Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hot Fun In The Summertime

 Don't you love it when school is over  and you wake to a bright sunny morning.  All my little neighbors were out early and I could hear the sounds of kid giggles and play while I had my first cup of coffee.  I love starting the day on the porch with my caffeine fix, a little music, (Summer music here) and children sounds.  The dog, Shelby, sits with me occasionally and she enjoys it too. ( Well, since she  figured out that rocking chairs and dog tails don't really mix she likes it,)

 Oh my goodness, what a glorious day! The perfect day for a little work in the yard, a little laundry,  some general tidying, lunch out with The Hub and Son2 and then little pool time.  With high's in the upper 80's and just a few clouds in sight it was  more than wonderful

After a day like this it only seemed fitting to throw something on the grill for supper.  The only catch was that it had to taste like summer time.  A few days ago I was at The Pig and they had very thin pork steaks for $1.59 a pound.  I bought a few packs and froze most of them, but still had 4 steaks sitting in the fridge.  A quick look through a couple of cookbooks gave me the bones of this marinade, which I altered to fit what I had on hand. Nothing says summer like food from the islands, right?

                                                                    Cuban Pork Steaks

1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 serrano  peppers diced  whole or ribs and seeds removed ( depends on your personal "heat" tolerance)
1 large onion, sliced
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and quartered

Mix all the ingredients in a large baking pan and let sit for about 15 minutes for the flavors to meld.  Remove the pineapple and onion slices to a separate dish.  Put the pork steaks in the marinade and let sit for 30 minutes, turning once midway through. ( Use tongs for turning so the steak surface will not be pierced)

 About 5 minutes before you are going to cook the pork, oil the pineapple quarters and the onion slices and put them on the grill.   It takes a little longer to cook them so this should assure everything is ready at the same time.

Grill  the pork on a hot grill, cover and turn the heat down immediately. (If cooking on a charcoal grill build the fire on one side.  Sear on the hot side of the grill  then put the steaks on the other side to finish cooking.)  Turn after about 5 minutes and cook until done.  It took me about 8 minutes total cooking time, but as I said, these were very thin steaks.

Serve  as soon as they have cooked through.  Don't pour the leftover marinade over the pork to keep cross contamination form happening.  Trust me, you won't need it.  This packs so much flavor into the meat and it is almost fork tender. Try it and you might just have a new family favorite.  We loved it and will put it in our bi-weekly rotation for the summer.  The only thing that could make this better might be a Cuba Libre or Mojito while grilling it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Harken Back To Peanut Butter Fudge

I have recently been reading a blog called Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.   I love reading the blog and have really enjoyed the recipes but the name of the blog makes my easily distracted mind start to wander. I want to grab the boy Sherman, go through the Way Back Machine and travel to an era gone by . ( I fully understand this is an age qualifier and some most of the younger readers will have no idea what this reference is.   If, however, you remember Rocky and Bullwinkle and Fractured Fairy Tales you might well remember the travels of Sherman and Mr. Peabody.)

Son2 requested a special treat the other day and I thought why not?  This is a very old and very common recipe that I remember from my childhood. It may or may not be older than mid century.  I am not guessing the age of the recipe nor am I revealing how blooming long ago my childhood was.

 If you do exactly as the recipe calls for you should have success.  If you deviate from the instructions, well too bad for you.  (That being said, I am about 650 feet above sea level.  Much higher altitudes might have to adjust the cooking time upward.  If you live somewhere  crazy high you already know how to adjust, but that is just too much math for a cooking tale, so calculate it yourselves.)

                                           Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar
1/4 stick butter ( use the real stuff)
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup clear corn syrup ( Use the Karo light variety and avoid high fructose corn syrup.  The syrup is only used to keep the sugar from re-crystalizing anyway and adds nothing to the sweetness. )
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanut butter ( Use any brand but creamy works best for this recipe)

