Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Toothless Wonder

I was driving home from dropping my boys off at school one morning this week and as I pulled back into my driveway, I truly saw a site for sore eyes. Our one set of neighbors are cute and elderly and somewhat, um, quirky. There was the lady, out in her front yard, wearing a long flowing purple bathrobe that zipped from head to toe. Her snow white locks were neatly pinned back (well, for the most part - she did miss a few) and then, there were her teeth (or lack thereof). Still in a container by the bathroom sink no doubt, she gave me a toothless grin and wave as she pulled weeds from her flower beds. What on earth could this possibly have to do with food? As all my posts incorporate it somehow...I'll tell you, as it's another funny date story from years ago before I met my perfect husband. No really - he's perfect.

I used to work for the Charlotte Symphony doing marketing and PR - how glamorous of me! (I actually did wear evening gowns on a weekly basis during concert season). I met someone through a co-worker and agreed to go out with him. I wasn't wowed by our first date, but felt I was perhaps being superficial. After all...was I ever going to find someone who could possibly meet every one of my 65 prerequisites for marriage? I agreed on a follow up lunch date.

We went to a charming little home cooking type restaurant that no longer exists - they boasted their Broccoli Casserole, so I went for a veggie plate as all the sides sounded too good to choose from. The said date of mine ordered Barbeque. I'm sitting there, trying to get over my superficial-ness and eating what might possibly be the best, creamiest homemade Broccoli Casserole I've ever enjoyed. In between bites, I snuck a few glances at my date to see him struggling to chew his Barbeque. Folks, I'm just going to stop and apologize right here and now for the rest of this story - as you will most likely think I'm a terrible person. Think of me what you will, the story is what it is and happened a LONG time ago.

Thoughtlessly, I comment on him chewing on the Barbeque. Trying to lighten conversation, which to this point is not winning him any brownie points for personality or charm, I say "Wow - that Barbeque must be pretty tough with as long as you're having to chew it!" And then I take another bite of my delicious casserole. He awkwardly looks at me and replies "Well, you do know that I don't have my own teeth, don't you?"

The broccoli casserole comes spewing back out of my mouth in utter surprise and disbelief. He's not kidding. How do I possibly rebound and save face? It's impossible. It's beyond awkward now, I have no idea how to get out of the hole I've dug and to make matters worse, my reply is "I didn't know that - do you take them out at night?" (OMG - did I really just ask that?!). He then relaxes and goes into an in depth description and I all but pass out. I'm in my early 20s and while I might be able to overcome my superficial receding hair line phobia, I cannot when I combine that with him having no teeth and suddenly my list of 65 prerequisities flashed before my eyes. He clearly was not the one. There. I've said it. Think of me what you will.

The Broccoli Casserole rocked and the date was scratched off the list as a possible marriage match. For those of you who are wondering, I all but freaked out when I met my husband, who I love and adore with all of my heart. He met all 65 of my prerequisites...and no one was ever able to do that. We're ridiculously happy and he has a full head of hair and a beautiful set of teeth.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sometimes "Life Happens"

It's just hours away from the close of another Super Doubles coupon week at my local grocery store. I couldn't have done a lousier job at saving money this round. Life has been crazy busy and I have stacks and piles of coupons screaming to be clipped, many have expired and none of them are filed in any semblance of order. I'm a mess! I pulled a bunch that might work and set sail in the grocery store without a list (mistake) two different days and while I saved $40ish - I overspent. But I needed most of the things on the list, so what is one to do? (Ok, so I didn't NEED the Kalamata Olives - but the olive bar had them pitted! And the Sundried Tomatoes and Roasted Red Peppers were also a splurge, but we are approaching a holiday weekend.) Chalk this one up to "Life Happens". I'm not going to beat myself up over it. Rather, I'll forget portion control on the double batch of Tapioca pudding I made the other night.

