Yes,Virginia, I Can Cook

Oh, yeah! Uh-huh! (Insert strutting with unique head motion — sort of like an emu)

I COOKED!!!

The very reason I started this blog almost two years ago (say what?!?! it’s been two years?!?!?!) come December, was to cook and entertain.  I would say two meals in two years may be, in some people’s eyes, a slow start; however, I am not just your normal, run-of-the-mill, do-it-like-everybody-else gal.  No, siree.  Blame it on the genes (have I told you about my Aunt Gladys?) or my mother — no, you can’t blame it on her; she was super together — or my father (after all that’s his Aunt Gladys) or life, but the fact remains I am, if truth be told, a dork, ding bat, space queen, whatever.  I have, after decades of living, almost, almost gotten used to it.

I COOKED!!!!

Yippee!  Woot! Woot!  I’m so happy.  Not because I cooked, but because it tasted good.  See, I just never know. So far I’ve thrown away a peach pie, an apple pie, and had to doctor an apple cake to make it at least edible.  Men will eat anything!

 

Since it’s apple season, all the dishes were centered around apples and winter squash.  We should all be on a sugar high today.  The pork chops came from Pioneer Woman’s cookbook, Pioneer Woman Cooks.  How appropriate is that?!?!  There is a picture at the bottom of this post, but I won’t put the recipe in here.  Ree, the Pioneer Woman, has a recipe section as well as talks about her cookbooks with some of the recipes from them on her blog.  So I will just let you click on this web site: http://thepioneerwoman.com/

Having fun with Kay taking my pics

My friend, Kay, took

oooh, bad bad 

all sorts of pictures.  These are the only ones I can let you see.

The menu:

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing (from a Martha Stewart magazine I believe)

Pork Chops with Apples and Grits (I left out the grits) (The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook)

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing

Apple Crisp Pie and Apple Cake with Brown Sugar-Cider Sauce

The stuffed squash came from the internet: http://www.chow.com/recipes/13566-roasted-acorn-squash-with-wild-rice-stuffing

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 medium acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice mix (1 cup uncooked)
  • 2/3 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • I cooked my rice in chicken stock; added some minced carrot for color; used ground thyme because I didn’t have fresh; and omitted the brown sugar since I was having a sweet sauce on the pork chops.
  • INSTRUCTIONS
    1. Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
    2. Place squash cut side up on a baking sheet, brush 1 tablespoon of the melted butter over the tops and insides of the squash halves, sprinkle with brown sugar, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, shallots, and celery, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.
    4. Remove from heat and stir in the rice, pecans, cranberries, and measured salt and pepper.
    5. Divide the rice filling among the roasted squash halves (about 1/2 cup for each) and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter over top. Continue roasting until the squash is completely fork tender, the edges have started to brown, and the filling is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

      Spinach Salad

      Brown Sugar-Apple Cider Sauce  adapted from In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley. Artisan; September 2001; $35.00/hardcover

      (I substituted the brandy with apple cider.)

       

       

      The Aftermath

     

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Getting Back in the Saddle…

This year has kicked my butt!  I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly kicked it:  the birthday, the son, the falling.  Who knows?

getting ready to ride

The important thing is that I am finally, after half the year has come and gone, oiling the saddle and readying it for another ride.  Life may have kicked me off once again, but now it’s time to put on my stirrups and do a little kicking in life’s sides to get it back into at least  a trot.

hmmmmmm

So I am thinking about my little blog and what to write about until I start cooking.  (Stop laughing!)  I have a few topics in mind.  And would really like to get some feedback on them.

1)  My experience as well as the experiences of others with angels and other supernatural God moments

2)  My son’s struggles with and final diagnosis of schizophrenia

3) Digging out old pics and posting them with stories

4)  courtroom stories  (names changed to protect the innocent… or not so innocent)

5)  my personal favorite… Kate and Ava

6)  Just whatever strikes my fancy – including good recipes

Which by the way I have.  A good recipe.  It came from my friend Lisa’s Pampered Chef newsletter.  It is called Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle.   And is soooo good!  I made it for 4th of July.

Try it!

Valentine’s Day Treats… Yummy

Pink Martinis and Pearls Cupcakes with Recipe

Click on the pictures of these delicious treats, and you will be taken to the blog for all the details!

These look soooo good, don’t they?  Pink Martinis and Pearls offers a variety of recipes and great photos to give you step-by-step directions for her lovely sweet treats.  This is one I’m planning on trying as soon as my kitchen is back to normal.

