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Friday, December 31, 2010

So Easy Cranberry & Apple Cake

    So I like cranberries. I like cranberries a lot and when thrown in with apple and orange juice and cinnamon and brown sugar I love cranberries.The recipe ,for the Barefoot Bloggers had me at cranberry but little did I know how each ingredient really did make this cake amazing and surprise surprise, easy.It sort of reminds me of this cobbler from the Pioneer Woman.Oh Ree,Oh Ina.So here goes:
Peel,core and dice a Granny Smith apple. Zest an orange and toss it together  with a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries.
Next throw in some brown sugar,the juice of that same orange and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside to rest for just a bit.

Then beat two eggs on medium-high speed for two minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or even with a handheld mixer would be just fine too!Just be patient during those two minutes,dream of a cake with cranberries and apple! Oh and crack those eggs before beating them,clever huh.
While that mixer is running on medium add in one cup of sugar,the melted butter vanilla,and sour cream. Mix all that together just until combined.note to self,use a microwave-safe mug when melting butter.
Now take note, with the mixer running on LOW ,SLOWLY add in the flour and salt. Accidents can happen and messes will be made if the directions are not followed.I have learned from experience.
Get your pie plate together,pour in the fruit mixture,GENTLY. If you're not careful this could come tumbling out of that bowl with a quickness.As my my mother would say slightly "jostle" it out of the bowl.
Pour the batter that you, so patiently mixed, over the fruit mixture,covering it completely.I found that after I GOT the batter out of the bowl(it was a bit thick),I then with a spatula,smoothed it out over the fruit mixture.An offset spatula worked nicely I must say.
And just for fun,mix together some granulated sugar and cinnamon.I mixed in some raw sugar too.It makes for a crunchier topping and really what's life without a crunchy topping.Now bake that cake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes,until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.Oh it's worth the wait.
Ta-da! See crunchier topping and it was good too!
I made this cake Christmas day,in the morning just before I got the oven cranked up for all them casseroles and such.And I finally got to enjoy a piece,or well just a taste the morning after Christmas with a big ol' cup of coffee.Oooh it was so good and it was gone quickly too soon after that.
Here's Ina's directions,Enjoy!
Easy Cranberry & Apple Cake
adapted from How Easy Is That!
by Ina Garten
Serves 6 to 8
12 ounces fresh cranberries,rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple,peeled,cored, and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar,lightly packed
1 TBL grated orange zest (2 oranges)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon,divided
2 extra-large eggs,at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 TBL granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter,melted and slightly cooled
 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the cranberries,apple,brown sugar,orange zest,orange juice and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,beat eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed,add 1 cup of the granulated sugar,the butter,vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined.On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.
3. Pour the mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit,covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes,until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #11

"Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess." -Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #10

“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it
seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that
you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:
a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that
regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're
gone from your life. I've learned that making a living is not the same thing as
making a life. I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both
hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I've learned that whenever
I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've
learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that
every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or
just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you
did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

Monday, December 20, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers,Here we go!

           So a while back I joined up with the Barefoot Bloggers cooking blog group. They are a group of folks with blogs and will feature recipes by Ina Garten, or better known as The Barefoot Contessa. I think Ina's pretty darn cool and well when I found this group I knew this was for me. The recipes come from either her cookbooks or Food Network's website. Four total recipes are chosen for the following month and two are required for group participation. The recipes each have post-by dates and if you don't get them posted by the dates assigned,well get them up by the end of the month and it's all good. I already had a couple of her cookbooks and hey any excuse to buy more was no problem at all! So here we go with the first recipe of two to be posted for December and what a recipe to make,it was delicious!
Here's what you need:
A 9x13 baking dish . Chicken is also helpful.

Kosher salt,black pepper,garlic,lemon,oregano,fresh thyme and dry white wine.
Good olive oil (According to a Cook's Illustrated article I read once, Colavita is the best store-bought brand you can get,says Mr. Kimball.)

Lemon Chicken Breasts
adapted from How Easy Is That !
page 120,serves 4
1/4c good olive oil
3 TBL minced garlic ( 9 cloves)
1/3c dry white wine
1TBL grated lemon zest(2 lemons)
2TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless,skin-on chicken breasts
 ( I used bone-in,by request of my husband.)
1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat,add the garlic,and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat,add in the white wine,lemon zest,lemon juice,oregano,thyme and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish.
2. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and place skin side up over( or on top of) the the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon into 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
3. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes,depending on the size of the chicken breasts,until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned.If the chicken isn't browned enough,put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Makin' this one again.

