Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Best BBQ of Knoxville

Many regions of the country think they have the best barbecue ever made. National festivals in several states have people come from all over to battle it out with chicken, pulled pork, ribs, dry rubbed and sauces to make your mouth water. 

When "barbecue" and "Tennessee" are ever in the same sentence, most people think of Memphis's Rendezvous, which has received much national attention over the years. Charlie Vergos and his charcoal ribs are legendary, but not everyone prefers dry rubbed barbecue. 

So what's a person to do if they want some melt in your mouth barbecue, complete with sauce?! Well, if you are traveling through Knoxville, Tenn. any time soon, I suggest a pit stop at Dead End BBQ. I had the wonderful pleasure to eat my first meal at Dead End last week, and being a bit of a barbecue girl, I was critical. But I fell in love. So I ventured back, but this time I brought my family with me because they hadn't been yet. 

I ordered the same exact thing I ordered the first time I went. Absolutely had to have a round two of that mess. Delish. The pulled pork dinner with macaroni and pimento cheese, potato salad and of course, a jalapeno cornbread muffin. Fantastic. A revelation. Tho the menu is oh, so tempting. Next time, and there will be another next time, I must try the chicken. 

The atmosphere of the restaurant is not your hillbilly, Tennessee barbecue joint that is all mixed matched and smelly. This place is sleek and uptown. Trendy from the decor, bar area to the menu design. And oh, how I am a fan of bold colored walls. Located on Sutherland Ave. in the Bearden area, it is accessible to many people. If you come during lunch time during the week, you may even have to meander around the parking lot a few rounds to score a parking spot. The secret is out in Knoxville. Dead End BBQ is making waves in the barbecue world. And Knoxvillians should be proud. 

How do you like your eggs?

If you go to any restaurant that has breakfast items with an ambiguous side of "egg", you will be asked this question. For such a common question, there are so many different possibilities for an answer. Some simple, while others are complex and take a little time.

What do I mean? Aren't your choices just fried (over easy or medium) or scrambled (maybe with cheese if they're nice)? At restaurants, maybe. But in your kitchen, absolutely not.  

Something I liked to cook for breakfast (or sometimes dinner) a lot while I was in college are egg scrambles--and they're not just scrambled eggs. It's very versatile--if red peppers aren't on sale, get green; if you're not a mushroom type of person, add another meat like hamburger or sausage; if you don't like spicy food, add mild salsa; and the list could go on and on. Here's a staple recipe I developed (shown for 4 people): 

8 eggs
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 C of sliced mushrooms
1 C of sharp cheddar cheese
1 pack of Italian sausage
1 C of salsa (your choice of spiciness) 
Salt and pepper 

Crack and beat the eggs as you normally would when making scrambled eggs. Put them in a greased pan on low to medium-low eat. With eggs, you don't want them to cook fast. Salt and pepper now. Meanwhile, take your sausage and roll into small balls, the size of a half dollar coin. Place in a fry pan and cook. As your eggs begin to cook, don't smash up into teeny-tiny pieces. When your eggs are no longer runny, but not completely done either, add your veggies and salsa and cooked Italian sausage. Stir together until cooked. As your eggs are done and you take them off the burner, add in your cheese and stir. Measurements of salsa and cheese can be altered to your liking.

If you don't typically like your eggs scrambled, you may be a fried eggs kind of person. For some people, frying an egg can be quite a frustrating task. My dad has a method that seems to be successful. He gets the oil in the pan pipping hot before he cracks the egg into the pan. As it is frying, he tilts the pan up and uses his spatula to spread oil over the top of the egg. Why does he do this? So a small layer cooks on the top, so when it comes time for the flip, the yolk doesn't and spill in the oil. If that happens, the result is (oily) scrambled eggs and many curse words filling the kitchen--in most cases. If you don't want to deal with the flipping of the eggs, you can always cheat. Yeulp, no one is keeping tabs with the methods in which you cook in your own kitchen. They make these handy little egg fryer pans to make breakfast stress free: Joie de Vivre 50162 Mini Fry Egg Pan with Nonstick Surface.

If you enjoy a challenge, and a velvety version of the edible egg, poached eggs are you for. Chef Julia Child once said, "Poached eggs…are to my mind the purest and loveliest of ways to cook eggs." A popular and elegant way to enjoy a poached egg is in Eggs Benedict. However, today, I enjoyed only a (not so) perfectly poached egg with some wheat toast. My adventure? Yes, I documented it. It was only appropriate that I had Julia & Julia playing on my laptop as I slaved in the kitchen this morning. Of course the poached egg scene always make me giggle, but after today, I sympathize with Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams). So here is how my breakfast went down...

