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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Cooking up Disaster

 These photos were taken at the Walmart, on one of my many trips, in my hometown. They are a startling reminder of what's going on in our country, our states, our towns.  In all the melee, please remember to be courteous of others and considerate of quantity limits set by the stores to ensure that more shoppers have an opportunity to pick up the items they need for their families too.   A sweeping 'hoarderesque' effect has taken hold during this Pandemic, on our people, somewhat forcing others to follow suit or miss out.
Do not forget, we are only  as strong  as our weakest teammates.  Yes, we would like to acquire the goods offered at the stores. True, we don't want to run out. Yes, some states and cities are under quarantine and had to hurriedly find staples before the lockdown.  It is good to be proactive during this time, but the unfortunate part of this scenario is that we are not yet even under quarantine or facing the tribulations of some cities.
 Some of the town's residents have embraced an attitude of 'no one matters, except my family'  and that is most unfortunate. It seems as if they have lost regard for fellow mankind in an effort of self preservation. 
Please be considerate of others during this time.  Lastly, treat others as you would have them treat you and use this as your guide to humanity and gauging your moral compass.  Together, we're better! Just make sure you are limiting your group numbers and practicing social distancing, so we can do our part to help thwart the enemy and force it into dormancy.





Friday, March 27, 2020

See & Slay: Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza Puffs


Ingredients:
PEPPERONI, TURKEY OR REGULAR
1 lb. pizza dough, divided, I bought pre-made from deli
Sauce, homemade or store bought
A pair of muffin tins
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
425*F Oven.

Stretch one half of dough across olive oil drizzled muffin tin. Add sauce into each cup and sprinkle cheese.


Spread pepperoni across layer of cheese.

 Add more cheese.

Cover with second half of dough, drizzle with olive oil.

Cover with second tin and place on cookie sheet to bake.

Bake until golden and bubbly, about 12-15 minutes.
,
Invert onto surface to cool for 2 minutes.



Cut into 6 pieces.  Serve with extra sauce on side or as is.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Foraging: Morel Mushrooms

 I just wanted to post a little something to make you smile.  I found these today. I can't wait to go back tomorrow. I have my dehydrator ready. If you have some recipe ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will be developing recipes overtime to make the most of this bounty, and share some with my loved ones.  I'll be taking the kiddoes with me as a part of their home school curriculum.  We live in an isolated area of the country, so we can do so safely.  Happy Foraging, but please be sure to TRIPLE AND QUADRUPLE check your haul to make sure it is safe.



Also, I want to wish my nephew Justin, a very Happy Birthday!!! We Love You!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Frico Egg Art


How about something to get your kids engaged, that's easy to do, plus fills their bellies at the same time.  Enter this quick, simple and delicious two ingredient recipe.  Frico is a style that hails from North Eastern Italy and it involves heating cheese and sometimes adding other ingredients, this time it's a sliced boiled egg, but you can also use cooked slices of potato, peppers, mushrooms etc.. Execution is a breeze and you can exercise your creative muscles to make designs using your choice of ingredients.  Save the egg salad for later!

Recipe:

Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese or other hard cheese
Sliced boiled eggs
large nonstick saute pan
Spatula
SPST

Directions:
Over medium high heat, place about 1 oz. of cheese.
Once cheese starts to melt, reduce heat to medium and arrange eggs in a pattern.
Place another scant pinch of cheese onto center of frico.
Use a spatula to help frico keep its shape around the edges.
Remove from heat and wait about 1 minute.
Invert onto plate to show design and serve or place on buttered  or toasted bread.


I want to wish my first born daughter Genesis, a very Happy 14th Birthday Today,
Hope Your Day is Filled with Memorable Blessings!!!
Love, Mom, Bronwyn, Braelyn ( The Bees), Gram. 


Saturday, March 21, 2020

5 Cheese Ziti in Bechamel

Ever have a bunch of packages of cheese, too much to throw away, but not enough for a recipe. This is one such recipe, containing a mishmosh of lots of little portions of cheese.  When I make mac and cheese, the kids usually dive right in, sometimes choosing a creamy stove top version over the Southern style baked one.  That's fine and dandy with me, though I think they sometimes don't appreciate the love that goes into a baked one.
By creating a nice creamy bechamel, you can add all the portions of cheese, for a delicious dinner in no time and cut down on food waste. Whatever cheeses you have on hand will do, I happened to have five. (havarti, mild and sharp cheddar, parmesan and gouda. Together they made about 2 1/2 c. which worked well in the sauce. 

The sauce may be achieved by first melting 4 tbsp. butter and a couple drizzles of olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Next sprinkle in about 1/4 c. AP flour and cook for about 1 minute, cooking out the raw flour taste.
Next, whisk in a can of evaporated milk, dissolving the flour and making a bechamel. 
To the bechamel add 1 tsp. onion powder and a dash of paprika. The sauce will thicken as it cooks, so turn the temperature settings to medium. 
Stir in about 1 cup of pasta water you reserved from cooking the pasta of choice to al dente, about 7 minutes and 1 cup of hot water, whisking together to thicken.  The pasta will finish cooking in the bechamel. 
Then, add your cheeses.   Stir until cheeses are incorporated, then fold in pasta. Reduce to medium low and cook for about 2 more minutes. 
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

If you would like this recipe and future posts delivered right to your mailbox, simply join us by adding your email in the subscription section at the top of the web version!  Thanks in Advance.

