Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spaghetti and Squash Don't Mix

So, in light of the holiday feasts that we have attended, and the cookies we have consumed, hubby and I decided that we should try to lighten things up a bit this week, just to make sure we don't gain back any of the weight we have already lost. (For those of you just tuning in, don't be confused this is definitely a food blog, and not a dieting blog).

Anyway, we decided to give spaghetti squash a try as a substitute for real spaghetti, because it is a major calorie savings. So, I read that you could cook the squash whole in the crock pot, and I did just that. It did give us a little freight when the squash blew up because no one said anything about puncturing it before hand. No mess though. It just made the lid jump on the crock pot, and I immediately envisioned squash all over the counter and ceiling.

Fast forward to the part where we actually eat the stuff, and let's just say that it was a little runny, because water kept seeping out of the "noodles". I would not say that the taste was bad, it just was not good. I think you come to expect a certain texture when it comes to pasta, and let just say that squash does not have that same texture.

This is among the many reasons why I will not be living the low carb lifestyle. There really is just no substitute for bread or pasta. I can do whole wheat pasta just fine, so that is what I will be sticking to.

All I can save about tonight's meal is that if it weren't for the garlic bread, we would have been really hungry. What can I say, you have to sprinkle a little bit of naughty in with your nice!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chicken Soup and Great Friends

Lately, I have taken on a little endeavor of helping some of my friends learn more about cooking. It has truly been so much fun. I have some great friends, and during our "cooking lessons" I have been learning so much about them. KLM, thanks for being the awesome women that you are.

In the past one friend came over and learned to make chicken parm, and roasted vegetables. We had a good time. It was nice cooking without a husband watching TV in the living room, or a child running under foot.

Our next cooking lesson consisted of myself, and two of my friends. We sent our children to Mom's Day out, or left them home with Daddy. We made pizza rolls, Shepherd's Pie, and Chicken Enchiladas. We also learned that colanders need to sit in bowls that are larger than they are, but that is another story for another time. The hostess's husband came home at lunch and critiqued the pizza rolls (he wanted a ham and cheese version). We really had a great time.

Today, we learned to make chicken noodle soup from scratch. We had our four children there. My little boy was a very lucky fella, because he was surrounded by three beautiful little girls. We were also later joined by a husband who is apparently a pretty good cook himself. Our hostess has a lovely kitchen, and of course I did a fine job of dirtying it up. For those who don't know, I am a very messy cook.

Though it is nearly 80 degrees here in Charleston today, something about chicken noodle soup is so comforting. Just the smell of it bubbling away on the stove was enough to make you yearn for the days that you would pull on Grandma's apron strings. Of course the conversation was great too. I so enjoy teaching people new things about cooking.

So LMK, I really just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the fun times this morning. I can't wait til our January lesson.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sorghum Syrup and Home Churned Butter

Sorghum Syrup is a treat that is near and dear to my heart. My Nanny (that's my Great-Grandmother), had a cousin up in the North Georgia Mountains named Olan Hughes. Olan Hughes was known for making Sorghum Syrup. Even at our small town fair where I grew up, I walked up to the Sorghum display, and low and behold my distant cousin had taken the blue ribbon for his syrup.

If you are not familiar with Sorghum, it is similar to Molasses. Molasses is made from sugar cane or sugar beets (sugar beets are also what the bulk of the white sugar in the world is made from). Sorghum is made from sorghum cane. What else is sorghum cane used for??? Making moonshine. Many people think that moonshine is made from corn, but real moonshine is made from sorghum. Corn liquor is made from corn. How do I know so much about this? Let's just say that my Great-Grandfather was not hurting during the Great Depression, because he hauled "sugar" for certain unsavory individuals.

Back to sorghum syrup. The primary way that my family ate this lovely dark brown nectar was to mix the syrup with fresh churned butter and sop the mixture up with a biscuit. We have been known to throw it into baked beans, gingerbread, and a number of other foods. If you have never had sorghum syrup, look for it the next time you are at a fruit stand. Don't buy the big commercially produced stuff. It won't be near as good as the stuff made by a local producer.

While we lived in Kentucky I had the pleasure of attending a Sorghum festival. It was held by the Kentucky Trailblazers, who are a group of people that travel to the festival in old timey horse and buggies. The rustic feel of the festival was spot on. You could walk up to where a mule was tethered to a post that he walked round and round pulling a weight that squeezed the cane juice from the sorghum. This was then boiled down in a vat that looked like something out of the 1800s. More like a cast iron kettle with a wood fire burning underneath.

The people at this festival were so friendly, and they all wanted you to taste their syrup. I purchased a quart of syrup from an elderly lady that reminded me of my Nanny, and also bought a cookbook from the trailblazers. It was a great time.

As for home churned butter...lets just say that I have churned my fair share as a small child. If I could get my hands on some raw milk, I would make some now. My aunt Mary (actually a distant cousin, but too much my elder to be called cousin Mary) raised cows and she and Nanny would milk those cows (yes, I helped milk cows) and make some of the best butter you ever could eat.

