Friday, November 08, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!!

I always rack my brain when my mother's birthday comes around, trying to figure out what gift to give her.  You know, I want to express my love to her and all, but buying her something seems so fake.  Not to mention she needs more shit in her house like she needs a swift kick to the head (although maybe that would stop the zombie...hmmm).  You see, my wonderful step-father, Bob, is a hoarder.  Just kidding, he's not.  Just kidding, he is.  Not a filthy, gross hoarder.  He just buys a lot of things.  Car parts, pens, coins, collectible cars, law books that he probably hasn't opened since 1993, paperwork, things he buys at flea markets, etc. (I love you Bob, and I love all your things, but maybe it's because I don't live with them!)  To give my mom something that is going to clutter her house is totally unnecessary.  So this year, I'm going with a blog entry!  Happy birthday mom, from your cheap ass daughter.  I do love you with every ounce of my body and then some.             

When I was a little girl, I would LOVE it when we would bake pies.  (She makes the best lemon meringue and banana cream pies you've ever tasted.)  But when it was pie making day, it was OUR day.  I LOVED helping you in the kitchen.  And I truly think you welcomed my help.  I never felt like you were just appeasing me.  You're the reason I love cooking.  I would get my little chair and bring it over to the counter to stand on and you'd let me use the pastry cutter to cut the flour into the lard (don't judge my mother... the woman knows that lard makes the best crust).  Then you'd let me pour the ice water over the flour-y, lardy, goodness while you mixed it all together.  We make a great pie making team.

One day, we made a few pies that were baking in the oven and you noticed that we had some extra dough lying around.  So you rolled out the dough, had me spread butter on it and then sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar.  Then we rolled 'em up and cut them (you'd make little notches along the roll to indicate where I could cut them...I loved that you allowed me to wield a knife, and trusted me with it at such a young age).  Then we put them on a cookie sheet and baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes.  They ended up turning out so delicious.  Like a crunchy, flaky cinnamon roll.  I remember I never had the patience to let them cool either.  I just dove right in, burnt the hell out of my mouth every time.  And it became our tradition.  When we'd make pies, we would intentionally make sure there was JUST enough dough to make our little treat.  And they made me feel SO VERY special.   

The strange this is, I'm not the biggest fan of pie.  Maybe it's because no one else makes pie as good as yours.  Maybe my taste buds just changed and I lost my pie taste buds.  We both crave savory things over sweet.  Maybe that's why I don't like pie.  Who knows what my aversion to pie is. 

Now that the weather's cooler, I often crave chicken pot pie.  So the other day I went to the store to get all the ingredients.  And when I came to the pre-packaged pie crust, I was flooded with the memory of you and I making pie.  It must be because I miss you.  So I skipped by that section and rushed home to make a homemade pie crust, because I needed to feel close to you at that point in time.  And I did make one.  And I left some extra dough.

I'd mail you one of our special cookies, but I ate them all.  What a selfish kid you raised!!  I kid, I kid.  :-)

I just thought you should know that even though we haven't lived close to each other for a long time, you are always close in my heart.  I have these little moments often.  Sometimes I catch myself eating pretzel rods while reading a book, twirling my hair, like you used to do.  I always feel close to you.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about you.  I'm so thankful that you are who I was destined to come from.  You make me a good person.  You have always supported every decision I make and encouraged me to dream. You have always given me the necessary tools to make or break myself.  And sometimes I choose to break myself.  And every time that happens, you are right there to pick me up, put back my pieces and send me back out there fighting.  Never with any shame, disappointment, or judgement.  Just absolute, honest, unconditional love.  And I can't thank you enough for that.  You're special to so many people, because you're special.  You're my rock.  You rock.  Period.  I love you so much.  If you are fortunate enough to be near my mom today, give her a great, big birthday hug from me.  Happy Birthday, beautiful momma. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Calzone Jones

There are some foods I crave on a regular basis.  Calzones are one of these foods.  Unfortunately, I'm really picky about my calzones.  The crust has to be perfect and the filling has to be top notch.  I've had some bad calzones in my day.  Crust dry and too flaky.  Raw garlic that had too much bite.  No ricotta cheese at all!  I mean, I'm not Italian (well, except in a past life), but I just can't imagine a calzone with no ricotta cheese. 

So when I get these kind of cravings, and I end up buying a calzone from a local eatery, I'm always disappointed with the outcome.  So this is when I have to take matters into my own hands and create my own damn calzone.   

Preheat oven to 425.  I used my go to pizza crust recipe.  And I browned some italian sausage.  I then mixed about a cup of ricotta cheese with a 1/2 up of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese (use the real stuff!!)  After my pizza dough had risen, I divided it into 4 balls and rolled each ball out to about a 6 inch round.  I then topped one side of the round with the ricotta mixture, then the sausage, then I added a few leaves of raw spinach.  Fold the empty side of the dough over the topping side and pinch to seal it off.  Place (carefully) onto a cookie sheet.  Brush the outside of the calzone with an egg wash, cut about 3 slits into the top of the calzone so you don't have a calzone blow out, and cook for about 15-18 minutes.  Keep checking the little bugger so it doesn't burn on the bottom.  Once it's to your desired brownness, take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes.  Serve with your favorite marinara. 

I find that the stuff I make at home tastes better than the stuff I buy.  Maybe it's because of all the love that goes into making it, but seriously, try making your own items you crave.  You'll be so much more appreciative with the outcome than you would if you just went out and purchased it. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Cheese Please!

