I watched her make it to many times that I know each step by heart. The only difference? I'm going to grill mine! The carrots are leftover from this recipe and the cucumber salad is something I plan to throw together at the last minute.

Remember that pork I told you about buying at the grocery store? Well, we are going to have so much of that leftover, that the only thing left to do is to make sandwiches with it. Something that I learned this week: A medianoche (which means midnight in Spanish) consists of roast pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, sweet pickles and served on a sweet egg dough bread . It's just like the Cuban sandwich, except for the bread. I don't like ham, so I'm using turkey. I don't have crusty nor eggy bread, so I'm putting it on sandwich bread. Regardless, it's gonna be delicious.

I don't know if you know this about me, but I love pizza. It's my favorite food. I've been playing with this pizza dough recipe for almost two years and I'm ready to unleash it. Not only that, but it's gonna be a pizza party with sausage and pepperoni and all kinds of cheeses. I can't wait for you to see it.
But if Friday rolls around and I'm too tired to make, proof and roll out the dough, it's gonna be this pasta recipe.

Supporting local businesses is something that comes naturally to me. Ever since I became a part of the food community here, I've always supported local first. As a matter of fact, my job as food editor for the best alternative weekly newspaper in the state thrives on being HYPERLOCAL. What am I, if not consistent? While I don't have all of the dollars to spend at the restaurants that I enjoy, I can support the local economy the best I can by supporting one restaurant at a time, one day a week (two days a week if this stimulus package money drips down to my level). I don't know who I'm going to pick yet, but I can't wait to share with you what we decide to eat.

Until next time...

I don't remember the exact moment when kale got trendy and popular. I do remember kale being touted as a superfood. Kale was marketed in smoothies. Kale in baked goods. Kale was salted and roasted and marketed as a snack. Then came the pushback. Nobody really liked kale. And even worse, no one knew how to cook it.

But I do.

There are 3 main types of kale:

  • Curly
  • Dinosaur
  • Russian

I use curly kale in this recipe and it's the most easily recognizable. I also got it from Sungold Farm, whose owner, Natalie schooled me on kale many moons ago.

Dinosaur kale is the dark green one with the bumpy-looking exterior.
Russian kale is one that reminds me of oak leaves.It's light and delicate-looking, but is still rough and tumble like the other varieties.

I really like creamed spinach but I love creamed kale even more because of the hearty texture.
Most creamed kale recipes call for heavy cream, but it's expensive and I didn't have any, so cream cheese came to the rescue. It melts so nicely with the addition of butter and milk. Chopped onions and garlic meld into the cream while a splash of vinegar wakes everything up. I sincerely hope you enjoy this recipe.

Creamed Kale
Serves 2-3

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 lb fresh kale, chopped, large stems removed (curly is preferred)
1/3 - 1/2 cup whole milk (or water, if you're out)
1-2 Tablespoons apple cider or champagne vinegar (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium low heat.
2. Add onions and garlic and cook for several minutes until onion is translucent and garlic is turning golden brown and very fragrant.
3. Add in chopped kale and toss carefully in the butter and oil. You may have to add this in two batches.
4. Cover pan and allow kale to wilt, tossing occasionally.
5. Add in cream cheese, break up with spatula and let melt into the pan. If it starts to burn turn down the heat.
6. Pour in milk and stir. Add more milk, if needed, for creaminess.
7. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle on vinegar, if using. Serve hot.

Have any leftovers? They taste great the next day or even 4 days later. Make a sandwich like I did with hot Italian sausage and yellow mustard on a baguette. It's good eatin'.

I'm completely obsessed with my Instant Pot pressure cooker (which does a far sight more than meets the eye).

I bought it for the low, low price of $50 (including shipping) on Amazon Prime Day last year and I haven't looked back. I use it for EVERYTHING: pasta, potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, rice, beans, oatmeal, making chicken stock, even cheesecake. Yeah. Cheesecake.

But the best parts about the Instant Pot are that anyone can use it and you can cook things in a fraction of the time, aounsupervised. I love that I can just put on the lid and take a nap or get some work done in my home office while the food is percolating away.

This recipe is no different. It's simple, yet tasty. The acid from the vinegar cuts through the fatty pieces like butter while the vegetables fall apart with the mere suggestion of a fork. I sincerely enjoyed this dish and I hope you do too.

Apple Cider Braised Chuck Roast
Yield: 3-4 servings

2 Tablespoons oil (not extra virgin olive oil)
1 (2 lb.) chuck roast, room temperature
Salt and ground black pepper, for seasoning
1 large onion, sliced
1 whole head of cabbage, cut in 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1. Turn Instant Pot to sauté. Swirl a little oil into the pot. Season meat heavily with salt and pepper on all sides. Sear meat on all sides, until browned on all sides.

2. Add onion, cabbage, potatoes, apple juice and apple cider to the pot.

3. Press CANCEL on the Instant Pot. Cover and seal the pot. Manually set PRESSURE COOK for 45 minutes.

4. When the Instant Pot signals the cook session is completed, let natural release for 20 minutes. After that, manually release the remaining pressure.

5. Open lid carefully, shred meat with 2 forks or serve in chunks with sauce and vegetables.

Alternatively, preheat oven to 400 F, season and sear the chuck roast in a braising pot on top of the stove; Add vegetables, deglaze the contents of the pot with the apple juice and apple cider; Cover and place in the preheated oven to cook for 3 hours. Continue with step 5 of the recipe.