I find that I have the noblest of intentions, but they don't always pan out. For instance - today starts the last week of preschool. My one son takes a tumbling class (today is the last one) and I thought, how nice would it be to give each of the 6 instructors an appreciation card and perhaps some baked goods? Well, it would be wonderful - except I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients right before dinner time in the pouring rain, shoved the free cookies by the deli department at my children to keep them quiet and by the time I got home, was stressed, looked like a drowned rat and my kids weren't hungry for dinner because of the 40 cookies a piece they'd eaten in the store. By the time they were in bed and I had a free minute to even think about baking, I was so tired I almost fell asleep watching Jack Bauer limp off of sattelite while Chloe cried and the Lady President stepped down. "I'll bake the cookies in the morning", was my last thought before drifting off.

My morning started at 4am with a crying infant that literally woke up the entire house, and he felt the need to cry for the next two hours. It was a miracle we even got everyone dressed and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made in time for school. Cookies - what cookies? Did I say I was baking cookies? Sorry tumbling class ladies - it's not that I didn't want to. Sometimes "Life Happens."

I guess the "Super Mom" cape needs to be drycleaned every now and then, we can't win 'em all. And speaking of drycleaners - don't send your husband's expensive 'non-iron' shirts to the drycleaners. It messes up the 'non-iron' part of the shirt and they will forever be changed. Not that I would know anything about this. Gracious - is it only Tuesday? Life definately happens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

From Cora to Edna Mae

Since it’s Friday, I’m taking a virtual vacation – would you like to join me? Let’s go to Montreal. I’ve been to this charming city in Canada on several occasions and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a new vacation spot. You feel like you’ve been transported to Europe, yet are just a few hours over the American/Canadian border. The architecture is old world European style – buildings older than our country with character and history oozing from every corner. The food is eclectic and fabulous with street performers in wide open squares, gorgeous fountains where brides can be seen getting portraits made at any time of day, and you’ll leave from shopping at the boutiques and malls with an entire new wardrobe in chic European flair. I’m ready to go back!

On my first trip there, I stumbled upon a breakfast eatery that was as visually fun and delicious as the food I ordered. The name is Cora’s and they specialize in Crepes (www.chezcora.com). Both savory and sweet, you can find something to please everyone and their crepes are fabulous. So much so, that I left pondering the opportunity to open a franchise in the states. It would be an overnight success, but I’m just not up for the restaurant business at this point in my life.

After eating one of their enormous crepes, you’re smitten and will forever develop a love and craving for this light, pancake-like delicacy. Fill it with strawberries and whipped cream, or choose Nutella – you can’t make a wrong choice when it comes to crepes. I’ve even gone so far as to use crepes in a lasagna type savory entrĂ©e, and while it took half of my life to make enough crepes to make the dish, it definitely got the ‘fix again’ stamp of approval notation next to the recipe. In my opinion, we don’t have enough opportunities to enjoy these tasty treats…until now.

My friend Amy told me this week about a pancake dinner she was enjoying that night with her friends and family, using a pancake recipe that she likened unto a crepe. My curiosity was peaked and I snagged the recipe and proclaimed last night a breakfast night so I could try these pancakes for myself.

Knowing my husband enjoys high protein content with every meal, I added scrambled eggs with cheese and a side of bacon to accompany my pancakes. After mixing the batter and making the pancakes in my (you guessed it) cast iron skillet, I am hooked. I found the recipe ridiculously easy. The end result was a platter of pancakes that were as light as a crepe – though not quite as thin, and a flavor that rivals anything your mother, grandmother or favorite aunt even attempted. I don’t care if they even won an award for their pancakes – these are the best and trump them.

Here is the recipe, as I know you’re dying to fix them for breakfast tomorrow morning.

The recipe is courtesy of Ree Drummond’s Mother In Law. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
(This recipe makes approximately 8-9 pancakes, 5 inches in size)

7 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter
Maple syrup

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in the bottom of a medium bowl. Add the sour cream in and stir it together very gently. Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and stir them into the sour cream mixture.