I, of course, followed Julia Child's recipe she published in her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. If you don't have this cookbook, you should get it. I refer to it often, and it really should be a staple to anyone's cookbook collection. Here's Julia's recipe and commentary of what happened when I followed it:  
Pour 2 inches of water into the pan or skillet (8 to 10 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep) and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water. Bring to the simmer. 
Break one of the 4 very fresh eggs, and, holding it as closely over the water as possible, let it fall in. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 seconds. This is the most crucial step in the process. My first egg was not so successful:
 My second and third eggs were, thank goodness. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.
After 4 minutes, remove the first egg with the skimmer and test with your finger. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. 
Place the egg in the cold water; this washes off the vinegar and stops the cooking. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done, and poach the others in the same water if you are doing more. (***The eggs may remain for several hours in cold water, or may be drained and refrigerated***)
To reheat the eggs, trim off any trailing bits of white with a knife. (And man, do they look a lot more appetizing after you do this.) Place them in hot salted water for about half a minute to heat them through. Remove one at a time with a slotted spoon. Holding a folded towel under the spoon, roll the egg back and forth for a second to drain it, and it is ready to serve.

This is the type of egg that is most difficult to master. I think many share my opinion, which is why many kitchen products are available to make poaching eggs easier. For example, my mom has this awesome (and ancient) model of a 4-piece egg poacher set that you use on the oven top. The model looks similar to this: Fagor 4-Piece Egg Poacher Set. This method of poaching an egg is most simplest, you just add hot water into the pan and crack the eggs directly into the inserts. However, if you have several pans and want an option that doesn't clutter up your cabinets, you may consider a more inventive option, poach pods: Fusionbrands Poach Pods, Set of 2, Green These may look odd, but also do the trick. They float, so any pot will work well with these little wonders. Best thing about these? They're super affordable! If you want a super, super easy and fast way to poach an egg, you can microwave it. What?! Yes. Progressive International Microwavable Four Egg Poacher. I don't really suggest this method, because when you cook eggs fast they don't taste nearly as good. Burned eggs are never as satisfying as the cooked low and slow eggs. 

If you are on a diet, maybe you don't want the fats a yolk offers. So what recipes are good for just egg whites? Well, a classic that I really enjoy is the Egg White Omelet. Similar to the egg scrambles, you can mix and match ingredients to make the omelet to fit your mood or to the ingredients currently in season. However, with an omelet, it is important to let the eggs cook a bit in the skillet before making the flip. Quick and simple.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Revamped shopping list

Everyone has to go to the doctor at least once a year, for either a check-up, annual appointment of some kind or an unfortunate sickness. You fill out the paper work, answer the same questions and your doctor is concerned with the same things--"how many hours of sleep do you get," "what is your diet like," "how much exercise do you get," and other such questions you sometimes embarrassingly try to stretch your answers to make yourself sound more healthy than you know you are. 

Bad habits that manifest themselves into any kind of routine in our lives can get out of control. I just graduated college and my brother is currently in college, so my parents aren't exactly spring chickens anymore. They get good news and not so good news at the doctors office, like we all do. As a result, our entire family has completely changed the items we eat in an attempt to become more healthy. Disease prevention is smart--no matter your age. 

We are also trying to up the consistency we go for bike rides, hiking and running to get more exercise. (PS I'm trying to get my dad to start a blog about hiking. He hasn't been too accepting to the idea as of yet.) My family is a crazy bunch, so all of this is more fun when we do it together. Mom hasn't been on a hiking adventure recently, she's trying avoid the snow. Smart woman.

So what does this mean for my blog? I will be writing about the healthier sides of cooking, for the most part. Every once in a while I may have a post about some delectable souffle or a chocolaty temptation, but even those can be altered to be more healthy. If you're a regular reader, you realize this isn't really that big of a change to my normal recipe/food posts. But giving some support to eat healthy never hurts! So take the junk food off your list. If you don't buy it, you won't sit and veg out on it on your couch.

If you need some more inspiration, I found this little chef in Hobby Lobby yesterday as I was making my way to the canvases. I thought he would be nice to have around in the kitchen as a little decoration. And how adorable is he? There are of several--check them out. (And no, I could not resist myself to just one. But I didn't take one of each home! Success.)

If you want some more options for chef themed kitchen decorations, check out these:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Food Network Star Among Knoxville...

So you may be dying to know which one of my idols in the foodie world I met today...well good news. This post will soon reveal that tid-bit of information. I will not bore you with every detail of the day, but if I don't go into great explanation of something, feel free to ask any questions! 

The 16th annual Women Today expo, held this weekend and sponsored by the News Sentinel and Food City, enabled me to go to two cooking school demonstrations today. Many clamored to eat free food from Food City and get coupons, but I was just interested in watching some chefs show me their tips. 

