Monday, December 26, 2011

What I've Been Doing Instead of Writing about Cooking

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas day and is continuing to enjoy the holidays. I know we had a great, but subdued day. I remember when the kids were younger and we still had two families to see each Christmas, and how I wished we were a little less stressed on Christmas day. Several years later when the older sons were grown and living across the country, and experiencing some family member's deaths, I found what slowing down on Christmas day was like. To be honest I would give anything if everyone were with us and we could still be in a state of Christmas chaos. I guess the old axiom about being careful what you wish for is true. This year my family came over for brunch as they usually do, and we were able to Skype with Son1 while eating. It was nice but still nothing like everyone being there early then having to hurry up to move to the next event.

I would love to tell you all the new things I tried for brunch, but I mostly keep the traditional tried and true recipes we have loved for years. I got a new toy right around Thanksgiving and couldn't wait to play with it Christmas Eve. It was a new crock pot. It really is 3 crockpots in one. It is a long base with spots for 3 different crocks, each with its own control . This year I planned a traditional breakfast casserole, cheese grits souffle, broccoli dip over cornbread, ham and assorted goodies. The grits souffle and the casserole were all prepared before we went to sleep and we woke to the most delicious smells coming from the kitchen. The casserole was perfect and all I had to do to it was turn the control to warm to keep it at serving temperature. The cheese grits souffle was another story. I stuck a spoon in to stir it up and found the grits had all sunk to the bottom into a type of corn cement, while the eggs and milk had cooked into some sort of congealed mess that looked like it might have been used for a sci-fi film's alien guts. Meanwhile all the butter had migrated out of the crock and was living underneath it in the well containing the sealed ( thank heavens) heating element. Fortunately I had plenty of grits and after scrubbing out the pot and sopping out the melted butter, I still had time to remake the grits souffle in the conventional oven. I did cook it in the crock so it was able to go straight from the oven to the heating element where it stayed piping hot until mealtime. The one and only new recipe I tried was the broccoli cheese dip.

Broccoli Cheese Dip

2 1/2 pound bricks of velvet. One plain and one mexican flavored
1 pack chopped frozen broccoli
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon hot sauce ( adjust to personal level of heat. we need more but some need less)
garlic salt to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire ( I omitted this because it sometimes overpowers the other flavors and I wanted cheese and broccoli to be the dominant flavors.

Put everything in a crackpot on high heat for about 1 hour. Stir and reduce heat to low for 2 more hours. Serve with toast points, over cornbread or with Frito scoops.

It was all very good but nothing new. One of the goodies I cook each Christmas was a bigger hit than it normally is, and I have no idea why because it is on the dessert tray each year.

Praline Fudge

Butter a 9x9 square pan and set aside

1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup pecan pieces

In large pot combine sugars, syrup and evaporated milk. Cook on medium until it reaches a soft ball (235ish degrees on a candy thermometer). Cool 10 minutes then add vanilla and butter. Beat for 2 minutes then add pecans. Continue beating until mixture loses its gloss. Pour into the prepared pan and score the top of the candy into pieces about 3/4 square. Let cool then continue cutting the candy into individual pieces. This stuff is rich but delicious. Store in an airtight container and it will keep for several days.

I would love to pretend like I had just tried this but I have been making it for 20 years. If you put it in a pretty box it makes a dandy food gift. There are no pictures of the praline fudge because like I said, it was a popular food item this year and disappeared before I thought to take a picture.

I really have tried some new and different things lately but I just got caught up in the holiday prep and didn't write about any of it. I have a few pictures I took along the way which I will post along with the inspiration for the dish along with reactions about them.

One night, I needed supper to be ready to eat in about 15 minutes and needed everything in the recipe to be on hand. Sometimes I get really technical when I google recipes and type in something like delicious quick chicken recipe. Most of the time the first recipes call for cream of something soup and I totally ignore those and look on to something else. This time I found a recipe that not only looked fast, but actually seemed to be a seasonally appropriate dish.

Cranberry Chicken Skillet Supper from Canadian Living

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1-1/2 cups cubed peeled squashes or sweet potatoes
1 tsp crumbled dried sage
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Mix the salt and pepper into the flour and lightly flour the chicken breasts. Saute' in the vegetable oil until browned. Remove and add the onion and squash pieces and cook till slightly wilted. Add the chicken broth to the vegetables and cook till about midway done and return the chicken breasts to the pan. Add the sage and put the lid on the pan and steam until the chicken and veggies are tender and cooked through. Remove the lid and add the vinegar, dijon mustard and cranberries and cook until the berries are plump. Serve immediately.

What I did differently.

I used chicken tenderloin pieces rather than whole breasts and used 7 tenderloins for all of us. If I am going to simmer in liquid, I never coat with flour first, but that is just a personal preference. Saute the raw chicken in the pan until it is lightly brown on one side, flip and cook to the same light brown on the other side. Remove and saute the onions ( though I used shallots cause I had 2 that were about to ruin). Toss in the sage and I also added a few shakes of savory to the pan, then add the chicken broth and the chicken along with the vinegar. I had no craisins but I did have fresh cranberries in the fridge so I used 1/4 cup ( I probably should have used slightly less then 1/4 cup) and let them cook until they popped. Since I had no sweet potatoes or winter squash I booted that. When the berries were soft I added the dijon and served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes, cooked carrots and asparagus. Everyone loved it, but by using the fresh berries the sauce was pinker than it would have been with dried fruit. It was a big enough hit that Son3 asked if we could have it again. I call that successful!

Sometime before Christmas TheHub came home from work with a 5 pound bag of raw peanuts. I thought of making peanut brittle but just didn't want to go to the effort of cooking it, but I had to do something with those nuts. I quickly googled recipes using raw peanuts and of course most were for varied kinds of brittle. I kept looking and found a quick and simple recipe for spiced peanuts.

Glazed Spiced Peanuts

I cup raw peanuts
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
salt to taste

In a nonstick pan toast the peanuts for 3 or 4 minutes until parched but not burned ( through trial and error there is a fine line between the two).

Put the peanuts in a small bowl or pot ( DO NOT USE PLASTIC...another trial and error)

In the same hot pan add the sugar and stirring constantly over a medium high heat melt the sugar and let it come to a light caramel. Stir in the spices and salt , then pour over the peanuts. ( See now why plastic is a bad idea?) Stir like mad to coat the entire cup of peanuts and pour on a plate to cool. Break into small bits when completely cool. These things disappeared about as quickly as I could make them. I think I have made 5 batches now including one that I made just sugared with light salt and no spice.

There are a couple of other things I made recently but it has gotten late and I am tired so I am going to have to wait till tomorrow to write about them. Plus! Did I mention I got a waffle iron for Christmas? I found a recipe for ham and cheese waffles and I have a boatload of leftover ham!

Till tomorrow, maybe?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And I really have tried new things!!!!!!!!

Wow!!! Where does the time go? I have tried several new, untried before recipes lately but have been a little busy and just have not taken the time to sit and write about them. I would offer a boatload of excuses but everyone knows what Thanksgiving weekend means right? For most people it means a weekend of reflection and Thanksgiving accompanied by some family time and possibly the beginning of the Christmas season. This year TheHub and I had a very different Thanksgiving weekend. Son3 was in New York and Philly with his high school band, which left TheHub and I unencumbered and free spirits. We had decided to go to the beach and have a very non traditional Thanksgiving week. Unfortunately TheHub had to work through Wednesday and then go in early Friday morning until about lunch. We were going to have to be home by midnight Friday anyway and there was no point in driving to Florida for just one measly day so we decided to stay home.

We did have options for celebrating Thanksgiving, but decided we really wanted to stay home and clean out the basement closet. We have been piling junk in it for over 3 years and have taken nothing out of it. We were Thankful for a day to purge. And trust me when I say it took most of the day to clear it out. This week I should make Goodwill very happy. We talked about going out to eat but neither wanted to quit and get gussied up for lunch so we ultimately chose to cook a light Thanksgiving lunch ( There is no "we" in cooking however. The " we" in kitchen "we" is always me. Well, other than the eating part and then we both do it.)

For Thanksgiving I cooked Rachel Ray's Herb Roasted Turkey and Pan Gravy. I had seen it on the Food Channel and searched for it online.

Eureka! I found it.

1 small (golf-ball sized) onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 lemon, scrubbed clean
12 fresh sage leaves
Large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 1/2 cup, from 12 stems)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
6 fresh bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
2 boneless turkey breast halves, skin on (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup apple or regular brandy (recommended: Calvados)
2 to 3 cups apple cider
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a roasting pan and set it aside.

Put the onion into the bowl of a mini food processor. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest from the lemon in thin strips, being careful not to cut into the bitter white pith. Add the lemon zest to the food processor and reserve the whole lemon for another use. Chop the onion and lemon zest until fine. Add the sage, parsley, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and pulse until it forms a coarse paste.

