Monday, October 1, 2012

Baked Potato Soup- Cook This Not That

Its been quite a while since I last committed to making a recipe.  Not that I haven't been cooking... quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.  We're close to welcoming baby number 2 and in an effort to save money we've been eating in as much as possible.  With that, my energy levels are pretty low and I typically favor things from our usual reperatiore.  I've also been focusing on cooking in bulk to allow me to freeze meals.  I currently have chili, mac and cheese, soup, burritos, meatballs; all types of things stocked up and waiting for me to be able to heat and serve when I'm home with the baby.  2 more weeks to go!  The coolest thing thats happened in the past few weeks is that I've miraculously gotten my sense of smell back!   This happened when I was pregnant with John, too, and it didn't last long after he was born so I'm trying to relish it while its here.  The timing is odd because while I don't physically feel like cooking it is just SO exciting to smell what I'm making!  Its been almost 10 years since my sense of smell started diminishing and about 2 years of almost no sense of smell at all.  You learn to get used to it and I have learned to use memory, knowledge, and taste when cooking.  But when you can suddenly smell again... cooking takes on a whole new meaning.  Garlic.  Onion.  Apples.  Chocolate.  All of these amazing scents coming together in my kitchen.  I made chili last night and almost cried as I added the cumin, paprika, and chili powder because I could smell the difference instead of waiting until I could taste it.  Its like seeing art with glasses after gazing at the picture from far away for a long time. 

I had to write about all of this.

About a week ago I decided to make some potato soup since I had most of the ingredients to work with.  We've been trying to cut down on fat and sodium and I found this soup recipe in my Cook This Not That book.  If you've not seen this cookbook, its pretty cool.  They reference restaurant meals and offer lightened up variations keeping the portioned calories at under 350 calories.  This particular recipe offers an alternative to Applebees Baked Potato Soup (not that I've ever ordered this at Applebees) reducing the calories from 420 per serving to 220.  I feel the need to share that I can't stand Applebees, but I do like potato soup and liked the method so I went for it. 

Money Saving Tip!!- When you need bacon for a recipe, go to the meat counter at your local supermarket and order slices of the bulk bacon instead of buying a full package in the deli section.  You get good quality, thick cut bacon and its cheap because you're only buying what you need.  I bought 3 slices for $0.67. 

Another tip?  Read your recipe from beginning to end before you cook!  Thankfully, I did this about an hour before dinner and noted that I had to have baked potatoes- not raw.  This allowed me enough time to bake up the 2 potatoes needed before it was time to make dinner.  Once it was time to go, I sliced up the bacon and sauteed it in my soup pan until it got crispy.  Bacon is truly one of the greatest smelling ingredients on the planet.  Once it was ready, I put the pieces on a paper towel and drained out all but a film of the bacon grease.  I chopped up 4 scallions, keeping the white pieces and setting the green aside for later.  I sauteed the white parts with 2 cloves of minced garlic for a few minutes and added a tablespoon of flour, stirring around to toast it for a moment.  I added 8 cups of chicken broth, slowly, while stirring quickly to mix it all together and left the heat on medium high.  Next, I removed the skin from one of the potatoes, chopped it up, and added it to the broth.  Using a potato masher, I smashed it up a bit to incorporate the potato into the broth.  I diced up the other potato and added it to the soup, along with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a touch of salt and pepper.  Turned it all on low, and let it sit while I made up a salad and toasted up some whole grain bread. 

To serve, they suggest serving the soup topped with bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese, and a touch of hot sauce.  The broth was very light and didn't thicken up as much as I'd hoped.  The flavor was great, though.  The scallions were prominent and the bacon added a nice dimention.  The toppings all settled to the bottom, which was partly due to the thinness of the broth.  We ended up with a lot of broth left over after dinner was finished.  I got a little creative and heated up some broccoli (not so nice smelling, by the way) and added the chopped broccoli and some frozen corn to the broth.  Now I have a nice little cream of vegetable soup to add to the freezer!  Woo hoo!

Overall, the flavor, calories, ease, and cost of this meal make it definitely worth trying again.  I think that I'll reduce the broth to 5 or 6 cups and keep everything else the same.  I'll also keep my fingers crossed that I can still smell my way through the meal. 

Baked Potato Soup- Cook This Not That

3 strips bacon, sliced
4 scallions, whites and greens separated, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp flour
8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or a mix of stock and water)
2 medium russet potatoes, baked (leftover baked potatoes work great)
1/2 cup half and half
salt & pepper
Shredded Cheddar
Tabasco sauce to taste

Heat a large soup pot to medium heat.  Add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Discard all but a thin layer of bacon fat.  Add the scallion whites and garlic to the pot and cook for a minute or 2, until fragrant and the scallions are translucent.  Add flour, and stir to coat the ingredients.  Pour in the stock, whisking to help prevent any lumps from forming. 
Remove the peel fromj one of the potatoes, chop, and add to the pot.  Use a potato masher to smash the potato into the broth  Cube the other potato, leaving the peel on, and add it to the soup, along with the half and half.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. 
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls, and garnish with bacon, scallions, cheese, and tabasco.

Serves 4

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes-

I had some buttermilk and some eggs that I wanted to get through and decided that blueberry pancakes would be a fun way to use some of it up.  John's daycare is closed today and I knew we'd be home together and thought it'd be a fun way to start our day off.  I googled blueberry buttermilk pancakes and the first 2 recipes that popped up both featured identical recipes and 5 stars each.  Sold!  That was easier than normal...

Last night I set out the unsalted butter to bring to room temperature and measured out the dry ingredients.  It called for 2 cups of flour, 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp each of salt & baking powder, and 1/4 cup of sugar.  I hate when pancakes are too sweet, so I was glad that it didn't call for more than that.  I have a great mixing bowl with a lid, which is always perfect for storing things like this overnight.

Bright and early this morning, John woke me up and was excited for us to make pancakes!  I'd like to say that we worked together magically today, but I was pretty tired and he... well, he's 4.  And he asks questions.  Lots and lots of questions, without waiting for answers or even breathing in between.  Things like "why is this syrup".  Huh?  Because its syrup?  It can be a little much when you're trying to cook and waiting for coffee to kick in.  He adorably redeemed himself at one point by telling me how much he loves making pancakes with me and kissing me on the cheek.  Then I stubbed my toe on his step stool and we were halfway back to square one. 

As far as execution goes, things went pretty smoothly.  I placed half the stick of softened butter in the microwave for 30 seconds and then let the melted butter cool.  We poured 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 eggs into a bowl and whisked it up.  Then John continued stirring while I added in the melted butter.  Once it was all combined we slowly folded it in with the dry ingredients.  You want your batter to be mixed just enough.  Lumps are ok- they go away but if you stir too much your pancakes will be tough.  I put the finished batter aside and got the skillet ready to go.

I turned both burners on the skillet to medium high and let them heat up.  I showed John how you can test the heat by splashing a drop of water in the pan.  You want the drop to dance before evaporating.  If it goes away immediately, its too hot.  If it stays a while, its not hot enough.  Once it was ready I added a touch of the unsalted butter to the pan and spread it around to coat.  Using the 1/4 measuring scoop, I poured a few heaping scoops on the pan.  We topped each pancake with berries and let them cook until the bubbles popped; 2-3 minutes total.  I flipped them and cooked for another 2 minutes and we were ready to go!  The first batch cooked enough for us to eat then and I decided to wait until we were finished to cook the remaining pancakes. 

They were perfect!  The pancakes were light, fluffy, and about a 1/3 inch thick.  The blueberries were sweet and tart and the texture was just right.  Fantastic!  The recipe made about a dozen pancakes.  I let the remaining pancakes cool while spaced out on a plate and them froze them with a piece of wax paper between each pancake.  This way, I can toast them up for John in the mornings next week! 

I'll keep this recipe on hand, for sure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fresh Sweet Corn Cakes-

There are a few farm stands on the way to and from my dad's house in South Jersey and I try to plan around stopping at one of them whenever I visit during the spring through fall months.  I was driving home with John last weekend and made a big deal about going to get fruits and vegetables.  I've found thats the best way to get him on board in doing what I want to do and Mommy loves farm stands!  I wish we had year round versions in our area.  I grew up in New York state in the Catskill area; apple country.  Local produce was easy to find.  We went to Robin's year round and bought our produce and fruit.  They had cool types of candy and fruit leathers and the store smelled like coffee beans and fruit.  The Wilklows had a stand (shack) which was also about a mile from my house and across the street from the high school.  You can imagine how hard it was to concentrate during Social Studies when you had miles of apple orchards leading up a mountain as the view from your window.  They were only open in season, but was it where we did our apple and strawberry picking and they would always give me an apple for the walk home from school, when I asked.  They've since grown into a pretty nice establishment with a huge business in the fall, but when I recall the place I remember them from back then. 

