Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce with Blueberries

So here's part one of Thanksgiving prep.

I made the cranberry sauce today.  I found the recipe here.

I did not have cabernet, so I substituted Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel.

I think it turned out just fine.

I also used frozen blueberries and cranberries- cuz I had both of them in the freezer and I didn't want to go out in the snow to get fresh.

I think it tastes really good.  It certainly made the house smell lovely this morning.  It didn't make a huge batch, which is probably good.  I hope there's enough left to get at least one really good turkey sandwich out of on Friday!

The Plan...

Here's the plan for Thanksgiving this year.  I'm really excited, because this is the first Thanksgiving I've ever hosted in my own house!  And it only took 46 years...

It may be a bit ambitious, but I'm planning to put as much together before hand as I can, so Thursday will be dedicated to the turkey and baking things off.

To be honest, I don't really have a recipe for what I want to do with the turkey.  I want to butterfly it and stuff it with fruit and veggies and bread, then make it into a roulade.  I saw it on TV the other day.  How hard can it be?

I suppose the worst that can happen is that 5 people don't get turkey, but fill up on the other 75 things on the menu.

No matter what happens, it will be an interesting day.  And hopefully, it will be the first of many holiday gatherings at our table!

Shrimp and Grits

I love shrimp, and I love grits.  Thankfully, the two go together swimmingly.

I've eaten shrimp and grits at just about every place I've ever seen them on the menu, because... well, it's shrimp and grits!

I'm sure there are tried and true recipes for this dish out there on the interwebs, but I'm really not interested in them.  I like my grits a certain way, and I'm pretty sure this version is much less fussy than all those others.  As a matter of fact, if this post makes you crave shrimp and grits, you should make them just the way you like them.  Grits are a personal thing, y'all.

When I originally made this, I was looking for the quickest way to get from hungry to fed.  When left to my own devices (and when on Southern soil) I prefer stone ground grits.  They aren't quick, but they are the best of the best as far as I'm concerned.

Unfortunately, on this particular day, I was not on Southern soil, nor did I have the patience to cook award winning grits.  Besides, even if I had wanted to, I just can't find stone ground grits out here.  The best thing I've found is Bob's Red Mill White Corn Grits.  They cook up in about 5 minutes.  In fact, if you have everything ready to go, this whole shebang can be ready and on the table in under 15 minutes.

Fortunately, I've found some cheats that dress them up a bit, and make them almost as good as the real thing!

Here's what I did on this particular day.  And honestly, I think this will be my go-to method from here on out.  It was that good!

I made the grits first:

1 cup Bob's Red Mill White Corn Grits
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I use organic, no salt added)
1 1/2 cups water
dash of salt and pepper
2 cups of grated white cheddar cheese (For goodness sake, please grate the cheese yourself- it's a workout, plus you don't have to eat whatever it is they put in pre-shredded cheese to make it not stick together.)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I splurge on the good stuff- it has such a strong, savory flavor.  PLEASE DO NOT USE THE GARBAGE IN THE GREEN CAN. It isn't cheese.  I really don't know what it is.)
1 splash of heavy cream (optional)
Hot Sauce (optional)

Get out a medium saucepan and bring the stock and water to a boil.  Use a whisk to stir in the grits, then turn the heat down to a pretty good simmer (on my stove, that's medium low).  Throw in a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir them every once in a while, and let them cook for about 5 minutes.  They will thicken up.  Taste a little to make sure the grits are pretty soft.

Turn off the heat, then add the cheese to the pot, stirring until it's all melted and creamy.  Then put in that splash of heavy cream.  I think this is what puts in over the top!  Taste and adjust the seasonings. Sometimes I put a few dashes of hot sauce in, just to cut the creaminess and cheesiness.

Put the lid on the pot and move it to the back of the stove while you ponder the shrimp part of this business...

The Shrimp Part:

12 shrimp (I used frozen 26-30 sized shrimp), thawed and shelled (deveined if they are nasty)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 good sized ripe tomatoes, chopped (keep the juice)
Salt
Pepper
Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn

I used my little 8 inch skillet to do this, but you could do it in any smallish pot.

Put the pan on the stove and add the oil and garlic.  Turn the heat on medium high.  Don't heat the pan first, because you want to heat the oil while the garlic is in it so it will be infused with garlic flavor.  Let the garlic cook (stirring constantly so it doesn't burn) for about 30 seconds.

Throw in the chopped tomatoes and their juices.  Picky people might want to tomatoes seeded, but honestly, I didn't have the time or the inclination.  Let them cook for a minute or two, just to break them up a bit.

Now throw in the shrimp and let them cook until they are just barely pink.  Throw in some salt and pepper as well.  Please don't overcook them.  There are few things sadder in this world than rubbery, overcooked, curled up shrimp.  As a matter of fact, after I threw in the shrimp, I turned the heat off and let the residual heat from the pan cook them.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

NOW PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!

I served the cheesy grits in a big bowl, topped with 6 shrimp (and some of the tomatoey-garlicky goodness) and the torn basil.

This is a very satisfying winter meal.  It warms you up from the inside!

Plus- I had a little bit of cheese grits left over to have for breakfast the next morning- always a good thing!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Busy Morning...

I've been busy so far today.  I just bought a book called Preserving By the Pint by Marisa McClellan.  I have been reading her blog "Food in Jars" for a while now.  The thing I like about this book is the recipes are for small batches of preserves.  I have a small house, and there are only 2 people in it. I can't store (or consume) 3 bushels of apples turned into butter.

