Wednesday, August 20, 2014

South in your mouth- Cucumber Salad


One of my very favorite things do to when I have a moment's peace is to flip through old cookbooks I have in my collection. I have a Betty Crocker dating back to the 50's with marriage advice as well as recipes, it's a keeper. I have a large collection of old school church cookbooks and love them because they connect me with my roots and remind me of how much of life is centered around a holy table. My favorite section of those old cookbooks is typically the salad sections since we in the South consider a LOT of things "salad". I am not sure who decided that things with gelatin should fall into this category. How many versions of Frog Eye or Copper Penny salad does one need?
One of those good Southern staples I have grown to love with all of my heart is cucumber salad. I remember it being very pungent with onions when I was little. Cucumber salad is similar to cole slaw in that you can have a creamy version or a vinegar version. You should know me well enough by now to know that anytime I can have the creamy version I will go with that. This recipe is one I have been using for years, not sure where it ever originated other than this is how I have been making this staple for a very long time. I love summertime when cucumbers are bright and plentiful and have a super crispy texture. If I am buying cucumbers from a store I will always but the English kind individually wrapped but if I am at the Farmer's Market I will always buy whichever one looks like it was picked last. I love this "salad" with things like grilled chicken or bar-b-que with a side of corn on the cob. You can easily double this to feed a hungry crowd. It is best to let it sit for a while so that all of the flavors can get to know each other a bit. Since this recipe only has a couple of ingredients, make them count. Don't skimp out on using good Mayo and fresh cracked pepper, it makes all of the difference! 

Cucumber Salad- Yields 3-4 side servings
1 English cucumber thinly sliced - about 3 cups
1/4 Super thinly sliced white or red onion in slivers
1/3 cup Mayo (I used Duke's)
1 Tbsp. White Vinegar
2 tsp. Dill- either dried or fresh but I typically only have dried
1 tsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste if you need more or less
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Combine all of the above in a bowl and let it chill out in your fridge for a few hours or overnight before serving. I like to stir it a few times just to make sure everyone is getting some attention in the bowl.

Enjoy Y'all! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pastry Queen- Peaches and Cream Cobbler with Fustard Sauce


I love peaches. I love cobbler. I love Texas. The. End.

A few years ago a dear friend of mind brought a cookbook to work one day and said that it reminded her of me and she wanted me see it. I nearly ate every page out of the book! I begged to keep it and joked about not returning it and in my mind I had secret plans to move to outer space so that I could keep it and she couldn't track me down. She knew me well. The cookbook is by Rebecca Rather, also known as the "Pastry Queen" in the Texas hill country. She had two different stores in Texas then shut her doors this past year. Just from reading her cookbooks and seeing how she cooks in the kitchen in her chefs coat and cowboy boots I know we would be best friends. Her Christmas cookbook almost sent me over the edge and I know that her olive beef tenderloin will be part of my holiday traditions forever. She cooks your normal every day food but takes it to a whole different level, like chicken salad with homemade mayo on homemade bread. Need I say more? When I approached her recipe of her peach cobbler and knew I had plans to alter it a wee bit I felt the need to tiptoe into my kitchen and ever so gently open up the book and apologize in advance for make a change. I hope it is one she would approve of. Peach cobbler is one of those staples in my life. I love the sweet creamy peaches combined with the slightly crispy topping and the ooziness of a big fat scoop of Blue Bell melting on top of it, as if it is surrounding the cobbler with a hug. I had some girlfriends over last night and knew it was what I had to make since 1. it is National Peach Month and 2. I heart it.
When you read the title I am sure you thought I had a big fat typo in the title. You are right, fustard was not a word until yesterday, but I promise you won't forget it. I decided that instead of topping the cobbler with a cold scoop of ice cream and trying to gobble up the bowl before every drop melted, I took the ice cream and gently melted it on the stove. I tried it with both a vanilla and a caramel ice cream and both were delish. Once melted, the ice cream is a thinner consistency of a custard sauce, the kind you make with a bunch of eggs and sugar and stir and pray it doesn't curdle. This was much easier to do and can be done in any flavor to top off any sweet. I like how the sauce kept the cobbler warm and melted down into all of the cobbler crevasses. I am in no way saying I am now an anti-a la mode girl, I am going to just be an occasional melt-a mode girl.