Butter a 9x9 or 8x8 inch square pan.  Put aside. Put sugar, butter, milk, corn syrup, salt and butter in a medium large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir and continue boiling for 5 minutes.  Stir constantly!  Do not even think of walking away from the pot during these five minutes!  Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla.  Let it sit for about 1 minute, then start beating with a wooden spoon.  Continue beating till the mixture loses it gloss and starts to thicken a bit.  Pour quickly into the prepared pan and walk away for about 30 minutes.  Come back and cut the pieces into 1 inch square pieces.  Walk away again until the fudge is completely cool.  ( Good luck with that.  Around here it looked like Pavlov's dogs were hanging around the table. I believe half of it was gone before cool happened.)   Remove and store in an airtight container.  Try to eat just one piece.   I dare you!  I don't even like peanut butter and I love this stuff!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bar-B-Cola Chicken And Peach Cobbler

Memorial Day in the deep south seems to require some kind of outdoor activity and barbecue.  That also means bug spray and sunscreen, sunglasses and some sort of iced beverage.  We met all the conditions for a traditional holiday, but we I did not want to be stuck tending to a long cooking barbecue that required a lot of our my attention.

Several years ago we celebrated the 4th of July with some neighbors who served us a delicious almost care free barbecue dish.  They told us how they did it and with just a few modifications we have continued to cook and enjoy Bert's recipe. ( Though it is not so much a recipe as just instructions on how to do it)  After several attempts we came up with what works best for us and the new name Bar-B-Cola Chicken.

As many chicken pieces as you want ( double all ingredients if cooking more than 8 pieces)
2 tablespoons Butt rub or any similar barbecue rub
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon  prepared mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 small onion grated
1 bottle cheap store brand barbecue sauce
1 12 ounce can/bottle soda.  Any brand will do but stay away from diet soda made with aspartame*.
1 aluminum pan
aluminum foil to cover pan

Combine the Butt rub with the brown sugar and dry mustard.  Rub over all surfaces of the chicken.  Sear  both sides of each piece on the grill over a high heat.  Remove from the fire and place in the aluminum pan.  Turn the grill down to low heat and put the pan on the grill ( This is tricky with a charcoal fire.  I would just finish the cooking in a 250 degree oven) .  Mix the mustard, worchestershire sauce, grated onion, barbecue sauce and the cola in a medium size bowl.  Stir till it is well blended.  Pour over the chicken pieces in the pan and immediately seal it with a top made from tightly wrapped foil.  Let it cook over a covered low ( about 250 degrees) heat for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is very tender.  Serve hot with whatever you like as barbecue sides.  We had toast, potato salad, tossed salad and baked beans.

I prefer this made with bone-in chicken thighs, but The Hub likes boneless breasts.  The thighs cook much moister and are so tender.  Because the breasts are white meat and boneless, even with the slow cooking temp and long cook time they still tend to be a little drier.  It is a personal decision and if I were cooking just for me I would always opt for bone in.  The Hub and I can argue this point until Hell freezes over and neither of us will change our opinions.  It is your choice so choose wisely, Grasshopper.

The Hub also loves a traditional dessert with his barbecue.  He is a peach cobbler fanatic, but not just any cobbler.  It has to be a cake-like cobbler with lots of butter and peachy juicy goodness.  It is a great dessert for the rest of us to have because none of us like cooked fruit, so there is little no temptation for us to resist.

       Small Peach Cobbler For 2 ( meaning The Hub polishes the entire thing off in one sitting)

2 medium peaches, peeled and sliced, tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Peel, slice and sugar the peaches and set aside
Pour the melted butter in the bottom of a loaf pan
In a small bowl mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt,  Add the milk and vanilla and beat till smooth.  Pour over the melted butter but do not stir it.  With a spoon add the peaches fairly evenly over the top of the batter.  Again, do not stir.  Cook for about 30 minutes until the batter is set and the top is a golden brown.  Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream ( shown here) or ice cream.

If your son is home from college and you see him eating ice cream and remind him that his dad is going to want some on his cobbler later, do not even begin to think he might actually leave any in the carton.  Nothing spells disappointment like going to the freezer to pull out some ice cream for your cobbler only to pull out a container with about 1 tablespoonful of vanilla.  I guess technically Son3 did leave some. I just should have been more precise and said leave a serving.  Live and learn!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pineapple Brownies

When I made the strawberry brownies I decided to try a variation using pineapple and brown sugar.  Last night I walked through the kitchen and caught a whiff of a seriously ripe pineapple.  I figured that was a Divine message to experiment

Before I go any further with the brownie story please allow me to give huge props to The Hub and Son3.  Last year nearly every Wednesday they took The Father Parent to play the par 3 golf course at the club.  He was recovering from Guilliane Barre and had limited use of his feet and arms. Their attentions, encouragement and inclusion helped him tremendously. This summer sees him in another health battle.  So, the first week Son3 returned home from college they began again.  I love them for many things but I do especially love that they can see beyond themselves!

