Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Channeling her inner....Paula?

Say it ain't so! As I do every Sunday, I made a big brunch. It's become a much anticipated tradition, that it's seldom broken. There's a bevy of biscuits, eggs, bacon (or sausage), grits...etc. Everyone truly enjoys brunch.

Over the past few weeks, M3 has been gravitating towards BUTTER. No matter what I'm using it for/in, it's like she has a radar that hones in on it. I call it "buddar". She always wants to run her little 2 year old finger across a little pat. I'm having no part of this and it's making her down right mad.

So, here we are, having brunch and she is devouring bacon. For a shrimpy little girl, she can eat a ton of bacon! As she begins her fourth slice, I notice what she's doing.

She knew good and well that she wasn't getting a pat of butter on her plate, so he opted for the next best thing.....a buttered biscuit. Here's what I found.

I know pork fat rules.....but a butter dipped strip of bacon?? Really? I love her ingenuity, but the line has to be drawn somewhere! Right? lol

I love having a true little Southern Girl in my midst....she does pronounce it "buttah"!

Paula Deen, eat your heart out!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burger Night

When the notion crept into my head to create a new & somewhat original burger recipe once a week, I knew we'd stumble across some new & yummy burger ideas. Never did I think we'd hit burger jackpot gold.

Last night's burger was just that....Burger-Jackpot-Gold. I had been working on not only the burger recipe, but a sauce of some sort to top it with.

Having a shrimp burger was a priority for me because I use to have them regularly back home. There is this little drive-thru place, Gabe's, that makes the absolute best Cajun Shrimp Burgers and Shrimp Po-Boys. There was something uniquely Cajun about their burgers, but I was not looking for Cajun in this. I wanted to take all the best qualities of what I loved about this burger and dress it up a bit with different flavors.

I started off with medium sized shrimp. I used the 51-60 count. After peeling and chopping 2 lbs, I seasoned with Tony Chachere's and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I much prefer to preseason my shrimp this way, no matter what I'm making.

As good as the burger was, the sauce was the show-stopper. I thought long and hard about this and finally came up with what we all thought was a fabulous sauce. Good enough to say that if you were opposed to a bun, you could easily make this a shrimp patty with the sauce drizzled over. Definitely a keeper and will make again...and again...and again...

Shrimp Burger with Spicy Creamy Caper Sauce

2 lbs Shrimp, raw
1 T Dijon Mustard
3 t Jalapenos, diced
1 t Sriracha sauce
1/4 cup Green Onions
Splash of Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
1 cup Whole Wheat Panko
3 T Mayonnaise
Oil for frying

Rough chop shrimp or pulse in food processor. You want pieces large enough that they're still recognizable. In a covered container, add shrimp and next 5 ingredients. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or a few minutes while you make the sauce.
When ready to cook, add in panko & mayonnaise. Mix well and form into 8 patties.
(I chose to fry these, but they would be just as delicious in the oven.) Fill pan with about 1/2 inch of oil. Fry for about 5 mins, turning once.
Toast buns.

Spicy Caper Cream Sauce

1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 T Sriracha Sauce
Juice of one Lime - it was an average sized lime
Zest of one Lime
Splash of Soy Sauce
1 T Capers, chopped

Mix it all together and spoon onto shrimp patties.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Growing my Baking Legs

To say that the past week was incredible is an understatement. Never would I have thought that I would ever attempt, much less succeed, at baking anything. In my entire life, the only cake I've ever had or made was from a box....and back home, that's called "from scratch". lol

I had no idea now easy or how tasty "scratch" really was. Is this a lost art? Why aren't more people baking from scratch? It's healthier. No added chemicals or fillers. It's less expensive. No paying for packaging or labor. It TASTES better. A LOT better.

By far, the best of the best from the past few days was the homemade white cake. It had the taste of a cake that I remember eating when I was a little girl. About once a month we would go to visit an a great-uncle & aunt. Every time we'd go, she would have a white sheet cake made and in the refrigerator. (and flat Coke, but that's another story.) Sometimes there was no frosting on it...and it didn't matter. I remember that cake after all these years, and the taste I knew, I'd never forget. It was such a pure flavor. Almost as if you could literally taste every single ingredient. Fast forward to yesterday....

NEWS FLASH....when you only use a few ingredients and make it yourself, you CAN taste every ingredient. I always wondered how she did it. Maybe love was her secret ingredient. I included that too!

Of course, the kids thought it needed chocolate frosting, so I obliged. I let them frost a few cupcakes. It wasn't till after they took a bite without it that they realized it wasn't needed at all. It tastes better naked!

There was so much batter that we were able to make a truck-load of cupcakes and one sheet cake.....because that's the way I thought my first "from scratch" white cake should be....the way I remembered it. We also had a small tupperware of batter left over with was guarded like Fort Knox for when R got home. Everyone loves cake batter.

It was well worth the wait. I had no idea real cake tasted this way. Is this the way our grandma's used to bake? If so, no wonder people still "visited" on Sundays...they were going not only for the company, but for the cake!!!

Unfortunately, I can't share the recipe. Someone, who will remain nameless, was helping clean the kitchen afterwards and crumbled it up and threw it out with the egg shells.