Put 2 of the bay leaves and the butter into a small pan and heat over medium-low heat until the butter is bubbling. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the turkey breasts on a work surface. Carefully run your fingers between the skin and the flesh from 1 end, being careful not to pull it completely off, creating a pocket. Season the turkey breasts generously with salt and pepper. Stuff half of the herb paste under the skin of each breast, and spread it evenly under the skin. Transfer the breasts to the roasting pan, and slide 2 bay leaves underneath each one. (The heat of the pan will release the bay leaf oils and flavor the breast.) Using a pastry brush, baste the breasts with half of the bay butter. Place the turkey in the oven and immediately decrease the temperature to 400 degrees F. After 20 minutes, baste the turkey breasts with the remaining butter, and roast for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through, and a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast registers 170 degrees F.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a platter, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving while you make the gravy.

Put the roasting pan over the burner on medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the pan juices, and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add the apple brandy, and scrape the pan to lift the bits that are stuck to the bottom. Cook for a minute to burn off the alcohol, then, while stirring, pour in the apple cider. Bring to a simmer, and stir until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the turkey breast on the diagonal, and serve with warm gravy.

I cooked this more or less as the recipes suggested, but altered the seasonings a little. Since I had a turkey breast in the fridge but had no fresh parsley or fresh bay leaves I used dried. I also used a little dried savory and thyme in the herb blend to shove under the birds skin. I did not use butter at all but infused olive oil with the bay leaves and it worked quite well for basting the breast.

Instead of just using the bay leaves to flavor the underside of the bird I put 2 stalks of dried lemon grass, bay leaves and 1 chopped up Granny Smith apple in the breast cavity and just roasted it, basting with the bay leaf infused olive oil.

It was without a doubt the best turkey I have ever cooked. Moist and flavorful! I will do this again and again. As for the gravy part, we I punted on that. I had a jar of turkey gravy in the pantry and convenience trumped flavor!. Hey! it was just a topping for mashed potatoes and it was only for the two of us. It was perfectly fine and was not worth my time worrying about making real gravy. I might do it next year, but then again I might use jarred gravy as well!

Since there were just the two of us for dessert also I tried a new take on an old favorite. This year I made pecan pie in canning jars. Using clean ( supposedly sterile, but I washed mine in the dishwasher) jars, put a large walnut size ball of pastry dough ( Your favorite recipe. Mine is Pillsbury prepared pie dough ) in each of 8 jars. With fingers or a dough tamper ( I only thought to get the dough tamper out of the drawer after the 4th jar and wow, did it ever make things go faster) press the dough to cover the bottom and 3/4 up the inside of the jar. Prepare the following filling.

1/2 cup real butter, melted,
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 eggs, a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of toasted pecans.

Mix all but the pecans until thoroughly blended then add the pecans. Stir well to incorporate and then fill the 8 mason jars equally. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. I would give you a specific time but I think you just have to watch and keep checking. The recipe I used called for 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. My stove took about 40 minutes.

TheHub suggested I wait a day before freezing and I found out why. For 2 days he would sneak in the kitchen and come out with a little jar of pie. Now it is Sunday and we are down to one pie left. This is probably the best idea I have ever seen and the next time I make them I am going to freeze most before I tell anyone ( TheHub) I even have any. I think I am going to make some apple pies and pumpkin pies this week and have them sitting in the freezer waiting for a quick thaw and rewarm. I think it will be a good thing to have on hand for any impromptu Holiday meals.

The 3rd and final recipe I tried during the long weekend is from the cookbook that started my love of cooking. I do not ever remember not loving to be in the kitchen, in fact my parents have a picture of me at 2 stirring a pot in the kitchen. When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade my Beloved Sister and I got a cookbook as a together Christmas gift: Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boy's and Girls. I would look at the recipes and salivate wanting to try them, and we really did try a good many of them. Especially the Jolly Breakfast Ring, which became a favorite. As I got older I cooked from my mom's adult cookbooks and then my own, My Beloved Sister took possession of the Betty Crocker book and I had not really thought of it until Son3 was in about the 4th grade. My childhood cookbook was reissued in it's original form, so of course i bought it for him ( At least I pretended it was for him) I still love reading it and seeing the things I used to make and getting to try some of those I never tried before. All my childhood I wanted to try this recipe but my mother would never let me ( Probably because it did not sound good to her), So finally for the first time umpteen years later I go to try ( Drumroll Please!!!!!)

Toasted Cheese-Bacon Sandwiches

4 slices toasted bread
8 slices cooked bacon
1 egg slightly beaten
3/4 cup grated cheese
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix the egg, cheese, paprika, and worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Spread on the top of each slice of toasted bread and broil until the cheese is completely melted. Top each with 2 bacon slices and run under the broiler for about 1/2 minute. Serve hot and toasty.

Ok truthfully this sounded much better when I was a kid than it tasted. The worcestershire competed with the cheese flavor and changed the color a little. I thought the paprika neither added to nor subtracted from it. I will try this again but will make the following adjustments: Each sandwich needs 1/2 cup of cheese. The egg needs to be beaten until it is very fluffy and then mixed with the cheese. It would taste better to have a couple cheeses instead of just one type. Cheddar and Assiago maybe? Also when I make these again I will use some of the really delicious thick cut applewood smoked bacon ( like Nueske's).

I will omit the worcestershire and the paprika but will sprinkle some minced jalapeno before the cheese is broiled.
I had a picture of this but my phone auto-updated and I lost the image. Just imagine if you will cheese toast with 2 slices of bacon on it. That is pretty much what it looked like.

Since I am in a rush to finish out the remaining recipes I am going to be in a new recipe cooking flurry. Fortunately there are several things I want to try that can be prepared as small lunch portions. Whew! I thought I was going to have to cook supper every night this month!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicken again???

Son3 was going to be late tonight and The Hub was planning on getting home around 6ish but wanted to have a little time for a light workout before dinner. I had taken some chicken out of the freezer earlier in the day, so I was bound to chicken but wanted something that we had never had before. I realized how far behind the challenge I am and I also knew I might not make it unless I really knuckle down and start actually cooking every day. ( I do foresee a day in December when I try 10 new and different cookie recipes just to try and finish this quest.) Tonight was a simple task though. I looked through google doing one of my more refined searches like "chicken breast recipes". As luck would have it, the first click took me to an interesting enough looking picture, and it only required a couple of ingredients I didn't have on hand. I planned on making a quick trip to The Pig because it is a smaller store and is usually very quick to hit and run. Except for tonight! Today is the start of The Pig tent sale. To get into the store you have to wander through a maze of "deals". 45 minutes and 60 dollars later I came out of the store with the pesto, mushrooms and about 5 other bags of groceries So much for the run in and out thing!

I didn't get home until about 6:30. In fact The Hub was at the end of his workout by the time I unloaded everything, so I was very happy I had decided to have a quick cooking meal. As I was putting the food away I started a pot of water for pasta, then started pounding the chicken. Does anyone really use the 2 sheets of plastic or do you do like I do and stick a chicken breast in a freezer bag to pound? By the time I had the chicken flat and the mushrooms sliced, the water was boiling so I tossed the noodles in the water. While they cooked I got the chicken started, tore some lettuce and sliced a tomato. A few stirs and a very brief simmer and dinner was done in about 12 minutes.

Chicken in Pesto Cream
4 to 6 Chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/2 cup heavy cream

Wash chicken and pat dry. Put the chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound to about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dredge lightly with the flour. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Saute chicken and mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring mushrooms and turning chicken about halfway through the cooking time. until browned. Combine cream and pesto; cover and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with hot cooked rice or pasta.
Serves 4 to 6.

This was one of the easiest dishes I have done in a long time. I am grateful to companies who make pesto for people like me to buy. I have a basil plant that is nearly as high as my waist and still has a good many leaves. If I had planned a little better I would have made my own. ( Oh, who am I kidding?)

I did not flour the breasts prior to cooking because I didn't want the taste of fried flour on mine. Instead I warmed the pan and then put the olive oil in it. I brought it to a fairly high temp and just browned the naked chicken breasts in it, salting and peppering when I turned them over to brown on the other side. Other than that I followed the recipe as given.

We each had 1 breast half, noodles and the simple salad. It was a very nice meal that was not too heavy in spite of all the cream. I only served the sauce that was on the chicken and did not spoon the remaining sauce over the noodles, just to save a little fat and calories.

The verdict was that it was good and something I will do again, but not too often. I thought the basil flavor was not as developed as it should have been. I should have sprinkled minced fresh basil over the top of the dish for eye appeal and for taste. Next time I will.

