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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday evening was Girls Night Out at Joanie's new home. Since our ringleader, Shelly, moved to Phoenix, we've not been as faithful about getting together. Nor have our adventures been as well attended. This time was different. We were only missing a couple of gals and had two newbies. The group started over 15 years ago so we've had LOTS of time to really get to know each other. It's a wonderful group of women and I'm very lucky to be a part of it.

I took one of our favorites - Pimento Cheese. This is an old Southern favorite so I'm always a bit hesitant to share the recipe - being a true Northerner :-) But, we love the stuff and fix it on a regular basis. It's SO easy to make. Grate a 20 oz. bar of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, toss in a 4 oz jar of pimentos, a good bit of dry mustard (I'd guess it's about 2t but could be as much as 1T) and a dollop of mayo (that's the real stuff, not the salad dressing called Miracle Whip.) Mix with your hands and serve with crackers. We prefer Triscuits but everyone's got their favorite cracker!

Joanie made a wonderful cream cheese and onion dip. You take several onions (looked like 2-3) and slice or chunk them. Sprinkle about a teaspoon each of salt and sugar on them. Toss in a couple of bay leaves. Saute them VERY slowly until they're caramelized. Then, pour over a bit of white wine and reduce it until the liquid is gone. Pour the onions over the softened cream cheese and serve with crackers. I think that one's going on the holiday party menu. It was spectacular.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Leftover Turkey Time

I supposed I'll get tired of the leftover turkey in a few days. But, not now! Lunches have been turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Connie introduced me to those when we spent Thanksgiving at his eldest son's house. That was the first Thanksgiving dinner Kara ever prepared on her own. Scientist that she is, she had everything timed to the minute. It was perfect! Tonight I made turkey tetrazzini. Now, don't get me wrong here. I love my sister-in-law and her family. They are still the pickiest eaters I've ever met. A speck of mushroom in a sauce will find it's way to the edge of the plate... Consequently, my brother is reduced to making pretty bland turkey tetrazzini. Not around here. I quartered then caramelized in a small amount of olive oil, a 16oz container of button mushrooms. In another pan I cooked a diced red bell pepper. When the mushrooms were done I scooped them out into a bowl and added more olive oil and some butter to that pan. Once the butter was melted, I sprinkled on a few tablespoons of flour. When it was nice and light brown, I poured in a good bit of sherry and added some water. Then, when the sauce was about done, I added some half and half. As everything else was cooking, I cooked a small box of whole grain thin spaghetti. When it was cooked and drained, I mixed the whole mess together and put it in a 9x13 pan. Topped it with a bit of finely grated romano cheese and baked it for 20 min at 350. YUM! Salad with Penzey's peppercorn dressing and tomatoes from the garden. Doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cooking Fool Redux

Back to last Sunday's cooking marathon...

We bought some chilies at the farmer's market for an interesting chilies rellenos recipe. It's very non-traditional. The recipe was originally published in Indianapolis Woman. We loved the fact they're not fried like most chiles rellenos. The flavors were perfect together. Best of all, I made this on Sunday and we baked it for lunch later in the week.

Chilies Rellenos
2 large chilies
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbs flour
1/3 c milk
pinch salt
1 c grated cheddar cheese

Remove the seeds from the chilies. Stuff with slivers of the Monterey Jack cheese. Beat the eggs and add the flour and milk. Arrange the chilies in a greased baking dish and pour the egg mixture over them. Bake uncovered for 45 min at 350.

Next up was Heirloom Tomato Soup. I've eaten at R Bistro several times and have never had a bad meal. But, when I read this recipe I thought Regina had gone to a LOT of extra trouble for a simple tomato soup. Guess what? It's worth all the effort! I will say the tomatoes released so much moisture that they didn't roast to the degree I wanted. Next time, I'll roast the onions and garlic separately from the tomatoes. I'd also mix in the cream THEN add the brown sugar. Since the brown sugar is to lessen the acidity it's best to go in last.

R Bistro's Heirloom Tomato Soup

3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, quartered
2 sweet onions, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 c olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup butter
basil leaves
brown sugar
1/4 c heavy cream or half and half

Heat the oven to 450. Wash, core and quarter the tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes with half of the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking pan. Toss the onions and garlic with the rest of the olive oil and spread them on another baking pan. Sprinkle both with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until they begin to caramelize.