The first demonstration was by Bruce Bogartz,owner and chef at RouXbarb, who gave an enthralling speech about his new restaurant: RouXbarbeque

Chef Bogartz announced that the anticipated opening of his new restaurant will be in 5 weeks. Here is the test plate of what RouXbarbeque will offer (some of these sides are currently served on the menu at RouXbarb but have had a high success rate): 

Starting from the top and working clockwise, we have a sweet potato delight flavored with lemon juice. In all my times of baking sweet potatoes, lemons were not a main ingredient, but after tasting this I will reconsider. 
Next, a country small-town favorite, cabbage. Chef Bogartz says many people ask how he makes it so heavenly, but his secret is simply butter. The real stuff. And lots of it. See, what many people don't realize is that cooking with salt and butter (even if you're baking with chocolate, salt is a must) brings out the pungent natural flavors to really make a dish shine how it should. 
Bogartz presented the next dish as a bit of a puzzle. I'll let you guys have some fun guessing too. Okay--they look and taste like grandma's baked apples, but they're not. And they're red. Yeulp...let the guessing begin.
Finally, we have possibly my favorite of the test plate. I have been known to be a cheese fiend in my family, so they will not be surprised to hear it was my favorite when I say there are 7 different cheeses in this pasta. 7 delectable cheeses. Yes. Also, Benton's bacon is another all-star of this pasta. If you go to ANY restaurant in America with any class at all, they will have Allan Benton's ham products. And many publications support my claim, as Esquire Magazine named Benton's bacon the best in the country in a story they did on breakfast joints. So on a side note, while I'm on this soapbox, support Allan Benton. Especially if you are a local reader, because his farm is located in Madisonville, Tenn. 

So I went to the Women Today weekend with curiosities of which regional stores Scripps would bring in for the Women Today weekend and intentions on networking with media company gurus. However, the next cooking school demonstration ALONE ended up being the highlight for me of the whole affair. 
The season five winner of The Next Food Network Star, Melissa d'Arabian, prepared 6 recipes for the weekend. First, I must say that I came equipped with the April issue of the Food Network Magazine in hopes of getting Melissa to sign it since she is a featured chef on the cover this issue. And I was quite determined to make this happen. (I kind of have a knack for meeting and getting my picture taken with people, etc.) 
Yes, that's me on the stage with Melissa and two other lucky souls. I should have bought a lottery ticket today...But I'm not greedy. To have Melissa interact with me and cook for me was pretty neat. Everyone that came to the demonstration received a paper with the recipes Melissa was going to do. Mine had a silver star on the top. I didn't really know what it meant at the time I received it, but hoped it was distinctive in some way? And it was! Before they announced her to the stage, they asked for us to look to see if we had a star or smiley face. The smiley face girl got a $25 gift card to Food City. Personally, I think the silver star people won out :)

The first recipe is very versatile. Herbed Pecans provide a recipe that you can interchange an herb and a spice to make a completely different tasting snack. Melissa's recipe she shared today was our appetizer, and the full recipe is as follows:

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 5 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup raw pecan halves
2 teaspoons dried herbes de provence 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Dash cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small saute pan over medium heat, add the butter and sugar and stir until the butter is melted. Add the pecans and toss until the pecans begin to brown. Sir in the herbs, cayenne, and cinnamon, and stir just a few seconds to release the aroma. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve the pecans as an appetizer with drinks, or as a salty accompaniment to dessert. 

One woman on stage with me couldn't handle them--I guess the cayenne pepper? But I found them to be delicious. Other herb-spice options that Melissa mentioned were cilantro and coriander, rosemary and cumin or even nutmeg and cinnamon. Personally, if you do the nutmeg and cinnamon, a dash of clove would be an interesting flair to have. 
The next recipe Melissa shared with us was Sausage and Roasted Vegetable Penne. I ate EVERY bit of this super fast. This is a really flavorful pasta, and if you use whole-grain penne, you get so much protein and omega 3s, you don't have to add the sausage as a protein component. Melissa mentioned that the sausage was specifically a flavor component, that can also be interchanged with spicy Italian sausage if you'd like. The recipe is as follows:

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 35 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4
1 sweet onion, cut into wedges
1 medium zucchini, slived in 1/2 lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, cheeks removed
1/2 pound button mushrooms, stemmed
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, washed and dried
2 sweet or hot Italian sausages, thinly sliced or casings removed 
1/4 cup white wine
12 ounces whole-grain penne, cooked according to package instructions, 1/2 cup pasta water reserved 
Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
In a bowl, toss all the vegetables, except the tomatoes, with a 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast, until caramelized (about 30 minutes), turning vegetables halfway through the cooking time. In a small bowl, add the tomatoes and the remaining olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add to the baking sheet, at the halfway point of cooking, to caramelize. 
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the sausage and saute until cooked through. Turn up the heat and deglaze with the white wine. Once the vegetables are cooked, cool slightly, then coarsely shop. Add the vegetables and any pan juices to the sausage in the skillet. Toss in the cooked penne, adding reserved pasta water, if needed, to moisten. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve in bowls topped with Parmesan. 