Hill Country Peaches and Cream Cobbler with Fustard Sauce
Makes 6-8 servings

Breading:
1 Stick unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp, white sugar
1 cup, all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
Fruit:
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 cups, fresh sliced peaches with peels left on (1 peach yields approximately 1 cup)
1- 8oz cream cheese cut into small cubes
Topping:
3/4 cup brown sugar
Fustard:
1 scoop of ice cream per person eating in either a vanilla or a caramel flavor

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it has turned a slight brown color. While it is warming, combine he sugar, flour, baking powder, milk and salt in a separate bowl and stir until just mixed. In a second bowl, stir together the peaches and cream cheese cubes and cinnamon.

Once be butter is melted, pour it into a baking dish at least 8" across. Next, gently pour over the flour and milk mixture and DO NOT STIR. Gently spoon the peaches and cream cheese mixture over the flour and butter mixture and DO NOT STIR. Next, sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Place your baking dish on a foil lined cookie sheet (just in case spill over happens) and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top turns golden brown.

Just before serving, put the ice cream in a small sauce pan and gently melt it over low heat. Once melted, spoon your cobbler into serving bowls then ladle over a spoon of the sauce.

Enjoy Y'all!
P.S.Rebecca, please come to NashVegas so we can make pink pig cookies and big hair tarts together!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Yellow Rose Shortcakes

Scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake Recipe


I grew up migrating around Texas most of my life. I lived in several different cities throughout the great state including Pasadena, which is a suburb of Houston known for refineries and strawberries. "Stink-adena" held an annual strawberry festival that my dad and I both attended and manned a booth for. At the festival you could buy strawberry in any flavor from daiquiris and bread to homemade jams. They even had a booth for a giant Texas shaped strawberry shortcake that was about as big as my living room. I remember almost making myself sick each season as I gobbled up buckets of berries the size of my hands. I have always loved strawberries, especially when they are paired with a tender shortcake and big dollop of cream. You can easily convert store bought biscuit mix into a quick fix shortcake but they don't compare to the tender flaky dough of a homemade version. This entire recipe is created in a food processor, so it is appealing to even the laziest of cooks. But, you can't forget the brushing of the cream and sprinkling of sugar crystals right at the end. That sends them over the top. I top these babies with anything from peaches to ice cream but my favorite has, and will always be strawberries.

Shortcakes- Makes 6-8

1 1/2 c All Purpose Flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tsp baking soda
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 orange or lemon

Place all of the above ingredients into the bowl of a large food processor and pulse until blended. 

1 stick of cold butter cut into cubes
1/3 cup cold heavy cream, plus 2 Tbsp.
1 egg

Gently dump a few cubes in at a time to the processor and pulse 3-4 times. Repeat until you have added all of the cubes. Pour in the cream and egg and pulse just until the dough comes together. Dump out the dough onto a lightly flour surface and pat down unto an even rectangle that is about 3/4" thick. Cut into 2x2 squares, or if you are feeling fancy you can use a mason jar to cut into circles. Place onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. 
Gently brush the tops of the shortcakes with the remaining cream and sprinkle with sugar crystals (available in the baking aisle at a craft store or Walmart in the cake aisle). Bake at 350 degrees for around 14 minutes until set. If they get too golden they will be overcooked and not as delicate.

Enjoy Y'all!



