Monday, June 27, 2011


My mother has a pet peeve. 
People will say they are going to
"make a turkey," or some other such thing,
to which she will respond, 
"you are going to prepare a turkey. Only God can make a turkey."
I have heard this so many times over the course of my life
that I now say the same thing. 

So I have been hesitant to say that I 
made a Chateaubriand.
But, I did.

It's an act of butchering. 
Not an act of God.

Not Everything Turns Out

On occasion I will be talking to someone 
about my cooking and voice a concern about something
turning out right. 
Invariably I will get the response,
"everything you cook turns out great."
To which I respond, 
"I don't take pictures of the stuff that doesn't."
Until now.
Public Service Announcement:
Don't put French's fried onions in the oven to 
"crisp up" and leave the room. 

But the reason I do this is a good thing. 
It's for the top of the iconic green bean casserole 
we all know and love. 
I cook the casserole but then transfer it into a serving dish
and sprinkle the toasted onions on top so it can be passed at the table. 
It's a good idea. 
Just not executed to perfection. 
This time. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Leftover Puff Pastry

I had a sheet of puff pastry in my freezer left over from making these:
These would be "bite size" cream horns.
But, there was puff pastry calling me from
the frozen tundra and a package of 
mini heirloom tomatoes sitting on my counter. 
I had goat cheese in the fridge from my latest appetizer craze:
That's a dried apricot with a smudge of goat cheese, 
an almond and a drizzle of honey on top. 
Thanks to Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer.

And inspiration struck!
Ina Garten has a recipe for 
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts
in her Back to Basics book. 
I had a lot of the ingredients on hand, some "almost" ingredients
and a couple, not so much.
But the one thing I have learned over these years
is that recipes are mostly suggestions.
These were lovely.
Oh, and those are the leftover purple asparagus from the other night.
Only the steak is new. 
Not bad for a "clean out your fridge" dinner,
Love it when that happens :O)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicken Avocado Salad

For a girl who worked today, I sure did get in some 
tasty cooking :o)
I didn't go in till noon so I left one 
Ahhhmazing sandwich
on the table for my Honey's lunch.
That's a chicken salad made with avocado.
But the thing is, the avocado isn't diced up in it, 
it's smashed up in it so it actually becomes part of the
I did about 1 tablespoon of mayo and 1 tablespoon of sour cream. 
Turns out sour cream has way less sodium than mayo.
Who knew?
That along with 1 avocado makes enough saucy stuff
to create a creamy base for the salad. 
I threw in some celery and red onion for crunch
and then some cilantro and red pepper. 
Oh, and a hit of lime juice just to keep the avocado from
turning funky colors on me. 

I got this brainstorm from an episode of
Diner, Drive ins and Dives.
Cable has earned its keep once again. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Michael Had An Idea

And it was good.
It wasn't exactly an original idea. 
He adapted it from some crazy food website.
I can't even begin to describe the premiss of this site.
Or the reason for it's existence.
It appears to be a bunch of guys doing crazy things with food. 
One of their extravaganzas involved
 90 McDonalds breakfast sandwiches. 
It defies description. 

They did create something where they lined
a muffin tin with bacon and filled them 
with I can't remember what. 

I thought there was actually potential there
and did a bit of brainstorming with Michael. 
This is what we came up with
 These are mini muffins lined with one slice of bacon
cut in half and crisscrossed to line the cups. 
Then mini red potatoes that I par-boiled and thinly sliced, 
a bit of shredded cheese and topped with one more
slice of potato. And then all tucked in.
I baked them 450 degrees for 25 minutes. 

They were pretty good.
But then, what isn't good all wrapped up in bacon?

Monday, June 20, 2011

If They Grow It, I Will Eat It

Purple food, that is.
I have had purple carrots, purple peppers,
purple cauliflower, purple potatoes 
and now,
Purple Asparagus! 
I didn't go looking for it.
It was just there waiting for me to find it. 

There is a line from a song I am reminded of;
Sometimes finding you is just like trying to
smell the color nine.
(Chris Rice)
Well, I am here to tell you purple does 
NOT have a flavor. 

All of the aforementioned items taste no different
from their more ordinarily hued counterparts. 
But I will say this, do NOT mash purple potatoes. 
They turn gray and it's just bad. 

Here's what I did with the asparagus
I wrapped the spears with a slice of cheese and then a slice of ham
and had Mike grill them. These are really 
supposed to be wrapped with prosciutto but the sodium
 count on that was off the charts so I went with  
canadian style deli ham slices. 
I served them with a great salad and some
Naan bread warmed on the grill. 
Perfect little hot weather dinner! 

Oh, and I do peal my asparagus.
I don't know if it's been proven but I don't have 
"woody" asparagus when I do. 
So there.

Two Things I Never Knew I Needed

But I'm so happy I have them now.
I'm talking about the funnels.
I have been puttering about in a kitchen for roughly 35 years. 
There are a multitude ways to rig funnel contraptions. 
I have employed them all and I am here to tell you;
nothing beats a real funnel!