Something about this recipe demonstration that Melissa did I noted: she reserved water from the pot she cooked the pasta. I have never done that, and added it to my final dish. But it makes sense. With this pasta dish, where there is no marinara or such sauce, a tee-niny bit of water is a nice way to make the vegetables and pasta cohesive. Some tips Melissa shared: when slicing an onion, put the root side of the onion in your palm to cut off the top. "Hair in your hand," was the catch-phrase she used. (Melissa has TONS of catch-phrases to simplify cooking methods. I'll share some more in other posts I have picked up from her challenges on NFNS and on her current show.) 

And for dessert--Chocolate Pain Perdu (French Toast). If you don't know much about Melissa, she spent several years in France, so many of her recipes are French influenced. Fun fact: she met her husband and was married in France. And at the demonstration, she told us a story of how she was hushed at her own wedding. Funny, long story. (She is a TALKER and a half.) But the Chocolate Pain Perdu was so velvety--and *spoiler alert* I liked it so much, I am cooking it this week. The recipe is as follows:

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hr 30 min (or overnight)
Cook Time: 30 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate 
2 eggs
6 slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into triangles
Special equipment: 9 by 5-inch baking dish
In a small pot over low heat, add 1/4 cup cream, milk, sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, vanilla, and salt and bring to a simmer. (BUT: add vanilla very, very last--after it's to a simmer.) Put the chocolate into a medium bowl and pour the in the cream mixture. Let sit until the chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and mix until well combined. Grease the baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of butter, and line it with the bread slices, overlapping slightly. Pour the chocolate mixture over the bread, making sure to cover the tips. Push the bread down with your fingers to coat the bread completely. refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake until the custard sets and the bread turns golden at teh edges, about 30 minutes. Add the remaining cream to a chilled bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Serve the French toast on individual plates with a dollop of cream. 

Sounds absolutely delish, right? It was. Melissa said that you can adjust the cream to milk ratio in an attempt to cut down on fat content. The recipe she actually demonstrated today was 3/4 milk and 1/4 heavy cream. 

Like all recipes, ingredients are "optional" and no one is checking up on you in your kitchen to make sure you follow them true. ;)
Overall, you can say that I had fun today. An absolute blast. Talking with Melissa after the show was so surreal. Not in a star-stuck, omg I can't talk sort of way. I was relieved that I kept my composure and didn't make a fool of myself. I had an intelligent and informed conversation about what's she's been through in an attempt to help my current situation. 
I idolize her because a year ago, she was a stay-at-home mother of 4 children and a wife of a husband in Texas. She risked proximity and convenience to her life to follow a dream and passion. Within a month of commuting from Texas to New York City to film her show, 10 Dollar Dinners, her husband got a job in Seattle and she had to put her house on the market and move. Today, she said she loves the Washington lifestyle, but it was a change. She gave me some encouraging words and strategy as far as breaking into food writing too, which was unnecessarily nice. This cover is going in a frame, allong with a picture of us, to serve as a reminder for myself to stop at nothing in holding onto my passions and achieving my dreams.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Famous Recipes of Interest

I am sure many of you have heard of the book, Insider Recipes Master Edition; however, did you know how awesome the recipes are? Most importantly, all the recipes are supposedly exactly what you order in the restaurants. The cynic in me has found it fun to make these myself and see if it's better coming from my own kitchen.   :)

I was very happy when my mother emailed me a PDF document of the full text. Go out and get the book. It's really fun to browse. Here are a few that caught my eye--one recipe for each letter of the alphabet. Bon Appetit!

Applebee's Baby Back Ribs
3 racks (about 1 lb. each) pork baby back ribs, each cut in half
Barbecue sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Put ribs in a large pot with enough water to cover them. Bring water to a
boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour or until ribs are fork tender.
2. Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium sauce pan and bring to a
boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for 30 minutes or
until slightly thickened.
3.Heat broiler. Line broiler with foil for easy cleanup. Place ribs, meat
side down, on broiler pan, brush with 1/2 the sauce and broil 4−5 inches
from heat source for 6 to 7 minutes. turn ribs over, brush with remaining
sauce and broil 6 to 7 minutes longer or until edges are slightly charred.

Blueberry Lemonade
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 pint fresh blueberries
1−1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about
10 big lemons, including pulp but not seeds)
First make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup sugar and water in a saucepan
over medium heat, stirring until the mixture boils. Lower the heat and allow
the syrup to simmer for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool. In a
blender or food processor, puree the blueberries with 2 tablespoons of
sugar. In a pitcher, combine the cooled syrup, lemon juice and blueberry
puree. To serve, pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of base into a glass and fill with
water. Makes base for 12 servings.