This my friends, is my first attempt at Mozzarella cheese.  Yes.  I made it with my own two hands.  It's something I've been wanting to make forever and I finally got the balls to actually try it.  I was worried about it.  I mean it can't be easy to make cheese, right?  I thought my first attempt was going to be a disaster, but I'm quite impressed with how easy it was and with the final product.

Here's the deal with making cheese.  You have to have 3 specific ingredients to do it:
1. Milk that isn't ultra pasteurized.  Preferably milk from a local farm.  And luckily we have amazing food stores in Memphis called Easy-Way.  Which is where I purchased my 1/2 gallon of milk. It even came in a fancy little glass bottle, like when the milk man would deliver it.  (Ok, so I never in my life had the milk man deliver milk, but it's a fun visual).

2.  The next thing you need is Citric Acid.  To be quite honest, I really have no idea why the hell you have to have this ingredient, but in every cheese making recipe I read, it was listed.  And on the bottle it says it can be used as a substitute for salt, so putting two and two together, I assume it's some sort of preservative/flavoring used in cheese making.  If you really want to learn more about it, go here.

3.  And finally, you need Rennet.  What the hell is rennet, you ask?  Well that's exactly what I asked.  Rennet is a bunch of enzymes, found in the stomach of mammals that, in cheese making, causes milk to coagulate, separating the curds from the whey.  Luckily for the faint of heart, or the vegetarian variety, they have vegetable rennet.  That is what I used.  I found both my citric acid and my rennet on  They both cost me about 15 bucks.  I've bought small chunks of cheese for that price. 

Here's the recipe I used.  It's really easy to follow and even has pictures!  HOORAY!  Trust me.  It's not scary.  I halved the recipe and that scared me because I felt like I was in a serious science project with cheese making.  But cheese is forgiving!  Gotta love that damn cheese!  It's good AND forgiving!  Here's the rest of my process:

This is what happens after you add in the vegetable rennet and let it sit for 5 minutes.  It solidifies the milk.  So cool!  The process is really fun and amazing.  If you have kids, I think they'd really enjoy helping!

 Little Miss Muffet ain't got shit on me!  Here's the separation of my curds and whey. 

Here's what you get after heating your milk to the desired temperature.  You then have to squeeze out all that whey. Which is a lot of fun. 

And it starts to look like ricotta cheese at first.  But the more you work with it, the more it begins to resemble mozzarella.

Yep!  That's my string of cheese.  I know it's blurry.  You try taking a picture holding moving cheese in one hand and a camera in the other! 

The only thing I did other than the recipe suggested was I added in some salt at the end.  In fact, I added in a GOOD pinch of salt and I think it still needed more.  So be sure to add in this step!

Happy Cheese Making!  Don't be afraid.  It's so cool!  

Friday, October 04, 2013

Okie Dokie, Artichokie

I am a sucker for artichokes.  They are my favorite vegetable.  Hands down.  I am also fascinated by them.  I mean who on earth would discover an artichoke and think, "hmm...I bet if I get past all these prickly leaves and then get rid of this hairy afro of a choke, there's a tender, tasty little heart in here that probably tastes like heaven"?  My sister and I used to have to share an artichoke when we were little.  Who knew two little girls would eventually try to kill each other over not receiving their fair share of the heart.  My mother quickly learned that we all needed our own choke to avoid future scuffles.  

I've had artichokes in a number of different ways.  In artichoke dips, on salads, boiled, stuffed, etc.  But it wasn't until recently that I tried a grilled artichoke.  And I was blown away.  It's so good, so smoky, and so much easier to eat than a boiled artichoke.  You can make an aioli to dip your artichoke in for extra flavor.  I like just melting a little butter and adding lemon to it for dipping.  

Here's the thing.  If you've never prepared and/or eaten a whole artichoke before they can be pretty intimidating.  And I'm pretty sure that if I tried to tell you how to do it, you'd be eating all the wrong parts.  So here's a link to help.

Here's How To Make Grilled Artichokes:  
Prepare a charcoal grill.  Follow the above link (Note...No need to trim off the stem for this recipe.  The stem becomes an extension of the heart and the more heart the better).  Once you get your choke all trimmed up, cut it in half.  You will notice a fuzzy choke.  You don't want that part.  So scoop it out with a spoon.  Now, throw your artichoke halves into a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes (you can apparently steam them this way too if you like, but I've never steamed an artichoke and I didn't want to mess anything up).  After 20 minutes, drain the artichokes and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill for about 4-6 minutes on each side.  You really just want to add some color and some smoky charcoal goodness at this point.  Just don't burn em. 

When they are done, you can eat them.  Just avoid the rough part of the leaves.  Peel the leaves off and using your teeth, scrape the meaty edge of the leaf into your mouth.  Once all the leaves are gone, you are left with the best part to eat.  So eat it all...before I come and fight you for it.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's the Little Things

It has come to my attention that many of you have forgotten key, valuable lessons that you were taught growing up. Your parents, guardians, siblings, friends and teachers taught you VERY basic things that you were supposed to use in your adult life.  But many of you have forgotten these things.  So let me take this time out of my life to reteach you.

You were taught to use your manners.  Please.  Thank You.  Excuse Me.  I'm Sorry.  You were taught the meaning of all these words.  When you need something from someone, you say, "Can I please...".  When someone does something for you, you say, "Thank you for..."  If you accidentally bump into someone you say, "Excuse me..."  and/or, "I'm sorry".  These are basics.  I was taught to use these words and I was taught to use them correctly.  I'm not sure when people decided that these were unnecessary terms.  They are not.  You need to remember to use them.  Always.