The real point I guess I wanted to get to with this post is that these rare artforms are being lost. I am so thankful that I was raised by my Great-Grandparents and had the opportunity to learn how to make such things. Whatever those things are that you learned from your grandmother or mother, learn them well so that you can pass them on to the next generation. Don't let all these old timey sorts of things slip away from a generation that eats way too much McDonalds and pizza, and plays too many video games. There is real value in teaching our children about these things.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Fire in the Kitchen

Wish I could say that I was speaking of some wonderful thing that I was flambeing this evening, but that would not be the case. Actually, I was preheating the oven to cook some frozen french fries, when I suddenly noticed that the oven was glowing from the inside.

Low and behold, there was a fire going in the bottom of the oven about the size of a soccer ball. No biggy. I told hubby to disconnect the smoke alarm, while I calmly walked into the laundry room, grabbed the mammoth bad of baking soda (I use it in the wash), opened the oven and threw a handful of the baking soda on the fire, thus extinguishing the flames.

It was not until after the fiasco was over that fear set in. How many times do I set the oven to preheat and then go in another room? This could have been tragic if I had done that. I have even hopped in the shower while waiting on the oven to preheat. Guess I won't be doing that again. I did not have a clue that there was anything in the bottom of the oven that would cause a fire, but apparently there was. So folks, just remember to bake with care, and keep the sparks in the bedroom!!!

Enough about that though. Here is a lovely recipe for quesadillas that are not so south of the border in flavor. You can make the filling ahead of time, and just assemble the quesadillas when it is convenient for you.

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas


2 medium size (around 8 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 pieces precooked bacon
4 oz. can Mushroom Stems and Pieces, drained
¾ c. Kraft honey BBQ sauce
2 T. honey
4 burrito sized flour tortillas
16 oz. bag Sargento 4 cheese Fancy Mexican Cheese Shreds

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Cut chicken into small pieces directly into pan using kitchen shears. Stir-fry in pan until cooked through (about 5 minutes). Cut bacon strips into small pieces and stir into chicken. Add mushrooms, and turn off heat. Stir in BBQ sauce and honey. Place four tortillas side by side on the counter. Spread 1/3 cup of cheese over each tortilla. Divide the BBQ chicken mixture evenly over each tortilla. Top each tortilla with another 1/3 cup of cheese. Cook in a large skillet over medium high heat with the tortilla open faced. Once the cheese starts to melt, fold the tortilla in half to form the quesadilla. Cook until browned on each side. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Serve whole, or cut each quesadilla into 4 triangles. ENJOY!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Lesson on Southern Sweet Tea

First of all, it is called Sweet Tea, not sweetened tea. Let's get that right straight out of the gate. When you are below the Mason Dixon line and you order tea in a restaurant, it is just understood that it will be sweet. When you are above the Mason Dixon and have a hankering for sweet tea, order hot tea and a glass of ice. Sweeten the hot tea, then pour it over the ice, because sugar will never melt in a glass of cold tea, and the pink yellow or blue stuff just does not taste the same.

I have often heard that we Southerners drink our tea syrupy sweet and too strong for the Northern palette. Let me explain a little something about sweet tea. Sweet tea is best served while still hot from making it. When you pour it over ice, it dilutes the tea and you have tea that is perfectly sweetened and not too strong. There is nothing better than that first sip of tea that is part hot and part cold. The way it swirls around in your mouth is almost intoxicating. No wonder they call it Southern table wine. Now, if you were to take that same pitcher of tea and put it in the fridge before serving, it would be awful to drink. It would be so sweet it would make your teeth hurt. But, real Southerners never ever put their tea in the fridge. It is made in a pitcher and more times than not, the pitcher of tea is gone before the liquid has even had time to cool. None the less, that pitcher will sit out on the counter til it spoils, rather than going in the fridge. Lemon is optional, as are mint, raspberries, etc. But really, we don't like our tea all gussied up.

Below is my method, or recipe for making sweet tea. If you don't like the way your tea at home tastes, give my method a try. You might just find that your tea tastes good afterall.

One pitcher of Southern Sweet Tea:

4 qt. size tea bags

1 1/3 c. sugar

2 cup glass measuring cup

3 cups boiling water

Place the four tea bags into the measuring cup. Boil 3 cups of fresh water (don't let water sit around in a tea kettle and use it over and over, it affects the way your tea tastes). Pour the water over the tea bags as full as you are comfortable filling the measuring cup. Allow to steep for 5 minutes (a minute less it will be too weak, a minute longer and it will start to get bitter). Pour the hot tea over the sugar that you have put into a pitcher. Stir well to melt the sugar. Refill the measuring cup twice with cool water with the tea bags in the glass, and add this to the pitcher. DO NOT squeeze the tea bags, as this also makes for bitter tea. Throw the tea bags out, and fill the measuring cup one last time with cool water. Add this to the pitcher, stir well, and enjoy over a full glass of ice!!!