 The weekend before Thanksgiving was a wonderful one. It was my mother-in-law's birthday. My husband and I had planned a modest,yet filled-with-love celebration for the morning of her birthday.It involved making the casserole the night before and baking that joker in the morning. Here's what had happened:
I peeled a bunch of apples. Six to be exact: 2 Rome,2 Granny Smith, and 2 Fuji. Toasted some big pieces of French bread.Made up a custard of sorts and the situated all that goodness in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Covered it,put in the fridge and went to bed.
 I got up the next morning. Retrieved the apple/french bread/custardy goodness casserole from the fridge and put it in the oven to bake.And it baked while I had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and reading magaiznes  on the deck.
           The casserole has to bake for a bit which is the perfect amount of time if you have some catching up to do with yo magazines and other various reading material.So I set a timer and halfway through the baking time I went to check on the heaven baking in the oven.
   I tell you what if you could have smelled the apple/french toast/custardy goodness smells coming from that oven,oh it smelled so good. So good. The cinnamon,fresh apple/baked apple,sweet vanilla/brown sugar wafts of steam that came from that oven,it smelled so good that I can't even use good grammar to explain to you how good it smelled. And it tasted even better.
   I open the oven (wait,wait can't see, must take a moment to wipe off the applely goodness-filled steam from my glasses). As the fog clears,this is what I find: The apples have browned on the edges. The cinnamon has made a light,delicate crust over everything.And oh good gravy,the bread has soaked up all the custard and baked full of brown sugar.I knew this was gonna be good. Now close the oven door and walk away,... there you go. I think if the pull of magazines, a warm quilt and the lack of caffeine weren't leading me back to the deck,I would have sat there in that cottage with the oven door open all morning it smelled that wonderful.
   The timer went off for a second time and I jumped up as carefully as I could with a magazine in my lap,cup of coffee in my hand and my legs wrapped up in a quilt ( I actually took my time getting up,the quilt I was wrapped up in is older than our ages combined,no family-history pressure there at all.) and RAN to the cottage.I found those same amazing smells when I walked in,but this time I got to take it OUT of the oven.
Well I'll be,baked apples and French toast all in one.

That one little piece just couldn't take it anymore in a casserole filled with so much love.
Hey good-lookin',what you been cookin?

   I think you should make this casserole very soon.I'm going to make it for the morning after Christmas and enjoy all my presents and some baked apple,French toast heaven on my plate.I know,I know all the good food that surrounds the holiday season and I have to ask myself "How in the world could I take just one more bite of rich,sweet (or savory,whatever is on your plate in front of you...) food?" If I had this baking in my oven there would be no question to ask.Enjoy the amazing food of the season and don't forget to thank the people making all that food, you will be enjoying this holiday season.So blessed!

Baked Cinnamon-Apple French Toast
adapted from Gale Gand's Brunch!
100 Fantastic Recipes for the Weekend's Best Meal
6 medium apples-an assortment is best
2 TBL ensalted butter,cut up into 
small cubes,plus more for the baking dish
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
8 slices Texas toast(or a thick
 prescliced white bread)
8 large eggs
1/2 cu granulated sugar
3 1/2 c whole milk
1 TBL pure vanilla extract
1. Peel,core and cut the apple into 1/4-inch thick slices. Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium heat until it starts to foam. Add the apples and cook the until tender,about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the brown sugar,cinnamon,and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. Lightly toast the bread. Cut the toast slices in half to make triangles. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish,and arrange the bread in the baking dish,overlapping the pieces.
3. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl;then whisk in the sugar,milk, and vanilla to make a custard. Pour the custard over the bread pieces, and spoon the apples over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day: heat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the baking dish and bake for 50-60 minutes,until the custard is set and doesn't shimmy when you shake the dish.It will puff up and brown slightly. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve in large squares or spoonfuls,with honey butter (Honey butter-soften one stick of unsalted butter. Mix in a pinch of salt and 1 TBL of honey. Sitr together to mix completely,transfer to a small serving dish.Cover and chill until ready to use.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You're kidding right?

So I thought it was funny. First I fall for mushrooms... then it's beets,I mean really people. And now it's figs. Small,rich-maroon colored,seedy ( I think thats a word...),odd shaped figs. See what's so puzzling to me is that I'm not a big fan of seeds.
     Allow me to explain,you see it's a consistency thing...well things with seeds,ie. raspberries,blackberries,and well figs . I just haven't been a huge fan of them in the past. I love the flavors that raspberries and blackberries bring,I just never took to them fresh.I know I'm weird and I'm ok with it.
      I didn't have much experience with figs growing up and they'd never really crossed my path until one day a few months ago.A friend at work came up to me one day and asked me if I liked figs. I told her "umm no" and explained that I never really had a whole lot of experience with them. I could have left it at that but I knew that figs were pretty amazing so I had heard from another friend and  I knew it was time to try something new. She, fantastic work friend mentioned she had a fig tree and wanted to bring me some figs. I said sign me up.I also knew that I was getting a dang bargain because the one thing I did know about figs was that they are not cheap . I had a feeling this was going to be a real treat and if anything I would learn a little bit more about food. Boy howdy I didn't know what was coming down the road or better yet in a Kroger sack in the fridge.
 First things first,nobody told me how pretty things would be. I mean really the colors are just gorgeous and they sure look purty in a seafoam green Pyrex mixing bowl. And the flavors,oh lawd the flavors.The sweetness that slowly meets you at first taste and the the floral notes stay with you for just a little bit longer. I had to ask myself,what the heck have I been missing out on because of some dang seeds. I tasted one little piece and thought,"mmm..." I took another bite and knew I had fallen for,seeds and all, figs. I knew just what to do with the little jewels and it involved some canning. 
    The fig tree at my friend's yard was cranking out some figs. I knew that it would take quite a few figs to make a batch of jam,but little did I know she would bring me exactly enough to make a full batch,hooray! A few weeks later she brought me some more figs, a lot more figs and her family will be enjoying lots of fig jam this holiday season. I know they will be thrilled,I would be. 
adapted from The Joy of Jams,Jellies,
  and other Sweet Preserves
2lbs chopped ripe figs
 (just about 8 cups,chopped)
1/2 c water
3 c sugar
1.Prepare the canner,jars and lids. Combine the figs and water in a preserving pan and set the pan over medium heat. Cook the figs,uncovered,until they are tender. Put them through a food mill.
2. Return the fig puree to the preserving pan and add the sugar. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium-high heat and cook,stirring until the jam has thickened and a drop mounds on a chilled dish.
3. Ladle the jam into pint or half-pint mason jars. Add the lids and rings, and process them for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #9

