Sunday, April 27, 2008

French Coconut Grilled Chicken

I think that the concept of marinating chicken in French dressing and then baking or grilling it has been around forever. Last year, I was on a huge grill kick and experimenting with flavor combinations when I came up with this recipe. It is something even my "pickiest" eater likes.

To make the marinade, mix the following:
1 bottle french dressing
1 can coconut milk
1 can cream of coconut
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp hot sauce or buffalo wing sauce
1 tbsp garlic powder
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
Reserve 1-2 cups marinade for basting.

Marinate chicken pieces for at least 2 hours, longer if time allows - overnight is preferable.

Grill at 300 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until juices run clear. During the last 15 minutes of grilling, baste with reserved marinade.

I the past, I have served this with coconut rice, Asian vegetables and a mandarin orange salad with vinaigrette and fried won ton strips - it was a great pairing. Tonight, we just had vegetables and a pre-packaged pasta side dish - you know how it goes at the end of the month when you are trying to use what you have in your freezer and pantry! Everyone got seconds of at least one thing, so I would say this meal worked!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leo's Gravy

Leo was my granddaddy. Why did I call him Leo? He ran an appliance business and when you went to work for him, he would forget to answer to "Grandpa" and eventually I ended up calling him Leo all of the time.

Leo was a fabulous cook. He was fun to cook with - like me, he never used recipes and liked to make things up as he went along. His employee Christmas parties were legendary. He would give everyone an envelope with their bonus, and empty the cash registers. He had dart boards with dollar amounts, a wheel of fortune, and lots of other games where employees could either keep their bonus, or try their luck at the games to make more. Everyone looked forward to the food all year. He would cook about 3 whole prime ribs, salad, potatoes, desserts, but what everyone wanted was his rice and gravy. It was the best I have ever eaten. I have even seen people not put meat on their plate so there would be more room for the gravy!

That was for the employees. Anytime we had roast for Sunday dinner, he made gravy. I would show up early with the kids and do most of the chopping and we made it together. In later years, he sat at the kitchen table, I made the gravy and he told me stories of his childhood and did the taste testing. By the time the rest of the family showed up, the gravy was done and no one ever knew the difference!
Tonight we are having a roast, so I though I would share the recipe. Leo never cooked small, so I have cut the measurements to the size needed for a "normal" meal.

1 large pkg fresh mushrooms, washed and quartered
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
2 cans Campbell's beef broth (not the same if you don't use Campbell's)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
Drippings from the roast

Saute vegetables in butter until onions are transparent. Add drippings from roast. Add soups. Simmer until thick - at least 20 minutes. If the gravy is not thick enough, a small amount of cornstarch that has been dissolved in water can be added.
Serve over rice.

This is the whole meal - roast, rice, gravy, squash, green beans, corn, and cucumbers with tomatoes - perfection on a plate.

When I know I am cooking his food, I miss him more, but I feel so blessed to have had this man so close to me for 32 years. He taught me life was meant to be lived, moments meant to enjoy, and simple pleasures savored. In my life, he was one of the few people who loved me for who I was and who I could always count on to be real. When I am old and look back on my life, I am sure one of the things I will be thankful for is that I had Leo. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This Is A Keeper

Now what should I name it? Here is what happened. The boys wanted to make pizza. Now pizza is one of my favorite foods, but I was not in the mood, plus I had some mushrooms and puff pastry I needed to use. I made the pizza dough for the boys. While it was resting, I made something special for the rest of us-
Salt/Pepper/garlic and then Saute the following:
Sliced baby portabellas, fresh spinach, onions
Mix ricotta and mozzerella
Line pan with one sheet puff pastry. Cook at 400 for 10 min.
On the pastry, layer cheese, veggies, chopped chicken, and sliced tomatoes.
Cover with 2nd sheet pastry and cook 20 min. or until golden.
Serve with marinara

This was absolutely wonnderful. It cooked along side the pizzas, and everyone was happy!! There are no measurements because I threw together what I had.