Each week after golf, The Mother Parent drives to our house and they eat with us.  It includes her in the plans and I am not sure which one of them enjoys it more.  We always have a very simple supper but I do include a dessert.  Since they are pretty willing guinea pigs and since The Father Parent has a tremendous sweet tooth, it was the perfect time to try something new.

                                                                    Pineapple Brownies

1 lb finely chopped fresh pineapple
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
1/2 cup chopped pecans ( I did not use this but it would have been so much better if I had)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
in a small saucepan cook the pineapple and sugars with the butter until it melts and the pineapple begins to loosen up a bit. This takes about 6 minutes on a medium heat.  Add the pecans and vanilla and let it cook another couple of minutes.  Set aside off the heat until it is lukewarm.
Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.  Butter a 9x13 pan and set aside.
When the pineapple mixture is luke warm beat the eggs one at a time into it. ( Make sure it has cooled to lukewarm or you will have scrambled eggs in the pineapple mixture and no one wants that)
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a spoon until all the flour mix is incorporated.  Do not over beat.  Pour it into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes.  If you err in the baking time undercook rather than overcook ( which I did).
This was good and I thought it was better than the strawberry brownie.  The brown sugar gave it a tiny bit more "chew" which was better than the over cakey strawberry brownies.  That being said this still is nothing like a traditional brownie in consistency.I served this both plain or with a scoop of ice cream.  It seems that some wanted it "topped"and some wanted it unadorned.

The over-all verdict was well received except for The Hub who declared it slightly overcooked___several times!  I can't thank him enough for pointing it out to me multi times.

I am not sure if I will ever try this again or not but if I do I will be extremely careful of the cook time, I will add pecans  and may or may not let The Hub have any!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cheese Biscuits Made (Lazy) Easy

A couple of evenings ago we were having a very simple supper.  I grilled some very small steaks and we had a mixed green salad.  I didn't want to go the usual baked potato route, but we needed something else with the meal, and I needed to NOT go to the grocery store.  (I am trying very hard to have minimal food waste so we are eating a lot of things we have on hand, not necessarily what we want.)  I had a cup of buttermilk that I needed to use.  It is one of those odd foods with limited uses.  Mostly it is used in baked goods and salad dressing. We usually have an oil and vinegar based dressing so making ranch was out.  I rummaged through the pantry looking for a little inspiration and found very little there but happened on 5 pounds of flour that had gotten pushed way back in the cabinet. ( How do you not see an unopened 5 pound bag of flour and how do you have no idea how long it has been there?) Hmmmmmm,  no doubt about it then, I was going to make biscuits.

I used a very basic biscuit recipe, but did not want to roll them, so I altered it slightly to make a softer dough for dropping.  I also added a few more ingredients just to make them a little savory.  I found a hunk of cheese that someone (other than me)  had put back in the fridge a few days ago and left the package unsealed.  Not a lot to do with dried cheese but to shred and mix it with other ingredients, so adding cheese to the biscuits was a no brainer.

                                                  Basic Biscuits (plus a little stuff added in)

                 ( I may or may not have overcooked these by about 1 minute.  I'm not telling)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (  if using dried reduce it by half)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley ( reduce by half if using dried)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
8 tablespoons butter, melted ( chilled and cut into small pieces if you want rolled dough)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix all the dry ingredients  and seasonings in a large mixing bowl.   Add the melted butter and buttermilk.  Stir until the flour is incorporated but do not over mix.  Add the cheese and stir through.  Drop them onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  I spritzed the tops of mine with an olive oil mister prior to baking them and sprinkled about 1/2 teaspoon finely grated cheese on each.