I sure hope this wasn't a one-hit-wonder! :( I'm on the prowl to find that recipe again!

Enjoy gaining 5lbs just from looking at this, I know I did.

To add to this baking success, I also cranked out another loaf of white bread,

a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread (made with both regular and golden raisins), and something else that slips my mind right now. Here is the Cinnamon Raisin was the golden raisins and extra cinnamon that made this over the top!

I used a recipe that I found online and adapted to our preferences.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups Bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 cup raisins (1/2 regular, 1/2 golden)

Add ingredients in this order in machine, excluding raisins.

Add raisins at the "add" bell.

Bake on Sweet Bread setting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It Was My First Time...

......and it was sooo worth the wait!

I'm not what you'd call a baker. On any level. That Focaccia I made a couple of weeks ago was my first dabble into bread-making. And before you say it, I know....Focaccia isn't really "break-making", but for me, it really was. I rocked that bread too!

So, I thought I'd get somewhat cocky and try making a loaf of white sandwich bread. *In my bread machine* Don't snicker, I'm sure even the likes of Michael Ruhlman didn't start out making his own bacon. It's a process....I'm still learning.

Back to the bread. Wow! Fresh baked bread is a lovely thing. And, quite an easy thing. Why wasn't I making bread before? It took no time to gather the ingredients and throw it all in the machine. Push a button and you're done. Where have I been??

I was so eager to wake up this morning and try some of my bread. I sliced up the whole loaf and toasted 2 slices for my breakfast. Last weekend I had picked up some homemade strawberry preserves from the little Farmer's Market here in town so I slathered a little of that goodness on it, along with a little butter. It was the absolute best toast of my life. I had no idea that the white bread that I've been eating my entire life was not adequate.
And, if you're looking to stretch your grocery dollar, give making your own bread a try. This loaf was no more than 40 cents to make. A far cry from the price you pay at the grocery store!

We're making a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread this afternoon.....wish me luck!

White Sandwich Bread
for bread machines

2 tablespoons warm water
1 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3-1/4 cups bread machine flour
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Throw it all in, in this order. Bake according to your machine's directions. Or, just turn the thing on....I didn't have my machine's directions.
This recipe came from King Author's Flour....but I used Pillsbury Bread Flour.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Burger Time

We thought it would be fun to see how many different burgers we can come up with over the summer grilling season. And since we've decided to try to come up with one original (at least to us) burger a week, I thought it should not be limited to only beef. This week's original burger is none other than the Hawaiian Burger. My friends can tell you that this one was difficult for me. I wanted it to be authentic, but never realized what a melting pot Hawaii is. And for the record, this was not going to turn into a SPAM burger.
(Am I the only one that thought the whole SPAM / Hawaii thing was all made up? Who knew!)

I decided on 90/10 ground pork. To the (almost 2 lbs) ground pork I added:

a little teriyaki (about 2 T)

pineapple juice (about 1/8 cup)

chopped spring onions (about a small handful)

green onions (about 1/4 cup)

beaten egg

S & P

*this will yield a very, very soft patty. If you don't cook it on a lower heat it will blacken from the fruit juice. You can easily leave the juice out.

I made the patties a few hours before grilling so the flavors could "meddle" your neighbors!

For the buns, I made a quick sauce that was fabulously full of flavor and could easily be used as a base for other burger sauces as well.
I mixed together equal mayo and sour cream (about 1/3 cup each) then added:
horseradish (about 1 1/2 T)
soy (about 1 T)

papaya, chopped then mashed with fork (up to you)

pineapple, chopped then mashed with fork (up to you)

fresh parsley (about 1/8 cup)

pepper (to taste)

I grilled up a bunch of pineapple slices that were not thick enough. Next time I would use much thicker slices and skip the juice in the patties.

I stole a move from Giada and drizzled some olive oil on the buns then spread a little of the sauce on them before grilling them. They came off the grill so beautifully golden and crisp. I hope I remember to this from now on! I finished it off with a bed of fresh baby spinach and it was time to EAT!
On a scale of 1-10, 2nd M gave it a 6. R gave it a 7 and I gave it an 8. Even with the low score of 6, she still asked for it to be her lunch the next day so it couldn't have been too mediocre!

I loved it and would gladly attempt it again. Now, to come up with next week's burger idea.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spicy is not a flavor!

Really? What do you think? Is "spicy" a flavor? Depends on who you ask, I suppose. I, personally, don't think that it is. Whatever is causing the spice is a flavor, but the feeling of spice in your mouth is not.

One thing that I struggle with when it comes to ethnic flavors is that although the spice factor is always adequate, I'm left feeling a bit underwhelmed with the overall flavor. There's always something missing that I just can't put my finger on.

So, I came to this recipe with caution. I hoped that it would give me that missing flavor punch that I always desire.

A chef friend shared a recipe with our group that she modified from a Cooking Light recipe. (Martha in MA, I've mentioned her before. Awesome personal chef! ) I made a few of my own adjustments, but nothing major.

Thai Chicken Saute is what she was cooking up and it looked like something that could please all of the palates in my house!