Please note that you can use whatever brand of tea you like. I try to use Dixie Crystals sugar because that is what Nanny always used.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Not so Meatless Monday

Some friends have been asking me for this recipe for a while now, so I am finally going to post it. It is really a delicious dip for those of you out there that like a good BLT sandwich.


1 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup of sour cream
1 (3 oz.) package of cream cheese (softened)
15 quartered grape tomatoes or 3 large Roma tomatoes diced small
2 chopped green onions (both white and green part)
1 cup of chopped or crumbled bacon (I use the real bacon pieces that are in the salad dressing section at the store)

Combine all the above ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Tastes great on crackers or garlic bagel chips.

Last week, in the midst of all my cooking, I find myself not wanting to eat a thing. Does anyone else ever go through this? Some times I can sit and think of all the food in the world, and nothing sounds good to me. Of course other times everything sounds good to me, so I guess that is just nature's way of balancing things out.

Problem is when you are trying to formulate new recipes and nothing sounds good, it kind of messes up the creative process. I was trying to come up with new versions of chicken wings the other night, just mental lists of flavors I thought would be good, and I could not come up with anything. Normally this is how my creative process kind of goes. I decide that I want to work on new twists on meatloaf (just for example). So my first thought is usually what all different kinds of ground meat I can make meatloaf from. Then I will start to think of how different cuisines of the world relate to meat loaf. That part goes something like this...
Mexican Meatloaf - ground beef, taco seasoning, chopped chiles, topped with salsa, bake then cover with cheese to form a crust
Thai Meatloaf - ground chicken, red curry paste, shredded carrots and eggplant baked in a coconut curry sauce
German Meatloaf - new take on Sauerbraten - ground beef, pickling spices, sweet and sour like with a gingersnap gravy

You kind of get the idea. But when it came to coming up with these chicken wing ideas, I just had a total mental block. Normally when I think of ingredients for a recipe, I can taste them mentally (for lack of a better way of explaining it), and I can tell what will pair well together and what won't. I was at a point with the wings that I could not have told you if they should be dipped in peanut butter or rolled in jalapenos.

I think that I am past the mental block now. So, hopefully today I will be able to get back to the creative process. Of course I won't be making peanut butter dipped wings rolled in jalapenos (at least not yet). I think that I am in a baking mood.

Any tasters out there for home made cinnamon rolls?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grocery Stores of Old

Do you remember a time when you went to the grocery store, and the meat market spanned the entire back wall of the store? Can you remember actually watching the butcher cut meat, and being able to ask him for special cuts?

Well, thanks to my good friend April telling me about Doscher's, I was able to experience that again. We walked into the store on Savannah Highway Saturday, and I was taken back to my childhood, and the small country grocery store we shopped at (that would be Casey's). There were cuts of meat that my city boy husband had never actually seen in the grocery store. Being the first of the month, there was meat piled up like crazy. My poor husband had never experienced such a thing, and I think he was a little shocked by it all.

Well, Doscher's has found a new customer in me. Can I tell you that for $27 and some change I was able to purchase enough meats to feed my family for 2 weeks. We bought enough ground beef for 4 meals, chicken tenders ($1.99/lb) for 3 meals, pork chops for 2 meals, whole chicken breasts for 3 meals. The pork chops were not separated out by center cut that cost more. They were packaged up exactly the way they came off the pig. I must say that these were the juiciest chops that I have eaten in years. The chickens breasts were not those huge ones that take an hour to cook, but rather the smaller size ones that you can remember your grandmother frying up in the kitchen.

If you live in the low country and you are not shopping this store, do yourself a favor and at least check it out. I know some of you are afraid to go there because you don't blend in, and I say shame on you. We are all entitled to shop where we choose and can get the best deals. If you are scared to go by yourself, lets make a group outing of it.

I have been known to frequent Asian markets where I can not even read the labels, and the owner's look at you like you are crazy when you walk in and are as pale as I am. Then, after they see you shop there a few times, they actually start to like you. They will point you in the right direction of what you are looking for, and sometimes throw free stuff in your bag for you to try. People of different cultures are always happy to share their culture with you, all you have to do is show a little interest.

Go buy a pastry from the local Panaderia (that is a Hispanic bakery), you might just like it. Even if you don't you are out all of maybe 50 cents. If you see the taco stand on the side of the road, don't be afraid to try it. Order tacos de lengua. I will tell you what they are after you have fallen in love with them. Just step out of your shell a little. Charleston is an awesome melting pot of different cultures, don't be afraid to get out and try new things. You may just find something that you love!