Tomorrow Son3 has a jazz concert and we will have a late dinner again. I think I need to look through the crock pot cookbook and see If I can become inspired. Or we can always do take out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pinterest You Win Again

Now that November is here and I realize I am not even halfway to my goal of trying new recipes, I figure I have to be doing some serious cooking. Except serious cooking requires planning and shopping and actually thinking about what you are going to cook more than 20 minutes before supper time. It is a trait I do not possess, so now I am going to have to force myself to think in advance. ( Since most of our meals are on the fly we tend to have very simple fare most of the time. I am not one of those cooks who worries about the number of ingredients, but I do like things that use few pots and utensils. I guess that is why I am so reluctant to think ahead. I can throw something on the grill, toss a salad and heat up some bread and everyone is satisfied and clean up is minimal. Measuring and mixing and blending and all the steps most recipes require means extra washing and added mess. I am not a fan.) I guess I have to get over the K.I.S.S. attitude and get with the program or surrender.

Tonight I tried a recipe which uses a recipe found on Pinterest. The original recipe I pinned is Cafe Rio Dressing. I am unsure exactly what Cafe Rio is ( assuming it is some sort of Tex/Mex joint in Utah) but it has a large and vocal fan base. I thought the dressing sounded tasty so I made it and The Hub and I used it on a couple of those tossed salads I mentioned earlier. It is a delicious take on the basic ranch dressing.

Cafe Rio Dressing

2 cups prepared ranch dressing, bottled or homemade ( I cheated and did the semi homemade Hidden Valley buttermilk dry mix)
1 small bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
2 large or 4 small tomatillos
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp. Green Tabasco sauce or 1 diced jalapeno pepper

Prepare Ranch dressing according to directions on the package or recipe you're following and set aside.

Remove large cilantro stems, then wash leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Add cilantro to food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until finely chopped. (If you don't have a food processor, I'd chop all ingredients well by hand and then blend dressing in a blender.) I used the blender and it worked well. The dressing is just a creamy smooth concoction of good eating!

Add tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco or chopped jalapeno to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely pureed. Add the 2 cups of prepared dressing and pulse just a few times, until ingredients are well combined. Chill dressing for an hour or two and serve.

I followed this recipe to the letter, using 4 small tomatillos and the diced jalapeno. After it sat overnight, we had some on a very basic salad of lettuce, cukes and tomatoes. It was delicious. The tomatillo and lime add a nice acid kick to the ranch. It brightens up the flavor to a whole new level. I admit to being a cilantro lover, so, for me the flavor was perfect and including the jalapeno added just enough heat that Son3 who does not like things hot pronounced it delicious with a kick. If he were not eating with us, I would probably add a half pepper more.

The link to the webpage with the dressing recipe also had something called Cafe Rio Chicken and Cafe Rio Rice, both of which combine with the dressing on a plate to create one of the house dished at Cafe Ri

Cafe Rio Chicken

1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
3 cloves garlic—minced
5 lbs chicken breast

Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour.

Ok I admit I did not look at this in time to serve it as suggested. In fact I had my usual 20-30 minutes from start to finish to get this on the table, so it was punt time. I poured a little of the Italian dressing ( for the record I never ever use Kraft but did have some Ken's on hand) In an enamel Dutch oven ( high heat) and plopped 4 chicken breasts in it. While the bottom was searing I sprinkled the chili powder, cumin, minced garlic and 2 teaspoons of ground dried cilantro on the chicken. When the bottom was browned I turned the breasts over and let them sear more on the other side, then added the remainder of the dressing ( about 1/2 bottle for the 4 breasts). Put the lid on and turned the heat down to med/low. It popped and sizzled for about 20 minutes. (Until the rice was ready) Since it did not have the advantage of slow cooking, we ate it as a whole piece of chicken.

The taste was very good and the chicken was surprisingly moist. I will do it again and soon, but will make sure to put it in the crock pot for that super long cook time.

Café Rio Rice

This recipe is for the entire 5 lbs. of chicken breasts. I used considerably less for the 4 we had for supper

3 c water
4 t chicken bouillon
4 t garlic –minced
½ bunch cilantro
1 can green chiles—or equivalent fresh
¾ t salt
1 T butter
½ onion
3 c MInute Rice ( I used brown Minute Rice

Blend cilantro, green chiles and onion together in food processor. Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes.
Call me a slacker if you must, but the only thing I did to the rice was to cook it in 3 cups of chicken broth rather than water. Why? Though I had everything sitting out on the counter, I forgot to add them. Even if had remembered I was not going to blend them all together. I planned to just mince it finely. What can I say? We ate rice cooked in chicken broth. It tasted like chickeny rice.

To form the dish you should have a toasted tortilla per person. I had tortillas but I did not want to open the pack for just 3 tortillas so we left that off. Put the tortilla on a plate and put the rice overlapping 1/3 of the tortilla. Top the rice with 1/2 cup of black beans. ( Punt again- no black beans so kidney were substituted.) Place the chicken on the next third and finish the tortilla circle with chopped lettuce. Drizzle the Cafe Rio Dressing over each component and serve immediately.

Son3 pronounced it one of the best chicken meals he has had in a long time and we all agreed this dish will become a standard in our meal rotation. Like I said earlier I will cook it a long time so the flavors can meld, but it was delicious as it was. I can only imagine the flavors slow cooking will bring. I look forward to it.

I guess I also look forward to the mega cooking I am going to do, but I don't know when I can start. Son2 is coming to town tomorrow for a whirlwind football game visit (Roll Tide!) so we will be eating out this weekend and next week we leave for a trip to NYC. I should download some cookbooks to the Kindle and read them on the plane. I might be inspired!

p.s. Anyone have suggestions for a delicious NYC meal?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soup and Veggies and Veggies and Soup

The concept of eating 5 servings of vegetables each day is starting to wear thin. It is not that I don't like vegetables, I do in fact. It is just hard to eat that many each and every day. Each day starts with a serving of vegetables first thing out of the chute. There is nothing like cold collards or cucumbers and bell peppers to break the nights fast, but if I don't get the first serving early, then I wind up forcing myself to eat squash as a late night snack. It is just easier to go ahead and jump in feet first each morning. I will confess though that leftover broccoli, sautéed onions and a dash of Parmesan Cheese over 1/2 cup of grits is pretty decent. For the record a collard omelet is a really bad idea!

Tonight I put a huge pot of soup on the stove right after we had finished supper. Once again thinking about how to incorporate the 5 servings, I opted for a vegetable dense soup. I found this in an extremely old Weight Watchers Cookbook I have from sometime in the late 70's? Early 80's? I have no idea what edition or the name of the actual book. I don't remember the actual size of the book either. Over the years is has lost covers and pages and is a shell of what it once was. Funny thing, I don't even remember using it a lot, but I must have for several pages are well splattered. ( I know this book is old because it is broken down into unlimited and limited vegetable servings as well as exchanges)

Everyday Soup

1 small head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
1/4 small onion diced
dried onions to taste
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 carrot
1 cup green beans
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup yellow squash
1 cup diced celery
4 cups water
4 beef or chicken bouillon cubes
salt and papper to taste

The instructions are very basic. Toss everything in a pot and cook on low until it is all soft and soupy. Consume 3/4 cup daily as one of the 3 required vegetable servings . ( What is this 3 servings? I am choking down vegetables right and left)

What I did differently: I actually used all of the vegetables the recipe called for, but did not use dried onion. I put 2 small yellow onions and did not chop mine because I like things in a soup to have a chunky consistency. Mine were in pretty hefty julienne slices. I did use a can of whole tomatoes because they were in the pantry, but crushed them with the potato masher before adding them. Instead of the bouillon cubes I chose to use chicken stock for my soup liquid. I used a little salt but no pepper. . In addition I made a little bouquet garni of herbs that were on hand, a little thyme and marjoram and a bay leaf. I think it cooked on low for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. I did not eat any tonight, but am pretty sure I will have a cup in the morning for breakfast.

I will have it just as it is, with no embellishments, but when it is part of lunch or supper, i am guessing I will top it with a dollop of light sour cream and some habernero sauce. I will be sure to post how it tastes both alone and amended. I have no idea how many servings this is. Just guessing there will be at least 8 servings, maybe more. Picture to follow tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Hot Place Is Freezing Over Tonight?

Wow! I don't know what to do right now. I suppose I should act normal like tonight is just business as usual, but in reality I rarely cook 2 nights in a row. Not that we eat out every other night, but I mean the process of actually planning a meal and following through. We are in a weird place right now. Son3 is in the high school band and gets in much later than The Hub. So much later that by the time he arrives, The Hub has already had something to drink along with cheese and crackers. He still wants supper but generally wants it to be light, but Son3 is starving and wants MEAT and salad and MEAT and rolls and MEAT and green beans and MEAT. I seem to be doing a lot of grilling and salads and rolls and really nothing else. Well, for the past couple of nights we have had a real meal, planned ( Hey! I count it as thought out if you begin thinking before you physically start cooking) and cooked. ( With love? With consideration? With gas?)

