Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For the Love of Pecan Pie....

My husband once told me a story of a man....a man who walked to the grocery store in a blizzard for ice cream.  When I asked why, I was told that it was for the love...of pecan pie. can not eat pecan pie without ice cream, right?  This is a true story, the man is one of my husband's co-workers (who will be referred to as 'Mister Mambo' to protect his identity) and this harrowing journey took place during the blizzard of 2011.  

 Last week, I called my husband while he was at work and we had the following conversation:

Husband: "Oh hey, Mister Mambo wants to know if you have a recipe for pecan pie."

Me: "No.  Does he have internet access?  Because I am sure he can find one on the internet, that's what I do."  The words came out with a bit more sass than I intended but... I was at the grocery store and... bah, I have no excuse.

My husband repeated my snarky response with great relish, as he always does.  It almost disturbs me how much my spouse enjoys watching me heap abuse on others, but I guess that is what keeps the fires burning a fist full of years, two kids, and a dog later.  I guess.  I digress... 

Friday, November 4, 2011

One Meal Becomes Two - Part Three: Chicken and Dumplings

Finally?! Right?  Well let me advise you ahead of time that I am full to the brim with fail.  The pictures I took of this dish look absolutely wretched, and it was already in my belly before I realized I had snapped no photos of the finished product.  But...-but-...once you have a stomach full of chicken and dumplings you will forgive me...I promise.

Let's get to it!

Chicken and Dumplings


1 stick of butter
A few tablespoons of flour
6 cups (give or take) of stock

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Meal Becomes Two... Part Two: Stock our last installment, the rice became rice pudding.  Now?  The chicken must become Chicken and Dumplings of course.  This recipe is not hard but there are a lot of moving parts, so I have broken it down into two segments to hopefully minimize the confusion.  What do you make first?  Why, the chicken stock of course...which is a very versatile component that gets quite a lot of mileage in our house.  Typically after Thanksgiving I gather all the bones and spend a lazy Sunday making stock which will get frozen for use throughout the year.  I always quietly hope my stash lasts till the following never does.  I love my stock.  

Another reason why I chose to isolate this portion of the recipe is because of the aforementioned versatility.  There will be recipes to come that will call for stock in large or small quantities, or places where I suggest swapping water for stock to get more flavor out of an otherwise bland element.  Rather than repeat the recipe again, or have you schlog through the Chix and Dump recipe to fish out the stock directions, I have decided to let it be its own thing.  Hopefully, though, once you've made it you will never have to look at the recipe again.  It's not rocket science, but it is delicious.

Here we will be using the remnants of 'last night's' chicken to brew up this particular pot of liquid wonderful.  First thing first, strip that bad boy of all usable meat and set aside.  If you are terribly efficient you can chop the meat in preparation for the eventual dumlinging, but I don't really do efficient.  Everything else will be detailed under the heading.

Monday, October 10, 2011

And One Meal Becomes Two...

I started meal planning a couple of years ago to prevent the age old grocery store problem.  You all know what I'm talking about...the "I spent $100 at the grocery store and have nothing to eat."  I was guilty of buying one full meal, and the rest?  Ghosts of meals that should have been.  I was also working part time and just thought it would make my life easier, not having to think about what was going onto my table when I got home... annnnd it gave me less of an excuse to impulse buy McDonalds.

It was around this time that I embraced the philosophy of...the two-fer; one meal that instantly lends itself to two.  So...baking a chicken?  Great, open a few cans the next day and you've got White Bean Chicken Chili.  And it is -almost- like you cooked two days in a row...which in my house makes it somewhat excusable when there is Hamburger Helper in Dad's lunch pail the next day.  Somewhat.  It is borderline....very borderline.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sh#t My Dad Owns: The Mandoline new obsession is pickling.  I could lie and say that it is because the bounty of fruit at the Farmers Market is waning with the approaching cold, but in truth?  Much like birthing children, I am just sick to death of making jam; the late nights, the weight gain (this part is mostly imaginary...mostly), and everything being sticky.   The last part I will probably not get much relief on because I have a preschooler and a toddler in my house and...*sigh* they are just...always sticky or wet, then they just...touch my stuff.  Children are gross, but I digress.  Also much like giving birth, my biological clock will fool me into forgetting all the uncomfortable bits, and come Spring I will be rejoicing in the berry harvest. 