Today's recipe:


16 oz. dried macaroni pasta
½ c. butter
½ c. all-purpose flour
½ t. cayenne pepper
2 t. garlic powder
3 c. heavy cream
1 c. chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. velveeta
4 c. shredded sharp cheddar

Put water on to boil macaroni according to package directions. Make sure you salt the pasta water prior to boiling the pasta. While the water is coming up to a boil, melt the butter in a medium stockpot or large sauce pan(do not allow the butter to get brown). Once the butter has melted, add the flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the butter and flour. Whisk in the cayenne pepper, and the garlic. Increase the heat to medium high, and whisk in the heavy cream and chicken broth. Continue to stir until mixture starts to thicken. Once the mixture begins to thicken reduce the heat back to medium and add the cream cheese and Velveeta (they will melt faster if you cube them up). Once the Velveeta and cream cheese have melted and are well incorporated remove the mixture from heat. Add the cheddar cheese in two batches. By this time your pasta should be done, and you should have drained it. Pour the sauce over the pasta in the pasta pan. Stir together and pour into (1) 9x13 pan or divide into up to (3) 8x8 pans. Top with crushed crackers or a little more cheddar cheese if desired. Don't do too much cheese or your dish will be swimming in oil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. You can make the mac-n-cheese up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate it without baking. When you are ready to serve it, bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees if it has been chilled.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wild Game!!!

No, I am not talking about the Georgia v. Georgia Tech football game. Go Yellow Jackets!!! For those of you that do not know, my husband got his Bachelors from Tech, and his Masters from University of Alabama. Yellow jackets and Elephants for us.

Enough football talk though. I am talking today about wild game meats. The stuff our ancestors ate, that many of us are afraid of now days. One of my husbands friends is giving us a deer, and he will be bringing it home this evening. My mind starts to think about all the wonderful ways to prepare it. Of course I will grind some of it for Chili and hamburgers. I will leave one of the tenderloins whole to cook on the grill. I will cut some of the tenderloin into thick medallions for steaks, and some into thin slices for frying and putting into biscuits. There are so many ways to prepare this meat besides the regular ways we are all used to. Deer is great for gourmet cooking. For instance, some of those medallions will be seared off and then simmered in a white wine reduction with mushrooms and thyme and cream, finished off with a little cognac. That whole tenderloin that is going on the grill will be encrusted in salt, pepper and rosemary, and cooked to medium rare. When it hits your palette the meat will practically melt in your mouth. In the words of Paula Dean, "It will be so good, it will make your tongue want to beat your brains out!"

I grew up in family full of hunters and during hunting season, we rarely had to buy meat. We had a lake on our property that fish and turtle were caught out of. We raised laying chickens so we always had fresh eggs. My Nanny always had a garden with fresh tomatoes, corn, okra, squash, cucumbers (you get the idea). I am thankful to have been raised by my great-grandparents because I know that if I ever had to, I could live off the land. Maybe one day I will tell you about my shooting skills and the time I shot my first deer.

Alright southern gals how many of you have ever eaten biscuits and gravy with homemade canned tomatoes on top? What about putting gravy over a freshly sliced piece of cantaloupe? For those of you who have never tried the cantaloupe it is the perfect combination of hot and cold and salty and sweet. Give it a try, your tongue will thank you.

But, we were talking about wild game weren't we? Don't be afraid to try things that nature provides for us. When they are properly prepared game meats can be a real culinary delight.

Until next time...Happy eating!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meatless Mondays

Well, this past weekend was absolutely beautiful here in the low country! It made us feel an urgency to get out to the beach and let out little monkey get in the surf. Warm Summer days will soon be slipping into cool Autumn evenings.

I can't wait. As I have said before, Autumn is my favorite time of year. I am ready to bake apple crisp, and drink mulled wine. I start to crave hearty dishes like German sauerbraten. I feel the need to start making soups and breads. Though I use the grill all year round, I will start using it far less than I have through the Summer. My mind starts to wander to new dishes that I can make with pumpkin and winter squash. The thought of slow roasted meals gains appeal, because I tend to care less about how much I will be heating up the kitchen.

I also start to think about Halloween. I know that Halloween can be a controversial holiday, but my child does participate. Last year he was a space alien, complete with a space ship. Too cute!!! I think this year he will be a scarecrow. I always make his costumes, and I will continue to do so as long as he will allow me to. Thoughts of Halloween make me think of caramel apples, and popcorn balls. It is too bad that we live in a day and age that we can't pass these types of treats out any more.

Enough of that though. This week's recipe is for Garlic Monkey Brains. I love this bread, but I am a huge fan of garlic, and this bread has a lot of it in it.

Garlic Monkey Brains

I know that when you think of Monkey Brains or Monkey Bread, you probably think of that ooey gooey sweet stuff. Well, this is a savory monkey bread recipe that is sure to please.

2 loaves of frozen bread dough, thawed and each divided into 16 pieces (32 pieces total)
1 stick of butter melted
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 (5.2 oz.) round of Boursin cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take a piece of the bread dough, and place a small sliver of the boursin cheese in the middle of it. Pinch the dough together so as to cover the cheese completely with dough. Roll the dough in the melted butter, and then in the Parmesan cheese. Place in the bottom of a tube or Bundt pan. Continue placing prepared pieces of dough into the pan until the dough is all used up. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Until the bread is nice and brown, and the garlic is fragrant. Allow to cool ten minutes. Rip a piece off and enjoy!

