Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chai French Toast

This was my culinary project for Sunday Brunch.

Yesterday we drove to Grand Junction to do some shopping, and on the way out of town we stopped at one of our favorite places to eat sushi- No Coast Sushi.  Will wanted dessert, so we ordered the Chai Creme Brûlée.  It was delicious.  I guess that's what inspired me to try this out.

So I don't make French toast very often, and I'm not sure why.  It's pretty much easier than pancakes or waffles, and you get the same sort of carb-soaked bang for your buck.

I really don't have a recipe for French toast, but here's what I think I did...

Chai French Toast

3 slices homemade bread- or something of good quality- not white sandwich bread- mine were huge
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 good pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup chai tea liquid concentrate
3 scant tablespoons unsalted cultured butter (or regular)
a few pinches of kosher salt
maple syrup for the table

First, I cut 3 pretty thick (about an inch) slices of homemade bread.  We make our loaves in a round shape, so the slices were pretty huge.  I set them aside while I pondered the custard part.

In a medium bowl, I cracked the 3 eggs, added the heavy cream, salt and liquid chai concentrate.  I whisked this until it was really foamy.

Then I got out my griddler and preheated it on the griddle setting at 375 degrees.  You could also do this in a skillet on the stovetop.  I was just lazy and wanted to cook all 3 slices at one time.

I went back to the custard mixture and poured it into a glass pie plate.  Then I added 2 of the bread slices so they could begin to soak.  I'm guessing I left them in there about 5 minutes.  If your bread is thinner, don't let it soak until it falls apart!  I flipped them over to the second side and let them sit another couple of minutes.

When the griddle was preheated, I put the first two slices on, then began soaking the third.  I didn't put butter or any kind of oil on my griddle, because I just find that it makes it harder to clean afterwards, and things don't stick to it anyway.  I use a Cuisinart Griddler, but just do what you normally do when you make pancakes, and you'll be fine!

I let them cook for at least 5 minutes on the first side.  I wanted to make sure the inside was cooked through, and not runny.  In the past, if I didn't think it was done on the inside, but was getting too dark on the outside, I've finished it in the oven.  Luckily, I didn't have to do that this time.  I added the third piece to the griddle, and flipped the other two over.  I'm guessing the second side cooked about 3 minutes.  Really, this part isn't rocket science- pull it off when you think it's done!  The third slice was ready a few minutes later.

I slathered the pieces of bread with about a tablespoon of cultured butter each, then gave each a pinch of kosher salt.  I served it with maple syrup.

Like I said before, I should make French toast more often.  This was really delicious!

Sunday, January 4, 2015


I was looking at my blog stats this weekend.  I don't do that very often, because I don't make any money off my blog, and I really just use it as an easy way to transmit recipes to people when they ask me for them.

But I saw something odd.  The number one most popular post on my blog- and I mean over the entire time it has existed (2007)- is Brunswick Stew.  And it wasn't even a real version.  It was a total and complete cheat.  I have no idea on earth why people find this recipe.  I don't even think I used key search terms with it because I didn't know what they were.

Just for fun, I'll post the link to it here.  Seriously, people have way too much time on their hands....

Here's my cheater Brunswick Stew.

Old School Simple Egg Salad

Egg salad may be the least photogenic salad in the universe.  I tried to get all artsy with it.  But it still looked like sewage.  So this post will have no picture of the yumminess.  But I felt the picture of Duke's would suffice, because using the best mayo you can get your hands on is essential.

Egg salad really only has 2 ingredients: eggs and mayo.  Everything else is just window dressing.  So you need to get the best eggs and the best mayo you can.

I am an egg snob.  I am fortunate enough to live about 10 minutes away from Osage Organic Farm which sells organic, free range eggs.  I can even go and spend time with the chickens if I want to.  Most of the time I don't, but I could.   I think organic, cruelty free eggs are important.  End of sermon.

I've written in another post about my fanaticism when it comes to Duke's mayo.  I've smuggled gallons of this stuff out of the South.