" I think life as a good book. The further you get into it,the more it begins to make sense."
                                   -  Harold Kushner

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Just add water and stir...well almost.

    So I have decided that some things in life are just not that easy. Let's see...
             Moving. Moving stinks.You have to pack your world into liquor store boxes,scribble on the outside something legible and hope your kitchen utensils don't wind up in your linen closet.
             Most anything that involves renewing your drivers license,taking your car through inspection or waiting in line to renew your car tags after taking that car through inspection.If you live where I live well you know as good as I do,all those things don't actually happen in one day.
               Oh and shopping for presents to give out at Christmas.Now first things first,I'm not saying that shopping isn't fun and buying gifts for your loved ones can't be pretty exciting.I love to shop.I can procrastinate with the best of them when it comes to shopping for Christmas presents.I used to think it was down right exciting to do all my shopping the last week before Christmas and shop until I dropped(and those were the days when I was a little younger and didn't have a husband,house and full-time job).Well shopping last minute still has it's appeal and I'll probably still buy last minute gifts the week of Christmas,but most of my gifts will have already been made and wrapped. Yep,homemade gifts are my cup of tea.
       I don't remember how or where I got the idea for Soup-in-a-Jar,but that was one heck of a lightbulb moment. Break out the sunglasses,oh the glow! It's a fantastic,well-thought out gift and can make a whole house full of folks happy or a bunch of leftovers for just a few people! One of the may reasons I love cooking is I can give to you from my heart,a good meal that not only warms your soul but fills your belly too! The idea of soup-in-a-jar is not a new one,but nonetheless here is my spin on it:
   To make Soup-in-a-Jar :
        Ingredients:This is a pretty economical gift. You go to the store and pick up 4 different kinds of dried beans:green split peas,black beans,brown lentils,red kidney beans and black-eyed peas.To make the broth,I picked up some beef bouillon cubes and for some body,small-shaped pasta.The spices I used to make the spice packet are ones you should have at home already,but if not here's your list: salt,black pepper,garlic powder,italian seasoning,cajun seasoning,bay leaves and dried onion flakes. Now admittedly I didn't have the onion flakes,so my patient husband ran to the grocery for me .Oh and pick up the snack size Ziploc bags and a flat of quart size mason jars,they are a must.
    Directions:These are the ingredients for ONE 1-quart size mason jar.I would assemble the parts before jumping feet first into pouring up the jars full of beans.
*The bouillon cubes. The recipe will call for 12 cups of water.You will use 10 of those cups to make the beef broth with the bouillon cubes.ONE cube makes ONE cup of broth.So put 10 little cubes in one snack-size Ziploc bag.
*The spice packet contains: 1tsp each of salt,black pepper and garlic powder.2 tsp each of Italian seasoning mix,Cajun seasoning mix. 1/4cup dried onion flakes and 1 bay leaf.
*The pasta bag contains 1/2 cup small shaped pasta,such as orzo,alphabet shapes,stars.I like the pasta,probably because I found alphabet-shaped pasta for this years jars. Snazzy.

* I also include in the gift bag: one 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes,14-ounce can of tomato sauce and for a side a box of cornbread mix. Corn muffins just go really well with soup,I'm just saying.The only thing the gift-receiver needs to buy for this is 1 pound of ground beef. Not to shabby for a day-after Christmas dinner.
Assembly:  FROM THE BOTTOM UP: 1/2 cup of each bean,in this order: green split peas,black beans,brown lentils,kidney beans and last black-eyed peas. Then carefully wedge in the bag of pasta into one side of the jar,next the bag of bouillon on the othe side and then carefully squeeze in the spice packet on top. Screw the lid on and lookie there you've got soup in a jar,almost.
Cooking instructions:(I type up directions and tie them to the rim of the jar with some lovely ribbon.)
     1. Open jar,set aside the pasta,bouillon and spice packet.In a large bowl,empty the beans and cover with 7-8 cups of water .LET SOAK OVERNIGHT.
     2. Drain the beans and set aside.In a large skillet brown the ground beef,drain on a paper-towel lined plate.In a large pot combine 12 cups (3qts) of water and all the ingredients EXCEPT the pasta.Bring to a boil,reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.**(while the soup simmers,prepare cornbread,it should be done right as the soup finishes cooking.)Bring back to a boil,add pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes until pasta is tender. Enjoy in a big bowl with a cornbread muffin in hand.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #8