Transfer the vegetables to a large pot. Add 1 cup chicken broth, the bay leaves and the butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by a third. Remove the bay leaves. Chiffonade about 6 basil leaves and add them.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender. It's fine either smooth or a bit chunky. Add additional chicken broth to obtain desired consistency. Stir in the cream. Add brown sugar as needed if the soup is too acidic. Garnish with a bit more cream and whole basil leaves.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Who doesn't love Thanksgiving in the middle of the year? Actually, I'm so very grateful for all I have that I feel like it's Thanksgiving daily. Today, though, we had Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the year. My brother, John, is the master of the turkey on the grill. I didn't feel like doing that but did feel like using his basting sauce recipe. With the turkey, I roasted some red potatoes and asparagus. Then, for dessert, a pumpkin fluff pie. Why? Well, there was an 8 oz pkg of lite philly that needed to be used up. And a can of pumpkin that was getting old. And, a container of triple ginger cookies that was going to be past it's prime soon. So, what's more Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie???

John's Turkey Baste
1 15 oz can jellied cranberry sauce, melted
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup butter

Melt the cranberry sauce then add the other ingredients and stir occasionaly until they're all liquified. Baste the turkey with the sauce. This makes for killer gravy.

Pumpkin Fluff Pie
8 oz light philly
15 oz can pumpkin
grated nutmeg
Lite Cool Whip
1/2 container Trader Joe's triple ginger cookies
1/2 butter

Beat the philly until soft and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and spices and beat again. Fold in the Cool Whip. Crush the cookies. Melt the butter and mix with the crushed cookies. Press into a pie plate. Mound the pumpkin mixture in the pie shell. Sprinkle a few cookie crumbs on top. Refrigerate.
My buddy George has kidney disease. He was diagnosed about 4 1/2 years ago. My vet prescribed twice weekly infusions and a special diet. I bought the expensive kidney food and he turned his kitty nose up. So I did some research and came up with a recipe for homemade food. Every quarter, our kitchen turns into cat food central. George is now 14 years old and holding his own. He hates getting stuck but loves his own food. Here's the recipe

16 chicken thighs, skin on with bones
6-8 chicken breasts, skin on with bones
3 lbs ground beef (80% lean)
3 20 oz packages chicken liver
5 lbs carrots
3 cups uncooked rice
6 15 oz cans peas
24 cat vitamins
3 Tbs calcium carbonate (this has to be ordered at a pharmacy)

Cook the chicken and carrots in water to cover. (nota bene: Once I take the chicken and carrots out, I put in celery, some onions and a lot of peppercorns and herbs then cook this down and make wonderful chicken broth) Brown the ground beef and the liver. Do not drain it. Cook the rice until it's mushy. Skin and bone the chicken. Toss the skin and put the bones back it the stock. Combine everything and put it through the food processor. Freeze in pint containers.
Saturday was errand day. Sam's Club, Trader Joe's, Penzey's, Porter Paint, Marsh... That meant it was time to rotate the pantry when we got home. Not my favorite job to do but I'll admit I love seeing everything neatly stacked when I'm done. When I got home I started sloppy joe's thinking they'd make a couple of great lunches next week. What I didn't count on was that the rotating of the pantry would turn into a mass cleaning out and I'd run out of time to fix dinner - or at least the energy to fix dinner! So, sloppy joe's to the rescue. This is a recipe from Mom. Supposedly it came from the Ayres tea room. I've not seen any reference to this on anything I've ever read about the tea room. So, who knows? The corn salad is a recipe I made up a couple of years ago. It's super easy. Best eaten within a day of preparation.

Sloppy Joe's
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion diced
1 medium green pepper diced
dry mustard (do NOT substitute any other kind!)
cider vinegar
dark brown sugar
worcestershire sauce

Brown the beef and vegetables. Drain really well. Add the other ingredients. Since I've been making this for so long, I use the eyeball method. Looks ok, taste and add whatever is missing... So, here's a guesstimate: 1/2 c ketchup, 2 tsp dry mustard, 1 T cider vinegar, 1 T dark brown sugar, 1 t worcestershire. Allow this to cook for about 30 min so the flavors blend. Adjust as desired. Serve on toasted buns. You might need to add a bit more ketchup if you reheat this.

Corn Salad
4 ears corn
4 oz jar pimento
1 sm red onion, finely diced
2 T robusto Italian dressing

Cook the corn and remove the kernels from the cob. Mix with the other ingredients and serve.