This is great as an appetizer, but is an equally nice accompaniment to a plate full of spaghetti.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tofu Tuesday!!!

Just Kidding!!!!!!

Not that I have anything against Tofu. As a matter of fact there are many Asian and Indian dishes that I really enjoy which have tofu in them.

Speaking of ethnic dishes...I have come to realize that there are lots of foods that I have tried that most people reading my blog have not. For instance, how many of you have sat down to a meal at a nice little Ethiopian restaurant? When we lived in Detroit they had a really good restaurant for that there. How about Moroccan food? In Atlanta there is a great place called the Imperial Fez, serving wonderful Moroccan dishes, but there was also a place in Birmingham, Michigan next to the law firm where I worked that had great Moroccan food. Shoofly Mama was talking about craving good Chinese food like you would find in NYC. I have to agree that you just can't find that kind of Chinese food here. I have heard that there is a really good Chinese restaurant on Daniel's Island that serves dim sum. Does anyone know about that?

It saddens me when the best sushi that I have had since moving here has been from the grocery store. The fish at the sushi bars here always seems kinda fishy. There is good Vietnamese food here and Cambodian food as well. If anyone ever wants to try something new, we can definitely go have Vietnamese food together, and I will teach you all about it.

See, where Dan and I lived in Atlanta was very close to Buford Highway. What is Buford Highway known for? It is a cultural melting pot that some Food Network chefs say even rivals NYC. I am open to just about anything when it comes to food, so we tried all sorts of things when we lived there. Vietnamese food is the next big Asian cuisine, so if you want to be ahead of the crowd, stick with me.

I would like to know what your biggest food adventures have been? Did you try alligator one time when you were in New Orleans? Is Buffalo as crazy as you can get with wild game? Does the thought of eating SPAM frighten you? Did you get drunk and eat the worm? I want to know. Look for me to compile a list of the strangest things I have eaten in the next few days.

Until then, happy cooking and eating!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thanks to my guinea pigs!!!

Yesterday, I whipped up some dips and my famous Mac-n-Cheese, and sent it out to some friends to give me their opinions. The dips by the way were BLT dip, buffalo chicken dip, hot spinach and artichoke dip, and a peanut butter dip for apples. Anyway, one of my friends Jaime took notes as her family tried the various things that I had sent over. Her son gave me the best compliment I have ever received about cooking.

See I had put cracker crumbs on top of the Mac-n-Cheese, and Jaime's husband said, "I'm not big on the crackers on top but the flavor is amazing." Later he clarified, "I didn't dislike the crackers. Just if there was a dish and 1/2 had crackers and the other 1/2 didn't, I'd pick the 1/2 without." In response to what her husband said, her son said, "I am big on the crackers, I like their crunch. If she were on Iron Chef America, I'd pick her!"

A compliment like that from a child is just music to my ears. Sometimes as adults we hold back, but children are honest. If it is bad, they will let you know, and when they love something, they are equally good at letting you know that.

April and family are tonight's guinea pigs, so it will be interesting to see what they have to say. I already received a preliminary report that the spinach and artichoke dip is a big hit!!!

Thank you so much to Jaime and April for allowing me to subject your families to my science projects. Robin, I will get you next time. I am going to work on some soups next week!!!

Crab and corn chowder anyone?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fried Bologna Sandwiches

In the South, we eat fried bologna sandwiches. I am not really sure if Northerners eat fried bologna or not. Can someone please tell me?

My great-grandmother made me fried bologna sandwiches when I was small and they were one of the first things that I ever cooked all by myself. Envision the ripe old age of 4 (yes, I do mean four years old) I pull the little cast iron skillet out of the stove drawer. It was the one reserved for frying bologna, grilling cheese sandwiches, and occasionally scrambling an egg. I go to the fridge and get a little scoop of real butter out and put it in the pan. I amble over to a chair and set my pan down in the chair. Next I push the chair over to the stove, climb up, set the pan on the eye, and gasp light the eye (you guessed it, we had a gas range). As my butter started to melt, I jump from the chair get a piece of bologna from the fridge and a fork from the drawer. Now we are cooking with gas, quite literally. Nanny (that is what I call my great-grandmother) stood idly by in case I needed her. I used my little fork to cut the edges and center of the bologna after it started to puff up. For those of you who have never fried a piece of bologna, it starts to look like a mushroom cap ballooning out of the pan when the heat starts to hit it. Once it was cooked to my liking, it went on toasted white Sunbeam bread with ketchup. Now a days I still eat the occasional fried bologna sandwich. Now I eat it on untoasted wheat bread with mayo and mustard, and there are usually two slices of bologna. Though I hate processed meats and nitrates and all those other nasty things which are part of bologna, sometimes these sandwiches simply warm my soul. If you eat fried bologna, I would like to know how you eat it.