"There are not many things in life so beautiful as true friendship,and not many things so uncommon."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fantastic ol' standby

 I had this grey hoodie jacket back in college.It was the best jacket ever, and it was until last Christmas when my husband bought me not one,but three new jackets,same style different color. God bless his soul. I tell ya that jacket was there when I needed it. I wore when I trekked across campus for a spring semester(i.e.. beginning of January,when it's so dang cold outside) 8:00 am geology class.I know geology at 8:00 am,what the heck,ugggh. It kept me warm at late-night study sessions at IHOP or Waffle House and was probably instrumental in me graduating from college.
    I lost that jacket a few times and found it a few times. Bless it's little jacket heart,it was not kept in the best condition . I would wash it every now and then. Now you know as well as I do that,it didn't get prettier with age.A random,tiny little tear on the cuff slowly got bigger and well one of the sleeves of that jacket was barely hanging on to that cuff when it was retired.
    So this past spring I got a new vehicle.I had a car for a long time and now I have an SUV. It's large and in charge and eats a lot of gas. When I went to give up my car and had to clean everything out,guess what I found in the trunk,balled up next to box that held the factory radio (new radio,graduation present to me),it was my grey jacket.It still felt the same,had the sad cuff on one of the sleeves and it made me smile. It's a standby that has stood the test of time and cars,and now hangs with all the other jackets in my hall closet.

  This vinegarette is the grey hoodie jacket of vinegarettes. It's a simple,easy vinegarette that takes no time to make and it's good. It is also a great starting off place if you want to change it just a bit to fit the salad ingredients.I also think I make it,just so I can put it in a mason jar.  I mean any ol' reason to use a mason jar!
Vinegarette for Green Salad
adapted from Ina Garten
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp minced,fresh garlic
3 TBL champagne vinegar
(I've used white wine and balsamic vinegar
  in place of champagne.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c good olive oil
Directions: In a medium size bowl,whisk together the first four ingredients.Next while whisking continuously,stream in the olive oil. This step will emulsify the dressing and make it taste so good! Enjoy

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Summer recipe,holiday tradition

      I love singing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. It's a classic. When I was in high school we sang it almost all four years at the annual holiday program.We were the last to sing and would wrap up the program with this grand sound that would fill up the auditorium. The audience would stand up and listen to us belt it out. I have sung that rousing piece of music a few times since and every time is cooler than the one before.I still get excited when I hear bits and pieces of it come on the radio or tv during the holiday season.I pick up where the notes leave off ,humming it for the rest of the day.(I'm a big ol' choir nerd and totally ok with it.)It is a classic. It will always be a highlight for me during the holidays.
   Another highlight for me during this holiday season, will be Tomato Jam. I haven't been this excited about a condiment since I discovered that yellow mustard and sweet pickle relish are so good on a hot dog.I was 6 years old,so folks it's been a while.I will tell you I have gotten pretty jazzed about a few condiments but none like the Tomato Jam.
Oh sriracha,it is so spicy. Spicy garlicky goodness.

Asian chili garlic sauce,a chunkier version of sriracha.

   This is the already legendary Tomato Jam.It is tomato jam. You've got blueberry jam, plum jam and now here it is,tomato jam.The sweetness hits you first,followed by the spicy richness of cloves,cinnamon and ginger,then just as you finish taking it all in,BAM! the red pepper flakes make their debut. The kick is just enough to remind you this ain't no wimpy tomato jam.It was such an easy recipe to make after canning my fanny off and little did I know how much I would love every taste of this ah-mazing condiment.Oh and the jar in the picture above was finished off soon after we opened it. Sausage and biscuits never tasted so good.
Tomato Jam

adapted from
(this is a great canning blog,you 
should try it sometime. You go Marisa.)
makes 4 1/2 to 5 pints
5lb tomatoes,finely chopped
3 1/2 c sugar
8 TBL lime juice
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 TBL salt
1 TBL red chile flakes
1. Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly ,simmer the jam until it reduces to a sticky,jammy mess. This will take between  1 and 1 1/2 hours,depending on how high you keep you heat.While this cooks down,prepare canner,jars and lids.
2. When the jam has cooked down sufficiently,remove from the heat and fill heated jars carefully,leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims,apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. When time is up,remove jars from water and allow them to cool. When the jars are cool enough to handle,test seals. Store in a cool,dark,place for up to one year.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did someone say cheese grits?