You can either melt a tablespoon of butter in your skillet or some canola oil and pour the batter in, a 1/4 cup at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, or until bubbles appear all over them, flipping carefully and cooking for about a minute on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve in a stack, topped with butter and your favorite syrup (ours happens to be Mrs. Buttersworth). Watch them disappear off your plate - they are marvelous.

Have a delicious weekend!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hugging My Skillet

Stop the presses! I'm adding a recipe to my cookbook. Last night I made quite possibly the best Shrimp entree ever. My husband felt like he'd eaten at a fine restaurant in the Bayou. It was marvelous. I started with a recipe that I only had part of the ingredients for, improvised the rest and ended up with a startling show stopper.

I bought some Rosemary Olive Oil Bread about a week and a half ago - thinking I would liven up a few sandwiches. The bread was less than exciting for its original intended purpose, so I threw it in the fridge with the intention of making bread crumbs out of it and freezing them. I hadn't gotten around to the bread crumb making project yet, so I used the bread slices as the base of my meal. Brushing each piece with Olive Oil, I baked them to an almost Crouton consistency and placed them in the bottom of two bowls.

Next came the sauce for the Shrimp. Here's where I just want to hug my cast iron skillet. It makes such a difference in cooking certain foods. I love mine. Into the skillet went Olive Oil and a good handful of chopped Onion with a sprinkling of those Crushed Red Pepper flakes you normally avoid in your spice rack. After a few minutes I deglazed the pan with a splash or two of Lemon Juice. Then I added about 1/2 cup of White Wine. Are you beginning to picture how divine this sauce is? I added some crushed Garlic (folks - crush it yourself, the taste is better than the precrushed, trust me). After a few more splashes of Lemon Juice, I threw in my Jumbo Shrimp. They only take a few minutes to cook, so this meal was done in about 15 minutes (how's THAT for efficiency Rachel Ray?!). I plated the dish by serving the Shrimp over the Rosemary Olive Oil Toast and spooning the sauce over it.

Accompanied by a Tomato Salad on the side, this meal is going in the archives for my dream cookbook writing adventure.

Ciao for now - eat something delicious today!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Will I be a Ree?

This past weekend, I went on a crazy bake-a-thon in my kitchen and turned out so many delicious treats, I amazed even myself. I started out baking Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies using my mini tart pans and filling them each with a Dove Chocolate. Out of this world good. Then I moved on to Milk Chocolate Brownies, Plain Chocolate Chip Cookies and some Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins. I was pleased with all but my Muffins - as I overcooked them by about a minute and a half. Trust me, when you're dealing with anything 'mini' this is a big deal. I think they still worked for my intended purpose, but could just hear the judges of my make believe cooking showing scorning me and giving me negatives scores for carelessness. The kitchen looked like a disaster when I was finished, but what a great feeling to have a mini bakery of treats that I could happily see and enjoy as a delicious finished product. I snapped a few photos in an inagural attempt at making my posts more eye-catching and have included one below. I don't see a career in culinary photography any time soon, but the photo does lend itself to the chocolatey goodness that you get to bite into with these cookies. I ate 4 before I regained my presence of mind and stopped - since they were for someone else.

I was reading an article in the paper recently about a mother/daughter duo who opened a bakery in our city and it quickly became so popular, they had to move to a bigger location that would give them double the amout of space. They were just two ordinary women who enjoy delicious, home baked food and bakery sweets and decided to do something about it. Family and friends craved their recipes and the next thing you know, they're an overnight sensation. I sat back and pondered their success. Then I recalled some friends likening my writing to that of 'The Pioneer Woman" - Ree Drummond (thepioneerwoman.com). She was a corporate ladder climber and found herself surrounded by two things she loved - family and food and decided to do something about it. Now, she has a well attended following of fans, guest appearances and book signings and has written her own cookbook that has one of my favorite prerequisites: Full page glossy photos. Ree chose to do something about what she loves.


I'm sitting here, pondering Ree and the two bakery ladies and wondering where my love of food, friends and family will take me. I certainly don't have enough blog posts under my belt to warrant a guest appearance anywhere, nor do I even think I'm of that calibur. I'd love to write a cookbook...but want it to be more than a church fundraiser type. I love to try new restaurants and can be pretty saavy at critiquing them. I guess only time will tell.


