Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post-Cookie Baking Dinner

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Cookie Baking Extravaganzaaaahh. I'll be finishing up this morning. I spent yesterday elbow-deep in butter, sugar and flour, and wasn't in the mood to cook anything elaborate for dinner, but also didn't want to go out all smudged with dough.

Mixed Greens with Pecans, Dried Cranberries, Goat Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Grilled Salmon with Mustard Green Onion Sauce
Rosti Potatoes

Here's the recipe (such as it is) for the apple cider vinaigrette. It's one of my favorites.

1 Tbs. Maple Syrup
3 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 pinch salt
2 grinds black pepper
4 Tbs. olive oil or other salad oil
Whisk all ingredients together

I know this isn't the standard proportion for oil and vinegar, but I like my vinaigrettes with more bite to them, and I usually find the typical ratio too oily. If you want to cut down on the punch, add more oil.

The sauce for the salmon turned out pretty well, I think. I just sauteed the chopped white parts of a green onion in about a Tbs. of butter, then added 1 Tbs. of dijon mustard and about 1/4 cup of chicken stock, reduced that, then added about 2 Tbs. of heavy cream and whisked that in with a pinch of salt. I garnished the salmon with the chopped green parts of the onion. Pretty tasty, and you all know I'm not a fish fan.

I'm headed back into the kitchen for another day of beating, rolling, cutting and dipping. (Sounds like an MMA match.) Should be ready to package those babies up and ship them tomorrow! Then I'll blog about the House O' Cookies.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at 305

I am smiling in this picture because I am impressed with my own cleverness at figuring out how to use the timer on the camera.

Got to admit, our Thanksgiving was pretty nice. Pootie was feeling better, so that helped. I missed the family, but it was peaceful and pleasant. Except for the alley band. They REALLY ought to replace their drummer. We were listening to some of our own tunes to drown them out a little, but then things went downhill when the drive holding all our iTunes music decided to die a fast, spectacular, blazing death. @#!@#!!!. Fortunately, we have most of it backed up onto another drive, but not all. I guess we'll be reloading some CDs. And I'd just finished my Christmas playlist for the party. Dammit!

For dinner, I roasted us a chicken, and warmed up the dressing I put aside from the batch I made and sent down to Holden Beach with Craig. I also made some bourbon gravy and a kale and mixed winter greens gratin. I was out of cranberries, and wasn't ABOUT to go forage for any, so I made a warm compote of Granny Smith apples and dried cranberries soaked in red wine. It was a perfect mini-Thanksgiving for us, and we had roasted chicken leftover for lunch today.

Today we ventured out to the grocery, which was as far out in public as we were willing to go with all the Black Friday Crazies out there. It was deserted, of course. And about that Great Pumpkin Shortage? There was PLENTY on the shelves as far as I could see. I'm beginning to think that was a media ploy of Libby's to get people to stockpile pumpkin. Hell, I have three cans, and I'm the only one in the entire family (both sides except my mom) who even likes it. I don't know what I was thinking.

The grocery trip today was about getting me all ready for the Cookie Baking Extravaganzaaaaaahhh tomorrow. Unfortunately, I forgot parchment paper. I may be scooting over to my mother-in-law's empty house four blocks away and stealing hers so I don't have to go to Target and brave the crowds. All those people. It's downright unnerving!

Kale Gratin

  • A big-ass bowl of washed kale and/or other winter greens (About a gallon, I'd say - it shrinks down to nothing.)

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup pancetta, sliced thin

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • kosher salt

  • pepper

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 2 Tbs. lowfat sour cream

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (Fresh grated is best)

  • pinch nutmeg

Heat a large (and I mean large, or the greens will just go everywhere) skillet over medium heat. Sautee the chopped onion and the pancetta and garlic in the olive oil until pancetta is crisp and onion is limp and slightly browned, about 5 - 7 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the big-ass bowl of greens and stir with tongs to coat with oil and mix with the onion and pancetta and garlic. Add the chicken stock. Stir occasionally until the greens are cooked down and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the sour cream. Place in a gratin pan or casserole and top with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg. Bake at 350 for about half an hour, or until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

I sit here at my desk tonight, on the eve of Thanksgiving, with a mouth-breathin' man behind me.

Pootie has a cold. He's feeling marginally better today than yesterday, but he's still sick. And we are firm believers in not going out and sharing the love with crowds of people. We will not be joining his family this year for Thanksgiving.

