Saturday, June 30, 2012

Put a Fork in Me, I'm Done!

Well as most of you know, it's really too damn hot for a lots of cooking and slaving over hot stoves.  We opted for cold sandwiches of turkey and cheese, and bologna and cheese, with chips on the side.  Lots of Good Cold Water!!  My thoughts go out to the home without power and hope that it is restored soon.  I purchased the kids a snow cone machine yesterday and it has been a godsend.  It was a wonderful surprise that they really appreciated.  Maybe some night, when the kids are at bay, I can make some Adult drinks like snow cone margaritas and Malibu and Milk, Yum!!!  Whatever your day brings you, be sure to stay HY-DRATED AND PROTECT YOUR SKIN!!! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oh Deer!!

Earlier in the week, I spent the evening 'breaking down' a deer.  It came from a kill that my brother in law made during the season and I skinned and cleaned it myself!!  I broke down most of it then, but I froze one hind and one front leg quarter, until now.  I spent the evening trimming and grinding, bagging and  processing the venison with an antique grinder and my food processor.  I know some of you cringe at the idea, but any chef/exceptional cook must be comfortable in all areas of the art.  It is important to realize that basically, no matter what the animal, cows, pigs, lamb, venison, etc... parts like the loins and roasts and tenderloins would be located in the same place.  The venison was great practice for other animals in the future.  Venison, if you haven't tried it, can be a very delicious protein if done properly.  They provide excellent lean protein and iron.  Venison can however, be very tough and 'wild' tasting, so care must be taken in regard to soaking and tenderizing.  When prepared well, Venison tastes very much like ground beef and can act as a substitution for virtually any dish with ground beef.  If such a substitution should take place, it is important that you inform your consumers as it is the ethical thing to do.
Sometimes stigmas can interfere with someone trying something out of their norm like venison.  The Indians were consuming venison when the Pilgrims arrived. The Indians turned the Pilgrims on to the hotness!! Venison helped save some of our ancestors from starvation.  Amidst the jokes about West Virginia roadkill and Po' folks food, lies a rich history and connection to the earth.  Venison is a sustainable part of wildlife and an inexpensive one at that.  Besides, I'm sure they've taken out a fender, hood, door or windshield or two of yours or someone you know and love.  Quintessentially, it's payback, and everyone knows that it can be  a real B@TCH!:)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Savory Stuffed Crepes For Everyone!

These ideas complement the earlier blog on stuffed crepes.  These variations include savory ingredients and possible breakfast and brunch fixings.
 Savory Ham and Cheddar Stuffed 'Crepes'
1 pkg. regular sized flour tortillas
deli sliced ham
sliced Cheddar cheese
Place tortilla on flat surface and imagine look at it as a pie graph.  Place a slice of ham folded in the 1st and 3rd quadrants, and a halved slice of cheese in 2nd and 4th.
Fold tortilla upward to form a half circle.  Fold circle in  half opposite the side facing you to form a fan of sorts, with the open end facing up.
In  a non stick skillet sprayed or a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, toast both sides of the crepe until heated through, and the cheese just starts to melt.  Let stand for several minutes before serving.
Serve with honey mustard dipping sauce or ranch dressing or whatever tickles your fancy.
Turkey and Swiss with Italian dressing dipping sauce
Roast Beef and Provolone with horseradish sauce
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese with dill and sour cream dipping sauce
Sausage and Eggs, 1/2 patty in quadrants 1&3
Bacon and Eggs, 1 slice halved  in quadrants 1&3
Spam and Eggs, 1 slice in quadrants 1&3
Canadian Bacon and eggs, 1 slice  " " " "

6 Easy Stuffed 'Crepes' for Kids

A crepe as some of us know, is an almost paper thin pancake made with eggs. My version of crepes is a lot simpler and easier to procure than conventional crepes, hand held, nutritonally complete and a healthy snack or meal when coupled with salad or fruit.  There are 6 variations, one for every day of the week. For extra beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber, use whole wheat in place of regular.
  Easy Stuffed 'Crepes' (PB & J)
1 pkg. regular sized flour or whole wheat tortillas
favorite peanut butter
favorite jelly
Take a tortilla and imagine it was a pie graph.
Place small amount of peanut butter in the 1st and 3rd quadrant and jelly in the 2nd and 4th .
Fold tortilla up, making a half circle, then fold again into a fan of sorts with open side facing up.  Make as many as desired.
Peanut Butter and Banana
Peanut Butter and Apples
Peanut Butter and Nutella
Cream Cheese and Fresh Strawberries
Raspberry Jam and Cream Cheese
My girls and nephew really like these. The crepes are kid's hand size and portable with virtually no clean up!!
Mix and match to create your own new favorites.  Kids respond better to foods when they help in preparation, so set out some ingredients and let them use their creativity!!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Page out of the Notorious B.I.G's Memoirs

....Go fill my belly, A T-bone steak, cheese eggs, and Welch's grape...Conversate for a few...
Today I had an outdoor lunch with 3 of my sisters, Hollie and Gayle and Cherie. We had tons of great conversation,a tantalizing meal, via grill, of tender grilled steaks, steamed and grilled potatoes, scrambled eggs and toast with grape jelly. The sun was beaming, but underneath the canopy by the apple tree, we were in shaded bliss. The breeze was blowing just enough to ruffle my sundress without blowing away our napkins. The kids were at peace playing, running, laughing, jumping, HAPPY. They stopped in periodically for bites of their meals, too involved with their own agendas to care about the ADULT chit chat transpiring amongst them. The pets waited beyond the perimeters of our gathering, hoping and wishing their turn would manifest itself in a sliver of this, a sliver of that. It didn't. People's feeding times and animal's feeding times should be done separately, as not to encourage begging. These are simple statements, simple times, simplistic and beautiful, congregating and sharing, family orientation, basking in those things that truly make us HAPPY!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Skinny on Slaw!