The stand that John and I ended up at is called Joe's.  They're across from Rosie's on 322, which has signs lined up before and after the place.  Rosie's is just fine, but Joe's is on my side of the road when going home so its my usual choice.  We walked (John skipped, or bounced) to the stand and he immediately started asking for fruit.  My boy loves fruit and from the way I've been craving it since becoming pregnant, so does his sister.  I've never been a huge fan, but with both babies I just can't get enough.  Here's hoping that sticks!  Here's a pic of John with some gorgeous peaches and sporting his own peach fuzz

We bought a few of these, some strawberries, and a bunch of fresh vegetables.  They were very friendly and gave John an ice pop on the way home, which thrilled him.  Its the little things in life sometimes. 

The first thing I made with my produce was a corn salad.  Not the feature here, of course, but worth mentioning.  Fresh corn, bright red tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and lime juice with a touch of salt & pepper.  Simply amazing.  I have to say that the tomatoes were easily the best that I've had this year so far. I cruised through them pretty fast via caprese salads, BLTs, and guacamole.  They were so red and juicy...that I very well may have to drive back there tomorrow...

Now on to the recipe du jour!
I finally realized last year that its worth cooking corn in bulk and saving the kernels for future recipes.  I don't know why it took me so long to realize that this was a good idea, but its now commonplace for me.  I had leftover corn from the salad and was debating what to do with it.  Sometimes I can get really scatterbrained when thinking about what to make.  I flittered between a creamless corn chowder, various types of corn cakes, creamed corn, fritters, enchiladas, etc.  The worst part of when I get indecisive in this manner is that I start flaking out at the market and buy only half of what I need to make 3 different recipes.  So annoying.  Shawn deemed corn cakes as the most interesting to him at the moment and I found a recipe that sounded completely unhealthy, but delicious.  It features bacon (BACON!), cheese, corn, peppers, and onions in a crab cake type form.  Sold! 

The other night I started prepping the meal and was planning to serve it with some steaks that we had in the freezer.  They were from a company similar to Omaha, and the last of our batch.  I had taken them out the previous night and they looked a little funny to me.  I have a terrible sense of smell, so I asked Shawn to check them out.  He was unsure of their quality and we decided to throw them out rather than risk it.  Recipe postponed for an evening and Chinese take out ordered instead. 

On the way home yesterday I picked up some pork medallions to serve with my corn cakes along with some fresh green beans (man, I love the summer).  I took a cup of the corn and mixed it with a cup of chopped sweet onion and a half cup of green bell pepper.  The recipe calls for jalepeno, but neither of us were feeling the heat.  Next I diced up 4 slices of bacon and sauteed them in a cast iron skillet until crisped up.  Drained the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon worth and sauteed the peppers, onion, and corn for about 10 minutes.  The recipe called for 2 tablespoons, but I wanted to cut back a tad.  I mixed up some cornmeal, baking soda and powder, salt, and cayenne; added in a combination of buttermilk and egg, and mixed it together.  Next, I folded in the sauteed veggies, a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, and the bacon and was ready to roll! 

Using the cast iron skillet, I used a thin layer of oil and heated it well.  Some comments in the recipe stated that you really needed the oil to be hot and I believed them.  I added 3 small mounds of batter to the pan, turning them after 2 minutes and finishing off for another 2 minutes.  A few thoughts on this process: first, the oil was too hot and they got crispy but were borderline burnt.  Second, beware of popping corn!!  I jumped about 4 or 5 times while cooking these from stray pieces of corn loudly popping out of the pan.  Thankfully, I never got burned but I was definitely on edge the entire time. 

The nice thing about pork medallions and green beans is that they were able to cook in the small amount of time needed to sautee 2 batches of corn cakes.  In case you're curious, I sauteed the pork with a light spice rub and used my Lekue steamer for the beans, using homemade stock and garlic powder.  Both were delicious and simple. 

The corn cakes were cooked through, crisp but not burnt, and held together well.  I served them with a little sour cream, but think that an avocado salsa or something more substantial would have been a better accompaniment.  I have to say that for all the crazy not-so-healthy ingredients that were used in this recipe, these were pretty boring.  Nothing really stood out.  I would actually say that the corn meal was the most prominent flavor/ texture.  They weren't necessarily bad but they definitely needed something.  I'll make a version again, but probably try out something a little lighter and maybe incorporate some fresh herbs.  I'll definitely go with a flour based recipe to let the corn shine through a little better. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Smoked Turkey Nachos

The original intention for my dinner tonight was to make a variation of BBQ Chicken Pizza.  We have a good amount of smoked turkey leftover from Sunday night's dinner and I thought it could be a fun cheap way to use it.  Plus, Shawn loves BBQ Chicken Pizza, so me attempting it was guaranteed to please him.  I found a recipe on that looked good and featured most of my ingredients so I went with it.  I started by finely dicing up about a cup of smoked turkey and thinly sliced 1/2 cup each of red bell pepper and onion.  I preheated the oven to 475 degrees and placed the baking sheet in to heat up.  This helps give the pizza a nice crisp crust (or is supposed to, anyway).  The method called for me to use parchment paper as the base of the pizza to allow me to easily transfer it to the pan when its ready to go in the oven. 

Here's where it got tricky... I had taken a ball of dough out of the freezer last night to thaw and let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour before dinner.  I don't know if it was the humidity, the quality of dough, or plain old user error, but I could NOT get this dough to work with me.  I got hole after hole in my mishapen dough then rolled it up to try again, which of course made it even tougher.  Finally, in a moment of weakness that was fully witnessed by my husband, I tossed the dough ball into the trash.  Shawn always knows the right thing to say in moments like this: "Sometimes you have to know when to call an audible".   

After looking through the ingredients that were left on my countertop, I pulled out some tortilla chips, and decided on nachos.  Starting with a thin layer of chips on the baking sheet, I topped them with a light layer of mozzarella cheese, then drizzled Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce lightly over the pile.  I sprinkled it with the turkey, onion, and peppers, another drizzle of BBQ sauce, and topped the whole thing with sharp cheddar cheese.  After turning the oven down to 450, I cooked the nachos for about 8 minutes and they were perfect. 

We served them on paper plates with sour cream; just as all nachos should be served.  Sweet Baby Rays is our favorite store bought sauce and it was perfect in this dish.  Sweet and tangy- yum!  The cheese was cooked just right and the toppings were cut small enough to stay on their respective chips.  It was a tasty, unhealthy, meal. 

I'm so glad that I opted to change up my plans.  I was so frustrated with the dough and can't imagine that I would have enjoyed the meal as much after all that annoyance.  It's like Shawn said... sometimes in cooking, just as in sports and in life, you just need to call an audible. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

White Rice in my Lékué Steamer

Back in December I bought a really cool gadget.  Its a silicone steamer for your microwave, also known as a Microwave Pot Ogya from Lékué.  You can use it to steam meat, vegetables, rice, or even fish using broth or water to create a healthy meal from your microwave.  I've used it a few times since I purchased it, mostly for steaming vegetables.  I like it- its quick and easy and once you get the timing down its unbelievably simple.  I've always been intrigued by the rice option.  Have I mentioned before that I make the worst rice in the world?  I rarely attempt it anymore and even if its instant rice from a box its 50/50 on whether it turns out good.  I recently was given a rice cooker, but haven't used it yet due to our lack of counter space combined with our lack of a dishwasher.  So I had it in the back of my mind that the next time that I wanted to attempt some rice, I would give the Ogya a try. 

It was Friday night and I had taken out a london broil the night before for dinner.  I marinated it with some teriyaki sauce and planned to pair it with some white rice and sauteed haricot verts.  After searching for the recipe guide that came with the steamer I remembered that like all other things in the universe, a copy of them was probably on their website.  Jackpot! 

Because its rice, its the simplest recipe ever.  This is the bane of my existence because as simple as rice can be; I struggle with it!!  I could follow every instruction to the T and its too watery, or too crunchy, or not done, or too done or it takes three times as long until its done.  It can be completely frustrating.  This time around, I measured one cup of white rice and poured it into the steamer.  Added a touch of olive oil and some salt and swished it all around.  Covered it all up and microwaved on HIGH for 1 minute.  Then I added 2 cups of water, covered it again, and microwaved on HIGH for another 15 minutes and let it sit for a few before opening.  I opened this lid and....

Perfection.  I could tell, immediately, from the light holes along the surface of the rice.  The texture may be a touch sticky for some palates but I enjoy my rice when it clumps up a touch and this was a perfect blend of sticky and firm.  The olive oil gave it a nice, almost nutty, flavor.  I really, really enjoyed it and went back for seconds.  I'll use this again, for sure!  I want to play around for lunches, too- maybe add vegetables and chicken stock for a risotto type dish.  I can't wait to see what else this thing can do!

Not only are Lekue steamers available online, but you can check them out in person at my friend, Dave's, store: Pro Kitchen Gear in Greenville, DE. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mrs. Farfsing's "One Dressing Fits All"- Downhome Cooking Pure Wesson

Its been a while since I've made a recipe and I'm aware that the fact that I've chosen salad dressing is kind of a lame cop out.  Life has been going by quick these days!  I'm halfway through my pregnancy and most of my cooking these days has consisted of quick meals and old favorites.  I'm really glad that I haven't (yet) experienced the same aversion to raw meats that I had with John.  I couldn't even think about raw chicken and barely cooked when I was pregnant with him.  This one hasn't been like that.  I'm just tired and lazy and looking for the quickest option of anything that I can find!  With that, I'm really excited that summer is almost here and farmers market season is in effect.  I can now grab fresh veggies to make quick easy meals.  Fresh and delicious vegetables really do make decisions easier.  I grabbed a cheap head of green leaf lettuce last week, chopped it all up, cleaned it, and kept it in a huge bowl in the fridge with a paper towel to keep the moisture regulated.  A week later and its still tasting great!  So much better in quality and price that the bagged stuff I usually buy.  Another thing that I absolutely love about this time of year is that the grill and smoker come out and my menu responsibility becomes a lot easier.  BBQ and veggie season is upon us at last!