Best,
D. Smith :)

Herbaceous Braised Beef Short Ribs Au Jus



Finding short ribs on sale can be like trying to find a unicorn in a haystack, but this day proved fruitful, with welcoming tender arms.  I made a simple and sumptuous meal by using my trusty Ninja™ Foodi, on pressure cook mode and added some aromatics like celery, onion and garlic.  Fresh sage makes a warm herbal appearance on the end. The beefy reduction is great for crusty bread dipping.
Your hands and mind will be free from worry as you go about the day, the Ninja™ can be set and it will keep your dish warm too. In about an hour and 15 minutes, you will have perfectly supple short ribs with a jus to reduce to your liking.
If using a stovetop, simply use a heavy bottomed pot with a good fitting lid.  The time will swing longer, but you will still be happy with the results.
Beef stock or powdered bouillon is a flavor enhancer and a worthy one.  Be mindful of the sodium in the powdered version however and use sparingly, a little goes a long way.
Roasted or creamy potatoes and green beans make affordable and fantastic sides, plus offset the cost of the short ribs.

Recipe:
2 pkg. about 4 lbs. beef short ribs, rinsed under cool running water
3 stalks celery, strings removed, cut into thirds
1 large onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Fresh Rosemary, 2 sprigs
1 bay leaf
Olive oil for drizzling
Beef Stock
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, optional
1 tsp. flour, optional, your choice
SPST
Starting on sear/ saute mode, drizzle pot with olive oil, about 2 tsp. and place all aromatics.
Over medium high heat, Cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
SPST.
Use pressure cooker according to instructions.
Add ribs to pot and fill with stock halfway of ribs.
Pressure cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove ribs and strain off  veggies and return to pot.
Place on sear/saute mode over medium and reduce to desired consistency.
Finish by stirring in butter that has been tossed in the flour.
Cook for an additional 1 minute.
Serve in shallow bowl with crusty bread for dipping or with some hearty sides.


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Vegetable Primavera Frittatta


There's nothing like a nice hearty dish to help you use up some of the ingredients in your crisper  and other on hand staples and Spring into Spring!  This frittata is  perfect for that.  Packed  with vegetable brightness and flavors, this budget friendly recipe screams summer veggie lovin' and 'have brunch, will travel'.   The natural sweetness of the peppers, onions and carrots really shine through and there's plenty to go around and for seconds. The vegetables may be roughly chopped, but similar in size for evenly cooking.  By the time  it is finished, they will all be tender and full of baked goodness, but with good texture.  Revisions can be a snap and  personal substitutions make it your own.
Perfect for a Vegan or Vegetarian spread but also  just a regular meatless, delicious meal.  This dish is a great way to eat the rainbow and may be served at room temperature. Brunch or Lunch, dinner and even breakfast is only a few steps away.  Simple buttered toast points make for a creamy and fantastic accompaniment.
An important thing to remember during this time is to arm ourselves inside and out, by making sure we consume as many immune system boosting and vitamin rich substances to help our bodies stay up for the upcoming challenges.
Eating the Rainbow should be our priority.  Much of what's occurring now is out of our control, but some things, we can take charge of. We like options, at least I do, why not go ahead and start something before it's mandated by our bodies to do so.  Priming our immune system and arming it with what's needed to potentially take a beating and keep pushing us through, is a part of our responsibility as proactive citizens joining the fight to save ourselves.

 By now, many of us are participating in "social distancing" and some self isolation.  Keep up the good work.  Now is a good time to try this recipe.  It will help sustain you and boost your mood.  Vitamins and minerals are cool like that.

Recipe:
Blend of like sized chopped veggies from crisper, I used about 6 cups
1 c. Colby Jack Cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
10 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c. heavy cream or evaporated milk
Dash of Sriracha or favorite hot sauce
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suite Taste)
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
In an oven safe saucepan, over medium high heat, drizzle with 2 to 3 turns of the pan of olive oil.
Add veggies and cook for several minutes until fragrant.
Add garlic.
SPST.
Pour eggs beaten with milk and hot sauce , seasoned , over veggies and sprinkle with cheese.
Cover with foil and bake until set, about 40 minutes.
Remove foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking to get top golden.
Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 8 to 10.









Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lemony Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread

I ran across this gorgeous, practically brand new, vintage cookie mold from the 80's by "Brown Bag Cookie Art", at the goodwill store.  The Scottish Thistle design is incredibly ornate, imparting the same design onto your dough.  I had been thinking about shortbread, shortbread cookies and such, as it was around the holiday.  Shortbread was to be included with the cookie bundles I planned to give out to my family and friends. 
Somehow, my cookie plan's applecart was upset, partly because the kids were eating them as fast as I could bake them, and also from some erratic time management or should I say mismanagement! Anywho, the cute little brownies were the first baked and first to go and It seemed as if I was making myself more stressed than necessary, considering how crazy stressful  the holidays can be.  So, to save the ship, I chucked the cookie plans overboard and settled for only the shortbread.   I had not made shortbread before, so I started out with some extensive reading and researching my older cookbooks and magazines for earlier versions as well as its origins and history.
Once I satisfied my curiosity, I was able to create a recipe exemplary of my experience and desire to have it represent my style, which brings us to the recipe below. 
My mom and I enjoyed it with hot tea and coffee and my daughter enjoyed them with her cocoa. Heck, we enjoyed it by itself!   I was certain that the shortbread was even better the next day and it disappeared quickly, which is a good sign.

Lemon juice imparts brightness and tang, plus antioxidants and vitamin c. I had both ground and cardamom pods on hand and they complement lemon very well, mimicking the same flavor. This last restock,  I ordered the cardamom pods from Sri Lanka, always having some on hand because it is a key ingredient in one of my other quite popular and well received dishes I create, Roasted Pumpkin Cream Pie. 
 I used my mortar and pestle to crush the pod, which I remove and grind the little lemony, warm spice pebbles on the inside. The smell of freshly crushed cardamom is AHHmazing! It puts the pre ground stuff to shame compared, even the more expensive kinds.   This is a no fuss recipe, big on return, simple and inexpensive.  Aside from maybe the cardamom, all the other ingredients are pantry staples.  I like to use Pistachio extract because it imparts a very cherry flavor profile, but you may use more vanilla in its place if you like.