Many of us have an affection for coleslaw,  on hotdogs, with fish, on BBQ or as a yummy summer side dish. Oftentimes, it doesn't fit well into our calorie and eating regime without 'upsetting the apple cart' so to speak.   Enter my skinny version of a slaw with the same crunch, look and creaminess of coleslaw without the upwards of 15-20 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving.  Substituting Low Fat Greek Style Yogurt for mayonnaise fortifies this slaw with calcium and protein and a host of probiotics. A 1 cup serving of this yogurt has only 5 grams of fat, compared to 160 grams of fat in a cup of regular mayonnaise.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE mayo and make it at home, but I'd like to use my mayo fat intake sparingly, not all at once.  The cabbage is replaced by zucchini, which has a plethora of B vitamins and soluble fiber.  The carrots pack in beneficial beta carotene, as well as vitamins C and A, plus more fiber.  Seasoned rice vinegar provides the sharpness and acidic zing.  When looking for a slaw out of the norm, try this one on for size.  Your body and booty will thank you for it!
Skinny Zucchini Slaw
1 large zucchini, about 2 lbs, de-seeded and grated
3 carrots, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced, white parts, with about 1 inch of green
1 cup Low Fat Greek Yogurt
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar or 1 packet sugar substitute
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)

Toss grated zucchini with a pinch of salt and set aside in colander for about 10 minutes.
Rinse and drain.  (This is to eliminate excess moisture, especially if serving later in day!!)
Toss zucchini and carrot until well mixed. 
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and fold until well blended. 
Add veggies and stir to coat. SPST.  Allow a few minutes for flavors to meld and serve, or refrigerate until ready to use.  Great on hotdogs, BBQ, fish, and anywhere else you would use regular cabbage and mayo based slaws.

Lemon Aids!

Aside from being a popular ingredient in cooking, various alcohol based drinks, as well as the centerpiece for our beloved Lemonade, lemons have more to offer than just a little zest.  Lemons possess a certain anti-microbial aspect due to it's citric acid  and other enzymes and can help kill germs.  Many think the lemon wedge on their glass at their favorite restaurant is for show, but the main reason is to kill germs and reduce bacteria growth.
Also, lemons help aid in digestion and freshen the breath.  We get the benefits of vitamins C and A, which help contribute to gum health as well.  So pucker up and kiss a lemon today, for healthier and fresher kisses tonight!!

Cheesy Pepperoni Fingers

Looking for a quick and easy snack or appetizer in the spur of the moment.  Take cheese sticks and deli sliced pepperoni from ordinary to extraordinary in a few simple steps.
Cheesy Pepperoni Fingers
1 3 oz. pkg. deli sliced pepperoni
1 bag cheese sticks
1 8 oz. jar pizza sauce
fresh basil
Preheat oven to 400*F.
Take a slice of pepperoni and basil leaf.  Center the basil leaf in pepperoni and wrap around cheese stick. Place on baking sheet, seam side down.  Bake until pepperoni is crisp and cheese just starts to escape, about 5 minutes.  Arrange on platter around a bowl of warmed pizza sauce.
This is a fun and easy recipe that the kids can help with if they need to expel some energy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wu U Cookin'?

Happy Sunday All!  Just another relaxing Sunday kicking it with the family and wrapping up another beer induced NASCAR race.  Well, water for me, I drank a couple on Friday.  I put on a maintenance  free dinner of beef roast with celery and onions.  I really love my Le Creuset French oven.  I got a super deal on EBay about 2 years ago and it is a godsend.  Self basting and even heating make for a wonderfully moist and delicious piece of protein, no matter what the animal.  We noshed on store bought stuffed scallops during the race, which left much to be desired.  Nonetheless, the beef roast is amazing and coupled with garlic mashed potatoes and probably a zucchini slaw with a rice wine vinaigrette,  I say this dinner's a winner with the home team.  The family is playing a round of yard golf, which is surprisingly entertaining.  The exercise is the best part, while currently I'm only exercising my fingers!!:)  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sweet! A Tart!

I have created another recipe using zucchini and it is quite tasty.  This recipe is great for brunch or lite dinner with salad and has a tender flaky crust.
The zucchini pairs wonderfully with the sun-dried tomatoes and anchovies.  Easy to make and appealing to the eye with a classic charm and garden freshness.!!
 I hope you enjoy my latest installment of cooking with zucchini.  Zucchini bread is delicious, but variety is the spice of life!!

Zucchini Tart w/ Sun-dried Tomatoes and Anchovies
7-9 large slices zucchini, about 1/8 inch thick
1 3/4 c. zucchini, medium dice
5 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
6 anchovy fillets, in oil
1 store bought pie crust (or homemade if time allows)
1 tbsp. Unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes
1 large egg, slightly beaten and mixed with about 1 tbsp. water
2 oz. goat cheese
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Toss diced zucchini with sun dried tomatoes and about 1 tsp. of the tomato oil. SPST.   Set aside. 
Place pie crust on baking sheet with a sheet of parchment and carefully unroll.
  Center zucchini and tomato mix and arrange slices in circular fashion on top.  Dot with pats of butter and add anchovy fillets radiating out from center.
 Fold up edges of pie crust around edge of veggies.  SPST.
Drizzle with olive oil.
 Brush tart with egg wash and bake until golden brown and veggies are fork tender, about 35-40 minutes.
  Remove from oven and dot with goat cheese and drizzle with  olive oil.
Garnish with additional fresh cracked black pepper.  Serves 6.

Lettuce Tablescapes

Aside from being nutritious, bright and part of a balanced diet, salad greens can also serve as wonderful and organic decorative piece.  I took some designer lettuce from my garden, roots and all and placed them in a glass mug and a vase.  By designer I mean greens from a French Mesclun blend.  There are many different types of endive, spinach and chard and they work great in many different combinations.  The beauty of these tablescapes is that they are edible.  It encourages consumption and helps to cycle it out so you won't have to throw it out.  These Lettucescapes keep for several days and are fully hydrated and fresh.  I rinsed in cold water before using and they taste awesome.  So  brighten up the place while you work on the waist for virtually pennies on the dollar!!  Experiment and see what other veggies in the garden, green and otherwise to see what radical combos you can achieve and have fresh produce at your disposal without having to make several trips outback.

Zucchini Bake Friday

Neillio here,  in the lab again.  I'm testing my ability to re-invent the same foods consistently and as equally appealing and satisying.  This evening is a Zucchini Bake.  Hopefully, you may try this and feel the same way!!

Bacon Cheddar Zucchini Bake
1 large zucchini, about 5 cups sliced
1 lb. ground beef
1 soft beef bouillon cube
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 oz. black olives, sliced
12 oz. spaghetti sauce
granulated sugar to taste
2 tbsp. fresh basil and oregano blend
For Bacon Cheddar Bechamel:
4 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
1 c. mild cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 c. real bacon bits 
Olive oil for drizzling
 (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste  )
Preheat oven to 375*F.
On a large roasting rack and pan or baking sheet, spread out sliced zucchini and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand for about 20 minutes.  Rinse and drain. This process is to render the zucchini of  excess water as to absorb the flavors of the bake.
Brown ground beef with bouillon  over medium high heat.  While browning add onion, jalapeno and garlic.  Once no pink remains and the vegetables are softened, drain off excess fat and stir in olives and spaghetti sauce. Stir in herbs and  reduce to a simmer.  
Meanwhile, prepare the cheese sauce. melt butter over medium heat and heat until small bubbles start to form.   Whisk in flour and cook about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in milk.  Place back over heat, and let thicken over several minutes.  Once thickened, add cheddar and bacon. Stir to blend, and turn off heat. 
In a 3 1/2 quart baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and add 1/2 of meat sauce.  Make a layer with zucchini, covering meat sauce.  Carefully spread 1/2 of bacon cheddar sauce atop zucchini.
Repeat with remaining  meat sauce, zucchini, and cheese sauce.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 45 minutes and zucchini is fork tender.    Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with garlic bread and green salad.  Serves 8 to 10.