Ordinarily, I host Thanksgiving dinner. I have ever since we were married, almost 20 years ago. Before his parents moved here, his mom and dad would stay with us and she and I would cook together and it would usually be the four of us. Sometimes his sister and her family would join us, sometimes not. This year, however, we decided it would be fun for his parents to rent a beach house in Holden Beach from friends of ours. They invited Phillip's aunt and uncle and their kids and their families. A whole houseful of people for the first time in almost ever. We were going to head down there today and Mrs. Reid and I were going to cook Thanksgiving dinner together most of tomorrow. But since one of us is sickly and contagious, I made the dressing this morning and sent it and the uncooked turkey down to Holden Beach with Craig (Phillip's sister Diane's husband). They'll have to muddle through without us.

For the first time on Thanksgiving eve,  I'm not cleaning the house or doing prep for the dinner tomorrow. I'm simmering a beef curry and some brown rice. (That'll clear his sinuses!) And not actually feeling too sorry for myself about not being there.

Sure, we miss everyone, but I'm also trying pretty hard right now to drop a few lbs. before the (almost) annual holiday bash so I don't look like one of the creatures from Wal-Mart in my dress. And much as I love my mother-in-law's cooking, she is not noted for lowfat, heathy meals. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. I believe tonight's entree is lasagna. Three cheese lasagna. Three delicious cheeses which my hips and belly do not need. Along with plenty of wine, rolls, cakes and cookies which I simply don't have to contend with this year.

So I'll nurse my hot tea while I wait for dinner to cook, and look better in my dress for it. Tomorrow, we'll probably have a small little holiday dinner of our own, and we'll see the family when they get back Sunday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Beef Braciole with Heather and Walt

It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, not so much stormy as just rainy and gloomy. But inside at 305, it was lovely. Pre-arrival, this is what we looked like.

That's a clean dog, thank you very much. Steamboat was very happy. He was listening to Rutter's Lighten Our Darkness. It relaxes him. And with a life as hectic as his, you know, he needs all the relaxing he can get. (Yes, you can roll your eyes.)

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I was simmering the beef braciole. No, I have no idea how to pronounce that. It's split and pounded flank steak, spread with a mixture of bread crumbs, basil and cheese, then rolled up and braised in onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. It was hittin'.

For dessert, I tried a new recipe out of ... where did I see this? Bon Appetit? Fine Cooking? Now I have to go look. Bon Appetit. Coffee Crunch Bars. These are definitely going into the Cookie Baking Extravaganzaaaaaaahhh. Easy, easy and MAN they were good!  

So dinner and dessert were done, and the candles lit, and we were just waiting for Heather and Walt. We had such a nice evening once they got here. Menu below for a lovely rainy evening.

Salad with Apples, Pecans and Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Braised Beef Braciole
Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Rolls

Coffee Crunch Bars

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fast Train to the Holidays

Oh, I have been negligent, I know. No new posts, no new dinners, no nothin'. It's been a week and a half. But I suspect you're as busy as I have been. It seems like the holidays are hurtling down on us faster this year. Don't get me wrong - I love it - bring it on! But there's some major things I need to plan and then cook for, and I seem to be stuck not doing either.

1. Andie's Annual Holiday Cookie Baking Extravaganzaaaaaaaaahhhhh! In which I get up, put on my iTunes list of Christmas music, (which, I see, is 25 hours long.Huh. Look at that. I'm missing some stuff. It should be longer.), put on some work clothes and my Chucks and play Godzilla with my kitchen playing Tokyo. Phillip usually slinks out the front door about the time the tunes start. I ship the cookies to my peeps at the office. But this year, I'm going to be making some extra and freezing them ahead for the (Almost) Annual Holiday Bash at 305. The date has been set for this glorious day of wallowing in baked goods- Saturday the 28th - but I have yet to decide on my list of cookies. They have to be delicious, and hold up well to shipping. Suggestions are welcome. Hit me up at

2. The (almost) Annual Holiday Bash at 305. No, that's not us. We're not THAT fat. Even after the baking extravaganzaaaaah. The date is set for that as well - the 19th - and the invitations have been sent. Minus the date. Nice job. I've fixed that, though. I think everyone knows now. But have I decided on the menu yet? Well, partially, but I'm still dinking with the side dishes. We'll definitely be doing beef stroganoff again, this year I'm also doing a salmon, and a giant fresh green salad, cookies for dessert, and I'll need some nibbles beforehand. (Nibbles, because I can't ever spell hors d'oeuvres without looking it up. Stinkin' French. I swear they only invented that language to make the rest of us look stupid.)

3. Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know, this one should be first, but it's the easiest. (And sure, we look just like this. Phillip's the guy in the way bottom right corner.) I really don't know why people get so worked up about cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the first one I ever did, I got up at the crack of dark to start cooking it, because I'd heard all these horror stories about how hard and time-consuming Thanksgiving dinner is. I was done by, like, 1:00 PM except for cooking the turkey and decided that since we weren't eating until 7:00, I probably should take a nap or something. It's just not that difficult a meal to me. You roast a bird, you cook a few side dishes, you're golden. The biggest pain in the butt is figuring out the oven shuffle since it seems like everything needs to be baked. This year, my in-laws have rented a beach house and we're hauling the whole shebang up there. I usually host it here. And I suspect after this year, everyone will be ready for me to reclaim that honor. We'll have a good time, but I think all the stuff-schlepping we're going to have to do is going to be good for one year and we'll call it good. I hope it's not going to be as big a hassle as I'm afraid it's going to be. We'll see.
So this has been kind of consuming my mental energy lately, plus the cookbook project I'm still working on for beginner-people, and while yes, I have been cooking dinners for us, I haven't been blogging them. Sorry. Tonight, we're going out to a Korean BBQ, which I'll blog on my other site if it's good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Surprise Guest Chef at 305

Monday night at Cafe' 305 found a guest chef in the kitchen! Lucky me! Marc and Sara came over with their adorable monkey and I got to sit on the patio and drink while Marc prepared dinner. Well, OK, not really. But I did get out of the main course. Marc's fishmonger brought him a 5 pound striped bass that was too small to use at the restaurant and obviously since they were coming here on their one night off, there wasn't going to be a chance for him to cook it for home consumption. So he brought it here. I handled soup, salad, side dishes and dessert. (None of which were as good as the bass he prepared - for the record. Why am I even bothering to say that?)

Here is my special guest preparing the fish. First he made the salt crust for it by mixing kosher salt, egg whites and a little water to the consistency of wet sand. I would have filmed that, but I was busy making cocktails for him and Sara. Priorities. Professional commentary compliments of the monkey.


I thought they both did a respectable imitation of Julia. Here's the crusted fish.


Marc stuffed the cavity with oranges, lemons, fennel and parsely. Then he put the roasting pan on my gas grill on high heat for about 40 minutes. While the fish cooks, I'll show you the rest of the very unremarkable menu.

Carrot-Lentil Curried Soup

Mixed Herbs and Greens with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

Marc's Salt-Crusted Bass

Whole Wheat Couscous
(OK, for the record, this is NOT as good as regular couscous.)

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Rolls
(Sara liked these, Pootie was grateful for whole wheat, but again, I don't think these were as good as my regular ones.)

Mocha Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Andie's Award-Winning Apple Squares!

Now that's been about 40 minutes. Here's the fish, all crusty. No, the taste wasn't the least bit salty. It was moist, tender, delicately flavored, and delicious. And that's coming from a non-fish person.


I'm not going into great detail on the side dishes because I don't want to steal Marc's thunder. Yeah, that's it. You can't see me rolling my eyes here. It was just pretty lacklustre. Well, hell, with a real chef loose in your kitchen, there's not a lot of hope. I cannot run with the Big Dogs, which is why I usually just stay on the porch.

We had a great time, though, and ate outside in the pavilion. It wasn't cool enough for a fire, unfortunately. The monkey collapsed on the couch outside with a blanket and a pillow and was down for the count. He got hauled off around 9:00 and loaded into the car. There are still nights I wish someone could do that for me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Turkey Spaghetti by the Fire

No, I don't have any pictures. Hush. We had dinner out by our new fire pit. No, it didn't end up like this.

Tres non! (That means something like "Very no!" in English. I think.) Which has nothing whatsoever to do with dinner or anything. Just so you know.

Spinach Salad with Oranges, Almonds and Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Turkey Bolognese (which I've made before and posted)


No, not them really. I wish. Just on iTunes. While we sat with our dinner by the fire. It was really lovely.

