Saturday, February 28, 2009

Firing Range

My target at 30 feet!

Mike and I went to the Surplus City firing range this morning. We're still in the market for a gun for him, but I have a Browning .380 that fits my hand very well. He rented a Springfield Arms .40 caliber to try out before we make a big purchase, and boy am I glad he did! I've been harping for weeks on how much I loved and wanted a palm safety, but once I fired the rented gun versus my current gun, I realized how comfortable my gun is, though smaller.

It's been a while since I've shot anything, and I have never in my life fired a gun indoors. I was suprised at how loud and traumatic it was! Mike fired off a few rounds with both the 380 and the .40. When it was my turn, I almost chickened out; I had to get Mike to fire off a few more rounds before I got up enough courage. After firing off both clips, I was reloading the .40, and my shoulder blade accidentally bumped the "I-need-help" button. Paul came in all concerned, and I had no idea why until Mike figured it out.

The palm safety and double-action trigger on the Springfield were just too much movement for me. It felt like I was firing off a jack-in-the-box with too many moving parts. The kick wasn't that much different, but I also wonder if there's a difference in the gun's composition: the .380 is all metal and wood, while the .40 was polymer. I did like that the .40 didn't have a hammer to mess with, but after cleaning the .380 this afternoon and working with it more, I'm becoming more and more comfortable with it.

We're looking forward to getting our Wildlife Management Area permits at the Turcotte Education and Shooting Facility for more practice.

Chimi that Churri

Mike was the star last night with a big piece of meat and his grill! This is an adaptation of a Williams-Sonoma recipe. The original called for ribeye steaks and sherry vinegar, but we had pinot noir vinegar and a 4 pound beef tenderloin, so we adapted.

Probably the most difficult part of the whole thing (well, to me at least - Mike wisely does not trust me with an open flame, so the grilling was all his work) was a lot of chopping. Thinking back, I probably could have done the marinade in the food processor, but what's the fun in that?

2/3 cup pinot noir vinegar
Dash of cooking sherry
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
7 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 pound beef tenderloin, untrimmed
  1. In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients except the tenderloin.
  2. Whisk together to combine well.
  3. Reserve 1/2 cup of the chimichurri.
  4. Put the tenderloin in a shallow, nonreactive dish just large enough to hold the meat.
  5. Pour the chimichurry on top and turn to coat evenly.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
  7. Remove meat from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
  8. Heat grill to about 450 and cook until medium-rare, turning to ensure even cooking.
  9. Brush with the chimichurri when turning.

Per WS's Essentials of Grilling:

"Chimichurri, a deceptively simple mixture of parsley, garlic, oil, and vinegar, is the melodic name of a classic marinade-sauce of Argentina, a country famous for its beef. Like most dishes, chimichurri depends on quality ingredients, so be slective and look for crisp, dark green flat-leaf parsley with a peppery fragrance, and choose garlic that is firm and umblemished."

Though so far this is my favorite way to cook red meat, I like just plain peppered beef too. I guess that's why the peppery parsley tastes so great on it!


This is a new aperitif for us - Mike made it last night, and I really liked it. The pretty yellow color reminded me of the daffodills on the table.

1 1/2 ounce whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce pineapple juice
ice cubes

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a glass with fresh ice.

A Truly Lovely Evening

Last night was so much fun! Great food, even better company. My dad and Carrie Ann came over for supper, so we wanted to do something really special. I played sous-chef to Mike's chef for the evening. The menu consted of algonquin cocktails, homemade salsa, and wasabi peas for starters, then beef tenderloin chimichurri, baked potatoes, simple green salad, and biscuits. Finally, for dessert we had russian creme with amaretto whipped cream and coffee.

Dad brought over the best pinot noir I've ever had, which was pretty neat, as the chimichurri had pinot noir vinegar as the base.

Russian Creme

Again, forgive me for posting a picture of leftovers. This dessert is great for presentation - putting it on the table with the simplicity of the red raspberries over the pristine white cream makes me happy.

