Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving

Oh my gosh I hate moving.  Seriously.  I'm sure no one likes moving, but I really hate it.  And I always end up doing it during the hottest part of the summer.

I had great intentions of taking my big girl camera to the house today to get some before shots.  Yeah.  That didn't happen.  The whole day is a hot, sweaty haze.

Now that I've had a shower and taken way more ibuprofen than any human should need, I'm ready for bed.  Can't wait to wake up and do it all over again!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We Are Home-Owners!!!

After several disappointments, Dev and I finally closed on our forever home!
We signed our lives away at 1:00pm today.  I shouldn't complain, because we got an amazing deal on this house, and I can't wait to get busy making it into our first home.
After purchasing a new washer and dryer, we came back to town and loaded up a few tools and the dog, then headed over to do a few things.
Dev changed the lock on the front door and tinkered with the crawl space vents, while I roamed all over the house, thinking about paint colors and furniture placement.
I'll try to take my good camera over tomorrow and take some better "before" pictures.
The former owners had very....colorful taste.  Most of the house is mustard yellow.  The kitchen is bright purple, the guest bath and 2 of the bedrooms are lime green. It will be fun to see the progress as it becomes "our" space.
The poor yard has suffered severe neglect.  The grass is all dead, and the shrubs have had no pruning or TLC in quite a while.
Here's a shot of Bear in his new backyard.  You can see the plum and peach trees.  One of the things that really sold me on this house was the fruit trees.  We have cherry, peach and plum trees.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quick Yogurt Breakfast

This is a dreadful picture.  Sorry.  But it really tasted good.

I have mentioned before that I am lucky enough to have a husband who makes yogurt for me.  We had a batch in the ice box and I had just made some strawberry spoon fruit.  Sounds like a good combo to me!

I just mixed a few tablespoons of the strawberry stuff into a bowl of plain yogurt.  The spoon fruit is so sweet, it didn't need anything else- just a dash of good quality vanilla.

Fig-Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

So I still have quite a few packages of pork in my freezer from when we bought half a pig last year.  I took out some pork chops the other day and decided to see what I could do with them.

Firstly, I decided to brine them.  I've read quite a bit about brining meat (especially pork), and if it keeps the meat moist, I'm all for it.  To me, one of the worst things in the culinary world is a dry pork chop.

I didn't really measure, but I put a handful of kosher salt in the bottom of a tupperware container, then laid in my 4 chops, then added water until the chops were covered.  I stirred it around, sealed it up and left it for 24 hours.

The next day I took out the chops, rinsed and dried them, then rubbed them with olive oil and salt and pepper.  I put them to the side to come up to room temp and turned my attention to a glaze.  I love pork chops with a sweet element.

I had a jar of fig preserves in the ice box, so I put a few tablespoons of that in a small saucepan, then added a few glugs of inexpensive balsamic vinegar.  I put it over medium-low heat and let it sit and simmer until the chops were done.

The chops were thrown on a medium high grill for about 4 minutes a side. Right before I pulled them off the grill, I painted them with the fig/balsamic reduction.   I think they could have come off a little earlier.

On the side I whipped up a quinoa-veggie salad and dressed it with a citrus vinaigrette.  I seem to remember mixing cooked quinoa, cucumber, feta, tomato and fresh mushrooms.

This meal did not suck.  I will make it again.  Mostly because I still have tons of pork chops in my freezer!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I missed Black and White Wednesday!

I can't believe I missed Black and White Wednesday!  I'm posting my pic anyway.  Hopefully, it will be picked up in next week's gallery.
I entitled my picture "Why Thank You."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

As the summer come to a close, things around here are really heating up.

We are still hoping to move at the end of this month, so we're thinking about packing.  Thinking.  We're not actually doing it yet.  I think part of our hesitation is the possibility of the closing not happening.  We have had such weird luck during our search for a house, I don't think we'll believe it's happening until someone hands us some keys and takes all our money.