That wide mouth one is for canning but it's also
great for getting chunky Sangria into slim mouthed pitchers. 
The skinny funnel was purchased specifically 
to get the used grease from deep frying back into the 
container it came in for disposal but it's
also great for getting the flavored oil I mixed together
back into the bottle it came from. 

I publish this post as a public service. 
Ditch the parchment paper, aluminum foil and old shoe box. 
Save yourself 35 years. 
Make the investment. 

That is all. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nicole-Taylor's Pasta & Market

Don't you love it when you stumble upon 
something and then actually take the time to investigate?
We found this little gem while visiting Shanna.
We almost walked by, we weren't looking for pasta :o)
How glad am I that we took the time.
We got to visit with the pasta artist, Rosa.
She was so friendly and fun to talk to. 
Making pasta was her hobby and she has managed to make 
it a business. How much happier would the world be 
if we could all spend our time doing what we love
instead of earning money?
Well, and still earn money...

This shop was so unique. 
Those cases where you would typically see rows
of pastries or cuts of meat, 
here they are filled with different fresh pastas.
It was so hard to decide on just a few. 
Shanna and Shawn get the chipotle pasta, 
Mike and I got one "nest" of 
Chive-Parmesan and one of Roasted Red Pepper pastas. 
We took a little side stop to a Fresh Market and grabbed 
some fresh salsa for the Chipotle pasta, some fresh 
olive oil and parm for the other pastas and then 
bread and wine for each of us. 
Rosa had suggested very simple dressing of the 
pasta so as to let the flavors shine through. 
She was spot on. 
We managed to keep ours cool enough for the ride home. 
I had a cooked chicken breast in the fridge and 
after three minutes of boiling, we had dinner!
Shanna said their dinner was the easiest gourmet
tasting dinner she has ever made. 

I am sad that I can't become a regular customer
but something tells me Rosa may be seeing Shanna 
a bit more than I do......

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our New Hobby

Or, at least what we would like to be
our new hobby.
We are big fans of the Food Network show
Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.
Known as Triple D to those of us in the know.

There has been more that one occasion when
we have had to run out to get us a good greasy food fix
after watching this show.
We have rather passively been trying some of the
DDD's featured on the show.
Hackney's has been on.
Really didn't need to try hard to get there. 
It's already one of my favorite places.

We also made it to 
The Depot American Diner
in Chicago.
That was a fun little road trip. 

But it wasn't till we hit Zest in Indianapolis
that we decided to get our picture taken with
Guy's stamp that he leaves behind at all the 
places he visits.
We wished we had paid attention to what specific dishes
Guy had highlighted, it would have made navigating the menu
so much easier. 
Next time!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Side Note

How utterly hilarious is it that my son, 
is married to
and my daughter, 
is dating

You can't make this stuff up folks. 


This is Shanna and Shawn's fault.
They told us Jamie Oliver's story about 
pink slime. 
I now need to grind my own meats.

But the up side to this is that I can control the 
fat, filler and salt in my ground meats.
That's good, right?
So here you have my first foray into
Ground Meat Land:
Italian Sausage
It smells amazing!
It is going to fulfill it's destiny in a Timbale tonight.

I cruised the internet, 
picked Maggie's brain and 
consulted with Chef Brian at Relish 
for sausage making tips.
Here is what I have deduced:
Fennel seeds, classic, toast them first.
There is a long list of herbs and spices to choose from;
red pepper flakes
red wine
salt pepper
And that's just the assortment I wrote down.
I went with fennel,
garlic, fresh basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
You cut all the meat very small and mix it with 
your seasonings and refrigerate overnight before grinding.
I don't know why but that seemed to be a consistent instruction.
I cut most of the outer layer of fat away and then 
threw a little bit back in. 
The meat should be VERY cold before you grind it so I gave it 20 
minutes in the freezer beforehand.
Pork butt and pork shoulder are the same difference?
Not on me but I guess on a pig?
You grind twice, once coarse and then fine.
Oh, and one of these, 
Thanks to my sister who likes to get the biggest,
bestest of everything.

She and Dave will be our dinner guinea pigs, 
er, no, 
GUESTS tonight.

Shanna's Birthday

A day late.
But sometimes good things take time. 
Like 9 months.
So, alright, this post won't be as good as my
 9 month projects have been, 
but, you know....

Shanna is a stereotypical 
I am not. 
It has been great fun to watch.
Shanna excels at everything she puts her mind to. 
One time in high school I told her to get a "D" in 
something just to see what it felt like and to show
herself that the world would not fall off it's axis.
She couldn't do it. 

I publish the following photo to prove a few points:
Shanna does not excel at EVERYTHING.
Shanna has lightened up a bit in her old age.
Shanna has learned to embrace
"less than perfect" and find the joy in 
"creatively unique"
(a term her mother lives by).
The earth did not fall off it's axis.

(However, she WILL be noting and flinching at every
grammatical and punctuational error in this post)

I love my Shanna.
That is all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cream Horns

Here's something I never knew existed
but it looks like the rest of the world knew about them.
They even make special forms for them.
Cream horns are little puff pastry cones filled 
with fruit preserve and whipped cream.
I don't know if the preserve part is traditional, I just
know that that is the way Maggie made them.