    So this is Winston. You've met Winston before and he's a character. He's also very helpful in the kitchen and loves himself some cheese grits.
    Yep ,you heard it the cat likes cheese grits. And he was in luck two nights ago,on the menu at Chez Harris was Spicy Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage.
     Oh my heavens, it was good.It was inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh that I made about a year ago. The recipe in that amazing cookbook calls for just simple white grits,but when you get a hankering fo cheese in yo grits... well you gotta put some cheese in those grits.
Oh and I forgot to mention lime butter.
        The lime butter has just a bit of tang to it .Oh gosh really,'s butter.Butter makes everything just dreamy in my opinion. The butter also is a nice compliment to the tang of the lime,sort of gives the citrus flavors of the lime a spotlight.I also threw a kink in the lime/butter chain. Tomatoes. It's a bit of a risk,but it's so worth it.If you're not a big tomato fan then leave them out,I understand. You won't hurt Winston's feelings.I think he's a tomato fan too,... not sure but I'll check.
    Anyways,moving right along let me now introduce you to Winston and I's favorite new dish: Spicy Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage. (Come to think of it Winston probably likes the shrimp,not the cheese grits. Huh.)
Spicy Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage
inspired by Fast Easy Fresh (Bon Appetit and Barbara Fairchild) 
and finalized by my brain
2 1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
4 TBL butter,divided and cubed
1 c quick-cooking white grits
3 TBL cream cheese
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 TBL half and half
1/2 c finely sliced green onions,extra for garnish
3 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves,pressed
1 lb uncooked medium-large shrimp
 (21-25 per bag),peeled and deveined
2 andouille sausage links,about 10 ounces,
   sliced into rounds
2 TBL fresh lime juice
1 c grape tomatoes,halved
1.In a medium saucepan,combine the broth and 1 TBL of butter and bring to a boil. Stir in the grits. Reduce the to medium-low,cover and let simmer for 5 minutes,stirring occasionally. Mix in the cream cheese,cheddar cheese and half&half. Fold in until all ingredients are incorporated.Stirring constantly,cook until grits are tender and all the liquid has evaporated,about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper,stir in the green onions and remove from the heat. Cover and set aside.
2.In a large skillet,heat the olive oil and 3 TBL of butter over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook just until fragrant,about 30 seconds. Add in the andouille sausage and cook 2-3 minutes until the edges start to brown. Next add in the shrimp and cook another 3 minutes just until the shrimp are cooked through. Remove the sausage and shrimp into a small bowl,cover and set aside.
3. While the pan is still hot add the lime juice and grape tomatoes to the skillet. Let the sauce cook down and just until the tomatoes have begun to release their juices and soften. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon the cheese grits on to the center of a plate,top with the sausage and shrimp and drizzle the lime,butter and tomato sauce over the plate full of food! Garnish with the extra sliced green onions and maybe a few shakes of Tabasco if you're up to it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #7

"Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance."
                                                                                                            -Charles Lindbergh

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Food gift idea:little orange squares.

Oh the Cheez-it. 
 I love Cheez-its.
 I love them even more wrapped up in a neat little goody bag.
     Food gifts are the best and nobody rocks some food gifts like my mother-in-law. She was a teacher for a bunch of years and probably received a wide variety of holiday gifts. And some of them were probably food related,some good and maybe some not so good.Oh bless that child's heart... they meant well.
      Well one of the recipes in her food gift recipe file is already legendary in my house( she also makes amazing fudge,more on that later) and she even makes them for me every now and then. It doesn't even have to be a holiday,thank goodness.I don't know how I've lived this long without this fantastic,dry-ranch-dressing coated, cheezy-oh-so-cheezy little square of salted and perforated cheezy goodness.      
        That many adjectives they must be good.

    I will share this recipe with you only on TWO conditions: 1. Please make at least one batch of these for your friends this holiday season. You'll be coolest kid on the block,no lie. 2. Before you make at least one batch for your friends,make a "run-through" batch for yourself . Remember to pace yourself when taste-testing this goodie. Enjoy!

Cheese Nips 
(you can make up your own name if you want.)
makes 1 and 1/2 gallon ziploc bags
1 1lb box of cheezits or cheese nips.
**I couldn't find that size box so I used two like 13-ounce boxes.It made quite a bit,but the dressing amount will cover all of it and be enough.**
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 pkg dry Original Ranch Dressing Mix
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1. Pour cheese nips in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Then pour the dressing mixture all over the cheese nips. Toss to evenly coat the crackers. Spread out in a single layer on baking sheets. Let marinate at least 2 hours up to 8 hours,stirring occasionally. Then store in gallon ziploc bags,tossing occasionally to coat even better.
*These are better with time,so make them at least the night before you package them or give them out.*

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Say this one five times real fast.