Since I melted the butter rather than cut it into the flour mix, these were denser than standard biscuits, but I was willing to sacrifice flakiness for ease.  If you prefer flaky rolled biscuits mix only the dry ingredients together.  ( Save the chives and parsley to add in with the cheese)  Grate the butter into a small bowl and stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes to get it super chilled.  When it is very cold use 2 knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.  Add the buttermilk and stir till mixed, then add the cheese and fresh herbs.  Roll out on a floured cutting board and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Re-roll the scraps to cut additional biscuits.

Son2 and The Hub really did like these and Shelby ( the grand-dog) finished up the single remaining biscuit.  Their request was to add this to our regular rotation.  Since I still have all that flour that I need to use I guess I will, but will vary the spices and cheese based on what needs to be used.  I saw a small pack of forgotten goat cheese in the
refrigerator  Wonder how that would taste?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What A Crock! (Of Deliciousness)

We have all heard those old sayings about not judging books by their cover and how beauty is only skin deep.  Well sometimes that happens with the things we eat also.  The bad thing is we eat first with our eyes.  If it is not visually appealing we are imprinted to think it is not going to be good.  It is most likely a survival mechanism. Through the generations of humankind, aversion to ugly food has kept people from eating all sorts of things that could harm or kill them.

Now that we are in a time separated from our hunter/gatherer ancestors we still rely on our sight to keep food safe.  Who among us has not recoiled at the looks of an almost liquid cucumber  or some plastic entombed leftover that has sprouted blue "fur".  No way we are going to eat that!

But what happens when you cook something that is not only perfectly safe to eat and is also delicious. It just doesn't look terribly pretty.  Well. that is exactly what happened to today's post.  My good friend Lynne told me about this method of cooking a pork butt, and I never intended to use this as a recipe here.  But after one quick taste, it was so delicious I knew I had to share it.

Slow Cooker Pork Butt

1 medium pork butt ( I prefer the bone in variety because it keeps the meat moister)
1 jar adobe sauce (if you want to make the sauce from scratch see here
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped. ( Before you add the entire can taste a tiny bit of the pepper. I used only 2 small peppers and it had enough heat for us)
1 Dr Pepper ( 12 ounces maximum)
1 tablespoon agave
juice of 1 lime
1 sliced onion
1 sliced bell pepper

Spray the crock with a spritz of Pam and put the pork butt in the bottom.   In a medium bowl mix all the other ingredients except the vegetables.  Pour over and around the butt.  Cook on high for 6 hours.  Reset the cooking temperature to low and add the onion and pepper.  Cook another hour or so.  (The best thing about a crock pot is the lack of necessity for specific cook times.  As soon as the veggies are soft it is ready to eat.  You be the judge of the time)  Serve over rice, or noodles, or mashed potatoes, or toast, or anything that suits you and yours.

When I made this I diced the onion and pepper and added it at the beginning of the cooking process. It added a good bit of flavor but it became mush.  Next time I will do as I mentioned earlier.  It would look nicer with the different textures of the pepper and the onion visible.  I will just have rings of onion and long slices of pepper for the visual interest.

Even with the mushy veggies this got thumbs up from everyone and will become something I make regularly.  I had a fairly large pork butt so there were tons of left overs.  I shredded the meat and packed it into 2 bags for the freezer.  This is going to also become a regular taco filling for us.  Next time I will buy the largest pork butt my crock pot will hold and make this again specifically to freeze in packages for tacos. I am also going to cook a couple of whole fryers the same way  and shred it for chicken tacos.

Winner, winner pork butt dinner!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Refrigerator Diving!

Do you ever have one of those days when you get to stay home all day wearing comfortable clothes, hair pulled back and a perfectly clean face?  They are gift days to be enjoyed thoroughly.  I get to listen to whatever music suits my mood and do whatever long neglected chore needs to be done, or do nothing al all if that's what suits me.

Son2 is visiting for a while and in the midst of savoring the day  I thought about dinner for 3.  The Hub is fine with a bowl of Campbell's soup as a punt meal but it's nicer if you have a guest ( even one you birthed) to have something somewhat decent as a meal.  A quick look through the refrigerator didn't help much.  I had a few vegetables, about 1/2 pound of ground beef and some odd leftover bits from previous meals.  I guess I could have changed clothes, fixed the hair and put on a dash of makeup and run to the store for something but I just didn't want to. ( Oh to be one of the beautiful people who can pull off "natural" without scaring small children and domestic animals!)

