Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Being Flexible...

The end of the school year was a rough time. Not only had I grown very attached to my little guys, but the thought of not seeing their bright little faces and not hearing their wonderful stories all the time made me sad.
And, of course, there was the general stress from record keeping and permanent file updates.
Then, there was the announcement that Polston was losing funds for para professional positions next year. What?
Yeah- that was the rumor going around the last day of school.
As it turns out it was true, but because of some creativity and flexibility I will still have a job. And actually, I think I will enjoy this more because I will get to know more of the kids in the building AND keep tabs on my babies from last year. It seems I will be the librarian at Polston for the 2008-2009 school year. I love this idea!
I have always enjoyed teaching reading, and when I taught middle school language arts, my favorite part was inspiring my students to read more.
Millions of ideas for the library are flitting through my mind right now. I will get to administer the Accelerated Reader program and lead story times for all the classes in the building. Fun Fun Fun!
Change can be scary- but in this case it definitely turned out to be for the best!

Back In The Kitchen!



Today was the first day in over 2 weeks I have felt like getting in the kitchen and doing something.

As you know, Dev has been making all of our cream cheese and yogurt. I decided to take some of the cream cheese and mix up a batch of boursin. I used Paula Deen's recipe, from her "The Lady and Sons, Too!" cookbook. And I made it for pretty much the same reason she gives in the intro to the recipe...

"The Boursin cheese sold in the grocery store is kind of on the pricey side, so just make your own and enjoy the savings!"- Paula Deen.

Boursin Cheese

1 pound cream cheese (I only used about 3 oz, cuz I only wanted a little bit)
8 ounces whipped butter, room temp. (I used about 2 Tbsp., and it was regular)
1 teaspoon garlic salt (I used garlic powder and a little kosher salt)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used fresh)
1/4 teaspoon dried basil (I used fresh)
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (I didn't have this)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (I used lots more!)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I used fresh)

Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a food processor (I just used a bowl and spatula because I wasn't making a big batch). With the machine running, add the seasonings and process until smoothly blended. Line a medium sized crock or bowl with plastic wrap and fill it with the cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Serve with buttery crackers. This also makes a tasty spread for roast beef sandwiches.

I plan to use mine on bagels, as well as some pastrami sandwiches bound for a picnic in the park.

I think this would also be good stuffed in some grape or cherry tomatoes as a starter for a meal.

The Black Plague (and other signs of summer)



Ok. I hope I'm back for good now. I have been really sick (at least for me) over the past 2 weeks.

I thought I had bronchitis, or maybe even walking pnuemonia. I was all achy and flu-like, had headaches, my throat was sore and I had an awful, awful cough that made my entire chest ache.

After a week of this, I went to the doctor to get a real diagnosis. As it turns out, I really did have bronchitis, but the underlying cause was something I hadn't considered- gastroesophageal reflux disease (or acid reflux disease or GERD). This was a tad disconcerting, given the situation my family is in right now.

A few months back my mother was diagnosed with a type of fibroid lung disease. After doing extensive tests, her doctors theorize that what caused her massive amounts of lung scar tissue was probably an undiagnosed/treated case of esophageal reflux. The stomach acid ate away at her esophagus and then began working on her lungs. She is doing fine now, but is on oxygen 24/7 (more than likely a permanent situation) and could possibly need a lung transplant not too far down the road.

Sitting in my doctor's office, hearing this particular diagnosis, I had an epiphany. Up until now, I feel like I've lead a pretty charmed life as far as diet and food go. I eat what I want when I want it. I don't eat horrible things, but I know I eat too much of everything. And I get ZERO exercize. I used to get plenty of exercize. I used to run or walk 2 miles a day. I'm not sure why I ever stopped doing that.

Anyway- so what this has meant for me over the past week, is a kind of boot camp for food. I have a list of foods I should avoid while we're getting the stomach acid situation under control:

foods high in fat (like everything I crave)
sugar
chocolate
onions
citrus foods such as orange juice
tomato-based foods
spicy foods
coffee
alcohol

I feel sure that all of these things will come back (in moderation), but for right now I'm trying to get better about avoiding some of them.

OK- enough whining. I am also going to post a recipe today (I finally feel like getting back in the kitchen). Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is That A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the kids. We adult types have to keep showing up through Friday, but tomorrow will be the last "work day."