Friday, June 22, 2012

One Zucchini, Two Zucchini, Three Zucchini, Four

Well this evening consisted of perfecting my recipe for zucchini muffins.  I sifted and measured, creamed and combined, spooned and spread my way to a satisfying consensus.  Thanks to all my testers and guinea pigs!!:)  I have not fully revised my recipe for publish, but I can tell you that it involves chocolate chips, walnuts and buttermilk.!!  My brother in law and sister's garden is in over drive and zucchini is popping out like zits on a pubescent teen!!lLOL JK. They are easily the size of your forearm and are great for casseroles and baking.  Having a grater and a mandolin are definitely recommended to manipulate the veggie and diversify it's appearance.  I made muffins, a chocolate zucchini pie with a chocolate  graham cracker crust and a batch of Bake Pops!!  I left out the sticks this time, so technically I guess they're called Cake Balls!!  I said Balls.  Sorry,  I'm a little  tired.  Alas I digress.  I also came up with a wholesome, one skillet meal using the unused portion of the 3 lb. zucchini  It was magnificent.  I used other fresh ingredients from our herb garden to round out the flavors like oregano and basil.  These herbs, along with 2 grated carrots,  1 chopped onion,  5 cloves pressed garlic, 3/4 lb. ground beef and 1/2 lb. uncooked macaroni, low sodium beef broth and lastly SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste) made for a great addition to my cookbook.  Stay tuned for more recipes with zucchini, sweet and savory! It feels so good knowing that we are growing what we eat and eating what we grow.  If you don't already, you should give it a shot.  The overwhelming gratification brings you closer to achieving ZEN!  and looks darn good for our purses and wallets!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dining with the Stars

The other day I had the pleasure of having dinner with 3 of my sisters and the fiance of one.  The air was perfumed by the aromas of  a well stocked grill, permeating the air as would the smell of fresh cut grass on a spring morning.  The cool, crisp chopped salad with quartered hard boiled eggs and a little Japanese White Sauce, was a welcomed guest in my stomach and it's demand to be satiated.  The smoke infused mussels complemented the grilled corn perfectly, it's sweetness harmonious and balanced, bright, complex.  The style of the steak was strip, well done.  I prefer mine medium rare, but the ambiance of the evening remedied that shortcoming with compliant resolve, while I noted the delicate notes of black pepper and coarsely ground sea salt.  The creatures of the night competed valiantly with the low tones of pop music that ebbed and flowed through the speakers, as they pumped and reverberated to the mood of the night.  The children had eaten earlier, so the "Mommy, Can You's?"and the "Mommy, Will You's?", had been subdued at least for the moment, tranquility.  As I slowly chewed  bites from my share of the bounty placed before me, between comments and quieted laughter, I happened to glance up at the sky.  Billions of twinkling stars contributed to the overall tawny glow of this evening, providing the perfect dimmer switch, which was decidedly blue-black.  The stars were watching, listening, absorbing the energy we  exuded with smug  complacency, a little salty, jealous even, fore there was no more room at the table!!!

Lightning Fast Pizzas!!

In my angst over the tick situation, I left out the main reason for that afternoon blog post!! What the kid's ate after hiking!!!  Aside from plums, fresh and syrup sweet from a friend's tree, they had personal sized pizzas in a flash.  With some regular sized flour tortillas, deli sliced pepperoni, roasted red peppers in a jar, store bought pizza sauce, cheese and real bacon bits, they had a quick and delicious meal to hold them until dinner.  They are very active so I let them have fun with food every now and then.  The recipe is easy and the taste is comparable to any takeout I know.  Preheat the oven to 450* (don't worry it won't be on long).  Arrange tortillas on baking sheets, depending on size you should be able to fit 2 per sheet.  Take 1 tbsp. sauce and spread in circular fashion on tortilla.  Sprinkle about 1 tsp. shredded cheese atop sauce to help toppings adhere.  next, take 4 slices of the pepperoni and place in each quarter of the tortilla.  Pull roasted peppers apart in strips with hands and arrange around pizza. Sprinkle with about 1 tbsp. bacon bits, and top with desired amount of cheese,  I used about 1 1/2 tbsp. per pizza.  Pop in oven and bake until cheese is melty and the edges are golden, about 4 1/2 minutes.  Remove from oven, cut into quarters and serve.  You can mix and match the toppings to your liking, and the kids can even top their own pizzas, and score some experience points.  These babies aren't just for kids, so make enough for everyone!!! If you don't feel like heating up the kitchen, these pizzas can be prepared on the grill with equally impressive, tasty results.  Using a grill pan will help ease the cleanup, and leave awesome grill marks on the bottoms.!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Well the kids made it back from the nature hike in  one piece, thank goodness!!  Along with thirst and rumbly tumblies (tummies), they also brought back about ONE HUNDRED TICKS!!  I KNOW RIGHT!!  Big ones, small ones, seed ticks and their cousins all in tow.  All over their shoes, shorts, shirts, undies, leggings, and skin!!!  The kids were nice and calm, but there was a quiet storm brewing inside me.  I scanned and scoured their bodies and clothes with an eagle eye, finding the little harbingers of itch and ill, making sure none were left to ravage my little munchkins into histamine overload.  I gave the kids a good soothing bath with scrub and went back over them again to be on the safe side.  We made it through this encounter with the little buggers, but I had to remember  the kids were on the ticks' turf.  The woods and trees are where they hang out.  Also, in our grass in our yards.  They patiently wait atop blades of grass for nice warm blooded mammals to pass by, so that they may catch a ride!!  They lie in wait in the trees, and when they smell a certain pheromone, they drop and hope for the best.  Ticks will also literally ride the breeze to get a hold of some fresh warm blood.  NATURES LITTLE VAMPIRES INDEED!  I read somewhere that vapor rubs will deter ticks in the yard and wild, but I haven't had a chance to put that theory to the test yet. Nonetheless, I must replenish my repellent stores before any future sightseeing in the 'rough'!!

Smoothie Sailing!

