Monday, May 30, 2011

You know you teach 8th grade when...

I saw this picture on a craft blog I read called "Knock Off Decor."  Most people look at this and think how cute it is.  I look at this and think, "Gee, I wonder how many inappropriate explicatives my 8th graders could write on this within 10 minutes."

Musings on Summer...

School's out.  I have turned off the weekday alarm on my iPod.  My sleep schedule is already obliterated, as I slip back into my more normal, nocturnal rhythm.  Endless projects lay around me, forsaken for a lovely afternoon nap.  My icebox overflows with the remnants of culinary experiments and the ubiquitous pitchers of sweet tea.  My daydreams are populated by memories; summers of the past.  Southern summers.   Ceiling fans, humidity, stifling heat, cold sweet tea with condensation running down the sides of the glass.  Steamy sidewalks after evening thunderstorms.  Lawn chairs on the floating dock, checking crab traps in between songs on the radio.  More recently, Sand Gnats games, back yard barbecues, fried shrimp and bottles of beer.  Best friends.

My summers are different now.  But every once in a while I read something that takes me back to my childhood, or at least my precious days living in the glorious South.  I came across one of those things this morning on my Facebook page.  A friend of mine, Damon Fowler, wrote a piece on Paula Deen's website about the endangered future of traditional southern cooking.  Well, actually, the piece was about how important it is to preserve the traditional southern dishes, prepared in the past by our mothers and grandmothers.  You really should go read it for yourself, here.  After I read it, I was very thankful I get to fly home for a few days next week, to visit and cook with my own mom and best friend, Di.  I plan to eat as much fresh, local seafood as I can get my hands on.  I promise to sit with a glass of sweet tea and have meandering conversations with life-long friends (about topics such as the original colors of jello).  And I promise to record as much of it as possible here, so whenever I get homesick, I can bring this post up and get a little fix, until the next time I can fly back to the place my soul never really left.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meatless Mondays...

That's really not an attractive picture of my dinner.  It tasted great, though.

I wanted to make something different for dinner, and since I hadn't planned ahead enough to defrost any meat, I needed a meatless choice.  I've been going through stacks of old magazines today, trying to get rid of extra stuff.  We are hoping to move soon, and the less crap there is laying around, the less stuff I have to put in a box and move across town.

I came across this recipe for cheese stuffed portobellos in Foodnetwork magazine.  The spinach salad filling is also good on it's own, with the addition of a wee bit of balsamic vinegar.  I also substituted monterey jack cheese for the mozzarella, cuz it's what I had on hand.  Oh- and I didn't put the celery/shallot salad stuff on the top.  I just stopped after I broiled them the second time with the stuffing in them.  I served this with an ear of boiled corn on the cob.

Cheese-Stuffed Portobellos
Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
Prep Time:
15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
10 min
4 servings
                Cooking spray
                4 6-inch portobello mushroom caps
                4 cups spinach, chopped
                1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
                1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
                2 shallots (1 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced)
                1 large tomato, diced
                3 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese, plus shaved pecorino for topping
                3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
                Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
                1/2 cup ricotta cheese
                4 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the broiler. Mist a foil-lined broiler pan with cooking spray. Put the mushrooms gill-side down on the pan; broil 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the spinach, breadcrumbs, mozzarella, chopped shallot, tomato, 2 tablespoons each pecorino and olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
Remove the mushrooms from the broiler and turn them gill-side up on the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Mound the spinach filling on the mushrooms and top with the ricotta. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon pecorino and broil until the filling is heated through and the ricotta is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the celery, sliced shallot and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Top with shaved pecorino. Divide the mushrooms among plates and serve with the celery salad. Drizzle with olive oil.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Crafty Things

I have, in the last few months, discovered a desire to craft.  Not like macaroni covered cigar boxes, but stuff for my house.  I have begun reading lots of blogs about home design and do it yourself home decor.  One of my favorite blogs, Whipperberry, is giving away a fancy Silhouette machine that makes stencils and iron on transfers.  Needless to say, I've entered about a billion times, because the machine is a couple hundred dollars I can't justify spending while we're trying to buy a house!
I'll write more about it later, but hopefully now that school is out, I'll have time to make some of the projects I've bookmarked and post them here!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Caramel Apple Pork Chops and Melting Pot Mac and Cheese

So tonight I wanted to make something different for dinner.  I had a package of pork chops thawed, so I knew I needed to use them.  I also had odds and ends of several different kinds of cheese in the ice box.  After thinking for a minute or two, this is what I came up with....