I can't wait to be gainfully unemployed. I just want to be able to spend all morning working on stuff for the website, or cooking a leisurely breakfast...you know, goofing off!

I am feeling a little better, although my cough seems to be getting nastier. Ending up at the doctor is not part of my plan, but if it gets worse, I may not have a choice. It would be worth the copay just to get a decent night's sleep.

Anyway- hang in there a few more days and I promise I'll be back!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time for Timer!!!

Dev and I were just talking the other day about this little short feature that used to come on in between Saturday morning cartoons. I couldn't remember the characters name, but I remembered 2 of the episodes very vividly- one about making little ice cube popsicles out of orange juice, and the other about cheese.
Well, lo and behold, today I am reading Kindertrauma, one of my many favorite blogs, and I find a post about the same thing with links to youtube videos! I have included the cheese one here, but the popsicle one is also there.
I have been feeling crappy all weekend, but this made me smile.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One More Germ for the Road...

It seems my wonderful little charges have managed to infect me with one last flu bug for the school year. This is the lame reason I am giving for my shocking lack of posts this week. I have been trying not to miss any work this week because it's the end of the school year and things are a bit- umm....INSANE.

So tonight's dinner will be blamed on the combined influences of 1- Tylenol Cold and Flu, 2- Extreme Hunger that then turned to nausea as soon as I smelled the food cooking, 3- Creativity and 4- Necessity.

I had half a can of potato soup in the ice box. I ate the other half (almost) for dinner last night. I sauted 2 slices of bacon in a small saucepan and added about a quarter of a chopped onion. Then I threw in a handful of frozen white corn kernels. After they warmed up, I deglazed the pot with some white wine and let it cook out a couple of minutes. Then I slogged in the half a can of potato soup (it wasn't even a name brand- it was store brand). I brought it to a boil and turned it off.

I ate 3 bites and left the table. Dev seemed to enjoy it.

There is no pic because I'm sick and you will just have to deal with it! Maybe I'll recover this weekend in time to do some cooking. Worse case scenario I will be free after the 21st, so I know the cooking will pick up after then.

Until then, I will survive on cold medicine and hot green tea. If anyone has any amazing herbal remedies, please feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Great Cooks Community Needs You!



I am a member of a great group of foodies called "Great Cooks Community." As part of our efforts to create a flourishing community of people who love food, we have created an event called "The Great Cooks County Fair."

Here's the 411 on this event:

It will be held monthly on the GCC (Great Cooks Community) website. You don't have to have a blog to enter recipes, but you do have to be a member of GCC. After the submission deadline, the site will begin tallying votes for the recipes. The winners will get some fancy graphics for their sites, along with increased exposure on the website (and maybe other cool stuff to be determined later).

So- you need to go join GCC so you can submit recipes of your own, or just so that you can vote for me repeatedly so I get a bunch of cool stuff! You will meet some really cool people and get lots of yummie ideas for dinner!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Where are the Savannah Bloggers?

I tried to do a google search to find other food bloggers in Savannah, but I never found the right combination of words to get what I wanted.

If anyone knows food bloggers in Savannah (or close by) OR knows how I can search for them on my own, please leave a comment.

I'm going to be back in Savannah over the summer, and I thought it might be cool to try to get together with some other food bloggers to share ideas and advice.

Any ideas?

What's This???



What's this, you ask?

This, my friends, is a big, steaming plate of "keep your man happy."

Nothing says "I'm glad I shacked up with you" like sausage gravy.

Sausage gravy is really easy to make. I've never measured the ingredients. It's one of those things that can make as much or as little as you want.

Devin made a batch of breakfast sausage the other day, so I figured I would whip up a batch of sausage gravy to go with the biscuits I made over the weekend.

The process is simple:

1- Fry your sausage patties in a skillet (a regular one, not a non-stick- unless you have a whisk coated with silicone). Remove them to an oven safe plate and put them in a 200 degree oven to keep warm til everything else is ready.

2- Add a little veggie oil if your sausage didn't render enough fat to make a roux.

3- Add a few handfuls of flour to the fat in the skillet and whisk it around for a couple of minutes, until it starts to darken a bit.

4- Add as much milk as you want. Basically add milk until it looks like you'll have enough gravy for your biscuits. Then whisk very frequently until it comes to a boil- then back the heat off and simmer it. You never know how thick it will get until it comes to a boil.