One of the more successful plants in our garden this year was habanero peppers.  The problem with habaneros is, they are hot. I mean really hot.  I've never seen a salsa recipe that calls for more than 1 at a time.  So as I was leafing through my new book, I came across a recipe for raspberry habanero jam.  I decided that would be my first attempt at solo canning.

I made it earlier today, and I have to say it's good.  It isn't very spicy, but it tastes very fresh.  Next time I will cut more slits in the habanero, so more spiciness gets into the jam.

After my success with the jam, I decided to try a recipe for marinated lemon cucumbers.  I haven't tried them yet, but how can cucumbers marinated in vinaigrette be bad??

If you have any desire to begin preserving food, I urge you to buy this book.  It will open  whole new world of small batch canning!

Garbage Frittata

Another horrible iPhone picture of a really good breakfast.

I think the frittata deserves more credit than we generally give it.  It is a blank canvas, to be populated with whatever bits of stuff we have lying around.

This one was particularly good.  And, it was particularly strange.

I have been struggling to use up the garden's last gasp this weekend.  To that end, I fried a batch of green tomatoes Friday, and made a huge pot of mashed potatoes.  I served them with a couple of brown sugar glazed pork blade steaks.  I had leftover bits of all those things floating around in my ice box, so I decided to throw them in a frittata this morning.

There isn't really a set recipe for a frittata.  I started by roughly chopping the fried green tomatoes and the blade steak, then warming them in the skillet with about a tablespoon of butter.  When they were warmed through, I beat 4 eggs with a good splash of heavy cream, salt and pepper.   I added a handful of grated Irish cheddar to the eggs, then poured them over the tomatoes and pork in the skillet.  Then I got the container of leftover mashed potatoes and dropped spoonfuls of them around the skillet.  I let it set for about 5 minutes over medium heat on the stovetop, then shoved it in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes.  I let it cool for about 5 minutes in the skillet, then slid it off onto a cutting board and served pieces of it with some cheddar cheese grits and fresh cantaloupe.

The leftovers are going into biscuits for breakfast this week.

So- I highly recommend giving this a whirl.  You will not be sorry!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Galette



I found a new cooking magazine at the store the other day.  It's called "Fine Cooking."  I was perusing the latest issue earlier today when a recipe caught my eye.  I say it was a recipe, really it was a technique.  It consisted of roasting a pan of whatever veggies you have on hand, then wrapping them in a cream cheese based pastry and baking until golden brown.  I knew right then, I had a winner of a dinner.

I don't remember what veggies the magazine used.  I used summer squash, red peppers, potatoes, onions and swiss chard.  I chucked in some rosemary, thyme and lemon set, and roasted them in a foil covered brownie pan at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.  I put the veggies aside to cool while I made the crust.

The pastry crust was pretty simple.  I put 1 1/2 cups of plain flour, 6 oz of unsalted butter (cut into little pieces), 6 oz of cream cheese (also cut into little pieces) and about a teaspoon of salt in my food processor.  I pulsed it about 20 times, then added maybe 3 tablespoons of water to get the dough to hold together.  I rolled it out in a huge circle- ok.  It really wasn't a circle.  I don't have that much talent.  It was more like an amoeba.

I had a 5 oz container of goat cheese that had been softening on the counter for about an hour.  After I  rolled the dough out, I used the back of a soup spoon to spread the goat cheese on the crust, leaving about a 2 inch border around the outside.  Then I piled all the roasted veggies in the center, and brought the edges of the crust up over them, pleating as I went along.

Into a 400 degree oven it went for about 45 minutes.  I let it sit for 10 more while I threw together a simple salad of cucumbers and tomatoes.

Next time, I won't use as many veggies.  I think it was too heavy for the crust.  I think roasted potatoes and onions with a little gruyere would be fabulous!  The crust was incredible, though.  It tasted so rich from the butter and cream cheese.  And really, as far as pie crusts go, this was almost too easy!

I will most definitely do this again, with the aforementioned changes.  It would also be amazing with fruit!

Pizza Toast

Ah, pizza toast, how I love you!  Pizza toast reminds me of being a kid.  When my sister and I were old enough to come home from school and fix our own snacks, this became a favorite for me.

My childhood version was slightly less cosmopolitan.... It usually consisted of a piece of white sandwich bread, a swipe of Ragu Pizza Sauce straight from the jar, and a pile of shredded cheddar cheese.  Popped into the toaster oven for about 5 minutes- this constituted gourmet after school dining!

Fast forward about 30 years (really? ouch!) and I've updated it a bit.  I mentioned in an earlier post today that I bought a loaf of soft French bread to make the bananas foster French toast.  It worked like a charm, but that means I had more than half a loaf of bread left to do something else with.  Whilst rummaging around in the ice box searching for something to throw together for lunch, I spied the wrapped loaf on one of the higher shelves.  Suddenly, I had a blast from the past, and thought about making some pizza toast!

Here's what I did:  I lightly buttered both sides of the pieces of bread and toasted them in a skillet (mostly because I was going to use it to heat the other ingredients and I was too lazy to reach the toaster).  I had a small container of pizza sauce left over from making pizza the other night, so I swabbed both pieces of bread with a healthy amount of the red sauce.  In the same skillet, I put a small knob of unsalted butter, and after it melted and frothed, I added half a green pepper, chopped, about 3 mushrooms, thinly sliced, and 2 pieces of leftover breakfast sausage from the other morning, also chopped.  As soon as everything  was softened, I piled the veggies and sausage on the bread, then covered the toasts in a mixture of cheddar and swiss cheeses (because I had tiny ends of both in my cheese drawer).  I put them under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and the edges were nice and brown.

Honestly, it's the best lunch I've had in a while!  :)
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