IHOP National Pancake Day - March 1, 2011

Pancake DetailsJoin IHOP on Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., for National Pancake Day and receive one complimentary short stack!*
     In return for the free flapjacks, we ask you to consider leaving a little something behind for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other designated local charities. Thanks to our guests' generosity, IHOP raised more than $2.1 million last year. IHOP began its National Pancake Day in 2006, and since then, has raised $5.35 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other local charities and given away more than 10.1 million buttermilk pancakes.

About National Pancake Day

March 1, 2011

     Since beginning its National Pancake Day celebration in 2006, IHOP has raised more than $5.35 million to support charities in the communities in which it operates. While IHOP's National Pancake Day typically takes place on Shrove Tuesday, this year, the company will host its free pancake event one week earlier on Tuesday, March 1 to build buzz and excitement prior to Shrove Tuesday. With your help, we hope to raise $2.3 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other local charities!
Known also as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, National Pancake Day dates back several centuries to when the English prepped for fasting during Lent. Strict rules prohibited the eating of all dairy products during Lent, so pancakes were made to use up the supply of eggs, milk, butter and other dairy products...hence the name Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.

herbed cheese spread

      Nothing is more appealing to me than a crusty, crunchy baguette, still warm from the oven. I would even go as far to say that I might choose bread over chocolate... depending on the situation.
     A few years ago, on a student tour of England and France, I contemplated selling my return ticket and staying in France... mainly for the bread!
     One of my favorite things to top the bread with is a softened, herb laden cheese. This spreadable cheese is sold in the store in a little tub for around $5. Some recognizable brand names are Boursin, Rondele and Alouette. You can make it for about a dollar, if you keep the herbs on hand, or in the yard
      It can be served at a dinner party as an appetizer. You can add whatever you like to change the flavors. For example: add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and marinated artichoke hearts as a heavier topping for toasted crostini. It can also be served at the table with fresh bread, instead of butter.
Take an 8 oz. brick of low fat, cream cheese sometimes called Neufchatel, and blend with a mashed up clove of garlic and some fresh herbs, such as thyme, chopped rosemary and chives. Add a little kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
Spread it on and dive in! (Caution: has been known to become addicting.)

let's review: TA CA sushi savannah

     When we arrived in Savannah ten years ago, we began to patronize the sushi bar in Masado on the south side, then named Kyoto. We became attached to one particular sushi chef, named Mik... M-I-K, no 'E,' as he would say. Our dining relationship developed over the years and when he opened his own restaurant downtown, we were eager to see how he would fare.
     This past weekend, my husband and I ate at Ta Ca with our eldest daughter and a couple of mutual friends. The weather was rather warm for late February, so we sat outside, getting reacquainted with Mother Nature. Edamame and summer rolls were ordered for the table as appetizers. Both quickly disappeared as we perused the dinner menu.
     We chose five rolls to share between the three of us. Two were named Diablo roll... Mik is fond of hot things. Another, the TJ roll combined tempura shrimp, eel, avocado and a spicy sauce. The JJ roll had a unique spin, tuna, avocado, cream cheese and plum. We rounded out our selection with a Five Point roll: chopped tuna, yellow tail and a spicy top over a California roll.
     Each of the rolls we chose was delicious. All of the fish was firm and sweet while the vegetables crisp and fresh. The sauces were flavorful and spicy, but not too spicy to enjoy. Mik will cool down or kick up the heat to your liking. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun. The company made our evening one to remember. And we all were comfortably satisfied without feeling stuffed.
     So, when you're in the mood for good food prepared with the freshest ingredients, give TaCa a whirl. If sushi isn't your fave, they also prepare several Vietnamese dishes. Next time I'm going to check them out.
     The best kept secret about the location is the parking lot! If you've ever been to downtown Savannah, you know what I mean! No need to search for a space. It is located on the corner of Price and Ogelthorpe in a little shopping center that also houses Screamin' Mimi's pizza place.

Ta Ca on Urbanspoon

funeral for a friend

My beloved and faithful friend is fading fast. 
     After nearly five years of service, our ancient Krups pump driven espresso machine shows signs of seizing. It leaks from a multitude of places and has begun to balk at the idea of steaming milk for my morning macchiato.
I have been, you know, looking around...
     It is difficult to even say it out loud. I don't want to hurt Krup's feelings, after all. You know, kick him when he's down. But with three of the four of us pulling a double shot each morning, and sometimes again in the afternoon, with occasional after dinner espressos, something must be done.
     There are so many decisions to make before committing to another... so, I've been seen around town dating a few machines before Krups is even cold.
I know. I'm a coffee whore. A floozy. A shameless hussy.
     In true hussy fashion, I'm drawn to the snazzy red finish and robotic R2D2 look of Francis Francis, but would need a second mortgage to buy it.
     I read a blog the other day about going back to the low tech french press method... no electricity, no hassle. Wait, you do have to boil the water, first. So some electricity is involved.
     After all of the dust settled, blogs and reviews read, price comparisons and research done, and of course, Ebay consulted for my husband, Chris' peace of mind, I've decided on this lovely Italian Gaggia Classic model. (You know how I feel about anything Italian.) The brand name is pronounced, gazzjuh.
     I found her online, on sale, with an extra year of warranty... three years in all. (Most carry only a year.) And they had a coupon and no tax or shipping fees. She will arrive sometime next week. (Shhh, don't tell Krups.)
Meet Lady Gaggia