The other funny thing here to me is the fact that I was in the kitchen cooking at age 4. By the time I was 12, I was cutting coupons, reading the weekly ads and doing the grocery shopping. I realize that shopping at 12 was a necessity for us. My great-grandmother was 74 and my great-grandfather was 82 and suffering from severe Alzheimer's. But, I think that Nanny in her infinite wisdom was also preparing me for adulthood.

Don't be afraid to get your children into the kitchen with you. You do them a great injustice by not teaching them their way around a kitchen. A child as young as 8 can safely handle a knife if taught proper knife skills. If you don't know your way around a knife, let me know and I will come teach the whole family. By 12 they really can be doing anything in the kitchen. I encourage you to make your teens responsible for planning and preparing one family meal a week. Get your little ones in the kitchen for things as simple as mixing the sugar into the tea or stirring the Kool-Aid. When I am working on recipes for the cookbook, Marcus is sitting in the high chair in the kitchen watching me. When I make a sandwich for him, or other easy foods, he stands beside me at the counter on a foot stool watching what I do. The little guy gets very upset if I run the KitchenAid mixer and he is not able to get into the kitchen to see what's cooking. For those of you who don't know me, Marcus is all of 18 months old.

As they say on Food Network, "COOK WITH YOUR KIDS!!!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Meatless Mondays

I am going to start with the recipe today, it is for meatless stuffed mushrooms. I made these for my MOPS groups annual banquet. They were a hit, and I had many requests for the recipes. Since my fellow MOPS members are my primary readers, this one goes out for all of ya'll!

Meatless/Vegetarian stuffed Mushrooms

24 whole button mushrooms
2 T. olive oil or butter
3 T. chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese
½ cup of freshly grated parmesano regianno cheese
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps. Finely chop stems. Saute mushroom stems and onions and garlic over medium heat in the oil or butter until the onions are translucent. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl, and add the mushroom mixture once it has cooled. Stuff mushrooms with filling using a spoon to pile it on. Bake on a sheet pan for 20 minutes, or until mixture starts to brown. Serve warm.

Beyond the recipe. I just want to say that Hanna was a major disappointment. I was looking forward to the power being out, making s'mores on the grill, and all that fun stuff. Instead, we got some rain, and that was really about it. I don't want to sound ungrateful though. I know that it was a blessing that we were spared any damage and all. It is just that I like storms. Storms are God's fury in all it's glory. They get me charged up. Nature is a beautiful thing.

Let me tell you a funny about hurricane preparedness. Normally in my house there is very little if any junk type food. I steer away from non-perishables, and I do not liked processed meats. Well, in preparation for Hanna we go out and buy things like crackers, cookies, soups, canned meats, etc. You know the typical shelf stable type things. Before we even get them put away some things are starting to be opened and eaten. Do other families do this? Here is our emergency supply, and we are consuming it. I guess when we don't keep these things around, they do become very tempting.

Guess it is a good thing that Hanna was lackluster!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hanna, Ike & Josephine...What do you eat when a Hurricane hits?

Welcome to the Atlantic Coast!!! Did I mention that September 10th and 11th are the peak of Atlantic Hurricane Season? Seems that things are right on track. To me, the name of the three tropical storms sound like members of a B rate band.

Anyway, since we may all be facing power outages and all in the not to distant future, I thought that I would write a little about spicing things up when you are eating by candlelight out of necessity rather than choice.

First off, I know that beef stew in a can is one of the old standby go to items for shelf stable foods. Well, serve your beef stew over chow mein to add crunch. Chow mein is a great shelf stable item that everyone needs to put into their emergency food kit. You could also try putting it over dry ramen noodles. I saw a lot of people buying those up at the grocery today. And, I really don't get why all the vanilla wafers were sold out. Am I missing something here people?

A great little side dish that I use for camping that would work great on the grill as well, is you take new potatoes and cut them in half, add sliced onions, about 1/4 stick of butter some garlic powder and red chili flakes and a little salt. Put that all in an aluminum foil packet. Throw it on the grill for about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Make sure to turn it about every 5 minutes, and don't puncture the packet. Man does it make some good eats. Yes, I know that butter is not shelf stable. I also know that a stick of salted butter sits out on my counter all the time and guess what, none of us has food poisoning.

Back in 1993, a blizzard hit Georgia in the area where I grew up. I know what you are thinking, "A blizzard in Georgia, yeah right!" Well, the area that I lived in got 18 inches of snow in 24 hours, and there were snow drifts that were as high as 4 feet. Needless to say the power was off for days. The nice thing about a blizzard is you don't have to worry about your food spoiling, you just set it out in the snow. Anyway, our house was total electric, so our kerosene heater served to heat the house as well as cook our meals. It took me a good 30 minutes to fry a pan of bacon on top of the kerosene heater. But man, did that bacon taste good. It was kind of like when you are camping and the food just tastes better. That had to be the best bacon I have ever eaten. That time spent with my family is a treasured memory, not some scary thing that happened in my past.

I hope that no matter how you and your family fair this hurricane season, that you treasure the time spent with your family unplugged and off the grid. In this high tech fast paced world we live in, that is a luxury that we don't even get when we go on vacation anymore.