For the past couple of days I have indulged my Pinterest interest ( addiction) and followed pin after pin of good things to eat. Now I appreciate cookies and cakes and even cake pops ( though I do beg you people to quit pinning so blooming many of them) but I have been on a vegetable quest. As I mentioned a while back I am trying very hard to eat 5 servings of vegetables each day. I know it is good for me and I actually like most veggies, but I find eating that many means I either have to have salad or crudite' for breakfast. I am getting used to it, but lettuce and morning coffee are not kissing cousins. ( And trust me on this, collard greens are just not a good way to start the day, even if you are like me and love collards) On days like today, I need an additional serving of two at night for the fifth and final serving of the day. I have been eating a boatload of broccoli and cauliflower and asparagus and green beans and just needed something different Enter the new Pinterest rave of the day, Oven "fried" zucchini with a caramelized onion dipping sauce. I started tracing down its' internet origins and though the credit was given to a blog, it seems it originated at a King Arthur Flour site.

So here is the recipe Baked Zucchini Sticks with Caramelized Onion Dipping Sauce
Compliments of ( stolen from) King Arthur Flour

For the Caramelized Onion Dipping Sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium sweet onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

For the Zucchini Sticks:
3 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 3"-long stick
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 cup flour
olive oil spray
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the dipping sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over moderate heat, and add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, then caramelize. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the less likely you are to burn the onions.

Once the onions are a medium brown, remove from the heat and add the vinegar.

Place the onions and vinegar into a small food processor. Add the honey and mustard, and process or blend until smooth.

Add the mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

To make the zucchini sticks:
Place the zucchini sticks in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Let the zucchini drain for 1 hour or longer; rinse and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spray the parchment with olive oil.

Set up your zucchini dredging by placing the flour in a shallow bowl, the eggs in another shallow bowl, and the panko, parmesan, and oregano in a third shallow bowl. Dredge sticks in the flour, then egg, then roll in the crumb mixture. Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake sticks for 12 minutes, turn over, and bake for an additional 8 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Serve immediately, with caramelized onion dip.

I admit I did not puree' the onions for the dipping sauce. It would have just created one more dish to wash and I am not always about washing unnecessary dishes. It would have changed the consistency of the sauce but not the flavor. I was not fond of the sauce at all. I love caramelized onions and the flavor of them but thought it got lost in the honey/cider vinegar mixture. They overpowered the delicate caramelized onion flavor. I think if I do it again I will use champagne or white wine vinegar, which would be a much more subtle flavor. I would use about less than half of the honey it called for and would use a coarse grained mustard instead of the French's stuff. But I may never make it again for 2 reasons. It just takes too long and too much stirring to caramelize onions that should be blended anyway plus the zucchini sticks were fantastic just plain. I will eat zucchini but it is (was) no where near one of my favorite vegetables. It was outstanding! They are a tad of a pain to make. Well not really a pain but it takes a while to coat them because you have to do them one at a time or you get this big gloopy mess.

I put them together a little differently than the recipe called for. First I peeled mine because I did not look at the recipe when it talked about leaving the skin on until it was a moot point. I put the salted naked sticks in a colander with a breakfast plate on top of them to speed the sweating process a little. When I thought they were sufficiently de- juiced, I put them on a clean tea towel and covered and pressed them with another clean towel. It really did the trick of blotting them on both sides at the same time. I debated about the flour step but decided the King Arthur company had just added it to feature their product, so I put the bare strips in the egg wash and them one at a time rolled them in a shallow bowl filled with the panko, parmesean and the oregano. I strongly recommend the wet hand/ dry hand method of coating them. After using my right hand only for a couple of the strips my had visually looked like a bears paw. I washed the goo off my hand and then used right to dip and left to crumb. I did not have to wash until I was finished. Now for the best part of this whole recipe...Since you spray olive oil on parchment paper lining the pan, there is virtually no clean up and I am all about limiting dirty dishes.

I will put this in the vegetable rotation and can see this becoming at least an every other week menu item!

Now for a really important question. Do any of you happen to know who the patron saint of photographers is? I really do need to petition him/her before Christmas. If I am going to taking pictures of food I at least need a better camera than the one I am using . Of course I can shoot, talk and text all at the same time, so why would I want anything more?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interested in Pinterest?

Pinterest has become the single biggest time bandit of my life. It is addicting to see all the stuff I would never run across in my normal internet browsing; to see all the things I will never make, do, or see and to occasionally find something I will actually use in my walking around 3-D life.

For any of you who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a website that acts as a digital bulletin board. Remember how before the computer age we would see something we liked in a magazine or a newspaper and would cut (tear) it out and stick it on a cork board with a thumb tack, or a straight pin ? Well this is a similar thing except it is a global assortments of everyone's favorites, lumped into one huge massive site. It takes forever to even get through the tip of the Pinterest iceberg. I should know! I have spent countless hours when I should be sleeping looking at the plethora of interesting things I had no idea were available for my taking. For instance, it had never occurred to me to core an apple and insert a tea light to use as table decorations in the fall. Now I know and will use it somewhere. In addition to the boatloads of decorating and craft ideas are tons of recipes. One for something called Monkey Muffins has hit with a bang this week, so I thought why not try it.

Monkey Muffins from Pinterest but originating on The Pioneer Woman blog

Since this recipe is per muffin only you will decide "how much" the recipe calls for. I started mine with 6 frozen uncooked dinner rolls ( You know those you get in the frozen food aisle with about 2 dozen frozen rolls that look like white mutant eggs) If you have a fabulous dinner roll recipe you love to make knock yourself out and make it. If you had rather take an easier step and eliminate the whole yeast rising thing use biscuit dough, either homemade or canned

Take out of the freezer and let thaw. Take out a muffin pan ( regular size) and do a quick swish with Pam ( I did not do this step and really wish I had cause clean-up is going to take more than a little elbow grease) In the bottom of each muffin cup you are going to use put a thick pat of butter and one teaspoon of granulated sugar. Follow with about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled evenly ( yeah right!) over the sugar. Tear the thawed rolls into three parts and kinda roll them into 3 balls. (Easier said than done for the dough is very sticky) and put on top of the goodness in the muffin tins. Cover and let rise for about an hour. When the dough is risen put one more pat of butter on top of it, another healthy sprinkle of sugar ( 1/2 teaspoon or so) and a light sprinkle of cinnamon ( literally a pinch) Bake at the recommended temperature for your recipe, can or package ( mine was 400 degrees) until they are nicely brown and cooked through. While freshly hot and just out of the oven top each muffin with a healthy teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk over the top and let it ooze all over the hot bread. When they are cool ( Who am I kidding? These things need to be eaten warm) loosen the edges with a knife and serve with either steaming hot coffee or ice cold milk.

And the verdict is these are pretty delicious as is but there are a couple of things I will do differently next time. First I will put the still in a can condensed milk in a water bath in the crock pot for about 1 hour on high and then reduce the heat to low for 15 or so more hours. When it is done I will have this thick caramel to put over the blazing hot muffins. I thought the plain condensed milk was a little too milky and "raw" tasting. I will also add some toasted pecans on top of the caramel, but that is a personal thing. I do love pecans. I think I will try another batch and use ground cardamon instead of the cinnamon just to see how it tastes. Don't get me wrong, the cinnamon was excellent, but the cardamon would give it a Swedish flavor and could be outstanding. When I try it that way I will probably use toasted almond slivers rather than pecans.

I will also try it with biscuit dough some morning for a quick biscuit. I will let you know the pluses and minuses of all the different ways.

Now my biggest problem is what to do with one can minus 6 teaspoons of condensed milk. Any Suggestions?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just and Aside

Take sliced turkey and sharp cheddar cheese and put it on either side of a leftover hamburger bun. Run it under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and the turkey is warm. Remove from the oven and add shredded lettuce and tomato slices. Douse with Come Back Sauce. Can you say delicious?

Let me say again, I will always keep that sauce in the fridge!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Childhood Redoux

Tonight was another of those kinda frantic meal prep nights. It may have been caused by my total lack of prior preparation , but I doubt it. I think the convergence of spices in my cabinet and the electrical pulses from the fridge created some break in the space time continuum, causing me to run to the Pig at nearly 7:30 to gather the ingredients for the impending dinner. At least that is the story I am sticking with.