2 pounds chicken (either breasts or boneless skinless thighs..or a mixture)

2 T. cornstarch

2 T. fish sauce

4 t. canola oil, divided

1 T minced garlic

2 t minced ginger

1 red bell pepper, chopped ( I left this out because not everyone likes it)

1 1/2 cup light coconut milk

2 or 3 T thai hot chile sauce

1 T sugar

2 T fresh lime juice

steamed snow peas (couple of handfuls)

1/2 cup julienned fresh basil

1/2 cup chopped peanuts (I left this out too because someone didn't want it in there)

*Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Toss chicken with cornstarch and fish sauce.
*Heat 1 T. canola oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan and saute 5 minutes, or until light brown. (I did this in several batches so as not to crowd the chicken). *Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
*Heat remaining 1 t. oil in pan and saute garlic and ginger for 30 secs. Add red pepper and saute 30 more secs.
*Stir in coconut milk, hot chile sauce, sugar and lime juice; cook for about 1 minute. Return chicken to pan and cook about 5 minutes, or until chicken is done and sauce has thickened.
*Remove from heat and cool. Stir in steamed snow peas and top dish with fresh basil and peanuts.

Martha mentioned that she served this with Coconut Rice, so I made up a batch of Coconut Cilantro Jasmine Rice. Easy and perfectly matched.

This chicken was almost perfect. Next time I'd salt at the end, but other than that, I loved it. Finally, an ethnic recipe that packed flavor with it's punch. The spice was there, but there was plenty of flavor as well. Just what we were looking for. Thanks Martha!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Treats

It seems like it's the weekend's job to treat us. We always save the best of the best for the weekend. Who doesn't? This weekend was no exception. We were busy planting in our portable garden, doing housework, playing!, and making the dreaded daily schedule when we realized we needed to get the heck outta here and go get a treat....but what?

There's this little place in the next little town over called Sunni Skies. It's an ice cream shop that has 40+ flavors of ice creams and all are homemade. We've been many times before and always look forward to the NEXT's so good! Well worth the 20 minute drive.

I wish I could tell you that every time we go we all try different flavors. That, would be a lie! We've all found our comfort zone or comfort flavor, I should say. If I had to analyze it, it would fit our personalities to a "T".

1st M always gets vanilla. He's my purist. Sometimes, when he's living on the wild side, he'll get a drizzle of hot fudge. This day, he did!

2nd M switches between crazy flavors & milkshakes. She's my free spirit. She was trying to be more grown up so she sided with a milkshake this day.....but went with cookie dough ice cream as the base to prove she's still a little girl!!!

3rd M...good gosh, she's all over the place. She was delighted to get the blue ice cream, which was cotton candy. Yucky for us, pure sugar heaven for her.

When it comes to this place, R and I are comfortably predictable. We started out trying different things, but we found this one flavor that just hooked us.

Coconut Cookie Ice Cream...Just the best ice cream in the world! We have been faithful to this flavor for the past couple of times now. However, like all love affairs, this one will someday end. As I was walking out, I saw a man with a huge waffle cone filled with blueberry ice cream that I began coveting. That may be my next obsession. (and come on...blueberries have to be healthier and lower in fat than this coconut cookie!!!)

Our next weekend treat was an old stand-by, but never less loved. Grilled Rib Eyes. I can't begin to tell you the love we have for grilled rib eyes. Of course, as you know from previous entries, we're trying to limit our beef/pork intake to once a week. This is our exception.

R always beats himself up because he'll find any little thing to say he didn't grill them perfectly, but he always does. This weekend, I paired these beauties up with that pattypan squash I got from the farmer's market. It was the perfect side. Actually, if they were a little bigger and stuffed a little more, it could be a main entree by itself. But, I didn't over stuff them and they were smallish.

Here's what I did:

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

serves 4

4 pattypan squash

1/3 lb ground pork, (I used 90/10)

1/2 white onion, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 Tbs fresh parsley, divided, chopped

1 cup plus 1/3 cup shredded cheese, divided ( I used provolone & mozzarella)

salt & pepper to taste

In a large covered pot, bring about 1 -1 1/2" of water to a boil Place squash in water and boil for about 10-15 mins (depending on how large your squash is) or until you can easily stick a knife through the flesh. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cook long enough to handle easily.

Slice off the tops of the squash and using a melon baller, scoop out the insides. Be careful to not tear the skin. Rough cut 1/2 of the squash and set aside. (I chose the pieces without lots of seeds)

In the meantime, brown the ground pork for a couple of minutes then add the onion, jalapeno, red pepper flakes and salt & pepper. Cook until pork is browned and onions are translucent. Add the chopped squash and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add parsley and cheese.

Put the hollowed out squash in a round cake pan (it's what I grabbed first and it worked...use whatever you want that has sides) and using large spoons, scoop into squash. Top with a sprinkling of shredded cheese and a little parsley.

Bake for 15 in a 375 degree oven.

As you can see, these were super simple but were also super tasty! Use what you have left

*this would also be terrific if you crumbled up a little bacon in the stuffing or if you used a gourmet cheese. I can also only imagine how delicious it would be with spicy Italian Sausage. Next time!