For now, I'll enjoy cooking Lemon Bars for funerals, Chicken Pot Pies for friends who have babies and Brownies for a last minute pot luck. In the end, those are probably much more important than signing my name to a cookbook at a bookstore...though someday that might be a fun thing.


I'm off to go plant some Zuchini and Yellow Squash...pray they actually grow this year. Last year the worm who ate Jonah's tree in the Bible came to visit and finished off my Squash - and I wasn't even headed to Tarshish or Ninevah. Talk to you later this week!




Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sushi

I'm sitting here before school starts for my children, listening to re-runs of Curious George and watching my almost 1 year old throw food all over the kitchen, while I try to get some semblance of breakfast in hungry tummies. I'm rather non-traditional when it comes to breakfast with my children. I've never been a huge fan of eggs - so we switch it up a bit and I serve things like Cheese and Crackers, Yogurt or Macaroni and Cheese. Stouffer's frozen version happens to be my favorite quick fix mac 'n cheese solution. It works for us...I know some of you are probably mortified.

I so wanted to stay on my M-W-F posting schedule for this blog but yesterday not one culinary inspiration came to me. Nothing. Zilch. Then I remembered, I needed to share with you my first adventure on Restaurant.com. Mind you, I've heard about it enough, researched it plenty, but had never made a purchase. Until this week. I was scanning one of my deal seeking websites and came across a current promotion. I could purchase $25 gift certificates for $2. I read the fine print, analyzed the selection and bravely purchased two for a new sushi restaurant in town - Cyros. Excitedly, I called my husband at work and announced my latest deal and he was onboard in no time.

The restaurant was a fun little eclectic place where the centerpieces had a live Beta fish swimming in them and a floating candle on top. This is miles of entertainment for children.

We ordered a massive platter of delicious sushi rolls of all sorts...and decided to break our 3 year old in gently by ordering some potstickers. With chopsticks poised and ready to plunge into wasabi, ginger and soy sauce, I silently held my breath as he used his kid-friendly chopsticks the waitress made on the spot. The potsticker went into his mouth...one chew, two chews...I quickly start talking to get his mind off it and it was to no avail. He got a disgusted look on his face and spit it out on the plate. And here I had such amazing aspirations of him enjoying something unique and delicious. Thankfully I was able to go into my magical 'Mom Purse' and provide an alternate albeit strange dinner of Texas Toast and a Granola Bar. I truly think my bag is of the same line Mary Poppins uses. I have been able to come up with just about anything and everything to accomodate many needs with my magic purse. But back to the sushi, I was very pleased and we'll be back, perhaps on a date night without the kids. Two thumbs up to my inaugural Restaurant.com experience.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kabob Horror turns to BBQ Bliss

I had a delicious weekend, but it was in no thanks to my semi-disastrous attempt at marinated beef kabobs on Friday night. I found an unbelievable deal on some sirloin tips that were specifically for kabob grilling. I marinated them in a soysauce/brown sugar/onion recipe that was so good, I wanted to just spoon it down. You could put it on ice cream and it would be tasty, so I felt we were all in for a real treat.

I ended up forgetting where I stashed my kabob skewers, but the pieces of meat were large enough to grill and not fall between the slats, so we improvised a bit and my veggies were done stir fry style in my favorite cast iron skillet (if you don't have one, ask for one for your birthday - trust me).

The meal smelled and looked delicious. It was like the scene from Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold turns to Cousin Catherine and says "Catherine, if this turkey smells half as good as it looks, we're all in for a real treat!"...and then disaster hits. We gave thanks for the meal, then attempted to cut into the steak. It wasn't over cooked, it was merely the consistency of shoe leather...or rawhide. I, unlike Cousin Catherine, did not burst into tears, I was merely irritated that I wasted money, time and effort on sub-standard meat. The veggies were the saving grace of the meal...and even then, we fought with my 3 year old to even lick one of the red pepper bites. He was convinced that death was imminent if he succumbed to the taste of a red pepper or a zucchini. God forbid the child eat something other than fruit snacks or cheese toast.