I had no idea what to cook tonight but whatever it was had to be easy and preferably something I had on hand, but then I remembered I don't keep real food on hand. If you want a can of coconut milk or some red curry paste, call me and I can hook you up. Want capers packed in salt? Got it covered! Going to die if you don't have immediate access to food grade lavender? I am your go to guy. I have 10 pounds of flour always, at least 5 pounds of sugar. Every condiment known to man is at my disposal, but...Need lettuce? Thawed meats or chicken? Fresh beans? Uh not likely to have it.

I admit I love the European method of daily shopping and would love to walk 2 blocks with my little basket and wind through the local shops to gather what I need for the day, instead of driving to Publix or the Pig and pushing a huge grocery cart through the store. It begs to be filled so I do my duty and start filling. Oh Rice a Roni is bogo. I must get it even though we don't like it. Cheeze It's the same buy one get one thing. Into the basket they go and I am happy as a clam until I have a nearly full cart and realize I still don't have a blooming thing for supper.

Tonight I went with an actual list and discovered something amazing. If i have a list and it's late I buy only what is on the list. Well what was on the list plus a pack of pork chops because they were pretty and on sale. Prior to hitting the store I did an emergency quick cookbook look -see. The first book I pulled out ( without even looking at the cover was the Emeril Lagasse cookbook "There's a Chef in My Family" . It was bought several years ago when Son3 was first learning to be self sufficient. I spent about 2 minutes looking through it and found a quick simple recipe that I have never made before. Trust me, I have made Chicken parm often but it has always been a traditional "pound the breasts into cutlets, bread and saute" type thing. This was a cleaner, easier version of the old standard.

Emeril Lagasse's kid friend version Chicken Parmesan Emeril Style .

4 boneless Chicken breasts
2 teaspoons Baby Bam
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 C. Emerils Kicked up tomato sauce or jar of your favorite brand
of red pasta sauce ( Duh make it or buy it? Buy!)
1/4 lb. Mozzarella cheese cut into 4 equal portions ( 4 slices of already sliced mozzarella)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese ( again the green cylinder stuff)

!/2 lb cooked fettuccine

preheat over to broil

Season each chicken breast with the Baby Bam* (Dorky herb blend with no heat so little people can think they have something special.) I opted for traditional Italian herbs and salt but you choose what you want. Heat the olive oil in an oven safe saute pan and warm over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook on one side for about 4 minutes. Turn it and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes.put about 1/4 cup of the red sauce on each chicken breast and top it with the mozzarella cheese. Then sprinkle with the Parmesan. Run it under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the cheeses are hot and bubbly.

Serve over the cooked fettuccine with a side salad and garlic bread.

To be honest this tasted pretty good. Insead of the baby bam, I threw some finely chopped fresh basil, some oregano, minced garlic, salt and pepper on the chicken before sauteing. I used Classico tomato and basil sauce because we like it. It is not sweet and is full of flavor. We all thought the mozzarella was overkill and will leave ti off next time, but the Parmesan melted then had a few crispy bits at the edges. It was very good . This might one of those meals that you should always have the ingredients on hand. I will make it again but will leave off the mozzarella.

Hopefully I will never be in the same situation I was tonight where I had to run buy stuff to cook quickly, but who am I kidding. Most likely I will repeat the process ...tomorrow.

* Baby Bam
3 Tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons of each of the following: salt, dried parsley, onion powder, garlic powder
1 teaspoon of each of the following: ground black pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery salt.

Add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon to mix well. Store in an airtight container for 3 months.

If you have a little person in your midst who would like to learn to cook the Emeril books are real gems. He does not dumb it down and use many prepared foods. Instead he has very easy to follow instructions for simple yet real food. Son3 learned how to cook using these. Better than that, a friend with a newly married daughter saw them and thumbed through them at my house one day. She immediately went out and bought both of the Emeril's" There's a Chef in My " cookbooks . I have no idea if she is still using them but according to her mother the books may not have turned her into a mini Martha Stewart, they at least have her where she can put a complete meal on the table.

I forgot to take a picture so I will have to recreate it from leftovers tomorrow, but right now it's late and I need sleep.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Y'all Come Back Now! Heah?

Today was the perfect day for football in the South. The temperate day with a beautiful blue sky and of course the Crimson Tide on tv could only mean one thing...Food Orgy! I actually cooked breakfast this morning. (a very rare occurrence) Since I normally do not eat right out of the chute each day I was not really hungry (at all) when the " football is on right now so that means food is needed" rush hit. Fortunately I had thought ahead and right after the breakfast dishes were in the dishwasher I started cooking a dutch oven filled with sloppy joe's and a small batch of cupcakes. (I did mention the dips and chips to go with said joe's and cakes didn't I?) I am not exactly certain when the feasting began but I am pretty sure it was with ESPN's Game Day prior to Auburn's 11 ish kickoff. I lost count of the number of eating experiences everyone had (all at different times) but at some time tonight after the Georgia/South Carolina game the "What's for Dinner" question was asked. With all the other food already ingested the only thing I wanted was a salad. Since Son3 was out for a little social activity The Hub reluctantly agreed to it. He is sometimes less than overwhelmed with the idea of just a salad for the evening meal. He has adopted the John Pinette stance. "Salad is a promise something good is going to come."

Fortunately there had been a surge of pins on Pinterest about the famed Mississippi Come Back Sauce. When I first saw it there was this small ding in the back of my head that recognized the name but I couldn't remember where I had heard of it before.Finally I remembered it was in an old Sweet Potato Queen's book. I had to hunt to find it , then had to search through several until I finally found the correct book. Lucky for me I made it this morning while I was making some dips for the games.

Hal and Mal's Come Back Sauce from The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love

(For the record I seriously doubt this is the actual recipe from Hal and Mal's. If I had a restaurant I would share a recipe that was close but I would also leave out some particular ingredient that would make it good but not quite the same. If Hal and Mal are smart enough to run a successful brew pub they are smart enough to be a tiny bit deceptive when "sharing".)

2 cup mayonnaise ( For the love of all things Holy, use Dukes)
1 cup ketchup
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup vegetable oil
1 onion,minced
juice of 2 lemons
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt

Mix everything together and pour into a wide mouth jar with a lid. let it set for 24 hours then enjoy as a dressing, with seafood, as a dip with french fries or anywhere you would normally use mayo. ( I can't wait to try this on a turkey sandwich)

What I did differently: I did not want a heavy garlic flavor so I used just 1 large clove of garlic. I minced both the garlic and the onion into a super fine mince. If you did not want to go to all the trouble of mincing I don't see why you couldn't just use a blender or food processor. I couldn't find the dry mustard easily and did not want to dig through all my spice jars so I just squirted about 2 teaspoons of regular yellow mustard in it. The rest I followed to a "t" except I don't actually measure anything.

The Verdict: Though it is basically just a gussied up version of thousand island dressing it was delicious. The salad I made was just mixed lettuces, green zebra tomatoes, red pepper strips, scallions and a few cubes of a sharp cheddar cheese. The dressing absolutely made the salad beyond delicious. ( And I didn't even wait the full twenty four hours for the flavors to marry.)

As I was sitting here typing Son3 returned with the remnants of food he had picked up at McD's on his way home. I begged for a couple of fries so I could preform a scientific test using the sauce for dipping. It is so much better than ketchup!

This is something that I will be keeping in my fridge all the time. I am not sure how long it will last ( shelf life) but I will keep tasting it ( cause I am unselfish like that) so I can let you know about how long it stays "good". I think when this batch is gone I will try making a much smaller amount and make it often. I never want to be without this!

p.s.I see the need for putting it in a wide mouth jar. You're going to want a big spoon to fit in it so you can ladle out a boatload of this deliciousness.

pp.s Once again Blogger will not let me post a picture. As soon as it cooperates with me, I will add it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It; was late, I had chicken and nothing sounded good

What do you do when you rush in at 7:10 and need to have supper on the table in roughly 30 minutes? I had boneless chicken breasts in the fridge and 2 packs of yellow rice in the pantry, so the only question was what to do to it to make it taste good ( Quite frankly I could not bear another broiled chicken with yellow rice and green beans meal)

I decided to do a quick Google search for some delicious chicken recipe and came up blank. In fact nearly every recipe I found with the words quick and delicious took me to something made with cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup. Delicious??? Really??? I thumbed through a couple of old cookbooks I inherited or picked up for a quarter at a yard sale. You know those Favorite Recipes of ( Fill in the blank here. Any church group or organization would work) I have no idea which cookbook this was, for it had no cover and nothing identifying it on the inside of the book. In addition to the aforementioned ingredients I also had 2 cans of tomatoes and okra that I found in the back of the pantry. I decided maybe a chicken gumbo of sorts if I could find a quick and easy recipe. So that was my original search through the cookbook Well I did not find a gumbo but instead found a creole recipe and I seemed to have most of the ingredients on hand. So here goes!