miss vivian's chicken crescents

     Recently, I hosted the Womens' Ministry leadership team at my house for a planning meeting. It was to include lunch, prepared by moi. I decided to make miss vivian's chicken crescents. This is an easy dish that looks like you've spent hours making it.
     It is perfect for a luncheon meal, but just as good for a weeknight family dinner. No matter the occasion, your family or your guests will love them. Only you and I will know how little you stressed over this meal!
chicken meat from one rotisserie chicken, chopped
1 tub of reduced fat, cream cheese with chive and onion at room temperature
3 or 4 tubes reduced fat crescent rolls, any brand
cooking spray such as PAM
Pepperidge Farms herb stuffing mix
3 T. butter
3 T. all purpose flour
2 -3 c. homemade chicken stock, simmering
1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
freshly ground black pepper
dried poultry seasoning or sage
Mix chopped, cooked chicken with cream cheese with chive and onion. Be sure to season with freshly ground black pepper. I also add a pinch of poultry seasoning.

 Open tubes of crescent rolls and separate. Place small amount of chicken mixture in center of each crescent. Roll up, making sure ends are sealed. Do this until chicken mixture is gone.
going into the oven
Spray each roll with aerosol cooking spray. Roll in herb stuffing mix. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Extras may be frozen at this point in an airtight container and baked at a later date. Bake crescents according to package directions. Remove when chicken crescents are golden brown and crispy.
coming out party
For gravy: Melt butter in pan. Whisk in flour and allow to brown. Season with black pepper and poultry seasoning. Whisk in 2 c. hot chicken stock, a little at a time, to avoid lumps. Add can, cream of chicken soup and blend. Season with black pepper and poultry seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes. Thin gravy with remaining 1 c. stock, if needed. Serve chicken crescents topped with chicken gravy.

its beginning to look alot like CHOCOLATE

     Last year, when a presidential candidate was touting change for America, my 18 year old daughter, Hannah craved change as well... to her room. She cleverly sent me an email with the campaign slogan, "Its Time for a Change," along with a picture from the Pottery Barn catalog.
      I can't say that I blame her since the previous decor was denim, hot pink floral and horses... a slightly juvenile equestrian theme. She is in her first year of college and lives at home, so I wanted to give her more of a dorm look minus the microwave and mini fridge.
     We started with a black iron daybed, found at a garage sale a few years ago and a french provincial chest that I used growing up... as you can see, we have a problem parting with things. I believe we discussed that in a previous post.
     We found some pillows at our local Homegoods store that set the tone for the room. Teal, lime green, marigold and chocolate brown floral. It was so her!
     Hannah's room has a Southern exposure, giving us the chance to do something dramatic... just like Hannah. The wall color we chose reminds me of my favorite Lindt chocolate bar... rich and dark.
     We began early in the morning with a thorough spring cleaning, then emptied the room of everything but the bed frame. HGTV would be so proud! By mid-afternoon, we were done. The cutting in is left for the man of the house.
      That evening, all the work was done, except a final coat of paint. The next day, it was finished. We moved her furniture back into place and heaved a sigh of satisfaction at a job well done.
     The room is beautiful. It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do. We have retained the basics for now, but have plans to add curtains, make a little study area and tweak the floorplan a bit more.
     I found a peg rack fashioned from an old plank of wood and some antique metal doorknobs. It hangs right inside the door to catch the purse and keys. A pair of small retro lamps with orange shades mix up the style. Eclectic is my middle name. I take offense at matchy-matchy things.
In the life of this foodie, change is good... especially when it comes in the form of dark chocolate!

