December 31, 2009

Poor little blog...

My poor little blog. It has a bad mommy. I've neglected it and shown it next to no love lately.

I promise to fix that in the very near future though.

After dealing with some personal stuff that's been stressing me out, I received some good news today. So... I'm feeling optimistic. Maybe that means my creative block will be lifted and I can get back to writing.

Just be warned, I might be taking y'all on a "detour" when I do get back to the insanity that is me... cooking... with no supervision... Hmm...

Note to self: Buy a fire extinguisher for the kitchen and new stuff for the first-aid kit.

As I recall all too vividly, the last time I got back into the whole cooking thing, I had a mini-kitchen fire and burned the living daylights out of myself.

Wish me luck!

October 30, 2009


For those of you not familiar with Twitter, the title of today's blog is what is affectionately known as a hashtag. It's a Twitter thing that helps Twitter users track a particular conversation or a trend. In this case, #PlateSwap helps me and other food bloggers chat about our Secret Santa project.

It's also why the first photo in this blog post features a nekkid, unplated plate. I wanted to be sure to show off my new #PlateSwap plate.

Thanks to the organizational skills of Cheryl Tan (aka @cheryltan88) and Ellise Pierce (aka @cowgirlchef) a few of us food blogger sorts exchanged plates with one another Secret Santa style. One of the goals was to add variety to the plates we use for our photos that accompany our blog posts.

In case you haven't noticed, in my case, this is a good thing. I'm very attached to my Correlleware plates. They're the gold-patterned dishes you see featured on my blog over and over and over again. These actually are fugitive dishes from my Dranny's set. During my next trip home, my goal is sneak some of my Mom's blue-patterned Correllware out in my luggage. (shh... don't tell her...)

I was the lucky recipient of the lovely plate seen here, which was sent to me by Paula Jones, author of (aka @bellalimento). Paula deserves double bonus points in this adventure. She sent my #PlateSwap plate to me and it was returned to sender.


Apparently, my move to the new apartment messed up the delivery one way or another. I suspect that in the haze of moving, I shared the old address, not the new one. Lucky for me, Paula was kind enough to re-send it via priority mail. Like I said, double bonus points for Paula.

Shipping misadventures aside, it was so exciting to receive this gift and to be a part of the #PlateSwap. It gave me a chance to "meet" some other food bloggers and it was an excellent excuse to rummage through a my favorite, nearby antique store so that I could share a fabulous find with my Secret Santa recipient, Cathy Shambley, aka and aka @ShowFoodChef.

As seen here, I've already started to put my #PlateSwap plate to work. This would be the results of an enchilada recipe I was experimenting with earlier this week. The recipe didn't quite turn out as I had hoped. Though I haven't quite determined what the "off" factor was for me. I guess that means I'll just have to try again.

You'll also see my #PlateSwap plate featured in the previous blog post. My Bacon Cheddar Scones are plated up on it. Those, I'm happy to say came out quite well. (phew!)

To Ellise and Cheryl, a special thank you for organizing the #PlateSwap. I loved the idea and can't wait to participate in future shenanigans with y'all. To Paula, thank you for the lovely plate.

Sweet and Savory Scones

Fast on the heels of hosting my first dinner party in my new apartment, I invited a couple of my girlfriends over for a "True Blood: Season 2" marathon (thank you hbo ondemand!).

Knowing we would need plenty of energy to see us through the day, top of mind was making sure we'd have enough food and drink to see us through hours of watching Eric and Jason, and wondering who in tarnation thought it was necessary for either one of them to bother with wearing a shirt. (i mean, really. a shirt? on either of them? *sigh* so unnecessary.)

Since it was a Sunday, my friends and I collaborated on a brunch menu. They brought fruit and veggie platters (my mom
would be so proud) and the fixins for fruity rum drinks and bloody marys (mom might question this one).

I volunteered to do the baking. (so selfless of me, don't you think?) Keeping with the brunch theme, I made an easy quiche using a recipe from my family's B&B days. This recipe also appeared at my Easter dinner. This cheater's quiche does
not count for the blog though. So, for the sake of my poor little blog, I decided to use a recipe for scones from "Baking in America: Traditional and Contemporary Favorites from the Past 200 Years." And, for the pure fun of it, I made a recipe for Bacon Cheddar Scones that I saw featured on, a site I love and adore. The featured Tastespotting photo was of scones made by Pink Parsley, and I used the recipe she posted on her site as well.

For whatever reason, I decided to make the Bacon Cheddar Scones first. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I wanted to nibble on two or three slices of bacon sooner rather than later. (photo note: the bacon cheddar scones above are featured on my #PlateSwap plate. loves it!)

In any case, the Bacon Cheddar Scones were relatively easy to make. Me and my trusty pastry cutter got along just fine, and I had the distinct joy of mixing the bacon, cheese and green onion bits into the dough by hand. The result was a pleasing ball of dough that did just what it was supposed to do when I rolled it out and cut it into triangles.

With those scones in the oven, I turned my attention to making the "Baking in America" scones. The exact recipe calls for currants. I hate currants. Raisins too. So, I made a substitution and set out to make White Chocolate Cranberry Scones.

These went so far awry that it's not even funny. At least I can say it was not my fault. Having made the Bacon Cheddar Scones, having read a few other scones recipes and having enjoyed more than my fair share of scones made by others, I knew what the finished product was supposed to look like.

So far as I can deduce, the dough for the second batch of scones was just plain ol' wrong. It was wet, sticky and did not have enough flour by any stretch of the imagination. The "Baking in America" recipe called for one cup of cake flour and one cup of all-purpose flour. Most other recipes I had seen, including the Bacon Cheddar Scone recipe, called for about three cups of flour.

"Baking in America" is a cookbook I loved reading. It's one of the first cookbooks I purchased despite it's shocking lack of pictures (i like pictures in my cookbooks). I wanted to have faith in it and in the belief that maybe I just didn't know what I was doing and that, somehow, someway, the recipe would magically turn out all right.

Well, it didn't.

Aside from substituting cranberries for currants and adding some white chocolate chunks, I followed the blasted recipe and the baking directions.

What a mistake. I should have gone with my gut and added about a cup of flour to the dough. Then, instead of a mass of chewy, not-scones, I would have had proper scones. The scones were edible and my friends liked the flavor of them, but the texture of them killed me. Under other circumstances, I would have chucked those suckers into the garbage. However, my friends are the sort I trust not only with my successes, but also with my failures.