Recipe:
2 c. plus 1/4 c. AP flour, unbleached
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt, I used Himalayan Pink salt, fine grain
 2 stick plant butter or margarine, I used almond
1/2 c. pure cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp. fresh Lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp. pure Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Pistachio extract
1/2 tsp. ground Cardamom

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325*F.
In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients until well mixed.
In another bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add extracts, juice and zest.
Combine wet and dry ingredients and turn out on lightly floured surface.
Knead for several minutes until smooth and press into cookie mold.
Make lots of holes in the shortbread all over.
Bake until golden, about 40 minutes, if using a ceramic cookie mold, 25 minutes for metals.
Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack and allow shortbread to cool completely before serving.
Cut along lines into wedges.
Serve with coffee or hot tea or as is. 
Serves Many.




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tri Color Slaw w/ Lemon,Garlic and Buckwheat Honey Vinaigrette

Hollow Pineapple rings make creative 'bowls' for foods like slaw. 

Bright and Citrusy notes with a subtle hint of garlic makes this quick and easy slaw a breeze and perfect complement to the pulled pork I made for dinner.  For convenience, I purchased a package of shredded cole slaw mix, which was on sale.  The vinaigrette is bursting with enough acid and funkiness from the Buckwheat Honey, to cut the richness of the pork.  It brings to the table a combination of sweet, salty, bitter and savory in the most delightful way. 
Buckwheat Honey is the newest addition to my culinary arsenal and I am most pleased with its flavor profile.  It is made by bees havesting nectar from the Buckwheat flowers.  The tint of the honey may vary, but the benefits are still similar.  The darker the honey, the more antioxidant power it packs!  This honey has a very pungent and unique aroma and taste.  When I said funky earlier, I meant it, it smells like a barnyard with hints of  sheep, horses and other hay eating ruminants!
I will probably be the first to say this, Buckwheat Honey has an Umami presence as honeys go...grassy and earthy, 'hay forward' even. I've got a growing collection, and have tried many kinds.  This is certainly unlike any of the others and presents with a gaggle of directions you can take these very unique flavors.
YOU MUST TRY IT!  Aside from being absolutely delicious, this honey is perfect for the current health climate of the world right now.  Buckwheat honey can be taken for respiratory illnesses and infections. It can soothe a cough and provides potassium for the promotion of a healthy nervous and musculoskeletal systems.  Additionally, this elixir can be administered directly on wounds to promote healing and reduce bacteria and other microbials from flourishing there.  Simply smear on and cover with a sterile bandage.
The biggest plus for this Umami honey is the antioxidant levels.  Foods with high antioxidant levels are superb for helping to lower cholesterol, promoting cardiovascular as well as nervous system health and maintenance. Buckwheat honey is also a good sugar substitute.  This also makes a great addition to any healthful daily routine, 1 tbsp. a day, either taken all at once or with your favorite morning oats, grains, bagels, smoothies, muffins, teas, dressings etc...a perfect stand-in for maple syrup!  I purchased my jar from Elba Butcher Shoppe, which carries a plethora of locally produced items, including but not limited to jams, chow chows, flours, many varieties of honey, ciders and more.

The vinaigrette may be easily prepared
by combining fresh lemon juice, olive oil, buckwheat honey and fresh garlic or garlic powder. SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Whisk together until cohesive, pour over slaw mix, and toss to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes for flavors to marry, then serve or refrigerate.  Wonderful at room temperature.



BBQ features "CAPITAL CITY" Mambo Sauce Sweet Hot!!! 















Protein before shredding or pulling. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Spring Fling: Country Style Spare Ribs w/ Blackberry Barbecue Sauce




Ribs. Beef ribs, Pork ribs, lamb ribs, rack of ribs, short ribs, boneless ribs, baby back ribs, spare ribs, St. Loius style ribs,beef country style ribs, pork country style ribs, Ribs Ribs! There are so many types and styles, you can virtually relive the scene from the popular classic, Forrest Gump,  when Bubba  visualized and stated the multitudes of shrimp dishes and his dreams of running and owning a Shrimping business.
Ribs are big business and nothing goes better with ribs next to a good rub and some smoke, is some butt kicking sauce to wet them down and have a finger licking frenzy. (with super clean hands no less).   This recipe features some country style pork ribs, which I zapped in my Ninja* Foodi on  pressure cooker mode, ready in about an hour, tender and juicy, ready to sauce.  I used liquid smoke for this round, a handy cheat to have on hand!  The sauce being showcased today, gratefully turned out the way I envisioned it.
 This Blackberry Barbecue sauce is delicious and hits all the right notes.  You can slather it anywhere and be safisfied with the results.  Get your bibs and finger licking face on, because these wet ribs are addictive!

Blackberry Barbecue Sauce:

3/4 c. Blackberry jam, seedless
1/4 c. rib cooking liquid, strained and skimmed
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. less sodium soy
1 tsp. EACH, Sriracha, tamari, cider vinegar and mirin.
1/2 tsp. EACH hickory liquid smoke, dijon mustard and onion powder
zest and juice of 1 lime
SPST
In a small saucepan,  add ingredients and stir to combine.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 6 minutes, stirring often.
Your sauce is ready to go, if desired use cooking liquid or stock to thin your sauce to your liking.
Slather at will.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Walking Waffles