The salad I made with spinach that Carol (holla!) brought me from a friend of theirs in Raleigh who grows a lot of produce. It was really good and fresh. I put some oranges on it, because it's just time for that now. Along with some chopped roasted almonds. Then I dressed it with a blood orange vinaigrette. 3 Tbs. of Blood Orange Vinegar, which I stumbled across at the Teeter, then a generous pinch of salt and sugar, a tsp. of ground pepper, and a tsp. of Dijon mustard, then about 4 Tbs. of olive oil. I prefer my dressings less oily, so I don't follow the normal proportion.

In other news, we totally screwed up our chance to kayak with Liz and her mens, Bob. We were supposed to drive up there and paddle over to Bear Island with them for Sunday.

Oh, Ok, Fine. It probably wasn't all dangerous and that. But it MIGHT have been! I doubt it was snowy, either. It got up to 75 and was sunny. And it's highly doubtful that I would have been all crumpled on the snow like that helpless damsel. No doubt I'd have been kicking serious Bear-Butt. Other than those minor discrepancies, though, I'm sure it would have been similar to the picture there. My Pootie Pie has been under some "stray-uss" lately, and he slept really late, then was kind of sluggish and it was so late by the time we got our fannies in the car to go, that it was really much too late in the day. So we wound up paddling on the Cape Fear River near downtown instead, then swiped some firewood from our friends Jack and Beth, came back here and had a relatively early dinner.

Filed under "things that went right", my mother-in-law picked up my Major Award for me from the fair. Now I have my gorgeous ribbons and $28 in ones in an envelope on my desk. I apparently got THREE DOLLARS for my blue ribbon, but TWENTY FIVE for Best of Show! I had no idea! I'm rich! I'm rich!

Now I'm going to go outside and enjoy the dying embers of the fire and chillax. Pleasant evening, people. All the best of the fall season!

Roasted Turkey Breast and Spades with Carol and David

Carol and David are our good Raleigh/St. James friends. We love to get together and play spades and have dinner, and usually we jump right into spades, but we had a new toy! My parents gave us this nice outdoor fire pit and we'd just gotten it the day before. So we needed to inaugrate it. David was enthralled. I knew it was just a matter of time, and sure enough, like every other male I have ever known, it wasn't long before he was looking for a stick for some fire poking. It's in the blood.

I started us out with a Northwoods #2. It's one of my favorite fall cocktails. Brandy, gold rum, apple juice, a little maple syrup, lemon juice, shaken with ice and strained. Yum!

Dinner was appropriately fall-like to go with the cocktail.

Carrot-Parsnip Soup

Roasted Turkey Breast with Apple Cider Gravy
Wild Rice-Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash
Warm Applesauce

The turkey breast was just salted and peppered and cooked on the grill. The Acorn Squash was split, scooped out and roasted, then I filled it with a mixture of wild rice, toasted pecans, and dried cherries. The applesauce was made from some honeycrisps we'd gotten at the farmer's market that were, frankly, past their prime. They were on the mealy side, and we weren't going to eat them that way without cooking them, so I peeled them and diced them, put them in a pot with a little apple juice, a pinch of salt, about a tablespoon of maple syrup (for four apples) and a sprinkle of cloves and a couple of cinnamon sticks and simmered it down. I love warm applesauce. Even David ate it, and he doesn't like cooked fruit much.

We moved inside to eat dinner and then settled down for some cutthroat card playing. This is Carol and me, taking down David and Pootie Pie on David's nil bid.

I'm just going to say that there were some negative points involved, and that Carol and I pretty much pwned them. We were nice enough to not do a victory dance.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Pomegranate-Honey Adobo Sauce

Roasted Chicken with Pomegranate-Honey Adobo Sauce
Wild Rice with Dried Cherries and Roasted Pecans
Braised Kale with Garlic and Pancetta


Miles Davis: Love Songs

I'm going to get right down to business, because I was REALLY whiney tonight and didn't feel like cooking, much less taking bad pictures for you to look at. So you've been warned: I'm slightly cranky. I'm worried about one of my dogs, who acts like he doesn't feel good, I'm annoyed that the kitchen isn't cleaned up yet, I'm tired from the excitement of the fair yesterday, and I didn't sleep well last night. That fact alone used to be enough to send my parents into Alarm Mode. I tend to be a very crabby person when I don't get enough sleep. Oddly, even after almost 20 years, my husband hasn't seemed to catch on to that. I don't know if he's a slow learner, or maybe he's just one of those people who likes to poke an angry snake with a stick.