As far as variations on this recipe, there are untold millions.  The number of eggs you use determines how many you can feed.  Four eggs usually makes enough for me to last for 2 days if I eat the salad on crackers.  And I really don't want to get into methods of boiling and peeling eggs.

I've spent many hours cussing over a sinkful of eggs that wouldn't peel worth a darn.  Now I usually put the eggs in a saucepan and add water to cover- and add a splash of vinegar.  I bring the eggs and water to a fast boil, turn the burner off and set a timer for 20 minutes.   After that, I dump them in the sink and run cold water over them for a few seconds, then peel.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Life is uncertain.

Here's the basic recipe.  Take it and run with it.

Old School Egg Salad

4 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (I use an old egg slicer I inherited from my mom)
3 or 4 tablespoons of Duke's mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish (or any other pickled thing: capers, pickles, whatever)
Salt and plenty of black pepper

Put everything in a bowl and mash it up with a fork.  Then make a really good sandwich, or eat it on Wasa Crackers.

Tuna Fish Salad

School starts back this week.  No more gainful unemployment for us.  This means many sad things.... No more breakfast at 10am.  No more leisurely trips to the grocery store after lunch to dream about dinner.  You get the idea.

One of the worst things about working is figuring out lunch.  My husband and I are teachers, which means we have very little time to eat lunch (especially on the days when we have lunch duty).  It's a treat to have time to leave campus and eat food from the outside world.

So we brown bag it.  A lot.  And it gets boring.  And it's not what I want to be thinking about as I'm doing the dishes from dinner.  And I guess I whine a lot about it.  Moving on.

Since today is our very last day of Winter Break, I decided to get a jump on lunches for the week.  I know tomorrow is going to be a long, hard day- so lunch needs to be something decent.

I made 2 different old-school salads.  This post will center around the tuna fish salad.

As a kid, this was one of my two favorite sandwiches (the other was ham and American cheese with mayo on white bread).

Even as I've aged, and my palate has become more sophisticated, I'm still relatively old-school with the tuna.  The only sophisticated part of this process is choosing which canned tuna to use.  I have switched to a brand that uses only line-caught, wild tuna- Wild Planet.  And it uses a smaller type of tuna that is not over-fished (skipjack).  The other good part about using smaller species is less mercury to ingest.  I'm not an expert on fish or anything, but these things make me feel better about my choice.  My only wish is that they'd come out with a version packed in olive oil.  I find the fish has much more flavor, and I can use the oil in the can to flavor other things.

The second most important ingredient in this salad (besides the tuna) is the mayo.  I am an absolute purist when it comes to this.  If I don't have time to make my own, I use Duke's.  And I can't get it at my grocery store out here in the wild west.  I can get it from Amazon (if I want to pay shipping- which I don't), but I rely on my friends back in Georgia to keep me stocked.  My mother sent me Duke's mayonnaise in my Christmas box this year.  A couple of summers ago, my friend Diane and I went to an antique/thrift store and I bought a separate piece of luggage specifically for shipping jars of Duke's mayo home.  That's how serious we are about this.

On to the recipe!

Old School Tuna Fish Salad (this makes enough for one really stuffed sandwich, or maybe 2 days worth on crackers)

1 can Wild Planet tuna
Duke's Mayonnaise (eyeball it, I probably use 2 or 3 tablespoons)
Sweet pickle relish (I had a small jar of homemade pickles I needed to use up this time, so I chopped them up and used them instead.  As long as you have a pickled component, it doesn't really matter.  Fancy people can use capers.)  I used about 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper

Put that all in a bowl and mush it up with a fork.  There are 8 billion variations on this.  As I mentioned, you can use any pickled component you like.  You can even add several.  If I'm using chopped pickles, I add a few splashes of the pickling juice.  Because I'm Southern.  And because it's the right thing to do.  If you want yankee tuna fish salad, read a yankee blog!

