Sunday, November 27, 2011

soulmates and other drugs...

     Next week, my good friend, The Housewife will be visiting my humble abode. I can barely contain my excitement. Most people who know us can't say the same. 
     We have more fun than a barrel of monkeys, providing said monkeys love strong coffee, dusty bookshops and hilarity that borders on the insane. For some reason our jovial demeanor annoys others.
     Last year, I feared being tossed out of a quaint downtown bookstore. Friendly competition in book buying, a game of Marco Polo when one of us was lost and a little whining about the lack of fire in the fireplace might have put a less stalwart bookseller off... but not this one. He attempted to ignore our un-library-like manners, quietly sorting books, only rolling his eyes once. Or twice.
     We long ago discovered our kindred spirit while living in a suburb of Memphis. She's still there and I'm in exile here in Coastal Georgia. We take to the highways and sky-ways for a reunion whenever possible.
     In honor of her impending arrival, I am posting a few of the one liners that cause us to roar with laughter. They are historically ours, so most of you will be bored to tears. 
     In the great Blogosphere, this is a big no-no, a real faux pas... posting something no one else understands. You'll just have to bear with me. I'll be back to normal programming soon. I promise;)


AREYOUOUTOFYOURMIND???

I fail to see the humor in this

Susan and Michelle found Jesus at the Bi-Lo

Teensy farted

I can't believe you made me eat a whole bowl of MOLD!


It says, "BI" hahahahaha

click on it, retard

I'm fightin' a cold

Alot of men would pay alot of money for this!

be strong and hide often

BOBS... bitter old broads

Am I the only person who thinks that it is a little strange that there are dead people on Facebook?

My name is Doctor Pooty Pootwell!

The worst thing my wife ever made was this awful Tomato Pie...(HEY, that's MY recipe!)

I can't believe she went dressed like that... and she didn't even know them! (my mom, after hearing of our fated first meeting)

creamed chicken: crisis relief

     Imagine this scenario: You rush in from work or carpool. Your coffee spilled on the car's upholstery, traffic was horrendous, the kids are disagreeing loudly, your spouse is due any minute... and will be ravenous. What can you do, besides pack a bag and slip unnoticed out the back door?
     Never fear. It's your favorite super hero, The Food Maven to the rescue... Now, where did I put that cape? Anyway, take a deep breath. Follow these simple steps and everything will be fine.
     Go to my recipe for Sauce Veloute found at the bottom of the post entitled Bechamel Mucho. Remember class, veloute is a fancy French name for gravy.
     Combine 1 recipe of the veloute and 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken or other poultry. (This is a perfect use for leftover Thanksgiving goodies.) Heat the two together, taste for seasoning and serve over egg noodles, toast, rice or biscuits... or even leftover stuffing.
     Now, wasn't that effortless? Wait, what? It's too simple? Okay, here are variations on the theme:
     To make creamy chicken divan, add blanched fresh or thawed frozen broccoli to the mixture. Heat through and serve with healthy brown rice. Sprinkle a few toasted, slivered almonds over it, just before you set it in front of an astonished spouse. Pause with hands on hips, back straight, chin out, in your best superhero pose;)
     For a twist on a down-home fave, add cooked vegetables such as peas, carrots, celery and onion. It then resembles chicken pot pie, without the pie. Serve over hot, flaky biscuits.
     You can also make this more a little more fancy and grown-up. Suppose a couple of unexpected guests drop conveniently by at dinnertime. Add a splash of dry white wine. Then stir in sauteed shallots, mushrooms and fresh herbs, such as thyme or sage leaves.
     Bake some frozen puff pastry cups, pull out the center and fill them with the fancified creamed chicken, replacing the little pastry cap as a garnish. Serve with a dollop of whole berry cranberry sauce on the side and a nice green vegetable.
     When they ask, be sure to tell your awestruck guests, in a slightly snooty tone, that the dish is called Poulet Veloute [poo-lay vel-oo-tay.] Crisis averted. The world is safe once more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

thanksgiving, 2011: the afterglow

     This year was a bit unusual for me. We had five for Thanksgiving dinner, two or three stragglers arriving later and six friends arriving later for dessert. For a person accustomed to serving around a hundred people on a weekly basis, this can be a little sad. And quiet.
     After initial clean-up, our girls, two human and three canine, are dozing. My mother-in-law made her way through the fifty pound newspaper that arrived in the morning. I snuck off to begin posting before pictures. And the men run upstairs in search of football.
     We enjoyed our spread... so very thankful for the abundance God has provided. As we sipped coffee and contemplated another piece of pie, I began to mull over the Christmas decorating.
     Hmmm, when will we get our tree? Which ribbon will go with the new ornaments my sis bought me? What will I put on the mantle this year?
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the afterglow lingers on. 

