Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Every year my boss gives us a Honey Baked Ham and every year, after hubby is done gnawing at the carcass (ahhh, if only he looked at me that way), the remains go into a big soup pot.
Ham bone, onions, navy beans, salt, pepper and bay leaves (from my bay laurel). Simmered all day, until the smell causes drooling in the males of the home. Simple and so, so good, we it served with cheese crisps on the side. This bugger makes a HUGE pot (18 quarts) of soup, so the leftovers are bagged up for later and much is given away to the many folks who request it. He took a few bags to work and I took a couple as well. That still leaves several bags in the freezer for cold nights when we don't know what to have for dinner.
**I should note that I stole the first picture from Honey Baked's site. If they come looking for it, Andie told me to.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We had a wonderful time. They stayed late, too, so hopefully we got exposed to more mojo. I DID feel better looking the next day, and I got a two emails, (only one from my mother) indicating an upswing in my popularity, so we'll have them over again and see if we continue to improve.
Monday, December 22, 2008
This shot was taken looking out of our driveway to the west. (In the distance you can see Mt San Jacinto.) We had no mail for several days, UPS was only delivering to the highway and even the military base shut down. It was like the world came to a standstill.
This weekend things started moving again. Mail arrived, the stores were open, the base was back in full swing and I decided once again, at Andie's urging, to do some holiday baking. First things first, the guilty culprit who sabotaged my efforts last time had to be locked away. Look, she's licking her lips in anticipation of catching me off guard and once again breaching the barrier to the kitchen and all the goodies she can find.
Since it was late and my packages had already been sent out, I scaled back the list to enough for the local folks. It came down to Dark Chocolate Truffles, Cranberry Pistachio Ice Box Cookies, Chocolate No Bakes and Chocolate Pecan Revel Bars. Now, the last two are straight out of Betty Crocker, and if I don't make them every year as I have for the last 20, I am in BIG trouble. The No Bakes disappeared before they made it to a tray, so the candy canes are standing in for them in this shot.
We ran a small container of goodies up to the weekend crew at the hospital, since they always feel left out. We barely set it down on the counter when they descended like piranhas and devoured it before our eyes. I take that as the ultimate compliment. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. (Darn, that line would have worked much better if I'd gotten this typed in last night...)
Monday, December 15, 2008
I set a pound of butter on the counter to soften at 7:30 Sunday morning, then Hubby and I headed off for breakfast and the final gift for brat boy. One platter of cinnamon roll french toast (I have got to figure out how they make it, it's TDF) and 200 pounds of gym equipment later we were headed home.
The cell phone rang. It was brat boy, home and laughing. Seems that our 2 Great Danes had broken into the kitchen (thank god the puppy was in her crate) and eaten two boxes of saltines, a loaf of bread and whatever else they could find. "What about the butter?" "What butter?" The only sign there had been butter was a small piece of paper stuck to a cabinet. Don't worry, by last evening we knew which one had eaten the butter.
So no, I didn't do any baking. I was busy cleaning. And scooping. And cleaning. And more cleaning. And if all you get is a box of stale Nilla Wafers that I swiped from Andie, don't be surprised. Wait, strike the wafers. They got those, too. Sigh.
And did I mention the frozen white stuff is only 4 miles away and heading fast for us?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I'm late with this one. It's Tuesday evening, and I did them on Sunday. All. Day. Long. I can tell I'm getting older. I used to spring out of bed at dawn on baking day, yell "Baking Day! It's Baking Day!!", put on my cape, boots and golden lariat of truth and attack the kitchen like I was kicking bad-guy ass in the Mole World of the Underground. I'd whip up multiple batches of several different kinds of cookies and candy so fast Willy Wonka would have hired me on the spot.
Even if I don't look like an Oompa-Loompa. (Thank god.)
As I've gracefully aged to a mature woman, however, I have noticed a gradual slowdown in production. This past Saturday, there were no heralding trumpets. No battle cry. Unless you count "Where the HELL is my coffee?? Is that damned machine not done YET?" at the crack of 8:00 AM. No cape, boots, or golden lariat. Just red pajamas, fuzzy slippers and what looked suspiciously like moths buzzing around my head until my second cup. Yes, to my horror, Wonder Woman has slowly and quietly been replaced by the grumpy old Hallmark lady, Maxine.