I used to love this on a sandwich.  But now, I'm kinda liking it on Wasa Crackers even better.  I'm probably not doing myself any favors carb-wise, but I love how crunchy and substantial Wasa Crackers are.

Anyhoo- I know we will enjoy this for lunch tomorrow- standing in front of the copier for 15 minutes before we head out to the playground for lunch duty.  Sigh.  Back to the salt mines!

Blender Salsa

I think everyone has their own recipe for salsa.  Because honestly, even the worst homemade salsa is fathoms better than store bought.

Since I've been making salsa at home, I've become quite a snooty salsa person.  Jarred salsa just tastes too salty and bland.

One of the things I like about making my own salsa is, I can use up stuff I have in the icebox.  What I've written here is a base recipe, but you can put anything you want in salsa.

I use canned ingredients during the winter, because the fresh produce at the grocery store usually leaves something to be desired, or my store has no organic option.  In the summer, I grow and roast my own peppers.  I usually freeze a few batches, but those are long gone.  If you want to sub fresh stuff, please do!

At the end of the recipe, I will show you pictures of the brands I use for the canned stuff.  These are just my personal preference.  But I do think that if you use quality ingredients, there's no way you can go wrong!

I'm sure I could adjust this recipe to make large batches and can it or freeze it.  But we go through a lot of this, and it only takes 3 minutes to make a fresh batch in the blender, so I don't bother.

Blender Salsa

Chuck these things in a blender and buzz it up!

1 can tomatoes (diced, fire roasted, whole, doesn't matter)  mine was a normal sized can
1 small can green chiles (I use Hatch brand, but anything will do- fresh roasted is so much better, though)
One chipotle pepper in adobo (I seem to always have the leftovers from an open can of these in the icebox.  This is a great way to use them up- add more if you want noticeable heat.  I was taking this to a meeting, so I didn't want it spicy)
Juice of one lime (any citrus will do- I tried it with an orange once and it was great!)
A quarter of one smallish white onion (you can use anything- red onion, scallion, whatever)
A big handful of cilantro, including stems (no need to chop)
A generous pinch of salt (taste the final product- you may want more)
A squirt of agave syrup or honey

I store mine in a mason jar in the icebox.  It lasts around my house for about a week (unless I take it to a meeting- then I usually either make a double batch, or make more the next day).

Simple Guacamole

Have you ever read one of those articles in a magazine or on the interwebz that asks you what food you would choose to take with you if you were trapped on a deserted island?

If I found myself deserted on an island, one of the foods I'd take with me would be avocados.  I would also insist on limes and salt,  because why have avocados if you don't have lime or salt?

One of my favorite delivery methods to get avocados from the counter to my stomach is guacamole.

But what I've discovered in my 40s is that my favorite type of guacamole is simple.  It's not that I won't eat complicated guacamole, but if left to my own devices, all I really need is a ripe avocado, some lime and some salt.  Everything else is negotiable.

My best friend Diana knows I love guacamole.  She gave me a molcajete for making authentic guac.  It's basically a mortar and pestle made from lava rock.  The texture it gives the guacamole just can't be replicated any other way.  But I don't use the molcajete every time.  I use it if I'm making a big batch for company.  Most days I mash the avocados in a bowl and eat it while I'm standing over the sink.  Because I'm classy like that.

Here's my recipe for basic guacamole.  This is a blank canvas.  Feel free to add diced tomatoes, onions, chiles, chile powder, whatever.  But this is the way I like it.  I eat it on tortilla chips, spread it on sandwiches, or eat it out of the bowl with the fork I used to mash it, seconds before.  When you make the guac- it's your call.

I listed the ingredients in the order I usually put them in the bowl.  I don't know if it makes a difference.


2 avocados (cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a fork or spoon- discard the pit)
Juice of 2 limes
Salt (more than you might think you need- taste the finished product and adjust)
1 green onion, sliced (include white part)
1 handful of fresh cilantro (coarsely chopped)

Put all these things in a bowl and mash with a fork.  You can get fancy and use a mortar and pestle, or even a blender.  I like a little texture.