California Pizza Kitchen Chicken Tequila Fettuccine
1 pound dry spinach fettuccine
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons minced jalapeño pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons gold tequila
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 pounds chicken breast, diced 3/4 inch
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Prepare rapidly boiling, salted water to cook pasta; cook until
al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with a little oil and set aside.
Cook 1/3 cup cilantro, garlic and jalapeño in 2 tablespoons
butter over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add stock, tequila,
and lime juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until
reduced to a paste like consistency; set aside.
Pour soy sauce over diced chicken; set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile cook onion and peppers,stirring occasionally, with
remaining butter over medium heat for 3−4 minutes. Add chicken
and soy sauce; toss and add reserved tequila/lime paste and cream.
Bring the sauce to a boil; boil gently until chicken is cooked through
and sauce is thick (about 3 minutes). When sauce is done,
toss with well−drained spinach fettuccine and remaining cilantro.

Duck Sauce
1 Pound Plums halved and pitted
1 Pound Apricots halved and pitted
1 1/4 Cups Cider vinegar
3/4 Cup Water
1 Cup Cider vinegar
1 Cup Firmly packed brown sugar
1 Cup White sugar
1/2 cup Lemon juice
The Rest:
1/4 cup Chopped ginger
1 small Onion sliced
1 (or more) serrano −− seeded & chopped
2 small Garlic cloves sliced
4 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Mustard seed (toasted)
1 Cinnamon stick
Combine first set of ingredients and cook over moderate heat
for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Combine second set of ingredients and boil for 10 minutes.
Combine the above three sets of ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove cinnamon. Puree in food processor. Return to kettle and
simmer until thick. Transfer to sterilized mason jar, cap loosely
and let cool. Tighten caps and let stand in dark at least 2 weeks.
Makes 2 pints.

Energy Bars
1 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Chop raisins (using a food processor if possible). Cream butter,
sugar, molasses and egg.
Combine flour, dry milk, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda,
salt and ginger. Blend into creamed mixture with skim milk. Stir in
oats, raisins, and half the almonds (if desired).
Pour into greased 13x9x2 inch pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle
with remaining almonds (if desired).
Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 30 minutes. Cool in pan and cut
into 1x4 inch bars.

Four Seasons Crab Cakes
2 pounds jumbo lump crabmeat
1/2 pound fresh codfish fillet
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons basil, julienned
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil for sauteing
Pick through crabmeat, removing all shells but being careful not to
break up the large lumps too much. In a food processor, grind codfish
until pureed. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and puree until incorporated.
Then add more cream if needed. The mixture should be smooth and
shiny, yet firm enough to hold its shape.
Place this mousse in a metal bowl and add the other ingredients, except
for the olive oil. Take a small portion of the crab−cake mixture and saute
in hot olive oil until golden brown. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Form the rest of the crab cakes and saute in hot olive oil until golden
on both sides. Finish by baking in a 450−degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes.
Serves six to eight.

Girl Scout Samoa Cookies
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 of 14−oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups toasted coconut
1 cup semi−sweet or milk chocolate chips
In 2−quart saucepan over medium−low heat, combine butter,
sugar and corn syrup. Heat to a full boil, stirring constantly
with a wooden spoon. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Slowly pour in sweetened condensed milk, stirring constantly.
Continue cooking over low heat until candy thermometer reaches
220−228 degrees. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Beat until
creamy. Immediately stir in toasted coconut and mix well.
Spoon mixture by teaspoonfuls into circular mounds onto
buttered waxed paper. Flatten slightly and with the end of a
wooden spoon poke a small round hole into the center of each
cookie. Cool completely.
Melt chocolate chips and drizzle thinly in stripes over
cookies and let chocolate harden at room temperature. Store
in airtight container.

Houston's Tortilla Soup
1 − 2 1/2−3lb. chicken, cut−up and skin removed
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
1 med. onion, quartered
1 large carrot, quartered
2 sprigs parsley
2 tbls. chicken soup base
1 teas. lemon−pepper seasoniong
1 large clove garlic or granulated garlic to taste
Combine all the above in a large stockpot and cover with
water by about 2 inches. Bring to a rapid boil; lower heat to a
simmer and cook for about 1 hour until chicken is tender and falling
off the bone. Strain and reserve the broth. Tear pieces of chicken
into small pieces. Set aside.
In 4 cups of the reserved chicken broth, boil about 1 1/2 lbs
peeled potatoes until tender. Remove from heat. Do not remove the
broth....mash up the potatoes and add the following:
1 large can of creamed corn
1 10oz. can of Rotel tomatoes, crushed
1 1/2 cups half & half cream
2−4 tablespoons minced cilantro
Add enough of the reserved chicken broth to thin out the soup to
the desired thickness. Simmer on low for about 15−20 minutes.
Taste and correct seasoning. Be careful of adding too much salt.
Moments before serving, stir in:
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
reserved cut−up chicken
4−6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4" julienne strips
Continue to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is heated
To Serve:
Ladle soup into deep bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, chunks of avocado dipped in lemon juice, slices of black olives and
a small handful of thin corn tortilla strips that have been deep fried.