Wow! What a scorcher today huh! The humidity is through the roof and the overcast skies cannot offer us any more reprieve than a direct beam break.  Be sure to load up on fluids on days like today and don't forget your pets.  The garden is thirsty too, but it is best watered in the morning, because the sunlight can damage the parts of the plant that have standing water on their leaves.
There are ways to replenish fluids, water obviously being the best, smoothies being a nutrient packed fun way to do so.  The kids went on a nature hike with my sister Gayle, so I decided to treat myself to something cool and refreshing.  I still have some blueberries left (store bought, frozen, wild) so I whipped up something I had not  made in ages, a blueberry milkshake.  The guilt levels were virtually zero because I used low fat ice cream, 1 cup blueberries, and soy milk.  Talk about a vitamin powerhouse!! Again loads of Vitamins A and C, calcium, fiber, potassium riboflavin, magnesium and iron to name a few.  I tossed it in the processor and blended it for about 5 seconds and PRESTO, a nutritious and delicious plus refreshing treat without the shock wave of guilt or the sugary crash of quick carbs!! For smoothies, simply substitute yogurt for the ice cream double the fruit of choice and add 1 cup crushed ice as well.  Blend as usual and enjoy.  Don't forget alcohol dehydrates you, so for these hot days, you want to incorporate just as much water into the regime as you do alcohol!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stir Crazee!!

Tomorrow's the official first day of summer!  Some of our gardens are starting to spew forth it's bounty and a lot of it!!  Aside from canning , freezing and sharing with friends and family we may find ourselves with extra further still.  Enter the stir-fry. This and sauteing is the next best way to avoid steamed veggie overkill 'when the harvest get tough and we get fed up'.  There are hundreds maybe thousands of different combinations to be made and the cooking time won't diminish it's nutritional stores by much if any.  Actually, some vegetables' vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed by heating, like tomatoes.  Asian flavors make vegetables flattering in every way.  With just a few key ingredients, you can turn your garden's veggies VIVACIOUS and uber delicious in no time. Some simple sauces and oils can provide 'the best taste in the world', as confessed by my sister Gayle.  She loves the taste of my recipes with these implements, especially the one's that are meatless.  Being raised in the south, that speaks volumes to me!  Anywho, back to stir-fries.  You don't need very much oil at all, maybe 1 1/2
tsp. or less per lb. and a very hot saute pan or wok.  Constant agitation is the key.  Chop and  slice your veggies into equal sizes to ensure even cooking.  Fish sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, green onions, lots of garlic, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and sambal oelek are  responsible for that flavor we crave and look to Chinese Takeout to provide.  Not all ingredients have to be used at once, but you definitely include sweet, salty and savory in whatever combination you choose.  The onion and garlic and sugar should be constants, but you can mix and match the other ingredients to suit your taste.  I like it hot so sambal oelek will always be in my combinations.  The key to finding your heat index is by adding a little at a time.  Sambal oelek has a bold heat that is realized after it's been chewed, so be easy is you're leery.  The possibilities are endless and your body will thank you for the benefits so, let's get shakin', with some stirfry makin'!!  I have a photo of of one of my stir frys made with fresh broccoli from my sister Gayle's garden, and a few other veggies I had hangin around.  To save time and money, I crumbled in some Steakum sheets to make it a full form beef and broccoli stir fry.  To shave off fat and calories, simply drain the fat before adding the sauce combo of your choice.

Taste of Tokyo Grill

My daughter had a visit to Kool Smiles of Danville and Tokyo  Grill is adjacent to that suite.  Tokyo Grill an Authentic Japanese Restaurant with takeout that specializes in Sushi and Sashimi, Rolls and Hibachi.  They offer an extensive selection of fresh handmade rolls and Sashimi prepared right before your eyes. The atmosphere is rich with Asian Flair including a wishing well of sorts at the  entrance.  The Staff was knowledgeable, amiable and even offered my daughter a cup of ice to soothe the after effects of her procedure.  The  menu is detailed and well organized to help especially with first timers.  Vegetarians won't have a problem with finding a delicious and satisfying meal amongst the carnivores, and vise versa.  Prices are reasonable, ranging from $1.35 for Miso Soup to Sushi Platters for 4  under $60.00.  There are many stopping off points price wise, so those on a budget will not feel intimidated as I was not.  My choices included a Salmon and Avocado Roll, and a Tuna Roll, which come with choice of soup, salad or Udon noodles and  Tempura Vegetables.  The rolls were amazing and super fresh, pure bliss in ever bite. My sister Hollie thought so too! The fish was firm and vibrant in color as it should be.  The rice was the right combination of sticky without being clumpy or dry.  The noodles were mild and delicious with subtle flavors and bite.  I had some left over and they reheated well and were just as appetizing today as the day before.  The Tempura Vegetables provided the perfect amount of crunch and were not at all greasy and cumbersome.
This was my second visit and I was equally pleased my first time around as well.  The first visited graced me with the Salmon and Tuna Sushi and Sashimi.  Again, fresh beyond belief , almost buttery,  and melt in your mouth goodness.  I also tried the Crabmeat Puffs and the Beef Kebab.  I enjoyed those too, but the taste of the Sushi and Sashimi is what brought me back.  If you are in the area Tokyo Grill is worth checking out!!  Pictures of our meal can be found on my facebook page under Cherrysewagecom.
 Sushi and Sashimi and Rolls are fun to make at home too!!  I have, but I'm definitely a novice when it comes to these guys!!  Super fresh fish, a  good sharp knife and a little patience are  the main ingredients to a wonderful experience at home
Tokyo Grill
364 Lowes Drive unit I
Danville, VA 24541

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Father Would Have Loved This Menu

Well folks, it's about time for dinner.  I hope yours is as memorable as the day is long.  I am catering a dinner for the fathers in my family  and decided on "Grub Rubbed" and Smoked Spareribs, Savory Baked Beans and Cheesy Zucchini Layered Casserole.  The Nascar race is winding down and the troops are headed from our local dragway and home for dinner time.  The overcast skies can't hide the excitement of approaching body refuel and the smiles on my girls' faces spending the evening with their daddy!  My father passed away in 2009, but we still wish him a happy day anyway!! We know he's still here in spirit and most importantly in our hearts.  This menu is dedicated to Douglas Smith, loving husband, father and brother.  Dad would have really enjoyed this evening's fare, but above all, spending time with his wife, children and the people we love for one more day.  Never miss a chance to tell the ones you love that you do.  In time, those 'love you's' along with memories are all that remain to keep us going when our paths cross and we move on to higher planes!!! I love you all for reading my thoughts and giving me a chance!  Thank You

p.s. You can check out photos of my Father's Day menu on facebook under Cherrysewagecom.
p.s.s. "Neillio's Grub Rub" is a spice blend I came up with for seasoning meats, especially BBQ.!!

