Thursday, September 23, 2010

Here we come....on the run.......

Today was one of those days that usually only happens in sitcoms, where there's a laugh track or a studio audience who gets to "yuck it up" at the expense of others. But, sadly, it was all too real. For those of you who are uninformed, you can read about my day on my Facebook, or on Walmart's Facebook, whichever you prefer.

My grocery shopping didn't finally get accomplished until about 4:00 p.m., certainly not the time I am accustomed to shopping. The dinner I had planned for today was not going to happen. But, on the way home from the successful shopping trip this afternoon, I had an epiphany. This is how you whip up a dinner when your two teenage daughters are either working or have other plans (or....they have leftover food from when their aunt was here...lol). A quick swing into the local Publix (the only place I buy seafood and baked bread) and the following jambalaya was born.

3 c. cooked yellow rice (ours was leftover from Tuesday's dinner)
1/2 of a pkg of Kielbasa sausage, sliced thin
3 scallions, sliced thin...reserve some of the green "tops" for garnish
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1/2 lb. of uncooked shrimp
2 T. butter
splash of Louisiana hot sauce
Old Bay seasoning
water for boiling.

Take the 3 c. of yellow rice and place in a large pan, with the butter. Add the kielbasa, the scallions, and the tomatoes. As it heats, add the hot sauce.

Boil about 3-4 c. of water with old bay seasoning in it, while boiling add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute, remove, drain, and take off the shells. Remove the rice and kielbasa mixture from heat and add the shrimp. Stir well. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with chopped scallion tops. Serve with warm Publix (or any other, lol) baguette. A salad would be nice too, but hey....I was too tired.

My husband is STILL raving...and is taking the leftover to work with him tonight to eat on his break. I love figuring out how to use something that's leftover, and since I had bought the kielbasa and the scallions when I was shopping...it came to me in a flash that a quick side trip to Publix for bread and shrimp (on sale this week, I might add) would make a KILLER dish for the two of us using the leftover yellow rice.

Here's hoping tomorrow goes better....for you AND for me.

Today's food quote: "There are may of us who cannot but feel dismal about the future of various cultures. Often it is hard not to agree that we are becoming culinary nitwits, dependent upon fast foods and mass kitchens and megavitamins for our basically rotten nourishment." MK Fisher

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not what's for dinner at my house tonight, but maybe a good idea for yours

Reflecting the change of the season, tomorrow being the first day of my favorite season, autumn, I'm making a pot of chili from some leftover ground beef used to make last night's meatloaf. But.....on the menu for later in the week is a variation on a new favorite of mine..capillini pomodoro. I had it at a restaurant last week and it has become a new favorite of mine. I had thought, however, that it might not go over "too" well here since it has no meat in it. Therefore, I am going to make this with pork cutlets, but you can make it with chicken. Feel free, also, to serve this sauce over angel hair pasta, thus making it the original "capillini pomodoro". This recipe serves 2, but can easily be enlarged.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half and pounded into cutlets, or two boneless pork chops, pounded thin. (Honestly, I'm thinking this would ROCK served over salmon as well, so go ahead....experiment)
salt and black pepper
all purpose flour
nonstick spray
2 T. vegetable oil
1/4 c. vodka
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. chopped fresh tomato (Roma tomatoes work best)
2 T. heavy cream
1/3 c. sliced scallions

Season cutlets with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Coat a saute pan with nonstick spray, add oil and heat over medium high. Saute cutlets on both sides, then transfer to a platter. Pour fat off of pan. Deglaze pan with the vodka (away from heat, REMOVE pan from heat to do this...it's really important). Return to heat and cook until nearly evaporated. Add broth and lemon juice. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for about 1 minute. Transfer back to warm platter. Stir tomatoes and cream into sauce. Heat through and then pour over cutlets. Garnish with scallions.

So enjoy the changing of the season (I'm brainwashing myself into believing that it IS cooler outside...even a little...and that IS a fall breeze I'm feeling....even if it's just winds from Hurricane Igor). Soon we'll be thinking of autumn holiday menus, baking, treat making and I, for one, can not WAIT. I love this time of year and can't wait to share all my special holiday treats with you. Please share yours with me as well, we can, after all, never have enough.