While I will not pass the failed recipe on to you until, at some point, I figure out the right flour proportions, I will share with you the Bacon Cheddar Scones recipe, which came out just the right kind of savory and delicious .

Bacon Cheddar Scones - Makes eight scones
Adapted from Pink Parsley's Blog

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 ½ cups finely grated cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 slices of bacon
¾ to 1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

I bake my bacon. As family, friends and readers of this blog know, frying is a dangerous activity so far as I'm concerned. (see here and here and here and here) If you're like me, then here's how you bake the bacon. Put some metal wire racks in a rimmed cookie sheet. Spray them with PAM cooking spray. Place the bacon slices side by side on the wire racks. They can touch just barely, but don’t let them overlap. Bake them for about 20 minutes or until they’re as crispy as you like them.

Or, you know, you can fry your bacon like normal people do. Either way, after they’re done, drain the extra grease off the bacon. When the bacon is cool enough, crumbled or chop the slices.

If you were baking your bacon, leave the oven heated at 400 degrees. If you weren't baking the bacon, now would be a good time to turn it on.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a large bowel. Using a pastry cutter (or forks or a couple of butter knives) cut in the cubes of butter until the mixture is crumbly. The bits of butter and flour will about the size of flattened peas, but not all of the flour will be incorporated at this point.

Add the grated cheese and mix with your fingers just until blended. Don’t over mix the dough though because the heat of your fingers will melt the butter too much.

Add the bacon, green onions and ¾ cup of buttermilk. Mix by hand until all the ingredients are incorporated.

If the dough does not hold together and is too dry, add more buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly with each addition.

Do this until the dough is pliable and can be formed into a ball. Remember, don't overwork the dough or the scones will tough.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Using your hands still, pat the dough ball into an 8-inch circle about a
½ inch thick. With a large, sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. You can make smaller scones, but be sure to keep an eye on them while baking so that they don't burn.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the scones on it with a little space between each one.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

These taste great warm. They taste great the next day. They also taste great on day three when you have to grab breakfast and run to the airport before you miss your flight (just saying, you know, in case you were wondering...).

A word on storing these. I baked these the night before the True Blood marathon with my friends. Once they had cooled, I stacked them on a plate, covered them tightly with foil and left them on the kitchen counter at room temperature.

After the brunch, I put them in Ziplock baggies and stored them in fridge, knowing that I might not eat the leftovers quickly enough before they started molding. Pop them in the microwave for a few seconds or in a toaster over for a minute or three to warm them up before eating them.

October 24, 2009

A Housewarming Dinner Party

I am, admittedly, a procrastinator. It's not the best of traits to have. However, I'm also a deadline-driven sort. The shorter the deadline and the crazier the expectations, the better.

Do you have a hand grenade that needs to be defused? After someone pulled the pin? No problem. Got it covered. (well, not an actual hand grenade. i wouldn't know what the heck to do with a hand grenade, but it makes for an interesting metaphor.)

These little tidbits of information about me are relevant because I recently moved. Quite frankly, without the right motivation, I would very likely unpack only what I really need and then curl up on the couch with a book and read and read and read. And watch football.

In any case, as a motivator to make unpacking boxes in my new apartment somewhat less onerous, I gave myself a deadline that also doubled as a reward. I invited a couple of friends over for dinner, which would mean I'd have to have things in some semblance of order before my friends arrived. Not to mention the fact that I'd have to have some dinner ready to put on the table.

I purposely kept things simple. In what still qualifies for a new kitchen, I didn't want to risk things going awry with a complicated menu. With that in mind, I decided to make Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Applesauce, Cole Slaw and Afternoon Tea. Plus, in terms of my cooking challenge, I made some decent progress and used three cookbooks. All of the dishes, except for the cole slaw, are new-to-me dishes and each comes from a separate cookbook.

The easiest of the three was Afternoon Tea from "Cowboy Cocktails." This was an easy drink. In fact, I'm not sure it gets too much easier. Iced tea (unsweetened) spiked with light spiced rum and slices of lemons and springs of mint for garnish.

Easy and refreshing. However, given the easiness of this recipe, I feel obligated to try one or two more recipes from this collection of drink recipes. I know. It's a terrible burden, but someone must undertake it.

Oddly enough, the second easiest recipe was the East Carolinian pulled pork, which came from "The South: The Beautiful Cookbook," a cousin to my beloved "Texas: The Beautiful Cookbook" from which I've made a few recipes (see here and here ). I'm sure this might seem like a controversial choice to some. After all, I'm from Texas. What the heck I'm doing going within sniffing distance of this kind of BBQ?

Well, I'll tell you why I made this recipe. I live in an apartment. I do not have a patio. I do not have a stovetop smoker. This is the only BBQ recipe I could find in my cookbooks that did not involve a grill, a smoker or a crockpot (i've made crockpot, bbq brisket already). This was a recipe with oven directions.

If it makes you feel better though, while I made the vinegary sauce from the recipe, I used Stubb's BBQ Sauce when it came time to make sandwiches. Regardless of your BBQ affiliations, this pulled pork dish was good. Well done, moist and flavorful with just the right amount of spicy heat. The leftovers were just as good.

As a side dish, I wanted to make homemade applesauce, especially since it's fall and I was making pork. My applesauce recipe came from "Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast & Brunch." I've used this cookbook before, but I made muffins, which didn't count as a new-to-me recipe and, therefore, I felt that I couldn't check this cookbook off the list for the purposes of my cooking challenge.

I was nervous about making applesauce. The recipe didn't call for too much liquid and I was supposed to simmer the apples until they were soft. I was certain that, without constant hovering, I was going to burn the apples. I didn't.

Instead, I learned that homemade applesauce kicks store-bought applesauce's keister. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is going to become a go-to recipes. It takes some work with all of the quartering and coring of the apples, but it's definitely worth it.

As a motivator and a reward, I think the dinner was a success. I had a great time hosting my friends and can't wait to host another, even fancier dinner. More importantly, my friends also claimed to enjoy the meal. And I have no reason to doubt them since they went back for more drinks (what does that say about my friends, i wonder?) and cleaned their plates.

Applesauce - Makes 4 to 6 servings
From Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast & Brunch

3 pounds of apples - choose a mix of apples for a better flavor
1/2 to 3/4 cup apple cider, depending on the juiciness of the apples
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, depending on tartness of apples
1 large cinnamon stick
1/2 cup white sugar or 6 tablespoons mild honey
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional)

If desired, peel the apples. Then quarter, core and slice the apples into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Put the apples, cider, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a dutch oven. Cover and simmer the apples over low heat until the apples are tender, but not mushy. Stir the mixture regularly.