With the entire Virginia School system and others closed for the next two weeks in an effort to keep the pupils and families safe, the need for additional meals and snacks at home will be at the helm of our to do lists.  By the time we as parents hear the "I'm Hungry" song from one to potentially several kiddoes, on repeat,  especially from the tweens and teens, we will have to arm ourselves with some quick and filling fixes, preferably wholesome and nutritious ones, some maybe not so much.  Enter this quick idea, from which several variations may spring from, the "Walking Waffles" .
 I came up with this a couple of mornings ago, before the break began.  Time was closing in on us fast, and I knew the kiddoes wouldn't have time for a complete sit down and plated breakfast and make it to school on time. With some quick thinking I decided to layer the would be plated items in a 16 oz. plastic cup, so that when they started their meal, it was in a vessel that could travel also, if needed.  I filled the lower portion of the cup with the fruit pick of the morning, fresh sliced strawberries (I added the fork before adding the waffles for stability and ease of movement) and quartered the blueberry waffles, so they would both fit in the cup and be in smaller, bite sized portions. I drizzled the whole shebang with some pure maple syrup.  That way the excess could drip down onto the fruit and add delicious sweetness below.
 Make it super special by adding some whipped cream to the top or stick in a couple of slices of crisp bacon or sausage links (your choice, regular or vegan) at the top, for a super meal on the go, for both the kids and the parents.
There is no wrong way and the fruit choices can be the same or mixed, depending on preference. This method will also curtail some of  the additional dish washing, which will certainly be a part of the upcoming weeks. Let the kids pick the flavor profiles and they will receive it better, plus they'll have a go-to if they have to do it themselves.  Have fun with it and Godspeed.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Connection Between Pan Fried Rainbow Trout and the Coronavirus

Now that I have your attention, please be sure to practice proper hand washing techniques, especially during this time of growing concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus.  We need to make certain that we keep our electronic devices, door knobs, handles and surfaces clean by wiping them down with disinfectants, like wipes and sprays. We need to try our best to keep our hands away from our orifices  or eyes, nose and mouth.
Household bleach diluted will also help eliminate unwanted critters on surfaces we come in contact with.  Try to avoid large crowds and those under the weather, to do your part in slowing this Pandemic.  Together, even in the face of uncertainty about the ins and outs of this not so new virus, we can find comfort in knowing that all we can do, we will.  To make sure you are washing your hands for the proper duration, try singing along to BINGO, two times aloud or in your head.  Encourage your kiddoes to do so also.
Cater to your personal need by finding a snippet of a song you love and count  20 seconds in.  This will be your gauge and you can use this song over and over again. Get your children to do the same with their favorite songs right now and it becomes much easier to enforce. We all know how tweens and teens, as well as the younger crowds love to sing their favorites at the top of their lungs. Make sure you are washing the backs of your hands, between fingers, up the wrists and soap them liberally. Wash in a rubbing back and forth fashion.  Turn water source off with your elbow or paper towel or you are going to reintroduce the germs right back onto your hands.  Use a paper towel to open the door if you are in public, if at home, be sure to sanitize the knob regularly.
Hand sanitizer is okay, but only if you cannot get to a sink to physically wash them.  With proper hand washing techniques, you can be sure that when you are enjoying a meal or snack and using your hands, you are not introducing viral invaders into your body.  Pan fried trout is delicious, but you can't really enjoy it when you are ill.  Stay vigilant and lets get through this.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Ziti w/Brats, Kraut and Burst Grape Tomatoes

A quick and delicious spin on your Ziti is using Bratwurst and Sauerkraut.  The mellow brats and tangy kraut blend well and add a surprisingly wonderful fusion of Italian and German cuisine.  The grape tomatoes implement more flavor and freshness, plus lycopene and B vitamins.  Serve with a green salad and fruit for a deliciously satisfying and complete meal in no time!

Recipe:
1 lb. ziti
1/2 lb. brats, sliced thinly
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 c. sauerkraut, drained and squeezed of excess liquid
1 jar or 15 oz. favorite tomato sauce
1 pint of grape tomatoes
Herbs de Provence
SPST
Olive Oil for drizzling
Fresh Parsley for garnish

In a large pot, cook ziti in salted water, according to instructions to al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 c. pasta water.
In the same pot over medium high heat, drizzle with two turns of olive oil and add onion.
Cook , stirring often, until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add brats and sauerkraut and SPST.
Cook until brats show signs of caramelization, about 3 minutes.
Add sauce and pasta water as needed. Fold in ziti and Herbs de Provence as desired, about 1 tsp.
Check Seasonings.
Simmer for about 4 minutes for flavors to marry and add tomatoes.
Cover and let simmer another few minutes and remove from heat.
Serves 6 to 8.




Monday, March 9, 2020

Saying "I Do" To What Matters Most

I love the invite of Spring just around the corner.  As a sufferer from SAD, the warmer, sunnier, brighter days induce a feeling of hope and positivity, that I can get nowhere else in nature.  The little buds are forming on the trees, as they have been for weeks, mind you, while various flowers and bulbous plants are peeking their little heads above their cozy leaf covered beds.  Mother nature's growth hormones are in full effect.
It is now time to start tiny seedlings indoors, row by row, prepping them for the transition to our outdoor gardens and beds.  Soon we will be digging, hauling, hoeing and making raised rows and anthills to foster the best possible outcome for our magnificent homegrown produce. The pruning and garden gloves, shears and clippers will be our decided gear.  Aprons will have smears of the fertile and viable soil, especially along the tops of the pockets, and our shoes will show tell tale signs of earthen activities.  We will have salad greens abound; tomatoes and cucumbers as well as violet and crimson berries; aromatic herbs and fresh accoutrements to a menu bursting with vitality and life.
The majority has embraced a more organic and virginal form of growing, minimal additives if any at all.  Awareness is taking hold and this year there will likely be more gardens or newly ordained 'farmers' than ever.  From the roof tops of cityscapes, to the marginal plots newly designated, the revolution will ensue.  We will assert ourselves as conscious consumers and bolster our confidence with our hands turning sweet nothings into delicious somethings.  We will compost. We will engage in sensual congress with our progenys, our grow spaces.
These growing stations will not only provide sustenance and foster our most primal instincts, but also exercise our minds and bodies and quench our souls.  Some will be learning canning and dehydrating techniques for the first time, while others are hardened veterans and already have their preservation plans mapped out, like clockwork.
Fermentation will yield such ethnic delicacies as kraut, kimchi, pickles and kombucha, full of viable probiotics and flavor. Jams, jellies and preserves, oh my.  Sweet, savory, tart and briny all have a place at the table. Feelings of accomplishment and confidence will spring forth proverbial sunshine, to reflect onto all we do.  We will get to know our foodstory more than ever.  We will share, we'll feast, we'll preserve, we will fellowship.  We will be Betterthaneverians. Do you like the way that sounds? I know I DO!