help for the culinarily challenged... 'cause i'm thoughtful that way

     I have been thinking about how to help friends who are not obsessed with food, don't read cookbooks or food essays frequently or keep up with the latest celebrity chefs on the food network, but still want to make a little something for dinner.
     I am NOT a food snob. Well, not much of one, anyway. (I do regularly inquire of the waitstaff about the type of lettuce in a restaurant's salad and sneer if they dare to mention iceberg.) I do, however, love to learn new things concerning the world of food.
     I know that all of you don't share this passion with me. It is okay. I don't share my friend's love of politics, my mom's fondness for neatness and order, or my husband's obsession with finding a bargain on ebay. Our differences make life more interesting.
     For some, the crazy culinary terms can be intimidating. If you are reading this blog, I am surmising that you know how to point your mouse and click. In the computer age, in which we live, a person can ask nearly anything electronically and get an answer.
     I went to the bing.com website, and typed dictionary of cooking terms into the search bar and 15,500 web addresses popped up. An equally alarming number of images, videos and shopping resources can be had at the click of the mouse. Some have nothing to do with what you are seeking, like the curvy girl in the bunny suit... how does she relate to steamed veggies? I just don't see it.
     One great site I found is: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Dictionary.aspx. It has photos, how-tos and dictionary, a conversion page and even recipes! I could get lost on a site like this for days.
On epicurious.com, they have an actual food dictionary, along with recipes, videos, articles, etc.
     So, do a little Internet surfing. 
Learn a new term, like chiffonade [shihf-uh-NAHD] Literally translated, this French phrase means "made of rags." Culinarily, it refers to thin strips or shreds of vegetables or herbs.
See how smart you are?

pioneer woman giveaway

hey, kitchenaid fans... pioneer woman is giving away this fabulous mixer, but only til midnight, tonight!
click on the link below to enter... and if you don't need one, I DO! And so does the church kitchen. check it out.

so very fond-of-ue

In honor of Saint Valentine's Day, here are two simple and lovely recipes for fondue.

     Nothin' says lovin' like something from the... fondue pot? Your valentines will be gathered around the table; chatting, laughing and dunking their food in cheese and chocolate. So, build a fire, put on some silly love songs and remember... no double dipping!

Cheese Fondue
Serves 4-6
2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 T. cornstarch
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
1/2 c. dry white wine (or 1/2 c. apple juice and 1 T. lemon juice)
Apple slices
Pear slices
French bread, cut into large cubes
Fresh broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrots, blanched veggies like sugar snap peas or green beans.
Toss Swiss and Gruyere with cornstarch to coat.  Slice garlic in half and rub inside of double boiler or heavy saucepan (or fondue pot,) then discard.
Pour wine into top of double boiler and place over simmering water.  Gradually add cheese and cornstarch mixture, stirring until cheeses are melted.  Remove from heat.  If you have a fondue pot, prepare directly in pot.
Serve warm with fruit, veggies and bread of your choice.

Chocolate Fondue
Makes 8 servings
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
½ c. half and half
½ t. vanilla extract
Assorted Fruit:
4 small bananas, sliced and peeled
2-3 small pears sliced and cored
1 pound strawberries and/or blackberries
1 frozen pound cake or angel food cake, cut into large cubes
large pretzel sticks
big marshmallows
In heavy saucepan or double boiler, heat chocolate and cream over low heat.  Stir frequently until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, keep warm. Arrange assorted fruit and cake on serving dish.  Spoon chocolate into serving bowl or fondue pot and serve.
food maven loves you!

blue cheese dressing

     My favorite blue cheese dressing is from a recipe I found twenty-six years ago. My Great-aunt Clara gave me a Rodale Press cookbook as a wedding gift. This is a 'slimmed-down' adaptation of that recipe. 
     I use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise as the base of this dressing. If dressing is too thick for your liking, it may be thinned with a drizzle of milk. But... if left in a thickened state, it becomes the perfect blue cheese dip for buffalo chicken wings, celery and carrots; or for taking center stage on a fresh fruit and vegetable platter.
     Make sure to splurge on a really good brand of blue cheese, like Maytag. You will taste the difference and want to thank me... you're welcome.
1 c. plain, fat-free Greek yogurt (I love the thick consistency)
½ c. reduced fat mayo
½ c. reduced fat sour cream
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
a pinch of each: garlic powder, dried dill, sugar and salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
a little milk, if needed
Blend all ingredients together.  Flavors develop with time and cheese is very salty, so use salt sparingly.  Chill until ready to use. 