Stir in the sugar or honey, nutmeg and, if you're using them the ginger and mace. Cook only until the sugar is dissolved and thoroughly mixed in. About 1 minute.

Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon stick.

If you peeled your apples, you can probably mash the apples with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. If you're like me and don't peel your apples, you'll probably have to use a blender to get the right texture. Just pulse the apples in batches.

And there you go. Applesauce. Homemade applesauce. You can serve it warm or chill it before serving. It's excellent either way.

October 17, 2009

Plan C Pinto Beans

Now that fall has arrived and is doing a very good impression of winter, I crave the kinds of foods that make you feel warm and cozy, and that fill the house with the scent of cooking.

Inspired by a chat with my parents, I really wanted a big pot of beans. And I was so proud of my organizational skills because I had all of the ingredients. I had the bag of dried pinto beans, a smoked ham hock, fixins for cornbread and assorted toppings.

However, after I’d sorted through the beans to pick out any possible stray stones and then set them on the stove for a quick soak, I learned that my preparations were foiled by the blasted ham hock, which had decided to grow a fine layer of icky fuzz. Lesson learned: smoked ham hocks actually can go bad.

No fears though. I had a Plan B because the grocery store just down the block from my place has a decent meat department.

Yeah. No dice. The darned store didn’t have a ham hock nor any other suitable replacement ingredients because it was Sunday and they were out of just about everything. Fabulous.

I huffed and puffed and kicked some pebbles around on the short walk home. After that mini-temper tantrum, I decided that this was not going to be the end of the world. I would be resourceful and follow my waste-not rule by using whatever I might have in the cupboards. The pot of beans might not be what my parents would typically make, but it would still be a darned good pot of beans.

Luckily, I remembered I had a container of McCormick’s smokehouse-flavored pepper. This is normal ground pepper, but with a bit of a flavor kick. Since the smoked ham hock had thwarted me, I figured this might make a decent substitute. I was right. Here's the approximate recipe.

Plan C Pinto Beans
- Makes about 8 servings
1 lb of dried pinto beans
1 can of Hunt’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 can of Ro*Tel
Smokehouse Ground Black Pepper from McCormick

Pick through the dried pinto beans to make sure there aren’t any fugitive rocks or icky beans. Rinse the beans (not the fugitive rocks and icky beans) in a colander. After rinsing, put the beans in a large pot filled with water about an inch over the beans and about a teaspoon of salt. Bring the beans to a fast boil and then let them soak, covered, for about an hour.

After the beans have soaked, make sure there’s enough water in the pot to keep the beans more than covered. Season the beans with one to two teaspoons of the smokehouse pepper and ½ a teaspoon to one teaspoon of salt.

Bring the beans to a boil again and let them simmer until the beans get nice and tender. This takes about two hours. Give or take.

Be sure to stir the beans occasionally. If too much water boils off, add more. You want to make sure that the beans can simmer easily and aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot or burning.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve the beans, stir in the cans of Ro*Tel and Fire Roasted Tomatoes.

At this point, taste test the beans. You may want to add some pepper or salt.

Serve the beans in bowls with cornbread. Top it with your favorite fixins. I like shredded cheese, sour cream and chow-chow.


Disclosure: Hunt's Tomatoes and Ro*Tel are made by the company for which I work, ConAgra Foods.

October 04, 2009

Bean & Veggie Soup

My obsession with cookbooks was one of the driving forces behind the start of this blog. In addition to cookbooks, I'm also obsessed with magazines. In particular, food and home magazines. House Beautiful is one the magazines I love the most. It has inspired me on more than one occasion.

However, while House Beautiful routinely features recipes and the like, the October 2009 issue was the first one that drove me into the kitchen. The weather also helped since fall had settled in and brought some cruddy, overcast, stay-indoors-all-weekend weather with it.

There was just one little problem. I didn't have the exact ingredients for the recipe. So, I did what made the most sense to me, I used the recipe as guiding post to make my own soup with the ingredients I had on hand.

The result was a hearty bean and vegetable soup that was even better the next day when I took in to work for lunch.

Bean & Veggie Soup - Makes about 4 servings
Adapted from a recipe featured in House Beautiful, October 2009

2 15oz-cans kidney beans, drained & rinsed
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
1 14.5oz-can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, combine kidney beans, chicken stock and garlic. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 20 or 30 minutes.

While the beans are simmering, in a separate skillet, saute the chopped onion and celery in the olive oil until soft and nearly translucent. This takes about 5 minutes.

Stir diced, canned tomatoes into the onions and celery. I used Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (made by my company) for the extra kick of flavor. Season with the kosher or sea salt. Simmer for about another 4 minutes.

Add vegetable mixture to the beans. Season with fresh parsley or dried cilantro, depending on what you have at home.

Simmer for about 15 minutes so that the flavors combine.

Serve in bowls with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on the soup for garnish and flavor, and serve with a slice or two of bread to sop up the soup juices.


September 26, 2009

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater!

Last weekend I was determined to make progress toward my cooking challenge goal. I did. Sorta. I used two cookbooks, but think I can only count one of them because I sorta cheated.

Well, I feel like I like I cheated because a couple of the dishes really didn't meet the qualifications for the new-to-me rule, even if they did meet the qualification for the waste-not rule.

A third dish met all of the qualifications though. That makes me feel a little bit better, but only just a little bit.

Anyhow, on the roster for last weekend's cooking shenanigans were Chicken Fricassee (this is the qualifier recipe), Curry-Coconut Chicken Tenders (cheater recipe - i've made tenders of a different flavor before) and Blueberry Muffins (cheater recipe - please. muffins? muffins?! there's nothing new about making muffins).

Both chicken recipes came from Betty Crocker's Best Chicken Recipes. This is one of a number of cookbooks I received in a previous life as a perk of my job. There were several recipes in the cookbook that looked interesting and that were very pretty in their photos.

The challenge I kept running into is that so many of them called for some sort of jarred, pre-made sauce or some such thing that I'm sure was intended to make it easier to put dinner on the table. However, this recipe approach assumes that you're not up to the challenge of making your own sauce or that you keep the jarred stuff hanging around the house. I don't. In fact, I'm not sure I can imagine buying jarred alfredo sauce. Meh...