It's difficult to make desserts for Mike. Chocolate doesn't really do it for him. He prefers things that are very tart, not sweet, and I've yet to find the recipe for SweetTarts or Swedish Fish. But he does love raspberries - I think I can say they're his favorite - so this dessert fits the bill. I like its texture; it's a good, rather light finish for a big meal.

1/3 cup sugar
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups water
2 cups sour cream
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 packages frozen raspberries or strawberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  1. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and gelatin in saucepan. Stir in water. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until sugar and gelatin are well dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  2. Gradually blend into sour cream and add vanilla. Quickly whisk for about 30 seconds to a minute to ensure that mixture is fully blended.
  3. Chill until slightly thickened.
  4. Whisk in whipped topping and pour into presentation bowl.
  5. Chill until firm, about 3 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, top berries with 1/2 cup sugar. This is optional, but it keeps the berries from being too tart.
  7. Top firm cream with berries and garnish with mint and/or whipped topping.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Loving the Spring

Sunday, February 22, 2009

King Cake

This is perhaps a turning point in the kitchen. I've been craving king cake for a few days, but I wasn't willing to invest that kind of calorie count into something made at Kroger or Wal-Mart. Could that make me a food snob? Or am I just picky and like to eat stuff whose ingredients I know? At any rate, snob or not, though perhaps not as good as something you could buy or order from New Orleans, this cake is TONS better than anything I can find up in Jackson, Mississippi.

1 cup sour cream
1/6 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 to 3 1/4 cup flour

3/8 cup sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons milk
Purple, green, and gold sugar
  1. Cook first four ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.
  2. Set aside, and cool until warm, about 100 to 115 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1/2 Tablespoon sugar. Let stand at least 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the cooled sour cream mixture.
  5. Beat cooled sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, egg, and 1 cup flour at medium speed until combined.
  6. Reduce speed to low and slowly add remaining flour until a soft dough is formed.
  7. Change out the paddle to a dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
  8. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning the dough so top is greased.
  9. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm spot for an hour.
  10. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, lightly greased on top.
  11. Beat together 3/4 cup sugar, cream cheese, egg, and almond extract at medium speed until smooth.
  12. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into roughly a 30x8 rectangle.
  13. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the middle and roll up dough rectangle, starting at one long side.
  14. Use warm water to seal the edges.
  15. Carefully transfer dough to prepared baking sheet, forming an oval with the seam side down.
  16. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes.
  17. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  18. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for about 10 minutes.
  19. Meanwhile, stir together powdered sugar, melted butter, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
  20. Slowly stir in milk until desired consistency is achieved.
  21. Drizzle over cake, following with banded sugar colors.

Amaretto Whipped Cream

Super simple if you have an Isi thermo whip. I'm not sure how you'd do it without one. Maybe use a mixer to whip the hell out of the cream and slowly add the amaretto.

14 ounces (1 3/4 cup) heavy whipping cream
2 ounces (1/4 cup) amaretto

Mix together and pour into thermo whip. Charge, shake, and enjoy!

If you want to do a non-alcoholic version, I think you could try a scant 2 cups whipping cream and 2-3 teaspoons almond extract.

Amaretto actually isn't made with almonds, though it has an almond flavor. It has been claimed that the original batch was made with grape brandy and apricot pit kernels, with the main contemporary ingredient remaining apricot pit kernels.

My Final, Definitive, Best Recipe for Biscuits

I think the search has come to an end. So far, I've made these biscuits a half-dozen times, and they get the same rave reviews, while I think they have the best texture. At last night's party, Angie, who is a self-professed homemade bread aficionado, said they were very good.

And I had to agree with her!

This is a collaborative effort between myself and my mom's mom, Cha-Cha. I took her recipe and changed lard for shortening and added an egg. I'm honored to have worked so closely with her, even if it was posthumously.