Enough of the deep issues. I would love to hear what your family eats during power outages. What is in your emergency kit? How many gallons of water can one family of three really use? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day!!!

I just wanted to quickly say that I hope that everyone is enjoying a wonderful Labor Day with their families and friends. For the Mommies out there, this might be a time to reflect on the day your child(ren) was born. For those who are currently expecting you will have a new respect for Labor Day next year.

A quick meatless Monday for now, but I will post more later this week. Thought this one would be very appropriate for the last official grilling holiday of Summer.

Hot and Sweet Barbecue Sauce

2 c. chopped onion (about 2 med.)
4 cloves of garlic chopped
½ c. vegetable or canola oil
14 oz. Can of tomato paste
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. honey
½ c. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. Dijon mustard
½ c. soy sauce (dark)
1 c. hoisin sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
(1) 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo
1 c. apricot all-fruit spread

Sautee onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until translucent. About 7-10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth with and immersion blender or in an upright blender (be very careful as the liquid will be hot). Use on chicken, ribs, pork chops, whatever you like. Makes aprox. 1 ½ quarts. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meatless Mondays

I thought that I would make Mondays a day that you can count on me to post a recipe without any meat in it. No my friends, don't think vegetarian. We are afterall a family of carnivores. Think great side dishes, desserts, breads, etc. Any recipe that is meatless.

The recipe that I am going to post today is for my Chipotle Corn Casserole. I made this a few years back to take to a neighborhood 4th of July party and man was it a hit. One man at the party let me know that he was going to have some for dessert too. You know, there are some flavors that I feel were just made for each other. Chipotle and Corn is high on that list. Other examples might be mushrooms and thyme, lamb and rosemary, peaches and almond, chocolate and coffee, peanuts and Coca-Cola (I am still a GA girl at heart). You kind of get the idea. Some flavors just set each other off beautifully. So here goes the recipe. If you like things with a little bit of spice, this is definitly a must try.

Chipotle Corn Casserole

2 large eggs
1 ½ c. sour cream
(2) 15.25 oz cans of corn, drained
12 oz. Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded
12 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
½ c. bread crumbs (store bought)
4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
1 T. Chipotle Pepper powder
1 c. chopped sweet onion (Vidalia if possible)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 glass or ceramic pan. Mix all of the above ingredients together, reserving ¾ of a cup of each cheese to sprinkle on top later. You may have to use your hands to get it all well mixed. Place mixture into buttered pan, and bake 30 – 40 minutes, or until set. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and bake an additional 5 - 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Makes 10+ servings.

Note: If using a deep casserole dish, bake at same temperature, for a longer time. (45 min. to an hour.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rainy days and Chicken and Dumplings

It is a gloomy rainy day here in the Low Country. They expect it to be this way for the rest of the weekend. I remember that when I was a child these were my favorite days to pull out a coloring book, and start my next masterpiece.

I guess things haven't changed a whole lot. The main difference now is that instead of a coloring book it is a cookbook, and rather than crayons and markers, it is measuring cups and spatulas. Rainy days now make me want to bake. Honestly, baking is not one of my strong points. It does not allow me the creative freedom that other sorts of recipes do. Precision is not one of my strong points. But still a batch of lunchroom rolls sure does sound good on a day like today.

Dinner tonight will be plain and simple. A big pot of chicken and dumplings. They warm your tummy and your soul in such an amazing way. For those of you who are newer friends, you may not know that I was raised by my Great Grandparents. Chicken and Dumplings always make me feel close to my Nanny again. She could stand over the stove and cook dumplings for the whole mess of us. One batch would finish, everyone would get a serving, and she would be back at the pot adding more dumplings. I know I have seen her make as many as 4 batches in the same pot. The chicken was just kind of an afterthought sitting on the side for you to pick at if you wanted to. Though I make my dumplings a little different than she did (I actually put the chicken into the stew), the love that goes into them is the same.

I think that the love we put into our food is truly what makes it exceptional. When I cook, I sincerely care about how that food is going to make the person eating it feel. You should know that if I cook for you, it is because I care about you. Sick friends get homemade chicken noodle soup, sad friends get chocolate cake. Really good friends get all kinds of recipes to test. That is just how I was raised.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not keeping up with my recipes

This week has not been so good as far as pushing out the recipes goes. My goal of 5 a day has definitely not been achieved!!! So far this week we have made:

Hamburger Pie
Sauteed Mushrooms
Garlic Monkey Brains
Southern Sweet Tea (yes, there are plenty of people who don't have a clue how to make this)
Roasted Asparagus
Pound Cake
Chicken Salad

That only yields us about 2 recipes per day. So today, I am going to do a little bit of catch up. Here is what I will be making:

Fried Catfish
Asian Coleslaw
Collard Greens
Hush Puppies
Red Velvet Cake
Banana Pudding
Pickled Onions (which are actually quite tasty)

I think that I might start posting a recipe of the day (only on the days that I choose to blog of course), so here goes:

Hamburger Pie

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion diced
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
2 premade pie shells

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown ground beef and onions over medium heat. If beef has a lot of fat, drain it off. Stir in the soups and salt and pepper. Beat the egg and add to the mixture stirring quickly to incorporate. Put one of the pie shells in a pie plate, add the meat mixture and cover with other pie shell. Crimp edges and cut a few slits in the top of the crust. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes (until shell browns). Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting or you will have a mess.