Molten Strawberry Tall Cake

 What could be better than a nice slice of strawberry cake? A strawberry cake filled with a cooling, luscious, fruity and tangy cream filling of course!  This recipe is actually a hybrid of the another one I had in the lab, sketches drawn and ingredient list complete and purchased.  The variable that helped to create this spin on a classic, is time.  This was a quicker and lighter version of a cake I had planned for Valentine's Day.  Additionally, I wanted to work on a few skills needed to create an upcoming cake for my daughter Genesis' 14th birthday.  For her special day on the 24th of this month, she requested a 'Cheesecaken' similar to the one I made for my nephew Rob for his January surprise birthday party.  I created a 3 layer cake, Guinness Extra Stout and Butterscotch, with a whole Chocolate Guinness Cheesecake serving as the middle layer.  I made a Guinness Buttercream with Caramel Drip w/ chocolate covered pretzel thins as the topper.  Rob and the family loved the flavor profile and the design, which I was pleased to hear.
 I will be happy to share that recipe as well, stay tuned for the release!  Genesis asked if I could  make her a cake in this style, but she chose Red Velvet Cake and Plain Cheesecake as her flavor preferences.  I agreed, so I decided a little practice before the big event was in order.  As with any busy schedule, sacrifices have to be made, so midway through building my Strawberry Short/Cheesecaken, I had to bail, but I also needed a worthy supplement for what I had already announced would be the star of our dinner party for Vday.  Enter the featured cake for this post.




Rob's Guinness Extra Stout & Butterscotch Chocolate Guinness Cheesecaken

 I decided to play up the strawberry shortcake aspect of the cake, just with a little edge. While staring blankly at the baked layers of strawberry cake, utilizing the strawberry glaze, 2 lbs. fresh strawberries and whipped cream was key.  I then thought of how awesome it would be to have a hidden treasure.  I used a biscuit cutter I fashioned from an empty vegetable can to make a cylinder opening in layers 2 and 3.  Layer 1 would remain whole, to hide the cream center and make 'icing' it easier.  I then blended 1 1b. of fresh sliced strawberries with the glaze and folded in some sour cream for a vibrant tang.  I added a small amount confectioner's sugar to cut the sour cream and marry the flavors.  I spread this between the bottom 2 layers and filled the center.  I frosted the whole thing with whipped topping  and garnished with some glaze and fresh strawberry slices blended.  The results were fantastically familiar and much lighter than the one I'll be making later for my oldest sweet love, Genesis.  The optimal counterpoint for rich dishes is to serve it at events where portions will be such that, by the time it goes around once, it is gone anyway!
The best part about this recipe aside from it's refreshing flavors are the shortcuts.  As much as we would all love to have the time it takes to make everything we give our families from scratch, we can always dress up some items and make them our own.  I used strawberry supreme cake mix, store bought glaze and whipped topping and it saved the day.  Life is hard enough, don't beat yourself up over a little spilled cake mix. 




Saturday, March 7, 2020

Judgy Cereal

Okay, so I saw these cereal at the supermarket on sale, along with some others, so I took advantage of the bargains.  I thought it would be good and a welcome change to the tween and teens, breaking up the monotony that can come with always getting a particular set of cereal when shopping for your kids.  Well, it so happens that Ryan's World™ and Baby Shark™ cereal were the select bargains.  I grabbed a box of each and headed home.
When after school snack time came, I  presented the trio with them as options. Unbeknownst to me, those were "kids cereal" and the brood actually refused to eat them.  The Nerve, Right!? So I find myself pouring the cereal into zip type bags and getting rid of the boxes, so they could come back down to earth and partake.  I ultimately ended up eating most of the cereal, since taking away the boxes was a foiled attempt at "Mother Woman™" magic!
On this particular day, I decided to grab a bowl of cereal, since I like vitamins and minerals too.  I was having my cereal somewhat on auto pilot, going through my mental rolodex of my day's appointments and such, one of which consisted of a trip to my Rheumatology doctor, for my mom also.  For some reason, my glance down to take a bite forced me to linger a bit.  This is when I saw the above image.  I had to laugh at the indifferent expression the cereal literally had on its face.  I knew no one would believe it, so I carefully and gently eased from my seat at the kitchen  table and made my way to my bedroom where my phone was charging.  I managed to keep it as is and was able to capture this photo, luckily I have voice activated photo option.
The face above pretty much sums it up.  I wondered if the cereal was mimicking my usual expression or telling me to 'just get it over with'. I wasn't sure, but it sure did make me laugh trying to figure it out.  Since there was no other way to spare the 'Judgy Cereal', I sentenced it to a quick and tasty end.
Laughter is food for the soul, gorge on it!

Best .Oatmeal .Cookie. Ever.

This is one of my most cherished recipes. I created it in 2012. The book in which it was written, was a gift from my sister Brenda, meant  to house such treasures of this very caliber.  Sometimes, we are afraid to step outside of our comfort zone and open our vulnerabilities to the world, especially when dealing with cooking and what our personal idea of what is "good" really is.  This is one such time, but since I am not yet global per se, I feel the best way to obtain such status, would be to let the world in on one of my best kept secrets.
This recipe was misplaced in my sea of culinary journals and sketches for years.  I ran across it this past summer, luckily because my family had inquired about it for as long as it was missing.  I was advised to keep it to myself, but here we go....
Be advised, this cookie is dangerous. One bite will lead to another, then another, and more. Before you know it, you will be in 3 cookies deep and wondering how the heck you got there. You will bade for time, until you may shamelessly have another.  You will want to give out some as gifts, freeze some, anything to feel better about becoming a cookie monster. Try this recipe if you dare.  I will leave this recipe on my website for a total of 23 days. Why 23? One of my lucky numbers is 23. After the specified time, it will be removed promptly, to return to my personal recipe file, to only be baked by me alone.  I would take advantage of this opportunity if I were you.  Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this post. For more exciting and informative  content delivered right to your mailbox, enter your email address and hit the submit button at the top of the desktop version. I'd love to have you join me!