Thankfully the weekend got better with a delightful Mother's Day / Birthday celebration with my parents on Saturday night. I fixed those Italian Sandwiches that I told you about a few posts ago and I made the infamous Chocolate Marquis for dessert. It was complete success - and I don't even think my neighbors noticed how I butchered their rose bushes for my centerpieces. SHHHHHH!

Sunday afternoon was spent with my in-laws where we grilled chicken and had some delicious sides and Sunday night my husband surprised me by taking me to my favorite barbeque restaurant that has the best ranch dressing EVER on their salad bar. I went to bed a happy, content and blessed mom. Life is good.

So the kabobs didn't turn out, the family time was priceless and for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amigos! It's Fiesta Time!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! This is the kind of day that makes you want to put the top down, turn up the mariachi music and slowly sip a limeade as you drive home. Upon walking in the door, the tantalizing aroma of chicken enchiladas will engulf you...you'll sit down and enjoy a family fiesta and the day will be complete.

I'm so excited about tonight's dinner, I can hardly stand it. Mexican is one of my top two favorite food groups. Next to Italian, I could eat it every single day of my life and never tire of this marvelous cuisine. I'm fixing (wild guess here) chicken enchiladas for dinner, with a side of black beans. How I wish I could also delight you with an extraordinary dessert, but alas, I'm still reeling from the Milkshake from Heaven - and we are approaching swimsuit season.

Chips and Salsa and Guacamole are a must for every fiesta, and since I made an amazing layered mexican dip for dinner just last week, I needed to set my sites on a killer chicken enchilada recipe for this week. The black beans will be a new recipe - something quick and snazzy from Allrecipes.com, as I do have choir rehearsal tonight. Time is of the essence and I can't wait for rehearsal to be over so I can rush home and EAT. I can taste it all now and it's making me want to Flamenco dance.

Enjoy your fiesta mi amigo!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Milkshake from Heaven

I looked in my fridge and came up with nothing more than a dill pickle and some applesauce for lunch. Neither were talking to me, so I opted to go out. My husband and I recently happened upon the most exciting combo deal to hit the south. A local burger chain, CookOut, just opened up near us. For under $5, you can choose a BBQ sandwich, Footlong Hotdog, Double Cheeseburger...etc, with the choice of two sides - Chicken Nuggets, a Corn Dog, French Fries, Onion Rings, Cole Slaw...and a drink. Today, I chose a Double Cheeseburger with a double side of Onion Rings and I did the $1 upgrade to one of 40 delicious creamery style Milkshakes.

I knew what I was getting into with the juicy double Cheeseburger with all the toppings and my mouth was watering as I ordered it. I also knew what I was getting into with the Onion Rings - they aren't award winning, but I was in the mood for some. I did NOT, however, have any concept of how marvelous their hand spun Peanut Butter Fudge Milkshakes were. Before deciding on that particular flavor, out of the list of 40 choices, I needed clarification. If it was Fudge that was Peanut Butter flavored and mixed in, I was not interested. If it was Chocolate Fudge and Peanut Butter that were mixed in - I was shouting from the roof tops!

The girl explained it was a huge scoop of Hot Fudge, and a scoop of Peanut Butter. Could there be anything better? I told her it sounded marvelous and that I had to have one. As I pulled my car around the drive through, the people inside were laughing at my milkshake enthusiasm. I was asked "Are you the Peanut Butter Fudge Milkshake?", with a grin, I admitted yes. We bonded. I'm considering implementing a loyal customer program for them. I'd be the winner from here on out.

Folks, this milkshake is so rich and delicious, it will send you into a euphoric state of bliss. You won't be able to think straight. You have to stop everything you're doing and just drink it down until you're embarrassingly making straw slurping noises as you attempt to get the last drops of fudgey peanut-buttery shakiness.

I believe today, I drank The Milkshake from Heaven.