OK, scratch "slightly cranky". I'm obviously Full-Blown Grumpy. So let's get you through this before things get ugly.

The chicken: It was spatchcocked first, then rubbed in chili powder, paprika and kosher salt, then basted with honey. It looked somewhat like this when I finished with it. (I love Sloane Tanen).

I put the chicken on the grill at about 450, and made the sauce.

The sauce, which I either needed more or less of, apparently...
Goodnight Moon by Sloane Tanen
Goodnight Moon by Sloane Tanen

I simmered:
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 Tbs. Adobo chili sauce
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbs. drippings from chicken pan
1 Tbs. flour

Add as much chicken stock as you need to thin the mixture to the right consistency.

The wild rice was Uncle Ben's. Yeah, you heard me. Right off the shelf.

When it was done cooking, ("according to label instructions" - I type that a lot in my job, actually), I tossed in a handful of dried cherries and a handful of toasted pecans. Extremely complicated, and highly creative. I know.

The kale was green.

Did I mention I was cranky?

I crisped some pancetta, tossed in some minced garlic, and dumped in an Oscar garbage can-size load of kale with about a half cup of chicken stock. Which reduced to a handful by the time it was cooked down.

I think that's all I'll subject you to. Now I feel like scowling at a little old lady, taking candy from a baby, yelling at a puppy, tripping a Boy Scout, or stealing someone's ice cream. I'm thinkin' the sooner I go to bed, the better for all involved.

You Have to Play To Win

The County Fair is here right now - right down the street from us, as a matter of fact, at the airport. I love the fair. I still get hoppy innards when I see it at night all lit up. I love the chickens and ducks and rabbits and llamas. I love the lights. I love the seedy, jaded barkers and the ridiculous games you'll never win, and the perfectly awful filth-covered toys they grudgingly give away as "prizes". I love the smell of the nasty food they serve (although to be fair, we did see the pizza people hand tossing crust, so how bad can the pizza be? I do hope they washed their hands). I love to gawk at the prize-winning art projects that look like something off And I love, love, love the rides! Well, most of them. Well... some of them. OK, OK, a few of them.  (I'm keeping honest here because Liz witnessed some balking.)

So yeah, I love the fair. But I've never even considered competing in any food contests out there. Never occurred to me. Friday, when they were setting up, my buddy Liz posted on Facebook and Twitter about the baked goods competition, urging people to enter. I asked her a couple of questions about it, and she basically responded with "Do it! Do it! DO IT!!" I had to have something entered by Saturday morning at 11:00. I hadn't decided when I went to bed Friday night - to be honest, I didn't give it a lot of thought, other than that if I entered, I might just enter apple squares. Saturday morning, I got up and thought, "What the hell? I have a couple of hours, we need to get out and run errands, and it's not exactly out of the way." So I baked a batch of apple squares and turned them in to the entry table at the fairgrounds at 10:50 AM and got my number - 44- Apple Squares.

We ran errands, and 11:00 (the judging time) came and went. All day, no phone call. So naturally, I assumed I got nothing. I mean, they had my phone number. Surely they'd call. The prize money alone would be worth notifying the winners about! (THREE DOLLARS!!) Well, pooh. Moving along. I didn't really think about it again. Into the office wastebasket went my ticket stub.

Then yesterday, Liz posted again and said "Hey, anyone wanna go to dinner and the fair tonight? I want to check out some friends' baked goods." Ooo! A chance to hit the fairway! I married a man whose attitude about the fair is  County Fair = Filth, Squalor, and People Who Crawled Out From Under Rocks. (You know the people I'm talking about. I'm not saying you and me, here.) I'd assumed my odds of getting to go get flung around like the spin cycle in our washer were slim to none. As it happened, my Pootie Pie had a meeting anyway, so I was at loose ends. I jumped at the chance.

Liz picked me up and I asked her about who she knew who had won. She had a couple of other friends who had entered in other categories and they'd won. Well, there went my last hopes. If they knew they'd gotten something, obviously I didn't win doodly-squat. My best secret hope was that the judges hadn't bitten into my apple squares, made a horrible face, and quietly spit it out under the table for the carnival rodentia to scavenge later.

I'll let Liz write about dinner. It will be in her column in the Star-News. I don't want to steal her thunder. (That's a little joke for you, Liz. Holla!)