The Day of Kings

Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there!! I wish you a festive and blessed day!!  If you're looking for some dinner ideas maybe I can help spark some creation fuel if you don't plan on eating out!!  Check out my site and see if something strikes your fancy!!!
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view my recipes     

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Using Your Noodle!!

The recipe the other day using Ramen got me thinking as to how many different ways I could incorporate these babies into meals that aren't as plain as the way I like to enjoy them.  I came up with a really simple and delicious, not to mention filling idea.  Enter recipe #2 for the 'dormitory gourmet,' French Onion Noodle Soup.  Get a can of french onion soup and add to a medium sauce-pot along with 1 can plus 2 c. of water, the beef Ramen and it's seasoning packet.  Turn on the oven to broil.  Bring contents of pot up to a boil over medium high heat reduce heat to a simmer while you prepare the bread.  I took slices of French Wheat bread and drizzled them with olive oil.  Remove soup and portion out equal parts noodles and soup in 2 oven-safe vessels or cocottes.  Place sliced French bread atop soup and place a slice of Provolone cheese on bread.  Broil until golden and cheese is bubbling, about 2 minutes.  STSP!  (SEASON TO TASTE WITH SALT AND PEPPER)   Voila! Dormitory Gourmet for you and your roommate!!  This is great for at home too, because Hey! recipes this quick and yummy should be enjoyed everywhere and anywhere so pass it on!!

Oui Love This Sandwich!!!

Tired of plain ole ham, egg and cheese sandwiches and omelets?   Well the French knew what they were doing when they fashioned the Croque Monsieur!!  It is basically a ham and cheese sandwich  on slices of French bread, dipped in egg, fried , then topped with a savory and cheesy bechamel sauce and broiled until golden!! Absolutely Amazing!!  Why not prepare my version tonite for a step towards realizing your inner gourmet and bistro swagger!!

3 Cheese Croque Monsieur
12 slices french bread
12 oz. deli style ham
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices Provolone
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 3/4 c. milk
4 oz. white Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. pancake mix or flour
1/4 tsp. ground mustard
1/4 tsp. onion powder
olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450*F.
In a  heavy bottomed saucepan or skillet over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil until small bubbles form.  Whisk in pancake mix and cook for about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 c. milk. Place back over heat cook for several minutes to thicken and stir in cheese and spices. Season to taste with S and P.  Keep warm over low heat.
Heat a cast iron skillet or large saute pan to medium high heat and drizzle with olive oil.   You may also use a non stick spray. Meanwhile add remaining milk to beaten eggs.
Assemble sandwiches by adding one slice each type cheese to bread and adding 2 oz. ham and close.
Dip both sides of sandwich in egg mixture and fry until golden on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet. Once all sandwiches have been browned, spread equal amounts of Cheddar sauce atop each sandwich and broil in oven  until sauce is bubbling and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand for several minutes before serving.  Makes 6

Friday, June 15, 2012

Good to Goat!

In the mood for a snack, but not sure what to nibble on?  Consider this, I came up with a complex flavored, yet simply prepared snack with a wild side.  All you need is some large veggie crackers as the base.  Next, Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil.  Chop about 8 olives and 6 sundried tomatoes and toss in a bowl.  Finally, get some goat cheese and add about 1/4 oz. per cracker or 3/4 tsp.and about 1 tsp. of the tomato-olive mix.  Garnish with some fresh cracked black pepper for a scrumptious snack or pre-dinner appetizer that's not just another cheese and cracker ho-hum. Makes 8.

Posh Little Social!

It's me again.  Just in case you can't make it to the wine festival tomorrow, doesn't mean you can't have a nice tasting of wines with foods at home and invite a few friends.  Simply get a couple of types of cheese, say a hard and a semi-soft cheese, like cheddar and Gorgonzola or a semi-ripened cheese with a rind like brie and an aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano.  Find fruit to complement the cheeses.  For example, granny  smith apples and grapes complement Cheddar cheese.  Figs, plums, peaches and dried fruits work well with semi ripened cheeses like Blue and Brie.  Goat cheese goes rather well with jams and honey. Get two types of crackers like whole grain and veggie.  Find a couple of wines with notes to complement the palate of the cheeses and crackers together.  You may want to try a wine with strong forward fruits like a Mirassou's Pinot Grigio or a Clos Du Bois' Riesling.  These will complement the sweet tones of the fresh fruit.  The brie and the blue cheese may work better with full bodied reds like Gnarly Head's Cabernet Sauvignon named so for the way the vines grow!  It's super fun to pair foods and wines on your own, because each palate is different, as are our tastes.  Find out what works for you and amaze yourself and friends at how good you have become at tasting the notes and layers of wines.

Wine with Food!!!

Greetings!!  Happy Friday yet again!  Boy, has this week blown by.  It's a gorgeous day here in southwestern VA, and there are just enough clouds in the sky to keep you from getting scorched and balmy looking!:)  Well tomorrow is going to be a fun day.  The Annual Flag Day Wine Festival is Sauturday June 16th from 5pm-10pm. Did you know that Virginia has been named one of the top 10 places in the WORLD to try wines!! There will be lots of wineries represented like Fincastle, Peaks of Otter, Attimo and many others.  Admission is free and the Tasting Tickets are only $15.00!!!  There will be live music by Dragonfly and an appearance by "extreme athlete" Tom Jones.  There will be lots of food and crafts, not to mentions family oriented activities like hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides, train rides, go-karts and a car show.  NO COOLERS AND NO PETS SORRY!!
The proceeds from the event will benefit the SAFE SURFIN' FOUNDATION which is a non-profit foundation created to protect our children from cyber trash and those who may pose threats to our youth while surfin the net.  Please come out and show your support if you can.  The festival will be held at the Glenwood Center, 2074 Smith Mtn. La
ke Pkwy, Huddleston VA.  I look forard to seeing you there!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kebabing for Apples!

Summer  is a time of long hot days, lots of water in and around our bodies, and lots of outdoor grilling.  There are a myriad of ways to arrange and prepare, sear and smoke, mix and match our menus. Kebabs are more than likely going to make a most welcomed appearance without question. We love kebabs because they are so versatile and often colorful, with endless combinations for never boring repeats. BBQs, spits and skewers were mankind's first method and vices for cooking foods.  Kids love kebabs for the same reasons as the adults, but safety is of issue as it must be when children are involved.  The skewer can be  very dangerous to adults and kids alike.  We often forget the pointy tip  when consuming the golden and vibrant delecacies impaled on that odious and primal tool.
 Being left handed and decidedly accident prone, I must consider the possibility of point in eye or nose injuries.  Thus, I came up with a way my children (Genesis 6, Bronwyn 4) to enjoy kebabs without me having to 'lord' over them, enabling me to feel more at ease when entertaining.  UNCOOKED SPAGHETTI!  They make for great skewer substitutes and are inexpensive as well. I prepare and grill the kebabs as usual, but I slide the foods off the kebab and re-string them on uncooked spaghetti noodles.  The blunt ends are more compatible with a child's coordination and dexterity, so the prospect of injury is reduced.  Kids still get the pleasure of the bite sized pieces and being 'big' enough to eat like the adults.  Additionally, uncooked spaghetti noodles accommodate raw fruit and veggie kebabs perfectly and the kids can even help in the preparation!! They love being our little helpers, and we love making them happy!!  After all, they are the little apples of our eyes and we as parents want them to keep theirs intact!