Any suggestions for a name?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is this really taco salad?

The kids were gone, and I had a little leftover browned ground chuck that I needed to do something with. When DH emailed and requested his Mom's "taco salad", I figured, "Why not?" The kids will barely eat it and it meant that I would not have a kitchen to clean tonight.

The recipe is simple - mix browned ground beef, kidney beans, and enough Catalina dressing to make it saucy. To assemble the salad, mix lettuce, shredded cheddar and Fritos corn chips. Add a few spoons of the beef mixture, mix, and top with sour cream. I will say this - it is really good - especially if you let it sit a little before you eat it.
I was looking around today and saw the Taco Salad post at What's Cooking, and I wondered how what I threw together tonight was ever considered taco salad? Fritos, the beef and cheddar, the lettuce - what? I make a "real" taco salad - lots of veggies, grilled meat, avacodos, etc. tortilla strips - something the rest of the world would recognize.
I began to look around to see where this recipe came from - especially after the whole Cindy McCain story about stealing recipes from food network. I find the recipe on all kind of sites - recipe sites, a cajun site, and a military family site. Maybe that is where it came from. His dad was an officer. Maybe it came from an old officer's wives cookbook. I still can't find the original recipe. Does anybody out there know?
By the way - the salad is great every once in a while - just not taco salad!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2 for 1 - Chicken Pot Pie / Chicken & Dumplins

First of all, this meal started out as a pot pie. The "baby boy" came in - he does not like pot pie. When he walked in from school and smelled the chickens boiling, he said, "Oh boy, we're having dumplings!" We weren't,but I know that in a pinch, a pie crust can result in a dumpling!

Keep in mind that I generally cook at least 8-10 servings, but this can easily be halved.

Pot Pie:
2 or 3 small chickens
2 onions
several stalks celery
2 large potatoes
2 cups mixed vegetables
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
3-5 cups chicken stock (more if needed for the right consistency)
Pie Crust (I make my own, but the refrigerated ones work OK too)
Salt and Pepper

In a stock pot, cover chickens with water - add salt to taste (I use a couple of tablespoons for a large pot). Add onions and celery and bring to a boil. Simmer until chicken falls off the bone. Set aside to cool.
In the meantime, peel and dice potatoes. Boil in salted water until they can barely be pierced with a fork. Drain.

Make pie crust, or roll out refrigerated crust. Line the bottom of a casserole with crust. Let crust overlap the sides of the casserole dish.

Take chickens from cooled stock. Pull chicken from bones. Strain fat from top of stock.

Make a roux of 2 tbsp butter and 3 -4 tbsp of flour. Cook until lightly browned, whisking constantly. Add milk. Continue to whisk constantly while adding chicken broth until sauce is a medium consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In casserole dish, layer chicken, vegetables, and potatoes, repeat. Cover with white sauce. Top with pie crust.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.


Now for the "second thought" dumplings. Roll the remaining crust out thin and cut in to small pieces. Be sure to leave plenty of flour on dumplings so that it will thicken the stock. Bring remaining stock to a boil. Add dumplings one at a time. Boil for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add some of the pulled chicken. There you go - 2 dishes so everyone is happy!!
If I had this to do over, I would make more pie crust so that there would be more than 2 servings, and use my crust recipe with oil instead of butter because it would make a sturdier dumpling.

A nice twist on a roasted corn salad

Sunday was a birthday party day andaround here, that means everyone shows up and brings a dish. After running around finishing the cake, I decided I needed to bring one more thing, so I made a roasted corn salad. I have had 2 people call for the recipe, so I decided I bettter post before I forget it!