Chicken Creole From some group cookbook from somewhere

Enough oil to coat the bottom of a deep skillet ( Gotta love a cookbook that uses the word skillet)
4 medium chicken breast halves, skinned, boned, and cut into 1inch strips o 1 can tomatoes, cut up
1 cup chili sauce
1 large green peppers, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Put the oil in the bottom of the skillet and heat the pan over high heat. Cook chicken in hot skillet, stirring, for 3-5 minutes, or until no longer pink. Reduce heat and add tomatoes and their juice,chili sauce, green pepper, celery, onion, garlic, basil, parsley, crushed red pepper, and salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

What I did differently: First off I did not want chicken strips, because I was serving it on the rice I wanted it to feel more substantial. I cut it in chunks about the size of a standard ice cube. I like the visual weight it gave. Secondly I cut the pepper in strips because Son3 hates bell peppers and it is easier for him to separate them if they are larger. Ditto with the onions. I minced the celery finely because The Hub does not like big chucks of cooked celery. With everyone's oddities taken care of I started tossing things in the pot. Chicken followed by the onions followed by the pepper, followed by the celery and garlic. I prefer the veggies to saute a little rather than just stew. Instead of the tomatoes I tossed in 2 cans of tomatoes and okra ( Because it was already out of the pantry and opened when I found the recipe) I did not have any chili sauce ( I am assuming this means that stuff that is on the top shelf near the ketchup in a grocery store) so I punted and added 1 small can of tomato sauce, about a tablespoon of sugar to sweeten it a little and red pepper flakes. I stirred it in to blend and while stirring added the remaining seasonings. I put the lid on the pan and let it cook for about 15 minutes on a medium heat.

When I took the lid of the yellow rice I was in for quite a surprise ( You know the yellow rice in the foil packs) Turns out it was not yellow rice at all. It was yellow all right but it had none of the traditional saffron flavor. It was loaded with garlic,cayenne and additional spices. I think maybe that particular run of rice mix had the flavor and packaging mixed up. Lucky for us I was using it as a base for the Chicken Creole. The heat and spices in the rice really only enhanced the taste. A simple green salad and some tomato wedges and the meal was made. It was a hit and now we have one more way to cook chicken when time is tight.

This is something I will do again, but probably not too often. I think it would get old and boring if we had it much so I will keep it as a "by request" item.

p.s I have a picture but Blogger will not let me add it right now. I will try later

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Best Broccoli You have Ever Eaten

I would like to claim credit for the title of this entry but I am afraid I just can't. This is the broccoli that has been floating around Pinterest all day and since I am trying to eat 5 veggies each day, it seemed like as good a day to try it as any. ( Especially needed today since I was 2 vegetable servings short for the day and we had planned on having spaghetti for supper. A spaghetti dinner here usually means spaghetti a green salad and maybe a roll, so adding the broccoli was a Bohemian element and was met with huge resistance from the start. Of course unless someone else is willing to cook I get to make whatever I want.)

The Pinterest link I followed took me to a blog called The Amateur Gourmet. After reading his post it seems he lifted it from Ian Garten ( The Barefoot Contessa)
Not being a piss-ant, just trying to credit what is due. As if stealing from his blog were not enough I also lifted his picture of his broccoli. ( I forgot to charge my phone and have no idea where the real camera is) His is much prettier than my pic would have been anyway.

The Best Broccoli You Ever Ate

Preheat oven to 425.

Cut 4 to 5 pounds of broccoli cut into florets. (not too small though) Wash and dry it completely. ( I used the salad spinner then blotted with a clean cotton dish towel)

Put the broccoli onto a cookie sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.About 5 tablespoons olive oil ( I used ev cause I like the heavy olive taste)1/2 teaspoon sea salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. ( I put everything in a bowl and tossed it before putting it on the cookie sheet because it coats it more thoroughly.) Take 4 cloves of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced) and add to the pan tossing to coat. ( Again, this went into my bowl to toss with the broccoli)

Bake for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is cooked through and some brown caramelized bits are on the florets. Remove from the oven and zest a lemon over the broccoli. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over it also ( At this point I had dumped everything back into the pyrex mixing bowl. Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons more olive oil , 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts ( yes I have pine nuts on hand) 1/3 cup freshly grated Parm ( in my world that means shake it out of the plastic thing) and 2 tablespoons of thin strips of fresh basil.

I had no idea it was going to be this delicious. Son3 had been complaining that adding broccoli to a spaghetti meal was the best way to ruin perfectly good spaghetti. Though he hated to admit it he claimed it was the best broccoli he had ever eaten and it went well with the pasta. The olive and basil were complimentary flavors with the spaghetti sauce, and the roasted broccoli had a sweetness to it, that paired perfectly with the lemon zest. Wow! I will do this again and do it often.

But poor Son3. I am going to try this next with brussel sprouts!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's Freezing Today

Ok it's not really freezing, but it has been very delightful for August in the South. This morning honestly felt like a fall morning and was a great day to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee. But the freezing thing has nothing at all to do with the temperature. I spent the day (Ok not really the day but at least a few hours) cooking for the freezer.

When school starts back and Son3 has an erratic late schedule I like to have meals on the table when he comes in. It is never a problem if I am home a few hours before he gets here, but every day is different and it is so nice to have something in the freezer to fall back on.

This afternoon I was getting ingredients out for supper and realized I was going to use 1/2 of 3 different types of peppers, part of an onion and would have to break a new bulb of garlic apart. I was trying to think of something really good to do with the remaining peppers and garlic when the light bulb in my head went off! Fix some picadillo. It is one of Will's favorites and when I surprise him next week with it he will be thrilled.

Picadillo is a Cuban beef hash that we first had at The Columbia in Tampa. They had a little gift shop and it had a big old fat Columbia Cookbook for purchase. Of course it came home with me and inside was a recipe for the picadillo. I do not think for a minute this is the exact way they make it ( If I had a restaurant I would give out recipes and leave out a couple of ingredients that would not make the recipe fail, but would alter it slightly from the restaurant. There is no need to go back if you can make it exactly like it at home) but it is close enough to be delicious. Since I have made this on a few occasions it does not count as a new recipe, but it is too good to keep to myself.

Picadillo The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook

2 pounds boneless beef ( preferably chuck) trimmed of all excess fat and ground ( This =2 pounds very lean ground chuck in my world)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup onion finely chopped
2 large green peppers finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 bay leaves
6 medium firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup small pimento stuffed olives (I chop mine finely cause I don't want a big bite of olive)
1/4 cup seedless raisins ( I mince this finely for the same reason as the olives)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup burgundy

I know this seems like a lot but it goes together so fast. I also know you will see raisins and olives and think OMG how horrible! This is just one of those things you have to trust me about. It is delicious and I can't explain the flavor magic but it works

Heat oil to hot but not smoking in a 12 inch skillet. Saute' the onions and peppers until they are soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the ground beef, oregano, bay leaves and cumin. Stir until the meat is no longer red. Add salt, pepper, vinegar, raisins, olives and wine. Cook at a low temperature for about 15 minutes. Traditionally this is served with fluffy white rice. Serves 4-6 HUGE portions.

The night we have this I will post pictures. I froze this in 2 different containers for 2 meals.

The second meal I cooked for the freezer was Hungarian Goulash. I had a big mess of ground beef left and had to find something to do with it. (Reminder to self: NEVER freeze 3 pounds of ground beef in one package again)

I looked through a couple of cookbooks with little or no inspiration, so I turned to Google and did a search something like : freezer food using ground beef. Voila, up popped a recipe for Goulash and I had everything on hand so that kind of sealed the deal.
Hungarian Goulash courtesy of Google

Now I will be the first to admit I have never eaten Goulash before so I have no idea if this is good or bad, but I did taste a little bit of it and it tasted fine. Again I have no past Goulash experience to compare this to.

Hungarian Goulash

1 pound ground beef
2 onions, chopped
1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with garlic, undrained ( I used 1 can of crushed tomatoes and added 2 cloves minced fresh garlic)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1-3 teaspoons paprika, to taste
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup water
3 cups rotini pasta
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, if desired

In very large skillet, cook ground beef and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat. Drain well.

Add soup, diced tomatoes with their liquid, vinegar, sugar, paprika, marjoram, salt, pepper, and water and cook for 8-10 minutes until mixture starts to boil, stirring frequently.

Add pasta and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender, about 12-18 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if using, and serve.

As I said this tastes fine, but I will withhold final judgment until we actually eat it for supper. I think the flavors might meld and develop over time.

Will also post a picture of it then.

Tonight we had another Cuban inspired dish.