Don't be afraid of lard. Don't smell it either. It's just pig fat, and this recipe includes 1/2 cup for a baker's dozen of biscuits. So you aren't really eating that much per biscuit, and some sources say it's better for you than butter. If you've ever eaten at a down-home Southern restaurant, you would be shocked to know how much lard you've actually eaten. You should be able to find it at your local Kroger.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lard, frozen
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tablespoons melted butter for tops
  1. In a food processor with the blade attachment, mix all dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
  2. Add the frozen lard and combine in processor until lard is fully incorporated and the mix has a cornmeal consistency.
  3. Beat the egg and buttermilk in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment for at least 2 minutes.
  4. Empty the lard mixture into a large bowl, make a well in the middle, and pour in the egg and buttermilk mixture.
  5. Gently stir just enough to combine, return the dough to the processor with the dough attachment, and allow dough to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Run the food processor with the dough attachment just long enough for dough to achieve a singular consistency within the processor, about 35-45 seconds.
  8. Turn out on a lightly floured surface.
  9. Press out with well-floured hands into a rectangle. Fold letter-style, then press down and fold letter-style in the opposite direction. Repeat 4-5 times.
  10. Finally, press to a 3/4 inch thickness and cut into 2 inch square biscuits with a large kitchen knife.
  11. Brush tops with melted butter.
  12. Bake for 12-16 minutes.
Congratulations. You just made a batch of damn good biscuits.
Photo courtesy of TexMex Foods.

Mike's Grilled Salmon

Forgive me for posting a picture of the leftovers; the meat is truly as pretty as it was last night, but last night's presentation was gorgeous. Imagine the salmon placed atop cedar planks, nestled in my Wilton Armetale platter. There you go. Isn't that nice?

I tried to make this dish all Mike's, as in, I stayed the hell out of his way. Mike's a smart man who doesn't trust me with open flames, even if they are outside, so all outside cooking is his territory.

But I was responsible for picking up the meat. Paul Anthony's is my favorite and ONLY butcher shop. They are the nicest guys, and you can truly just walk in and say, "We're feeding eight people grilled salmon tonight, and we need some more rub. Hook me up." They'll cut it, descale it, ice it down, and hand you the best damn rub, all with genuine smiles and sweetness. I love them.

Once the meat was home, Mike soaked a pair of cedar planks (the meat was too big to fit on one). He oiled the meat with some olive oil and rubbed it, then topped it with thin slices of lemon. The grill was prepared to 420-450 degrees (medium-high), and the planks with the salmon on top were put directly on the rack for about 12 minutes.

Oohs and aahs ensued.

Protestant Mardi Gras

OK, so I'm Presbyterian. Mike is Methodist. But I went to a Methodist college with a predominantly Louisiana Catholic student body, AND Mike loves the Jackson St. Paddy's Day Parade, so Mardi Gras is a big deal for us.

Last night we had some awfully good friends over. The menu was completely off the cuff, but I thought it came together rather well:
Artichoke dip
Homemade salsa (ugly dip that's chopped more coarsely, therefore not so ugly)
Mike's grilled salmon
Macaroni and cheese
Spinach Madeline
Simple green salad with dried cranberries, sliced carrots, and blueberries
King cake with Amaretto whipped cream

The company was wonderful, and it really did us good. We're still reveling in the fun and frivolity. I think my favorite part of the evening was watching Judy enjoy some leftover chocolate mousse, the Amaretto whipped cream, blueberries, and red wine. It really reminded me of Cha-Cha. Also, Angie had a great time playing with the thermo whip and the amaretto whipped cream! I also noticed Dante had a new friend in Jimmy, to whom he cozied up most of the night. Wonder if Jimmy snuck him some salmon?

Fancy-Pants Macaroni & Cheese

I've always loved macaroni and cheese, the homemade-from-scratch kind, not the kind from the box. Sure, boxed M&C is edible, but I think in a way the homemade kind is just as easy, it tastes better, AND you know exactly what went into it instead of having to worry about all those preservatives.