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2-3 red bell peppers, sliced
1/3-1/2 cup green onions, sliced (I use the white and green parts)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp tuscan italian (I use Newman's Own) salad dressing
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Heat a nonstick skillet to medim high. Place kernels in pan stirring occasionally until kernels begin to roast (they may even pop a little). When kernels have a nice "sprinkling" of brown color, remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

Place kernels in bowl and add remaining ingredients. Let marinate for about 30 minutes before serving. REALLY SIMPLE, but REALLY GOOD!!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The evolution of the "Birthday Cake"

It started out innocently 17 years ago. We decided to elope. Someone found out and decided I would always regret it if we did not have a wedding - they were wrong, but still entitled to an opinion. So the women took over, they pulled of a nice wedding in 5 days. THe only thing I was stubborn about was the grooms cake. I don't know why I got it in my head that I needed to make it, but I did. Looking back, it wasn't very pretty, but it was still a beginning.

Foward to the girl child's 1st birthday. We lived on a farm. I decided she was having a farm party. We rented the legion, I decorated with homeade paper mache fish, steamers balloons -everything I could think of. Then I made a cake with a farm scene - twizzlers for the barn, tiny animals, etc. Birthday number 2 was Minnie Mouse. You guessed it. A HUGE Minnie head with about a pound of buttercream. Suddenly, there was a pattern. The second kid came along, and I couldn't leave him out.
So it went, and here I am - maybe 50 themed cakes in trying to figure out something different to do or Lu - he asked for a golf ball and a putter. I decided to do a large golf ball using fondant round pan and fondant (see pic) make a putter, and use different kinds of cupcakes to give it the "feel" of a course.

I made strawberry, vanilla and smores cupcakes. The smores came from Martha's cupcake show. Besides being fabulous, I let the kids help me torch the tops and they had fun. I used a mini bread loaf pan to make the square for the "putter" Then cut and rolled a paper towel roll and iced the end for the shaft. On the left is when we started to assemble it. Oh, and I almost forgot - I found candles in the regular cake section at wal-mart that spelled happy birthday and looked like golf flags. He was very happy, and it was kind of fun to do. Everyone liked the regular cupcakes, but they all flipped over the Smores one - came and asked for the recipe. They were so easy - I even used a boxed mix for the cake part (wait - what did I just hear? I think it was my MIL rolling over in her grave!! Sorry Ann - this would have passed for 100% home made!).
If I can find pictures, I think I will make a page on this blog with as many of the cakes as I can remember - I am always looking for new ideas and am sure others are too. Here is the finished cake:

Thanks for the pizza and poker Midgee - I had time to finish this.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kids in the Kitchen/ Knowing you are a "Foodie"

Kids in the Kitchen - Friday night is generally the night I don't cook that much, so I spent some time thinking about my kids and cooking. This was inspired by the contest being held at What's Cooking . I have always tried to encourage them all, but I am always amazed at how different kids are.
My oldest truly appreciates the finished product - she likes new flavors and is up to try anything. She understands what is really good, and what is just average. She also understands and appreciates the process of creating great food, but she really does not have the desire to do it herself. I think she wishes to be a great cook just for the connection with me, but for no other reason. She would be a fantastic food critic, but may never strive to be a great chef. That is ok. If I can just teach her to go a few things really well, she will be fine with everything else (I know you read this and I luv ya baby!).
The middle one enjoys cooking and eating. He is not always as open to trying new things, but is certainly open to learning how to cook anything. He likes to try new things and I sense in him the desire to make dishes that people will enjoy. He also asks a lot of questions and wants to make things that look and taste good. Right now, his best dish is an omelet, but he is always interested in learning something new, and seems to really listen when I show him new things.
The baby - well, he is the pickiest thing I have ever seen, but what he loves to eat, he really loves. In fact, he is as addicted to cooking shows as I am. He has perfected his Sunday night supper of pancakes and sausage. That may be because he realized that if he did not cook, Sunday night is automatically FFYN (thanks Mo) Fend-For Yourself Night. He loves to talk about recipes and techniques he sees on TV.