Anyhow, the Chicken Fricassee recipe (top photo) did appeal to me (hello dumplings!) and I had all the ingredients in my cupboards already. Although, oddly enough, this Betty Crocker recipe recommended that you make the dumplings from scratch. I don't have anything against from scratch dumplings, but a Betty Crocker cookbook didn't recommend the use of Bisquick? I find that odd.

In any case, I made the Chicken Fricassee and, if you know me, then I'm sure you won't be surprised to know that I actually did make one recipe modification. I skipped the whole from-scratch dumplings step in favor of using Bisquick. Yes, I used the Bisquick. I like the Bisquick.

Once the Fricassee had simmered and the dumplings had finally cooked through, I sat down to a nice casual dinner. For never having made Chicken Fricassee before, I think it turned out pretty well. In fact, it's a dish I'd make again, especially on an overcast, damp sort of day when comfort food seems so right.

The following day, I set out to use the remainder of my chicken as an easy way to adhere to
my waste-not rule. From the same Betty Crocker cookbook, I picked out Curry-Coconut Chicken Tenders (middle photo).

This should have been a very simple, enjoyable dish. It wasn't. Due to what I'm sure was operator error, it was icky.

Let's start with the fact that even though I own just about five bazillion spices, curry is not one of them. So, I substituted chili powder. No biggie, right? Wrong. That substitution combined with the use of sweetened, shredded coconut and some other undetermined flaw led to a dish that was barely edible.

The coconut did not crisp up. I used too much chili powder. And the sum total was a bunch of chicken tenders that tasted not so good.

I redeemed the cooking adventures that day with a batch of blueberry muffins (bottom photo) using a recipe from "The Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast and Brunch." Going against my own belief that not-Maine blueberries are bad, I had picked up a pint of Georgia blueberries along with some other berries. Having committed this egregious error, I had to use them before they went bad. I will concede that these were not awful in the muffins, but that's as much as you'll get from me.

The fun twist in this muffin recipe was using brown sugar instead of white. I liked this twist and think it might account for how moist the muffins were.

At the end of the day, I feel like I technically can say, "Check! One more cookbook down!" However, I feel like I cheated too much in making the blueberry muffins. To redeem myself, I will have to make something else from "The Joy of Cooking: All Breakfast and Brunch" cookbook.

Then, and probably only then, my guilty conscience might shut up and leave me alone.

September 14, 2009

Breaking in the New Kitchen

At the very end of August, I moved to a new apartment. When I first saw it's floor plan online, I was intrigued enough to book an appointment. Almost from the very first moment I walked into it, I was smitten. Lots of windows. Great space. High ceilings. And, most important, a kitchen designed for entertaining and cooking - much more so than my last apartment.

I love the new place. I couldn't wait to move into it - even though I was in the midst of a ginormous work project and loads of travel.
Somehow, I managed the move and the work travel with only the occasional lapse in sanity.

What I did not manage so well was a timely approach to unpacking. I managed to create a semblance of order in my bedroom; found the necessities for the bathroom and kitchen; and hooked up my brand new, fancy TV and cable.

And then I hit a roadblock.

My new kitchen is much, much bigger than any kitchen I've ever had (my parents' kitchens do not count). There are acres of counters and unfathomable depths in my cupboards. Overwhelmed by the prospect of needing to organize my stuff in this much space, I spent several days rummaging through the organizing sections of multiple stores looking for the magic things that would ensure that my kitchen would make sense and that I'd be able to find my stuff in the midst of all this space. A Container Store in Omaha might have made my life a little easier. Alas, no such store can be found here.

And this is where I will call a spade a spade - right before my parents or one of my friends does so.

I was stalling. I was procrastinating.

But thank goodness for Twitter. I made a public promise to make chorizo and maybe even some pate knowing that if I told the world I was going to do something so specific, I'd have to do so.

And I did.

Well, I did make chorizo. I did not make pate. However, I also made roasted tomato soup. I'll try making pate some other day.

Prior to the move, I'd been pouring over Robb Walsh's "The Tex-Mex Cookbook" and remembered there was a recipe for chorizo that seemed relatively straightforward and easy enough. This recollection was confirmed when I finally found "The Tex-Mex Cookbook" in the third box of unpacked cookbooks.

Robb's recipe for El Chico's Chorizo is pretty simple. Not having a full-size food processor though, I cheated and bought ground pork into which I mixed the chili powder, paprika, salt, garlic powder, cumin and red wine vinegar
by hand. Robb's recipe calls for buying a cut of pork and grinding it yourself along with the spices. But let's be honest kids, it's way more fun to use your hands to mix ingredients together than a food processor. It's okay to disagree with me, but I'm not sure I'll trust you quite so much anymore if you do. Just saying...

Anyhow, once the spices had been mixed in, I set the chorizo aside to allow the flavors to combine for a bit and turned my attention to making something out of the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes a coworker gave me.

What I really wanted to make was one of Ina Garten's tomato soups again, but that would be repeating a cookbook and a recipe. Not good since I'm so far behind on accomplishing my goal of making at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks before the end of the year.

Lucky for me, my Mom gave me "Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouth-Watering, Easy-to-Make
Recipes" as a gift last Christmas. This little collection contained a number of tomato-based soups. However, I struggled to reconcile my waste-not rule with my new-to-me rule. Eventually, I settled on Roasted Tomato Soup because it involved actually roasting the tomatoes myself - something I've not done before.

Aside from being time consuming, this too was a simple enough recipe. First, the tomatoes (cut in half and seeded) were roasted after marinating for about 15 minutes in olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed, dried rosemary. Once roasted, I put the tomatoes and some chicken stock in the blender and pulsed them to a slightly chunky texture. This was then set on the stove in a sauce pan and brought to a boil and then left to simmer. Taste tests proved that the salt from the marinating process wasn't quite enough for my tastes, so I added just a bit more.

While the soup simmered, I finished off the chorizo by browning it with a bit of veggie oil and some chopped onion. Once browned, I removed all but a couple of heaping tablespoons of sausage from the pan and cracked a couple of eggs into the pan to make Chorizo y Huevos, a
recipe suggested by Robb in "The Tex-Mex Cookbook."

At this point, you might be asking, "How did this all turn out, Steff?"

Well, I'll be honest. By the time I finished making everything, I was tired and cranky. I'd spent all afternoon cooking not because I was making anything complicated, but because I had to remember where in the freaking world I had put my cooking utensils, pots, pans and whatnot. It was irritating and I just kind of snarfed everything down that night. I guess this is part of the process of breaking in a new kitchen.