Its Memorial weekend this weekend, which is one of our favorites.  Its a great 3 day weekend and the full crazy hot summer hasn't yet smacked us in the face.  We also were married on the Sunday of Memorial weekend, 7 years ago, so it brings back a lot of fun memories for us.  We chose to steer away from major plans this year and kept our scheduling on the front end of the weekend to allow us some relaxation time.  Today was our chosen day to get our BBQ on.  Shawn put a pork shoulder in the smoker around 5am and let it go all day.  I decided to partner it with some baked beans (one of John's favorites), fresh corn, and an orzo pasta salad.  I debated using a recipe, but wanted to make my own decisions about the veggies which is how I ended up looking for a dressing recipe. 

I've had this book for many years.  I believe it came from a clearance rack somewhere and I can't say that I've made much from it, but the recipes all look really good and simple so I've held onto it for years.  I looked up a few recipes and this one sold me.  It looked really good, featured items that I had, and could be used for vegetable marinades in the future.  I started by mixing a cup of oil and 2/3 cup of red wine vinegar.  I added a teaspoon each of crushed fresh garlic, Worcestershire sauce (love this stuff), sugar, salt, dry mustard, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper.  Mixed it together, added some to my salad, and put the rest in the fridge for future use.  My salad had orzo, cucumber, red pepper, zucchini, carrot, and peas in it.  I let it all chill out for a few hours in the fridge until dinner was ready and then took it out about 20 minutes before dinner. 

We ate outside on our back porch and everything was great!  Shawn's pork was (as always) awesome and his vinegar based BBQ sauce was perfect for dipping.  I always love to make vinegar based pasta salads to go the meal simply because it complements without taking over.  This salad dressing was perfect for that!  I can't say that any one flavor stood out from the other and I mean that in the best possible way.  The flavors meshed well with the inevitable sauces and spices that end up on the plate toward the end of the meal, too.  This was just one of those picture perfect meals.  I cut the kernels from the remaining piece of corn and added them to the salad for tomorrows leftovers.  I plan to dress some lettuce with the extra dressing, top with the orzo, and have me a nice little lunch. 

I have to say that making my own dressing was really easy and cost effective.  I'm not saying I won't continue buying my own, but its a nice switch up on occasion. 

Mrs Farfsings "One Dressing Fits All"- Down Home Cooking from Wesson
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1tsp crushed fresh garlic
1tsp Worcestershire sauce
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
1tsp dry mustard
1tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Prepare dressing early in the day.  Pour all ingredients in a resealable glass jar or airtight plastic container; Close tightly.  Shake dressing vigorously until salt and sugar have dissolved and all ingredients have been well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to serve; shake again vigorously just before serving. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Prove to Mom You're Not Going to Starve Meatloaf- 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

I decided to make meatloaf last weekend for 2 reasons.  The first was that I've had a craving for some meatloaf.  The second was my excuse to actually make it- my father in law was in town and meatloaf is one of his favorite foods.  I hadn't used any recipes lately and meatloaf is always a dish that I like to test out new recipes with.  Its such a varied dish that can taste so differently depending on the preparation and its also one that I usually like in any way, shape or form.  Meatloaf was one of the first dishes that I learned to make by using a recipe in my Betty Crocker Junior Cookbook.  There was a basic recipe for Frosted Meatloaf that used ground beef, BBQ sauce, oats, and eggs for the loaf.  You bake it and top with mashed potatoes and a few slices of American cheese and put it back in the oven to finish off.  I used to love this and made it all the time!  For some reason the idea of this repulses Shawn, so its not my go-to recipe by any standards.  I do, however, always make it a goal to have leftovers and top those with mashed potatoes and cheese the next day.  Forget turkey/ stuffing/ cranberry combos.  This is the #1 leftover combo in my book!

For this particular recipe I wanted something simple and with "normal" ingredients because I had been attending food events all weekend and eating a plethora of exotic foods.  Finding new, untried, recipes is getting tougher and tougher.  A lot of the ones that I wanted to try, I've already tried!  I went back to a newer book that I've been frequenting with the fun titles and found this one.  I love that it includes some veggies and has a ketchup based sauce. 

I preheated the oven to 375 and lined a baking dish with parchment paper, coating it with cooking spray.  One of the reasons that I like to try new recipes is to gain new cooking methods. Sometimes I like them better, sometimes they're not as good as ones I've already tried. I really like my own method of cooking on a rack lined with foil that has holes cut in it to allow the fat to drain.  It's already proven to be a winner but I don't know everything so I always like to go with the recommended method when making a "recipe" dish.  After the pan was ready, I got started with the prepping.  The instructions calls for sauteeing the veggies before adding them to the meatloaf.  This is something that I've started doing for a while.  I really like it.  It softens the veggies and helps them blend well into the other ingredients.  I sauteed the onion, garlic, and a bay leaf for about 5 minutes while I chopped up some red bell pepper and parsley.  I didn't have fresh thyme, as requested, but substituted dried.  If you've not done this before, it's usually about a third of the required fresh herb.  I added this all to the onion mixture and sauteed for another few minutes.  Discarded the bay leaf, scraped into a bowl to cool, and set aside. 

In a large bowl, I combined the meat (one part beef/pork/veal, one part lean ground beef) with lightly scrambled egg, fresh breadcrumbs, ketchup, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and the onion mixture. 

Confession: About a year ago I "accidentally" took a box of disposable gloves from the kitchen at work.  They are absolutely awesome for things like this. 

Once the meat was mixed well, I shaped it on the parchment.  I had doubled the recipe, to ensure leftovers, and made 2 loaves for baking.  We all love the ends of the meatloaf, so this ensures more ends for people to enjoy!  I baked the meatloaf for about an hour and tested it.  Still a little shy of 165, so I glazed it with a touch of ketchup and put it back in for another 15 minutes.   Took it out and let it sit for about 10 minutes while I got the rest of the meal together.  The "rest of the meal" was the Boston Market side dishes that I had run out to get during the final stages of meatloaf cooking because I didn't feel like cooking anything.  Lazy mama at her best! 

It sliced up well and tasted great!!  The red peppers added a nice sweetness to the dish and the meatloaf was really moist.  I'm glad that I made 2 loaves, because we ended up saving the second for leftovers.  I had my leftover special (mmmmmm) and we had dinner another night by making meatloaf sandwiches with cheddar bread from a local bakery and some barbecue sauce. 

I'll still keep browsing around with recipes- not to find the perfect one but just because I like trying different meatloafs.  I mean, who doesn't love meatloaf?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Better than French Onion Soup- Smoke & Spice

I bought this cookbook for Shawn not long after he got his smoker.  Its a damn good cookbook, with great recipes, explanations, and variations.  Easter dinner was a few days ago and, at Shawn's request, we made a tray of smoked mac & cheese.  I was baking the ham and we were left with an interesting and not often found situation: an empty tray on the smoker.  I have to say, I was giddy about this.  What a fun opportunity to try something out!!  I poured through the book, looking at side dishes and options.  I settled on this French Onion soup variation mainly because Shawn loves the soup.  The recipe calls for smoked onions, which can easily be done.  At first, I tried to figure out the timing of the recipe, to allow the onions to be smoked and the soup to be made with enough time for it to be an appetizer.  We eventually decided that we had enough food for the meal and I simply smoked up the onions and a few heads of garlic for future use. 

This process was amazingly simple and something that I'll probably do whenever we have a spare tray for a few hours.  I rubbed the whole, unpeeled onions, and whole, unpeeled, heads of garlic with a touch of oil and they were ready.  Easy enough, right?  They sat in the smoker for a little over an hour and probably could have been in for up to 45 minutes longer without affecting the ingredients.  Peeling them was interesting.. I let them sit for about an hour to cool.  The oil on the onions and the moisture from smoking them made them a little slippery.  I would use a sharper knife next time, to save on the effort, and just be super careful.  The garlic was simply gorgeous and I can't wait to figure out what I'm going to do with it. 

Two days later I had completely forgotten about these items sitting in my fridge.  I went to heat up some leftover escarole with garlic as a snack and it occured to me that the onions would make a tasty addition to my snack.  In case you're curious, it was.  The onion was still a little firm, but the sweetness was perfect.  No bitterness at all, just tasty sweet onion.  I remembered my original thought, to make the onion soup, and realized that the day old slices of bread that came with the escarole would be the perfect soup crouton!  Pure genius!  I quickly changed up our original dinner plans and we went forward with the new one. 

