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…

July 16, 2009

Brick Wall. Meet Forehead.

Some days, I have to wonder about just how bright I am.

I write my own blog. I write about food I make. I use cookbooks I bought or that were given to me. So, essentially, this all about me, me, me, me. (no comments from the peanut gallery!) When I think about it that way, I have to wonder why in the world have I been making it so darned hard to write about my last few cooking adventures?

Well, after whining about the lack of visits from my writing muse, she swung by and gave me a swift kick to the seat of my pants, told me to stop crying and reminded me that I make the rules around here.

Oh. Yeah. Duh.

Turns out that trying to write one blog entry about a weekend's worth of cooking adventures while visiting my parents was not my brightest idea. Far from it when you consider the fact that the three different meals didn't even necessarily have the same cookbook in common.

For the record, I've scrapped four versions of a post while trying to cram too much into it. I swear. You'd think I wasn't a professional in the communication field at that rate. How embarrassing.

Now that I'm past my own, self-imposed, dumb-as-all-get-out, brick wall writer's block, I feel like I can move on and write a few different posts about delicious goodies such as Apple-Pecan Pie, Cream of Chicken Soup, Cactus Jack Biscuits and Bacon Pineapple Muffins.

Exicting, huh?

Now, if you'll excuse for me for a bit, I have to go get some ice for my forehead. It feels like it's been bashed against a brick wall one or two times recently.