You were taught to put things away after you use them or you no longer need them.  They teach this in school and I'm pretty sure your mother or father taught you that when you are finished playing with or using something, you put it back where it belongs.  All things have places.  Take for instance grocery carts.  You took the cart to place your groceries in it.  You drove it all through the store.  You took it to the register to buy your groceries.  You then took it to your car to unload said groceries.  Why in the hell do you now think that you can just abandon your cart?  The cart that made your shopping experience so much easier.  You should be thanking your cart and putting it back in its place.  They have cart storage in the actual parking lots.  There are almost always an abundance of them.  It's not that hard to put it back.  Leaving it in another parking spot makes it hard for someone to park their car there.  And it makes someone else have to put it back. 

Speaking of grocery stores (but ALL stores included).  If you have something in your awesome, handy, dandy cart and then decide you don't want it.  PUT IT BACK.  Not somewhere else.  Put it back where you found it.  When I was growing up, I can't tell you how many times I heard the phrase, "Now put it back where you found it."  When I'm shopping and I find a package of chicken in the pasta aisle it drives me insane.  You have now just spoiled some perfectly good chicken and you have made someone's job more difficult.  You're the one who decided you didn't want it.  So put it back.    

You were taught to park within the lines.  I'm sure whoever taught you how to drive started you off with the simple skill of parking.  There are two white lines and you fit your car between them.  It's not hard.  You can't pass a driving test if you can't park your car.  So how have you all of a sudden, after many years of driving and perfecting this skill, decided that you can just create your own spot?  You can't.  It doesn't work like that.  If you can't fit your car within the lines, your car is either too big for your britches, you are too busy doing anything but driving your car, you just plain can't drive, or you are just an asshole.  Not parking in the lines screws up the entire dynamic of a parking lot.  

You were taught to clean up after yourself.  If you make a mess, clean it up.  Why do you think it's someone else's job to do it for you?  Parents...if you take your kid out to a restaurant, clean up after them.  I understand you will do anything in the world to prevent a meltdown.  Trust me.  I don't want to see your kid melt down either.  But if what keeps your kid calm is them ripping up 5,000 napkins into 345 million little pieces, pick it up when you leave.

If someone lets you out in traffic, a nice "thank you" wave is appreciated.  They didn't have to let you out, but they're gracious like that.  If I let you walk in front of me in a parking lot, put a little pep in your step to show a little gratitude.

You were taught to do the right thing.  When someone drops something and they don't notice, pick it up and give it back to them.  It will make their day.  People love being treated nicely.  When you find something that is apparently lost, turn it in.  Do you know how many people come up to me at the end of the night looking for a wallet or a phone that they lost?  And do you know how quickly I become their best friend when I tell them someone turned it in?  The relief on their face is enough to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I'm not perfect.  I have done (or haven't done) one or two of these things.  But after having to deal with it so many times, you learn to do the right thing.  

Did you know that there are 7 + BILLION people in the world?  You are not the only one here.  Be courteous.  If we all just stopped for a minute, I know you're busy, but just take one minute to stop and think about how doing small things could make our world a better place.  If you took 1 day to be conscious of how you treat people around you, and how what you do affects the lives of so many people, you might notice that you can afford to make a few adjustments to be a better person.  And making yourself a better person today is bound to make someone else a better person tomorrow.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hidden Memphis Gem

Maybe all of you knew about this place, but I surely had never heard of it, or heard it even mentioned.  It's called Cordova Farmer's Market, located at 1150 N. Germantown Pkwy.  No, it's not like the downtown, Cooper Young, or botanical garden farmer's markets.  It's a grocery store.  An international grocery store.  And if you love to cook as much as I do, you can find anything your heart desires here.  They have food from every nation, fresh fish, and the most elaborate layout of produce I have ever seen.  I didn't know what half of the shit on display was.  And I can't quite describe how awesome this place is.  You have to go there to see for yourself.  Here are a few pictures from my last trip.  Did I mention that it's cheap.  Go check it out if you haven't been there.  And if you have, shame on you for not telling me about it.

 Look at that dragon fruit on the left!!  Gorgeous!

Many, many fresh fish options

I have no idea what any of this is, but it's so cool!

 It is said that this fruit smells like absolute hell, but is the sweetest thing you'll ever eat!  I was afraid it would stink up my car, so I didn't get it this time.  I'll keep you posted if I get up the nerve to try it.)

More fresh fish

Interesting produce
  Rows of fresh shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams, etc.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Awesome Blossoms

This, my friends, is a squash blossom.  It is the flower from a squash plant.  And I have been seeing these things on practically every food show and menu for the past few years, but I have never eaten one.  

A wonderful person I know has heard me talk of these blossoms for a few weeks now, seeing as how they are in season and so I was recently presented with my very own package of squash blossoms, straight from the Memphis Farmer's Market.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that I work for the Farmer's Market.  Which is why I keep talking about it.  Well you're wrong.  I don't.  I DO, however, volunteer my time to help them as often as I can.  Why you ask?  Because I love having locally grown food at my fingertips and I'll do whatever I can to help keep it in business.  It's inspiring to walk around the farmer's market.  It's educational, stimulating and amazing.  So that's why I keep bringing it up.  If you've been there you know how I feel.  If you haven't, you should go.  If you volunteer there, you're awesome.  And if you don't, you should.  And if you don't live in Memphis, make it a point to go to your own local farmer's market.

Back to squash blossoms.  As soon as I got them, I started to research them.  You can do a lot with them.  But most of the recipes I found had them stuffed with some type of cheese and/or bacon and then battered and fried.  I didn't want them to be fried.  And I didn't want bacon to overpower them.  I wanted to taste them, and I felt like if I fried them, they were BOUND to be delicious, but they would taste like all fried food.  So I stuffed mine with cheese and baked them.  Rather than cheesed and baconed them (see what I did there??)  And they were awesome. 