Ree Drummond's Baked Fudge

I love her blog, and she now has a cooking show on Food Network.  Since I missed it, I took a few minutes to try to find some episodes on the Food Network web site.  Good stuff there.

Enjoy your treats and be sure to visit these blogs for more good stuff!

2012 — Tying Up Loose Ends

The new year is here; the hectic pace of the last two months has slowed; it’s time to reflect, finish up the started-yet-unfinished projects, plan and initiate the new goals for this year.

My list to start off the year:

A great big THANK YOU to all those who read my blog.  I thank those who have just stopped by while passing through in their search for their intended subject and those who follow me faithfully, sometimes waiting days and even weeks for a new post.  You have lifted my spirit this past year!

Star-gazing!  The Quadrantid Meteor Shower is here!  Click on the purple words to get the full article and the how-tos for viewing your first meteor shower of the year.  Start the year out with something different, a spectacular, free sky show!  Forfeit a night’s sleep to get in on this awesome, powerful, delightful event.

Sugar Cookie Recipe from Christmas with the Cuties:

sugar cookie recipe

Sorry about the quality but I’m in a bit of a hurry.  As usual.  (sigh)  This is an excellent recipe, by the way.  Great taste!

Gingerbread House:

Decorating the house

We bought a kit but had to wait till after Christmas to decorate.  The month was fraught with “stuff” that wasn’t conducive to making a gingerbread house.  That didn’t matter to us.  It’s all about the making and eating while you make it.

My little artiste

The girls had a big, big fun time.  Kate was specific about which side was hers.  As you can see, Ava’s and my side needs a little, um, something.

Kate's side!

The girls each had their picture made with the side they decorated.  Kate, of course, made sure I didn’t confuse her side with Ava’s.  I don’t think she thought Ava’s was all that great.

Cheesing Ava's side!

Ava is just so funny right now in the picture-taking department.  In all her poses, it’s obvious that she is saying “cheeeeeese!”  I have laughed so hard at her cheesy pics.  If you didn’t get a chance to look at Christmas with the Cuties, go there now.  Ava cheesing for her pig is just too funny.

Our final posing session:

Ava spies Kate posing...

my budding models

We haven’t gotten around to making the gingerbread pocket for the red aprons… but that will get done this week.

So I’m a little behind schedule.  I’ve decided that’s okay.  I’m getting ‘er done… at my pace.

My final year-starter activity:

apronsandappetites first contest is here.  You will get the details tomorrow, but in the meantime be making your 2012 goals.

My newest favorite breakfast

English muffin with orange blossom honey, banana, grapes

This is my newest favorite breakfast.  I used to toast English muffins and put crunchy peanut butter on them, but since I went to Savannah and bought honey from the Savannah Bee Company, I am totally addicted to their Orange Blossom honey.

the best honey in the whole world

They also have Tupelo, Black Sage, Sourwood, Winter White, just to name the ones I have tried.  Tasting the differences in the Savannah Bee Company’s honey is a treat in itself.  It was like going into a fine winery to have a wine tasting.

As soon as we walked into the store on River Street, I saw the testers lined up.  And I was in love!  After reading about it once upon a long time ago, the differences in the flavor of honey had been something that I had wanted to try out.  It was totally the experience I thought it would be… and if you are ever in Savannah or Charleston, look up the Savannah Bee Company and do a little honey tasting.  But in the meantime, check out their web site (click on their name in bold above) and read about why honey tastes different.  I couldn’t believe the difference in the taste between them!

My very favorite is the Orange Blossom.  Doesn’t that look buttery?  It has a buttery, citrus flavor.  I think I could just tip it up and drink it out of this bottle.

delicious honey

The breakfast isn’t that hard to make.  Here are some easy directions:  Cut the English muffin in half, toast, then add a bit of butter.  Pour honey over muffin (although I have thought about pouring it all over everything… it’s that good).

Start with a fresh English muffin, whole wheat

While the muffin toasts, cut up a banana or strawberries, get out the grapes, kiwi, blueberries, whatever fruit suits your fancy.

(Please do not enlarge the picture of my little toaster oven. It is dirty; it needs cleaned; who wants to volunteer for this job?)

 

Normally I only use butter unless I forgot to set it out to soften. This is good too.

begin the pour

 

 

Pop out the cork on your favorite honey and try to stop yourself from pouring the whole bottle over your muffin, fruit, in your coffee or tea, all over your fingers (so good to lick off, by the way) …

keep pouring

 

Oh, Yeah, It’s On!!