     "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Colossians 3:17

Thursday, November 24, 2011

countdown day four: dessert day


     Pecan pie. Check. Toasted coconut pie. Check. Apple pie. Check.
     Brother-in-law bringing pumpkin pie, friend bringing pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon creme anglaise AND Barefoot Contessa's espresso brownies. Check, check and check.
     Coffee and espresso machines on standy. Table finally set. Air filled with cinnamon-scented anticipation.
     Have I mentioned my love of Thanksgiving this week? :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

countdown day three... the thanksgiving meltdown :(

     I'm pulling out my antique brown transferware to set the Thanksgiving table.
     My original post, designed to regale you with stories of a lovely tablescape never quite materialized. I'm going to be real with you... seeing that we have become so close and all. Today, I had a Thanksgiving meltdown. A real doozy. 
     It was a result of being the sole Thanksgiving visionary in this household. I can't seem to sell these other people on adopting my carefully thought out plan. They all seem to have plans of their own.
     I went as far as packing an overnight bag and placing it in the back seat of my car. Are you shocked? Disillusioned? Well, let's all be honest, now. We've all been there. Maybe not on a major holiday, the night before your mother-in-law is to arrive, but somewhere, sometime, we've all had a meltdown of one type or other. 
     That was earlier. It was still light out. I hadn't eaten dinner. My spur of the moment plan was to drive to Florida to spend the rest of the week with my mom. I'm still here, though, faithfully writing my post for countdown day three.
     During the meltdown, I briefly abandoned my plans for a fabulous day of being thankful. I questioned my reason for being saddled with less enlightened humans. 
     I later remembered our founding fathers, the brave soldiers through the years and all they endured for our freedoms. I also remembered our Heavenly Father, sending His Son to die, just for me... and for you. Boy, everything else really pales in comparison. Happy THANKSgiving;)
     Oh, I AM running away first thing in the morning. (I'm going to the salon for a haircut.) I'm going to ask them to wash that spat right outta my hair;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

the food maven's homemade bread stuffing

     Last Thanksgiving I decided to make my stuffing with cubed bread of different types, instead of buying the usual Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix I usually use... not that there's anything wrong with that;) I am easily bored and needed a creative change.
     I bought several types of bread a few days before. French bread, sourdough baguette, pumpernickel, multi-grain and challah. I cubed, mixed together, then stored the bread in zipper bags. The night before, I prepped and tossed all of the veggies together, then lightly sauteed them.
     On Thanksgiving morning, everything was ready to go. I made a pan of plain stuffing with celery and onion only, for the picky people and one with mushrooms, celery, onion, sage, apples, toasted pecans and dried cranberries... That one disappeared first. (This year it is the only one I'll make.)
Ingredients
5 loaves day old bread of different types, cubed
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
3 ribs celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 apples, cored and diced
4 c. turkey stock
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves
thyme leaves
italian parsley
Directions
Cube bread. If doing this ahead of time, store in zipper bags. May be frozen until needed. In large saute pan, melt butter with olive oil until hot. Toss in onion, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. After veggies in pan become translucent, add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, place chopped pecans on cookie sheet and toast in 350 degree oven for ten minutes. Check to see if they're toasty enough. Cook longer if necessary. Cool until needed.
When veggies are done, place them in a large mixing bowl with bread and remaining dry ingredients. Mix well then pour stock over. Mix everything lightly, just until bread is moist. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Turn into a large baking pan. Bake for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with lots of gravy, then later, piled with cranberry sauce on your turkey sandwich.

countdown day two: monday

     So, what shall we discuss today? In my kitchen, we will be thawing various loaves of bread for stuffing. IF I get the chance, I'll chop and saute the veggies. 
     I seriously thought about heading to the church kitchen to do some tidying while no one is about. One thing that might be a game-changer for this day... My husband is taking the entire week off and most women know what that means.
     His projects become my projects. Well, we'll see. Stay tuned for the stuffing recipe:)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

turkey 101

     Every year I use the same method to cook my turkey. The spices, rubs and things stuffed inside may change from year to year, but I've always relied on Reynolds Oven Bags... Turkey Edition.
     Last year, I blended room temperature butter, pressed garlic cloves, fresh minced herbs like sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme, plus lemon zest, salt and lots of black pepper to make a paste to rub over the skin before roasting.
     The inside of the bird was filled with an onion, whole garlic cloves, the zested lemon, salt, pepper and whole branches of the same herbs.
     Close up the oven bag, place it in a roasting pan and follow the cooking instructions enclosed. The turkey comes out golden brown and juicy.
     Let your bird rest for 20- 30 minutes out of the oven, then open, remove and carve. Be sure to reserve liquid in bag for that delicious gravy you're planning to make. Don't have a gravy recipe? You can use mine. Click here to see it.