So hopefully my gift recipients don't receive their season's bounty and go "Geez. She's really losing her touch. And chinchy! Last year and year before we had boxes and boxes of sweets! And this year only two little paltry boxes of stale cookies!"
I just got too tired after eight hours to make any more cookies. Forget candy!
This year's list was:
Was that it? Yes, I guess it was. I made multiple batches. See what I mean? Kind of pitiful, given how many different kinds I used to make. I fortified myself during the cooking process with iced green tea and saltines, and some of the potato chips from the cookie recipe (ahem). I've not got much of a sweet tooth, so I didn't do much tasting. I know. This does have repercussions. I have been known, in a moment of distraction, to leave out incidental ingredients such as sugar. Oh hush. I usually catch it before I put it in the oven...
So my Pootie helped me box everything up and he even did all the postage pick up paperwork. So yesterday (Monday) the mailman came and picked up the sad little shipment and I suppose it's on its way. It's the thought that counts, folks. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Felix the Navidad Cat!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
This weekend it's rained and rained and rained some more. It's not especially cold. It got up to almost 70 today. I have all this leftover turkey, and it's not exactly soup weather. But, we did go for a walk right as it was turning dark, and it was damp and was getting down in the low 60s by the time we got home, so I thought "Well... what can I do with leftover turkey that isn't a hot weather dish, but also isn't a freezing cold outside dish either?"
Turkey Hash, of course.
I know. It's not real pretty. But it was tasty and hot and satisfying. Lots of vegetables, lots of diced, leftover turkey, a glass or two of wine, and the conversation turned to my fantasy of opening a breakfast place that served something besides oily, slippery eggs, underdone hashbrowns, greasy bacon, "coffee" you can read the paper through, and Wonder® Bread toast with fake butter.
We had a wonderful breakfast place when we lived in Atlanta, Decatur, actually. It's one of the three things I miss about living there. The Crescent Moon served hashes, whole grain muffins, really good french toast, excellent coffee... it was a proper breakfast. Which is what I would name my place if it ever came to fruition. "A Proper Breakfast". But, I live in Wilmington, NC. And the tall-truck driving people prefer the greasy spoons and IHOP to someplace they can get a decent flannel hash and an almond-cherry whole grain muffin. I know. I sound all granola. I'm not. I like a hearty breakfast as much as anyone. But here, they're all Waffle House knock-offs and are usually oily and underdone with weak coffee.
But I'm obviously not going to open my own place. I think the audience here at 305 is a lot more positive and forgiving than the general public would be anyway. And I can always cop the "Well, you didn't PAY for it!" here now.
Tonight's hash was:
4 Tbs. olive oil
1 small sweet potato - cut into chunks
1 red potato - cut into chunks
2 strips bacon
1 small onion - chopped
1/2 cup leftover turkey - diced
2 Tbs. rosemary - chopped
1/2 red bell pepper - chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese - grated
1 Tbs. butter
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
I boiled the sweet and red potato in a pot of salted water just long enough to get them tender. Then I drained them and set them aside. Meanwhile, I cooked the bacon in a skillet on medium heat. Then I removed the bacon when it was done and chopped it up, and added the chopped onion to the skillet. I sauteed that until it was done, then added 2 Tbs. of olive oil, then the potato and sweet potato, some kosher salt and pepper. Then I tossed in the red bell pepper, the rosemary, and the turkey. I drizzled that with the remaining olive oil, gave it a good stir to coat everything, then put a cast-iron bacon press on the mixture just to mash it down and help it brown. You wouldn't have to do that part. Just mash it a few times with a spatula.
In another small skillet, I melted the butter on medium heat and fried an egg, and added salt and pepper.
When the hash was pretty browned after a couple of bottom scrapings and flippings, I topped it on each plate with some grated cheddar cheese, and a fried egg. It would be a great breakfast for an active day, a good lunch, or, like tonight, a hearty dinner for a damp evening.