 So we are three days past Thanksgiving and I know some folks who already have their Christmas tree up,decorated and all lit up.I applaud you folks and hope one day to be as focused as you. For now this is the only lit tree I've see and it's a pretty nice view.
   I spent the Thanksgiving weekend with my husband's family outside of Tupelo,Mississippi . They have a lovely home with an even lovelier deck out back. I love this deck. I love this deck and the nature that surrounds it. It's gorgeous. The trees surround the deck and nature is alive.In the summer,you can watch the hummingbirds take flight and scrap over each feeder that hangs from the covered portion of the deck. They are fast I tell ya and no camera can catch those buggers.In the fall,the leaves are everywhere and the crisp cool breeze is just enough to remind you winter is just around the corner.It really feels like home.If you want to get specific,the deck chairs with a pile of magazines and a cup of coffee really feels like home.I mean really folks,perfect.
  We get down there when we can and spend the weekend enjoying all the blessings of life we can.I look forward to getting up early on my day off and taking root on that deck.I pack a bag full of magazines and cookbooks.I set my alarm to wake up around 7:00 am. Yep,I know crazy,but it's worth every second of sleep missed to have a little extra peace and quiet. In the morning,I get up,grab my reading material and my big ol' cup of coffee and head to the deck.I get a good two hours in with nature and some cookbooks . It's the best ever.
  This past weekend it was a bit chilly,like 35 degrees chilly. Now look I'm committed to this whole peace and quiet business(I even have my trusty quilt to warm me in that deck chair),but it was dang cold and I headed for the living room instead.I was way warmer and still got to wrap up with some good recipes and a hot cup of coffee. It's the life I tell ya.
   The colder nights are on their way and when it comes to dinner ideas a hearty soup is almost as good as that quilt on the deck.I have fallen for this rich bowl of dumpling goodness after a recent trip to Kentucky. My sister and her husband live up in Kentucky and it's just enough north to be a little bit colder at night and well let's face it,a little cooler in the day too. I'll tell you this,if you want something to warm you up after a long day of planting bulbs in your sister's garden,like actual shovel-digging, workin'-so-hard-you-actually-sweat gardening those chicken and dumplings will do the trick. The next soup on my list is one from Giada de Laurentiis's cookbook Everyday Pasta and it's got warmth stirred all up in it. It's called Ribollita .  Ribollitta(say that name five times real fast why don't ya) is a thick tuscan soup and usually has pieces of stale bread in it. Giada said her family used odds and ends of pasta in it and for me,that adds some character. Soup and pasta,and two for one,score!

adapted from Everyday Pasta
by Giada de Laurentiis
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion,finely chopped
1-2 carrots,peeled and diced
4 ounces pancetta,chopped
 (I used 4 pieces of bacon,it works just fine.)
2 garlic cloves,minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 TBL tomato paste
1(14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes,with juices
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach,
    thawed and squeezed dry
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans,drained and rinsed
2 tsp herbes de Provence
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
   ( I would recommend using 8 cups,the pasta will
     use up a lot of that liquid.)
1 bay leaf
3 inch piece of Parmesan rind
1 cup spaghetti,broken into 1-inch pieces
Grated Parmesan,for serving
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon in batches until crispy.(If you cook all the bacon at one time,it will wind up steeping in it's own juices and not get crispy.Oh I love crispy bacon.) Add the carrot,onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is browned on the edges and softened. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Add the tomatoes and stir,scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the spinach,beans, herbes de Provence,broth,bay leaf, and the Parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil,then add the spaghetti,reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes,or until the pasta is al dente.
3. Discard the Parmesan rind and bay leaf, and ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Friday, November 26, 2010

And on to June.

Red onions ad tomatoes. The ingredients are quite tasty on their own,but wrap them in a smoky paprika glaze and throw them on a grill,masterpiece! 
    We,my husband and I were both responsible for the June cover issue. See now,I like cooking with my husband and spending time with him in the kitchen. He's incredibly helpful and can make a mean breakfast burrito! He also can grill with the best of them and when I saw this cover recipe I knew this was right up his alley.
    The ingredients were also perfect for the both of us.I like shrimp a whole lot and he loves tomatoes and we both love sausage.I whisked together the glaze and took a quick taste... oh so good. The glaze has a depth that can't be beat,the richness of the paprika,kick of the crushed red pepper flakes and the smoothness of the olive oil,I could only imagine how it would taste with each bite.
   Well he got to grilling and I got the plates ready. You divide the glaze in two portions;one half for brushing over the skewers while they cook on the grill and the other half for dipping. Yes,yes,yes! I also made this delicious potato salad as a side,suggested by the fine folks at Bon Appetit,they are so with it over there. It was a great dinner and it tasted even better knowing how had we both worked on pulling it all together,that's the best recipe, really. Enjoy!
Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze
3/4 c olive oil
4 lg garlic cloves,pressed
2 TBL chopped fresh thyme
5 tsp smoked paprika
4 tsp Sherry wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
12 uncooked extra-large shrimp( 13-15 per pound)
12 1-inch-long pieces andouille or other fully-cooked
   smoked sausages
12 cherry tomatoes
12 2 layer sections of red onion wedges
nonstick vegetable oil spray
*special equipment* 
  6 long metal skewers
1. Whisk oil,garlic,thyme,smoked paprika,Sherry wine vinegar,salt,black pepper,and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl to blend for glaze. Transfer half of the glaze to a small bowl and reserve for serving.
2. Alternately thread shrimp,sausage pieces,cherry tomatoes, and sections of onion wedges on each of 6 long metal skewers. Arrange skewers on a large-rimmed baking sheet.*do ahead* Can be made up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill skewers and bowls of glaze separately.
3. Coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray and prepare barbecue ( medium-high heat). Brush skewers on both sides with glaze from 1 bowl. Grill until shrimp are opaque in center,turning and brushing occasionally with more glaze,6-8 minutes.
4. Arrange skewers on a platter. Serve with remaining bowl of glaze.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #6

" I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life."
                                                                 -Barbara Bush

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You could've fooled me.