Italian Sausage
6 pounds meat (5 pork, 1 beef)
4 teaspoons of salt
1/2 oz fennel seed (or to taste)
1/2 oz crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1/2 cup water
Remove the pork from the bone and cut into 1 inch cubes.
Cut beef into cubes. Toss meat with seasonings and 1/2 cup
water. Store in refrigerator over night and grind the next day.
Grind the meat twice with a course blade and make it into large
patties (1/2 cup measure of sausage), freeze them between
double layer sheets of wax paper on a cookie sheet and then
put them in plastic bags.
Make hot sausage sandwiches with fried onions and green
peppers on a hoagie bun. Grill sausage either in a frying pan,
or barbecue.

Jack Daniel's Marinade
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Dijon−style mustard
1/4 cup minced green onion and tops
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teas. salt
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
pepper to taste
Combine all ingreds. Blend well. Use to marinate shrimp or scallops for one
hour−−or beef, chicken or pork in the refrig. overnight. Use to baste the
shellfish or meat as it is grilled or broiled.

KFC Original Fried Chicken
2−3 pounds cut−up chicken pieces
1 Quart Water
3 tablespoons Salt (for soaking)
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon Accent (MSG)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Soybean Oil (no substitutions) for frying
Allow chicken to soak in salted water for a half hour.
Mix egg and milk in a bowl. Mix flour, Accent, salt, and pepper
in another bowl. Preheat deep fryer to 350F, or place 3/4 inch
oil in a skillet set on medium.
Dry chicken with paper towels. Dredge in flour mixture, place in
milk/eggs, and then back to flour mixture. Do this one piece at
a time making sure that there is total coverage over entire
surface of chicken in each step.
KFC uses pressure cookers to fry chicken, which is risky to do
at home. If you are using a deep fryer, fry a few pieces at a
time for about 20 minutes, covered, turning occasionally.
Likewise, if pan frying, cook, covered, turning occasionally
for about 30 minutes. As always with chicken, check the middle
of a large piece to check if it is done.
Allow to drain on paper towels when cooking is completed.

Long John Silver's Battered Fish
3 Cups Soybean oil
2 Pounds Fresh cod fillets
1 Cup Self−rising flour
1/3 Cup Dry Mustard
1 Cup Water
1 Egg
2 Teaspoons Granulated sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
Sift together mustard and flour.
Heat oil to 400. Cut the fish into approximately 7x2" wedges.
With a mixer blend the flour mixture, water, egg, sugar, and salt.
Dip each fillet into the batter coating generously and quickly drop
in the oil. Fry each fillet until dark golden brown about 5 minutes.
Remove and drain.

Macaroni Grill Penne Rustica
Gratinata Sauce:
2 Teaspoon Butter
2 Teaspoon chopped garlic
1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 cup marsala wine
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 cups heavy cream
Saute butter, garlic , and rosemary until garlic begins to brown.
Add marsala wine and reduce by one−third. Add remaining ingredients
and reduce by half of original volume. Set aside:
Penne Rustica:
1 Ounce pancetta or bacon
18 each shrimp peeled and devained
12 Ounce grilled chicken breast, sliced
4.5 cups of granita sauce
48 Ounce Penne Pasta, precooked
3 Teaspoon pimentos
6 Ounce butter
1 Teaspoon chopped shallots
1 pinch of salt and pepper
1 cups parmesan cheese
1/2 Teaspoon paprika
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Saute pancette until begins to brown. Add butter, shallots, and shrimp. Cook
until shrimp are evenly pick but still translucent. Add chicken, salt,
pepper, and mix thoroughly. Add granita sauce and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
and simmer until sauce thickens. In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken
mixture with precooked pasta. Place this mixture into single serving dishes
or one large casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and pimentos and
sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 475 for 10−15 minutes. Remove and garnish
with fresh rosemary sprig. Serves six.

Nutri−Grain Bars
1 pkg yellow cake mix
3/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cups quick oats
12 ounces preserves or jam
1 T water
Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter. Combine cake
mix and oats in a large bowl; stir in the melted
butter until the mixture is crumbly. Measure half
of this mixture (about 3 cups) into a greased
13x9x2−inch pan. Press firmly into pan to cover
the bottom.
Combine preserves and water; spoon over crumb
mixture in pan, and spread evenly. Cover with
remaining crumb mixture. Pat firmly to make top
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes−−top should be very
light brown. Cool completely before cutting into

O'Charley's Baked Potato Soup
3 lbs. red potatoes
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
2 quarts half−and−half
1 pound block Velveeta cheese, melted
White pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 lb. bacon, fried crisply
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Dice unpeeled red potatoes into 1/2−inch cubes. Place in a large Dutch oven,
cover with water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 10 minutes or until
almost cooked. In a separate large Dutch oven, combine melted margarine and
flour, mixing until smooth. Place over low heat and gradually add
half−and−half, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until smooth and liquid
begins to thicken. Add melted Velveeta. Stir well. Drain potatoes and add to
cream mixture. Stir in pepper, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce. Cover and
cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place soup into
individual serving bowls and top with crumbled bacon, shredded cheese,
chives and parsley.