Today's food quote: "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Southern "Fry Fest"

Sorry about how long it's been since my last blog. I have had my sister here visiting and she loves to eat out.....which is nice for me "sometimes" but if I'm too long out of my kitchen I tend to get "antsy". However, this past couple weeks gave me a chance to explore around, getting ideas and one such idea evolved into my husband, in the kitchen with a deep fryer, frying every darn thing he could get his hands on. It initially was supposed to be an attempt to recreate TGIFriday's deep fried green bean appetizer...something the girls and I fell in LOVE with. We're still working on duplicating the batter, but I CAN tell you that my husband makes the best chicken nuggets, deep fried shrimp, onion rings and fried green tomatoes I've ever had...and here are some deep frying secrets in case you'd like to embark on your own "fry fest". Now I know.....this IS the South, and we like to deep fry EVERYTHING (I once ate a deep fried Twinkie that I can NOT stop thinking about)--but I still would not advocate doing this very often. But if you DO decide to try it, I want you to enjoy it (both the taste AND the experience) as much as we did. So here goes:

decide on whether you want to use a batter or a breading. Batters are usually thicker and often crispier...they're my personal favorite--and they're a wet coating. A breading is something that you wet the item you intend to fry, then cover it with the coating. For a good batter, use eggs, flour, maybe some corn meal if you have it and try to mix it all together with some type of liquid that has "carbonation" maybe beer, or if not, club soda. The bubbles make the batter "fluffier" and help it to stick. For onion rings, soak the onions in ICE cold salted water for as long as possible (overnight is optimum). Make sure to season all meats (both sides) prior to dipping into the batter (or breading if that's what you choose). You can buy batter and breading mixes in the stores in the spice aisle and frankly, they are easier sometimes (and faster) than trying to make your own. Experiment with several types while you're having your "fry fest"..this makes it even tastier and more fun.
For fried green tomatoes, make sure you choose a green tomato that is nice and firm. Slice it thinly and salt (and pepper if you desire) on both sides. Coat with batter and deep fry for only a minute or two, until the batter is nice and brown. Too long will make the tomato "mushy" and you don't want that.

Dipping sauces make the fry fest experience even better--fried green tomatoes are traditionally served with ranch dressing, but a wasabi ranch is really nice, just squeeze about 1 T. of wasabi paste into about 1/2 to 1 c. of ranch dressing. A spicy ranch dressing is great for onion rings (similar to the sauce restaurants use on "bloomin' onions) and kids will appreciate the traditional ketchup. One of my personal favorites to use for dipping sauce is Publix brand Mango Poppyseed Dressing. Sorry to everyone who doesn't have a Publix available, but maybe you could still locate the dressing by another company...it's yummy.

I highly recommend a deep fryer for this endeavor but if you are going to use a pan, use a heavy one with high sides and don't take the oil level up more than about halfway. Also, using vegetable or canola oil reduces the smoking factor. Your oil needs to be between 350 and 365 degrees, and keep everything that you put into the pot or fryer for each batch uniform in size. Really this is similar to a "fondue" type of experience, just on a much larger scale. lol. But have fun, experiment and PLEASE post if you decide to try to deep fry something other than what I've suggested...my girls wanted to do candy bars but we didn't want to use the same oil we'd just done shrimp and catfish in, so let me know if ya'll give that one a try, ok? I'd recommend freezing the candy bars for a while before battering and deep frying.

Missed ya'll while I wasn't blogging....hope to get back on a somewhat regular schedule soon. Please keep those recipes and ideas coming. I'm back to cooking now, so I'm gonna need the suggestions...I'm a bit rusty!

Today's food quote: "Two can live as cheaply as one...if one of 'em ain't eatin'" Southern Food quote.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A great contribution.....

I love it when people send me recipes.....because I know that a.) they're thinking of me and know that I love to cook and try out new things and b) it shows they're reading my blog! (yay!!) But it's even better when it's one of my kids who sends them to me...and my daughter, Karis, loves to cook as much as I do. So many of my really GREAT recipes are from her...and Thanksgiving just would NOT be Thanksgiving (and everyone knows that's my favorite holiday) without Karis' Sweet Potato Casserole and Rosemary Cornbread (I'll be sure to share those when we get closer to the holidays.

So Karis has sent me a couple really great recipes in the last week or so, but the one that REALLY intrigued me was the one for "Southern Tomato Pie". I love tomatoes, just the smell of a fresh tomato can make me feel "happy" (it's one of those "smells" that, to me, signifies springtime and summertime). As summer is winding down (or, if you live around HERE--still going full force) give this recipe a try for either a light dinner or maybe a "lunch with the girls". I'm printing this recipe EXACTLY as Karis sent it to me, including the "drink recommendation" at the end. I love you, Karis. I'm proud of you, not just your love of cooking but EVERYTHING about you. Can't wait until we can make this recipe (and share it) together).