I really saw the differences in their cooking aptitude/techniques a couple of years ago when I decided that I would devote one Saturday to each child - we would go and buy a cookbook with recipes we had never eaten, and create a great dinner for the family. The oldest picked Chinese and we made an unbelievable meal - she mentioned it occasionally, but it was like "that was fun", maybe we will do it again. The middle chose a themed meal - Halloween - he enjoyed every minute, and occasionally mentions it,but he seems more interested in the day to day cooking I do. The baby chose Italian - even fresh pasta. He stuck with me all day (at that point he was only 6 or 7), ate almost nothing we cooked, but has talked about it, what everyone did or did not like and when he sees something on TV that might be better than what he cooked, he tells me to remember.
That is so crazy to me. How can you have 3 kids who are so different? I guess if I look at myself and my sister, I should understand. In general, most of what I cook is really good. I use experience more than I do recipes, but I am always seeking way to improve and learn new techniques. When I was 10 or so , I started cooking for my family, and by the time I was a teenager, I cooked 3-5 meals a week. When we were kids, she was happy cleaning up after me - as long as I cooked. When she married, she acquired a few dishes that she does fairly well - as long as she follows the recipe, but I never see her as being an adventurer. Given this, my kids should not surprise me. Even so, all of them enjoy making homemade pizza, so I may enter this int the What's Cooking contest.
OK - on the "Foodie" thing. Last night, the bubble bath and book never happened. It was after midnight before things were done. So my crew knows that if it is not "steak night", they can count on Fridays being easy on mama - homemade pizzas, nachos, frozen chicken strips, or something I do not really have to cook. Tonight, it was my laziest - frozen pizza. The boys (as usual) were happy with the Tombstone pizza. The girl child is watching calories, so I got her a Kashi pizza - it wasn't that great, so she only ate a slice. Oh well - it was worth a try - next time, we will do homemade so everyone can control what they want.
ANYWAY, frozen food means that I finally get the bubble bath I wanted last night! It occurred to me that I might be a "foodie" when I realized that I carried a book, a cooking mag, and a decorating mag with me and ended up reading the magazines for cooking ideas! The new Gourmet magazine has some fantastic recipes, but I may have to go Greek first a recipe from Ivy at . Her food looks like it is exceptional.
Enough for now - I am sure I will have something good on the stove tomorrow - the boys are going fishing!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Check out these vegetables!

I thought that the boys would want something fresh and good since they would be outside all afternoon. I decided to run by Farmer Browns on the way to work and I am so glad I did. They had tiny new potatoes, squash, pickling cucumbers and the steal of the day - red bell peppers for 40 cents each! Now I have to decide what to make to with it. I am sure some kind of pork. I will post after dinner.

It is now 9:50. I have just cloroxed one counter (when I win the lottery, I will never deal with cheap formica again!), working on the rest of the kitchen, just put a load of laundry in the dryer and am fixing lunches for Friday. What I would like to be doing is sitting in a warm tub with a great book and a glass of wine, but that is not happening anytime soon. So for now, what is pushing me through the night until the work is done is posting on this awesome meal while I am watching last night's Top Chef.

Menu for tonight: a little salad of cucumbers, red peppers and onions with balsamic vinegar, stuffed squash, fresh snap beans, tiny new potatoes with milk, roasted red peppers and grilled pork tenderlion. I got the thumbs up from all 6 of them, so I know it came off right.

I am only posting one recipe - it is for the stuffed squash.

10-12 (the smallest you can find) yellow crooknecked squash, washed well.

1 tbsp butter

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Prick squash with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, split squash and use a small spoon to scoop out shells. Save "pulp". Mix pulp with butter, bread crumbs and cheese. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Fill squash shells with this mixture.

Spinkle with a little shredded cheddar. Bake (covered) at 350 for 20 minutes, and then remove cover and let cheese brown.

The following is a picture of the meal - not the best plating, but much thanks to DD who puts up with her mother and continues to take and send pictures!! Even the pickiest of the 7 ate this.