Here's What I Did:
Preheat oven to 350.  

Inside of the squash blossom is a little stamen or pistil (depending on whether or not it's a male or female flower).  You want to remove this part.  At least that's what most of the recipes I read said.  There were a few that didn't mention it at all, but I heard these parts are bitter and I wanted nothing to taint my first experience with a squash blossom.  Then mix about 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add this mixture to a ziplock bag and snip the corner.  Now...pipe this mixture CAREFULLY into the squash blossom and twist the flower around the mixture.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  But keep your eye on it.

As you can see from below, you are going to lose some cheese.  This may be why so many people go for the battering and then frying technique.  But I assure you.  This recipe is good.  The squash blossom has such a delicately sweet flavor.  And who the hell doesn't love herbed, garlicy cheese?  And if all else fails, you tried something new.  And loved it.  Promise. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Get Galette

I'm not the best baker.  I fear failure.  I'm too impatient and too meticulous for baking.  I read too far into it.  I over think it.  And in turn, I mess it up.  Cookies don't rise or don't brown, cakes sink, pies burn.  Which is strange because my mom makes the best homemade pies in the universe.  I just do much better when I can throw a bunch of things into a saute pan and brown them.  However, I bought a pint of blueberries for .99 cents at the grocery store that shall not be named (because I despise it) and I had a leftover pie crust from the delicious Tomato pie recipe I made the other day and I wanted to use them both.  I have seen numerous chefs make galettes and they seem really easy to make and you don't have to know how to make them look pretty, like you do with pies, they just do.  So here's the recipe I didn't follow to a tee (although I'm quite certain if you do, it will be wonderful).

Here's What I Did Different:
Obviously, I have already confessed to the fact that I cheated on the pie crust part.  Shoot me.  I fear baking failure.  But I promise to get over that fear, one galette at a time.  I halved the recipe because I only had 2 cups of blueberries.  So instead of trying to get 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest out of the lemon, I just sprinkled the juice of 1/2 the lemon over the blueberries.  And I used cane sugar instead of granulated.  And I obviously didn't have any parchment paper, so I used aluminum foil.  I was a little nervous that the folding over of the crust would be difficult, but it wasn't.  At all.

So there we have it.  It didn't fail.  It's super duper easy.  And it's out of this world delicious.  Especially with ice cream.  Get Geletting. 

My bleeding galette

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Boiled Peanut Hummus

So, there must be some thing about boiled peanuts.  As in, only Southerners like them.  Or at least that's what my perception was after having eaten some boiled peanuts at a friend's house recently.  He offered me some and then said, "Do you like boiled peanuts?  Most Northerners don't."  Well first of all let me start by saying I'm not like most Northerners.  I love the North.  I love where I'm from.  I spent 25 years of my life in the North (half in Pittsburgh and half in West Virginia, which sorry WV, I consider you North after living in the South).  But now that I've spent time in the South, I realize that I have always been a Southern girl trapped in the body of a Yankee.  I don't do the cold.  I love grits, cornbread, greens, country ham, pimento cheese, chow chow and fried pickles.  I prefer gravy on my fries to ketchup, I say ya'll, and I suck the head when I eat crawfish.  And...I like boiled peanuts.  

But...they do have to grow on you.  The first time I tried one I was turned off by the texture and the wetness.  But you get past that.  Boiled peanuts are raw peanuts or green peanuts.  You can't just buy roasted peanuts and boil them.  You have to get them raw and then boil them.  (I found raw peanuts at SuperLo in Memphis.  Never seen them anywhere else in the city.)  

Here's How You Do It:
Put your peanuts in a large stock pot.  Cover with water (you are going to have to place something on them so they are all submerged).  Add in 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of onion powder, 1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  Add in more of anything you like, some people use Old Bay, etc.  Cover your peanuts with another pot or bowl to weight them down and then wait.  For EVER.  I'm not kidding.  You have to boil them for about 7 hours.  So do this on a rainy day.  We usually start testing our peanuts after about 6 hours.  This is when you want to adjust your seasoning.  We added more salt.  Yes I know, seems like a lot.  But boiled peanuts are salty.  When they are done, you want them to be creamy.  Not like mush creamy.  But like kidney bean creamy with a slight snap (or al dente) still left in the peanut.  That's it.  That's boiled peanuts.  They are addicting as all hell.
Peanuts boiling under a bowl so they cook evenly.

finished product - boiled peanuts
Boiled Peanut Hummus:
1 cup of boiled peanuts (shelled)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of tahini (use peanut or almond butter if you don't have tahini)
Juice from the half of 1 lemon (I used lime in this recipe and it was still awesome)
1/4 cup of olive oil
Cayenne to taste (unless you added in a bunch of cayenne to your peanuts, which we did, so we didn't have to season with anything other than pepper)

Mix everything in a food processor.  Add in water until you get it to the consistency you like.  I like mine to have some body.  And serve with veggies, tortilla chips, etc.  It is SOOOOO good that I eat half of it just testing for the right seasoning.  And now I'm not hungry for dinner because I just ate a ton of boiled peanut hummus.  Don't be afraid to try it.  In fact...if you are afraid of trying boiled peanuts, start with boiled peanut hummus.  Because you will be FLOORED by how good it is, and then those little boiled peanuts won't be so weird anymore.  TRUST ME! 

This recipe is inspired by Hugh Acheson's cookbook A New Turn in the South.  You know Hugh Acheson.  The uni-brow chef.  He's weird.  And I love him for it.  And he makes a bad ass boiled peanut hummus.  And if it weren't for him, I'd never have eaten it.  And I wouldn't be about to go finish it all off right this very second.       