Southern Tomato Pie

1 pie crust
1 cup mayo
2 cups shredded cheddar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 sliced scallions
8 to 10 medium plum tomatoes, sliced

NOTE: I used a frozen pie crust, the recipe says refrigerated but I'm sure you could use homemade. Whichever type you use, partially bake it til it looks slightly puffed and dry.

Mix the mayo with 1 1/4 cups of the cheese and the pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the partially baked crust. Top with a layer of tomato slices, 1 tbsp of scallions, then sppon about 1/3 cup of the mayo/cheese mixture on top in dollops. Continue the process to make 3 more layers. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden and juices are bubbling. Let the pie cool for at least ten minutes before slicing into wedges.

We served this with a big salad. I think it would also go well with roast veggies or even a nice steak. Don't be fooled though...it is very filling!!

PS -- we had it with Bud Light...I think it would be better with a nice glass of wine though. :o)



So enjoy this...enjoy making it (maybe with YOUR children?), enjoy sharing it, and enjoy everything about the sweetness and happiness that cooking (and cooking with fresh ingredients) can bring to your home.

Bon Appetit!

Today's food quote: "Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate, and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life" George Blanc (author of "Ma Cuisine des Saisons)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Say "Ole!" with the Chimichanga/Wet Burrito...

This is one of my family's favorites. It came from a friend of mine when I lived out in California, and everyone I've ever made it for LOVES it. It's not necessarily the "fastest" dish to make, but it is easy, and fairly inexpensive. The recipe makes a huge casserole that will feed a family of about 4 with leftovers, or it's also a great dish to make and take to a potluck. I love Mexican food, it makes me feel much less homesick (although it is difficult to get "good" Mexican ingredients here in this area of Florida)and my love for Mexican food is second only to my love of Italian food. To me, it's warm, it's homey and it's filling. This casserole is good anytime, but it's also good on cold and rainy days. It is easily made ahead and refrigerated until it's time for it to be popped into the oven. Enjoy!

1 to 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 envelope of taco seasoning
1 medium onion
2 packages of flour tortillas (the soft taco size)
Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce (don't use any other brand than this...it's the best--they come in two sizes and I "usually" use one large can and one small can, but if you can't find the large can then you're going to need about 3 or 4 small cans)
2 bags of grated cheddar cheese (8 oz bags)

Chop the onion and place into a frying pan with the ground beef. Cook thoroughly. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions. Set aside. Spray a 13x9x2 pan with cooking spray. Place some of the enchilada sauce on a wide shallow plate. Take about 2 or 3 tortillas and place them into the microwave...heat on high for about 15 to 20 seconds. Removing one of the tortillas, place into the sauce and turn it over until both sides are saturated (you'll need to keep placing more sauce onto the plate as it gets used up). Put the "wet" tortilla into the baking pan and place about 2 T. of the meat mixture into the middle, add a small amount of cheese. Then, fold both sides toward the center and roll up, placing it at one end of the pan. Repeat this procedure until all meat mixture has been used up and pan is filled with "chimis". I usually end up with two rows of them, about 6 to a row; but they can easily be "cuddled" together to get even more into the pan. You should have some cheese left, as well as some sauce. Pour the sauce over the top of all of the chimis and then cover entire top with the remaining cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and a golden brown.

Today's food quote: "An empty stomach is not a good political advisor" Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pot Roasts and Pies...the meal that keeps on giving.

I'm a pot roast kind of girl....I love to put a roast into the crock pot, whether it's a beef roast, or a pork roast or even a leg of lamb, I love the simple practice of slow (and I mean sloooooow) cooking. Typically, my pot roasts cook for a minimum of 8 hours, sometimes more. I sometimes sear the meat first, sometimes not, but I always add salt and pepper to the roast, using garlic salt, usually. I then add a can of ready made gravy (whatever type for the roast I'm making, beef, port, whatever) and water to the pot, along with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. I also add some onions, very roughly chopped and a couple cloves of garlic and a couple bay leaves. Sometimes I add potatoes and carrots to it, sometimes not...whatever I happen to be feeling or whatever the pantry has.

But the BEST thing about pot roasts, is that there is almost always leftovers! Last night I took the leftover pork roast (from the night before) and quickly cooked some chopped potatoes, onions, celery and carrot in the microwave (we hadn't put vegetables into this particular pot roast, as we were having risotto with it). There was some leftover broccoli, so I chopped that up as well.