My good friend Nash gave me Martha Stewart's M&C recipe, and what you find below is pretty close to it. But good ol' Martha uses sharp white cheddar cheese, which I don't like very much, and anyway, I couldn't find it in our little ol' Kroger. And Martha likes to feed a huge crowd, so I halved the recipe.

Another difference in my M&C is the topping: buttered Japanese bread crumbs give it the perfect crunch on top to contrast with the creamy, soft comfort-foodiness of the casserole.

2 1/4 cups milk
1 stick butter, divided in half
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for macaroni water
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 (12 ounce) package elbow macaroni
1 - 1 1/2 cups Japanese bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 1 1/2-2 quart casserole dish and set aside.
3. Warm the milk in the microwave for 60-90 seconds.
4. Melt 1/2 stick butter in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat.
5. When the butter starts to bubble, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly about 1 minute.
6. While whisking, slowly pour in the warmed milk a little at a time to keep the mixture smooth.
7. Whisk constantly for about 8-12 minutes, until bubbling and thick.
Remove the pan from heat.
8. Stir in salt, nutmeg, pepper, paprika, and cheeses until melted and well combined.
9. Cover a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.Cook macaroni for ONLY 3 minutes: the goal is for the outside of the pasta to be cooked and the inside underdone - cooking will continue in the oven in casserole form.
10. Drain and rinse the macaroni with cool water, drain well, and stir noodles into the cheese sauce.
11. Pour into the greased casserole dish.
12. Melt the other 1/2 stick butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl.
13. Add Japanese breadcrumbs to melted butter, stirring until well combined.
14. Top the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture and cook in oven until brown, about 30 minutes.
OK, so maybe this isn't JUST as easy as out-of-a-box macaroni, but I think it tastes a helluva lot better. Also, you could use any kind of mainstream cheese with the basic cheddar consistency, as long as it's about 2 1/2 - 3 cups total.
Photo courtesy of Wegman's.

Artichoke Dip

(Ann, this one's for you.)

Last night we had such a lovely time with lovely friends. Mom wanted some grilled salmon, and I LOVE how salmon, cream cheese, and Triscuits go together. So I figured a good beginner to the meal would be an artichoke/cream cheese dip served on top of Triscuits.

Ann wanted the recipe, and I was busy in the kitchen, so Mom gave her the closest thing I had in a cookbook - the Amerigo's version - but I had to tweak this recipe to go with what was in my kitchen. After so much calling out, "but I used mozzarella instead of Swiss," and "I added a couple cloves of garlic!" I realized the version I was serving didn't have much to do with the version in the book.

So here 'tis:

1 (8 ounce) package Neufchatel cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
3 cups mozzarella cheese
Black pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
2 green onions, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 or get a fondue pot ready.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, cream the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan, and garlic until well combined.
  3. Add mozzarella, peppers, and other seasonings (to taste), and pulse until combined.
  4. Add artichoke hearts last and pulse unitl just combined.
  5. Transfer to a 9x9 Pyrex dish or a fondue pot and stir in the green onion.
  6. Either bake the Pyrex for 40-45 minutes, until bubbly and browned, or set the fondue pot on medium-low, stirring occasionally, and serve immediately with Triscuits or your choice cracker.
  7. Serves 6-8
Photo courtesy of the California Artichoke Advisory Board. It's the official vegetable of Monterey.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez

Thanks to Asher's encouragement, this year's king cakes have been made.
Cinnamon bread with cream cheese almond filling.
And rolled almond bread with lemon icing.
Have a lovely Mardi Gras, y'all!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Do you like Thai? Sure. Do you like shirt?

(oh yes, that's steam rising over the chicken, eggs, & onions)

Mike and I have discovered Sweet and Sour, my new favorite place to shop. It's an Asian grocery store; the one in Clinton is kept by Anna and her sweet Beagle, Younggi. They have everything there: miso, edamame, sesame oil, chopsticks, bowls, rice, nori, udan, pickled plums, and Japanese snacks that Mike remembers from his childhood years there.