Here are a couple of other pictures.  I was playing with my iPhone camera!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Chicken Potpie and a huge Cuisinart FAIL

I roasted a chicken earlier this week, and I had a container of shredded meat in the icebox that needed to be used up.

I pondered several options: fajitas, quesadillas, bbq, stir fry, fried rice, etc. I decided to wonder through my often-forgotten digital collection of recipes.  Since the advent of Pinterest, I have completely neglected both my cookbook collection and my digital recipe collection.  It's so much easier to just type in what I'm looking for in Pinterest, I never look anywhere else anymore.  But really, that's crazy!  I have so many other recipe resources right in my own house!

After looking around,  I decided on potpie.  I haven't made it in ages, and I found a biscuit pie crust recipe I'd forgotten about, and this was a perfect opportunity to dust it off and take it for another spin.

Credit where credit is due... the crust recipe is from an amazing food blog called "Closet Cooking."  I have been following this blog for a few years now, and I always get wonderful ideas from Kevin's posts!  I followed his recipe exactly, except for the addition of some dried rosemary instead of the fresh basil.

Unfortunately for me, my Cuisinart food processor decided to break in the middle of the crust preparation.  I was using it in pulse mode to make the crust, when it decided to get stuck in the on position.  The only way I could get it to turn off was to unplug it.  When I plugged it back in, it turned on again, and wouldn't shut off.  I finished the crust by pulsing the ingredients by repeatedly unplugging the processor.  Not fun.

After speaking with the folks over at Cuisinart, I am sad to say they expect me to pay to ship this huge 14 cup food processor to Arizona to get it repaired.  Now, don't get me wrong, if I had broken the machine and it was my fault, I wouldn't mind.  But I didn't.  It's not like I threw it out of a moving truck, or tried to mix cement with it.  I was making a pie crust.  And speaking with supervisors got me nowhere.  And to make matters worse, once I got off the phone, my husband started doing research about it, and Cuisinart has awful ratings on Amazon.  In one case, Amazon even got involved to make it right for a customer- because Cuisinart wouldn't.  And all the issues were the same as mine- an unresponsive button panel.  AND- everyone says that Cuisinart customer service is awful.  I can say from my experience, that the first girl I spoke with (Andi) was very sweet and helpful, but when I complained about paying for shipping, she transferred me to Jason, who was not helpful at all.  He told me that I could repeat my complaint as long as I wanted, but they had done all they could do.  Nice.  He also told me, when I asked who I else I could complain to, that the person over him only had an address, no phone number or email address.  Really?

All this has me really bummed out, because 2 years ago when I received this food processor from my husband, Cuisinart was all I wanted.  I wouldn't even let him look at anything else.  As far as I was concerned, Cuisinart was the gold standard for professional grade food processors.  When I contacted them today, I didn't even think about the shipping, figuring that Cuisinart was a good company that would stand behind its product and do whatever it took to make things right.  I was SO WRONG.

Needless to say, I don't have much choice but to pay the shipping to have the machine repaired.  We payed way too much for the processor not to.  However, when this one dies- and that may not be far off- I am researching KitchenAid or other companies.   I have lost all faith in Cuisinart.

Ok.  Sermon over.  I find myself feeling guilty about this, because I should be thankful that I live a life where I can afford a 14 cup professional grade food processor in the first place.  I am so blessed and there are far bigger problems in the world.

On with the potpie story...

As for the filling for my potpie, I figured I'd wing it.  As they say on "Top Gear:"  How hard can it be?

Here's what I threw together.  I put 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 12inch skillet (not non-stick) and let it melt.  Meanwhile I chopped half a sweet onion, 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and half a pound  of mushrooms and threw it in the melted butter.  I found some dried rosemary in the pantry, so I added 2 teaspoons or so of that.  I salted the veggies and let them sauté about 10 minutes.  While that was happening, I thawed 2 cups of homemade chicken stock in the microwave.