So the challenge was on.  Make something tasty out of virtually nothing using only what was on hand. 
(1 1/4 cup of leftover brown rice, about 5 tablespoons of cooked pinto beans, 1/2 cup corn, part of an onion, half a jar of salsa, 1/2 pound ground beef, 2 carrots 3 medium bell peppers, 1/2 head of lettuce, 1 tomato and 2 scallions.

I made a quick simple salad with the lettuce, scallions and tomato and set it aside. The rest became __

                                               Southwest Stuffed Baked Peppers

3 small to medium bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded and cored
1/2 pound ground beef
1 1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup pinto beans
1/2 cup corn
2 carrots grated 
1 small onion chopped finely ( or 1/2 huge leftover onion)
1/4 cup salsa
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Put the bell peppers upright in a small greased baking pan.  Mix all the remaining ingredients together and stuff it inside the pepper cavities.  Bake at 350 degrees until the peppers are tender but not wilted ( about 30 - 40 minutes)  Before serving warm any remaining salsa and spoon it over the top of the peppers.

They smelled fantastic while they were cooking and the flavor was so good.  There was enough beef so you could taste it and it had a nice mouth "feel".  The beans and corn were great texture compliments .  If I had used only the rice it would have been too mushy.  The onion provided additional flavor and the carrots were there just to take up some much needed space.  I would pretend I added them for the nutrient value, but they were really just filler since I had so little beef. ( Squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini etc would work equally well to stretch the amount).  I thought about it after the fact, but a little grated pepper jack cheese would have been outstanding in the mixture.  I am always a day late with ideas.

The Hub liked this so much he even asked that we do it again.  Not  bad to have something from virtually nothing turn out well.  Try refrigerator diving.  There is no telling what delicious concoction you might create!

Monday, May 6, 2013


I love spring!  Well, I love spring except for the pollen induced sneezles and the crazy southern weather.  I had just finished putting away the remaining few cool weather clothes from my closet when a nice rain ushered in a tad more winter.  Naturally!

The upside of spring is the plethora of wonderful asparagus and really tasty strawberries.  I will not discount winter berries, but nothing compares to walking past a display in the store and having eau de strawberry permeate the air.  It makes my mouth water and makes me buy 3 cartons of strawberries. ( I fully understand I have quantity issues)

I was in the process of enjoying plain berries when I remembered I had a limited time before they turned to mush and no one wants to chomp down on soggy strawberries.  I was in the middle of the freeze or dehydrate dilemma when I opened Pinterest.  Sometimes I believe the angels reside there!

 In  my wanderings there, I always find something that screams at me to try.  I had a quart of strawberries in the fridge and a recipe for strawberry brownies on the computer screen.  It did not take a genius to figure out what would become of them. So here is the result of Strawberry Brownies via Breakfast to Bed  You might want to check it out.  It is a fun blog to read.

                                                           Strawberry Brownies

1 pound fresh strawberries, washed and hulled or 2 cups frozen berries
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, sugar and berries and cook until the berries start to soften. ( appx. 5 minutes) Add the vanilla and continue to cook for 2 more minutes.  Mash with a potato masher until the berries are relatively smooth. ( You will have some stringy bits but don't worry about them)
Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm ( Important to let it cool or the next step will result in cooked eggs in the strawberry mixture.  You might be curious how I know that)  While the berries are cooling sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Add the eggs to the berry mix and stir until they are well blended.  Fold in the dry ingredients until they are well incorporated in the berry mixture, but do not beat them until the batter is smooth.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish and cook for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.

As for the verdict, we thought they were more like a cake like brownie than the chewy brownies we prefer.  That being said, the flavor was spectacular.  It was the ultimate spring cake and the addition of some sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream sent it over the top.  I will definitely make it again.  In fact, I am going to try this next week with pineapple rather than strawberries and substituting brown sugar for part of the sugar.  Will let you know how it turns out.  But for now I am going to run.  A cup of coffee and cake are calling my name!