I have made lasagna before,lots of times.I'm no expert but the recipe I use all the time is a pretty fantastic stand-by and has pleased many a dinner guest.I plan my afternoon or night around it,whatever time of day I know it will take a while.I get out this big pot,get the water boiling and drop in the noodles.While the noodles are cooking,I brown my beef/sausage mixture for the rich tomato,meat sauce. If I'm moving with any kind of quickness that day,I have all my ingredients all prepped and just waiting to take the stage.Oh for some quickness.I tell you who had quickness and didn't bat an eye at on a busy weeknight,my dad.
   My dad could whip up a dinner for two hungry teenage girls on any given weeknight and still be funny all at the same time.My sister and I had our TV shows we caught up on while my dad pulled together a nourishing and filling dinner. We'd catch up with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Dwayne Wayne and Whitley on A Different World. He'd catch up with the folks at National Public Radio,steam some broccoli and stir together his famous carrot salad. The three of us would sit down to a home-cooked,made-with-love dinner.It was time to review the days events,upcoming happenings during the week ahead and it was simply time to see each other.
     I look back at those days and wonder how he did it.He worked hard at the family furniture business all day,still found the energy to make us dinner and throw out a few jokes in between bites.Parents all around the world make dinner for their families every night and do it all over again with love the next night.I know when I have a family and I got mouths to feed I will have this recipe in my back pocket,skillet lasagna.
   I got ready to make this recipe and as I have done so many times before I got out the big pot,filled it up with water,ready to boil some lasagna noodles. Well hang on just one minute here,I don't need this big ol' pot and I sho don't need this water. You could've fooled me.I reread the recipe again. It was just that, skillet lasagna,all of the cooking done in the skillet. Huh... clever.So I poured out the water,dried and put away the big ol' pot and really got to cookin'. You soften the onions and garlic,brown the meat,throw in the tomatoes,break apart the lasagna noodles throw them in on top of the whole thing,cover and cook for about 20 minutes. It's just that simple and I know my dad would love this one.I'll wait a few years from now and on a busy weeknight invite him over for dinner. We'll all sit around the table catch up on the days events and just see each other. It's just that simple.
Skillet Lasagna
adapted from the coolest over at America's Test Kitchen
Serves 4-6
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 TBL olive oil
1 medium onion,minced
3 medium garlic cloves,minced or presser through 
  a garlic press (about 1TBL total)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb meatloaf mixture (this can consist of beef,pork and veal.I used 
  1/2 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb ground pork)
10 curly-edged lasagna noodles,broken into 
  2-inch lengths
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 c plus 2 TBL grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper
1 c ricotta cheese
3 TBL chopped fresh basil (if not available,3 tsp dried basil)
1. Pour the tomatoes with the juices in a 1-quart (4cup) liquid measuring cup. Add water until the mixture measures 1 quart.
2. Heat the oil in a large non-sitck skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until the onion begins to brown,about  minutes.Stir in the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant,about 30 seconds. Add the ground meat and cook,breaking apart the meat,until no longer pink about 4 minutes.
3. Scatter the pasta pieces over the meat but do not stir. Pour the diced tomatoes with their juices and tomato sauce over the pasta. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer,stirring occasionally,until the pasta is tender,about 20 minutes.
4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons of the ricotta,cover and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and chopped basil.. Serve. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mad skills.

  These biscuits were ah-maz-zing.Perfect lazy-Saturday-morning-with-not-a-whole-lot-planned Saturday morning.They were fluffy on the inside and perfect shape on the outside.I can't get this lucky when it comes to making biscuits.Apparently making biscuits is a an art in my family and that gene was passed down to my amazing sister.
   We went this past weekend up to Kentucky to see my sister and brother-in-law and little did I know the girl would break out her mad biscuit-makin' skills,geez.The drive was great,smooth sailing until we got just about in to town and took a wrong turn. Wrong turns stink when you have to go to the bathroom. Oh but don't worry I didn't have to hold it too long,we made a u-turn and then made the right turn and arrived just fine,thank goodness.Our patient travels paid off the next morning when my sister whipped up these ah-maz-zing biscuits and I mean in a flash.
   I like to pick a cookbook from my cookbook collection (some might call it expansive,ha!) to take along on road trips.I chose a pretty fantastic cookbook/textbook of sorts from Marcella Hazan for this trip.I read a little on the way up but was looking forward to a lazy Saturday morning sitting at the table and pouring over the book for just a minute or two.
Mmmm....let's see reading a cookbook or fresh,hot homemade biscuits in just minutes? I open the book and begin to read the first chapter and I'll be darned if the biscuits aren't ready already ! Mad skills that girl has,look out.
I knew I had hit the jackpot with the biscuits and then my super cool brother-in-law starts going on about some pumpkin butter.Pumpkin butter you say? I was already sad that I couldn't safely can my own pumpkin butter and then this bombshell! An orchard down the road a bit from the quaint college town they live in makes and sells pumpkin butter.I mean really?!?!? JACKPOT! So yep besides spending the weekend with three of the most amazing people and one cuddly chocolate lab named Sam,I got fluffy biscuits and pumpkin butter.Again,JACKPOT! Make these biscuits real soon and while they are baking order some pumpkin butter for yourself . Enjoy.