After 10 minutes, I added about a tablespoon of olive oil (to add some fat so I could make a roux).  I sprinkled about 3 tablespoons of flour in the veggies and stirred it for about 2 minutes, letting the flour cook a little.  Then I added in the 2 cups of stock, stirred it and let it come to a boil.  After a few minutes, it started to thicken up nicely.  I added in about 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken, and a few handfuls of frozen peas and corn.  Finally, I took it off the heat and added about an eighth of a cup of heavy cream and tasted it again for seasoning.  At that point, I left it off the heat to thicken up more for about 10 minutes.

While that was happening, I took my 2 rolled out biscuit crusts out of the ice box.  I poured the filling into the bottom crust, and put on the top crust.   I sealed it the best I could, then brushed it with a little heavy cream mixed with water.  I put the whole shebang on a cookie sheet (to catch any overflow) and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  I let it sit about 15 minutes before I cut into it.

The potpie turned out well.  Whenever my husband goes for seconds, I figure I've done something right.

The food processor thing still has me aggravated, but my hands are pretty tied there.  If anyone has any other suggestions about how to get Cuisinart to respond more favorably, please let me know.  I am planning to write a letter to the address I was given.  But I still find it hard to believe there isn't an email or a phone number for a contact above the level of a floor manager.  I hate to be one of those people who spreads negative things on social media, but honestly, if a company won't be reasonable, and won't make it easy for you to be heard, what choice do I have?  I don't think a company as successful as Cuisinart should treat customers like this.  If their product fails under normal working conditions, they should make it right and pay the shipping.  Seems pretty simple to me.  If they end up paying a lot of money for shipping, maybe they should build a better product.

New Years Resolution #1

Everyone is posting about New Years Resolutions this week.  I guess I'm going to add to the trend.

I am resolving to reduce the number of harmful chemicals in my life this year.  I've been doing that for a while in the food category, but this year I'm adding cosmetics and other beauty products.

Your skin absorbs every bit as much chemical crud (or possible even more) than your mouth and digestive system.  It only makes sense to educate yourself about the chemicals you are feeding your skin.

I've done quite a bit of research into this topic over the last few months.  I won't go into a lot of details now, but trust me when I say some of the stuff out there is scary.

I work for a living, and I don't have time to make all my own food AND stir up batches of beauty products on the weekends.   So, I've been researching safe brands and ingredients.

This is a picture of the first product I have purchased with my resolution in mind.  It's tinted moisturizer- so I get 2 products for the price of one.  The company is Jane Iredale.  I won't lie- this stuff was expensive.  $40.00.  But I'm hoping it's worth every penny.  I haven't put it on my face yet, but the color is a good match for my skin tone, and it smells good enough to eat.  Besides that, I can tell this company is small and values every single order.  The packaging was adorable- and reusable!
I will post again after I've used it a few times, and let you know what I think!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to the World, Delainey Marie!

I have a grand-niece!  Can I really be that old?

My niece Taylor gave birth to Delainey Marie today!  What a great way to start a New Year!

I'm mailing off her blanket tomorrow.  I have a feeling she'll be the recipient of many more knitting projects in the future...

Mommy and baby are both happy and healthy- and you can't ask for more than that.

Welcome to this crazy world, Delainey.  I can't wait to see what life has in store for you.

My Hot Tea Addiction

This is my new best friend.  It's been wicked cold outside so far this week, and I've been mainlining hot tea the whole time.  I love organic Earl Grey, but I can't do the caffeine later in the day.

This stuff is quickly becoming my absolute favorite.  It's naturally decaffeinated, so I don't have to worry about pulling an all-nighter, or drinking chemically decaffeinated tea.  It has a very warm, smooth flavor and goes great with sweet and savory things.  I especially like it with a piece or two of authentic shortbread.

I figure I'll go through a truck load of this between now and May.
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