countdown to turkey day: sunday, day one

      It's almost here!! Four days until my favorite holiday... Thanksgiving Day. Let the countdown begin.
     Today, I am taking this year's sixteen and a half pound turkey out of the freezer and placing him in the fridge. YAY:)
     When Hannah was a tiny girl of three, she was enamored by our Music Minister at church, known as Brother Tom. We can only surmise that around Thanksgiving time, she overheard someone referring to the turkey as a young tom turkey.
the fam. hannah, small one on left
     She asked if we were cooking Brother Tom, a pensive expression crossing her little face. We chuckled at the name and thus a tradition began. So, Brother Tom, as he is affectionately called each year will wait patiently, thawing over the next three days.
There is SO much to be done. We'll talk more turkey tomorrow;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

shortbread cookies with lavender and orange

     A friend gave me a tin of culinary grade lavender flowers awhile back. I've been waiting for a sign that it is time to use them. Monday the sign appeared...
     As I read through the morning news on the Food Maven Facebook page, I stumbled across Bake Your Day's recipe for Shortbread, complete with an enticing picture. One of my favorite cookies are the lavender shortbread at Back in the Day Bakery, downtown Savannah.
     I took it as a sign that it was time to bake;) If there ever was a period of time I am inspired to bake, it's in the fall holiday season. The rest of the year I go for more savory fare.
     At the end of the post, Cassie mentioned that her recipe was adapted from Ina Garten's shortbread recipe. Ina's was similar but with larger quantities... so I adapted my cookies to both, making a double batch. Why bother to bake at all if you're only going to get 20 cookies? Am I right?
     I decreased the vanilla extract and added some orange instead. Then I tossed in a couple of tablespoons of the lavender flowers. These cookies are so very simple to make... even the kids can do it.
     You can make them plain if you prefer, or experiment with other flavors like lemon and rosemary or cranberries and chocolate. They are perfect with a steaming hot cup of coffee or, better yet, The Housewife's Magic Cocoa.
Ingredients
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. orange extract
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 t. salt
2 T. lavender flowers
Directions
In bowl of mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flavorings and blend. Sift together flour and salt. Add it slowly to the creamed mixture, scraping down sides of bowl frequently. Toss in lavender flowers just before all of flour mixture is incorporated. This will make them more easily distributed.
Blend until dough just holds together, then dump onto large sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Press dough into a log and wrap tightly. At this point it is soft and easy to move. Make it a round tube, make it a square one... you decide what shape your finished cookies will be. Place in refrigerator for at least thirty minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove cookie log from fridge. This is where it gets tricky... Muster up every ounce of self control. Do NOT eat all of the dough before you make the cookies.
With your very sharp chef's knife, slice dough into cookie rounds and place on lined pans. The thinner you slice them, the crispier they'll be.
Bake for around 13 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Each oven is different, so keep an eye on them. Dark brown shortbread can be bitter tasting. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.
Now, wasn't that easy? See how lovely they look;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

700 kitchen cooking demo

     Saturday afternoon. Husband gone. Both girls working. What's an unoccupied foodie to do? Well, find a free cooking demo, of course!
     Two o'clock in the afternoon found me sitting with around fifty new-found friends in a cooking demonstration at Macy's Department Store in Savannah. Our instructor for the day was none other than Chef Darin Sehnert, head of the 700 Kitchen cooking school at The Mansion.
     I arrived early to get a good seat. I'm in the brown jacket, magenta scarf and glasses... Notice I chose not to wear the paper chef hats they passed out;)
     I did learn quite a bit... Like the proper way to buy and use a knife, a better way to slice or dice an onion and the difference between an herb and a spice. Some of that stuff I already knew, but it was fun to see a professional in action.
     We were all inspired to dig out our old pressure cookers and dust them off. Chef Darin made chicken cacciatore in only TEN minutes. Yes, really! He served it over polenta and it was delicious.
     I know I still have my old pressure cooker somewhere. (Digging through closet under stairs.) It was a wedding present. Twenty seven and a half years ago. (Help, I'm lost in the Closet of Misfit Appliances. Wait, is this Narnia?)
     So, while I continue my hunt, I'm giving you a link (here) to Chef Darin's blog post about the event... and a recipe for a fabulous Cranberry Upside-down Cake he made for us. I'll post other recipes later... after I finish having tea with the faun.