Monday, August 05, 2013

My, My, Tomato Pie

Tomato season is one of my favorite times of the year.  It's right up there with Halloween and Thanksgiving.  It should actually be a holiday.  Because there is never another time during the year when you can purchase tomatoes that taste like candy.  EVER.  Yeah, yeah, I know you can BUY tomatoes year round.  But they taste like crap.  During tomato season, they are juicy, sweet, and beautifully colored.  They smell like what a tomato should smell like.  Add a little salt and pepper and you really could eat vine-ripened tomatoes like an apple.

On a recent trip to the Memphis Farmer's Market, I passed by a stall that had THE MOST GORGEOUS tomatoes in the entire lot.  And I'm an asshole because I didn't even take the time to look at what farm they came from.  I was too busy being mesmerized by these plump, sexy, redder than red tomatoes.  And at $5 for 5 enormous maters, I was sold and my mind immediately started to think about what I was going to do with them.

Tomato Pie.  I've been craving tomato pie all Summer long.  I've never made a tomato pie.  I've never even eaten a tomato pie, if we're not counting pizza here.  But I imagined it as a pie with layers of tomatoes and cheese and I thought, how on Earth could this go wrong?  So I pulled up a recipe I had been eying and I rushed to the grocery store to buy a pie crust (whatever...don't judge.  I had 2 hours before I had to be at work and I wasn't in the mood to make a damn crust from scratch).

And here's what happened!    

Here's the recipe.

And here are the changes I made/would make:
1.  I bought my crust.  But in the future I would make my own.  Not that Pillsbury doesn't make a good crust, I just think it would put this dish over the top if it had a homemade crust.
2.  I didn't have any fresh thyme, so I just left it out.  But I LOVE thyme, so I will definitely use it the next thyme.
3.  I added crushed red pepper to the cheese mixture to add a little spice.
4.  I think the next time I will add some roasted garlic.  Because I think everything is better with garlic.
5.  I didn't let my tomatoes sit as long as the recipe said, but it really didn't make much of a difference.  My crust wasn't soggy.  I think as long as you remove the seeds and dry them good with paper towels, they should be good.

So there you have it.  My first tomato pie.  Will DEFINITELY not be my last!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Million Dollar Scallops

I have fallen victim to a scam.  That's right.  Yours truly was not on her game one morning, while lying in bed, reading my emails, and I didn't read the fine print or do my research when I came across a Living Social deal for fresh seafood.  I jumped quickly at the deal, which claimed you pay $20 for $40 worth of seafood from the Maryland Blue Crab Express.  I adore blue crab.  And it's about this time every year when I crave a box full of freshly steamed blue crab, covered in Old Bay Seasoning, and an ice cold Corona with a lime.  So I bought the deal and went on to the website to see what I might be able to get.  Turns out, it's not cheap to buy blue crab online.  And it's a whole lot more expensive to have someone else pack and ship your blue crab.  So I decided, ok, in order to not spend an extra $180 bucks for some blue crab, I would just get some shrimp and scallops.  Wrong again.  In addition to the $11.00 extra I would be paying for these items (that included my $40 of free fish), the shipping/packing alone was going to be an additional $80.

So I did what any old cheapskate would do.  I found the cheapest thing I could get, which ended up being scallops, a 10-20 count for $22.99.  Now, take my $40 coupon, and I have 17.01 remaining.  However, add in shipping and packaging and I now owe an additional $30.  SCREWED.  HARD.  So I have now just paid $50 for 10-20 scallops.  I thought to myself, "so help me, there best be 20 god damned scallops in my package when they arrive.")

So here I am now, with my sea scallops.  There are about 15 of them.  They don't look any more special than any sea scallop I could have bought for $20.00 at the grocery store. In fact, they are all a different size.  Some small, some medium sized.  So now the cook time on them is going to vary.  I wanted to make some elaborate dish out of my $50 scallops, but instead I put them in a hot pan with some coconut oil, salt and pepper and sauteed them.  I forgot to get a picture because I was so pissed off at my scallops and at myself that I just ate the mediocre little mollusks. 

So heads up.  Read the fine print.  Don't fall for scams.  And don't overpay for mediocre seafood.  Do your research.  LESSON LEARNED.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Beet It

I go to the grocery store for inspiration.  I had been eyeballing beets and wanting to try my hand at roasting them myself, because though I like canned beets, it was high time that I make my own for comparison.  So I bought myself some beets.  Looked up a recipe.  Seemed easy enough.  So I tried it.  Made a bad ass salad and am now in love with beets and beet salads.

It's super easy.

Here's What You Do:
Preheat oven to 400.  Get a bunch of beets.  Mine usually come in 3's at my grocery store.  Chop off their little rat tail looking ends and the greens (you can use the beet greens in your salad if you like.  I noticed that when I buy the box of spring mix lettuce, there are beet greens in it...they're yummy).  Wash them off real good.  They come from out of the dirt, so they're dirty little suckers.  Don't skip this step.  You may even have to scrub them a little.  But take care of them.  They're about to take care of you.  Get a big sheet of foil and place the beets on the foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper them.  Wrap them up super tight in the foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.  When a knife easily goes through them, they're done.  Let the beets cool with the foil open hfor about 15 minutes.  Then take a paper towel and wipe the skin of the beets away.  It's much easier than trying to peel your beets before hand.  Trust me!  And don't wear white when working with beets.  EVER.   