White Elephant- Black Banana Oatmeal Bread

I feel like half of my life was lived vicariously through my sister. She is six years older than me, always has been, so when I was just on the brink of awkward middle school she was well into her collage years. I love to reminisce her past with her, things she did, the Olan Mills photos she had taken with boyfriends, matching clothes she and her boyfriends wore (I won't mention the Hee Haw overalls that were a true treasure) things she made me do in secrecy promising to be my best friend if I didn't tell, typical big sibling, little sibling friendly banter. I know my shadow probably drove her crazy growing up because I loved to hear about her latest tee-pee runs, learn about what bands were cool and how high bangs should go. She and her group of friends were always up for pranks and parties and I loved living the wild moments through her days later. One of the white elephant parties she attended growing up has always been burned in my brain for the ultimate gift that was at that party. My sister drew her number and picked up an innocent looking gift bag and noticed it was a bit wet and soggy on the bottom before opening it. She reached her hand in to pull out the tissue paper and oh, so delicately wrapped up was a bunch of thawing black bananas that belonged to a mom of one of the rowdy boys. He mentioned how they always had black bananas hanging around in the deep freeze and didn't think his mom would notice if he gifted a few. Classic teenage boy. I am already preparing myself.
Black bananas are one of the few things you will consistently find in my freezer. We may not have any ice on hand or extra chicken but I will always have a bunch of bananas. I learned the trick from my mom that they freeze and make beautiful breads and cakes once thawed. I thought this was common knowledge but recently learned that it must have been a Texas thing. We love homemade quick breads around here and homemade banana bread is at the top of the list. For years I made another recipe that involved butter and creaming and it was okay but it seemed to be lacking in texture and depth of flavor. I created this little treasure a few weeks ago and have enjoyed making it a few times with my youngest Muffin. I like to make a batch of the mini loaves (it makes three) and freeze them to have on hand for a quick breakfast. You could easily sub coconut oil for the vegetable oil and could omit the chocolate chips and peanut butter drizzle...but why would you?

Black Banana Bread (makes 3 min loaves, 12 muffins or 1 large loaf)
3- Frozen Black Bananas, thawed, peeled and smooshed in a bowl (If you freeze them in the peels they will literally slide right on out when you remove the stem...they look a little gross so I will spare any photos

In a big bowl combine the following:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (I have used full fat and reduced fat but don't do fat free)
Combine all of the above, including the bananas and mix until combined.

Pour into greased and floured pans and bake at 350 degrees (45-50 minute for full loaf, 30-35 minutes for mini loaves or 12-14 minutes for muffins). Allow it to sit for a few minutes before turning out to your counter to cool.

3 Tbsp. Creamy Peanut Butter - Place the peanut butter into a small Ziploc bag and microwave for 15 seconds until warm and runny. Snip one corner of the bag and drizzle the peanut butter over the loaves. Allow this to cool to set up a bit. If you want to freeze for later, pop them into the freezer to firmly set up the peanut butter before wrapping with saran wrap. Thaw before serving.

Enjoy Ya'll!


Monday, March 10, 2014

If:Table


The table is set. Invitations are out. Flowers are in place. Heart is ready.
Tonight is the first of what I hope will be many dinners of women who I know and love and want to know better. The movement is called If and all started with a simple gesture to open up your home, no matter what your home may look like, and break bread with women and get to know them on a deeper level. My favorite author who I love and adore and am best friends with (though she secretly doesn't know) posted about this movement a few weeks back and after reading the article my brain went into overdrive. Who do I invite first? What on earth do I make? How soon can I do this? The movement is based off of Acts 4:26 where it states that "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts."

I sent my first group of women an email promising that this was not a secret plea to get them to my house to sell them Tupperware or necklaces but an honest invitation to a simple meal around a simple table to share a bit of my heart and home. I know each of these women from different areas of life, all stemming from church and our creator. If we didn't have Him in common then we might not have ever known each other. I am overwhelmed with God's goodness and allowing me to be blessed by so many that it was difficult to narrow down this first attendee list. But, alas, they will be here soon.
So, if you know me you know my mind went straight to the food. The If gals say to keep it simple and non-fussy so that is exactly what I have done. I have prepared a couple of favorites, things like Spinach Enchiladas and homemade corn salsa but I was totally stumped when it came to dessert. I know that may sound silly but the possibilities are limitless and I didn't know where to begin. So, let me begin.