5- Add a little salt (taste to make sure you don't overdo it) and LOTS of black pepper.

6- Steal one of the sausage patties out of the oven and chop it up. Sprinkle the sausage in the gravy.

Serve with your biscuits and bask in the ever lasting love and affection of your mate.

Brownie Therapy


Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate...

Sometimes nothing else will help. I'm having one of those sometimes.

I wanted to make a simple, rich, gooey brownie- so I looked around on my favorite food blogs. I found the perfect recipe on "Simple Daily Recipes," a blog hosted by a new foodie friend named Jill.

Her recipe is simple, but yields a really firm, yet gooey, chocolatey brownie- perfect by itself, or with a scoop of "Brownie Magic" ice cream from Ben and Jerry's.

You owe it to yourself to follow this link to your chocolate destiny.....

Shortcut Pizza Dough


There are nights when I am really craving pizza...but I'm too lazy to make dough, then let it rise. In other words, I need more instant gratification!

My friend Diane, who is my partner over at 1700 Miles of Cooking, posted a recipe for a quick dough, and suggested I give it a try. I'm so glad I did.

Here's the link to her post. I just used the dough part, cuz Dev doesn't like blue cheese.

I used onions, yellow peppers, tomatoes, feta, cheddar and monterey jack cheeses on mine. It turned out wonderfully. Although not the same as traditional, yeast pizza dough, this was definitely a good crust.

Next time I will roll it a tad thinner, and perhaps hold back on the toppings. This would lend itself very well to a pizza marguerita (horrible spelling- sorry) treatment.

So......rent a couple of movies this Friday and make a couple of pizzas. You'll be so glad you did!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Much Needed Boost

You know what I love about food blogging? I love coming home from a very stressful day at school, and being surprised by who has left me a message, or looking at how many people have visited my page that day.

Today, for instance, was very stressful. But I checked my email when I got home from school, and found that Matthew Locricchio, the author of "The Cooking of Greece," had read the post I wrote this past weekend about his book and emailed me to thank me for choosing it. How cool is that? And what a nice person to take time from his busy day to thank me, a complete nobody, for cooking out of his wonderful book.

These kind of things are what keep me going. If I could do this full time- I would jump at the chance. But for now, it will have to be my favorite part of the day, and my stress release!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Broiled Breakfast



I am always looking for something new to serve for breakfast on the weekends. Dev loves grapefruit, and there were some pretty ones at the supermarket yesterday. After bringing them home and thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to try something I haven't had in years- broiled grapefruit.

I actually don't like grapefruit, so I made the same thing only with a large navel orange for me.

There isn't really a recipe. You just cut a grapefruit or orange in half around its equator...


then sprinkle a good bit of brown sugar on the top. Put it under the broiler until the sugar melts and it begins bubbling. After removing it from the oven, sprinkle a little raw sugar on the top to provide a little crunch.

This morning, I served the fruit with a half bagel, also broiled with cream cheese, a tomato slice and some grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Yummie!!

Gotta Make Some Granola!



I am addicted to granola. Specifically, I am addicted to Devin's homemade yogurt with honey and granola.

The granola recipe I use is pretty straightforward and simple. I add dried fruit, but not until I add it to my bowl of yogurt because they tend to dry out even more and get harder than a rock when baked.

Here's the recipe (I have no idea where I got it):

Granola

2 1/2 cups oats
1/3 c. pecans
1/3 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons butter

Prepare a baking sheet by putting down a sheet of parchment.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon. In a microwave safe bowl, nuke butter and honey for about 30 seconds (til butter is melted). Pour butter/honey mixture over oat mixture and combine. When oats are evenly covered, spread mixture on baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then mix it around. Bake for about 20 minutes more. Cool and store in a ziplock bag or tupperware container.

One recipe lasts me about a week, if I eat some every morning.

Kentucky Biscuits



Sometimes I just crave biscuits. They are nice to have around for quick morning breakfasts, plus they make great dessert with butter and cane syrup.

I should probably confess at this point that I suck at making biscuits. My father makes great biscuits, but apparently I did not inherit the biscuit making gene. I have tried many times, with miserable results.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading my 207 food blogs a few weeks ago and ran into a post on "My Wooden Spoon" about Kentucky Biscuits. According to the author of the blog, they are almost fool-proof. Well- that was all the challenge I needed. Here is the link to the post. And she was right- these are pretty much idiot proof. One note, though- the ingredients call for 1/2 c. butter, but it doesn't specify softened or chilled. I used softened and the biscuits came out just fine. And I mixed the batter with my hands- no need dirtying another spoon, right?

