Thursday, March 31, 2011

Low Country Boil

After chomping down on a caffe latte lollipop for breakfast, thoughts trended toward: food. I made a one pot wonder for dinner recently that was so ridiculously easy, I almost don't consider it cooking (almost). This recipe was inspired from a Food Network magazine that highlighted an article on Low Country Boil. The ease and beauty of this dish caught my eye. Truly, I needed to take a trip down the Bayou and recreate this fancy feast for my fam.

If you can boil water, you can make this dish - trust me.

It all starts with a big pot and some Old Bay Seasoning; key ingredients to the success of the dish. Fill a large stock pot with water and add several teaspoonsful of Old Bay Seasoning and bring it to a boil.

Next, throw in 4-5 red potatoes...I slice them into cubes because it takes eternity to boil a whole potato. Allow these to boil for a good 10-15 minutes. Go throw on a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher. This meal is great for multi-tasking.

Next, throw in 3-4 ears of fresh corn, broken in half. Allow them to boil a few minutes and then add in some links of Hilshire Farms sausage (you're just heating up the sausage as it's already cooked) and the last 3 minutes add in a handful or two of fresh or frozen shrimp. Once they turn pink, it's done! All said and done, in 20 minutes you made dinner, did a load of laundry and unloaded the dishwasher. Efficient meal planning at its finest!

Drain this wonder pot and pour the contents onto a big platter. Sprinkle it with a little more Old Bay and let your family dig in. The great part about this family style way of serving is that you pick what you want - if the kids just want the sausage and some corn, they can have the sausage and the corn. If the grownups want to hog the shrimp, they can hog the shrimp. Have some cocktail sauce, butter and salt on hand and gobble gobble.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy "Flour" Day

This week is "Spring Fling" at Preschool and the kids are to wear a crazy shirt each day to help celebrate the new season (bearing in mind it frosted last night and we're all wearing winter coats - welcome Spring?). Regardless of the weather, today is Flower Day (wear a flowered shirt), tomorrow is Bug Day (wear a buggy shirt) and Thursday is Rainbow Day (wear your favorite color, which for us means Orange).

I'm perplexed. I have two boys and zilch in the closet containing anything remotely floral. Then, my food brain kicks in and I improvise with a play on words: "FLOUR" Day! Perfect! I can do this and won't have to buy Hawaiian floral shirts and it'll be fun. With a little cut and paste action from the internet, by boys went to school today with "Floured" shirts on. (Clearly my youngest is not quite sure of why he has pictures of White Lily and Pillsbury flour saftey pinned to his shirt - some thing tells me these won't last until lunchtime).

Happy Flour Day!

Friday, March 25, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

I feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train. Traveling and speaking all week long, spring allergies, a cold, and let’s toss in a sleepless night with an almost 2 year old last night that makes me want to curl up under my desk and hide and sleep until I feel better. Wishful thinking and enough of the wah-wah-wah. I’m thrilled to be back home with my family!

I left the Gateway to the West yesterday with a few new food experiences under my belt. The barbeque was tasty – I tried both their brisket and the turkey (both smoked, preferred the turkey - surprisingly) with some bacon mac ‘n cheese (ok YUM! Add bacon to just about anything and it's good), learned of a new super thin pizza crust style in St. Louis pizza (who knew they had their own twist on things?)…and discovered Ghirardelli has a Carmel Latte chocolate?! Let’s not talk about how many of those I downed. And though this wasn’t authentic to STL (though neither was the chocolate), I did down an amazing Wolfgang Puck pizza at the airport that has me wanting to re-concoct it at home – spinach and mushroom with fresh tomatoes, basil pesto and goat cheese! Ahhhh! My gourmet tastebuds were doing a jig. Loved it! Inhaled it. Craving it now. It would be better than the cookies I just ate for breakfast.

So, nope – no recipes to share today as I’m in a fog – but there’s always next week. I can’t remember what day it is, how to spell my name or what on earth I’m fixing my family for dinner, but I’m HOME and that means happiness.