It. Is. Awesome.

So the other day I figured I'd try some homemade Pad Thai. Of course I had to do chicken instead of prawn, as Mike's allergic to shrimp. I think next time I'll add another green onion, peanuts, lime, and some red pepper: this initial version wasn't nearly spicy enough for us. But it's nice to have the hookup on Asian groceries from a vendor that's local and more authentic than our Kroger.

Swedish Chicken

Helen, this one's for you.

This is my favorite go-to dish for a shower or other casual get together. I can't tell you how many times Mom and I have figured a meal around this main course. Other than the delectable flavor, I like it because the dried beef actually gives the dish a flash of red every now and then, with the rest of the dish being rather pink. It looks great with a simple green salad. Why the women of my family call it Swedish Chicken, I will never know. Even the flag doesn't have red or pink in it!

I guess it's akin to our name for Russian creme, but at least that red dish makes sense.

I have been known to add a can of artichoke hearts to give it a little flavor kick. Would have posted a photo of the last batch I made, but intead of grabbing sour cream at the Kroger, don't you know I grabbed cottage cheese! The flavor was still awesome, but the dish wasn't as, ah, visually appealing as I'd like it to be. Probably wouldn't have made you want to go home and put it on the table. But once you've made it the "right" way below, if you have some extra cottage or ricotta cheese lying around, yeah, you can substitute.

It takes THREE hours to cook this in the oven, but it reheats beautifully. So if you want it for a friday dinner, maybe cook it when you're home Thursday night so you won't have to take off work Friday afternoon to put the chicken in the oven.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 strips bacon
1 jar Armor sliced dried beef
½ pint sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can sliced mushrooms
¼ cup white wine (optional)
2 cups cooked rice

1. Preheat oven to 275°.
2. Wrap each uncooked chicken breast with a strip of uncooked bacon.
3. Line bottom of an 8-inch square pan with dried beef.
4. Place wrapped Chicken breasts in the pan on top of the beef.
5. Pour mixture of sour cream, mushrooms, wine, and mushroom soup over chicken and bake uncovered at 275° for three hours.
6. Serves 4 with rice.

Photo courtesy of Top News.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Would-Be Gardener

After the war, my grandfather in Arkansas was a farmer. I remember traveling through the Delta as a little girl, making notes on the status of soybeans, corn, and cotton, and counting the number of sections on irrigation systems so I could give him a full report once we arrived in Morriliton. To this day, cotton that's two feet high means that school's around the corner. Along with crops, Grandpapa raised the most beautiful cows, and we still have a little farm out from Menifee, which I love to visit.

I suppose then that there is a genetic explanation for my lethargic love of dirt. The smell, the feel, the simple nuturing vitamins emanating from a spongy, dark clod of dirt is as good for me as a cup of coffee and a pound of dark chocolate.

I'm not saying I'm a GOOD gardener.... Just that once I get into it, it's a good day.

My stepmother, now SHE's a great gardener. As long as I've known her, she has engineered exquisite creations both inside and outside the house, in dirt, pots, vases, whatever she touches works beautifully. I remember once she'd worked all afternoon on quail herbed from her own garden. My sweet little sister was about 2 years old. She took one bite, looked at me with her big blue eyes, and matter-of-factly said, "This tastes like dirt. I know. I've had it before."

So so here's my attempt at giving food the delectable taste of dirt. The above photo shows my purchases this morning: from the left, two cilantro, four mint (will probably move them into the yard once they grow up and out of the pot), one flat-leaf parsley, and a rosemary.

I love how once they were re-potted, they all took a collective deep, relaxing sigh and seem to like their new homes. It's like they're stretching out and settling in. Kind of the same reaction as I have in the hot tub with Mike and a glass of champagne.

So much for my Valentine's Day manicure.

Glimpse into the Future

Went to Wal-Mart this morning and picked up a step in preparation of ski season. I set it on the conveyor belt at the check-out, smiling and nodding briefly at the elderly gentleman behind me. Because EVERYONE in Clinton makes small talk, he said the only thing that came to him:

"You're sure gonna cook up some great stuff on that!"