I have been cooking quite a bit, and I have a few posts that I'm working on.  It's after midnight, though, so I think I'm going to bed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Trip

We just got back from our short trip to Montrose to visit Dev's Mom.  It was a quiet weekend, but not without its firsts.... I attended my first ever bull riding event.  I only took a few pics because I was using my iPhone, which I have not yet figured out how to zoom, so the pics aren't that great.

Until I get around to writing up the post (hopefully tomorrow afternoon), here's a pretty sunset pic I took at Harvey Gap last week on one of our afternoon fishing trips....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Heading to Montrose, CO for the weekend! Road trip (at least a little one)!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Pesto!

I love my herb garden.  I use something out of it every day.  I have been ignoring it lately, however, and my basil has exploded.  I have 3 basil plants, mostly because when I'm on a kick, I use so much one plant usually can't meet the demands I place on it.  To me, one of the best things about summer is juicy, ripe tomatoes, chopped with some Vidalia onion and fresh basil (maybe some mint if I'm feeling exotic), salt and cracked black pepper.  You can eat it with tortilla chips like salsa, or pile it on grilled bread.

The other way to use lots of basil is to make a big, beautiful batch of pesto.  I did just that last week.

My pesto recipe varies, depending on what I have around.  I happened to have the classic ingredients this time, so that's what I made.

In a blender I threw a huge handful of basil, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, a huge pile of grated parmesan cheese, some toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper, a few leaves of mint and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

The only pasta I had on hand was elbow macaroni, so I cooked it and tossed it with the pesto.  For some quick protein, I sauteed some shrimp in garlic and butter and threw them on the top of the pasta.  I would say it was a fairly successful summer dinner!

Laziness

So I had grandiose plans to make a new recipe today.  I wrote about it last night while I was watching "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."  I didn't quite get to it.  I really didn't get to anything today.

I only left the house once- to take some donated items to Lift Up and pick up some empty boxes from school so we can start packing up the house.

The rest of the day I spent laying on the couch watching Freemason documentaries and playing on the interwebs.  Right now I'm watching a documentary on how plastic coke bottles are made.

Doncha just love summer?  :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspiration

Just for the record, Guy Fieri drives me crazy.  He's one of those small doses people for me.  However, with that said, I must also admit that I freakin' LOVE "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."  Every time I watch this show, I get inspired to make something.  And usually, it comes out fairly edible.  I can remember one of the first times I ever watched it, he was interviewing someone making smoked tomato gravy.  The more I thought about that, the more I needed to try to make it.  The very next day, I dragged out my Emeril cast iron, stove top smoker, and smoked a few halved roma tomatoes and sliced Vidalia onions.  Instead of making gravy with them, I pureed some of them and used the puree to make grits.  I can honestly say those smoked tomato grits were one of the best things I've ever made.  And the leftover tomatoes were chopped and used to make smoked tomato salsa- that didn't suck, either.

I'm sitting here watching it right now, and he's watching some chic make a cinnamon roll, except instead of sweet, she's making it savory, with sausage and mushrooms.  Sorta kinda like a stromboli-ish thing.  I'm telling you right now, I'm making something like that tomorrow morning.  Stay tuned for a post about it!

Black and White Wednesday

Here's my submission to the new "Black and White Wednesday" activity going on over at The Well Seasoned Cook.  Basically people are encouraged to dabble in black and white photography, then submit their photos to this gallery where other bloggers and readers can look at all the pics in one spot.   I can't wait to see what everyone submits!

I call my submission....Tortilla on the Grill.  I know.  Brilliant.

Chocolate Ganache Covered Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes

See what I mean about the naming thing?  Isn't that ridiculous?

First, I want to come right out of the shoot and admit that I cheated big time on this one.  Big time.  I used a chocolate cake mix.  I know.  I feel the shame being heaped upon me by the food blogging world.  I'm sorry.  Baking isn't really my thing, although I do get the bug to try it from time to time.  Moving up to this altitude hasn't helped matters at all, either.  My first from-scratch cake experiment after moving to Colorado was a disaster of biblical proportions.  It turned out like a big, steamy pan of chocolate soup.