We got to the fair and went through the ag tent looking for the baked goods and couldn't find them. We saw the pickled stuff, the art projects, the produce, the flowers, the houseplants - basically everything except the baked goods. So we wandered over to livestock and checked out the chickens and ducks and bunnies and llammas.
This is an inside joke for my brother. Liz kept telling me to get closer. You know, Llamas look a lot bigger close up. And then I remembered that thing about how they spit on you when they don't like you. I don't think they llooked much llike they lliked me. Do you?

Since we'd been unsuccessful at finding the baked goods, we asked. Turns out, the ribbons were on a board in the ag tent. We'd missed it. I think the judges polished off all the sweets. So we went back over, found the board, and then I saw it. (Insert sound of singing angels here.)

I looked at these two ribbons and the little tag up there that said (!) 44 Apple Squares. In case you can't read that, (ahem) it says "Best of Show"

I was a little excited, so Liz would have to verify, but I think I may have dropped the F-bomb. Twice. OK, maybe three times.

As you can see, I am pleased. Thank goodness Liz had her camera on her, because I totally would have gone back out to the car, gotten mine, and had to pay another sixteen bucks to get back in.

This is me on the phone with the President when he found out I won.

 So my easy little apple square recipe won Best of Show. Wow. This is actually an honest-to-goodness heirloom recipe. It was given to my grandmother by a dear friend of hers, Alma Jean Kopert, who had gotten it from her mother-in-law. Both Grandmother and Mom used to make them when I was growing up, and I loved them. And they are ridiculously easy. My mom said that when they were kids, they'd be thrilled when the Koperts would come back from a visit to Little Rock, because they would always have Mrs. Kopert's apple squares with them.

I served these one night to our friends Marc and Sara, who have Marc's on Market.  You've heard of them a time or two on here. Marc raved about the apple squares, and liked them so much, he asked for the recipe. (I honestly can't imagine any higher praise than a professional chef asking for a recipe from me.) He changed the apples to strawberries for the Top Chef Competition here in Wilmington and won that. The newspaper article quoted one of the judges as saying it was the dessert that pushed Marc over the top. I think they have them on the menu at the restaurant from time to time.

Obviously, I'm pretty stoked about winning my Major Award. Especially the three dollars! When I got home, I fished my ticket stub out of the wastepaper basket, so I can claim my ribbons. I got big plans for those bad boys.

I owe Liz for pushing me to enter. I never would have done it on my own. Maybe I'll give her my three dollars. Except my dad already claimed it. When I talked to him last night, he said "Andie, I told you when you grew up to go out and make me proud. Now you have. Send me that three dollars."

Actually, I think I'll send the three dollars to Alma Jean, along with a picture of my ribbons.

So lesson learned: You have to play to win, people. You have to play to win.

For those of you falling asleep and thinking "Good godamighty, woman! Cut to the chase! Where is the RECIPE???" Here you go. You can mail me three dollars.

Apple Squares

Truly these could NOT be easier and obviously they pack a huge reward. (Cash prizes up to THREE DOLLARS!!)

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple, peeled and large dice (Granny Smith or other tart apple)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix together dry ingredients, then add apples and toss to coat. Add melted butter and egg and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Bake in a square brownie pan for 45 - 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. These are awesome served warm with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey Marketing 101

I got my Williams-Sonoma Catalogue the other day. I do love looking at their stuff, and I love browsing their store, but inevitably, I walk out of there shaking my head mumbling "They ought to be ashamed of themselves".

So as I was perusing the beautiful pictures, I came across their ten steps to the perfect turkey.

Ten steps to the perfect turkey! I'm all ears! Alllll I need is:
Step 1: Their turkey brine ($18)
Step 2: Their Turkey Brining Bags (big Ziploc bags) (4 for ONLY $16)
Step 3: Their Chef n Garlic Zoom, which chops garlic for you ($14.95)
Step 4: Their special Green herb snips, which look a lot like scissors to me ($12.00)
Step 5: The Acorn Twine Holder (twine included! What a bargain!) ($26.00)
Step 6: The All-Clad Kitchen Timer/clock ($39.95)
Step 7: Their All-Clad Thermometer ($49.95)
Step 8: Their angled dripless bulb baster ($18.00)
Step 9 (almost there!): The All-Clad Stainless Steel Turkey Lifters ($35.00)
And last but not least Step 10: A Monogrammed carving board with a well to catch the juices (ONLY $99.00) !