And all I could do was smile and respond, "Yes Sir, I sure am."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wait for it......

Can you hear it? Spring's on its way!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amish Cinnamon Bread

Once upon a time, my good friend Linda gave me the starter for Amish bread. Though a rather complicated little recipe, the finished result was absolutely lovely. The only problem was that you ended up with several starters that you needed to give a friend and hope they give one back so you could cook it again later, or you might never taste this delicious bread again! Or you could keep making Amish bread every 10 days, which would be great if we had a bigger family. But between just the two of us, Mike and I started feeling rather Amish after the third batch..

Then I stumbled upon the recipe for the starter in Recipes and Remembrances from the Sanderson Farms Family, a lovely cookbook to benefit the American Cancer Society, given to me for Christmas by my good friend Cindy.

So here you go, the recipe in its entirety, with no mystery starter. It's also very good with raisins, fresh blueberries, dried apricots or cranberries, or your favorite fruit.

Why the Amish are supposed to have ziploc bags, I will never know.

Employee: Jane Dennis
Location: Collins Production

1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk

Combine flour, milk, and sugar in a glass bowl.
Stir with a wooden spoon.
Do not refrigerate.
Place mixture in a Ziploc gallon bag.
Let it stand at room temperature for 1 day.

For the following 4 days, with the starter remaining in the Ziploc bag (do not open the bag), kneed and squeeze the dough.

On Day 6, open the bag and add:
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
Squeeze and knead to mix.

Days 7, 8, and 9, squeeze the bag but do not open.

Day 10, add:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
Squeeze to mix.

Mix is ready to use and makes five loaves of bread. You can separate the starter in to five individual gallon Ziploc bags and freeze for later use or share with friends.

Cinnamon Bread
1 cup starter (from recipe above)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large box vanilla instant pudding
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Spray 2 glass bread pans with non-stick cooking oil.
  3. Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mix (2 Tablespoons sugar and teaspoon cinnamon) on bottom of pans.
  4. Mix ingredients as listed in order on recipe, stirring well.
  5. Pour into prepared pans.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
  7. Sprinkle top with more cinnamon/sugar mix if desired.
Photo courtesy kreativekuisine.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you and yours have a truly lovely day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Playing Nice

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fancy Herbed Crackers

Let's HEAR IT for spring.

Truly my favorite time of year. I tend to become one of these irritating people, smiling and singing and trying my damnedest to whistle during this time of year. I can feel it in my bones - trading suntan lotion in for dry skin lotion, lovely afternoon lunches taken outside to get as much Vitamin D as possible, laugher, friends, longer days, sandals, grilling, skiing, and generally unfurling myself mentally and physically from the tightly-curled ball I have become during the winter months.

I love spring.

So in the spirit, this post includes a recipe that involves no cooking whatsoever. And people will think you've slaved over a hot stove for hours. It has become one of my favorite afternoon snacks that isn't as good for you as (but tastes way better than) an apple, but better for you than say, a chili dog. The photo doesn't really do them justice: the crackers have the same consistency and taste as if they have been baked in butter in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then sprinkled deliberately with the herbs. Good news: this recipe involves neither butter nor the irritating and time-consuming frustration of lining a cookie sheet with one layer of freakin' crackers.

Our good friend Nash gave us our first taste (pardon the pun) of this dish as a side to shrimp bisque, and I think it's a great, easier, and perhaps slightly healthier alternative to garlic bread for any dish from casseroles to appetizers to croutons. Be creative. I know it's in you - after all, spring is just around the corner.