Fortunately, I made enough chorizo and soup for leftovers. The next night, I made the Chorizo y Huevos again and put them on top of a slice of country bread with some shredded cheese
and salsa. Very delicious. Plus, I think the sausage was better for having had a day to allow the flavors to combine instead of just a couple of hours. The soup was good too. But, I have to say, I like the soup I made from Ina Garten's recipe better. Perhaps that's because of the basil and cream though. Just a guess.

September 12, 2009

Corn, Ice Cream & a Dessert Potluck for an Entire Town

This post is long overdue by just about any person's standards, but since I've only just about finished my unpacking, I still haven't cooked in the new place and so now is an opportune time to share this with y'all.

(btw, there truly is something wrong with this scenario that WILL be fixed this weekend. more specifically, i WILL be cooking this weekend. thank goodness!)

While spending 4th of July weekend in
Texas with my Grandma Mary Lou, we did some cooking and the like. Among the dishes we made was corn grilled with butter and fresh parsley from her garden.

Talk about fun. Not having a yard, I don't have a garden. Having a cat that likes to get into things, I don't have a window sill herb garden. So, for me, it was a novelty to go out to the
garden and pick fresh herbs. Especially since I had to remember which bits of green were parsley and which bits of green I should avoid like the plague. (for the record, i was successful in this venture.)

The corn turned out fabulous. So simple and fresh. I will caution others though to not peel back the husks about two minutes after the corn comes off the grill unless you actually enjoy the sensation of having the top layers of skin on your fingertips singed a bit. I don't, but I still did it. Not very bright, eh?

We also made a few other goodies, including burgers, baked beans and potato salad. No photos of those though. I blame the lack of photos on the homemade ice cream. Not that I have any photograhic evidence of that either. But, let me tell you, when your grandma is an officer in the town's Garden Club and said Garden Club has promised to coordinate the potluck dessert table for the town's 4th of July celebration, there isn't a lot of time to be wasted and certainly not enough time to be taking pictures.

For her contribution, Grandma Mary Lou made
the kind of ice cream that you make in those wooden bucket ice cream makers with the ice and freezing salt you put down the sides.

Please excuse me for a moment, but...

Hello! You mean I get to dump ice and salt all over the place and will be rewarded with homemade ice cream? Really? Wow... It was like being a kid again because, gosh darn it, I was going to make darned sure there was plenty of ice and salt dumped on the ice cream maker if it meant I had first dibs on the ice cream.

And bless my Grandma. I did have first dibs. When we pulled the paddle out, she gave it right over to me so that I could eat all the ice cream off of it. Granted, this priviledge would be part of the beauty of having been the only grandkid on the premises. Regardless, I still would've called dibs and won. I'm sure of it. Well, relatively sure.

Anyhow... I got first dibs on the ice cream and it was heaven. On the downside for me, we had to share. Darn the Garden Club and its promise to coordinate the town's
4th of July dessert potluck!

Now, in case you're wondering about this town potluck and whether or not the whole town attended, I can tell you that yes, in fact, just about the whole town attended. Like I said before, it's a small town. Plus, I have reason to know because, in addition to coordinating the dessert potluck, the Garden Club also served up the desserts. And, somehow, I was dragooned into helping.

Okay. So I wasn't really dragooned into helping, but what else was I supposed to do when confronted with picnic table after picnic table of sheet cakes that hadn't been cut before they were brought to the potluck? Just stand there and stare? No. I couldn't do that. Instead, I grabbed a spatula (there wasn't a knife to be found anywhere) and got to work cutting cake for the town's 4th of July Dessert Potluck brought to you by the Garden Club.

Also, while two of these three of pictures don't have much of anything at all to do with the grilled corn, ice cream or other goodies I helped make while visiting my grandma, I wanted to share them nonetheless.

As background, Grandma Mary Lou lives
on the very southern edge of town and, across the road to the east, is a neighbor's field. To south and west of her house are the old golf course and more fields. Personally, I find the landscape fascinating and gorgeous in its own right and I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do.

September 01, 2009

Grandma's Grocery Store

I suspect that when my parents read this, they’re going to scold me. After all, I just moved into a new apartment and the vast majority of my stuff is still in boxes.

They might have point. After all, those boxes aren’t going to unpack themselves. However, I can only unpack just so many boxes before I go stark raving mad.

In any case, between the move and some recent work travel that's taken me to Minneapolis and Raleigh for days at a time, I haven’t had much time to make anything more complicated than a faux quesadilla cooked in the toaster oven. Heck, I almost didn’t have enough time to pack before the movers arrived.

Since I haven’t made a lick of progress toward accomplishing my goal of cooking from all of my cookbooks before the end of the year recently, I thought I’d take a moment to share with you one of the reasons why I’m so obsessed with all things food.

I’ll start by telling you that one of my early memories is of me toddling around my Grandma Mary Lou’s grocery store. This is a very, very vague memory from my childhood. I have no recollection of what I was doing exactly, but I’m willing to bet this “memory” is actually an amalgam of several memories of playing in the store or shopping for groceries with my mom or even just stopping by for a visit.

When I was little bit older, Grandma Mary Lou moved her store to a new location. The new store I remember vividly. I spent hours and hours there. I have so many good memories of the time I spent there and the freedom of being able to go into just about any room, aisle or cubby. Although Grandma Mary Lou and Cathy, the store’s butcher, were very serious about being careful around the butcher block area. There was no fooling around there.

I’m sure when I was little, I must have been underfoot a lot. I played silly pranks, played hide and seek with my brother in the back of the store (and the front, if I'm being honest), and would try to help stock shelves.

As I got older though, I did do some actual work around the store. I bagged groceries. Stocked shelves. Rang up customers. Helped make pizzas for the deli. Sorted coupons while watching Bob Barker on the “Price is Right.” (And no, I didn't purposely volunteer to sort coupons at the exact time that "Price is Right" came one. That was merely a coincidence. I swear. No, really, I promise. Pure coincidence.)

In return, Grandma Mary Lou paid me in comic books I read while sitting on bags of dog food, ice cream treats, candy and hugs. And then there was the end-of-summer, back-to-school shopping spree. My brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper and big, fancy box of Crayolas with a built-in sharpener were my pride and joy.

While some kids might have resented working in their family’s business, I never really thought twice about it. For me, it was a fun way to spend time with my grandma. There was also the side benefit of being able to talk and talk and talk with goodness only knows how many people. That was nice.