Feelin' Blue and Loving It!!

We had pancakes for breakfast today!! Pancakes are a popular dish throughout the world in one form or another.  Be it potato, veggies or traditional flour made, various  cultures have a go to form of them.  Today I am speaking on the flour-based pancake.  These pancakes are composed essentially of flour, milk, eggs, a little sugar and vanilla flavoring.  Buttermilk pancakes are simply a substitution of buttermilk for regular milk.  Surprisingly enough, buttermilk is relatively low in fat and provides a unique flavor and texture to your flapjacks, leaving them more moist and fluffy compared to regular milk.  Using a non stick pan or griddle ensures you won't add excess fat and weigh down your fluffy clouds of goodness.  Keep in  mind, the batter will act as a sponge when it comes to oil and makes for an upset stomach later, so use a non-stick spray!  Also, you want to obtain some PURE MAPLE SYRUP!  A little goes a long way and the taste is fantastic.
The pancake is a blank canvas for the addition of goodies that your body will thank you for later.  Fresh diced apples, bananas and strawberries are just a few fresh ingredients packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and potassium to name a few. Blueberries may be the best choice yet when it comes to add in's.  Wild Blueberries are highest in antioxidant levels of all the fruits.    One cup of blueberries provide you with substantial dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin's A and C, iron and many more trace minerals and phytochemiclas that are key to eye, brain and immune system health.  Besides, they taste great.  Next time you're making pancakes, sprinkle in some fresh or fresh frozen and thawed blueberries just before you flip them for immediate rewards the mind, body and soul!!

Ramen Gets A Facelift

Before I went to college, I absolutely abhorred RAMEN NOODLES!  By the end of my freshman year, hell we went back like four flats and a Cadillac! (I'm still not completely clear on what that ole' adage means) LOL!!  At any rate, they became my best friend in times of need of sustenance, and delivered me from the utter misguided mayhem of the 'chefs' aka fellow work study students in the cafeteria!!  Anywho, Ramen noodles became the only thing is this world that I will eat as is, no extra s and p, cheese, chicken, beef, etc... Noodles were just noodles.  Additionally, I would only eat Ramen by Maruchan.   Today, Ramen crossed my mind and I came up with an idea of a dormitory gourmet style meal  of sorts.  It was fun and I was genuinely entertained by jazzing them up a bit.   I  created a low budget, labor friendly rendition of Chicken Parmesan!
I took a fried chicken drumstick and poured about 3 oz. of pizza sauce with a pinch of sugar over it in a small cast iron skillet.  I covered it with 2 slices of provolone cheese and grated on a little Pecorino Romano.  I put it under the broiler until the sauce and cheese started to bubble and brown in spots, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, I prepared a package of Ramen in 1 1/3 c. of water with the seasoning packet mixed in ahead of time to concentrate the flavor.  I gathered some fresh parsley, oregano and basil from my herb garden, about 2 tbsp. total , and roughly chopped them.  I used tongs to collect the Ramen without the excess liquid and arranged them on a plate.  I drizzled them with olive oil and placed the bubbling chicken drumstick with cheese in the center.  I lifted the chicken carefully and poured the remaining sauce underneath.  I garnished with the fresh herbs and some additional gratings of Pecorino Romano.  It was actually pretty darn good. My sister Hollie thought so too!! It brought back memories abound of my hardcore Ramen days!!:)  This recipe is 'dormitory' gourmet in that you eat it with a knife and fork and it's on a real plate!!  Not too shabby for a lazy, low maintenance meal, and it mimics the flavors of an all out Chicken Parmesan, and was kinda fabulous. GHETTO FABULOUS ITALIANO! CHEERS!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Just dropping in to offer an alternative to the usual and ever popular garlic bread.  With this growing incidents of cannibalism and vampire and werewolf out breaks, I thought I'd share with you one  of my recipes that could possibly ward off would be 'blood thirsty' predators among us!!  Garlic, as many of us know is a super-food and ingredient all in it's own.  Rich in antioxidants, garlic is also super for maintaining heart health and blood pressure.  Garlic also has anti-bacteral as well as antiseptic properties.
Providing robust flavor and body to dishes, garlic should be in any home cook's pantry.  Always go for fresh garlic for many reasons. First, the taste of fresh garlic is more pronounced and well rounded.  Also, buying fresh helps to eliminate  additives, preservatives and sodium that is added to ready to eat jars.  Buying fresh garlic is also LESS EXPENSIVE than the pre- chopped and peeled versions per capita!  I have a garlic press and it works wonders.  It really cuts down on garlic prep and your fingers won't wear the smell long after the dish is eaten.  Besides, consider it an investment that will pay for itself in no time!!! Don't be afraid to load up because it stores really well, just make sure you check the  bulbs for weak spots and blemishes and that it is compact and solid before storing away.  Worst case scenario, string' em together and rock them in an old school, rope chain fashion and grab a steak!!
Roasting garlic brings out it's natural sweetness and tones down the overall garlicky -ness of the flavor, making for an excellent spread and flavor builder for just about anything.

Roasted Garlic
1 BULB garlic, cut in halve crosswise (or as many bulbs as desired)
olive oil or drizzling
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400*F.
Place bulb halves in a piece of heavy duty  foil and season lightly.  Wrap loosely. Roast for about 25-30 minutes until fragrant and  cloves are soft.
Let cool enough ton handle and mash with a fork.  Add to recipe or use as a stand alone spread for sandwiches, meats and breads or to dip crudites!
Roasted Garlic Garlic Bread
1 bulb roasted garlic paste
1 stick butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/3 c. fresh parsley, rough chopped
1 lb loaf Italian bread, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 450*.
Mix garlic, butter and parsley together in small bowl and spread equal parts on two halves.
Place on roasting rack and cook until golden around edges, about 10 minutes.
Let cool enough to handle and slice as desired.  Serves 8 to 10.

Your new BFF!!

