Grits Breakfast Bowl

Sean and I visited Durham, NC earlier this month. On our last morning there, my friend, Emily, took us to Foster’s Market for breakfast. I ended up getting the omelet special (it had salmon, sautéed kale, red onions, and green goddess dressing/sauce), which was fantastic.

But after we left, I kept thinking about Emily’s order, which was a grits bowl, and how I knew I could recreate it at home without too much trouble.

Grits Breakfast Bowl | A Nerd Cooks

And I was right; Easy to make and delicious to eat.

You’ll need (makes ~3 bowls):

For the grits – 

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • desired seasonings, to taste (I used garlic powder, pepper, and shallot salt)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • shredded cheddar cheese

For the black beans –

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • desired seasonings (I used more garlic powder and shallot salt)

For everything else –

  • salsa
  • fried eggs, 1-2 per person (runny yolks highly recommended)
  • bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • finely chopped green onions, for garnish

In a medium-sized pot, bring the chicken broth and seasonings to a boil.  Whisk the grits into the liquid until smooth.  Turn off the heat and whisk in the shredded cheddar.  Set aside for a minute.

While the broth is coming up to a boil, warm the oil, black beans, and seasonings in a small skillet.  Set aside.

Spoon some of the grits into a bowl. Top with the black beans, salsa, fried egg(s), crumbled bacon, and green onions.

Grits Breakfast Bowl | A Nerd Cooks
One of the great things about this recipe is that you can tweak it to meet your needs/desires. Vegetarian? Use water instead of chicken broth and omit the bacon. Prefer sausage? Do it. Scrambled eggs over fried? Yes.

No matter how you mix it up, just make this grits bowl. It’s filling, comforting, and delicious.

French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon

Things have been a bit cupcake-heavy around here lately, no?  I trust that there are no complaints about this.

French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon | A Nerd Cooks

One of the interns in my lab had her last day with us last week before heading off to medical school. One of her great food loves is bacon, so I tried to find a way to incorporate it into a farewell treat for her.

French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon | A Nerd Cooks
Not to toot my own horn or anything (beep beep), but this is definitely one of the better ideas I’ve had lately.

Between baking the cupcakes and cooking the bacon, your kitchen will start to smell like breakfast food.  And that is never a bad thing.

French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon | A Nerd Cooks

And really… they have bacon and all the flavors of french toast.  SO.  These guys are basically an acceptable breakfast food item.  Right?  Right.

The basic yellow cake and frosting used here are variations on the recipes found in Joy the Baker’s cookbook.

You’ll need:

Basic Yellow Cake (makes ~2.5 dozen cupcakes) –

  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Classic Buttercream (makes ~4 cups – I generally halve the recipe to frost about 2 dozen cupcakes) –

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (taste as you go)
  • 2 tbs – 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk (since the syrup is going to thin things out a bit, be conservative and add it only a little bit at a time until you are satisfied with the consistency of the frosting)
  • 8 strips of cooked bacon, finely chopped, for topping the cupcakes
  • pure maple syrup, for drizzling on top of cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Set this aside aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set this aside for the time being.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix well between additions.  Add the vanilla.

Reduce the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture – Mix well.  Add the buttermilk, until well combined.  Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way full and bake 20-25 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, add the softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat it on medium speed until the butter is soft (~1 minute).

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until the powdered sugar is incorporated.

Add another 2 cups of the powdered sugar, along with the heavy cream or milk.  Beat on low speed, and add the additional 2 cups of sugar as needed to thicken the frosting.

Once the frosting is as stiff as you’d like it to be, beat it on medium speed for about 4 minutes, or until the frosting is fluffy and smooth.

Frost the cupcakes in whatever way you’d like. Top with finely chopped bacon.

French Toast Cupcakes with Bacon | A Nerd Cooks

Hot Sauce and Garlic Compound Butter

Seriously, this is magic.  Just magic.

Trust me on this one.

Garlic and Hot Sauce Compound Butter | A Nerd Cooks

This was inspired by a recipe I saw in an issue of Bon Appétit a couple of years ago. It took me a while to get around to making it, but I’ve been doing this every time we’ve had steak this year.

You’ll need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated (or minced very finely)
  • 2 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mix everything together very well.

You can either cover the bowl and chill it as is, or spoon the butter onto some plastic wrap, form it into a log, and chill it that way, all wrapped up.  I opted for the log method, but really, either way would work.