Arroz con Pollo via the Columbia Cookbook

3 pound fryer cut in pieces
2 onions chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 medium tomatoes peeled seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain cooking rice
few threads saffron
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup small peas ( can use frozen)
4 asparagus tips
2 roasted red peppers cut in strips
1/4 cup dry white wine

In skillet saute the chicken in heated oil until it is golden. Remove Chicken and place in a casserole ( very large dish) I used a large enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven. In the same oil saute' the onion, peppers, tomato and garlic for about 5 minutes. Pour it over the chicken. Add the chicken broth, saffron, salt bay leaf and rice . When mixture begins to boil, cover and bake in a 350 degree over for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with wine and garnish with peas, asparagus and pepper strips.

I had 5 boneless chicken breasts I thawed this morning and rather than going to the grocery store for a fryer I used them. I also used brown jasmine rice,so I did not add the saffron. I thought it might be an unattractive color if I added the yellow to it. I made a marinade and let the chicken swim in it for about 2 hours before I cooked it.

1 cup sour orange juice (found in the Latin food sections of some grocery stores)
12 peppercorns, ground
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup olive oil ( I did not use the oil because I was going to be cooking the chicken in oil. If i were grilling it I would have put the oil in the marinade.)

Mix all together and pour into a ziplock bag to cover the chicken. Let rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

I had no asparagus tips so they were left out and I had maybe a tablespoon of frozen peas. Instead of using them for garnish I just stirred them into the rice mix. I would love to post a picture here, but I forgot until we were about midway through. No problem. I thought I would just arrange the left overs in a bowl and shoot it. That would have required more leftover than just about 1/4 cup of rice. There is no chicken,no peas, no peppers...nothing but rice!

I am sorry I don't have one, but I guess the no leftover thing is a testament to how delicious this is. There is a reason Cuban and Thai foods are my favorite. I guess it is because of the multi layered flavors that sing inside my mouth

For dessert I continued on a Cuban theme. Doing an internet search I found a few Cuban cupcake recipes but I didn't want to go to that much trouble so I kind of incorporated ideas from a couple of them to make a single dessert.

Make your favorite one layer cake recipe ( Jiffy yellow cake mix) and fill paper lined cupcake tins with the batter ( Can anyone actually get 12 cupcakes from a single layer mix?) While the cupcakes were baking I put 1/2 cup of sugar. 1/4 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of dark rum in a small saucepan. I brought it to a boil and let it cook for about 2 minutes to burn the alcohol off, but would still have the delicious rum flavor. I took it off the heat and let it cool while the cake continued cooking. When I took the cupcakes out of the oven, I quickly poked holes through the cupcake and poured the now warm syrup into the holes. ( Make sure the muffin tin is positioned where drips will not matter because it will drip. )

The cakes were frosted with a basic chocolate butter cream frosting . If you wanted to use prepared frosting it would work just fine. I had none so I had to make it from scratch. It was a good and quick dessert. I think I will do it again but not for a while.

Monday, August 8, 2011


The other day at the Cajun Cleaver, in addition to last nights beautiful tuna they had 2 huge veal chops in the cooler. I looked at them and oh how delicious they did look, then I looked at the price and walked away and paid for the lovely tuna. We had almost made it out of the door when the chops screamed at me. "You know you want us! Come back!!!!!" Being one who always obeys talking veal, I decided to go ahead and buy them.

I figured by the total cost, the chops were a little over a pound each, more than enough for the 3 of us. They were about 2 inches thick and I had already decided a couple of slices would be as much as I would eat. My dad is currently out of town and Mom is lonely, so I invited her to eat with us. Even with the additional diner there was still more than enough veal for all of us. The veal was so beautiful I wanted it to be the focus of the meal and decided to serve it with new potatoes and a tossed salad. Simple fare, but then the more I thought about it the more I wanted to amp up the flavor of the veal without doing something screwy to it. One of our favorite restaurants in New York has a delicious veal picatta but I was not about to cut the chops and pound them flat so i decided to do a simple beurre blanc sauce with some sauteed mushrooms thrown in just because I had them.

Officially and for the record I have cooked veal and I have cooked veal loin chops but have never tried the rib chops before. So I am counting this as a new recipe even though it is more or less just instructions on how to properly cook a rib chop. The beurre blanc is a standard and I make it often. It is a wonderfully flexible sauce ( but a tiny bit touchy) you can add or subtract to or from with slight differences in taste.

Beurre Blanc The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichel

1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon cold water
1 stick butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Combine wine, vinegar, and shallots in a small heavy pan. Bring to a simmer over a moderate heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in water. Return to heat that has been reduced to low. Whisk in the butter one piece at a time. Make sure each piece is melted and incorporated before adding the next piece. Lift the pan occasionally to cool the mixture. it needs to be hot enough to melt the butter to a creamy state but not hot enough for the butter to separate. ( It takes about 10 or so minutes of stirring to get to this state).

I sauteed some baby portabellos that I had sliced fine, let them cool and then added them to the finished beurre blanc

The Perfect Chop

I got the recipe? for this from Peter the Butcher at Sanagan's Meat Locker (Youtube video)

Following Peter's instructions I rubbed olive oil on both sides of the chops. I put a small amount of oil in the bottoms of a large skillet and put the pan on the burner of my stove top. When the pan reached a medium high heat I put them in the pan and let them cook for 2 minutes then turned them. I left them on the heat for 2 more minutes and then put the pan in a 375 degree oven for 13 minutes. When I took them out of the oven I let them rest in the pan for about 5 minutes. After carving them at the table I put the mushroom beurre blanc on the meat. Unbelievable!!!!! After we took the first bite I am pretty sure we heard music from Heaven. I can't wait to try this again, unfortunately I will have to wait quite a while. The wallet suffered a lot of damage buying them, but I will make it happen at least a couple of times a year. ( Yes it was that delicious)

Chow Ciao

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Twofer Tonight

Finally I am home and life has slowed to a dull roar and I am able to cook. Well I suppose I could cook every night but it seems kind of pointless when it is just The Hub and me at dinner. We honestly can pick up something almost as cheaply as I can make it. Well tonight we had bought some beautiful Tuna steaks to toss on the grill. It was going to be the first sit down together family meal we would be having in quite a while.

Yesterday while The Hub and I were out running errands, we stopped by THE CAJUN CLEAVER, a butcher shop with a Louisiana flair. They had a nice hunk of tuna and I got them to slice 3 steaks ( tad under an inch each). It turns out they do not have fish all the time so we lucked out there. I also got some beautiful veal chops for tomorrow and some andouille sausage. Turns out they make their sausage on the premises. They also had boudin and Italian sausage along with homemade hot dogs. It is a place I will return often, especially since I left my email address with a "please let me know what you have in weekly". I love happening on a place and it turns out to be somewhere I want to make a point of going on a regular basis.

Fast forward to tonight: Son3 calls ( OK! He texted so he won't get mired down in conversation ) to ask ( let us know) if 7 kids can come home with him to swim. Oh and if we could fix them some hot dogs it would be great too. So much for the family dinner, and lucky for us that we keep a pack of dogs and buns always so we are ready for these little impromptu events he throws at us.

We hustled into event mode for them and got everyone fed then decided to cook our supper. I personally have overdosed on hot dogs and don't feel like I will be eating one in the near future.

The tuna had to all be cooked tonight whether we were all eating or not, so we just turned the grill to high to burn off any remaining hot dog essence, and I went in the house to figure out what exactly I was going to do with it. I found a recipe that sounded good, but I knew we would have substantial amounts of leftover fish, so whatever I did had to cool and reheat easily. I searched the internet and found a new recipe to try. Since we were having just tuna, a salad and a roll I flipped through a few pages of salads for something else I have never done before. Voila! Two recipes in the same night. If I actually start cooking nightly and find a couple of recipes per night I might actually meet my 100 untried before recipes in a year deadline. MAYBE! It could happen but not if I cook at the rate I have been cooking.

We had Wasabi Grilled Tuna with Wasabi Sauce.

Wasabi Sauce

1 teaspoon wasabi powder or 1 teaspoon dry hot mustard
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 garlic clove (crushed)

In a bowl mix wasabi and water to make a paste. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in vinegar, mayonnaise and garlic. Set aside.


1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder or 1/2 teaspoon dry hot mustard
2 fresh tuna steaks (1 1/2 lbs total, 1 1/2 inch thick)


Prepare grill with medium-hot coals.In a cup, mix the soy sauce, oil, and wasabi powder. Brush on tuna. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side for rare tuna.Thinly slice the tuna and serve with the Wasabi sauce.

This is the recipe I found and I did make the sauce exactly by the recipe. I did the tuna a tad differently mainly because we were bound to have a lot left and I thought the wasabi sauce might not translate well to cold or rewarmed tuna. Instead I made a very basic Asian sauce using 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 nickle size slices of fresh ginger, peeled and minced. I poured it in a zip lock bag and put the steaks in the marinade. I turned it a few times to get the liquid distributed evenly over the steaks then put them on a blazing hot grill for exactly 2 minutes. The Hub turned them and let them cook exactly 1 1/2 minutes more. I do not get the directions requiring you to cook tuna 4 or 5 minutes. We like it seared on the outside and very rare in the middle. It's just the perfect way to eat tuna. I took the steaks off of the grill and sliced them into rather thin slices, then dribbled the wasabi sauce over the tuna. It was perfect.