“wa-lah”! Perfect Terky!

Oh, wait. I need a roasting pan, don’t I? Well, they have one for $279.95.

Oh, holy crap! I still don’t have a TURKEY!! Thank goodness I can order it from them! Let’s see… Yep. A nice 25 pound Free Range Turkey. Only $145.95.

Thanksgiving is SAVED!!

Marketing at its finest. I'm not saying their stuff is bad - it's high quality. But I think I'll save my $754.75 plus tax and shipping and handling to maybe buy some side dishes to go with my turkey. That I won't be brining, that I will be cooking in my old roasting pan and lifting with my oven mitts, basting with a spoon and checking on doneness with a fork. You know, when the juices run clear... that method.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shrimp and Grits with Okra and Tomatoes

I'm going to add something new tonight. I know! Aren't you excited?? Yaaaay! Something new! I'm going to start a link to whatever music we're listening to at dinner. What? You don't care? Well, you don't have to click through. Just remember. Everyone thinks they have good taste.

Tonight's dinner menu and music selection (new!!) It should let me make that tap-dance or something.

Shrimp and Grits with Okra and Tomatoes

No, we don't always listen to this kind of stuff, though I do love, love, love it. A lot of the time, we listen to jazz, rock, whatever. But this is the first night of early dark (thank GOODNESS!!) and we thought this would be appropriate. It's very soothing, at any rate.

If the pictures are shit tonight, I have a really good excuse. I had an eye exam this afternoon and they're dilated, so I can't see. (No, my eyes aren't usually dilated, why do you ask?)

Carolina shrimp. They were so fresh. They smelled like the sea, and tasted like it, too. I'm lucky to live here and have access to really fresh seafood.

For the veggies, I sauteed a chopped onion, about a pound of okra (yes, okra), one red bell pepper, and two fresh tomatoes in a little olive oil. Look! All Green and Red! Just like Christmas! Which is coming soon! (Between you and me, I've already started listening to Christmas music when my husband isn't here to scream "NO! NOT YET!!", planning the Christmas Cookies I'm sending to the office this year, making my Christmas list of gifts to give, and planning our almost-annual holiday bash. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the holidays! )

Back to November, though. While I was simmering the vegetables, I peeled the shrimp. With rubber gloves, of course. Have you heard my tragic shrimp story? I'll wait while you go read that.

Aren't they gorgeous?

Some of them didn't cooperate fully when I peeled them, so we had words, but generally speaking, they came out just fine, all plump and fresh and smelling like salt water. I just tucked the ugly ones under the okra. Teach them to mess with me.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was cooking the grits. Now, if any of you people haven't heard of grits, (I really can't imagine that now, with all the cooking shows out there), I'm not talking about the white, runny, tasteless, unsalted sorry excuse for grits you get at a greasy spoon, or out of a package of "instant" grits from the grocery. Lord help me. These are nice stone-ground grits that are healthier and a lot tastier than the anemic fare I've described above. How on earth can you maintain any respect as a restaurant that supposedly serves Southern Food and serve that runny gruel they're calling grits? It's like sandy dishwater. But not this stuff. See? All chunky. Almost like it came from AN ACTUAL PLANT! (That would be corn.) What a concept!

For the grits:
  • 1 Cup Stone Ground Grits (Don't use that white instant crap. Seriously.)
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock or Water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used skim - if you're not thick around the hips and thighs, like me, you can use whole milk or cream)
  • 2 Tbs. sour cream (again - if you have thunder thighs like mine, you might go lowfat, like I did. No, it's not as good.)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
Bring the water or chicken stock to a boil, add the salt, then the grits. Reduce heat to low and simmer in a heavy saucepan with the lid on about 15 minutes, until thick, stirring occasionally. When the grits are pretty thick, add the milk, sour cream and garlic. Stir in to mix well and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes.

While the grits were cooking:

I chopped some pancetta and some garlic, crisped both of those up, and then I added the shrimp. Yaay! I needed a little liquid, so I dumped in some dry white wine. You could use that, or a little chicken stock or water. Just make sure the bottom doesn't dry all out.

When the shrimp is done, dump the okra/tomato mixture in with it, stir it about a bit, then serve it over the grits.

Like this. Nom, nom, nom! Honestly, musically it probably would have gone better with some old Hank Williams (Sr., not Jr.), but in honor of our first Dark Night, the music sat well.