A couple of weeks ago the Funky Four got together for a birthday.  I won’t tell you who or how old because it doesn’t matter.  And besides… paybacks are hell, don’t you know.  But here is a teeny, tiny, little bitty hint:

Birthday Girl

I made her a chocolate cake for dessert to go with the magazine-menus meal!  As you can see, she is using one of her gifts that I got her from Savannah.  Just what a hot-flash Momma needs!  She is wearing the berry decoration Sandy and I found on her porch to decorate her awesome gift… and the tin, white, round pan too.  Well, here, just look for yourself at what a fantastic wrap job we did.  We found the rug out on the porch; still had the clothespins on it, so we knew it was all spiffy clean.  This group knows how to give gifts!

what a fantastic wrap!!

Our menu for the evening was

Pork Roulade with apple-raisin stuffing

Creamed Peal Onions & Peas

Mashed Carrots and Potatoes

Molten Chocolate Tunnel Cake

The recipes and pics from the magazine follow; I forgot to take pictures.  And the reason I forgot to take the pictures is, No. 1, I was late (I know you can’t believe that) getting there and had to get with the program to finish up the supper; No. 2, they were already playing poker with a new dude, and I was dying to get in on it.  But the food looked like the pics except for the pork roulade.  The roll turned into more of a fold, but it was still very delicious.  For the Mashed Carrots and Potatoes, throw a few carrots into the water and boil with the potatoes, then mash as usual.  It adds a little color and tastes great.

The cake recipe is from Pampered Chef.  Check out my good friend’s (Lisa Ozment) web site for recipes or anything else you need.  Her link is on the right-hand side: look for food.

Molten Chocolate Tunnel Cake

Ingredients:
1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided
1 package (18.25 ounces) devil’s food cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
1 pint fresh raspberries
Whipped topping (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray Deep Dish Baker with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a 10-inch circle of Parchment Paper; place in bottom of Baker. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In Small Batter Bowl, combine pudding mix and milk; whisk until mixture is smooth and begins to thicken. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chocolate morsels; set aside. In Classic Batter Bowl, combine cake mix, 1/2 cup oil, eggs and water; mix until smooth. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the batter; set aside. Spread remaining batter over bottom of Baker.
  3. Using Small Scoop, scoop pudding in circular pattern 1/2 inch from edge of Baker. Spread remaining batter over pudding. Bake 35-40 minutes or until Cake Tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of cake from Baker, carefully invert cake onto Round Platter.
  4. Combine remaining chocolate morsels and half of the whipped topping in Small Micro-Cooker®. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute or until melted; mix until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup of the glaze; set aside. Pour remaining glaze over cake. Spread glaze to edge of cake, allowing glaze to drip down sides. Place raspberries evenly over top of cake 1 inch from edge; drizzle with reserved glaze. Garnish with whipped topping using Easy Accent® Decorator, if desired.

    creamed pearl onions & peas recipe

    Everything was very good, each recipe.  The whole meal was from recipes I’ve been saving.  So don’t be afraid to try them; you won’t have any leftovers.  My only wish is that this little post was a tad more refined with pictures that I took myself.  The scanner was being difficult, the cut-and-paste thing I had going on looks as though little Kate did it instead of her Gigi.

  5. creamed pearl onions & pea

    I can’t figure out how to get this 5 off of here.  Somehow when I copied the cake recipe, it stayed in the same format.

  6. So, No. 6, my last and most important point:  I cooked another meal!  Oh, yeah, it’s on!  Just call me Julia or Julie or Magazine Menu Momma!

    pork roulade with apple-raisin stuffing

     

My Exciting Upcoming Weekend

getting ready to repair and paint

My life revolves around work.  Get up and go to work.  Come home and work.  Go to bed and work to go to sleep.  If I were more focused, it wouldn’t take me twice as long as it does anybody else to get something finished.  I need Cousin Sandy to come up here and sit on my deck pointing with her cigarette in hand everything that needs to be done.  I got soooo much accomplished that day.  Or Sis Dar to come down and tear into everything telling me put this here and put that there.

utter chaos

This is just the beginning.  By Sunday (if I get the pool paint I ordered) it will be my backyard paradise.  I will need it because I will be practically dead from exhaustion.  But next weekend will be Sangria Saturday!  And I am going to cook some of my voluminous recipes.