Plus, without even realizing it, it was a lesson in how important a grocery store can be to a community. The town in which Grandma Mary Lou lives isn’t that big and a lot of folks live out in the country on their farms and ranches. Coming into town to go grocery shopping was a big commitment. I know. When I was little, I lived with my family out on our farm, which was about 20 or 30 minutes outside of town. In an area like that, Grandma Mary Lou’s store was a place where people would run into one another, visit for a bit and share news and gossip.

Grandma Mary Lou sold the store quite some time ago. The first time I went to the store with her after the sale was weird. I wasn’t allowed to go in the back or behind the deli counter. I sure as heck couldn't get an ice cream out of the freezer for free either.

One thing hasn’t changed much though. Folks still have to go to the grocery store and you’re sure to run into folks you know while you’re there – even if you’re like me and you only get back to visit and share news and gossip just every once in a while.

(Note: I published this Aug. 30 originally, but edited it a bit on Sept. 1.)

August 09, 2009

Blueberry Coffee Cake. Or Raspberry. You Pick.

This weekend, after blogging a bit about my family’s B&B days and after sharing a blueberry recipe with a friend, I felt the need to put that recipe to work for myself.

The below recipe is for Noni’s Blueberry Coffee Cake. Noni was our next door neighbor when we lived in Maine, and she shared this recipe with us. We, in turn, served the results to our B&B guests, who loved it.

As you can imagine, blueberry-containing dishes were a regular feature on our menu given that we were in Maine. And not just any ol’ part of Maine, but Washington County, Maine, where 90 percent of the nation’s blueberries are grown. That’s right. Ninety percent. Don’t believe me, visit this page then.

Unfortunately for me, while I love Noni’s Blueberry Coffee Cake as is, I don’t live in Maine anymore. Getting fresh blueberries in Nebraska is a little bit on the tricky side of things. And, don’t kid yourselves, those icky, faux blueberries from New Jersey don’t pass muster any whatsoever. No. Those come off of tall bushes and are artificially ginormous in comparison to genuine Maine blueberries, which have to be raked by hand from blueberry bushes that grow close to the ground.

In any case, having no fresh blueberries, I decided to follow my waste-not rule and used the frozen raspberries that have been sitting in my freezer for a couple of months now.

And you know what? It turned out a-ok. In fact, I liked it a lot. And so did my co-workers who were my guinea pigs today. So, there you go. Substitutes do work.

And now, the recipe...

Noni's Blueberry Coffee Cake
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw) or a 12oz bag of frozen raspberries (do not thaw)
1/2 cup all purpose flour (to coat the berries)
1/4 cup sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together 2 cups flour & baking soda. Set aside.

Cream together butter & sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Alternate adding flour mixture & buttermilk until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, toss blueberries in 1/2 cup of flour. Fold gently into the batter.

Spread batter into a well-greased 9x13 pan. (Note: This is a thick batter & you will have to spread it with a spatula to get it in the pan evenly. Don't work if you mash to berries a bit, the final result will be just fine.)

Lightly sprinkle with the extra 1/4 cup of sugar for a topping.

Bake 45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature for best taste.

Most importantly … Enjoy!

August 08, 2009

Food for Card Sharks

I think I might’ve fallen off the bandwagon or something.

I’m supposed to be cooking my way through my cookbooks and haven’t made even a teeny, tiny dent in them since June. In fact, I’m pretty sure that during the month of July, I didn’t touch a single one of them except to flip through one or two of them or to move a stack of them from one spot to another.

That’s sad. Really, really sad and maybe just a little bit pathetic too.

Last weekend, however, I felt like I might have turned the corner.

As the co-host for an evening of Euchre, it was my responsibility to bring food. And not just some little nibbles or bags of candy or something. I needed to bring my fair share of treats for about 12 adults and assorted children.

This was a challenge that I was totally up for.

I also knew that I could only get away with only just so much experimenting since I’d have to make all the food in a short amount of time and make sure it was good. None of these experiments where I spend precious time making something that winds up tasting horrid a la Bobby’s Pimento Cheese.

Knowing my friends, I knew sort of what I wanted to make. Knowing that much at least, I went with two recipes I’ve made before – Chiqui’s Creole Cream Cheese Dip and Pecan Chicken.

I modified the Pecan Chicken recipe a bit though. First, I cut the chicken so that it could easily be eaten in a bite or two rather than cutting them into strips. Then, because I forgot to buy more sesame seeds (the recipe calls for a quarter cup), I substituted two heaping tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. I also switched out the tablespoon of salt and tablespoon of paprika for a heaping tablespoon of Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning. Based on the reactions of the group and the return trips to the platter, these substitutions worked just fine.

Chiqui’s Creole Cream Cheese Dip was done per the instructions – except for one fatal flaw. I combined all the ingredients in my mixer rather than a blender. It makes a difference. The mixer on high speed wound up whipping the heavy cream, which gave the dip a weird fluffy texture. When I made it in the blender last time, I had an appropriately smooth, dip-like texture. So, basically, what should have been an excellent batch of dip was ruined by texture. I hate that.

I made up for one batch of dip gone bad with a different dip – Baked Bean Dip. I saw a photo of this on TasteSpotting, one of my most favorite Web sites, and knew it would be perfect for my group of Euchre-playing friends. Plus, it looked simple enough that I knew I could work into an afternoon of cooking without completely stressing myself out in the making of it and other recipes.

You can see the recipe for yourself at EatWellLivingThin’s Web site. My only tweak was to use a can of Ro*Tel instead of salsa. Based on the reactions of my friends and the fact that the pan was nearly empty by the end of the evening, I think it was a success. In fact, we cracked open a second bag of chips to scoop up as much as possible. Very satisfying.

My last recipe comes courtesy of Bakerella, who recently featured a post about Petit Fours and Cream Cheese Pound Cake. While I’ve gone through the nightmare of making petit fours myself, I could not resist Bakerella’s pound cake recipe. After making it for myself, complete with some strawberries and frosting, I have to say I’m glad I did not bother with trying to resist the temptation to make this recipe. This stuff was delicious and just a little bit decadent.

One of the nice things about this little cooking adventure is that I managed to make everything in less than four hours, including baking time. For me, that’s impressive since I can be so easily distracted by other things. Although, since I had a hard stop of having to be out of the house at a certain time in order to get to my friend’s house to set up before everyone showed up, I might have had more incentive to get everything done in a timely fashion. Personally, I do not think that this fact takes away from my accomplishment. After all, I made all four dishes as planned and didn’t dump one of them due to laziness or a distraction.