Then....I made my foolproof pie crust...that's right, I said FOOLPROOF! This pie crust is SO easy, and SO quick to make you won't believe it. It works for any pies, be they pot pies like I was making last night, or fruit pies. The recipe is from Martha Stewart, and while it calls for a food processor, I have also made the recipe by hand (using a pastry cutter), or even with a hand mixer. It makes enough crust for a 2 crust pie, but you could always half the recipe, or freeze the half you don't need if you're making a one crust pie.

Pie Crust
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 c. ice water.

In the bowl of the food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than about 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together. if it's crumbly, add more ice water, 1 T. at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap in plastic (this allows it to chill faster and makes it easier to roll out.) Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

Sometimes, if the dough seems a bit "stubborn" on rolling out (if it's too cold or just not pliable enough) I form it back into a ball-like shape after removing it from the fridge and begin the rolling again. This seems to work out better, on those days when it doesn't seem to want to cooperate.

Always egg wash the tops of your two crust pies. It makes them shiny and BEEEYOOTIFUL!! They look like the pies you see in magazines. Just scramble up an egg and brush it on the top of the pie. You may want to shield it with foil for the first 15 minutes or so of baking, so that it doesn't brown TOO quickly, but then remove the foil and you will end up with a golden beautiful pie (which will have a VERY flaky crust).

After placing the bottom pie crust into the pie plate, I then added all the chopped ingredients, meat and vegetables. I then poured the leftover gravy over all, dotted with a few squares of unsalted butter (always do this for your pies, fruit or otherwise) and topped with the remaining pie crust. After egg washing I put it into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.

You can use this pie crust recipe for a lot of things, though...not just leftover pot roast! I sometimes make it, roll out one of the disks and just cover it with sugar and cinnamon. After dotting it with butter, I roll it tightly and place it into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. Don't egg wash this though, because it can cause it to cook too quickly on the outside before the inside gets done (I think it's because it's so tightly rolled. In any case, my girls love this "cinnamon roll" for an after school snack. I've even done it (on a smaller scale) with the leftover crusts after rolling out and assembling a pie.

So have fun, bake a pie, whether it's for a meal or dessert.

Today's food quote: "There has always been a food processor in the kitchen. But once upon a time she was called "The Missus" or "Mom". Sue Berkman, author.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A salad you will LOVE.....

I love salads. I've shared recipes with you for how to "spice up" your chicken and tuna salads, as well as the "Wedge Salad" recipe from my friend, Rachel, which has achieved almost icon-like status at our house right now. Here's a salad recipe from another friend of mine, Marna, that--on the surface--might look strange, but trust me...it is DEEEELICIOUS. A great choice for lunch with friends, or even a light dinner for your family. And...this salad taste REALLY good "if" there are leftovers.

Oriental Chicken Salad:

1/2 head sliced cabbage (or bag of coleslaw mix)
5 green onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced fine
2 T. sesame seeds
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1 lg can of chicken, drained well and chopped
1 pkg ramen noodles (noodles ONLY, and do NOT cook....they soften in the dressing)

In a bowl, combine the cabbage, onions, celery, sesame seeds, almonds and chicken. Crumble the noodles into the bowl as well.

Dressing:
1/2 c. oil
3 T. sugar
4 T. white vinegar
seasoning packet from ramen noodles
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper.

Pour all into container with a tight fitting lid and shake well.

Pour over salad, mix well and refrigerate for at least one hour....then devour!!

for a light lunch with friends, the perfect pairing with this is

Rhubarb Water: (if you live in an area of the country where you can GET rhubarb---it's almost impossible to find down here in Florida)

2 lbs. rhubarb, washed and cut into chunks
4 c. boiling water
3/4 c. sugar
juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Place rhubarb in a bowl and cover with 4 c. of boiling water. Leave at room temperature overnight. The next day, strain the water into a saucepan, discarding the rhubarb. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Let cool and taste. Add more lemon juice if necessary. Strain into a bottle and cork. Refrigerate. To be served ice cold. (Note: if you are making this for a party, it tastes "lovely" in a glass with a touch of vodka and a sprig of mint as garnish)

Today's food quote: "The thought of two thousand people crunching celery at the same time horrified me." George Bernard Shaw (explaining why he had refused an invitation to a vegetarian gala dinner)