As a matter of fact, I will give you all a great dessert recipe we had at book club the other night, via Bridgette.  Layer ice cream sandwiches, Cool Whip, and drizzle caramel and chocolate over the top.  She used two boxes of ice cream sandwiches for a rectangle pan and about one and a half tubs of Cool Whip.  Place a layer of the sandwiches on bottom, cover with layer of Cool Whip, drizzle the chocolate and caramel; repeat.  Freeze overnight.  It was fantastic and so easy.  She has used raspberry sauce with raspberries for garnish.  Topped it with crushed Heath bars or Butterfinger.  It’s a versatile dessert that you can make to your liking.

Let me know if you try it and what you think.  I think I will make it this weekend for the big Paradise Party I’m having.  You are all invited.  Please bring your own work gloves and rubber boots or old tennies for climbing in and out of the pool.  If you don’t want to paint, you can clean the pool house.  It only has two years worth of crud in there since I didn’t even go in it last year… I don’t think.

How exciting!!  Something different for the weekend.  Paradise Party!!  It may look like a dump heap right now, but Paradise coming up!  Can’t wait to see you (and your work clothes).

One Down… 1,000,000 to go

Beef loin

Tonight was the first meal made from my many magazine recipes!  I will be cooking quite often now (at least every six months) so please put your reservation in for a meal.  I do not want to eat alone.

The maiden voyage meal was ingested by none other than the Funky Four followed by a robust game of pinochle… although we could only muster up the gumption to play two games.  The general consensus was that everything was delicious.  There was a rotisserie chicken waiting in the wings just in case.

the table awaiting its guests

The menu was Beef and Bean Stir-Fry, Oven Roasted Root Vegetables, and Chocolate Pudding Bunny Cake with Strawberries.

slice the beef thin

Beef and Bean Stir-Fry Recipe:  2 Tbsp. olive oil; 1 lb. boneless beef top loin steak, trimmed of fat and cut in thin strips; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger;

broccoli florets

2 carrots, thinly diagonally sliced; 3 1/2 c. broccoli florets; 6 green onions, cut in long thin strips; 1/4 c. orange juice concentrate, thawed, or orange juice; 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce; 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper; 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans.  I had to improvise; just knew I had some things and didn’t.  No crushed red pepper=course ground pepper.  No soy sauce=Tiger sauce.   I was craving beans, so I added two instead of one.  Also, no green onions so I had to leave that out.

In 12-in skillet with flared sides or a large wok heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil over medium-high heat.  Coook and stir beef, garlic, and ginger until beef is browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet.  Heat remaining oil.  Add carrots and broccoli, cook and stir 3 minutes.  Add green onions, cook 1 minute more.

Add orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper; toss to coat.  Add cooked beef and beans; cook until heated through.

looks good!

The Oven Roasted Root Vegetables can be whatever you like.  Be sure to try new ones though.  You might be very pleasantly surprised.  Tonight I roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips, and white potatoes.  Cut them in wedges or long slices, lay them in a cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil over the veggies, add salt, take your hands and turn them over and over to coat with the oil and salt.  Some recipes call for roasting at 375, but I like to roast at 430 to 440 for 20 minutes or so, until fork tender.

can you tell which veggie is which?

The Chocolate Pudding Bunny Cake was just made from a box mix with a small box of chocolate pudding added as well as some extra water.  The glaze is 2 c. confectioner’s sugar, a couple teaspoons of vanilla, and water.  Whisk together and pour over bunny; add a little decoration for his ears, etc.  I bought the bunny mold last year on sale.

a little grass, a little glaze, yum

We drank the old wine that was in the refrigerator to make room for groceries.  Not too bad.

The end product looked like this:

Bon Appetit!!

My Quest To Be Freshly Pressed

This will come as no surprise to bloggers on wordpress.com, but it may to all my BFFs and homeys.  I have this inane desire to be Freshly Pressed.

Freshly Pressed

It’s been over a month, and I’ve meandered around blog world quite a bit, hitting wordpress.com fairly often, just checking in for the little tidbits they give us to help us be better bloggers: get an interesting read out there, express ourselves, use the tools they hand out freely to our advantage.   I have found great bloggers; really funny, witty, heart-wrenching, insightful, informative, helpful, great people with great blog sites.  Which, of course, has the adverse effect of making me realize how un-all-those-things I am, and that I now want to be more like that.

blogger stories

Nothing at all what I had intended when I set a goal to have a blog.

my most favorite egg and cheese sandwich in the whole world recipe

My goal was to cook delicious food and take pictures of my delicious food on these really cool white plates while laughing and socializing with friends, old and new.  I was gonna be the town socialite; everybody wanting to come and sit a spell and chow down (in the refined verbiage of rural living).