I started by heating up my non stick dutch oven.  This is one of my absolute favorite pans and it was totally free with an Acme promotion last year.  Go figure.  Anyways, I heated up the pan and added the sliced onions for a touch.  Once they started sweating, I added a 1/4 cup of merlot and let it sautee in for a few minutes.  The recipe calls for homemade beef stock.  I didn't have that, but had about 3 cups worth of homemade pork stock so I used it instead.  I needed 3 more cups of broth and only had one can of beef broth and one can of chicken, so basically my soup was a potpourri of meat flavoring.  I added a tablespoon of barbeque sauce, even though I thought it strange, and some dried thyme, smoked salt, and black pepper.  Let it all simmer for almost an hour and tried it out.  It needed... something.  That something was a touch more red wine and a little more salt.  Perfect!! 

To make the actual soup, I pulled out 2 soup crocks that were given to us as a gift years ago.  I love these two bowls because I know they're oven friendly and they have the little handles on the sides that make it so easy to transfer from oven to countertop.  The handles cool very quickly, too, which is great.  I added the soup to each bowl and topped it with the stale bread.  I topped with a slice of provolone cheese and then sprinkled shredded swiss on top.  It went in the broiler for a few minutes and was finished. 

A lot of the broth soaked up into the bread, so I added more to my bowl to compensate for it about halfway through my meal.  The broth was really tasty!  The red wine gave it just the right balance and the BBQ sauce and black pepper gave a light touch of heat.  The bread and cheese were amazing, as all bread and melted cheese is.  The only thing I would change is that there were too many onions.  They were tasty, but it was too much in proportion to everything else.  Overall, I'd call the soup a success!

Given my current pregnancy and various degrees of laziness and queasiness, I've been making efforts to freeze meals whenever possible.  Instead of keeping the soup for leftovers, I froze the remainder for a future meal and will probably add more beef broth when I heat it up.  Looking forward to a quick and easy meal in my future!

Better than French Onion Soup- Smoke & Spice
Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as appetizers
4 medium onions
vegetable oil
6 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp not-too-sweet BBQ sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
salt to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 slices crusty bread
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1.  About 3 hours before you plan to eat the soup, prepare the smoker for barbequing, bringing the tem to 200-250F.
2.  Rub the onions with a thin coating of oil and place them in the smoker.  Cook until the skins are well browned and the onions feel soft, about 1 1/2 hours.  When the onions are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice them thin.
3.  Place the onions in a saucepan and add the stock, wine, sauce, thyme, salt & pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes.
4.  Preheat the broiler.  Toast the bread. 
5.  Spoon the hot soup into 4 ovenproof bowls.  Top each portion of soup with a piece of toast and some of the cheese.  Broil briefly until the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Matzoh Ball Soup

I grew up eating matzoh ball soup.  I also grew up with latkes, macaroons, bagels and lox, kasha varnishkes, and those little chocolate covered raspberry gel thingies.  My mothers side of the family is (was) Jewish and while I never went to Hebrew school or went to temple, the food was part of my childhood.  We celebrated all holidays when I was growing up but I always related more to the Christian side and found myself learning in that direction as I got older.  Now that my mom is gone, as well as that side of my family, I don't really celebrate my Jewish roots as much as I should.  This isn't me saying that I'm changing this or making any life altering statements... its just a little insight to me and my background.  I do love the food, though.  There is no comfort food that can bring me back to childhood more than some matzoh ball soup.  I tried making my own once when I was just out of college.  It was good, not great, but I was the only person in my house that would eat it and it was a hell of a lot of work.  It was a long time before I had the urge to try again. 

I never got my mom's recipe before she passed away.  Not that hers was the best ever, but matzoh balls are specific.  My mom made hers like her mom and her grandmom and we like ours the same way because its what we grew up with.  We like them fluffy.  Dense ones are tasty, too, but not what I know.  Its not what I'm looking for when I need more than just soup.  When I need to connect with my childhood and my mom.  When you don't live in the area that you grew up in and you lose the family that you knew, its hard to go back to your childhood and your memories.  I didn't realize that right away.  The year after my mom died, a coworker was making soup for her passover sedar.  We talked a bit about it and she told me that her secret was club soda "to make them fluffy".  One thing that I do remember about my family's method was that it definitely included this.  She was kind enough to bring some in for me.  This was when I learned about food and memories.... I couldn't bring myself to eat the soup.  I was an emotional crazy woman for a day and a half, not realizing why, while this container of soup just sat there in my fridge.  I finally realized what was going on and sat down, alone, to cry and eat my bowl of soup.  It was perfect and made me love, miss, connect, remember.... every feeling on the planet.  All in a bowl of soup. 

I've been wanting to attempt my own version for over a year now.  I've had it in restaurants and its always good, but not what I'm looking for.  For this, I don't want to use a recipe.  I've been searching different recipes, taking little bits from them and using what I already know to create my own.  One that pays tribute to what I remember and one that I can pass along to my children as they get older.  I've gotten pretty good at making soups in the past year and decided to go for it.  I debating blogging about it.  Its a little more information than I usually share on here but I like the idea of tracking the experience and I can use it to recall what I liked and didn't like as I perfect the recipe over the next few years. 

I started with the stock.  Many recipes call for chicken thighs but I always prefer chicken breasts and thought I'd try it for my version.  I cut up 2 onions, 4 celery stalks, and a cup of baby carrots and added some asparagus ends and dill and parsley stems that I had in the freezer.  I added 7 boneless chicken breasts (with the fat still on) and covered with water.  I usually use the crockpot for this kind of thing, but put it on the stovetop on medium.  After about an hour, I skimmed the gook off the top, and let it simmer a little longer.  After about 3 hours, I pulled the chicken breasts out of the water and set them aside to cool.  I strained the veggies through a mesh sieve, squeezing the juice out, and discarded the veggies.  Shredded the chicken, and put the broth and the chicken (separately) in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, I took the lid off the broth to skim the fat.  In the world of Jewish cooking, this is known as the "shmatlz".  Its key in traditional matzoh balls and you use it in place of the vegetable oil. I was very bummed to find that I had accumulated no schmalt overnight.  So much for boneless, chicken breasts... I used the vegetable oil instead and made a mental note to use split chicken breasts with the skin on next time to help get some fat in the broth while keeping the meat white for the end result. 

Now for the matzoh balls... It seems that Northern Delaware has very few Kosher patrons at the local supermarkets.  A few of the local markets have absolutely no kosher section and some only put out a few items for the holidays.  I lucked out a little with it being close to Passover, but had the damndest time finding matzoh meal.  Instead, I grabbed a box of matzoh ball mix and figured I'd customize it myself.  Actually, I added a box of reduced sodium matzoh ball mix because in my searches many people complained about how salty Maneschevitz was and it was all that ShopRite had.  I decided to try only one box of mix, figuring that 9-12 balls would be good to start with.  I separated 2 eggs, whipping the whites a little, and mixed the egg yolks, whites, 2 Tbsps of vegetable oil, a touch of club soda, and a touch of chopped dill.  Mixed it all up and put it in the fridge for setting.  The recipes that I browsed suggested anywhere from 15 minutes until 2 hours.  I figure the longer, the better, and finished this step nice and early.  My next big decision was how to cook the balls.  I have no dishwasher and always err on the side of less pans.  Some people suggest cooking the balls in water, some say broth gives it more flavor, and some cook theirs right in the soup.  The lazy cook in me wanted to cook mine in the soup to give the balls flavor and have one less pan to wash.  After reading some threads on, I found that both are fine but cooking in the soup gives it a cloudy, murky quality.  I also want John and Shawn to try the soup and figure they'll be more likely to give it a shot if the broth and soup quality look good, so I decided to cook the balls separately in water, cut with chicken broth for flavor.  I also thought this could be a good option because I could freeze some of the actual soup portion without the matzoh balls for future meals.

On to the soup!  I chopped up about a cup each of carrots and celery and sliced up about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.  I sauteed the vegetables with a touch of butter for about 5 minutes, then added most of the chicken stock.  I saved about a cup or two to boil the matzoh balls in.  Once everything had come to a boil, I turned it down, and simmered for about an hour.  Halfway through, I took out the matzoh ball mix and rolled out 12 small balls, about an inch around.  I mixed the remaining chicken stock with some water, brought it to a boil, and added the balls to the boiling water.  Covered it all with a lid, turned it down to a simmer, and turned the timer to 35 minutes.  Then I walked away.  You can't ever open the lid while making matzoh balls!!  Its like a crockpot- total party foul.  35 minutes later, I took one out to test one.  At first glance, it looked great.  I cut into the ball and my fork sliced through quickly.  Light and fluffy!  I put the balls in the soup, added some shredded cooked chicken, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh dill, and let it all sit for another few minutes.  Then I scooped out a bowl, let it cool, and dove in. 