Have a great weekend – don’t forget to go to church on Sunday and we’ll chat soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Travel Blues

I rarely have to travel for work, but yesterday I exchanged my views of a Carolina Blue Sky for the St. Louis Arch. My husband has a well stocked refrigerator and freezer, a list of no less than 43 instructions on how to heat up the pot roast, how to make the gravy, what clothes to put the kids in for picture day and what size pb&j goes in whose lunch. He's a trouper and good on everything but the extra trip out to buy candy for the preschool Spring Fling.

I had to laugh at my morning antics - why couldn't I have a stress free experience where I serenely feed my children waffles, we skip to the car holding hands and end up singing Old MacDonald all the way to school? Instead, I'm running around de-boning chicken I put in the slow cooker overnight so I could freeze it before my trip. The sale was outrageously good - I bought 6 packages.

While putting the chicken into freezer containers, wearing 4" heels, I'm making lunches, cooking sausage (to freeze for quiche and pizza at a later date), feeding the boys a quick breakfast of yogurt instead of the cherished waffles, brushing unruly blond hair, trying to figure out why my youngest won't stop crying and Old MacDonald renditions were replaced with lectures on being good while I'm gone. Did I mention my flat iron broke too?

At least I had it together enough to get their love notes from me and a toy for each set up to surprise them when they get home from school. So I'll bid you adieu for now. I wrote this while squished in a window seat, sipping a Decaf Peppermint Mocha and am looking forward to experiencing Midwestern Barbeque...but first I need to finish reading about the best bites to eat at restaurants in airports, courtesy of my in flight magazine.

Chat more soon!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lemon Chess Bars

There is just something about a lemon bar. I enjoy them so much, I lose track of how many I eat. Before I realize it, half the pan is gone, I'm the only one home and the guilty party - still craving another. It happened again this week.

I was making lemon bars for a girlfriend who had a baby. I made a pan for her, and a pan for me. I truly meant my pan to be for my entire family, honest. After pulling them from the oven and inhaling their sweet citrus aroma, I did a taste test. It was just going to be a small corner, then it turned into the slice next to that...then I put on a load of laundry, went back for more, the kids came home from school, we each had one and literally before my husband could walk in the door from work, the pan was half gone. That, my friends, is the mark of a good lemon bar. I don't devour every dessert with such verocity.

The great thing is, this particular recipe isn't too sweet, isn't difficult to make and is such a crowd pleaser. You might just need to whip up a pan for the weekend, though they'll be gone by this evening...

Lemon Chess Bars (from
1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 stick of butter, melted

Mix together egg, cake mix and butter. Moosh into a well greased 9x13 pyrex pan orrrrr, you can put it in two smaller pie plate sized pans and give one away (mere suggestion here).

2 eggs
8 oz. softened cream cheese
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Blend together the eggs, cream cheese, vanilla and sugar with a mixer - we don't want cream cheese clumpys - this needs to be a smooth consistency. Pour over the top of the crust and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. You want the topping to be well set and a light golden brown.

Allow it too cool, cut it in to slabs (errr, squares) and enjoy one (or half the pan - I won't tell).

Have a great weekend - I'm off to explore a new cinnamon roll recipe, have homemade pizza for dinner and enjoy a boat load of quality family time.

Don't forget to go to church on Sunday!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Strawberries and Bananas - musing foodie style!

Fruits and veggies - one of the 4 basic food groups. Just keep that in mind as these recipes unfold. Last week I mentioned chairing a week-long teacher appreciation event at my sons' school. Tuesday of last week was a catered treat, made by yours truly. I had wayyyy too much fun concocting the menu - picking out delicious treats that make my mouth water and my knees turn weak just thinking about them. Here is a sampling of what I fixed...