Now I am off to finish cleaning and packing lunches. Springtime vegetables in Georgia make me a happy cook!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I cook too much/Chicken and Pasta

First of all, I wish I had taken a picture last night because dinner was fantastic. Too bad the girl child didn't get home in time with the camera. What did I cook? Simple - chicken breast strips seasoned with garlic, salt, thyme, basil and sauteed in olive oil. Sprinkled w/a little mozzarella. Served over bucatini rigati and marinara. Easy and perfect.
Anyway, as I was cooking and thinking about this blog, the thought occurred to me that I may just cook way to much. As in, maybe I am spoiling this whole crew. Growing up, almost everything we ate was from a box, the freezer, or something someone else cooked. My mom will cook, but she does not enjoy it. On the other hand, HIS mom never cooked anything from a box - he had never eaten hamburger helper or even a boxed cake. What a rude awakening for him. The funny thing is for a long time, there was a balance - I really cooked once or twice a week, did takeout some, and easy boxed or frozen some. Somehow over the period of the past 17 years, there has been a shift. As I look at this blog I realize that I cook probably 5 days a week and depend on quick and easy or takeout the other 2 days.
Is that a bad thing? I don't really think so. I love the whole process of making a meal, but I know not everybody does things this way. I just don't want my boys to grow up and tell their wives the same thing I heard at first - well Mom always made that homemade, or Mama always cooked it like this! As for now, I think I will try to keep a good record on this blog so the instructions will be there if they ever want to know how Mama did it!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Crab soup and tuna melt

Crab Soup:

1 medium onion
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 c. chicken or seafood stock
1 c. milk
1 cup lump crab meat
old bay seasoning/tony cachere seasoning
splash of heavy cream (if desired)
In soup pot over medium heat, saute onions in 1/2 tbsp of butter until translucent. Remove onoins and add remaining butter and flour. Cook , constanslty stirring for 4-6 minutes. Slowly add broth. Add milk, crab meat, and onions. Season with old bay and cajun seasoning to taste. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add a splash of cream (if desired). Garnish with green onions and croutons.
Tuna melt:
1 can tuna drained
1-2 tbsp mayo (regular or light)
1/4 c. chopped dill pickle
1 tbsp chopped onion (if desired)
Cajun seasoning
Grape Tomatoes
Cheddar Cheese
Mix first four ingredients, add cajun seasoning to taste. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. For each melt, toast 1 piece of bread, spread with tuna, top with sliced grape tomatoes, sprinkle with cheddar and broil until bubbly.
Quick and easy on a rainy afternoon.

How to Fry Fish - southern style

Step one - send your kids fishing and then clean the fish - or go to the store and buy some nice filets (catfish, bass, perch, grouper - almost anything will do).

Generously salt and pepper fish. In a paper bag, make a mixture of 1/2 cornmeal, 1/2 plain flour, and seasoned salt to taste. Put 3 or 4 fish in the bag and shake to coat.

Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet until it reaches about 300 degrees. Fry 1 fish to test the oil. When fish is browned, take out and drain on paper towels.

Adjust temp if needed. Add 4-5 fish to pan and fry until browned.

Serve with grits, slaw and fries.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Heck of a butt rub!!

The secret is in the prep work. I found boston butts on sale this week and was pumped about making some good barbeque. I cut slits in the meat and stuffed about 20 (yes 20) cloves of garlic into the meat. Then I made a rub of garlic, hickory seasoned salt, paprika, dried onions, mustard, cayenne, white pepper, and season all. I wrapped in tight in foil and cooked it on low heat on the grill for 3 hours. Then I opened it up, added a bunch of wood chips that I had soaked and shut the lid and let it smoke. It took about 3 more hours for it to fall off the bone, and I kept adding chips for smoke. Usually I pull the pork and mix it with sauce, but this was so good, no one even wanted sauce.We had baked beans, corn on the cob and macaroni and cheese with it. Next time, I will buy more and cook at least 2 since it takes so long.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Gourmet Sliders