Biscuits Supreme
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 
  New Cookbook,Bridal Edition
3 c all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 TBL sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4c unsalted butter( 1 stick,6TBL)
1/2c(1 stick)unsalted butter
  and 1/4c shortening
1 1/4c buttermilk
1 c milk
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.In a large bowl,stir together flour,baking powder,salt,sugar and cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender,cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add buttermilk all at once. Using a fork,stir just until moistened.Do not over mix or overwork the dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and GENTLY pressing dough for about 4-6 strokes or just until the dough holds together. Pat or lightly roll dough until 3/4in thick.Cut the dough w/ a floured 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mid-Week Moment #5

"Nature creates ability; luck provides it with opportunity."

  -Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Sunday, November 14, 2010

gettin' with the program.

I wanted to make plum jam. My Grandmother Sue,who can can with the best of them,she made plum jam forever ago.She also still at 91 makes these sweet pickles that are more candy than pickle.You can eat them like candy or eat them on a leftover pot roast sandwich with a little yellow mustard,mmm. It was my favorite when I was 5 and still my favorite to this day,hands down the best...oh right plum jam!
 Moving on,so my fantastic Grandmother Sue used to make plum jam and I fell in love with it.I could easily find lots of reasons to eat plum jam.

And I did,none to worry.

So I was super excited to find this orange plum jam recipe.I got the plums.I got to prepping the ingredients for the recipe and then I got with the program.I had enough plums to make two batches of orange plum jam and the lightbulb went off.I could make one batch with some vanilla sugar and one batch with lavender sugar.I had the jars filled with this amazing infused sugar in my pantry just waiting to make their debut.All the  cool kids use infused sugar. 

It's so easy to make:For the vanilla sugar:take one vanilla bean,cut it in a few pieces. Pour some sugar in a quart mason jar,split open the vanilla bean pieces and scrape out the little black specks of vanilla goodness. Layer the vanilla bean pieces between sugar and fill up the jar. Screw on the lid and set it your pantry to rest. The lavender sugar is even easier: You need like 1/8 cup of lavender flowers,not that many make a BIG statement.Layer them between sugar in a quart mason jar,screw on the lid and set it in your pantry to rest.Leave the jars in the pantry for about two weeks,shaking occasionally just to mix things up.To use the sugar just carefully sift out the vanilla bean or lavender flowers from the amount of sugar you need to use.Replace the sugar in the jar and continue to enjoy the flavors that come from those jars. Now onto orange plum jam folks,oh the flavors. The vanilla brought out every sweet note in the plums you could imagine. The lavender brightened up the plums and made the orange flavors shine,what a treat this jam will be. Enjoy!

Orange Plum Jam
adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
page 36
Makes about six 8-ounce jars
5 cups finely chopped plums
2 TBL grated orange zest
1 package (1.75 oz/49 - 57 g) 
   regular powdered fruit pectin
5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
***(at this point I used 3 1/2 cups regular sugar
       and 2 cups infused sugar)***
1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
1. Prepare your canner,jars and lids.
2.In a large,deep stainless steel saucepan,combine plums and orange zest. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat,stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full roiling boil,stirring constantly. Boil hard,stirring constantly for 1 minute. Immediately stir in orange-flavored liqueur if using. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars,leaving 1/4 inch headspace, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace,if necessary by adding hot jam. Wipe rim. Center on lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met,then increase to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner,ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and let that roiling boil calm down.Wait 5 minutes,then remove jars,cool and store.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Never too much chocolate.

I put this picture of this naked chocolate cake up for TWO reasons: 1. I ain't braggin' but for someone whose not the best baker in the world I'm pretty dang excited I got this bundt cake out of the pan smoothly in one piece. Keywords here in one piece! Hooray! And 2. This cake is just fine the way it is,naked. It needs no icing,sprinkles or colored sugarbut a little powdered sugar can fancy it right up.I'm just sayin'.It is simple and just enough. Make this cake very soon,eat a piece after it cools and you'll never love another chocolate cake this much. Trust me. Enjoy!
Too Much Chocolate Cake and my neighbor 
 down the street Leigh,she's way great.
1 (18.25 ounce) box devil's food cake mix
1 5.9 ounce box of instant chocolate 
 pudding mix
1 cu sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt pan with either nonstick cooking spray or some melted butter.(I find that if you brush the melted butter into the sides and creases within the pan this works just as well as cooking spray if not better.)
2.In a large bowl,whisk together the cake mix and pudding mix.In another medium bowl whisk together sour cream,vegetable oil,warm water, and eggs.Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.Mix well.Stir in the chocolate chips.
3.Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until top is springy to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.Cool in the pan for 1 1/2 hours,invert onto a plate and then let it cool completely on a cooling rack or just invert onto a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve right away.