The remaining months of the Farmers Market, however, will be devoted to pickles (till I get tired and do something else...I'll keep you posted).  This Saturday I pickled up a few bundles of dirty, but otherwise noble looking carrots which were immediately earmarked for some sort of sweet, tangy, ginger pickle.  Almost immediately after I had that thought, my mind wandered toward my father's arsenal of kitchen crap.  Of course...OF COURSE he would have something that was going to make my prep a breeze...I just knew it.  I was father owns a Mandoline...which I borrowed upon my most recent visit (after returning the swanky slap chop).  Unlike the slap chop, however, the Mandoline is a little bit of holycrapawesome and actually used by people who know what the hell they are doing in the kitchen.  Here, take a look...

Your veggies slide right into the waiting, adjustable blade.

Yeah, sweet right?  And it worked.  Here is a little detail I bet you did not also works on HUMAN FLESH.  However, it only does that if you are too dumb to remember the piece that protects your hand from the blade and know...use it anyway...with your kids in the kitchen...close to bedtime.  I think I traumatized my four year old by nearly hacking off the tip of my middle finger while nagging her could have been so many things.  So many...many things.  I ended up doing a little surgery with the baby's nail clippers, wrapping the whole disaster in a Buzz Lightyear band-aide, and wondering for just a moment where my dignity had gone.  Fortunately, and I am sure this is the burning question on all your minds, there are no finger shavings in the carrots...which turned out beautifully.

The Mandoline is Win...neatly sliced, super sharp Win.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yucky Stuff or Green Sauce Used Three Ways

I have this thing about fresh herbs, and basil is one of my favs.  While it does not give me quite the same culogasm that cilantro does (I *love* cilantro, just thinking about it gives me goosebumps) I still find basil to be quite the irresistibly fragrant little minx.  And so?  If I am at the Farmers Market and it looks good, I tend to buy it, often with no real purpose in mind.  But then...since when do you need a purpose to buy fresh herbs right?  You -find- a purpose, right? Wrong.  When you have children, and an obsessive commitment to canning, things get lost in the shuffle. 

Such was the case last week, I bought two large bundles of deliciously scented basil with high aspirations, and what I ended up with was a bag of swiftly wilting leaves.  Wilting leaves and deep feelings of regret.  I was not just going to let these lovely darlings go quietly into that good night, though, I had to save them.  I -had- to.  And so?  I created what my daughter would eventually dub 'Yucky Stuff' (She never actually tasted it, just made a snap judgment, and that became the gospel according to Mini-Me.  Nothing to be done but accept it...yeah, the inmates TOTALLY run the asylum around here.)  However, contrary to the opinion of our resident preschooler, my Basil Rescue Sauce was actually quite tasty...and quite useful.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First...An Overdue Update

Booze...both of my updates have to do with the glorious stuff.  You know, the wonder beverage that makes your kids more manageable and your spouse better looking?  Yes, that.

Moving right along...

1.  Follow-up to Experiment #1 Booze is Best.
If you are just joining us, please take a moment to skim this post.  It will help all of this make some kind of sense (nothing on this blog ever makes a -lot- of sense, so you know).  So...we started off with this...
And ended up with...
this and this...

The unfortunate part about this recipe is the way pickled fruit looks floating in the bottle.  After two weeks those lovely, nubile little hotties I packed into the jar looked like shriveled happy hour cougars. You know...the leathery skinned grandmas in low cut shirts sipping cosmos? The ones you are reluctant to make eye contact with?  I had a strainer full of them, and though I typically try to use leftovers like this...these ladies went straight into the bin.  My husband and I took cautious sips of the strained liquor as one of my cousins watched, making comments about moonshine.  While it was not bathtub gin, it was nothing I wanted to sip over ice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Win and Pictures

Ladies and Gents (primarily ladies it seems) I have been shamed today by someone who was inspired to start a blog after reading mine.  Kia is the author of an amazingly funny blog called Try Something New Today, and has been cranking out posts while I have know....not.  I assure you though it is not because I have been whiling away my the hours eating bon bons and getting fish pedicures.  It is because I have been working on a pseudo business venture for my jams and stuff.  I Make Jams Because I Have No Life.

I have not forgotten you all, though.  I have a camera full of tasty snapshots to share with you this week, hopefully to earn your forgiveness.  I know that your spiritual sun and moon rises and sets upon my regular distribution of snark.  I know.  Yes yes, I know.  For the rest of the week I will bring you posts chock full of win and pictures.  Win...and pictures.  Please stay tuned,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Let's Talk About Extract, Baby...