I had been reading blogs and came across someone's post on black bottom cupcakes.  My Momma used to make those for my sister and I when we were kids, and I love them.  I can't remember the last time I had one.  So I decided to whip up a batch.  As usual, I couldn't remember which blog I saw the post on, and I hadn't bookmarked it, so I searched on allrecipes.com.  I found a decent recipe and set out to make some memories!

The recipe made the chocolate cupcake part from scratch.  I was too lazy to do that.  So I frankensteined the rest of the recipe together, using a devil's food chocolate cake mix I had in the pantry.

Here's what I did:

I took an 8 ounce block of cream cheese out of the ice box and let it sit on the oven while it preheated to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, I mixed the chocolate cake mix according to the directions on the package.  I put paper liners in 3 muffin tins, totaling 24 cupcakes.  I filled the tins about half full.

I then mixed the softened cream cheese with 1/3 cup of extra fine white sugar and about a teaspoon of vanilla.  I folded in about a cup of chocolate chips.

I used a big spoon and put a dollop of the cheese cake mixture in the middle of each of the cake mix filled cups.

They baked for about 25 minutes in my oven.  I switched them around about 15 minutes through the process.

I cooled them in the pans about 5 minutes before dumping them out onto a cooling rack.  They must cool completely before dipping them in the ganache.

While they were cooling I melted about 3/4 of a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler with a splash of half and half and a tablespoon of espresso powder.  After the cupcakes were completely cool, I dipped the tops in the ganache and put them back on the cooling rack until the ganache had set up.

Oh my gosh.  These are so good.  Too good.  I do not want them laying around for long.  Luckily, Devin eats 2 everytime he passes the counter, so they should be gone soon.

Hearts of Palm/Citrus Salad

I think I need someone to help me name some of the weird things I come up with.  Naming things is not my forte.

I love hearts of palm.  Why?  Because my Daddy loves hearts of palm, and he introduced me to them when I was in college.  I don't eat them often because they are expensive- like $5 a can expensive.  I can honestly say, however, that they NEVER go to waste, because what I don't chop up and put in salads, I eat right out of the can over the cutting board.

I was feeling extravagant the other day in the grocery store (visions of grandeur stemming from our adventure trying to buy our first home, I suppose) and bought 2 cans.  Yes- 2 cans.

Last week I took one of the cans and decided to design a different kind of salad using hearts of palm.  The ingredients aren't anything new, but I think the idea of the presentation is a little different.

Here's what I did:

I took a head of romaine lettuce (washed, of course) and removed 4 nice looking, sturdy leaves from it.

I laid 2 leaves out on each chilled salad plate.

I sliced 2 pieces (they are kind of like cylinders) of hearts of palm and split them vertically in half- I ended up with 4 pieces.  I laid one heart of palm half on each lettuce leaf.

On my plate, I then added 2 slices of avocado on each piece of heart of palm.  I didn't do this on Dev's plate, because he hates avocado.  I know- weird, right?

Then I opened a can of mandarin oranges and put 3 little segments on each leaf.

I decided to dress the salad with a citrus vinaigrette.  To a small mason jar I added: about a tablespoon of dijon mustard, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, about half that amount of juice from the mandarin orange can, the juice of half an orange (and some of the zest), salt, pepper and a dash of meyer lemon olive oil.  I shook the jar vigorously, then added a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil.  I shook the jar again, until everything was emulsified.

My idea was, that after dressing the salad, you could pick up a leaf and eat the salad out of hand.  That didn't really happen.  I ended up cutting mine with a knife and eating pieces of it like a regular salad.  If I had been a bit more miserly with the ingredients, it probably would have worked.  But it still tasted amazing.  I will do this again (probably with the other can of hearts of palm I have in my pantry).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zucchini Carpaccio

In addition to the ridiculous number of food blogs I read, I also subscribe to entirely too many food magazines.  But every once in a while, I get an idea from one of them that makes the price of the subscription worth while.   This isn't really one of them, but it comes close.  :)

Carpaccio is usually an appetizer involving raw meat (usually beef, I think), sliced thinly and served with lemon juice and olive oil.  This is a play on that idea.