You now have many options.  I sliced my beets and added them to a salad of mixed greens, toasted pecans, shallot and goat cheese with a light vinaigrette dressing.  Can't beet it with a stick.

Simple Vinaigrette Dressing:
1 shallot, diced
1 tablespoon of Dijon
1/8 cup of champagne vinegar
1/4 cup of olive oil (you can use any oil you like here)
salt & pepper

Throw everything into a jar and shake.

Pretty little beets awaiting their 400 degree oven

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Panana Cake

I came across a recipe for pancakes that you make with a banana and some egg and I HAD to try it to see if it really worked.  My thoughts were that the finished product would be a scramcake (A scrambled egg/pancake).  And yet, again...I have been proven wrong.  This recipe is super easy, very healthy and absolutely delicious.  Top with anything you like, I used almond butter and honey.  It takes 10 minutes tops to make.  So try it.  This may be my new go-to breakfast.  Well, at least until I get tired of it.

Here's What You Do:
Take 1 large banana and mash it into a bowl.  Crack one whole egg and 1 egg white into the bowl with the mashed banana and whip it like you would to make scrambled eggs.  Add a pinch of salt.  You could also add in cinnamon.

 The banana/egg mixture

Get a skillet nice and hot and melt some coconut oil in the pan.  If you act too soon and add your mixture in too early, you will come out with some really pale, almost scrambled egg looking pancakes.  Like these (still delicious, mind you):

But if you wait for the skillet to get hot enough, you will get this lovely, delicious pananacake.  It's so good.  I would have never in a million years thought you could make a pancake out of just a banana and an egg, but here's the proof!  It works.  And it's good.  So you should try it. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

No Rules...Just Right

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Outback Steakhouse has really stepped up their game.  I'm not big on chain restaurants because most of them open up bags and serve you food that has just been reheated.  Trust me on this one.  I can't tell you how many times I've pulled a piece of plastic out of my food in chain restaurants.  I won't name names, but if you work for a chain restaurant, or any restaurant that practices this type of behavior, for the love of God, make sure that the entire plastic bag is accounted for after you empty pre-made food out of it.  There are too many people out there looking for a lawsuit.

Back on I just moved to a place that's in walking distance to an Outback Steakhouse.  And they have this to die for tuna appetizer.  It's cooked perfectly and comes with two delicious sauces for dipping.  One of the sauces is more of a vinaigrette, but the other is like a mayo based spicy sauce.  This is the one I love.

So I recreated this menu item, because who wants to go to the Outback every day?  Unless the Outback you are referring to is in Australia....then sign me up, Mate!

Here's What You Do:
Get a piece of sushi grade tuna.  I got mine at Whole Foods.  Season both sides with Paul Prudhomme's Redfish Magic (This stuff is good on everything.  Chicken, Steak, should be called Paul Prudhomme's Magical Spice).  Then get a skillet SMOKING hot.  Add a little olive oil and throw that hunk o' tuna into the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes on both sides and take off the heat.  Let it sit for about 2 minutes, and then slice into that beautiful pink-fleshed fish and serve with your favorite dipping sauce. 

For the sauce:
a heaping spoon of mayo
a good squirt of sriracha
a few drops of sesame oil

Mix together and serve.

  I do not have man hands...this is my male tuna model!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Slightly Healthy With a Chance of Delicious

Sometimes I have a plan to be healthy when I wake up.  I lay in bed wondering what I'm going to make for my low calorie, low sodium, fat free, gluten free, carb free, dairy free, all organic, vegetarian, whatever it might be that day, breakfast.  A fruity smoothie like THIS one.  Maybe an egg white omelet with spinach and salsa.  A scoop of Greek yogurt with Grape Nuts cereal sprinkled on top with blueberries and honey.

And I go to the grocery store with all these healthy visions in my head.  But then I actually get to the store and I see a plethora of meats and cheeses and I become weak in the knees.  This particular morning, I went to the store with all intentions of making an Egg Beaters omelet with spinach and mushrooms and a side of turkey bacon However, what I ended up with was an EXTREMELY delicious sausage, mushroom and spinach frittata.  A frittata, in case you aren't familiar, is like a quiche with no crust.  It's my favorite thing to make for breakfast because you can't mess it up, it's easy as hell, and it's always delicious.

6 Eggs, beaten
1 large handful of spinach
1 cup of shredded cheese (I chose cracker barrel's so sharp and creamy) 
1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 roll of Jimmy Dean LOW FAT sausage, cooked *
Olive Oil
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Salt & Pepper

Heat oven to 350.  Use a large non-stick skillet that you can place in the oven.  (That means no plastic handle dip shit).  Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your pan and cook the mushrooms.  I like my mushrooms on the more crunchy side, so I cook mine less.  If you like soggier shrooms, by all means, cook them longer.  When they are done to your liking, add in the spinach and wilt.  Season veggies with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper.  Add in your beaten eggs, cooked sausage and shredded cheese and make sure everything is distributed evenly.  (As you can see in the picture, I actually topped mine with cheese, but I wished it had been incorporated as I ate it, so you do what you like.  It was still good with it on top.)  Now's where you want to cook this like an omelet.  Scrape the pan and move the runny egg around until it's almost set.  Then put it all in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Once it's solid and no longer runny, turn on the broiler and just brown the top.  When it's done, you can be brave and put a plate on top of the pan and flip the pan, fingers crossed that it all comes out in one piece.  Or you can just cut it and spatula out the portions.  Both ways have worked for me.  Top with avocado, salsa, green onion, parsley, whatever you want, whatever you like.  You're the one that has to eat it. 