Recipe:
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. rice flour
1 1/3 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. butter, softened, unsalted
1 large egg
2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. unsulphured molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Mix dry ingredients together well in one bowl and in another, cream together butter, egg, molasses, sugar and vanilla.
Incorporate wet ingredients into dry  gradually, in a folding fashion, until evenly blended.
Drop by heaping teaspoons or roll into balls about 1' in diameter and place on a well greased cookie sheet.
Bake until golden, about 13 minutes. For a softer cookie, cut cooking time down to 11 minutes.
Let cool slightly before transferring to wire rack, then cookie vessel.
Makes about 5 1/2 dozen, depending on size.



Thursday, March 5, 2020

Orangy Banana Nut Turtles w/ Orange Cream Glaze


March winds blow in  fresh and delicious treats, familiar to many, adored by more.  These muffins  are large enough to share and healthful enough to eat the whole thing by yourself.  They resemble turtles, something I noticed after they had been baked and ready to plate.  Incidentally, I walked past my set of mini tortilla pans on the shelf and It occurred to me, they could serve other purposes.  I have been a long time advocate of making the most of your kitchen aides, as not to wonder later, why you have so many appliances, pans, molds and cocottes that you never use.
 I have used bundt pans to make wonderfully circular meat loaves, with the opening in the middle serving as a bowl, filled with a side dish like mashed potatoes or even vegetable medley.   Using smaller pans also helps to lessen the cooking time.  My mom loved them, that makes me proud.  When I develop recipes, I like to be mindful of the ingredients, they can be discerning, but they trust my ability to deliver.
This recipe started off as a way to use up some bananas. They were perfectly ripe and ready for baking.  These muffins are fantastic for breakfast, lunch, after dinner or snacks. You definitely don't have to have mini tortilla pans, you may use the usual suspects like muffin tins and loaf pans.  The orange flavor is a wonderful complement to the fragrant bananas.  I like to use walnuts in my quick breads and cakes.  I toast them in a hot dry pan before adding to help the flavors bloom, earthier and nuttier . They provide texture and loads of good for you vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health benefits  like healthy Omega 3's, vitamins C, B6 and other B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and more.  Walnuts are also shown to potentially help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and reduce risks of heart disease.  Plus, they're  good for your brain health. You can go Nuts and feel good about it!

Recipe:
2 c. AP flour, unbleached
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt, fine grain
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
 3/4 c. pure cane sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. orange flavoring
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and crushed into smaller pieces
zest of one orange

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350*.
Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) in a medium bowl with a fork, until blended or sift together into bowl.
In another bowl, combine cool melted butter, sugar, eggs,bananas and buttermilk.
Whisk or stir vigorously with wooden spoon until well blended and add orange flavoring, vanilla and zest.
Stir.
Gradually add flour to wet ingredients, 1/3 at a time, stirring only until its just blended.
Fold in toasted walnut pieces.
Spoon or scoop batter into desired vessel or vessels. I used mini tortilla pans lightly sprayed or greased with neutral flavored oil) to which I added about 1 cup of batter to each. I used 8 mini pans.
Bake until golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes, depending on type of oven used. Mine is a convection oven.
While muffins cook, prepare the glaze.
Glaze: 
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. orange flavoring
scant pinch of Himalayan pink salt, optional
Combine all ingredients until well mixed and sugar is dissolved.

Once muffins are removed from the oven, brush tops repeatedly until no glaze remains.
Let cool for 15 minutes. Your muffins are ready to be enjoyed.
Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack before transferring to a storage vessel or zip type bags.
Makes Smiles and Serves Plenty.