Pootie was my only audience tonight, and he dug it. Which is what led to our aforementioned conversation. It's a nice dream, but I know I don't want to work that hard.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Roasted Acorn Squash (P's mom)
Cranberry sauce (P's mom)
Rolls that I got a little too crispy in the oven (P's mom)
Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie (Pootie - it took him all day to make)
I suppose I've stalled as long as I can. Time to tackle the kitchen! Then I need to start working on my husband about when we can go get a Christmas tree! Whoo hoo!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Don't get me wrong. I look forward to seeing everyone, and we'll have a wonderful meal, and a good time. But for an introvert like me, I have to confess that there's that moment of fear right as the guests pull up in the driveway that instinctively makes me want to "turn off the lights!" "Hide! Hide! SHHHHHHhhhhh!" Hide!". If I have some quiet time to myself to look around, sigh, and appreciate the fact that there aren't huge tubleweeds of dog hair rolling across the floor, I do better.
So now I'm sipping a nice glass of chardonnay, listening to some Mark Knopfler, and soaking in the smells and sights of the Thanksgiving dinner before the relatives create a welcome bustle and happy noise.
Ps mother and I have split Thanksgiving dinner for years, with me hosting and doing the appetizers, bird and dressing and desserts, and her doing the rolls, a vegetable, and the cranberry sauce. It works well for us. The main meal is pretty much the same every year. A big turkey, this year I'm roasting it on the gas grill to free up the oven, my grandmother's dressing, Mrs. Reids wonderful rolls and cranberry sauce. She mixes up the vegetable every year, and I do a different app and dessert every year.
This year, I wanted to do some relishes out of my Colonial Williamsburg cookbook. We had a short vacation there years and years ago with the Reids and we ate at the King's Arms Tavern. The relishes they served were wonderful - a corn relish, a three bean salad, and a ham relish. I've done them all and think they turned out pretty well. We'll see.
Time to go pull things together. It's 5:00 and everyone should arrive around 5:30. More later! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Carol and David are our original spades partners. They're good, and we love to play cards with them. Since they live in Raleigh and part-time in St. James, we don't get to see them enough, and we had a devil of a time getting this dinner on the calendar, with everyone's schedules. Needless to say, we were looking forward to it.
Carol has recently changed her diet to improve her lipid profile, and has pretty much gone vegan. This presented an enormous challenge for my meat and cheese-centric cooking universe. Thank god for beans! Here's dinner:
Sun-dried tomato and white bean dip with crostini
Spicy black bean and tomato soup
There were no complaints, and Carol asked for the bean dip recipe, so I suppose it was OK. David mentioned that he was worried I'd serve them some yuckky vegetarian dish, and was pleased that I didn't. He also said that it was fine to serve him a steak next time and let Carol fend for herself.
Before dinner, we played a good game of spades, and Carol and I won. (Pootie just informed me that he lost every game he played yesterday.) After dinner, they taught us how to play Euchre, for future reference, and we taught Carol how to play Lost Cities. (I helped her and she beat Phillip. Poor Pootie.)
The evening ended way too soon. They could have stayed another few hours and we'd have been happy. We're hoping it doesn't take as long to get the next dinner and rematch scheduled.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
After dinner, we played spades. (That's me, with the cigar.) Mr. Reid and I got set a couple of times and were WAY behind at one point. I got smacked down a couple of times by my mother-in-law for table talk (ahem) but we managed to pull out of the hole toward the end of the game and only lost by about 16 points. Not bad! If I'd been allowed more table talk, we could have won. I need to work on secret signals with my father-in-law for the next game, instead of "I'm about to have to play a spade! Cover me!" A little obvious? Probably. We'll work on that for next time.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I think the bread was Pootie's favorite part. I baked a loaf of plain white and a loaf of cinnamon walnut for us to have with our coffee in the morning. Baking bread always smells so good. Toss a little cinnamon in the mix and it's heaven in the house. It was coming out of the oven just about the time it got dark outside - talk about soothing.
So now that we've had our dinner, we're headed out in the cold to go see Robert at Great Outdoor Provision so that Pootie can finalize his Christmas list. We should come back with a detailed description of everything he needs for kayaking. It's a long list. He'd better be good. Santa is SO watching him like a hawk.
Sunday we were pretty well mended, which was fortunate, since we had an early morning kayak trip planned with Virginia and Curry and of course, dinner with Robert and Melissa in the evening. (You were wondering when I was going to finally get to that, weren't you?)