I went into college not knowing A soul! No not one. I quickly connected with a loud bombshell blond from "You-ston" (Houston), another brown haired blue eyed Dallas gal with an amazing sense of humor and my two suit-mates who also shared Texas roots. We were instantly connected. One of the girls became friends with one of the guys on campus and a few weeks into school he invited all of us to his home outside of Memphis. We were all so excited about our first trip to a real home we didn't know what to do. I remember driving to the boonies and arriving with a nervous anticipation about trying to stay on my best behavior. Their beautiful home was the epitome of what a Southern mom's house should feel like; comfy, cozy, kinda messy, surrounded by a beautiful farm land with the smell of chocolate, laundry soap and sweet tea lingering in the air. We all instantly felt at home. She fed us plate after plate of scratch made food while we each took rounds doing laundry and jumping in the pool. We sat around the table and made so many memories. Later that night she brought out a pan of homemade rice krispy treats and a big pot of chocolate gravy. I thought my eye balls might pop out of my head and that I had heard her wrong. Let me repeat, chocolate gravy. Oh. My. Goodness. We dipped and dunked everything we could get our hands on from the krispy treats and leftover fried chicken to the homemade biscuits at breakfast and crispy bacon strips. Although I never did go back to Rob's parents I will always remember that sensation of feeling right at home in a home so far away from my own. I will always remember how the sun set across that soy bean field and how we all felt a sense of peace on the rocking chairs sharing our feelings of loneliness and anxiousness about this new adventure. 
It is the way I want my home to feel as well. I am forever grateful to that sweet mom for allowing a bunch of rowdy kids to come in and mess up her home for the weekend and show the love of Jesus to all of us. May all who come through my doors feel that this is where they belong. May the Salesman and I allow others to see that this life is lived messy and wild and to the glory of our Maker. For more information go to www.ifgathering.com.
Drum roll please.....
Chocolate Gravy
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/4 Cup + 1 Tbsp. Flour
3/4 c milk
1/2 tsp. Salt 
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a heavy duty saucepan.  With the temperature on medium heat, stir the ingredients together until combined.  Allow mixture to slightly simmer, but not boil, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to stir so your gravy doesn't clump then turn the heat to low until ready to use. Gently reheat mixture when ready to serve. Perfect with ice cream, to use as cake frosting, dunk a strawberry in or drink with a straw. I paired the gravy with some homemade shortcakes with fresh berries and orange scented cream. 

Enjoy ya'll!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hula Chicken


I apologize now for picture quality on this. Usually I cook dinner at a normal time after the sun has set and the perfect natural light has gone to bed for the day. If I had all day to stay home and hang in my pj's and watch episodes of Downton (not that I would ever do that) in between recipe testing I promise that each picture would make you want to lick the screen. Which could become a problem eventually. So you can thank me now for bad photos.

We love chicken and rice dishes in our house. Anything that can resemble Chinese food that doesn't involve making a trip to Pei Wei has our vote. I have seen a recipe for a while that has been pinned over and over for Hawaiian chicken. The recipe is super simple but involves you buying a certain sauce at Target. And, I don't know about you but I usually end up shoving my shopping list into the bottom of my purse as soon as I hit the dollar aisle and wind my way through the cosmetics. The few times I look at my list when I get back to my car I am always puzzled as to how I ended up with five sets of colored napkins and none of the necessities that I needed. So, I decided to alter this recipe on the off chance that I would not remember to grab a certain sauce on the sauce aisle...since typically the sauces are on the same aisle as the sugars and cake mixes, and since they are now carrying a large selection of sprinkles and cupcake liners I fear that I wouldn't be successful if on a specific mission that involved me walking to the furthest end of said aisle.
This recipe can easily be doubled to feed a crowd and would go great with some salted edamame and spring rolls. This is reminiscent of sweet and sour chicken, so the addition of some large onion chunks or red bell pepper chunks would be great, if you were into that sort of thing. As an alternative you could easily make these as kabobs in the summer to grill them and brush with this sauce.