The only thing that would have made this night better would have been if I’d had the highest score of the night. I didn’t. Not even close. Boo…

Confessions of a Recipe Guinea Pig

As I may have mentioned one or two or a dozen times, I used to live in a B&B. This was a family business in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States.

Now, first things first, don’t let those morons who live in Eastport, Maine, convince you that they live in the easternmost town or city or whatever it is they claim. They don’t. Oh. And those kids who went to Mt. Katadhin to see the first sunrise of 2000? Yeah. They didn’t see tiddlywinks because it was fogged in and overcast. Instead, Lubec saw the sunrise first. I watched it from brother’s bedroom window, in fact. After I’d been out for a good portion of the night celebrating. Oddly enough, there’s even photo evidence of my celebrating the incoming millennium. If I recall, correctly, my picture is right next to a picture of the Pope John Paul II in the New Year’s edition of the Bangor Daily News. I know. You’re jealous. I hope you can restrain yourself.

And that bit of digression has next to nothing to do with much of anything.

The point I was trying to make is that I used to live in a B&B. For those of you not so familiar with the lingo, that’s a Bed & Breakfast. In 1989, my family purchased a rather large house with loads of bedrooms and turned it into a B&B. After six months or so of renovations (it was supposed to be six weeks, but that's another story), we opened it just in time for the summer season of tourists that visit Lubec to go whale watching or to visit the easternmost point in the United States, which is at West Quoddy Head State Park (East Quoddy Head is on Campobello Island, which is in Canada – hence the reason a park named “West” is the easternmost point in the United States), and other touristy things.

Anyhow, again, I digress…

The reason my family’s ownership of a B&B matters to this blog is because of how it shaped my love of food and cooking. Not to mention my ability to talk to virtual strangers for hours at a time or to give you a tour of a building that would knock your socks off.

One of the distinguishing services we provided at my family’s B&B was a full, sit-down breakfast. No buffet. No stingy smorgasbord of muffins or cold cereals. Nope. Not at our B&B. My Mom and Dranny served guests a full, sit-down, bring-an-empty stomach, worth-getting-up-super-early-for breakfast.

As a kid living in a B&B, I had a lot of different jobs that varied as I got older. However, the one job that never changed much was my solemn duty of being a guinea pig for the recipes my Mom and Dranny tried. Let me tell you, that one was a tough job. I was “forced” to sit through many a test recipe to help determine if it was any good and if it was easy enough to make en masse for guests.

Yeah. Tough job. Especially when Mom and Dranny would test chocolate waffles with raspberry sauce, oatmeal pancakes with homemade apple syrup, egg blossoms and other assorted goodies.

I know. This time you're actually jealous. Please try to restrain yourselves though.

As we settled into the B&B routine and built a serious clientele of first-timers and return guests, my Mom and Dranny built up quite a collection of breakfast recipes. If I recall correctly, you could stay at our house for about a month and not have the same breakfast twice. And we had a few guests who would stay nearly that long thanks to a music camp for adults that set up shop in town.

That said, I’m not sure that we ever actually did that. If a guest was staying with us for that long, they typically wound up having a favorite breakfast or three that they would request and that we would make – assuming that it wasn’t an issue for another guest.

My Mom and Dranny don’t own the B&B any longer. They sold it a few years back and moved back to Texas. And let me tell you, while I loved being the breakfast guinea pig, I love celebrating winter holidays in Texas way more. I mean, c’mon. I get to wear flip flops on Christmas.

And, if I ask really nicely, Mom and Dranny even make up one of my favorite breakfasts from the B&B days.

Hmm… Speaking of…

Maybe I’ll make up some of those oatmeal pancakes or scrounge through my cookbooks for a new breakfast recipe or two. I’ll have to be my own guinea pig, but I can deal with that.

July 26, 2009

Bacon. Bacon on Muffins. Need I Say More?

Creativity is a must sometimes. For example, when you’re too lazy to go out to buy an important ingredient for a new recipe. Say, when you want to make Bacon Pineapple Muffins in which corn meal is the key ingredient for the muffin itself and you don’t have any corn meal or, you know, something along those lines.

Okay. Fine. Something exactly along those lines.

Having no corn meal, having no desire to make a late-night dash or an early-morning run to the store and being determined to have a muffin
with bacon and pineapple in it, I decided to improvise. And at this point, this is where I must say: Thank you, Jiffy Corn Bread Mix. Thank you very much.

Yes, I know you can make corn muffins from scratch. They would be darn right tasty, too.
Or, when you’re short on a key ingredient, you can improvise and be just as happy. Because, let’s be honest. The only reason I was making these muffins was because they were going to be a carrier for bacon, an ingredient I fully planned on doubling as soon as I read the recipe.

These muffins came from an obscure, goodness only knows where they got it, muffins and only muffins cookbook that my parents used during our B&B days. Many of the muffins have been tried and loved. For some odd, unexplainable reason, we had not made these Bacon Pineapple Muffins. However, we had made the rather icky Cantaloupe Muffins because we had a lot of cantaloupe to use before it went bad. Let me tell you, we didn’t make that mistake again. Bleh!

Anyhow, the muffins were easy. Make a corn muffin base from scratch or use Jiffy Corn Bread Mix (like me). Fold in half a cup of shredded, canned pineapple. Pour muffins into muffin tins lined with paper things. I definitely recommend using the cupcake liners because even with the tins greased up with lots of PAM, the muffins stuck to the bottoms. I blame the pineapple. However, I will also note that since I was using a Texas-sized muffin tin rather than a normal, itty-bitty muffin tin, cupcake liners weren’t much of an option. Oh well…

Lastly, top with bacon. Lots of bacon. I think the recipe called for something absurd – like only using four or five strips of fried bacon crumbled on top. Absurd! Use more. Use lots. I think I used 10 strips of bacon.

And then you bake them. That’s it.

Well, aside from spreading loads of butter on them when they’re fresh out of the oven and eating them as quickly as possible.

July 21, 2009

From Soup to Biscuits

When I was home in Texas visiting my parents, we made more than just a pie. I swear. In fact, we made a few things, including a Cream of Chicken Soup and Cactus Jack Biscuits.

I have to tell you though, the Cream of Chicken Soup was not a first choice recipe. It was a last minute substitution made after we decided that it was just too darned hot to even think about standing outside over a hot grill to make steaks.

Now please, do not faint on me folks or accuse me of blasphemy. You have to keep in mind that when I was home it was about 100 some odd degrees and the grill is on the back porch under the sun all day long.