You simply must try this recipe if you have not had much luck with biscuits in the past. I promise they will be ok. Really!

Next time, I will double the recipe and see if I can pat them out and cut them with biscuit cutters. I'll let you know if it works!

Psari a la Spetsiota (Baked Fish with Bread Crumbs)



Continuing with our Greek theme, I went to the library on Saturday and checked out this really neat Greek cookbook. Apparently, the author, Matthew Locricchio) has written a series of international cookbooks aimed at young people. The one I checked out was, of course, "Greece."

The recipes are very simple and easy to follow. There are glossaries and explanations of ingredients. All in all, a very helpful and informative book. You can find the amazon info on the book here.

I had 2 trout fillets in the freezer, so I thought I'd use this recipe on them. The results were outstanding!!! I will definitely do this again, and next time I will try either tilapia or grouper.

Here's the general idea:

Psari a la Spetsiota

2 pounds red snapper, cod, turbot, scrod, or other boneless fish fillets about 3/4 inch thick
1 lemon
4 ripe tomatoes, or one can of tomatoes with the juice (1 1/2 cups)
1 to 4 garlic cloves
4 to 6 parsley sprigs, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
olive oil

Rinse the fish and pat dry.
Lay fish in 13 x 9 glass baking dish.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon on the fish.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on each piece, cover dish with plastic and put in the fridge.
Put tomatoes and their juice in a small bowl.
Crush the garlic, then cut in thin slices. Put garlic in bowl with tomatoes.
Chop parsley and add to tomatoes.
Add a little salt and pepper to tomatoes.
Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes to fester.
Remove fish from fridge. Spoon tomato mixture evenly over fillets. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over tomato mixture and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Take fish out of oven and baste with juices. Put back in oven for another 10 minutes.
Drizzle with a little more olive oil and fresh herbs and serve!

I decided to keep things light and serve this with a Greek inspired tossed salad.

I can't wait to do this again. It is so simple, yet so rich tasting! Please, please, please try this and you will be hooked!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

TV Chef Pioneers- Take 2- Nathalie Dupree

Nathalie DuPree is an interesting woman. I really didn't know much about her until I started doing a little research for this post. I would have loved to include an image of her here, but everything I found on google looked like it was copyrighted, and I don't want anyone getting mad at me....

My earliest memories of watching cooking shows are of Nathalie DuPree. I remember watching her making biscuits (mixing them by hand) while wearing a huge honking diamond ring. My mom always commented about how much abuse that ring took. I also remember how completely messy Ms. DuPree was in the kitchen. There was always flour flying everywhere, or things slurping over the sides of pots while she chattered away. My dad always said she looked like she had had too many glasses of wine before the camera started rolling. My mom took to calling her "Nasty Nathalie." I thought it was all great fun.

I found a really cool article that kind of sums up Nathalie DuPree's philosophy of life and a little about her background. If you want to learn more, go here.

I don't own any of her cookbooks, but I found a yummie sounding recipe of hers on the internet. Hopefully I will have time to make it in the next few days so I can share it with you.

I hope you will take some time to do your own research and learn more about this quintessentially southern lady. In these days of Paula Deen culture, it was nice to go back and learn about the original celebrity southern cook.

Lahanika Lathera (Vegetables in Olive Oil)



I have been on a Greek kick lately. In a previous post, I described the chicken in yogurt and onions I made. I served the chicken with this as a side dish.

This isn't so much a recipe as it is a method. I got it from a cookbook I bought at a Greek Festival in Atlanta, GA about 20 years ago. The title of the book is "The Grecian Plate." It was put together by the Hellenic Ladies Society at the St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Durham, NC and published in 1988. It is a simple, paper bound book- but it is packed with authentic (at least as far as I know) recipes.

The book provides a list of vegetables you can use with this method, one of which was potatoes. I made a rookie mistake and parcooked them in the microwave (a step I took out of the fear they wouldn't cook all the way in the recipe and would be crunchy). I won't do that again.

Here's the method:

Lahanika Lathera

1 pound fresh vegetables
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and spices (I used garlic, fresh oregano and fresh basil)

Wash the potatoes and slice them thinly. In a dutch oven, combine all ingredients in just enough boiling water to keep from scorching. Cover and simmer until tender.