*Here's where I stuck to my health guns!  This is what made me feel good about my decision of abandoning my health ship this morning. LOW FAT SAUSAGE!  That's right kids.  Will power. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tragic Food

Sometimes you have a small tragedy in life that causes you to hate certain foods.  For example, take my sister.  She can never look at a microwave pizza again because when she was little, she ate one, got the which end flu, you know the which end flu, the flu where you can't figure out which end of your body should be over a toilet.  Yes, that flu.  And she forever blamed the microwave pizza.

My certain tragedy happened in college.  We ended up at one of the million of keg parties being held (We were at West Virginia University, a school consistently ranked as the #1 party school, and rightfully so...we partied our asses off there...hence our low GPA's and high BAC's).  And this particular keg party had some high rollers who had a keg of Samuel Adams.  I say high rollers because we weren't splurging for anything more than Milwaukee's Best when we would throw keg parties.  So I proceeded to drink said Samuel Adams keg beer.  And I had many of them.  More than I should have.  And in the morning I barfed up said Samuel Adams keg beer, over and over again.

But then I got that hangover hunger.  I had been puking all morning but I felt that I was ready for my day to begin.  I was going to get out of bed and get myself some food.  And we had a head shop on the main strip (called Coolridge Company) and they had just decided to put in a little deli/restaurant area.  So always wanting to try new things, I made my way to Coolridge and sat at the counter and ordered myself a portobello sandwich.

Now this was a first for me on two levels.  1.  I had never eaten a portobello mushroom before this instance, but had heard how much they tasted like steak.  And 2. I had never in my life chose a vegetarian sandwich over a meat sandwich in my whole life.  So I was feeling all big girl.  I had beaten my hangover.  I had ordered something totally unlike me off the menu.  I was trying new things.  I was stoked.  And then I took a bite of my sandwich.  And the portobello was slimy as hell.  The bread was DRIPPING with mushroom soaked juice and all of a sudden, it tasted like Samuel Adams himself had just wrung out his sweaty, old, beer drenched vest all over my big girl, vegetarian sandwich.  And all I could do at that moment was hope and pray that there was a bathroom nearby. Luckily there was, and luckily I made it.  Because I made that bathroom my bitch that day.  My DNA is still in that bathroom today.  All over it.

But I finally got up the nerve to eat a portobello again.  And I started to like them again.  And here's a recipe for you to try if you like them, if you don't like them, or if you've never had one.  It's good.

Here's What You Do:
Preheat oven to 400. Take a portobello cap, wipe it off with a damp paper towel to remove any poop, I mean dirt, and place it on a cookie sheet, gills side up.  Drizzle a good bit of soy sauce over the mushroom and bake for 20 minutes.  Add a good hunk of blue cheese to the mushroom after the 15 minutes is up.  Stick it back in the oven.  Let melt about 5 more minutes.  And Eat.

It DOES taste like steak.  Not Sam Adams.  I got over my portobello mushroom hatred.  But I will never, EVER drink Sam Adams beer again.  EVER.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Filling the Italian Beef void

Have you ever eaten at Al's Italian Beef in Chicago?  No?  Oh my goodness.  It's quite possibly the best sandwich in the world.  Granted, I've never had one sober, but a million food shows on television making this same claim can't be wrong right?  Every time I've eaten an Al's Beef, I'm coming straight from a concert.  One too many beers in and hungry to soak up the excess alcohol, I excitedly stumble or take a cab (whichever one gets me an Italian Beef sandwich in my belly the fastest) to Al's.  The last time I ate one was after a Prince concert, September 25, 2012.  That was a long time ago.  So long ago, that I decided to make my own.  Now, mind will NEVER, I mean NEVER, EVER make an Italian Beef as good as Al's.  So don't get your panties in a wad if it doesn't taste exactly the same, because I promise it won't.  But it will fill the void until you get your ass back to Chicago...when in the hell will I be in Chicago again...  

Here's What You Do:
Break out your crock pot.  Unless you have a deli meat slicer, which I do not, you'll never be able to slice your beef as thin as Al's.  So the closest thing to do is make fall apart beef.  Get a good ol' piece of chuck roast.  Season it GENEROUSLY (now is not the time to worry about your salt intake) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and crushed red pepper.  Place your beef in your crock pot and add in about 4 cups of beef broth.  And THEN throw in a few beef bouillon cubes.  If you have them on hand, add in some celery stalks, onions and carrots.  The more flavor, the better.  Cook your beef on low or high (your choice...I did high.  The faster I was eating, the better) until it is fall apart tender.  I believe mine took about 4 hours.  Once your beef is ready, get a hoagie ready to fill with the meat (unfortunately, Memphis doesn't have a good bakery anywhere that I know of, so I had to go with Italian bread...hint, hint....if you're a baker, move to Memphis.  You'll make a killin').  Top your bread with beef and hot giardiniera (you can find this in your grocery store next to the olives).  Then dip the entire sandwich in the beef broth and try to eat it without it dripping down your arms.  Oh wait, that's never going to happen.  So just enjoy, then take a shower!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Soakin' Up Some Salmon

It's hard to live in Memphis in the summertime without a pool.  We joke every Summer that we need to make friends with people with a pool, or with pool access.  We have broken into (and been thrown out of) pretty much every pool this city has to offer.  So it was quite easy to talk one of my dearest friends into purchasing a 11X30 pool via text message last week.  It went something like this:

Ashley: I love Big Lots.
Me: Do they have any swimming pools?
Ashley: Haven't seen any yet, but they have patio furniture.
Me: You should get a pool.
Ashley: I keep finding bigger and bigger pools now.  Not sure what one will fit in my yard.
Me: I think I'd go with the 11X30 (knowing damn well that it would fit us and 2 rafts perfectly!)
Ashley: We got the pool

So we proceeded to make plans on our next day off, Father's Day Sunday.  My job?  Bring a honkin' piece of salmon over for us to smoke on their Big Green Egg.  Now, if you've never heard of a Big Green Egg, it's basically a big, egg-shaped, ceramic, charcoal grill, that you can also smoke food on and even bake bread on.  It's designed to allow the heat to get up to 1200 degrees.  And they ain't cheap.  And I secretly kicked and screamed, crying that John, Ashley's boyfriend, got a Big Green Egg for his birthday from his parents for FREE.