Mmmmmm...... light and fluffy matzoh balls.  Exactly like my moms.  The flavor was nice, with the chicken stock and dill coming through.  The broth was great and super flavorful.  I needed to add a touch more salt & pepper, which I expected.  I tend to be a little light handed with seasoning.  Overall.... I loved it!  John didn't care for the dill (or grass, as he called it) but he liked the matzoh balls once he tried one out of my bowl.  He said it tasted like chicken.  Good compliment, as far as I'm concerned!  I'm happy to have this in my reperatoire and look forward to making it many times in my life. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reggie's Steak with Garlic Chive Butter

One of my responsibility as a hotel salesperson is to walk the lobby one day a week.  We each take turns stand in the lobby between 7 and 8:15am to greet guests and welcome them to the day.  Or to tell them where the restaurant and bathrooms are, which is what I do about 90% of the time.  It gets a bit monotonous.  My day is Fridays which is nice because I may start the day off earlier than normal but I get to leave early every Friday.  This particular Friday I was chatting with a coworker from another department and we got to talking about food, smokers, grilling, etc.  He claimed to be a "beast" on the grill and proceeded to tell me about his steak.  I'll try to be as descriptive as he was:

He starts with a steak thats 3/4 to an inch thick and seasons each side with salt and pepper.  3 times the normal amount, because most of it will roll off with the juices later on.  Turn the grill all the way up, as high as it'll go, get it good and hot, and pop the steaks on.  4 minutes on one side, 4 1/2 minutes on the other and remove.  Top with a small pat of butter, mixed with garlic & chives, and let sit for 2 minutes before serving.  Should be a perfect medium/ medium rare.  He told me it'll be so good Shawn's want to marry me twice.  I don't know about Shawn, but the decription left this lady absolutely salivating for steak.  Maybe its the pregnancy hormones (I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're aware of my current state) but I HAD to have steak and HAD to prepare it exactly as he said. 

So, here goes the crazy lady shopping for steak.  Anyone whos been pregnant, or lived with someone who has been, knows that we're very visual and just a little bit nuts about food.  I had an exact picture of what my steak would look like and went to 2 stores, looking at almost ever steak they had, before I selected 2 perfect steaks for Shawn and I.  They weren't even the same kind!   One was a ribeye, the other a NY strip.  But both met my specifically insane size/ fat/ marbling ratio and they came home with me for grilling.

Dinner itself took little time to put together.  I had taken some butter out earlier in the afternoon to soften and added a minced clove of garlic and some chopped chives.  We took the steaks out of the fridge, added salt and pepper, and let them sit at room temperature while the grill heated up.  Shawn took them outside about 10 minutes after the grill was turned on and followed the timing exactly.  I steamed up some asparagus, heated up some mashed potatoes, and made garlic toast with some of the extra butter.  He was back in the kitchen 8 1/2 minutes later with some gorgeous steaks.  I topped each with a little butter and let it sit while I pulled the rest together. 

Sorry for the lack of photos, but once we got going there was no stopping.  We started by cutting into the steaks to check the doneness and they were absolutely perfect.  Shawn was kind enough to share both steaks so that we (I) could try each type.  They were fantastic and exactly as I had dreamed.  There was no A1 or steak sauce needed for these bad boys!  Crispy edges, perfectly pink in the center, and just the right amount of spices.  Juicy and amazing.  I can't wait to thank Reggie for his recommendation! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thrown Together Noodle Soup- Jess's creation

I love vegetables.  I really do; and almost every kind, too.  I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn't like meat so much.  Shawn and John like them, too, but not at the level that I do.  So when I'm on my own for lunch or dinner, I rotate through about 4-5 chock-full-of-veggie dishes.  This is one of my favorites.  Shawn saw me eating some the other night and mentioned that I should put it out for you fine folks to enjoy. 

I start off with some homemade broth or a can of low sodium broth if I don't have any made at the time.  I bring about 2 cups worth to a boil and throw in a few chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of minced ginger (or a few dashs of dried if one or neither are on hand), and the tougher of my chosen veggies.  This time it was sliced celery, chopped carrots, and small florets of broccoli.  I let these boil up for a few minutes, adding in a few dashes of soy sauce and Sriracha hot sauce.  Next I add in the noodles.  Usually I use the noodles from a ramen noodle packet, tossing the flavor packet in the trash where I believe it belongs.  The noodles cook up quickly and are always delicious.  Tastes like college, but better.  I had some leftover whole wheat angel hair that I used instead.  I threw it in with some frozen spinach (baby spinach works here, too) and sliced mushrooms and let it all simmer for a few minutes.  If you want to add some cooked shredded chicken, pork, or tofu, this is the perfect time. 

Once its all ready, I turn off the flame and let the soup sit for a few minutes to cool.  Its HOT- trust me.  I usually taste the broth at this point to see if it needs anything- more salt is sometimes needed.  A touch of curry paste can be nice, too.  I serve it in a huge bowl and eat it with a spoon and a fork.  I like to put my face over it a bit while I eat it to clear my sinuses, too. 

So there you have it.  Jess's homemade noodle soup.  Healthy, delicious, one pot, goodness. 

Noodle Soup
2 cups broth
chopped vegetables (any combination of celery, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, cabbage, or whatever you like and/or have available)
garlic (fresh is better, but dried works)
ginger (fresh is better, but dried works)
soy sauce
hot sauce
ramen noodles or leftover spaghetti
Shredded cooked meat or diced tofu (optional)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Love You Pancakes for my boy on his birthday

Today is John's 4th birthday!  The kid loves pancakes and I promised that we'd make a batch to start his day off right.  I had some leftover buttermilk and flipped around my cookbooks quickly to find a good recipe.  The single girl cookbook came to the rescue again.  Its slightly odd that I keep making these potential "morning after" recipes for my kid, but they always sound easy and promising.  I got the dry ingredients together the night before, knowing that John would be up bright and early and ready to great the day with high levels of energy.  I mixed up 2 cups of flour, 1 Tbsp of sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1 Tbsp of baking soda.  Unfortunately, the recipe first says to use 1 Tbsp of baking powder unless you're using buttermilk- then you use baking soda and only 1/2 tsp.  Of course, I read that part after I added 1 Tbsp of baking soda already.  This is one of my peeves with baking.  If I were cooking I could simply skim out the extra ingredient or add a touch more of everything else to balance it.  But baking is chemistry, not art, and exact measurements are a necessity.  So, I chucked the batch and started again. 

John was up at 7am on the dot and immediately started asking for his pancakes.  We washed our hands, pulled up his step stool, and got started.  I cracked the first egg and John begged to do one.  I tried to help, but it was a bit of a mess.  We were able to salvage it, but had some egg on both of our hands.  Yuck!  As some of you may know, eggs are my least favorite food.  I don't mind it in baked goods, but the raw stuff still skeeves me out a bit.  We added 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, stirred, and combined it with the flour mixture. It was pretty thick.  The recipe said that you could add a little more milk, but not buttermilk, to thin it out which I did.  Then I let it sit the suggested 10 minutes before cooking. 

The recipe also called for the skillet to be moderately low, which seemed odd to me.  I wouldn't have normally followed this step on my own but in my attempt to follow the recipe for blogging and learning purposes, I went with it.  I kept my double burner skillet (love that thing) over moderate heat for about 3 minutes and then added a few touches of butter in the spots where I would be cooking.  The recipe suggested hockey puck sized pancakes, and they were stille pretty thick when I put them on the stove.  They took way longer than usual to get bubbles on them, and even longer for those bubbles to pop.  For anyone whos never made pancakes- that's usually the key.  Once the bubbles pop you can flip the pancakes and finish up the other side.  These pancakes, when all was said and done, were about an inch thick.  I knew I had cooked them enough, but I was worried.  I was right to be worried.  They were pretty terrible.  The flavor was good, but they were really rubbery and tough.  I ate one, and so did John, and I chucked the rest.  I'll stick to regular pancakes next time and save my buttermilk for biscuits. 

On a positive note, I did change up my method for cooking bacon after a tip was given to me earlier in the week.  I put the raw, thick-cut bacon on a baking sheet (not a cookie sheet for obvious reasons) and placed it in the oven at 350 for 40 minutes.  I'll never make bacon on the stove again!  It cooked it all up at once with little mess.  And the bacon was fantastic!  Crisp and delicious.  Shame on me, too, because I've watched every kitchen that I've ever worked in use this exact method and it never occurred to me to do it at home.  It took longer than normal, but I didn't have to worry about batches and it cooked while I made everything else.  As far as timing goes, it was pretty spot on. 

So there you have it folks.   Not so delicious pancakes but a solid tip for bacon.  I'd leave you with the recipe, but I'd have to type out the whole thing and who would really want a not so good pancake recipe anyway?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cabbage & Potato Bake- Emeril Lagasse

I have to be honest.... This is the second time that I've made this recipe.  My first try was while I was on hiatus and it was amazing.  So amazing that I planned, and failed, to type it up and post it.  So now that I'm back on the blogging bandwagon and making it a second time (still needing to follow the recipe, though) I decided that it was worthy of your reading.  As much as I love my cookbooks, online recipes truly rock.  They're search friendly, I can check out reviews, and I can also pull them up on my smartphone to review while cooking.  My first time around, I found this when looking for a way to use the huge head of cabbage that I picked up at a farmers market over the summer.  It includes some of the most beautiful ingredients of the world... bacon, onions, cabbage, and potatoes.  Oh, glorious dish!