Vanilla is, next to salt, possibly my favorite flavoring in all of the wide cooking world.  Anything sweet can always do with a little touch of the vanilla, always.  Always.  If I were to have a Pwnd By Girls rule book, 'Add More Salt and/or Vanilla' would be on there right before 'When in Doubt, Wash Your Hands' and right after 'Wear Undergarments in the Kitchen AT ALL TIMES'.   There is just something amazing about what that little bean does to sugary profiles that just makes my heart boogie and my pallet sing.

However... vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world, the first being saffron (looking at you Heather2021.. FYI still pissed. Saffron.).  While I might have caviar tastes, living on a single income means we definitely have hotdog money...or rather...extract money.  Even extract can get a bit pricy with liberal usage... and yeah, I'm what you would call a liberal user.  During the Fall/Winter I can, in all honesty, burn through a bottle of that stuff in a week...two weeks if I ration.  I double it in my cookies, add a few drops to my sweet breads (that was a bread description, not a euphemism for the thymus gland), drip some into pie filling, splash it into mulled cider, and then...of course...there are my various sweet potato preparations.  At this rate, I can not afford to even use what my beloved Ina Garten calls 'good vanilla extract', oh no, I am relegated to big box generics or perhaps -perhaps- an overpriced brand name.
I thought I lucked out a few years ago when I stumbled on a mega bottle of vanilla extract at Costco for about six dollars.  I am not going to lie, I busted a little groove in the massive spice aisle...just for a second.  I might have done the Cabbage Patch, there is no telling.  Bargains put me into a brief rhythmic delirium.  That is why I am slightly shocked that I did not start table dancing when I stumbled upon a recipe for vanilla extract on a blog I stalk called Food in Jars (take a look at it if you have time, Marisa is my hero).  She recommends preparing it and then portioning this ambrosia out as gifts, but I say...screw you guys, the Zombie Apocalypse is coming and I need a stockpile of extract as part of my emergency rations.  However, I will be kind enough to share the recipe with you...complete with pictures.

A couple things you should know before starting this project.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Inspiring Friends to Share...

A friend of mine delighted my foul little heart today by posting a link on my FB page about 'that guy' and said it immediately reminded her of me.  In this particular instance 'that guy' was actually a girl named 'Heather2021'. Please take a moment to follow the link and read her eloquent critique of this perfectly good recipe.

Welcome back.  Let me start this rant off by saying if any one of you is this Heather2021 and this post is making you cranky, please do the following before flaming my blog.

  1. Remove Your Hands From the Keyboard
  2. Slap Yourself
  3. Set Your Kitchen on Fire
  4. Never Breed
  5. Slap Yourself Again
Most of all, remember that my sentiments are a direct response to your idiocy.  For everyone else who is not Heather, I offer you a direct quote from my FB page...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mom's Quick and Dirty Beef Stroganoff

Look at them smug.
I am the child of a working mother, one who readily professed, loud and often, her hatred of cooking.  Needless to say my love of the culinary arts is not a legacy, I am new chefy, not old chefy... please do not judge me too harshly.  Typically dinnertime in my house looked like this; can of English peas warmed with a dollop of low-fat margarine and a tablespoon of sugar, boxed rice pilaf, and chicken baked to death with a liberal dose of Morton's Season-All (it really did season all in our house...-all-). Sometimes there was spaghetti with English peas, sometimes there were dry pork chops with English peas. That was her go to vegetable on nights when she returned from the government trenches to three starving people.  It was all about simplicity you see?  Crack open a can and go...autopilot.  One unintended consequence of this pea overuse is that I despise them and most canned vegetables with the white hot fury of a thousand suns. ..and season salt too...but less so.

Every so often, however, the clouds would break and we would get a temporary reprieve from bottled spaghetti sauce and overcooked chicken; we would get Mom's version of Beef Stroganoff (with English peas, but what can you do?).  Back when we were eating red meat (pre-Turkagedon), it was a sour, saucy bit of deliciousness constructed within five minutes and on the table in twenty (later she tried it with turkey   Once, utterly famished, I asked how long it was going to take her to cook and she said "I'm making Beef Stroganoff, baby, it'll be ready shortly.  It's quick and dirty.".  Quick and dirty.  We did not have it often because my mother was the consummate dieter, reluctant to let us partake of such delights as regular soda, real cheese or in this case... real sour cream.  Oh, but when we did?  It was a steaming mountain of ground beef, ornamenting a split pop tin biscuit or curly egg noodles.  It was easy to ignore those wretched peas when they were placed aside (or sometimes beneath)  such profound, childhood excellence.