Robert was our kayak instructor, and Melissa is his lovely wifelike girlfriend. She is a metal artist - check it out. I cooked a stomach-friendly meal for us, but fortunately, we were fine enough that it didn't need to be plain chicken and rice.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I've been laid up the last few days on an ice pack and made a startling discovery: TV during the day is extremely limited. There are lots of shows telling you how many folks have abandoned their children, sued their in-laws or just how bad the new first ladies fashion blunders are. And then there is FoodTV. They have several ladies showing lots of cleavage (no, not cleavers, cleavage), a chef who is saving 6 inner city youth, another fixing dinner impossible while riding a motorcycle and catering for a James Beard luncheon from a hot dog cart and then there was Tyler.
Tyler hooked me with the ultimate mashed potatoes. I thought I'd seen all the ways to do it, but he showed me a new way to make mashed potatoes. Then, after fantasizing for a few hours about those potatoes (hey, I've been laid up with not much else to do and my menfolk have been less than accommodating about feeding me) I had to try it. I sent hubby off for Yukon Golds and got ready to try this new method out. Oh, yeah, we also had grilled steaks with roasted broccoli and cauliflower. (Andie's already lavished praise on roasted broccoli so I'll just second her opinion.) But the mashed potatoes were the star.
Start off with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of milk, sprigs of thyme, 2 garlic cloves and a bay leaf. Add 6 to 8 yukon gold potatoes, quartered (unpeeled). (Nope, no salt and pepper, not yet.) Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.
Using a potato masher, mash potatoes adding about a cup of the cooking liquid (minus the thyme and bayleaf) with a couple of tablespoons of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Taste for the salt as the cooking method gives several layers of flavor and it doesn't need much.
They come out creamy and flavorful. The potatoes have a rich texture, very different than when you cook them in water, and they are smooth yet still a bit rustic since you are leaving the skin on and using the masher instead of a ricer.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Keep your crab purse comments to yourself. No, THESE crabs obviously don't carry Prada. I know. I'm not very good at beautiful food. They're lifeless blobs of brown. And I suspect that they might have made Pootie sick, since the crab was tinned and a little on the (ahem) older side. But the soup was excellent. Fortunately, we had some phenergan left from my surgery last December. Shut up. I didn't get sick, so it couldn't have been the food.
The soup, which is one of my favorites, is pretty simple. Lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce, mushrooms chicken, coconut milk... it's actually pretty wholesome, and great for a cool night. Look. Here's the thing. We have so few of those "cool nights" that I land on those suckers like a duck on a junebug with the soups and stews and other hearty cold weather fare. Most of the year, we're looking at evening temps too high to contemplate much except lime-sauced fish, shrimp or chicken and some greens. You'd think we'd be thinner, actually...
But I do love this soup. It's simple to make, and really tasty. You don't have to do the scary crab blobs with them. It would be fine by itself. Here:
2 stalks fresh lemongrass (I do grow my own. Down here it's not that hard.)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (And if you're already juicing them for margaritas, then easy! Yay!)
2 Tbs. fish sauce (nam pla) (Is it me, or does that stuff stink?)
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and very thinly sliced crosswise
6 fresh or frozen wild lime leaves (also known as kaffir lime leaves), torn or cut into quarters
10 thin slices galangal (the hell?), fresh, frozen, or dried (or 10 to 12 thin slices fresh unpeeled ginger) (10 to 12) (Clearly, I used the ginger.)
8 fresh hot red and green Thai chiles, stemmed and lightly pressed with the side of a knife (or 3 or 4 serranos, thinly sliced) for garnish (optional) (8 to 10) (For us, ONE thai chile. Who can tolerate that heat? Not me!)
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces), cut into bite-size chunks or sliced across the grain into strips (I actually use a couple of thighs. I think the meat is better and more flavorful.)
1/4 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, and thinly sliced to yield 1 cup
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (shake the can before opening it) (14 oz.)
1 can low-salt chicken broth or 1-3/4 cups water (14 oz.)
1. Trim away and discard the root end and the top 3 inches of each stalk of lemongrass, along with any brittle leaves. Pound each stalk lightly with the spine of a cleaver or an unopened can. Cut each stalk crosswise into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
2. In a large serving bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, scallions, and half of the wild lime leaves. Set the bowl by the stove, along with small dishes containing the galangal, lemongrass, and remaining lime leaves; the chiles (if using), the chopped cilantro; and the sliced chicken and mushrooms.
3. In a medium saucepan, commbine the coconut milk and broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Add the chicken and mushrooms. Return to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and cook the chicken.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, pour the hot soup over the seasonings in the serving bowl, and stir well. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve hot. Pass around the chiles for those who want them. (Good lord. Is Satan eating dinner with you?)