So here we are just after St Pattys day and guess what I have?  Cabbage, potatoes, onions... and bacon in the fridge.  It was on.  I diced up 5 pieces of thick cut bacon and fried it up for about 5 minutes, and then added 2 sliced onion.  While it softened up, I cut the cabbage into eighths and halved a few red potatoes.  I alternated the pieces in a baking dish, topped it with the bacon and onion mixture, and then poured 2 cups of broth over it all.  I originally used chicken broth, but had some gorgeous broth that I made with a pork bone the night before.  I used that instead- wouldn't you?   Once the dish was wrapped tight with foil, it went in the oven for 1 1/2 hours at 375.  Let it sit for another 15 while I heated up the leftover corned beef and it was ready.


Sooooo gooooood..... it could always use more bacon (what dish can't?) but I wanted to keep it a little lighter.  The onions really soften up and mix with the cabbage beautifully when you start slicing it up.  The broth is just amazing.  It gathers the bacon, onion, cabbage flavor and you just want to spoon it up all over everything.  In my onion, the potatoes kind of fade away in this dish.  You don't need them, other than to make it a one pot side dish.  They're good; they just don't shine alongside the rest.  This would be a perfect dish for someone on Atkins or who was trying to cut out carbs.  Its cheap, easy, healthy, and amazing.  Make it.  You'll thank me.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Corned Beef Sandwices & Potato Salad

March Madness time!!  We have people over every year for March Madness and its always a great time to check out some new recipes.  Once in a while this event coincides with St Pattys Day, which gives fun opportunities to decorate- both for us and for those attending.  This year I decided to go with the Irish theme and make corned beef for sandwiches.  I searched a few recipes and found a version online at with 5 stars and over 500 reviews.  With that kind of response you have to imagine it would be tasty, right?  The recipes calls for a stovetop method and many reviewers used the crockpot to great results.  I went back and forth all week about which method I wanted to use.  I finally decided on the stovetop for 2 reasons.  First, those who used the crockpot loved their results but those who used the stovetop method RAVED about their results.  Second, by using the stovetop I could keep the crockpot clean and use it for holding during the party without having to wash in between.  I have a really small kitchen and that really counts for something when you're making a lot of different dishes. 

I used 2 packages of the standard corned beef that you purchase on sale the week of St Pattys Day.  I trimmed the meat and then soaked in water for about 10 minutes to get some of the salty brine out of it.  This wasn't in the recipe, but is something I've heard of before and wanted to add to the mix.  I drained the water and added only one of the included spice packets, a 1/4 cup of whole peppercorns, and a head of peeled garlic cloves.  Topped it with 2 bottles of Yeungling and enough water to cover the meat by about an inch.  I brought the mix to a boil and then simmered it, covered, for around 4 hours; turning the pieces every hour and adding water as needed. 

While this was going on....

I put together some potato salad.  You cannot have an Irish holiday without potatoes.  Can't be done.  I thought potato salad would pair nicely with the sandwiches and also with the smoked pork shoulder that we had coming out later in the evening.  I found another great recipe only, this time on the Food Network's website.  It's Ina Garten's recipe and was well reviewed.  I like that it included dill, mustard, and vegetables.  It also had my main requirement- no eggs.  I hate eggs (despise eggs) and I try to find recipes without it rather than leaving it out.  I feel like when a recipe is created, the whole thing plays together and those featuring eggs will have its measurements and ingredients wrapped around that inclusion.  I want a recipe that suits what I need. 

I cut the potatoes into large chunks and boiled them for about 12 minutes, then drained the potatoes.  I put the colander into the pot and covered it with a cloth for about 15 minutes.  I really like this method- it steams the potatoes to completion so they don't get waterlogged.  The dressing includes mayo, dijon and whole grain mustards, dill, salt & pepper.  I finished cutting the potatoes into smaller pieces, mixed it with the dressing while they were still warm, and finished it off with celery & red onion.  My initial impression was that the salad had too much mustard and I hoped it would be better once it cooled off and the flavors blended. 

Back to the corned beef...

After 4 hours and change on the stove, I pulled the pieces of beef out of the liquid and let sit for about 10 minutes.  Whatever fat was left on the meat skimmed off effortlessly.  I sliced about 2 pieces and was giddy at the texture of the meat.  It held together enough to keep in slices but was so tender that I could pull each slice apart with my fingers.  As you can imagine, I had to take a taste right then and there and was thrilled with the result.  The saltiness had toned down from the pre-soaking and the garlic had such a nice subtle presence in the flavor.  Simply outstanding.  The rest sliced up beautifully and I put it all in the crockpot to keep warm for sandwiches. 

The end result...

It took a while for folks to try the beef.  I wanted to shout from the rooftops- it's delicious!!  Try it, damn it!!  lol.  They finally did and agreed.  I served the beef alongside some sliced turkey, ham and salami so there were sandwich options for everyone.  There was swiss cheese, provolone, dijon & whole grain mustards. and cole slaw with rye and pumpernickel breads.  My favorite combination was definitely the seeded rye with dijon mustard and beef.  Simple and perfect.  I paired it with the potato salad, which had thankfully evened out in flavor and was really tasty. 

Tonight, we'll be dining on leftover corned beef with cabbage and potatoes.  I will keep on trying new potato salad recipes, just because different meats call for different flavors, but my search for corned beef has concluded.  I'll never make it any other way again.

Sidebar- I feel like I have to add a comment about the the pork shoulder, since it was mentioned.  Shawn smoked a nice sized shoulder with his homemade rub and BBQ sauce and also smoked a tray of my mac & cheese.  My man is talented with his smoker and this was no exception.  Fall apart tender and completely amazing.  There were no leftovers and I now have to figure out what to buy this week to use as a catalyst to eat more BBQ sauce.  My mac & cheese was ridiculous and the 2 hours in the smoker gave it so much flavor.  We ate well yesterday, that goes without saying....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mustard-Herb Beef Stew- BHG

Its Oscar night!  I love awards shows.  I love the red carpet, the dresses and interviews, the lame speeches.... everything about it.  I definitely wanted to make a new recipe tonight and thought that something that can be made ahead would be key so that I was free to sit on my couch at 6:30 when the red carpet started getting good.  My shopping trip was a little light this week because we're heading to Disney (!) for a week on Saturday.  Friday will be a take out night, as it is before every vacation, and we need to try and use up what we have that is perishable over the course of the week to waste as little food as possible.  I had some baby potatoes on hand, a few onions, and a bag of baby carrots.  I decided a stew would be perfect to use these items up and have something to simmer during the day.  I went through my books and binders and narrowed it down to this recipe, which was clipped from an old Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  The photo looked tasty, and the process seemed easy.  One thing that I've started doing on a regular basis is looking up my clipped recipes online for reviews before I make them.  I like getting peoples thoughts and opinions and, more importantly, they often share variations or suggestions to make it a little better.  One of these was to add frozen peas, which I did, and to go a little easy on the mustard, which I didn't.  We both like mustard so I kept it as suggested. 

The set up for this meal took me way less time to do than I thought it would.  I combined some flour, chopped fresh Italian parsley, dried thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl with a lid.  I then cut an eye round roast into 1 inch pieces and dropped them in the flour, one piece at a time.  I put the lid on, shook it up a bit, and then stirred it a bit more to make sure that the pieces were all coated.  I used a nonstick dutch oven, so I only used a tablespoon of oil versus the 2 tablespoons that the recipe called for.  Once the meat was browned, I added the baby potatoes, baby carrots, and wedges of sweet onion; stirred it for a few minutes, and added tomato paste, spicy brown mustard, beef broth, and a bottle of Yeungling lager.  Brought it to a boil, added the frozen peas and a bay leaf and let it simmer, covered, for an hour or so.  I wish I could have added the cremini mushrooms that the recipe called for, but I'd be eating the stew myself if I did that. 

The recipe says to simmer the dish, covered, for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the meat is tender.  Knowing that stews taste better the longer they cook, I let it go for about 2 1/2 hours before serving.  My first thought was that the gravy was a touch watery and I let it sit for another 20 minutes off the heat.  It didn't thicken much, but it didn't matter.  Wow.  This dish was amazing.  The meat was perfectly tender, the vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the gravy was delicious.  I could taste hints of the pepper in the aftertaste, pleasantly, and the other flavors blended well with nothing really standing out over the other.  I served it with a loaf of sourdough bread and just couldn't stop dipping my bread in the gravy.  The recipe suggests to serve it with crusty bread, but seriously- they need to put it in bold, capital letters.  Serve with crusty bread!!  It was really, really tasty.  I can't wait to try it again for lunch tomorrow.  I can imagine that the gravy will thicken and the flavors will blend even more. 

Definitely a keeper!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grandma Edna's Cajun Pork Recipe- Taste of Home

Let me start by saying that I have absolutely no idea who "Grandma Edna" is.  I had a brief subscription to Taste of Home magazine before I decided that the number of recipes that I was clipping wasn't high enough for me to be a subscriber.  This one made it to the file, though, and has been there for quite a while as a potential dish for us.  I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer and decided to thaw it out for dinner this week.  This recipe seemed really tasty and I like the crock pot feature.  The original idea was to make it Sunday night for dinner on Monday but it was still a solid rock!  Note to self: 2lb pork loin takes 2 days to thaw....  On Monday night we made due with sandwiches and I put together the recipe for dinner the next night.  It was fairly simple.  I started by sauteeing chopped celery, peppers, and onion until soft and then added the spices and a touch of hot sauce.  At this point I forgot to add salt & pepper- more on that later.  I sliced the tenderloin in 1 inch slits that went almost to the bottom of the roast, but not quite.  Stuffed the vegetable mixture into the slits and put the rest on top.  It looked quite beautiful, actually, and I wish that I had taken a photo at that point.  One of the 1700 things that I love about my crockpot is that it has a removable crock.  This way, I can put the dish in the fridge with the lid and then transfer it to the base in the morning before I head to work. 