So, unless we were going to grill something for breakfast, then we weren't really up for grilling outside under the broiling sun. Heck, we were barely up for going from the front door to the car to a restaurant. Sad. I know. Oh well.

Anyhow, like I said, Cream of Chicken Soup was a substitute. We picked it because we had just about all the ingredients we needed for it. This was some good stuff and fairly simple. Basically, it's cooked, shredded chicken; chicken broth; some heavy cream; rice; and - in my version of the recipe - a can of Ro*Tel. Mix it together. Bring it to a boil. Let it simmer until the desired consistency. Really. How much easier does it get?

The Cactus Jack Biscuits on the other hand, well, those were definitely an "Oh my gosh! I have to try making these!" recipe. I mean, c'mon! Cactus paddles were the leading ingredient and cheese was the second ingredient. How could I not make them? These little biscuits combined a something new ingredient with a much beloved ingredient.

Plus, I knew for a fact that the local grocery store always had fresh cactus paddles in the produce aisle. So I'd be able to buy just enough cactus for the recipe and would be able to avoid buying the ginormous jar of canned cactus.

Now... Maybe I should take a moment for my Northern friends. Yes. You can eat some types of cactus. Yes. You have to remove the needles or buy them prepared or needle-less. No. I hadn't actually ever used cactus as an ingredient before, but that didn't mean I wasn't going to try 'em.

Okay... Where was I? Oh. Yes, the ease of buying fresh cactus paddles in a Texas grocery store.

Yeah. Whatever. Didn't happen. They were out of them! Out of cactus paddles!

Talk about irritating. I wound up having to buy a honking jar of canned cactus paddles after all.

Now, had I been on my own, I would have gone to every blessed store within a 20 mile radius to find fresh cactus paddles. I can be obsessive like that, I admit it. However, like I said, it was flipping hot as Hades out and I couldn't ask my parents to go in and out of goodness only knows how many stores on a search for fresh cactus. They may be enablers, but even I know they have limits.

Anyhow, the jarred cactus paddles turned out fine. For my mother's sake though, I used only a quarter cup of diced cactus paddle pieces instead of a half cup. She's not a big fan of green peppers or things that look like green peppers in her food. Diced bits of cactus paddle fall into the latter category.

The one thing that surprised me about this biscuit recipe was not that there were only four ingredients (cactus, cheese, flour & butter), but that they weren't fluffy little biscuits. When I think of a biscuit, I think big and fluffy. Granted, given the lack of baking powder or salt, maybe I should have had a clue about their texture, but I was focused on the cactus part.

These were a little more like scones in texture. Since we were having these biscuits with soup, it turned out to be perfect because we could crumble them up into the soup or slather butter or cinnamon honey across them. In retrospect, these scones-like biscuits would not have been as good with a steak, no matter how good the steak.

Go figure! The kitchen gods were looking out for me after all.

And for the record, I didn't even knock another cookbook off the list with either of these recipes because they both came from the "Texas: The Beautiful Cookbook."

At this rate, I'm going to have to lock myself in my kitchen with a full pantry and cook for days on end to accomplish my cooking challenge. Ugh. Why did I think this was a good idea again?

July 17, 2009

Enabling Parents and Apple-Pecan Pie

If you read nothing else in this post, I’d like to make sure you read this next sentence.

I have very supportive parents who, apparently, are absolutely willing to aid and abet my blogging habit.

I mean it! They deserve some of little gold stars or something.

First, they helped me knock one cookbook off the list while I was visiting them a couple of weekends ago. Then they wanted to know why I wasn’t taking more food pictures and were the ones to suggest that we take a mini-road trip for the sole purpose of getting some photos for The Omaha Chronicles. They even gave me some presents, including a splatter screen to shield me from future frying accidents and some new cookbooks for my collection…

Hey. Wait a minute.

More cookbooks?


Gee, thanks Mom and Dranny. Thanks a lot for making my cooking challenge even harder now. Wow… You must really love me a lot…

Oh wait… Not the point. I’m supposed to be saying how nice they are.

In that case, I guess could talk about the Apple-Pecan Pie I made using a recipe from “Texas: The Beautiful Cookbook” rather than sulking. Okay. Fine. I’ll do that.

So, before my parents got busy undermining my ability to ever get through my collection of cookbooks for the purposes of this blog, I asked them to pick a recipe they’d like me to make. I specifically asked that they pick something from the “Texas: The Beautiful Cookbook” because they have a copy and I have a copy, which meant that I could knock a cookbook off my cooking challenge list and, even better, use a recipe from a cookbook that we’ve all drooled over together for eons.

My Dranny picked the Apple-Pecan Pie.

This was a scrumptious dish. The additions of pecans to an otherwise normal apple pie added just the right touch of crunch and made the apple pie even better.

The recipe called for the addition of a about a half cup of finely chopped pecans sprinkled on the bottom of the pie crust and then pour in your basic apple pie filling. I messed up a bit and mixed the pecans in with the apple pie filling. It was fine though. I promise. If you mess up like that, just make sure you get a good even coating all over the apples.

Then rather than adding a second crust to cover the top, the recipe called for a pecan-filled streusel topping to be sprinkled over the apple filling before baking the pie.

All in all, pretty darned simple and so very good.

To add to the fun, the Apple-Pecan Pie recipe in the Texas Beautiful cookbook specifically referenced the famous dwarf apple tree in Medina, which is about a 25 minute drive from my parents’ home in Kerrville. And, apparently, the recipe comes from a Medina bakery.

My parents, bless their enabling hearts, were the ones to suggest that we drive over to Medina to get some pictures for my blog, even though it was very likely that the bakery would be closed by the time we got there – and it was.

That’s okay though because the drive between Kerrville and Medina is along a meandering Hill Country road that is beautiful and fun to drive. Well, I should qualify that it’s fun to drive along this road when the weather is nice. I wouldn’t want to drive it in a downpour or if it got icy. It might not be a drive through the Rockies, but it would still be a nasty tumble down a hill in the event of an accident.

Anyhow, to top it all off, I learned later, only after we had all eaten our slices of pie, that my Dranny had gone out on a real branch here because she’s no fan of apple pies, but she likes pecans and was willing to take a risk. She liked this pie though. And so did my Mom.

For me, making something that they both enjoyed made me happy. Yay! Baking success!

Although, now that I think about it, I have to wonder… Why didn’t they ask me to fry up something while under parental supervision? Hmm…