Slather onto hot steak, fresh from the grill.  It will melt and coat everything and be just utterly delicious.

Garlic and Hot Sauce Compound Butter | A Nerd Cooks

Pimm’s Cup

This past weekend I wanted a cocktail that would complement the warm, spring weather. Enter: The Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm's Cup | A Nerd Cooks

Now, I realized that I had shared a Ginger Pimm’s Cup a couple of years ago. But this recipe is more akin to the classic drink. It’s incredibly refreshing, and isn’t super high in alcohol content so you can feel free to sip on these all afternoon without becoming a hot mess.

Pimm's Cup | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1 drink):

Add all ingredients to a tall glass. Imbibe!

You could easily make this drink in larger quantities for a party and serve it out of a pitcher.

*The grocery store that I go to didn’t have fresh mint (for the third week in a row…), so I didn’t include any, though it would be delicious and look very pretty.

Pimm's Cup | A Nerd Cooks

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry

Indian food and curry-based dishes are my jam; This much we have established.  So far, I’ve made Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Curry, and, most recently, Curried Egg Salad.

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry | A Nerd Cooks

Though delicious, those dishes (with the exception of the egg salad) can be a little time intensive.  They’re great for dinner on a weekend, but maybe aren’t what I’d opt for after a long day at work.

However!  Making a curry in the crock pot allows me (and you!) to enjoy all of that deliciousness, while putting in a fraction of the effort and time.

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This recipe comes from the blog A Spicy Perspective, and has been modified just slightly.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 14. oz cans chick peas, drained
  • 3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • basmati rice, for serving

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, garlic, and ginger.  Sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

Place the onions, garlic, and ginger in a blender.  Add the can of coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, and honey.  Blend until completely smooth.

Pour the sauce into a 4 quart slow cooker.  Add the chick peas and sweet potatoes and stir to coat everything.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 (or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender).

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the 1/4 cup of heavy cream and stir.  The cream is not necessary here, but adds a rich luxuriousness to the curry.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice.

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry | A Nerd Cooks

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Another of Sean’s coworkers had a birthday recently.  As the designated baker for such affairs, I went to work over the weekend to come up with something fun and delicious.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

She placed no limitations on what I could make, so I went with a flavor combination that I really enjoy (and hope that she will, too): cookies and cream.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

My first inclination was to go with a chocolate cake, but instead opted for something that would allow you to really see that you’re eating a cookies and cream dessert.

The cupcake is a basic yellow cake recipe with bits of Oreo cookie mixed throughout, while the frosting is a classic buttercream with pulverized Oreo crumbs mixed in.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

The yellow cake and frosting used here are slight variations on the recipes in Joy the Baker’s newest cookbook.

You’ll need:

For the Basic Yellow Cake (makes ~2.5 dozen cupcakes) –

  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 12 Oreo cookies, broken into bits

For the Classic Buttercream (makes ~4 cups) –

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
  • 8 Oreo cookies, pulverized

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to mix well between additions.  Add the vanilla extract.

Reduce the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture.  mix well.  Add the buttermilk, until well combined.  Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Fold in the Oreo cookie pieces.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way full and bake 20-25 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, add the room temperature butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat it on medium speed until the butter is soft (~1 minute).

Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, the salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until the powdered sugar is well incorporated.

Add another 2 cups of the powdered sugar, along with the heavy cream/milk.  Beat on low speed, and add the additional 2 cups of sugar as needed to thicken the frosting.

Once you’ve achieved your desired consistency, beat the frosting on medium speed for about 4 minutes until the frosting is fluffy and smooth.  During this time, also add the pulverized Oreo crumbs.

Frost the cupcakes and decorate with Oreo cookies, if desired.
Cookies and Cream Cupcakes | A Nerd Cooks

Strawberry Caprese Salad

This salad screams summer, to me.Strawberry Caprese Salad | A Nerd CooksI took this to a gathering last weekend, and it was well received.  I’ll be making it all spring and summer long, for sure.  In fact, I’m making it again today! Strawberry Caprese Salad | A Nerd Cooks I saw this recipe on Cooking for Keeps.  The amount of ingredients can easily be multiplied depending on how many people you’re feeding.

You’ll need (serves ~4):

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • small bunch basil leaves, sliced

Add the strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella to a bowl.  Toss together. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.  Pour over the salad. Add the sliced basil leaves and toss everything together. Strawberry Caprese Salad | A Nerd Cooks