I was in and out of the kitchen the other day and I wanted something good and satisfying, without the labor!!  I searched my on hand, ready to eat options and came up with quite an interesting combination that was down right tasty!!  I had some seeded Italian  loaf, some smoky bacon already cooked, some baked crinkle cut french fries, and a batch of fresh picked French Mesclun greens from our garden.  I tossed the greens with a little good quality extra virgin olive  oil and vinegar, s and p to taste and set it aside.  I  added mayo for glue and loaded on a pile of baked fries on one side of  the 1/4 inch slices I made from the loaf.  I then added a few scant pieces of the smoky bacon and added about 1 cup of greens to the other side slice and brought them together. Oh, and a nice squeeze of SRIRACHA.  Capsacin, a chemical found in foods like peppers and chilies is said to raise the metabolism by as much as 15%.  Every little bit helps right!
 Sandwiches are a great way to get your "5" a day in especially when you pair them with bacon.  Baked french fries provide virtually no fat and the tangy oil and vinegar meshes well with the sesame studded Italian loaf.  Try it for yourself and you too may have a new BFF  with staying power, Bacon, French fries, and French salad greens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Talkin' Turkey

Contrary to popular belief, Thanksgiving and Christmas are not the only suitable times for some turkey in our lives. Alternately, we consume so much on those occasions, we almost don't want to see it for the subsequent time between the holidays. There are other ways to enjoy the soothing and savory bird without having to be responsible for finishing off 14lbs. of it in every from from turkey hash, turkey casseroles, turkey sandwiches, did i say turkey sandwiches :), turkey potpie, and turkey and gravy, turkey and turkey!! You get my drift. For an off season change of pace, consider smoked turkey wings and drumsticks. I have a quick and amazing recipe to get just enough turkey in your life to look forward to his next visit. Comforting and relatively maintenance free, this recipe is great for a laid back overcast day, when rain is just beyond the horizon and pajama shorts, boxers and ragged t-shirts seem to be the attire of choice... Turkey in the Off Season 4 lb. smoked turkey wings and drumsticks 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced 2 stalks celery, cut in fifth's 2 carrots, cut in thirds 1 large onion, quartered 1 bay leaf
1 soft chicken bouillon cube, or 4 c. low sodium chicken broth water olive oil for drizzling Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil to medium high. Add veggies and bouillon and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add rinsed turkey parts,and fill vessel until wings and drumsticks are just covered with water. ( This is where you add the broth in place of water, then fill rest of way with water) Bring up to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Cook at a rolling simmer for several hours, until fork tender and falling away from the bones. Be sure to check liquid levels periodically and meat is always submerged until the last 30 minutes. At which point, let the liquid concentrate by reduction and coat turkey pieces. Season to taste as desired. Serve crusty bread and some greens for a southern comfort feel and a happy face to boot.

Talkin' Turkey!

Contrary to popular belief, Christmas and Thanksgiving are not the only suitable times to have some turkey in our lives. Alternately, we sometimes consume so much during those occasions, we almost don't want to see it for that subsequent time between the holidays. There are other ways of consuming the soothing and savory bird without having to finish off 14 lbs of it in every form from turkey hash, turkey casseroles, turkey sandwiches, did I mention turkey sandwiches :), turkey potpie, turkey and gravy, turkey salad, turkey lurkey, turkey and turkey, you get my drift. For an off season change of pace, consider smoked turkey wings and drumsticks. I have a simple and amazing recipe to get just enough turkey in your life to still look forward to his next visit. Comforting and relatively maintenance free, this recipe is perfect for a laid back, overcast day, when rain is just beyond the horizon, and pajama shorts, boxers and ragged t-shirts seem to be the attire of choice... Turkey in the Off Season 4 lbs. smoked turkey wings and/or drumsticks 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced 2 stalks celery, cut into fifths 2 carrots, cut into thirds 1 large onions, quartered 1 bay leaf 1 soft chicken bouillon cube or 4 c. low sodium chicken broth water olive oil for drizzling Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil to medium high. Add veggies and bouillon and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add rinsed turkey parts and fill with water just covering (This is where you add the chicken broth and fill the rest of the way with water) Bring ingredients to a boil and reduce to medium. Cook, at a rolling simmer for several hours, until fork tender and meat is just short of falling off the bones. Be sure to check liquid levels periodically to keep meats submerged until the last 30 minutes of cooking. At which point, concentrate liquid by reducing to a jus that coats the wings and drumsticks. Season to taste as desired. Drizzle with olive oil to taste.. Serve with crusty bread and greens for a southern comfort feel and a smile to boot!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not to be Corny, but...

Happy Friday All!! If you had a chance to try the dirtcake, I hope it was enjoyable.  Last evening, I spent some quality time with extended family over a few drinks and a hot grill.  We dined on the patio being such a pleasant night and all.  We noshed on peppered flat irons, filets, and ribeyes. The ribeyes were  marinated in rice wine, worchestershire, sherry, seasoned rice vinegar and chili powder.  They were about 2 inches thick and cooked to medium.  They were awesome!!  Hotdogs and kielbasa as well as a few burgers joined the party as well.  I steamed some potatoes and tossed them with garlic and herb seasoning and olive oil.  I also threw in a couple of pats of butter for dexterity.  They got rave reviews around the board!! I also took a quick boxed pasta salad and added loads of fresh veggies.  I tossed in celery, red and yellow mini peppers and carrots.  I also spiked this kicked up pasta salad with some amazing, sharp cheddar cheese and briny capers.  We had a blast!! Good family, good music and great food are not easily matched and the memories and stories told are priceless.
      All of the meats on the grill were fairly quick cooking as compared to the life of a round of charcoal, so I did a two-for.  My sister had Terry  brought by a 4 lb. corned beef brisket for me to "do something with" and I obliged.  I created a super easy and flavor packed dry rub and applied it.  I then let the brisket sit at room temperature for an hour and put it on the hottest part of the grill.  I let it sear nicely and smoke for the duration of the evening., about 4 hours.  At evening's close, I tightly wrapped the brisket in foil and refrigerated it.  This morning, I pulled it out and baked it in a cast iron skillet with a little water  at 325*F for about 3  hours.
     I prepared an Asian slaw recipe I came up with several days ago to embellish the tender, moist slices of smoky goodness with a trace amount of flavor filled fat along each edge.  I reinforced store bought BBQ sauce with some rice wine and vinegar to tie the flavors all together.  With a BBQ sauce painted bun and a hearty helping of the supple beef, the slaw was right at home nestled atop the steaming mountain yet to be conquered.  I have to say this is my best BBQ feat yet.  But wait, there's more to come. We must be patient grasshopper!!:)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's get Dirty

Hey folks!  I just wanted to let you know that I came up with great recipe that's quick and easy, not to mention crazy delicious!!  Preparation time is minimal with maximum reward.
Dirtcake is a popular southern favorite especially during the warm and hot spring and summer months. Ironically enough, there is no dirt involved and it's not even a cake.  Nevertheless, my take on this 'cake' involves fresh, delicious and sweet cherries.  The presentation is worth the patience and the taste speaks for itself.  This recipe is great for making friends and family feel like you've taken a class or two in culinary arts and that you have quite the flair for desserts and entertaining!!  The serving bowl really makes all the difference, so consider it thoughtfully for the ultimate visual appeal.   Most importantly, have fun with it.  The kids can even pitch in on some of the prep work, and you can gain some cool points in the cooking with your kids arena!!  Have at it and have fun.  I hope to hear back from you !!
Aside from this recipe, you can check me out on under smokinhotchef for dozens more of my recipes with photos that you may enjoy!

