Emily M. DeArdo


Food Stories--Grilling in Houston

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo2 Comments


Two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned my cousin Diane and her take on Mexican food. Since she lives in Houston, she knows of what she speaks. But she's also a good cook in her own right, and I got to experience that when I visited her a few years back. 

She and her husband, Matt, now have three children (and two cats), but at the time, she only had one, her oldest daughter. I spent a week with them in mid-July (July in Houston? Was I crazy? Maybe.), and one night for dinner, Di and Matt served grilled chicken, butter beans, and brownies, which were delicious. It was simple, yes but sitting around the table with some of my favorite people made it more than just the food on the plates. 

Diane and I have always been close--we're only six months apart in age. While we're different personalities, and have different gifts (she can do higher-level math, for one), we always enjoy seeing each other and talking when we get the chance (which is hard to find, because you know, three kids, two cats--she's busy!). But we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. 

Diane and I with her youngest, Frank. 

Diane and I with her youngest, Frank. 

That's one of the great things about food. It has a power to bring back memories and people when you can't physically be together. So while we had a lot of good food on my trip there (steak! Real Mexican! Seafood by the Gulf!), this is a meal I can easily recreate when I want to be back in Houston. 

Houston Dinner

These recipes are all from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2--which I'd gotten Di as a shower gift before her wedding. 

Honey Mustard Barbecued Chicken


2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. brown sugar 

1 c. chicken stock

1/2 c. prepared honey mustard

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. curry powder


4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Preheat grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat. 

Add vegetable oil to a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add red onion and saute, 3-5 minutes. Add vinegar and reduce by half, one minute or two. Add brown sugar and cook one minute. Whisk in stock and honey mustard, allspice, and curry powder. Bring sauce to bubble and reduce heat to lowest setting. 

Coat chicken with a drizzle of oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken on hot grill and cook 4-5 minutes, then turn. Baste chicken liberally with sauce and grill another 5 minutes. Turn once again and baste. Cook 2-3 minutes more, than transfer chicken to a platter and serve.

Butter Bean Salad

2 15 oz. cans butter beans, rinsed and drained 

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/4 red onion, chopped (use the rest of the red onion from the chicken!)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp. EVOO

the juice of one large lemon

coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss to coat beans and vegetables evenly in dressing. 


Corn on the Cob with Chili and Lime

4 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned

1 lime, cut into wedges

1/3 stick butter, cut into pats

chili powder, for sprikling

salt, to taste

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and simmer corn, 3-5 minutes. Drain and arrange the ears on a shallow plat in a single row. Squeeze lime juice liberally over all the corn. Nest pats of butter into paper towels, and rub lime doused hot corn with butter. Season with sprinkle of chili powder and salt and serve immediately. 

Fluffernutter Brownies

1 package chocolate brownie mix, prepared to package directions

1 c. peanut butter chops

softened butter, to grease baking dish

2 oz. chopped nuts

1 c. mini-marshmallows

Preheat over to 425 degrees. 

To mixed brownie batter, stir in peanut butter chips. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with softened butter and spread the brownie mixture into an even layer in the dish. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and bake 20-22 minutes total, removing to scatter marshmallows on top for the last 3-5 minutes of baking time. Remove from oven and cut into pieces.