You can also add some mushrooms or green beans to the recipe to up the vegetables.

Hope you will give it a try, as it is actually quite good!

Monday, August 18, 2008

To Brand or not to Brand that is the Question..

So, as I am sure some of you can imagine since I got serious about this whole cookbook thing, groceries have gotten much more expensive around our house. This got me thinking about ways that we can save money on groceries. One great way is to buy the store brand. Well, in deciding to do that I realized that there are just some products where the store brand won't do.

So here is my list of products that have to be a particular brand, and what the brand is:

Mayonnaise must be Blue Plate
Sour Cream must be Daisy
Eggs must be Egglands Best (I can taste a huge difference)
Sugar has to be Dixie Crystals
Flour and Cornmeal must be White Lily
Tea has to be Luzianne here (But when we lived closed to Louisiana, we drank Community brand and it makes the best tea ever!!!)

I think pretty much everything else we can do store brand on. Although I do have a problem with ground beef sold in chubs. Those just scare me.

So, I want to hear what products you have to have a specific brand on, and why.

I would also like to hear if there is a food that you are particularly craving lately, especially if it is a weird food.

Til next time...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Autumn Leaves and Food running out of my ears!

This time of year always gets me looking forward to cool nights, Autumn leaves, and comfort food. I know what you are thinking, "Is she crazy these are the dog days of Summer?" In my head, the school bus running in front of my house signals that it is time to start thinking about soups, and homemade bread, and apple crisp. No, I don't relate everything to food, but I am writing a cookbook afterall.

Speaking of the cookbook, we have upped production on the recipes. See, back in July I went to my direct sales company's annual conference. There was a speaker there named Marcia Wieder. She is known as America's Dream Coach. Well, I thought she was totally amazing so of course I bought her book and CD set. Boy howdy, she knows how to make you look at your dreams and turn them into your reality. Anywho, after listening to her CDs, I have decided that a few recipes a week is not enough to get me towards my dream of getting this cookbook written and published. So, I have made the decision to shoot for 5 recipes each day. That is a lot of cooking and a lot of food to be eaten. Please, if you want to be a taste tester just let me know.

Yesterdays recipes were:

Pimento Cheese (I finally found people to taste test it)
Grillades - this is a creole dish of beef, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes simmered in a brown gravy like sauce
Creamy Grits - over which you serve grillades or shrimp
Dump Cake - this is the cherry pineapple version where you literally dump a cake mix on top of the fruit and then drown it in butter and bake it (no mixing required)

Today I am working on:

Red Beans and Rice (guess I am craving a trip to Louisiana)
Chicken Salad
Roasted Lemonade
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
My family's secret onion dip

Notice that most of this is hearty stick to your ribs kind of food. It goes back to that whole Autumn leaves frame of mind. I am longing for the kind of weather where you put on jeans and a sweater. Where I no longer care if my legs are shaved and my toenails are painted. Are you with me here?

You know what else I am looking forward to? A nice camping trip. There is nothing better than sitting around a campfire on a brisk Autumn evening, roasting hot dogs, sipping hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps of course) and enjoying the clear view of the stars. Does anyone else out there like to camp? I would love to get a trip together for maybe late October.

Well, that is enough typing for today, afterall there are lemons to roast, a chicken to debone, and beans that are soaking in the sink.

Until next time, happy eating and dreaming!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pimento Cheese and Cornbread without Cornmeal

So, I decided that so many of the women I know have a blog, that I would start one myself. The name refers to that fact that I am and always will be a Georgia peach, but I am now living in Charleston and enjoying the crabs of all types (among many other local seafood). Think crab cakes, crab salad, crab dip, crab kebob...sorry, slipped into Forrest Gump mode there for a second. It in no way implies that the people of Charleston are crabby. In fact, I find that I really love living here. We have lived a lot of different places, and Charleston wins hands down (including Georgia).

About me: I am writing a cookbook and have been working on it for over two years. Actually, I have only worked on it for a few months during those two years. The pregnancy and birth of a child are not very conducive to all things culinary. So, this week I perfected my shrimp etoufee recipe, my Georgia cornbread recipe (this is a desert that has not got cornmeal in it), and I am now nailing down my homemade pimento cheese recipe. Problem is, I can not find anyone to taste test the pimento cheese. Who knew so many people had such a great disdain for it!?! If you are local and you like homemade pimento cheese, which is so much difference from the processed stuff, please let me know. I need help here people!!!

So, look forward to me posting at least once a week about what is going on and what I am working on. Bon appetite!