Decadent Cherry Chocolate Dirtcake
1 16 oz.  pkg. chocolate sandwich cookies 
2 8 oz. containers whipped topping, or 1 16 oz. container divided
1 box. instant vanilla pudding
2 c. cold milk
1/2 lb. fresh cherries, halved and de-seeded

In a food processor or large resealable bag, crush cookies until they resemble the texture of  fine garden soil.  Reserve about 5 cookies to line bottom of vessel for embellishment.
In a medium bowl combine vanilla pudding and milk and beat until smooth.  Fold in 8 oz. whipped topping until well blended and light.
Starting in bottom of serving bowl, arrange whole cookies so that they will be visible  outwardly
when finished. 
Next, line some cherries along tops of whole cookies creating a layer of red against bowl, flat side facing out.
Sprinkle about 2 oz. of the 'dirt' into bottom of dish, filling in any gaps between cookies.
Carefully pour pudding and whipped topping mix into vessel, smoothing evenly across.
Pour cookie dirt atop pudding, carefully smoothing out evenly, reserving about 1/4 c. for garnishment.
Arrange another row of cherries along border of cookie dirt barely pressing into place for a nice outward appearance.
Stir second container of whipped topping and smooth over cookie dirt.  This works best if you start with a large mound in the middle and using a rubber spatula, pushing the topping from the center outward and evenly.
Garnish with reserved cookie dirt and cherries as desired.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours to allow time for settling and softening of cookies on bottom.
Serves plenty!! Enjoy!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

100,000 Piggies a' Roastin!

Yesterday evening marked the second and final day of our town's traditional  celebration called  Uncle Billy's Day.  During Uncle Billy's Day, the huge and gorgeous park along the Staunton River and the park in mid town come alive with festivities abound attracting the kiddies, oldies and in between. There are amusement park rides, live bands, a beer garden, many kiosks with a plethora of arts, crafts, artists, blacksmiths to name a few.  The extravaganza offers everything from leather goods to garden tools, face painting and carnival games.  This celebration attracts about 100,000 people, packed shoulder to shoulder like a New York City sidewalk, sweltering under the day's hot sun and breaking the bank buying countless fresh squeezed lemonades, snowcones, ice cold sodas and waters.  No event of this magnitude  would be complete without copious amounts of street foods.  This is truly the main event and a foodie's Shangri-La.  With all the sites to see and walking involved, there are plenty of ways to replenish one's energy.  Aside from the normal tasties like hamburgers, hotdogs, cotton candy, candied apples, hand dipped ice cream cones, waffle cones, waffle fries, golden, piping hot piles of onion rings and  crispy french fries,  two steps further can take you to another country all together.  Pizza shacks, steak and cheese huts,  chicken and beef kebabs, sausage and peppers with onions stands, egg rolls, hand dipped corndogs, Chinese chicken and beef with rice stands, fried pickles, fried macaroni and cheese, smoked turkey drumsticks... WHEW!  I CAN GO ON, BUT REMINISCING IS TORTURE!  Oh and I must give a shout out to just about everyone's favorite,  FUNNEL CAKE.  Smothered and covered with apple and/or cherry pie filling and dusted with powdered sugar, or my personal preference plain with a smattering of powdered sugar, this festival is the bee's knee's.  By the way, you can obtain honey from local beekeepers as well!!!  If you ever get a chance, stop by and experience Uncle Billy's Day for yourself.  The atmosphere and the food will be unforgettable.  The festival is held every year on the FIRST FRIDAY AND SATURDAY OF JUNE IN ALTAVISTA, VIRGINIA, rain or shine.  Wear comfortable shoes and clothing and don't forget your large hat and sunscreen.  Hope to see you there NEXT YEAR at the feastival, I mean festival!! :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Remembering Britney

Today marks a day of great sadness for my family and many friends who had the pleasure of knowing my kid cousin Britney A. Smith.  She departed this life one year ago today, on a day as sunny as this but forever overcast in our hearts.  Lovingly referred to by close family as "Titney", for reasons of early endowments :).  Her smile was as broad as a summer day is long. Britney's laugh could resonate  to the levels of warm and melodious breezes, in and around our faces and souls.  Outspoken and not afraid to agree to disagree, Britney, like me, had aspirations of pursuing a career as an executive chef.  We compared notes and gave each other feedback on recipes, as well as ideas therein.  We grilled on the lake for several days prior to her departure and I assisted upon request as always.  
I remember her requesting her hotdogs "kinda burnt" on one side, as we prepared her plate and commenting on how 'fat' I knew she was, referring to her pregnancy and cravings at the time.  She will always be sorely missed and a piece of our hearts will always belong to  her and preserving her  memory, for the rest of our journeys!   
I still have the piece of Shepherd's Casserole I came up with, awaiting  her critique. I froze it.   It is frozen in time as was the day she left, and she didn't get to come pick it up!  I don't know if I will ever be able to throw it out.  I think she would have liked it!!  We love You Britney. 

Looks like Rain, Smells like a Carnival!

Well this evening consisted of gobs of rain, tornado watches  and warnings.   The sky was ominous and heavy with the swell of promised rain. Translation- SCARY MOVIE NITE!  The kids fare was pizza and G movies.  For the adults, loaded steak and cheese subs on wheat.  Red, yellow and orange mini peppers shone brightly amongst the sauteed onions and mushrooms.  Two types of cheese, well actually about  5 including cheddar and an Italian blend.  Shrewn with chiffonade of fresh spinach to pack in the B vitamins and play house with vitamin C and other goodies that the peppers, onions and mushrooms bring to the table.  Oh Yeah, the savory chopped steak is speckled with julienne of pepperoni for the maximum MOTHER LOAD OF FLAVOR.  Guilt levels are minimal, since I carefully drained the excess fat, as not to mimic some run of the mill carnival nosh!!  Even if the movies turn out to be DUDS, the sub is over the top with a handful of crab chips in tow!  Life is good!!