Everyone was off for spring break this week, and the whole crew thought we should try making sliders. I mixed ground chuck and my seasonings and heated my skillet to med. At first I had a hard time making the right sized patty. THEN I figured out that if I rolled them in the size of a medium meatball and used my large spatula to press them down as much as I could when I first put them in the pan, they turned out perfectly. I don't remember exactly how much ground chuck I had - I think between 2 & 3 lbs., but I ended up with about 40 sliders.
I used small white rolls and King's Hawaiian Rolls to make the sandwiches. For some of the burgers, I did classic toppings - cheese, pickles, mayo, mustard, ketchup and tiny chopped onions, I also cooked mushroom and onions, used mayo and a little hearty mustard and then topped it with them mushroom/onions and crumbled blue cheese, also did some with horseradish sauce instead of mayo, pepper jack cheese, a slice of bacon, and sliced grape tomatoes. These were all great.

1 lb. ground chuck
1 tsp. garlic
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. worchestire
2 tsp. seasoned salt

Roll into 1 inch meatballs. Use a spatula to press each one down in skillet over medium heat until cooked through.

For mushrooms and onion topping, slice about 2 onions and 1 cup of mushrooms. After burgers are done, wipe out skillet, add veggies and 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Cook on medium heat until tender.

I served them with potato skins - the whole crew loved making their own variations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quick Dinner - Chicken Fajitas

OK, it has been crazy this week - no time to post. Since last week, I made pink eyed peas, potato salad, chicken fajitas, and paella. It has been crazy, but I tried to take pics. I will at least post a recipe if not a pic.

Chicken fajitas:

2 lb. boneless/skinless chicken breast cut in 1 inch strips
4 onions
2 bell peppers (red or green)

Place one tbsp oil in pan. Add chicken and vegetables, sprinkle liberally with fajita seasoning (I use Fiesta Brand). Saute on medium heat until nearly done. Add taco seasoning (taco bell or old el paso), and cook until meat is cooked through.

In a soft tortilla, serve with mixture mexican/spanish rice, sour cream, fresh tomatoes and green onions.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Springtime supper

Spring is such a tease. I walk out the door - the sun is fabulous - pear trees are blooming - and birds are singing. It makes me want too cook fresh vegetables - slice soem domatoes, cook soe peas. But let's be real. It is not even April - to get anything close to fresh, I would need to take out a loan at the bank.
So then I am an idiot and ask for suggestions. Everyone wants fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Since the sun has put me in a nice yellow mood, I decided it was a perfect day for it.

Right now, the potatoes are boiling and the chicken is soaking in buttermilk and spices. As soon as the baby boy gets off the bus, we will head out to the back porch and start heating the cast iron skillet. When I get done, I will add some pictures.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chocolate Pound Cake

The best there is. Period.

In a mixing bowl, cream:
3 sticks of butter
3 cups of sugar
½ cup of cocoa
5 eggs
2 sp. vanilla
Add the following, alternating flour and milk:
3 cups of plain flour mixed with 2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of milk

DO NOT preheat the oven. Pour batter in a pan, and bake at 300° for 1 ¼-1 ½ hours.
Let cool and ice

1 stick of butter
1/3 cup of cocoa
1 box powdered sugar
Strong hot coffee

Mix first 3 ingredients and then add coffee until icing reaches spreading consistency.

This is my favorite cake to bake - from my mother-in-law who could cook just about anything.

Here I go again

I am at it again. This time, inspired by Rosie I am going to do the blog thing - but about what I am good at - cooking.

I am not an "Oh, I watched Food Network and look what I made" kind of cook. For me, it comes from somewhere deep in my soul. The kind that people say "Damn, how did you make that?" The kind that is so good, you not only wanna slap your mama, but slap Paula Deen while you are at it.

A run down of things cooked this week: Shrimp and Grits, Chicken Parmesan, Beef Stroganoff, and Paella. The rest of the week will probably include Cubed Steak and Mashed Potatoes and something with Pork Cutlets.

I will start posting recipes as and pics, and maybe even some how to video -thanks to the greatest creation ever - the Flip Video as I go.

I can't wait. This is gonna be good.