Friday, November 4, 2011

tetrazzini

     There is nothing worse than spending all afternoon fixing a meal for your fam, then watching them wolf it down in five minutes. How rude :(
     I found a remedy for that... Make something that takes mere minutes to construct, then relax. Enjoy the lovely fall weather... feet up on your back porch, coffee in hand. Ahhhh.
     Here is my recipe for tetrazzini... Pasta enrobed in a cheesey sauce, with chicken or turkey, mushrooms, onion and garlic and those little red pimientos. Some versions add celery (ick,) and top with buttered crumbs or slivered almonds... or both. Around here, the finished product usually fluctuates with my mood, how much time I have to make it and what's in the pantry.
     It is fast and easy. You can make it ahead if you like, then bake it just before dinner. Throughout the years, I have employed all manner of cooked chicken. This is a great way to disguise the upcoming Thanksgiving turkey reruns.
     Recently, I needed to use up some cooked chicken breasts left from Chicken Southern Living, with even a bit of gravy hanging around. I took it to dinner with friends and came home with an empty dish... Reuse, repurpose and recycle ;)
Ingredients
1 pound spaghetti noodles
2 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large jar, sliced red pimientos, drained
3 T. butter
3 T. AP flour
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 t. chicken base
1/2 c. low fat milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 c. sharp cheddar
1/2 c. parmesan, shaved
2 t. dried italian seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. italian bread crumbs
1/2 stick of butter, melted
Directions
Cook spaghetti noodles until al dente. Drain and keep warm. In a large saute pan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add butter and mushrooms to pan and cook for three or four minutes. Add pimientos and warm through. Toss with flour, then add wine and chicken base. Stir in milk and soup, making sure that lumps of flour are incorporated.
At this point, I usually dump the whole shebang... cooked chicken, soup and veggie mixture, pasta, seasoning and cheese into a large mixing bowl to blend. It is easier to move around this way. Add lots of black pepper. Taste to see if it needs any salt... it usually doesn't.
Turn it all into a large casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Blend the bread crumbs and melted butter together and sprinkle over the top to make it pretty. Bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until it gets bubbly and brown on top.
Serve it with a salad and garlic bread...
so. darned. easy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... Just kidding:)
     At the stroke of midnight between October 31st and November 1st, a change comes over me mentally and emotionally. I'm not sure if it is in part due to November being my birth-month... or because I love the Fall weather so much. Maybe it's all of the colors... I'm partial to vibrant yellow, orange and red.
     While many people seem to revel in the gory Halloween festivities, I thrive on the true autumn season of nature and of thankfulness. Gone is the abundance of fake blood, snaggle-toothed jack-o-lanterns and artificial cobwebs. The real fall can finally begin... the one that God dreamed up. And He is the most amazing artist!
     It occurs to me that even those who forego an attitude of grateful living for the other eleven months fully embrace it about now. I'm okay with that.
     November is for expressing a love for acorns, pinecones and falling leaves. A time for sweaters and boots. A season of apples, fireplaces and piping hot drinks designed to keep our fingers warm. The month when we gather with family and friends to count our many blessings.
     My house is anxiously hanging on every line of the thermometer's slow downward slide... Ready to wrap its inhabitants in a cozy, inviting hug. The fireplace impatiently perches on its tile edge, ready to cast a warm, fire-y glow.
     A wild bittersweet wreath hangs near the front door beckoning visitors to enter. The miniature pine trees and acorns have been unwrapped and displayed. Furry throws and velvet pillows have replaced their linen and cotton counterparts.
     Even the menus are changing. Instead of sugarplums (or salads,) visions of soups and stews dance in my head. Cinnamon and nutmeg scent the air. A bowl of crisp apples sits on the kitchen island.
     This time of year, marshmallows and cocoa are always on hand and the coffeepot stands at attention... ready to brew at a moment's notice.
the housewife's tortellini soup
     Is this a familiar scene at your house? I'll bet many of you can relate similar feelings.
simply delicious scones
I'm so excited! I feel like baking something... Happy Fall, ya'll!