Being the Gemini that I am,  that idea was replaced just about as soon as I thought it with the fact that, no, my appetite was bigger than food.  My blog would have to be about all my appetites (well, some I refuse to discuss on an open forum).

http://www.astrology.com.au/astrology/12-signs-of-the…/gemini.htmlCached

Since I’ve discovered being Freshly Pressed, http://wordpress.com/ my whole take on my blog goal has escalated from “What am I going to talk about tonight?” to “How can I be interesting enough to have creases be Freshly Pressed?”  Click on one of those blogs, and one can see why they’re highlighted and held in high esteem, looking crisp and sharp, savvy and stylish.

me making a decision

Then there’s me.

Hmmmm.  The little country bumpkin looking for just the right words to draw the attention of the Pressers.

What are the key words?

Maybe I should focus more on just one subject instead of a gazillion.  Maybe my visual aids (I learned that in speech class) aren’t inspiring.  I’m too long-winded?  I sound like the nincompoop that I am?  They’re going to make me actually work to achieve it?  (insert Maynard G. Krebs “WORK?” from the old sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis)

I may just have to settle on being fresh… or pressed… for time, money, fame.

Pick me! Pick me!

My Most Favorite Egg Sandwich In The Whole World

2 eggs (mix with a fork in the pan) fried in a T. of unsalted butter, no salt, better flip once, maybe fold them over some to fit on the bread

2 slices whole wheat bread, butter lightly one side, lay one piece butter side down in the same pan after scooping up the eggs with a pancake turner, then plop the eggs onto the bread

1 slice of cheese, whatever cheese you like, parceled over the top of the eggs, then place the other piece of bread on that, once again lightly buttered

flip to melt the cheese until it’s gooey and oozing out the sides and the bread is all crispy.

serve with an ice-cold Coca-Cola over crushed ice

Mom’s Apron

My mom was a great cook, and so were her three sisters.  Mom was the last one living out of those three good cooks, and she passed away last year, August 1, 2010, at 90 years old.  February 15 she would have been 91; our first birthday without her.  She cooked a lot of meals in those 90 years; started as a young child learning how to cook.  My sisters and brother and my cousins grew up eating Mom’s and the aunts’  vegetable beef soup with egg noodles, and adding their cornbread to our soup bowls.  Mom taught me how to make noodles and dumplings a few years ago when she was too frail to make them herself anymore; sitting at the kitchen table telling me how much flour to put in the bowl; put in the egg or put in the chicken broth; how thin to roll the dough; whether to cut in squares for dumplings or thin strips for noodles.  Wonderful memories.

She always wore an apron when she cooked, coming home from church, in a hurry to get the Sunday dinner on the table, throwing on an apron over her good clothes.  And we always had to eat while it was hot, fresh out of the oven or off the stove.  We always ate together, all six of us, and then five after my older sister left for college and on her own.  All the way to the time we left home… and even after we brought husbands and children back for visits… we always sat down together at the kitchen table to eat our meals.

I have one of her aprons now.

Grandma Madeline’s Beef and Vegetable Soup with Noodles
(as written by my Aunt Alleen)

Ingredients:                           Directions:

Beef chuck roast               Cook chuck roast in boiling water;
potatoes                            till very tender; remove meat and cut in
cabbage                             pieces. Cook in broth. [note: vegetables]
onions                               Add noodles when veg. are done. (can
tomatoes                         cook noodles separately then add to soup.)

Noodles

Flour in bowl, salt.  Make hole in flour.  1 egg, 1/2 egg shell water.  Work to stiff dough.  Roll real thin.  Put a little flour on top.

Serve with hot corn bread.

In an effort to give you a little more help in making this delicious soup, I will try to give you an idea of the amounts per ingredient:

For the soup:
medium-sized chuck roast with enough water to cover well for broth.
4-6 potatoes
half a head of cabbage
1-2 medium onions
small stalk of celery (Mom used to just add the leafy part) the celery leaves can overpower the other vegetables so be careful when using them.
2 cans of tomatoes (Mom always added a can of tomato juice as well; usually a quart jar of her home-canned juice.)
And Mom always added a carrot or two and corn to her soup.  So, naturally, I do too.

For the noodles:
a coffee cup of flour, just dip it in the flour and put it in the bowl.  Rolling the noodles thin is the key.

I now make it with as many vegetables as I want, always leaving room for the noodles to go in at the last.  It may look a little thin until the noodles are added.  Mom never precooked the noodles, and I don’t either.  Use a pizza cutter and cut them long and skinny.  Mom also would make drop noodles on occasion by crumbling the dough into the broth instead of rolling it out and adding noodles to the broth.