My first order of the day was strawberries, nice healthy juicey red ripe sweetness. I left a few plain for the less adventurous non-chocolate lovers (is there reallly such a thing as a non-chocolate lover?) and I covered the rest in chocolate. Take a gaze at the beauty and wonderment of that platter of chocolate covered strawberries. Inhale. Exhale. Now that is deliciousness. They disappeared in a New York minute!

In staying with my fruit theme, I also made Strawberry Pochettes. A cream cheese pastry cookie filled with Strawberry Preserves. They were funky good fun and disappeared almost as fast as those chocolate covered berries up there. My healthy proud of myself. HA!

I moved on to bananas. A potasium fest - so good for you! Especially when you put them in a Carmel Banana Pie! The recipe for this extremely rich dessert follows...

Homemade Graham Cracker Crust (trust me honey, there is a huge difference between homemade and store bought)
1.5 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup melted butter
3-4 T. granulated sugar

Combine crushed crackers, melted butter and sugar into a bowl, mush into your pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Allow to cool as you make the rest of the recipe.

Banana Pie Filling
3 ripe bananas (not banana bread ripe, you don't want total mush)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
3 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a glass pyrex dish and set that in a larger pyrex dish filled with water - we're creating a water bath here so it doesn't burn. Cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees for an hour.

This makes a delicious homemade carmel. Allow this to cool. Don't be tempted to take a bite of this carmel right out of the oven, your tastebuds will be burned from your tongue forever more.

Slice your bananas and layer them evenly on the graham cracker crust. I had enough for 2 banana layers in a 9x13 pyrex.

Spoon the carmel over this.

You're almost done! Make whipped cream. Not out of the can, we're talking genuine creamy billows of fluffy dreaminess. Pop your mixing bowl and whisk attachement in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to chill. Once you're ready for this step, pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and your cream will whip to perfection. Choose a high speed and once it's to a stiff peak consistency, add in the powdered sugar, blend that in for a few seconds until it's well incorporated and then slather it all over the carmel layer.

Pop the whole thing into the refrigerator until you're ready to feast. I made this the day before it was served and the result was sublime. It's rich, so plan on serving small portions. Some versions of this recipe call for a chopped toffee bar or chocolate curls to be added for garnish. There is already so much rich flavor and sweetness going on, I opted out of the additional sugar coma. After all, SOMEONE has to make strides towards healthy eating, right? :)

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Long forgotten dinner rolls.

Well I have to say, I've missed you guys! This past week I've been burning the midnight oil working on a week long Teacher Appreciation event at my sons' preschool. I've baked up a storm, made party favors, put together gift bags and delivered cheer, all in an effort to let 28 amazing preschool staff members know what incredible people they are. It's been rewarding, exhausting and delicious. I have a few fun recipes to share that came out of this week, and I'll post those this coming Monday.

In the meantime, I have a funny story to share with you. A few weeks ago, Rhodes frozen dinner rolls went on sale. With my expert couponing tactics, I got about a boatload of bags for $.25 each. Honey, I can't make 'em cheaper than that so I loaded the freezer. I've never had this brand or even tried a frozen-to-oven method, so the adventure unfolds.

I pulled out 7 little dough rounds, each about the size of a golf ball and put them in a pie plate to rise for the recommended 3 to 5 hours. I thought I'd just put it all in the oven, a nice draft free place that suddenly turned into the sea of forgetfulness. I didn't remember I put those silly rolls in there for days! Last night it hit me. I have dough in the oven.

Opening the oven door, the expanded dough had more than quadrupled in size, no longer remotely resembled rolls and completely filled the pie plate. I decided to bake this massive dough business anyway to see what would happen.

HA! They turned out great! They were light and fluffy and melt in your mouth good. Apparently I need to lose my mind and forget my dough more often.

Here's an after shot. The plate is now empty as we sliced them into wedges, slathered them with butter and made them dissapear in no time. Thankfully this mishap still turned out tasty.

Have a great weekend and we'll chat soon!