I love this soup and will make it again as soon as P. forgets his phenergan evening...
After they left, P. and I were cleaning up, and I was putting away the chili into smaller bags so that we can eat it for the next six years. (I made enough to feed a small village. No, I have no idea why.) Baggies don't like to stand up when you're ladeling chili into them. Tump! All OVER the floor, my pants, my shoes, the front of the stove, the front of the cabinets... we'll probably find some on the ceiling before it's all over. WHAT a disaster! My shoes are being soaked in Shout as we speak. Good lord.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
It was a dark and stormy night.
Ok, not really, but a cold wind did blow in last night and kept things on the cool side today. Taking advantage of perfect stew weather, I went for it. A pale ale stew, simmered all day in the slow cooker. Tantalizing us with those scrumptious smells. Not as exciting as racing kayaks, but the best I could do.
The thing to remember about slow cookers is that if you dump the food in to cook, you'll end up with a not very flavorful boiled mush. To layer the flavors I started by browning the seasoned beef (a cut up chuck roast) before putting it in my 'crockpot'. The onions and carrots also hit a hot skillet for just a quick bit of color, then I deglazed the pan with the pale ale. If I was doing this stew on the stove I'd use 2 bottles, but in a slow cooker you only need one as less is lost in evaporation. Veggies that don't take as long are added at the end, such as red peppers or cauliflower. Potatoes would go in at the beginning, but tonight I opted to serve the stew over baked potatoes.
Of course, you can't serve stew without rolls to sop up the broth. And chocolate cake for dessert. Don't look too close at the ganash, it shows definite signs of over beating. That's what happens when you try to use a mixer and talk on the phone at the same time. Still tasted good though, and that is all that matters.
Pale Ale Beef Stew
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The potato gratin was sliced potatoes layered with blue cheese and cream. The chicken was just roasted with salt, pepper and lemon. I made a sauce out of the chicken drippings, some white wine, a sauteed shallot, some chopped fresh rosemary, and a little cream and chicken stock. It was a tasty, wholesome dinner and we were both pretty happy to have it.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Tomato Soup with Basil Whipped Cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion -- diced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
3 cans diced tomatoes -- fire roasted (15 oz cans)
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh basil -- chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup fresh basil -- chopped
Scald whipping cream then pour over the 1/4 cup of basil. Chill until ready to whip.
In a large skillet saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes.
Add basil, then puree in batches in a blender (or with a stick blender in the pan) until smooth.
Remove basil from whipping cream, whip until soft peaks. Serve soup with a dallop of the basil whipped cream and Parmesan Toast.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I roasted the squash, whole, for an hour at 350. It was then peeled and cubed and tossed into a 2 quart casserole dish. After that I browned a half pound of turkey sausage and then simmered it in white wine until reduced by half.
The sausage then went into the casserole dish with the squash while I went back to the burner with a pat of butter, a splash of olive oil and an onion sliced really, really, really thin. I caramelized the onion, adding garlic towards the end, then tossed it in to party party in the casserole dish, leaving the oil in the pan. To the oil I added a tablespoon of flour and made a roux. Stir in 2 cups half and half, bring to a boil, then toss in a cup of fontina cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan (the good stuff). Into the casserole goes the cheese sauce, a sprig of sage (chopped) and a pound of rigatoni, cooked per package directions. This was all tossed together and another handful of each cheese thrown on top.
Bake for 40 minutes at 375, let set 15 minutes and serve with a salad on the side.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Anyway, back to the roast. I put it in the slow cooker, then put a chunked up onion into the pan for a bit of color as well. In went that, whole garlic cloves, carrots, bay leaves (from my Bay Laurel twig that calls itself a tree), carrots and the red wine used to deglaze the pan. Secure the lid, make sure it's plugged in and turned on and then off to dream about mashed potatoes the rest of the day.
When I got home, the roast was done and along with it would go roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes and biscuits. Then the phone rang and hubby wasn't coming home until late. In walked my son who said "thanks mom, but I had Subway with my girlfriend" and off he went to bed to rest before his graveyard shift. So it was me, the dogs and pot roast.
I decided to forgo the veggies (don't tell my mother) and enjoyed the pot roast and carbs. I'll save the broccoli for another day.