Saturday, February 29, 2020

General Store Chicken and Dumplings


I couldn't let this winter pass without posting a few more warm and cozy recipes.  One of the best things about the cooler seasons is the bountiful aromas of slow cooked and sometimes decadent colloquial foods. These tasty morsels can be prepared in a hurry, as in about two hours, others take most of the day. They vary by culture, region, shape, size and ingredients, but dumplings are  enjoyed by the masses, in numerous forms.
 Geographical location seems to dictate the decided form the dumpling should take; long, thin and flat-like or puffy and pillowy orbs.  Research suggests the puffy form is more of an 'up north' thing and the flat more true to its Southern roots.   In actuality, dumplings have been around for centuries, before America was the "land of the free... home of the brave ".  Slaves and other Africans very likely had some influence in its incorporation into our American cooking culture, since they were responsible for the kitchens and structure of cuisine respectively.  Only recently (as in the early part of the last 100 years) had chicken and dumplings become associated with frugality, meagerness and economical fall back. However, that could not be further from the truth.   A dish like this can be dressed up or down, found in the most affluent to the most depraved homes, depending more on the mood, not the money. Just delicious.
Further, in earlier times, chickens were a luxurious commodity; as was cattle, goats, pigs and other livestock, used mainly for its eggs, milks, working the land, transportation, yarn etc...  Meats were not necessarily mandatory for many, too expensive for some.
 On the occasion that one was killed, it was usually old, so cooking it was an arduous task, taking hours, as the rascal was tough and bony, the chickens at least, they were completely free range.
Earlier forms of the dish were undoubtedly more about the dumpling, with the chicken coming in later, more of a side note. I am more familiar with the round, puffed and fluffy shape.  I fashion mine in the shape of a quenelle or football-like. The puffed form is more forgiving and serves as a thickener to the stocky broth that holds the veggies, like kernels of carrot, peas and celery.  If the dumplings come out larger than  initially desired, one simply allows them to cook a little longer and their size will decrease, becoming a part of the soup-like quality of the dish.  Although the dumpling will float quickly, it requires at least 10 to 12 minutes to cook completely, depending on the size of the dumpling of course.
Growing up, there were no recipes passed down per se.  The copy if you will, was to replicate what you'd seen or heard others did before you.  There is no coveted little box with note cards, nor is there some worn, torn and tattered notebook with hues of coffee and tea stains or time worn print, that has stood the test of generational utilization, to flip through carefully, as the pages make a crumpling gift box tissue paper sound.  No arguments here on who the best cook is and who deserves to be the keeper of your grandmother's recipe 'Holy Grail'. For us, they do not exist, at least to the best of my knowledge.
I am from a family where my grandmothers were much older. My father's mother Grandma Lucille, passed away when I was 5, she was born in 1904.  The few memories I have of her consists of the joy she brought to us by finding a quick chore to earn money for the ice cream truck.  I remember she always worn an apron, handmade I'm told. She was partial to Kellogg's Corn Pops, the bright yellow box with red trim sat atop the refrigerator, that observation burns luminously in my mind. Grandma Lucille had fruit trees; pear, apple, peach, as I remember picking up the fallen ones as a chore mentioned earlier.  I bet Gram had a smoking Chicken and Dumpling recipe!  I cannot  ask my dad, as he left to be with Gram and his 3 brothers in 2009. Dad's birthday was the 27th, just passed, Heavenly Happy Birthday to my surrogate brother Floyd(2019), whose birthday was Wednesday, my oldest brother Doug jr.(2007), his birthday was Tuesday. Doug jr. would be 57, Floyd too. Dad would be 82. Alas, I digress. They are dearly missed.
  Sometimes we can substitute ingredients and shave off a step or two, leaving time to expend in another place. The best method is the old fashioned, whole bird way, simmering it with aromatics; onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf and carrot for a flavorful broth on which this dish is built.  The  cooked chicken is removed from the stock and picked from the bones, to be reintroduced later.   I like to cut the breast meat into chunks, and pull the dark meat off in bite sized pieces where possible. For time constraints, boneless chicken breasts may be used, with skin is better, but skinless/boneless as desired.  The bones add body to the broth and a substitute is unlikely to be found.  Store bought broth is ideal for those flavor components. The breast meat should be removed from the stock as soon as it is cooked through, to keep it from becoming rubbery and dry. NO one likes dry chicken.  It may be reintroduced to the stock after the dumplings are cooked.
This recipe is inspired by my hometown and all the beauty and history that it holds for me and my family.  It is an ode to the simple life, with on hand ingredients, made with love.  It is a humble reminder of our ancestral roots, Leesville's historical richness and the revivification of a place we thought we had lost, in particular, Carter's General Store. We have frequented this commemorated and familiar family business, that has been revitalized, after a hiatus of about 7 years.  My family from at least 6 generations back frequented here. They bought their feed, beans, seeds, flour, butter, bait, tackle and other merchandise from this very structure.   It has been refurbished into an amazing and informative bizarre of sorts; chock full of antiques, bejeweled accounts of goings on about and by townsfolk, daily supplies.  Carter's also has a fishing and gaming post, live music entertainment, plus room to hob knob with other locals and passersby alike. I even had my first official book signing for Annie Ware: Adventures in Wordplay here. Last, but certainly not least, get a good ole fashioned signature  Bologna and Hoop Cheese sandwich ( or purchase individually by the pound) cut fresh from their rolls and wheels, cold or grilled, with an ice cold drink and a bag of chips.
 Plus, Carter's General Store offers other specialty goodies like Wagyu burgers, chili dogs, Grilled Hoop Cheese sandwiches, homemade desserts, custom, handmade goods and excellent service.  This store goes way back, just like chicken and dumplings, but good things have a way of hanging around and reinventing themselves, staying relevant, the two share commonality.  Old has become new and our community appreciates its living history, as all of our past familial roads run through it. Welcome Back.

Recipe:
1 fryer, about 4 to 5 lb., cut up into 8 pieces, reserve the wings for another use
4 stalks celery, divided, ribs removed, 2 cut into 1/4 inch pieces, 2 whole
4 large carrots, 2 peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 2 whole, halved
1 large onion, cut in half
2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed or finely minced
8 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed
2 tbsp. butter
12 oz. evaporated milk
1/4 c. AP flour
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf, optional
1/4 c. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Olive Oil for drizzling

Instructions:
Place the washed chicken in a large heavy bottomed pot  and fill with stock just to cover.
Add whole celery, halved carrots, onion, and garlic and bay leaf.
SPST.
Bring up to a boil and skim the top of the stock, repeat as necessary.
Reduce heat to medium and cook chicken until cooked through, about 35 minutes, give or take.
While chicken cooks, prepare the dumpling mixture. Time it to be near the end of the cooking process.
Once chicken is cooked through, carefully lift from liquid and set aside on a plate or platter.  Make sure you have enough space to debone.  When cool enough to handle, remove skin, gristly parts and meat from bones in good sized pieces.
Remove stock and strain off, leaving only the flavorful stock to add back to cooking vessel.
Skim off excess fat.*
In the original cooking vessel, heated to medium, add the butter and two turns of the pan of olive oil.
Add chopped carrots and celery.
Add thyme sprigs.
Cook for several minutes until fragrant.
Sprinkle in flour and whisk or stir vigorously with fork or wooden spoon.
After about 2 minutes, gradually add stock back to the pot, whisking or stirring to incorporate.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a rolling simmer.
Add milk and stir well.
Check seasonings and SPST as needed.
Here is where you add your dumplings. Dumplings recipe below.
Allow to simmer until cooked through, about 12 minutes or more.
Re-add chicken by sliding back into pot on one side, then stir to distribute.
Simmer all items together for several more minutes to marry the dish.
Garnish with fresh parsley and thyme.
Makes about 10 servings.