We had a Strawberry Salad along with the tuna and it was a delicious contradiction to the harsh bite from the wasabi. Once again I found this on the internet. I will cook from my beautiful cookbooks soon, just not right now.

Strawberry Salad with Blue Cheese

1/2 Cup pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 cups sliced strawberries
8 ounces blue cheese
1/4 cup chopped onion.

Mix the vinegars. oil and sugar to form an emulsion. Toss the lettuce, cheese, onion and strawberries. Pour dressing over the top and toss lightly. Serve and put pecans on the top of each salad.

As we know I follow recipes very well and this one was no real exception. I did not just want a sweet dressing on the strawberries, so I added about 1/4 teaspoon of Cavander's Greek Seasoning to the vinegars before adding the sugar and oil. I like the sweet and savory tastes combined. When it was finished it tasted very much like Ken's Raspberry Vinaigrette so when I make this again I will just use it rather than take the few minutes it takes to put the dressing together.

I made the rest as the recipe called for with the exception of the blue cheese, because I simply forgot to put it in. (Which is fine since I think I am going to toy with blue cheese pimento cheese anyway)

The meal was fantastic, not too much nor too little. The flavors just worked together and it is a meal we will have again before summer is gone.

I do have some pictures to post but my phone is now dead as a doornail and does not seem to want to send. It does no good to have a Smart Phone if one is not smart enough to keep the blooming thing charged. Will post it tomorrow.

Till then have something delicious today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sipping! It beats the heat

It is just too blooming hot to cook and almost too hot to eat. I have not really wanted anything for days now, not for lack of interest but for rising humidity and heat. I have a pantry that could feed a ton of people on any given day provided I don't mind spending some time in the kitchen. But cooking requires heat and the one thing I want to do without right now is heating up anything. I am even tempted to type this by moonlight just to keep the light bulbs in the chandelier from heating the space above the table.

Fortunately for us, Son3 had a group of kids over for pizza during band camps dinner break. There were a couple of slices left so, voila, dinner was served. I nuked the pizza to bring it up to temp and would like to say I made a refreshing salad to go with it, but I didn't. Instead we ate rubbery pizza and called it quits. Though I was through with food I decided I needed a little more, but I just did not want to chew. It finally hit that what I really wanted was a beverage, then I decided it needed to be an adult beverage. After I found the key ( When we put in the pool we decided it would be a good thing to keep all spirits under lock and key. It is a good idea but I put it in a different place each week and I forget where I hide it) I started rummaging through the supplies and found something I have been concocting for many days.

When we were in Portland recently, we had this very delicious libation at Toro Bravo ( If you are ever in Portland do yourself a favor and eat there, but take a few friends so you can sample as many of the small plates as possible) The drink had some cute Bull type name which had nothing to do with the drink itself. I guess they just want to keep the bull theme running throughout the menu. I forget what the name of it was, but it had gin, apricot liqueur and peach bitters. I think it had some juice also but I don't remember exactly. Tonight I thought I would do a little trial mixology and try to recreate the drink, but first let me back up a step.

When we returned homefrom Oregon, I went to the state store (A package store run by the state government for anyone who lives in a civilized state where they believe a person/business can manage alcohol affairs with little government intervention.) to buy some apricot liqueur. Obviously the State of Alabama does not want me to have this elixir, for after searching 3 stores and finally a call from one store to their distribution center it seems to not be available here, even though they have it on their order forms. I suppose I could have given up, but why? I liked the drink and thought I would try to find a way to make it.

Apricot liqueur

11 ounces dried apricots
1 cup sugar
2 cups vodka

Cover the apricots in hot water and let sit for about 8 hours. Drain the apricots and press out as much water as you can without tearing the fruit. In a large wide mouth mason jar add the apricots and sugar then cover with the vodka. Put on the lid and shake until it looks like all the sugar is dissolved. Place in a dark dry spot and store for three weeks, turning daily. ( I shook mine daily cause it made me feel like I was doing more than just turning the jar) At the end of 3 weeks pour off all the liquid and then press down on the apricots with the back of a wooden spoon to get the rest of the liquid out of the apricots. Strain through a cheesecloth or coffee filter and put in a clean jar with a lid. Store in the refrigerator. I have no idea how long this will keep but it is keeping for now.

This is my attempt at duplicating the cocktail we had
1/2 ounce apricot liqueur
1/2 ounce roses lime juice
1 1/2 ounces gin
dash of peach bitters
shaved ice

Mix all in a shaker and strain into a cocktail glass.

I think the one we had at the restaurant may have had a dash of grenadine because it was pinker than the drink I made, but I have none here so ...

Well the verdict is that I am not a very good bartender. The drink is fine but it a little stronger than I would like it to be. I think cutting back on the gin and using just `1 ounce would be fine. I also believe I made some extremely potent liqueur. I rarely measure anything and I think I over vodkaed the mixture. It has a wonderful apricot aroma, but it packs a wallop. If I do it again I will be certain to measure and not eyeball the ingredients. Possibly I can just add more apricots to the existing mix along with a little more sugar Don't know. I guess trying new does not guarantee success and this really did not succeed.

There has to be an upside to everything though and the upside of this is it probably won't take me long to fall asleep.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Who'd a thought it

A few nights ago The Hub had to have a working dinner at Bottega's ( WAH!) and came home talking about this salad he ate, and swore was delicious. He could only remember a couple of things in it, but assured me it was fabulous. I listened as he named off the 4 things he could recall seeing in the salad...Watermelon, Olives,Red Onions and Feta Cheese. Now normally when I hear a combination like that I would just consider the person "not quite right in the head", but this was The Hub and I do know him pretty well. In fact with the exception of his actually eating bananas we like the same things. So I started my search for what else might be in this odd mishmash of ingredients. It took very little to find something online that was at least close to what he recalled. I found it at ALL RECIPES and it is just aptly named "Watermelon Summer Salad"

As you all know it has been insanely humid lately, with a touch of heat thrown in. Yesterday was just such a day and The Hub and Son3 had been working in the yard. They came in and took a shower but were still overheated and hungry, but nothing really sounded good. Ah...watermelon to the rescue. I whipped up the salad in about 5 minutes and served us a big bowl full.

Watermelon Summer Salad

3/4 cup thinly sliced red onions cut in half
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 quarts fresh cubed, seeded watermelon
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small bowl squeeze the lime juice over the onions and let sit for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the watermelon, feta cheese, olives, mint and the onions in lime juice. Drizzle the olive oil over the ingredients and toss gently.

What I really did.

I used all the ingredients more or less but altered a few things. First off, I went to Publix and bought one of those little tubs of cubed watermelon. I bought the medium size on which is about 2 cups. I used a half of a red onion and did slice it very, very thin. I have no idea how much lime juice I used but squeezed 1 whole lime as dry as could. I even added tiny bits of the pulp because I thought it would taste good. I used kalamata olives because I like the fruity flavor a little better than the black one in the can, and those were my only options. I sliced them because I wanted a taste of olive in each bite. I have no idea how much mint I used. I just went outside and grabbed a few leaves ( maybe 10?) placing one inside the next, rolling them like a mint cigar and slicing it into thin ribbons ( a chiffonade if you are a geek like me and like to know the correct terms) As for the cheese, well I did not measure but used maybe 3 tablespoons. (Does anyone actually measure salad ingredients?) I liberally sprinkled the olive oil and tossed the barest I could to incorporate the ingredients without breaking the cheese. I topped it off with a medium dusting of freshly grated black pepper.

I had no idea something so odd could taste so wonderful. It was a mouth explosion of sweet and salty with the cool mint thrown in and then you would grab a little "bite" from the onion followed by the mild pepper heat. Each bite has some crunch and squish which just added to the overall experience. I know the word fantastic is overused but it was Fantastic with a capital F. My only regret was that I had made only enough for a bowlful each. The Hub and I were both sad there were no seconds because we would have eaten more if we had it. I am sure there is a way to make this better but I will never try. I will serve it as it...lots.

For those with picky eaters, I suggest having a peanut butter sandwich as a back up plan. Son3 eats no fruit and was not about to touch this. In fact he did not want to even sit at the table while we inhaled it. His loss was our gain, at we did not have to share with him.

I guess you just have to trust me on this. I had no idea such odd pairings could create something so incredible. Son3 will not be here for supper tomorrow so it might be watermelon salad time again!

Peace and watermelon!