Hula Chicken

3- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed into 1" equal chunks
1- small can of pineapple chunks, NOT drained
1 cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce (we use Sweet Baby Ray's)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp. Sriracha (the red pepper sauce you find at all Chinese food places. Available in most grocery stores in the Asian food section)

Toss all of the above in a bowl then pour into a lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until sauce has thickened and chicken is baked through.
Serve over steamed white rice.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

My Love Language - Pomodoro Al Forno

Magical. That one word is how I would describe the events of last night. But, let me back up a bit.
I mentioned in a post earlier about a little caramel apple event that took our house by storm. I work with a local store and supply specialty food items, one being caramel apples covered in white chocolate and sugar crystal sprinkles. I was asked to do an order for 400 of those babies back in December, which was the same weekend of a huge event at church I was in charge of decorating for. Which was also the same weekend of my birthday. Which was the same weekend I was catering dessert for a party. I dropped off the apples on a Thursday and was soon called to come and get them because something was wrong. The caramel, which is typically a solid surrounding of beautiful white, was bursting and gooey caramel was seeping from every possible crevice. It was not pretty. Right after the call I noticed one of my friends had left me a message telling me she was thinking about me and glad that caramel apples were over! I saw the message and the flood gates opened.
Over the next 48 hours we had a team of people who surrounded us and came to our rescue. We not only redid the apples on Thursday, but redid them on Friday and Saturday as well. Let me repeat, 400. My house looked like a caramel chocolate bomb exploded and that a crystal sugar salting truck had been called in to cover the floors in preparation for the storm. These people came to my rescue and worked beside us dipping, dunking, cutting, rolling, stirring, cleaning, tying, laughing and watching me cry every few hours. I still have no idea what happened over those hours and why that order went so wrong. But what I do know that happened is that we were given an outpouring of love unlike anything I have ever seen.
My favorite writer said, "True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into the deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. That's what friendship looks like to me. Friendship is acting out God's love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other's lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God's love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God's behalf in the lives of the people that we're close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can't always see from where we are."
Last night the Salesman and I hosted the "apples of our eyes" for a dinner to love on them just a bit and say thank you in a tangible way since words will never seem quite adequate for what they did. We prepared a feast of some of our favorites and ate until the candles burned out, the pitchers were empty and the memories of that weekend were washed away with fresh thoughts. They laughed about that weekend and reminisced, still not sure if it was quite real because of how unreal it all seemed. We hope we brought a little more of the divine into their lives as they have to ours and we will forever be thankful to God for surrounding us on this earth by friends who represent his love every day.

This recipe is dedicated to baby Chick (who I hope is not named Tomato). I can't wait to hold you and share with you all of the events you missed while in your momma's belly.

Pomodoro Al Forno (modified from Bon Appetite) (Serves 1-6, Bakes 2.5 hours)

1, 24 oz can whole tomatoes, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, minced
1- Goat cheese log (4-6 oz)
1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted at 350 degrees until crispy (about 6 minutes)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Drain the tomatoes. Slice each tomato into 4 slices going from stem to stem. Pour 1/2 cup of the olive oil onto a cookie sheet. Lay each slice of tomato side by side on the pan. Sprinkle evenly with salt, sugar, pepper and Italian seasoning then drizzle remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil evenly. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and flip over each tomato. Return to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, flip again, and bake for an additional 30-45 minutes until tomatoes have transformed into a deep red color and dried up a wee bit.
Allow the tomatoes to sit for about 30 minutes to cool.
To serve, place a layer of tomatoes into a serving bowl. Sprinkle some fresh garlic and parsley on top and repeat in layers until all of the tomatoes, garlic and parsley are gone. Drizzle the tomato oil over the tomatoes.
Serve with crusty bread slices slathered in goat cheese and topped with tomatoes.
(By the way, the tomatoes can be made up to two days in advance and chilled. Just allow them to get to room temp before serving and make sure they are covered tightly in your fridge as the garlic is strong)

Enjoy Ya'll!