Most crockpot recipes call for 6-8 hours, but you can cook things longer without issue.  Its in the crock at such a low temp that there's little danger of overcooking.  I usually end up with my dinner cooking for about 12 hours because of my work schedule.  The roast was moist and fork tender, but just on the verge of being overdone.  There was an icky layer of fat around the bottom of the crock, but it came off quite easily.  I threw it away and figured it made my dish just that more healthy!  I followed the recipe for the suggested side dish and sliced 2 white potatoes and 1 sweet potato lengthwise into wedges, tossed with with oil, salt & pepper, and then baked them for 20 minutes at 450.  I flipped them and coated them with a mixture of chopped garlic and parmesan cheese, and baked them for another 20 minutes. 

Just before it was ready, I poured the juices from the roast into a sauce pan and added a slurry.  A slurry is a mixture of equal parts of corn starch and cold water that is combined and added to juices to thicken them up into a sauce.  Cornstarch adds a smoother quality to gravy that you would find with flour- similar to the texture of chinese food sauces.  You boil it, then quickly bring the temp to low while whisking the sauce.  The gravy thickened up pretty quick, too quick, so I added a little chicken broth the thin it out. 

Once it was all finished, I sliced up the pork, topped with the gravy, and paired it with the potatoes.  It was not a pretty meal.  Very messy and brown.  The tastes were good, but not great.  My earlier missed step of omitting the salt and pepper really showed later on.  I did add it to the final product, and the gravy, but I could tell that it affected the overall flavor of the meat.  I'm not even a big salt person, but it was needed.  The potatoes were just okay; they were cooked, but some were burned and others were mushy.  I think a different temp would be better as would thinner potatoes.  In my defense, Shawn enjoyed the meal more than I did.  I also have a cold, still, so it could have affected my mood and tastes.  Its always tough to be honest on the blog when things aren't really that great but this just wasn't all that great to me. 

HOWEVER, 2 days later I chopped up the leftover pork (that still was stuffed with the veggies) and used it with some chopped veggies and low sodium Zatarain's Jambalaya mix.  I swear by this stuff- its the best way to get rid of leftover meat and veggies.  Its easy, flavorful, and always delicious.  Plus, it costs less than $2.  The pork really rocked in the jambalaya and when I paired it with the frozen biscuits (which thawed beautifully) it was a fantastic meal. 

Grandma Edna's Cajun Roast Pork- Taste of Home; Decmber/ January 2011

Two Tone Potato Wedges- Taste of Home; December/ January 2011

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Invite Me Back Muffins- 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

One of my favorite places to get cookbooks is at  The bookstore is always the best place, because I can browse through and see how many recipes I may actually make, but Amazon suggests new ones for me and I can check out reviews to see how other people liked them.  This cookbook came across my radar in a magazine article.  The full title of the book is "100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know; Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life".  It was put together through Glamour magazine based on a roast chicken recipe that was rumored to entice a man's proposal.  Ridiculous?  Yes, completely, but the book has a whole chapter about it with stories from readers over the years whom this worked for.  For the record, I haven't made the recipe yet but it does look pretty tasty.  What I love about the book is the fun titles of each recipe; like "Who Calls a Meeting at 5pm Stir Fry" and "Bikini Season Baked Salmon".  I had some blueberries on hand, so I chose the bawdy "Invite Me Back Muffins" as my muffin recipe of choice.  It had items that I already had on hand and it also featured a crumble topping, which I love on my muffins!! 

I ran the idea by John yesterday and he wanted to make muffins with me for breakfast.  He can be a tough nut to cook with sometimes.  He's only 3 1/2 so he gets distracted and wants to eat right away.  Sometimes he can be adorable; sometimes I can't believe I thought cooking together would be a fun idea.  I decided to make it easy on both of us and prepped as much as possible the night before.  Originally I was going to make a half recipe, but messed up on my recipe conversions early on and had to go back and just make the full one instead of starting over.  I combined 2 cups of flour with baking soda and salt.  Covered it, and set aside for the next morning.  Then I combined a 1/3 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of sugar and some cinnamon.  Covered and set aside.  The next morning, John was excited to make muffins!  The first thing we did was melt a 1/4 cup of butter and slowly combined it with the flour/sugar/cinnamon combo.  Once it was all combined, I put it in the freezer.  We measured out some sugar and mixed with a stick of unsalted butter that I had left out overnight to soften.  I took out the hand mixer, which he thought was the coolest thing ever.  He held it with me and helped turn the bowl as we creamed the butter and sugar together.  He then poured in the flour mixutre and milk in alternating batches while I kept on mixing.  He turned to me at one point while we were doing this, kissed my cheek, and said "I like making muffins with you, Mommy".  Sigh.....this was definitely one of those adorable times that I was happy to have him there!  When it was finished, we folded in the rinsed blueberries and got ready to bake! 

I preheated the oven to 450 and got out the muffin tin.  Being that I just about never make muffins, I only have one tin that cooks 6 so we had 2 batches in our future.  We put liners in the tins (I had elmo ones on hand from forever ago) and spooned in the batter.  We took the crumble topping out of the freezer and sprinked it onto the batter.  This was John's favorite part; he kept sneaking bites of the topping while we sprinkled it on the muffins.  We put them in the oven for 5 minutes and then turned the oven down to 375.  The recipe called to cook the muffins for about 20 minutes or until they were springy to the touch.  It took about 22 minutes and they were ready!  I put the tin on a baking rack for 10 minutes, then took the muffins out and put together the next batch myself.  John had completely lost interest at this point.  Once they were ready, he perked up and did a little dance which was pretty hilarious.  His "muffin dance"!  They were fantastic!  Another baking success.  The blueberries weren't too tart, the batter wasn't too sweet or too springy (my personal complaints about many muffins) and the crumble topping was so delicious.  I yielded 11 muffins; we each ate one and I plan on bringing leftovers to work to take away the temptation of more muffins.  Next time I'll try a healthier muffin variety, but I love that my baking skills are slowly improving. 

Invite Me Back Muffins

Crumble Topping (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not defrost them first, but toss them in a few tsps of flour before stirring them into the mix in step 3)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line the cups with paper or foil liners; you can also use eight 5-oz ramekins, spritzed with cook spray, instead.
Make the crumble topping: In a medium bowl, using your fingers, mix all of the crumble ingredients until small clumps form. Put the mixture in the freezer to chill and firm up while you work on the batter.
Make the muffins: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed between additions until smooth. Add the flour mixture in 2 batch, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed between additions until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling all the way to the top. Sprinkle with the crumble topping (if using). Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake for about 20 minutes longer (or more if in ramekins), until the muffins spring back when lightly touched with a finger. Set the pan on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the muffins from the pan, running the flat side of a knife gently around their sides to loosen them, if necessary.
Recipe from 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know by Cindi Leive and the Editors of Glamour

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits- How to Cook Everything

This cold really knocked us all down for about 2 weeks now.  We're home with few plans this weekend for the second "snowstorm" of the year (Saturday afternoon and its already melted) and I have a mental list going of what I am going to cook for the next day or so.  I definitely wanted to get a recipe in and was trying to figure out what I could create by using a recipe, things that I have in house, and something that was on the agenda for the weekend menu.  This part of the recipe planning can actually be tough sometimes.  I selected the biscuits mainly because they'd go with anything and also because I had some buttermilk in the fridge that I could use.  I was anxious, given my many failures at baking, but you can't improve if you don't try, right?!

I measured out 2 cups of flour into the food processor and added baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Pulsed them for a few seconds and then added cut up pieces of unsalted butter.  The recipe called for 2-5 tablespoons.  I knew that we weren't adding butter after baking, so I erred on the higher side.  Oh, and butter is really damn tasty.  That's another reason.  I blended the butter in by pulsing a few more times.  So quick!!  I can't believe I went so long without one of these wonderful machines.

I started adding the buttermilk and quickly realized that the blades were going to make the next part of the recipe a logistical nightmare.  I made the excellent decision to take the mix out of the processor, put it into a bowl, and then stirred in a cup of buttermilk slowly with a large spoon until it was in a ball.  Once the dough was ready, I had 2 options.  You can press it out and cut circles out for a more formed biscuit or you can spoon it onto the sheet for the "drop biscuit" method.  I chose the drop method for many reasons.  One, its quicker.  Two, I have limited counter space and rolling things out is a total pain.  Three, I actually prefer the texture of drop biscuits and the crunchiness that comes from the uneven surface. 