*This portion will benefit from refrigeration for a period of about 20 minutes to help the excess fat solidify and can be easily removed. This is not required but optimal, if you have the time.


Dumplings:
 1 1/2 c. AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. roughly chopped parsley
1/3 c. milk or stock, more if needed
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Combine flour, baking powder and salt until well blended.
Cut in butter and olive oil, until it takes on a crumb-like texture.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until just blended and completely moistened, careful not to over mix, unless you like a tougher dumpling.
The dough will be a little sticky and that's okay.
Using one side of a tablespoon, make quenelle shaped dumplings and add to simmering stock one by one.
Dipping the spoon  in hot water before each dumpling will help with sticking.


















Sunday, February 16, 2020

Bacon Cheeseburger Garlic Bread w/ Fresh Dill

Give your everyday garlic bread loaf a kick in the pants and have the hungry brood ready for seconds. This recipe came to me one day on the fly, tired and weary from the day's schedule, but needing to get something on the plate.  I originally planned on doing a pasta bake, my go to, especially for Monday nights, to serve with the bread, but inspiration hit and I just put the cooked pasta in the fridge and swapped out the cheeses for an incredible meal to be served with a green salad or corn with minimal cleanup!
I love  a good burger and this recipe hits all those notes and even mimics some good 'ole pickles, by sprinkling with some fresh dill!


Recipe:
1 1/2 lb. cooked ground beef or desired protein
Precooked bacon, 3 oz.
1 loaf garlic bread
Slices Colby Jack cheese, 6 to 8 oz.
Fresh Dill, pulled apart with fingers

Place loaf in a cold oven and heat to 375*F.
By the time the oven has reached the desired temperature, it's time to remove from oven and begin assembling the deliciousness.
Start with ground beef topping.  I simply layer the toppings evenly across the warmed garlic bread with the torn dill across the top.  Of course, if you are not partial to pickles, you may want to omit it.   A nice fresh herb should be used in place though, for added freshness and brightness.
Place in  oven and finish baking until golden and melty.
Slice across the loaves to serve! 
For a little variety you can add or subtract the proteins/veggies like sausage and peppers,mushroms and carmelized onions, lamb and mint, etc... Have fun with it!

Say Cheese! Balls

Until a recent request from my brother in law, I hadn't made a cheese ball since that time, way back when, and by that I mean high school, maybe college.  I had forgotten how delicious an orb of various cheeses, tangy, nutty, creamy and rich, sharp and mild, crumbled and spreadable could be.  I am glad I still have it in me and jumped to the call of presenting well.
The cheeses I chose for this decadent and toasty 'smear campaign' had to hit all the right notes.  It had to have body and melding flavors, some soft, some pungent, some distinct, some mild and just going with flow.  With that in mind I chose Sharp and Mild Cheddar, Vermont White Cheddar, Blue, Havarti and of course cream cheese as the base.  I also included some drained and pressed out pineapple to add contrast and texture, along with a very subtle and welcome sweetness.
 This recipe made for two very good sized cheese balls,  about 3 lbs. each, perfect for the upcoming occasions of Turkey Day and when Ole Saint Nick comes to town.  Heck, it's great just to have to snack on at home and when "Netflix and Chilling" or checking out the new Disney Subscription.
You may also divide the cheese mixture into 2 to 4 smaller balls and roll in different coatings like buttery crackers, fresh chopped herbs or a different type of nut, even dried fruits or shredded cheese!  The flavor course will be much better when you allow the flavors to marry, while chilling in the fridge!  Don't forget about the upcoming St. Patricks Day, Socials, Potlucks,  Spring Break, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day...there's always a reason and season for 'cheesin!

Recipe:
4- 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 pkg. Neufchatel, or reduced fat cream cheese
8 oz. EACH, Sharp Cheddar, Extra Sharp Cheddar and Cheddar Cheese Trio
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
4 oz. Havarti, shredded
2/3 c. crushed pineapple in natural juices, well drained, reserving 2 tbsp. of juice
2/3 c. mayonnaise or sour cream
1/4 c. fresh Dill, torn or rough chopped
2 tbsp. grated onion, with juice
1/2 tsp. EACH, onion powder and garlic powder
2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
8 oz.  Pecan Halves, toasted and rough crushed
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Directions:
Bring the cream cheeses up to room temperature.
Combine all ingredients except the pineapple, Cheddar cheeses, blue cheese and pecans (or whatever coating you choose) nuts or herbs in a large bowl or in your stand mixer, which makes it hella easier to blend.
After the bulk of the ingredients have blended until smooth, add the Cheddar cheeses, pineapple and blue cheese crumbles, blending until just combined and distributed throughout. Turn off mixer.
Toast the Pecans in a dry hot pan, tossing frequently as not to burn or scorch, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool and crush unevenly with rolling pin or something solid.
Place crushed nuts into shallow vessel with lots of room to shake around.
Pour cheese out onto spacious surface and divide into 2 piles, on separate sheets of plastic wrap. 
 Shape the cheese into ball using the wrap as the barrier for your hands, then one at a time, turn out into crushed nuts and coat as desired.
Remove and place onto a clean piece of plastic wrap, gathering up by sides and twist to form a ball shape so it can set.
Place on plate or flat pan, twisted side down.
Repeat with second pile of cheese mixture.
Refrigerate for several hours, allowing the flavors to marry for maximum deliciousness.
Allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Serve with crackers, veggies, fruit, toast points as desired.
For a fantastic twist on a favorite, melt slices of cheeseball onto nachos or a hot juicy burger for a flavor  and tastebud explosion!
Serves plenty with leftovers, maybe. ;)







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Smokinhotchef
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