I boiled about half a box of elbow macaroni, and drained it in the sink.  In the same pot, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter over medium high heat, then added an equal amount of all purpose flour. I stirred that around for a few minutes, then added about a cup and a half of half and half (that looks weird, huh?).  Then I added a splash of heavy cream- can you tell I was cleaning out my refrigerator?  :)
As it began to heat and get near a simmer, it began to thicken up.  I added a little milk, and kept stirring.  Next I added a little hot sauce, some freshly grated nutmeg and lots of black pepper.  I took it off the heat and added grated fontina, parmesan, cheddar and the end of a wheel of brie.  I stirred until all the cheese was melted and the sauce was smooth, then I added the macaroni.  After combining it, I put it over low heat and covered it.  I mixed some panko bread crumbs with some melted butter, chopped fresh herbs and lots more black pepper.  When I served the mac and cheese, I sprinkled the bread crumb mixture on the top for a little freshness and crunch.

For the pork chops, I made a dry rub of brown sugar, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and cinnamon.  I packed it liberally on each pork chop and covered them in the ice box until I was ready to grill them.  I had 2 granny smith apples that were going downhill fast, so I skinned, peeled and cored them.  I chopped them into relatively small pieces and sauteed them in butter in a skillet over medium high heat until they were very brown.  I sprinkled cinnamon and brown sugar and a little salt on them and let the brown sugar melt for a few minutes.  Then I added a splash of half and half.  I turned them on low and covered them.  After grilling the pork chops, I poured the caramel apple sauce on them.

I served the above with peas and pearl onions.

Weekend Waffle Making

This was my Sunday morning project.  I had decided I wanted waffles (mostly because most recipes make at least 12 waffles, and that means easy leftovers for the rest of the week), but wasn't sure what recipe I wanted to use.  I had Biscquick, so I could have gone that route, but I wanted them to be home made.  I turned to my trusty laptop, and her database of thousands of recipes I squirrel away, but never use.  After doing a quick finder search for "waffles," I came up with this recipe...

Classic Waffles:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar; set aside. Preheat waffle iron to desired temperature.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the milk, butter and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture; beat until blended.
Ladle the batter into a preheated waffle iron. Cook the waffles until golden and crisp. Serve immediately.

How did they come out?  Meh.  They were waffles.  Which brings me to something I've been thinking a lot about lately.  As we get older, our tastes change.  Some things, like dunking everything in ketchup or ranch dressing, we grow out of by our teenaged years.  But somethings are more subtle.  For instance..... I have always been a bread person.  But as I creep into middle age, I now want the bread to be a platform for other things.  Well- except for hot, fresh bread, straight from the oven.  That I'll take with a slathering of slightly salted butter and nothing else.  But most other breads I use as the base for other, tastier ingredients.  
I think waffles are headed down that path for me- maybe even pancakes.  But you know whose fault that is?  CREPES.  Ever since I rediscovered crepes, I have been thinking of filling combinations.  And that, I think, is the genesis for my theory about filling pancakes.  I love simple, home made, buttermilk pancakes.  And really, they are nothing more than thicker crepes.  Why couldn't I fill them with savory or sweet things?  
But back to my waffles.  I have them individually wrapped and waiting in the ice box for whatever lovely combinations I come up with for breakfasts this week.  I'm thinking open faced ham and gruyere melts one morning.  Or maybe a shallot, wilted spinach, sun-dried tomato, feta combo.  Sliced strawberries and nutella?  Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs with cheddar?  BLT?  THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS I TELL YOU!
Wow- I'm hungry.  Maybe I'll have one for lunch.....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Two of My Favorite Things

I have discovered two new cheeses.  I rarely meet a cheese I don't like, so I was bound to love these.  But truly, these are outstanding.  I picked them up in Montrose, at the fancy City Market store.  Unfortunately, I can never find either one of these here in Rifle.  Sigh.

Flagship Reserve Truckle

Fromager D'affinois Poivre
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