I was able to gain about 14 biscuits by spooning out pieces onto a greased cookie sheet.  The recipe called for it to bake at 450 for 7-9 minutes.  I checked at 8 and they were ready at 10.  Perfectly golden on the bottom and a tough of golden on top.  I couldn't wait and had to sample one out of the oven..... it was good!!  Great, even!!  The salt, butter, and dough had a nice balance and the texture was spot on.  Oh my gosh, I actually baked something from scratch that tasted good!
I served it with a quick chicken stew type of thing.  Sort of like chicken pot pie filling but I serve it with biscuits (tastefully simple ones, usually).  We like it and its cheap, simple, and can be made with most anything fresh, frozen, or canned that you have on hand.  I sauteed some chopped celery, carrot, and onion until soft; added a handful each of frozen corn and peas, and a cup of cooked shredded chicken breast that I had in the freezer.  Mixed in a can of cream of celery soup, a little milk, and a little chicken broth and finished it with some seasoning for flavor.  Put on low and let it go while I cooked the biscuits, stirring it up every once in a while. 
We ate it all together and it was a perfect lunch for a snowy day!  I had half of the the biscuits left and put them in the freezer to toast up another day.  I really can't believe how quick and easy this was!  The whole recipe took about 10 minutes to prep and another 10 to cook.  I have a keeper!

Buttermilk Biscuits- How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2 cups all purpose or cake flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2-5 tablespoons cold butter (more is better)
1 cup buttermilk (can substitue plain yogurt)

1.  Preheat the oven to 450
2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl or food processor.  Cut the butter into bits and either pulse it in the processor (the easiest) or pick up a bit of the dry ingredients, rub them with the butter between your fingers, and drop them again.  All the butter should be thoroughly blended before proceeding.
3.  Use a large spoon to stir in the buttermillk or yogurt, just until the mixture forms a ball.  Drop tablespoons of dough onto a greased baking sheet. 
4.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the biscuits are a beautiful golden brown.  Serve within 15 minutes for them to be at their best. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hot Toddy

This has been quite a week for the Bittmann family.  A virus has come through this house, hitting all three of us for about a week now and still going.  Its an odd one, too changing symptoms and victims daily.  My cooking has been downgraded to heating up frozens pizzas and leftover Boston Market for the most part.  The weekend came and I gave in; staying on the couch  trying to knock this thing out before work starts up again on Monday.  This saddens me today, of all days, because its Superbowl Sunday.  Not only is it Superbowl Sunday, but a Giants/ Patriots Superbowl and Shawn is a diehard, radical, ritualistic Giants fan.  Normally, on a day like today, I'd be cooking up a storm.  Creating some sort of ridiculous sandwich, followed up by our requisite 2nd quarter guacamole, and accompanied by some other fun appetizer foods.  Not this weekend, unfortunately..... this weekend I was thankful to have the guac ingredients on hand and couldn't even bring myself to go to the store.  Poor Shawn.  We made due, and pieced together some fun football foods to enjoy with the game.

One of Shawn's playoff rituals is enjoying his Makers Mark throughout the game.  My man loves his bourbon, and this is his brand.  I decided to join him in a drink by making myself a Hot Toddy.  I've never had one before, but always hear about it as an old fashioned cold remedy.  I looked up a recipe and then realized that this could be featured right here, for you fun folks!  Drink recipes count, right?   I found the perfect one on Epicurious, featuring exactly what I was looking for.  Hot water, lemon, honey, and bourbon.  I'm already a sucker for honey and lemon when I'm sick.  Why have I never thought to make this before?

I started by putting some water on in the teapot.  I decided to double the recipe simply because I love big mugs and the recipe wouldn't have filled it even halfway.  I feel like I should mention that I used one of my favorite mugs- a large one with a picture of Cinderella that says "A Princess Shouldn't Have to Work This Hard".  Its awesome.  I squeezed some lemon juice into a measuring cup, scooped out the seeds, smarted as the juice his a few cuts on my fingers, and poured out 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.  I then used the same cup to measure out a 1/2 cup of hot water and added 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) of bourbon.  I was convinced that the honey would be too much for my taste, so I tried it after one tablespoon to see if it needed more.  It definitely does, to counter the lemon and bourbon. They both have such strong flavors that they really need the honey to bring them together. 

I settled on the couch with my mug and a blanket to watch the rest of the game.  Oh, this was gooooood.  So soothing and warming and delicious.  It was really, really good.  You could taste the bourbon, for sure, but it was subtle and highlighted by the lemon and honey.  The warmth made it really comforting.  Again, why have I never thought to make this before?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Venison Chili and Cracklin Cornbread

We had an influx of free food at the end of December, making me thrilled to have our big freezer!!  My hotel gives us each a free turkey for Thanksgiving, Shawn received a box of steaks, chicken and burgers as a gift, and my wonderful coworker gave me ground venison and a venison tenderloin.  I've learned that venison is one of those meats that you don't really buy in the store.  You need to be in the loop with hunters, butchers, or friends who know those hunters and butchers to get it.  You can probably find it in a store, but its going to be more money than its worth.  That's what I'm told, anyway.  So when I mentioned to said coworker that I had only had deer once or twice and wasn't 100% sold but open to trying it, she was kind enough to share some of her recent gain with us! 

Now, I'm finding this venison to be a little intimidating.  I keep hearing about gaminess and remember the last time that I tried deer (at a country club where I worked and had recently witnessed the actual deer becoming that evening's special) and I wasn't a huge fan.  I've been really interested in trying it again and decided that chili would be a good way to ease us into the flavor.  I make chili all the time and have heard its a great venue to start with.  Chili and cornbread go hand in hand in this region but my baking skills (or lack thereof) have kept me from making cornbread in the past.  I decided to go for it!!

Suprisingly, none of my cookbooks had recipes for venison.  I went online and found a chili variation on that sounded basic but tasty.  I usually wing it with my chili, but wanted to be sure that my spices were to par.  I also found a recipe for cornbread in Shawn's "Smoke & Spice" cookbook that sounded really good.  I definitely wanted to use my cast iron skillet and like the idea of using bacon grease as the fat addition in the recipe.

We started early in the morning when I made pancakes and bacon for my boys.  I needed bacon grease and they were kind enough to take one for the team!  I saved the grease and went on with my day.  Later in the morning, I busted out my brand new food processor.  Would you believe that with as much as I cook, I've never owned one until this Christmas?  We don't have a dishwasher and I've always thought it would be a pain to clean.  I do, however, spend a ridiculous amount of time on food prep and decided that this would be a good day to test it out.  Since I was using it, I ended up chopping up extra onions and garlic and put them in containers to use later in the week.  Love it!  So much quicker and much easier on the eyes.  Not a total pain to wash and as long as I'm getting myself prepped for the week it saves a ton of time in the long run.

I opted to steer away from the trusty crockpot and took out my large stockpot to keep the chili on the stove throughout the day.  I sauteed up the deer and removed it, covering the dish to keep it warm.  A cup each of chopped peppers and onions went in next with 4 cloves of chopped garlic.  I sauteed it on medium high for about 10 minutes and then added the spices.  Followed with the venison, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of chicken broth, and a touch of tomato paste.  I added the can of rinsed kidney beans before noting that it should have been added toward the end of cooking.  I didn't really notice anything off, so I wouldn't say that it was a necessary step.  I did, however, add a 1/4 cup of frozen corn at the end.  It wasn't in the recipe, but Shawn really loves corn in his chili.  I left it all on the stove, on low, stirring every 20 minutes or so, for 4-5 hours. 

About an hour before dinner, I mixed together the dry ingredients for the cornbread and then mixed together the wet separately and combined them with a little frozen corn and some melted butter.  Then I warmed the skillet on the stove and added a tablespoon of bacon grease, swirling to coat the pan.  When the oven was ready (400) I poured the batter in the pan, creating a fun sizzle sound, and transferred it to the oven.  The recipe called for it to cook 20 minutes and I left it in a few minutes longer (I know my oven) and tested with a toothpick.  All was ready!

The chili was fantastic!!  I could only taste a hint of gaminess, but the texture was a little different from beef or ground turkey.  It was a slightly finer consistancy, which went really well in a chili form.  I've heard that venison meatballs are good and I could see why.  The spices and tomato consistancy were perfect!  I omitted jalepenos from the recipe, out of preference, but found that the cayenne, chili powder, and cumin gave a nice subtle heat.

The cornbread was simply gorgeous.  Golden brown and crisp.  I was disappointed to see that the center was underdone, despite the toothpick test.  I cut the bread from around the edges and popped the skillet back in for another 20 minutes, since it had already cooled.  The center cooked up wonderfully.  It did need something, which we had a hard time putting our finger on.  A little touch of sweetness, perhaps?  Maybe even a touch more salt?  Shawn suggested creamed corn instead of frozen.... I'll try another recipe to get it down eventually.  Love the cast iron skillet method, though!!

My favorite way to eat this was created by a suggestion from my deer benefactor.  I put the cornbread in my bowl and topped it with the chili.  Then put a little sour cream and a little cheese on the side to add as desired.  I've always eaten the bread on the side and thought this would be weird, but I trust her and gave it a shot.  Wow.  Simply, wow.  The textures and flavors of this all together was simply brilliant!!  Yum. 

Venison Chili-

Cracklin Cornbread- Smoke & Spice
*ask if you want the recipe