Pepperidge Farms Milano Cookies
1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all−purpose flour
1 Tbls. salted butter
1 cup semi−sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup butter and sugar
at medium speed. Then add vanilla and flour, blend thoroughly at low
speed. Shape a level tsp of dough into 1" balls, then roll to a log
shape, about 2" long. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, 2" apart.
Bake 17−19 min, or until cookies spead and turn a golden brown.
Cool on a flat surface.
Microwave or melt chocolate and 1 Tbls. butter in a double boiler.
(microwave on high, stir every 30 seconds just until melted)
Let cool slightly, and spread chocolate on one cookie and top
with another.

Red Lobster Cheese Biscuits
1 1/4 lbs. Bisquik
3 Oz. freshly shredded cheddar cheese
11 Oz. cold water
Garlic Spread:
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teas. garlic powder
1/4 teas. salt
1/8 teas. onion powder
1/8 teas. dried parsley
To cold water, add Bisquik and cheese, blending in a mixing bowl.
Mix until dough is firm.
Using a small scoop, place the dough on a baking pan lined with
baking paper. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until
golden brown. While biscuits bake, combine spread ingredients.
Brush baked biscuits with the garlic topping.

Starbuck's Frappuccino
1/2 cup fresh espresso
2 1/2 cups lowfat milk (2 percent)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dry pectin
Combine all ingredients in a covered container. Shake until
sugar and pectin are dissolved.

T.G.I. Friday's Sizzling Vegetable Fajitas
8 oz. chopped cilantro, for pesto
3 cloves garlic, for pesto
1/2 cup olive oil, for pesto
salt and pepper, to taste, for pesto
2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for pesto
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tbsp. margarine
carrots, zucchini and yellow summer squash, cut julienne−style
broccoli and cauliflower, cut into small florets
green pepper and mushrooms, thinly sliced
snow peas, whole
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 flour tortillas, warmed
lime wedge, for garnish
To make pesto, put cilantro and garlic in a food processor and
process until finely chopped. With machine on, gradually add olive oil.
Season and blend in cheese.
Slice enough onion to equal about 1/2 cup. Saute with margarine in a
small cast−iron skillet over medium−high heat. Cook past translucent
stage until browned, about six to eight minutes.
Prepare about 2 cups of vegetables −− the combination depends on
personal taste. Cook all vegetables except mushrooms in lemon juice
and 2 tablespoons of pesto over medium to medium−high heat. When
almost at al−dente stage, add sliced mushrooms. Continue cooking for
about one minute. (The remaining pesto can be refrigerated for future
Place vegetable mixture over sizzling onions, then spoon
vegetable−onion mixture into center of warmed tortillas. Top with
condiments (guacamole, sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, salsa)
to taste, then roll up tortillas.

Uncle Ben's Seasoned Long Grain & Wild Rice
1 Tablespoon Chicken bouillon powder
1 Teaspoon Dry chopped onion
1/2 Teaspoon Dry minced parsley
1/4 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 Teaspoon Onion powder
1 Teaspoon Ground turmeric
1/2 Teaspoon Ground cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Ground ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Black pepper
1−1/2 Teaspoon Seasoned salt
2 Cup Water
2 Tablespoon Butter or margarine
1 Cup Premium Minute Rice
1/3 Cup Dry wild rice
Combine all of the ingredients as listed in Dry Mix in medium saucepan. Add
to this water, butter, rice and dry wild rice. Bring to boil. Stir once or
twice just to combine. Cover pan with lid tightly. Simmer gently 8 to 10
minutes or until almost all liquid has been absorbed. Makes 3 cups cooked

V−8 Juice
8 carrots, cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, cut into chunks
6 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 bunch fresh spinach
handful of parsley
1/2 a white onion
1 fresh, raw beet, cut into chunks
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic
Run all ingredients through your juicer. Stir, chill, stir and serve.

Wendy's Frosty
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Nestle's Quik
3 cups Softened Vanilla ice cream
place in refrigerator for 1 hour
Blend Milk and Quik for 10 seconds on high speed.
"Pulse" in the ice cream until barely mixed.

York Peppermint Patties
1 (14−ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
green or red food coloring, optional
6 cups confectioners' sugar
Additional confectioners' sugar
1 − 16 oz. bag semi−sweet chocolate chips
In large mixer bowl, combine Eagle Brand, extract and food coloring if
desired. Add 6 cups sugar; beat on low speed until smooth and well blended.
Turn mixture onto surface sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Knead lightly
to form smooth ball. Shape into 1−inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on wax
paper−lined baking sheets. Flatten each ball into a 1 ½−inch patty. Let dry
1 hour or longer; turn over and let dry at least 1 hour.Melt the chocolate
chips in a microwave set on high for 2 minutes. Stir halfway through the
heating time. Melt thoroughly, but do not overheat. Melting the chocolate
chips can also be done using a double−boiler over low heat. With fork, dip
each patty into warm chocolate (draw fork lightly across rim of pan to
remove excess coating). Invert onto wax paper−lined baking sheets; let stand
until firm. Store covered at room temperature or in refrigerator.