Baked Pesto Subs

motley crew

     For our tenth grade Sunday School class Fall kick-off, the teaching team consisting of my husband and I, plus another couple, Rex and Beth, were trying to come up with a way to jump-start the school year and bond our class right from the beginning. We decided to take our students to historic Fort McAllister State Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia for the weekend. We stayed in two lovely cabins that looked out onto the marsh... one for the boys and one for girls. Our afternoons were filled with a river clean-up service project and kayaking the barrier islands, while our evenings were spent studying God's Word and eating... what a great combination!
ms. beth
     My co-teacher, Beth brought the ingredients for this sandwich to make for supper one night. We made quite a few of them, but when the meal was over, there wasn't even a scrap left. They go into the oven as any ordinary sub, but come out all hot, gooey and fabulous. The entire crowd went wild!
     Since that day, I have made these for a Super Bowl party, girls' sleepover, finger food reception at church, as well as a fast weeknight supper. You can serve this with a bowl of soup or just with carrot sticks and chips.
1 pkg. sliced deli ham
1 pkg. sliced deli turkey
1 pkg. sliced provolone cheese. I prefer Boar's Head picante (sharp) provolone
1 jar basil pesto
1 large loaf Italian bread
half of a thinly sliced red onion
Slice loaf of bread lengthwise (horizontally.)  Open and spread both sides of bread with pesto.  Layer both meats and the cheese on one side of bread.  Top with sliced onions.  Replace top of loaf.  Wrap with aluminum foil and bake in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Open and slice into 1” slices.  Serve warm.

craisin oatmeal raisin cookies

     This is my attempt to recreate those huge, chewy cookies they serve at Starbucks. If you have ever had one, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Doesn't it look good?
     In an attempt to make them healthier, I changed the all purpose flour in the original recipe to whole wheat, then added the golden raisins and dried cranberries like the cookies at Starbucks. The recipe was originally named 'disappearing oatmeal cookies' by my mom's friend, Peggy. Whenever I make them, they quickly disappear, so I guess there is truth in advertising.
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar or sucanat
½ c. raw or granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1½ c. whole wheat flour
½ t. salt
3 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. mixed, dark raisins, golden raisins and dried cranberries (Craisin is a brand name)
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Blend well.  Combine all dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.  Add oats and raisin mixture (and nuts, if desired.) 
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.  Store in an airtight container. Recipe makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

foil pouch cooking... they're not just for hobos

     Many, many moons ago, I found a page in a magazine that looked like a piece of aluminum foil. You may remember it. It was an advertisement for Reynold's Wrap Heavy Duty foil. It had instructions printed on it for cooking individual entrees with vegetables in a foil pouch, in EIGHTEEN minutes!
     I remember having these as a kid when camping with my family. I'm not sure why, but we called them hobo dinners and cooked them on a grill or in the campfire. Restaurants serve things in parchment paper tied with kitchen twine. They are lovely and equally delicious, but if you're not Martha Stewart and don't keep parchment or twine lying around, then this is the post for you!
     Through the years, I have cooked chicken breasts, various types of fish, ground beef patties and even pork chops in a pouch, without a bunch of pans to clean.
Wait, did she say, 'no pans to clean?
You're excited already, aren't you?
     The secret is not to overfill them. Remember, it is one serving and you have to be able to close it up. Each pouch should roughly be the size of two magazine pages, or approximately 11" x 17."

Possible Ingredients:
Boneless chicken, thighs or breasts. You can use any firm fish you prefer. Ground beef patties or pork chops would work, but must be cooked a little longer. If you are meat-free, just add more veggies!
Fresh garlic, minced, use lots of it.
Assorted fresh vegetables: zucchini and yellow squash; onions, scallions or shallots; any kind of fresh mushroom; carrots, asparagus, pea pods, bean sprouts, tomatoes, etc.
Herbs such as thyme, Italian parsley, rosemary or cilantro. 
1 or 2 tablespoons of liquid for each packet. Fruit juices like orange, lemon or pineapple; sauces like teriyaki or soy, barbecue or steak sauce; dry white wine or sherry... or mix it up!
1 tablespoon of fat for each packet, such as olive oil or butter.
Salt and pepper
You can add a few pieces of fruit, like canned apricots, pineapple, diced apples, mandarin oranges or lemon slices. Think of meat, herb, vegetable and fruit combinations that pair well. Here is an example:

Place boneless chicken breast on foil. Season with salt and black pepper. Top with onions, garlic and a few canned apricot slices. Stir together lemon juice, apricot jam and one tablespoon of melted butter. Pour over items in pouch, fold as directed and bake. Serve with mashed potatoes or yellow rice and some steamed broccoli.
See how easy that was?
     After choosing your ingredients, lay out each piece of heavy duty foil and fold in half to crease. Open up and spray with cooking spray.  Place meat in the center of one side. Season with salt and pepper. Place veggies, fruit, herbs and garlic on top and around meat, staying on half of foil.
     Turn up edges and add liquid and fat. Fold in half. Make a small seam around three sides. Make another tight folded seam around same three sides, making sure pouch is sealed. Pull up the center just a little to tent it. Place pouches on a baking sheet with sides. Don't crowd them. You may need more than one baking sheet. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 18 minutes.
     The only complaint I have had with the foil method is the absence of browning. When food is done, I usually cut an X in the center of the pouch, peel it back a little and let it brown in the oven for a minute or two. Be careful not to let the liquid leak out. Empty foil pouch onto a warmed plate and throw pouch away!
Now aren't you glad you stopped by?