The potatoes broke apart and almost disentegrated by the time I served them. But the flavor of this dish was out of this world. Just enough lemon to know it's there, and the onion and garlic were perfect.

I will most definitely be doing this again soon!

Chicken Tetrazzini



This is an oldie but goodie. The last time I made this particular recipe, my friend Diane and I were in the kitchen together. We managed to use every work surface and every pot in her kitchen....but the result was delicious.

And the same held true for my solo attempt at this dish. I used 2 skillets, 2 plates and a glass baking dish. There was not a single square inch of my counter that wasn't splattered or dripped on. But again, this is so good, I mean food orgasm good, that I didn't mind.

I also cut the recipe in half, and it still made a big pyrex baking dish full. But leftovers are ok with me, as it gets better the longer it festers in the refrigerator.

You could vary this a hundred different ways. Use veggies and veggie broth instead of chicken, or you could even use shrimp (although I'd change up the method so as not to overcook the them).

Instead of typing out the entire recipe and method, I will link you to the recipe on foodtv.com. It's a Giada recipe- but I won't hold that against it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chicken Thighs In Yogurt and Onions

Here's the post I promised on the Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook.

This recipe was really simple and turned out very well.

Chicken Thighs in Yogurt and Onions
from "The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook"

3 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
8 chicken thighs
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

I had to cut this down because I was only using 2 chicken thighs- so I didn't measure anything....

I put some olive oil in a skillet and browned the 2 chicken thighs (which had been salted, peppered and poultry seasoned). I transfered the browned chicken to a glass baking dish.



I added the onions and softened them, then added the garlic (so it wouldn't burn). After about 5 minutes, I took the pan off the heat and added some plain yogurt. I also added salt, pepper and chopped parsley. I then poured the yogurt mixture over the chicken...


and baked it at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes (til the thermometer read 180 degrees).



This could not be easier, and it really tasted good. I served it with some olive oil/lemon potatoes and sugar snap peas. Oh- and some ripe tomato and feta cheese.



You could dress this up any way you wanted- add some curry paste to spice it up a little, or more herbs, almost anything.

I will definitely make this again!

Cookbook Review: The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook

I know I said in an earlier post that I would develop a template for my cookbook reviews, but it is on the other computer and I'm too lazy to move my stuff to the other room. I spent the day administering standardized testing to a group of 6 year olds- gimme a break.

So this isn't a new cookbook. It was published in 1992. I have owned it since not long after it came out, but up until now, hadn't cooked a single recipe out of it. That would lead you to believe that I leafed through it all that long time ago, and didn't consider it worthy of my effort. But that would be wrong. I bet I never even cracked the cover, cuz if I had, I would have made the time to try some of these recipes.

But let's take a moment and consider this book from several angles...shall we?


The Cover...
It's a pleasant green color. And the photo on the front is pretty straightforward- it's a shot of Jeff Smith and the people who helped him write the book. This definitely doesn't qualify as a fancy coffee table book.


The Writing..
Mr. Smith started his professional career as a Methodist minister, so it is no surprise that this book comes off almost as more of a manual on how to get your family involved in cooking- thusly keeping them in communication- than it does a cookbook.

The Recipes...

But don't let the preachiness fool you- there are some really cool sounding things in here. For instance, here is a small sampling of the recipes with post-it tags on them....

Chicken Thighs in Yogurt and Onions
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Red Potato Salad with Bacon
Rice Salad
Orzo Salad with Pesto Mayonnaise
Asparagus and Mortadella Salad
Seafood in Saffron Cream Sauce

I could go on quite a bit longer. I am making the Chicken Thighs in Yogurt and Onions for dinner tonight. So far it is very simple and smells outrageous in the oven.
These aren't the type of recipes you would cook to impress your boss (although there are a few in there that would lend themselves well to that purpose), but for everyday life and potlucks- it's a goldmine.



Cute, huh? Dev posed the shot, thinking I wouldn't actually take the picture, much less use it on the blog. It's not the first time he's been wrong about something like that... :)

Considering the fact that this book was a gift (from my ex-husband)- would I buy it if it hadn't been given to me? Back in 1992? Probably not. If I came across it in a bookstore on a rainy afternoon and took the time to flip through it? Most Definitely.
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