  • One large box of saltine crackers - four tubes to a box. I buy the cheapest ones I can find: the special value ones at the Kroger for $.88 a box do nicely.
  • 1 1/3 cups canola oil
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix
  • Crushed red pepper to taste (I use about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • Garlic Powder to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)
  • Dill to taste (I use about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  1. Open the crackers and put all into a gallon size plastic sealable bag.
  2. Thoroughly mix together oil, ranch dressing mix, red pepper, garlic powder, and dill.
  3. While it's still swirling around, pour it over the crackers in the bag.
  4. Turn the bag over, upside down, and sideways every half hour.
  5. In two to three hours, the crackers will have absorbed the oil and spices.
  6. Store the crackers in an airtight plastic container. They keep a long time.

Peacock Paradise

It's still in development, but we're having a great time researching!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Did I mention it's crawfish season?

I really wanted to include a picture of me with crawfish hand puppets, but I figured somebody might be offended.


Crockett and I had such a big night last night!

First we went to Jessica and Ben's wedding shower hosted at Katy's house. It was too much fun! The BBQ was divine, and I swear the baked beans must have had crack in them, they were so good. And the desserts! Rebecca made this cake that had alternating strawberry and chocolate layers. But I liked Sarah's raspberry brownies the best. They were the B*O*M*B. The Wii Fit's gonna be griping at me and saying "ooooh" next time I get on, I'm sure.

Then we went to our buddy Peter's housewarming/birthday party. I guess it could technically be classified as a keger, as there was one at the back door, but it was some really good stuff - Shinerbock - so it wasn't like a frat party. Peter lives in a lovely house in Fondren with hardwood floors, tin ceilings, and an air of the good old days..... And speakers as big as I am. And a liquor cabinet that put ours to shame. We are really blessed with such great friends.

I am sure pictures will be posted on Facebook. I am sure all photos of me will look something like Shrek.

So I'm not as young as I used to be, and two parties, awesome friends, loud music, good wine, and beer took it out of us. Am glad I had the presence of mind to make these yesterday afternoon.

They're cranberry orange scones from the new cookbook. I'm interested in the fact that all orange flavor comes from only one teaspoon of orange zest. That's it - no orange juice, no grand marnier, just the zest. Am also interested that one orange produces about one teaspoon of orange zest. Will have to remember that, as that's not easy stuff to measure.
I'm already thinking of different variations on this theme. I put in pecans because you know I can't follow a recipe to save my life, but I'm thinking lemon scones with dried cherries would be pretty good too. Or maybe lime zest with dried cherries and lemon with some blueberries. Hmm. Mike likes raspberries. Wonder what would work with them?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Baby, where's the fire extinguisher?

I had some extra bananas lying around, and Mom just gave me Day in the Country, Sharing our History, Heritage, and Fabulous Fare Through the Generations from Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church of Madison County, MS. And the Banana Boubon Layer Cake recipe seemed way too good to pass up.

The topping is made of basically a bananas foster, only they're cut crosswise instead of lengthwise. And they're served on top of the cake instead of on top of ice cream.

I've never flambeed anything before in my life... On purpose. And the idea of setting a flame to the pan of bananas and 1 cup of Kentucky bourbon seemed rather ridiculous and silly to me. The photo doesn't do it justice: I had to move the pan to the kitchen sink because the flames made their way up to the vent-a-hood (which was not on), about 3-4 feet above the stove.

But the flames finally died down, leaving a lovely syrup to pour over the top. All's well that ends well, but it was definitely an adventurous day in the kitchen.

In Keeping with the Resolution

Maybe it's not so much the beautiful things in life as the reflections on our center island in the kitchen. I kid about how we just bought a kitchen that happens to have a bedroom off the side of it.
Mike's aunt Nancy gave us this beautiful pitcher for the wedding, and though I've used it here and there for its intended purpose, my favorite use for it is pictured above. That way it remains stationary, and I don't have a heart attack every time somebody other than me picks it up.
I met the neatest person last week - Leslie - who is starting a beautiful flower arrangement business here in Jackson. She mentioned having small flower arranging classes, and I ate that idea up. During our converstaion, she talked about how you can put flowers in things other than vases, and though the above does depict that idea to a certain extent, I'm fascinated about what other containers she had in mind. Sure wish I was that creative.


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