Some day I'll write about Maggie. 
She's the funnest friend I have who I have never met.
I have a whole theory of Facebook as the current
form of Pen Pals.
At least, that's what Maggie is.

But I digress, 
the Cream Horns!
 These are actually my second round of them. 
I learned a few things that really seemed to be more
technique than instruction.
Here they are fresh out of the oven on their little forms.

These are really easy but like I said there is a bit of
finesse you need to acquire so don't give up. 
I'll give you all I figured out thus far:

Roll a sheet of puff pastry to 14 x 8.
I brushed it with an egg wash and then cut into 
1/2 inch by 14 inch strips.
Oil the forms.
One sheet of pastry will make 12 horns, it's best to have 12 forms.
Start at the bottom wrap the pastry around the horn 
(be sure to overlap) , egg wash
side out and then dust with sanding sugar.
(or regular sugar)
Place on parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate for 30 min.
Hence the need for 12 forms.
Bake 400 degrees 15 minutes.
Allow them to cool slightly but not all the way
and remove tubes. 
A little twist of the form while you gently
hold the pastry seems to help. 
After they are totally cooled you can fill them. 
You really do need to pull out the pastry bag for this.
You want to get a line of preserve all the way to the bottom
but then pull it up to the top and then fill with whip cream.
I tried the old "ziploc bag with a hole in it"
the first time and you just can't get the preserves
to run the entire length. I had a tip 
full of fruit and a top full of whip cream.
Maggie did a beautiful job of dipping the tops of 
some horns in chocolate.
 Mine did not look so great.
Mike and Shanna voted for the drizzle of chocolate over the 
whole thing so as to get chocolate in every bite. 
Maggie's whip cream also looked better. 

There is a trick to getting whip cream stiff enough
so that it will hold the lines from your pastry tip
but not so stiff that it becomes butter. 
As you can see, I haven't figured that tip out yet.

I'll keep you posted....

Monday, June 6, 2011

Skinny Pina Coladas

If you get up early enough in the morning
you can learn things. 

Channel 5 has a 4:30 AM news cast.
Relax, it's still on at 6:00 when I tune in.
Today they were making "skinny" cocktails.
The first one was a watermelon concoction that Zorida,
the host, didn't seem too impressed with. 
However, when she tried the Pina Colada one her reaction was
such that I decided to give it a try. 

The funniest thing Mike has ever said to me was a few years back. 
It was 10 AM 
and we were on Grand Cayman Island. 
Someone asked him what time it was and he responded, 
"I believe it's Pina Colada time." 
If you know Mike, 
you understand how funny that statement coming 
from his mouth truly is. 

This is why I love to give my man a Pina Colada,
but those babies have about a bazillion calories.
And seeing as how he is not one to drink alone, he does not
get his pina colada on very often.

These were a cinch to make.
It's just equal parts frozen pineapple and coconut water, not milk
which is the part that will do you in.
We added some coconut rum and had us a little
taste of vacation right in balmy St. Chuck.

Now given this is what I learned at 6, 
imagine what sorts of things they are sharing at 4:30

Grilled Corn and Cheese Cakes

Smiley did it again.
And I mean "smiley" in the nicest way.
Don't you hate it when the pretty girl is more than just
Giada made corn/cheese cakes this weekend.
I did too but neglected to photograph them. 
She did too. 
I was going to "borrow" her picture of them but, alas,
there is none. 
Mine actually weren't exactly ready for a close up.
We need to figure out how best to grill them without
smushing them. 

They are really easy to make. 
It's just corn, smoked cheese, bread crumbs, chives and a 
hit of sour cream. 
You coat the chilled cakes in more bread crumbs, 
brush with olive oil and grill.
We had them alongside burgers but they would be great with anything.
How fun to have a new side for grilling!

So, whereas Ina gives me the warm fuzzies,
pretty Giada gives me the good recipes.
I guess I can forgive her for being so pretty. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Refried Beans

I didn't take a picture of them.
They aren't particularly photogenic.
But I did take a picture of what I did with them:
I had a Mexican Lasagna production line.
The little individual ones are to take to a guy from church.
I made a big one for us and I am trying it in my small Crockpot.
It occurred to me that the crock pot was about the same size as the 
casserole I would make for us. It's hot out today so let's 
see if this works! It's better than heating up the oven.

But about the refried beans.
It's my understanding that the ones you buy in a can
 have a multitude of unhealthy things for you that 
they slide in there along with the beans.
I found this recipe from All Recipes.
They cook in the crock pot and are too easy!

I've made them a couple of times and I've adapted the recipe a bit.
I use 1/2 pinto and 1/2 black beans.
I only use 2 cups of beans.
I use chicken or vegetable stock instead of water.
I have yet t have a jalapeno sitting around
but I do pretty regularly have a can of diced chilies around so those
are what I have used. 
And now with our low salt focus, I left ALL the salt out.
And know what?
Don't miss it!
There are so many good flavors in there that I 
think the salt is just unnecessary. 

So there you have it; 
Salt Free
Fat Free
Heat Up The House Free!
Time well spent :o)