1 Package (2−1/4 teaspoons) active Dry yeast
1/4 Cup Plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 Cup Warm water
1 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons milk
4 Tablespoon (1/2 stick) butter or Margarine
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/8 Teaspoon Ground mace
1/8 Teaspoon Ground cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Ground nutmeg
1 Egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4 Cup All−purpose flour
2 Tablespoon Butter, melted, for glazing
The method for making Zwieback is quite different from that for most other
crackers. "Zwieback" means "twice baked." First you bake a yeast bread,
aromatically flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and mace. Then you
slice it and slowly dry the slices in a slow oven. For convenience, make the
bread over a two−day period. Bake the bread the first day and dry it the
second. If stored in an airtight container, Zwieback will keep almost
indefinitely. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 1/2 teaspoon of the
sugar and the warm water. Set aside in a warm place until the mixture starts
to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, mix the milk and the
remaining 1/4 cup of the sugar. Add the 4 Tablespoons butter and heat until
the butter has completely melted. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow
to cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl or in the food processor, combine the
cooled milk mixture with the yeast mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Add the
mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well. Beat in the egg. Slowly add the
flour, adding just enough to make a smooth dough that is not sticky. If
mixing by hand, the dough will become too stiff to stir, and you should
knead in the last of the flour with your fingers. Then knead well for at
least 5 minutes, forming the dough into a ball. If using a food processor,
pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Place the dough in a large,
lightly oiled bowl and turn it over to coat all sides. Cover with a damp
towel and set the dough in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about
1−1/2 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and knead a few strokes. Cover and
allow the dough to double in size again, 30 to 45 minutes. Punch the dough
down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth. Knead
about 30 seconds to remove the air. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.
With your hands, roll each into a smooth cylinder or loaf about 2 inches
thick and 9 inches long. Place the loaves crosswise on a lightly greased or parchment−lined baking sheet, leaving at least 3 inches between the loaves.
Brush all exposed surfaces of each loaf with the melted butter. Set the
baking sheet in a warm place and let the loaves rise until doubled in bulk,
about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F. Bake the risen loaves for 25 to
30 minutes, or until the bottoms are reddish brown and make a hollow sound
when thumped. Allow the loaves to cool thoroughly on racks. Preheat the oven
to 200F. Cut the cooled loaves into 1/2−inch slices. Place the slices flat
on the baking sheet and allow them to dry out in the oven for 45 to 60
minutes, or until thoroughly dry. Check occasionally and turn the slices
over as they dry on one side. When dry, raise the oven temperature to 300F.
for 10 to 20 minutes to brown the Zwieback slightly. Cool on a rack. Yield:

Friday, March 19, 2010

For all fans of "The Office:" BIG TUNA salad

Tuna salad is a tasty sandwich that is easy to make--and a lot more flavorful than PB&J (though I know the inner-child in you craves them every so often). Keeping the preparation simple, but adding flavor. The recipe...

2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 potatoes, boiled and cubed (leave the skins. vitamins are good for you and adds texture)
1/3 C of olives, chopped
1/3 C of roasted red peppers, chopped
a good handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 ts. of dried oregano, smoked paprika, dried red chile, olive oil and lemon juice
Add lemon zest in addition, to taste. (But be careful to add a whole lemon--both juice and zest to not overpower the dish.) 
2 cans/packages of tuna (the water packed kind) 
Easy. Mix everything together. You can leave out the potatoes if you want--would be better for a dip with pita or crackers. But on a sandwich, small cubes of potato can be nice texture and added nutrients. 

Enjoy this easy to prepare, easy to eat at work (or in the car) lunch. A classic turned fantastic.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the prowl...and learning to be patient

Since I was laid off from my job just a mere three weeks ago, I have learned two things:

1. The importance of health insurance is so huge. I didn't have provided health insurance at my previous job, but not having an income makes these health insurance bills hurt more on the wallet. A job with health benefits would be fantastic.
2. Rather than waking up and searching/applying for jobs all day every day makes my head hurt, for several reasons, I need to do something else. Not only do I loath my mother's unnecessary help with searching for jobs, but I am getting discouraged with the waiting. I am not doing this anymore, all day at least. I am going to start doing things that I enjoy for an attempt to not go crazy. 

What does this mean? My absence on this blog will, again, cease. Writing things other than cover letters will be a nice change for my brain, for sure. However, I feel obligated to make the first few posts about easy lunch recipes as previously promised. So look out for them. They're coming. 

Side note: On Sunday, I will be in contact with someone I greatly admire in the foodie world. Hints? Hmmm...she has a cool name. Guess if you want. :)