So the plans were set.  We were to wake up at 10 am, go to Costco and buy salmon and cure it for 3 hours, while Ashley and John put up and filled up the pool.  Sounds easy enough right?  Unless you work in the music business and you're Ashley and you set your alarm for 10pm.  So it's not until about 1 o'clock that I make it to Ashley's.  And it's not until about 4 o'clock that we make it into the pool.  And once we get into the pool, we realize it's freezing.  And if there were just a FEW branches trimmed off of the tree in the yard, the sun would shine it's perty face onto the pool and we'd be set.  But there's no ladder tall enough for John to get on the roof.  So we sit in the pool for about 10 minutes (after filling it for 3 hours), fighting to be the one who is standing in the "sunny" spot.  But then the cured salmon arrives.  So we start working on firing up the grill.  Still on the eating schedule we originally planned.  Eating by 6:30.  We start the grill, and let the salmon sit out to form a pellicle (some fancy term for fish to form a shiny skin so the smoke is absorbed better...I read a whole lot about smoking fish before our get together, so I gathered that this was an important part).

 Our pretty little cured sockeye salmon, waiting for its pellicle

Turns out the Big Green Egg takes a lot of Big Ol' Trial and Error.  And since none of us are exactly smoking experts, we had to do many things to a.) make sure we weren't just grilling the salmon, we wanted to smoke that bad boy and b.) to get the right temperature we were shooting for, which was 180 degrees.  So it's now 9 o'clock.  And the salmon has JUST gone into the Big Green Asshole.  And we're all starting to get a little hangry (hungry and angry mixed into one).  And we still have 45 minutes to smoke it, and it's at 200 degrees but we don't fucking care anymore, we just want to eat.  And we're considering just ordering some smoked salmon from the store and calling it a night.  But after about 40 minutes we look into the Big Green Egg-straordinary Failure, and it has produced for us a stunning piece of smoked salmon like you'd buy from the great state of Alaska.

So we bring it in, and like 4 cavemen yielding clubs (except they were forks) we hacked into it.  And it was actually pretty damn good.  The only bad thing about it, was that it was a BIT salty.  But we fixed that by smearing a piece of toast with an aoili I made with chives, tarragon, parsley, mayo, garlic, cayenne and lemon and topping that with the salmon.  Well, that, and we were so ravenous at this point, the salmon could have been jerky and we all would have loved it. 

So our idea was somewhat of a success.  We learned a lot.  We know what changes have to be made to produce the PERFECT smoked salmon.  We're no longer mad at the Big Green Egg.  We can't wait to do pizza on it next.  We're super excited to have a pool to soak in during the next few months where wind becomes extinct.  We now know that Captain Morgan is a downer bastard.  We know that we have to get John a ladder to cut down some branches.  We also learned that broccoli is delicious smoked.  And finally, we learned that true relationships can withstand an, "If you open the fucking green egg again you will die!!" comment every now and then.    

Monday, June 17, 2013

This next one, is the first meal, in my neeeew kitchen

Que the Beastie Boys!  And if you still don’t get the reference, well then, I just have no idea what to say.  Actually, I do, go listen to the Beastie Boys.  Now.

You might think cooking is like riding a bike.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not.  You have to continuously cook and experiment with cooking to be good at it.  When I was in my old house, I stopped cooking so much because it was just frustrating.  And when I would decide to cook, because I need to cook for my soul, it was even more frustrating, because I lost my groove.  Cooking, and when I say cooking, I mean real cooking, not open-up-some-cans cooking, requires research, planning, preparation and skill to be able to execute a delicious meal.  It takes practice, patience (which I have actually gained more of BY cooking), and trial and error.  You will spend a ton of money trying to make an excellent meal and it will taste bad.  It’s gonna happen.  And you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to be a better cook.  Because the only way to be a good cook is to mess up some $30 scallops.  You will quickly figure out that that $40 worth of sea bass needed a hot pan before you so impatiently threw it in the skillet.  You will have to read books, search recipes, ask old people!  And no…I’m not an expert.  I mess up all the time in the kitchen.  But I have become so much of a better cook, and I’ve said this before, that going out to eat seems silly.  Most times I’m disappointed with what I overpaid for.
And I tell you all of this because I finally have a GOOD kitchen again.  I take that back.  I have a BITCHIN kitchen.  And I intend to find my groove again.  And I am going to experiment like crazy.  And I’m going to harass the hell out of my professional photographer sister to teach me how to take excellent photos long distance over a telephone!  And I’m going to get better at both things, and in turn you will have delicious foods to try.  So it’s a win win for all of us.  Well, except maybe my sister! 

Ok, so maybe I went a little overboard with my chant of kitchen domination.  But I’m sooooo excited to have a kitchen now!  Can you tell??  I have a big ol’ kitchen, with more drawers than I can fill, enough cabinets for all my kitchen accessories, and a pantry for all my food. Stay tuned!!

RECIPE HERE (Yes, I ripped it off. I said I lost my groove!  It will be back.  Did you not hear anything I said??)