I liked this recipe because it meant zero heating up of the kitchen.  I LOVE that.  Well, actually, I did have to toast some pine nuts, but that didn't take very long.

I got the idea for this from the newest issue of Food Network Magazine.  Theirs was a bit more involved, but the main ingredients are about the same.

Here's what I did......

I took 2 small zucchini and sliced them into rounds.  Very thin rounds.  Make-you-go-crazy-and-wish-you-had-a-mandoline rounds.  I spread the rounds on a plate in a very pretty pattern (until I lost patience right there at the end and kind of dumped the last of them on top of the pretty design).  Then I drizzled them with some meyer lemon olive oil I bought while I was in Vail this summer, but you could use extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, too.  I added a little fresh lemon juice, as well.  Then I salted and peppered them, sprinkled them with freshly grated parmesan cheese (NOT the stuff in the green tube.  Please.  That stuff smells like feet), and sprinkled some toasted pine nuts on the top.  You don't see it in the picture (because I remembered to do this after I took it), but I also chopped some fresh basil and sprinkled it on, for good measure.

This was really delicious.  I can't wait to try it with a combination of yellow squash and zucchini, or even with sliced tomato thrown in.  You can not go wrong with this salad.  If you take it to a summer potluck, people will think you're brilliant.  And you are!

Spring Pea Soup

When I was growing up, pea soup meant split pea soup.  I hated split pea soup.  It always tasted gritty to me.  But as I've gotten older, and more exposed to other types of soups, I realize that pea soup can mean all sorts of things.

A few months back (it was actually during the winter), my friend Sue and I took a cooking class at the local hospital on cooking without salt.  One of the dishes we made was an asparagus soup.  The technique was very simple, and I remember thinking you could use almost any vegetable and make any kind of soup you wanted!

Fast forward to earlier this summer.  I had about half a bag of frozen green peas in the freezer, and I wanted to use them up.  Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken pot pie, but I wanted something simpler.  I remembered the asparagus soup from the cooking class, and decided to use the same technique to make a soup with the frozen peas.  Here's what I did....

Spring Pea Soup

1 bag of frozen peas (or whatever you have left over)
1 can low sodium chicken stock (or however much you have leftover)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt
pepper
white wine, optional
cream, optional

I began by sauteing the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes, until the onions were translucent.  I added the frozen peas and chased them around the saucepan a few time with a spatula.  After about 3 minutes, I added the chicken broth.  I really only added as much as I wanted to make- I eyeballed the amount of stock until I had enough to make 2 bowls of soup.  I brought the whole mess to a boil, then took it off the heat and let it cool about 15 minutes.

After it cooled, I blended the soup until it was velvety smooth.  I did this in 2 batches.  Be careful blending warm soup.  I have wiped more than my share of soup off my cabinets because I filled the blender too full.

After it was smooth, I poured it back into the pot and added salt and pepper to taste, a glug of white wine (sherry would be nice in this, too) and just a bit of cream to put it over the top.

I served this with shrimp pesto pasta, but it would also be wonderful with a grilled cheese of some sort!

Gorgonzola Stuffed Burgers

It's summer.  Everyone is looking for the perfect burger recipe for those nights when it's just too hot to turn on the stove.  Grilling out is a national obsession, and I'm the first to admit I'm hooked.  I will do just about anything to keep from heating up my kitchen in the afternoons.

I have always struggled with burgers.  I love them, but I've never been any good at making them at home.  It seems mine always turn out too dry.  I always look forward to magazine articles in the summer, because you always get ideas for a better burger.  This year, I decided to try a stuffed burger.  And since I like blue cheese, I decided to stuff my burgers with gorgonzola.

I used my standard burger recipe, but it needs work, so any suggestions are welcome!

I bought a beef chuck roast (just a small one- a little over a pound) and ground it using my kitchen aid grinder attachment.  To the freshly ground meat I added a handful of panko bread crumbs, some worcestershire sauce, some chopped garlic and salt and pepper.  I divided the mix into 8 portions, and formed each portion into a patty.  Then, I took 2 patties and put some crumbled gorgonzola between them and sealed them up.  When I was done I had 4 burgers.