Mueller's Neighborhood Grille - Restaurant Review

I was jetting around uptown Charlotte, in between meetings and starving like a madwoman who hadn’t eaten in days. As I passed the traditional chains, nothing screamed out to me to be eaten….until I remembered there was a little sandwich place in the heart of Myer’s Park that I had yet to visit. Hmmm. Curiosity peaked, I swerved onto Huntley Place right there at the Providence and Queens and Queens and Queens intersection…right behind the old Myer’s Park Hardware store. You natives know where I’m talking about.

There was a little hot dog cart with a simple sign that read “Mueller’s Neighborhood Grill” pointing me to my destination – a humble lunchtime haunt for many, a diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered by the musing foodie. It’s no frills dining with an aroma of burgers and sandwiches wafting around that had me salivating on my shoes before I could even place my order.

Known for their burgers, I needed something a little ‘neater’ for the car ride to my next destination, so I settled on a Cuban Sandwich. Mr. Mueller himself was there to take my order and steered me in another direction as he happened to be out of his famous Irish Soda Bread that makes his Cubans all the rage. He recommended a Reuben…little did he know I love this sandwich more than my Kindergarten Teacher (and Mrs. Gun will always have a special place in my heart). He and his friendly staff whipped up a Turkey Reuben in no time, along with a pasta salad and a bite size dessert to go.

I was in my car in minutes and began enjoying this incredible sandwich…thankfully there was a red light. I stopped the car and savored what just might be the most perfectly grilled Turkey Reuben ever…and I used to eat them weekly, so I know my Reubens. Typically there is never enough Thousand Island Dressing…not on this one. The rye bread was buttery, grilled with a perfect crispy edge, the right amount of dressing slathered on to accompany the sauerkraut, turkey and melted Swiss. What’s not to love, drool and crave for days on end?

I finished my sandwich and was satisfied – not stuffed to where I needed a nap, not still hungry because it was a frou-frou miniature size. I have found sandwich bliss perfection in this new haunt that you should also pay a visit to; if you know what’s good for you. Lunch anyone? I’m craving a Cuban and word has it the famous bread is back in stock!

Now if I can just twist his arm to open for dinner instead of just lunchtime from 11-3pm. Mueller said fingers were crossed for April.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CC's Chicken Enchiladas

Do you ever have a winning dish that people say "Wow - can I have the recipe?" and you have to blankly stare and then stammer the truth about it being 'a little bit of this and a little bit of that' because you made it up on the fly?

Enter stage right: My chicken enchiladas. I love them, my family loves them, company that comes over to eat them for dinner love them. I fixed them for my fix 'n freeze - they were a hit and now I'm being asked for the recipe. Shoot - I don't have it written down!

I decided to make them again and pay attention to what I was doing and the measurements of the ingredients, and here it is:

CC's Chicken Enchiladas
2-3 c. shredded chicken - don't talk back, it must be shredded
1 c. salsa
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c. sour cream
1 c. cheddar cheese (plus more for sprinkling, an extra cup?)
3 T. finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Fajita Sized Flour tortillas (they are about 6 inches wide)

So, take your cooked and shredded chicken and put it in a large bowl. Mine happens to be in my grandmother's magical bowl. I know it's such because everything she ever fixed using this bowl turned out amazing, so the sentimental value of this bowl makes everything I cook in it amazing too.

To this you add your cast of characters: salsa, sour cream, cream of chicken soup (throw in a can of green chilis if you have them hanging out in the pantry).

Stir it all up.

Add in the onion, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir some more.

Now place generous heaping spoonfuls in the center of each tortilla.

Fold it over and place it seam side DOWN in a GREASED glass pyrex dish. (I only made two because I'm demonstrating for you and had them for lunch - this will make a whole panful to feed your hungry brood).

Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. Just before you're ready to pull them out, sprinkle some more cheese on top and put it back in the oven to melt.

I serve these beauties with sour cream and salsa on top and a side of black or refried beans.

Divine I tell you. These are divine.

Have a delicious day!