I grilled the burgers, then served them with potato chips and a quinoa salad.

The flavor was great, but I'm still struggling with how to get a juicy burger.  Should I add some additional fat to the ground mix?  Stop using the bread crumbs?  Help!  I could also use some help with my food photography...yikes!

Blue Cheese Vidalia Onions

I've mentioned several times before that I read several food blogs.  Actually, I read an obscene number of food blogs.  One of the newest blogs I've found is called Baked Bree.  I think I've saved almost recipe she's published in the last 6 months, at least.  Anyway- she posted a recipe for grilled onions the other day that made me want to jump up and try it immediately.  So I did.  I just happened to have all the ingredients, or at least ingredients I could sub.  She used Maytag blue, I used gorgonzola.  Plus, I had some zucchini around that I needed to use, so I threw them in as well.
One other difference- she finished hers off in the oven.  I didn't want to heat my kitchen, so I put them in a foil packet and finished them on the grill, right next to the kielbasa I served with them.  And since I was cooking them in the packets, when I added the butter and bread crumbs to the tops with the cheese, I sprinkled some white wine in the packet as well, you know, just to fancy it up a bit.  Next time I'll up the  wine a little.

These onions turned out so well!  I will definitely be doing these again, soon.  I won't reprint the recipe, cuz I want to link to it so you will go and check out the blog for yourself.  Go here for the recipe.  You won't be sorry you did!

Fresh Ricotta Cheese

I am totally spoiled.  I have a husband who makes yogurt and fresh ricotta cheese whenever I need him to.  It has ruined me forever on buying either of these items from the store.
The one drawback to the fresh ricotta is, it doesn't leave over well.  That means if I don't use it all in one shot, the day he makes it, it's never the same the next day.  It becomes gluey and sticky and a mess.

Here's one of the ways I devised for using up some leftover ricotta cheese.  Actually, to be honest, I was trying to use up some other leftovers as well, and this was a great chance to mix them all together.

Fresh Ricotta/Spring Pea Spread

I used about 1 cup of ricotta cheese, then started adding everything in the kitchen that wasn't nailed down.  Heh.  For reals, I added the zest of half a lemon, and the juice.  Next I threw in some leftover peas from dinner the night before.  Ummmm, after that I added salt and pepper and a little Greek Seasoning.  I think that's it.  Oh- and I rough chopped a few slices of prosciutto I had in the lunchmeat drawer.  Mix that all together and spread it on a cracker or piece of toasted baguette. Yums!

Sherried Shrimp

Here's a recipe I got from Damon Fowler.  He's a cook book author and food historian.  I've known him for a long time.  We used to sing together in the choir at St. John's Episcopal Church in Savannah, GA.
Anyhoo- when I saw this recipe he published on Paula Deen's website, I had to try it out.  I love shrimp bisque, and this is very reminiscent of that, owing probably to the shrimp and the sherry.

The recipe is very simple.  He serves his over rice.  I served mine over cheese grits.  You can serve it over anything you want.  ;)

Here's the recipe, in Damon's words....I didn't change anything.  I LOVE cut and paste!


Sherried Shrimp
Damon Fowler
Serves 4

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large clove garlic, lightly crushed and peeled, but left whole

48 large shrimp (about 1½ pounds), peeled

Salt and ground cayenne pepper

½ cup dry sherry

3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

3 cups Lowcountry Steamed Rice

Put the garlic and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the shrimp and sauté, tossing frequently, until curled and pink, about 3 minutes. Season well with salt and cayenne, both to taste (Savannah’s inlet brown shrimp often don’t need added salt), and remove them with a slotted spoon to a warm platter.
Add the sherry and bring it to a boil, stirring and scraping the pan, and let it boil half a minute. Stir in the parsley and pour it over the shrimp. Serve at once, over rice or with plenty of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cold Hard Facts.



Pretty staggering.  Unfortunately, I watched this while eating tortilla chips right out of the bag.
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